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The Paranorms (Worm AU)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Grim Lord, Jul 14, 2017.

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  1. Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    You know? Given my particular situation, I’m reminded of my time in middle school when I and all the other children talked about what superpowers we would have. Only we never really did consider how we would get those powers. I mean, trigger events aren’t even that well know among normal humans in the Protectorate. And even if we did speculate what our trigger events would be, we would cheat. Make something up that wouldn’t really both us, but sound bad enough just count towards that. And I, like so many others, would have never thought of what was happening right now as being my trigger.

    Of course, I honestly can’t think of a better time than being stuck inside a car port with a piece of rebar stuck through my shoulder as Armsmaster has a dick measuring contest with the Leviathan to learn I have the ability to make reality my own personal bitch. But give me time, I might come up with something.


    The trigger event was an odd thing to feel. I mean, at first I was trying not to think about my the intense pain blossoming from my shoulder in an attempt not to scream. Then suddenly that pain was reduced to a dull burning sensation and I was suddenly aware of everything within a certain distance around me. Like a massive bubble surrounded me I was intuitively aware of almost everything in my surrounds, including the car two ceilings above me getting ready to fall down.

    I wasn’t entirely sure it wouldn’t break through the ceiling between me and it, as this was a carport and as far as I could tell they had pretty thick floors. Only this building was barely standing as it was, so maybe hanging out underneath what will soon be the landing zone of an SUV wasn’t such a great idea.

    “ARGHAAaaaaAAA!” I inelegantly shouted as I pulled my shoulder off the metal construction pole. “MMMHhhhmm, that's brisk!” It burned like a motherfucker, but at the same time I kind of enjoyed it. It wasn’t so intense enough that I wished it was gone, just enough to burn. It certainly wasn’t hurting as much as it should be, it was an interesting feeling.

    Where was I? Oh yeah, Armsmaster playing with Leviathan not that far away, to far for my sphere of I-know-everything power. Speaking of that, I suddenly felt someone enter that on the outside wall of the carport. I couldn’t quite feel them they way I felt everything else around me. It was like the walls and objects were in high definition but whoever this person was they felt like a silhouette. But more than that, I realized I had a measure of feeling over everything in the area, like a thousand hands touching each and every surface. It was only when these metaphorical hands didn’t touch the yet to be named person did I even notice this was a thing.

    Curiously, I tried experimenting with this as I made my way to the crouching person, pressing my hand against the gaping hole in my shoulder. It would kind of suck if I bled out after just becoming a superhero.

    As it turns out, this feeling I had about my general surroundings only let me exert a sort of pressure on them. I’m not exactly sure what that did, but I did notice something started looking a little… smoother around the edges. I decided to put that off for a moment. More not dieing now and less experimenting with unknown power.

    My first priority was getting to the person on the ground nearby. With any luck it would be a cape of some sort that could make sure I don’t die before I get to some doctors. Then after that I might decided to face the fact my entire life is over as the Leviathan just got done destroying everything I know and love. Actually, made I should just ignore that part.

    A swung over the railing and landed next to… Skitter. Okay, wow. I mean, with all the heros running about the bay to fight the Endbringer, what are the chances I would land right next to Brockton Bay’s up and coming villain? She’s no Lung or Kaiser she is definitely up there. One of the scarier ones when you consider she runs Regent and Hellhound.

    “Excuse me,” I gasped as I landed in the water sodden grass beside her. She was already looking at me with her creepy bug mask before I managed to roll my head and look at her.

    “Your injured,” she said bluntly.

    “Oh, when then that happen? Must have tripped on something.” I said it with as real as smile as I could manage, although her mask made it impossible for me to see her reaction.

    “Do you think you can hold on for a little bit?” I paused both responding. I looked down and took my hands away from the wound.

    “It looks like I’m clotting well enough. I probably won’t die in the next twenty minutes, so long as I avoid any more pointy objects.” I had lost a ton of blood, but I didn’t any of the effect I thought it would have. Was that part of my power? It was almost annoying that I couldn’t begin test at this moment. But that would have to wait until I got a quick patch job, a shower, and a new bra because clearly this one was no good. Although, blood red wasn’t such a bad colour on me either.

    “Good, then we need to get to Armsmaster.”

    “Get to Armsmaster?” Oh, it appears Armsmaster, or more appropriate Armmaster, had fallen to the ground, his Halberd and arm hitting the water not to far from him. I was all for help what might be my future employer if things go right, but there was the issue of the hulking lizard/human monster hovering over him.

    But one does not simply refuse when the super villain you are following with the hopes of running into some superhuman friends that do some superhuman healing begins to walk forward and expects you to follow.

    I made it about three steps before we both froze and the Leviathan stopped moving and turned to look our way. I was briefly aware of someone entering my sphere of influence. It was only there for barely a second before it was gone again, moving in the direction of the Leviathan. There was a massive wave of water which moved behind the person as they moved.

    I turned and looked at the Leviathan with Skitter standing still beside me. A vaguely human shape had been running fast across the ground. The Leviathan raised a claw to do something but never got the chance as the person lept through the air much higher than I would have thought possible, until I remembered parahuman exist and slapped myself for being an idiot. And great, now there is a bloody handprint on my face.

    There was a massive explosion and caused me to redirect my attention to the scene unfolding in front of me. Whoever it was that was doing the running just punched the Leviathan in the face, hard. The was even a white shock wave of air going around the Leviathan's face before it fell backwards. The human shape plummeted to the ground a second later, falling out of sight.

    The Leviathan got back on its feet and instant later. Its entire face had caved inward from where the parahuman had punched it a moment ago. The Leviathan hesitate toward us for a moment, before turning and running. Apparently the crater making punch to the face was the last straw. Hopefully the Endbringer won’t return to this side of the coast again, we could only hope.

    Oh, falling now. I found my self fell face first against the flooded street, getting a mouthful of water in the process. I spat out the mouthful of water and struggled to my feet as I tried to fight out a wave of dizziness that had struck me out of nowhere. I found my footing and started looking around for Skitter.

    She had apparently lost a hand somewhere along the way and was bleeding pretty badly. I sauntered up to her as easily as I could manage with the light headedness going on now. She was speaking into those arm bands they all wore.

    “-master down! CC-7! The Leviathan heading towards the ocean…” Skitter paused and began applying pressure on Armsmaster’s stump. I slumped on the ground next to her and him, suddenly to tried to say or do anything useful. I had to hand it to Skitter, she was taking the broken arm and missing hand rather well. I had a hole in my shoulder, but that hadn’t been really painful since I triggered. I wanted nothing more than to rest and feel the pain in my shoulder play out. But I couldn’t stop, stopping meant facing hard facts. I had enough self awareness to know that much, and I knew what would happen if I didn’t come to terms with those facts. But all the same, it would be better now if I didn’t think about it. I needed something else to distract me. I need something to do, some way to help.

    Suddenly it clicked that maybe I could do something. My power dulled the pain and appeared to give me a bit more blood to loose or something along those lines. Maybe it gave everyone in my sphere of effect something similar? Or more likely given how every power seems to act it would probably drain some life force or something out of those two, and that probably wouldn’t look good for me once the heroes came for us.

    I closed my eyes and focused on exerting that pressure on myself. Instantly I felt the pain dull in my shoulder and the light headedness fade. I glanced down and saw the wound itself hadn’t changed so much. Wait, no, that wasn’t true. It had changed, just in a weird way. It looked smoother some how, and the blood looked a little lighter.

    I shook my head and focused back on Skitter and Armsmaster. I used my new found strength to stand up and was about to offer to take over when a human shaped shadow fell over me. I looked up to see a cape in a Russian themed costume. He wore a thick grey trench coat with a large fur lining and a match grey fur cap with a red star in the centre. His mask was white with red stripes and yellow eye pieces that covered everything but his mouth, which was set in a steady frown.

    “You are attempting to help, yaes?” The question was directed at Skitter, not me even though I was the only standing. I was more blown away by the fact the he even spoke in a heavy Russian accent. What was a Russian cape doing here? Was he even Russian or was he just pretending?

    Skitter nodded and tried to apply more pressure, but she was barely standing. The Russian cape tilted his head and asked,

    “But he is hero, no? And you are villian?” Skitter nodded her head and tried not to sway, failing.

    “There is a treaty.”

    “But treaty says do not attack enemies does it not? You could leave hero here and no one would know.” Skitter was silent for a moment.

    “I would know.” The Russian cape nodded and looked up.

    “Might I help then?” Skitter nodded and moved away. The Russian cape leaned down a plucked Armsmaster up like it was nothing and threw him on his shoulder. He offered a hand to Skitter, who took it and was lifted up and put on his shoulder just as easily as if she were made of paper.

    “Her too,” Skitter said, pointing at me.

    “Aw, you remembered.” I said with a grin on my face. With Skitter on his shoulder he reached out and grabbed me by my good arm and pulled me close, wedging my bad shoulder between myself and his chest.

    “Vhich direction?” The Russian cape asked. Skitter checked her arm band and then point in the general direction of what I hoped was a hospital of some sort. And suddenly we were in the air.

    It was at this moment I realize these was the same guy that made the Leviathan's face look like the Gulf of Mexico as he leaped from the ground to the top of the highest building in the area before I had a chance to blink. I looked up to see Skitter’s reaction, but she appeared to be unconscious. Oh well, more fun for me.

    Or maybe I should sleep. As the edges of my vision grew darker I felt oddly tired. If it wasn’t for the constant input by everything in my sphere of influence I might have already been asleep. The wind in my face every time The Russian leaped was quite soothing. All I need was to close my eyes and...
     
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  2. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 2
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    Taylor slowly regained a sort of consciousness, but it was immediately clear that she wasn't in any sort of natural environment. Blackness stretched infinitely in all directions, but she got the sense she could see just fine. She looked down at her body, she was still wearing her costume except for the mask. She briefly panicked when she realized that, thinking that someone had unmasked her and revealed her identity. But no, she had her arm and hand. Meaning this was something else.

    A man with a black cane tipped in silver on both ends came strolling into her vision. He wore an all black suit, no tie or anything fancy. Just enough to get by in the workplace, but still sloppy enough to make a display out of it. He had short greying hair and rough hair around his chin. He spun his cane and watched Taylor for a long moment. When she opened his mouth to speak he cut her off.

    “In five minutes you're going to wake up in a hospital bed and probably be in pain.” The man said. “You're going to see me there, most of the time, but don’t try and talk to me; you’ll only look like an idiot.”

    “What’s going on?” She finally managed to ask. The man sighed.

    “Look, I have to explain this enough times as it is and I don’t have the time to sit around and explain every little detail before you wake up. So I’m going to says this once and then you focus on not getting us killed for at least a week.” He took a breath and rested both hands on his cane.

    “My name is Tenant and I am dead. Many trigger events put people on the edge of death, however, mine required me to actually die. At the exact same instance that I died, I triggered, which works out for me because my power is moving into other people’s minds.” Tenant paused and checked to see if she was getting this. He spoke with a practiced ease. “I have been in the minds of hundreds of people and over that time I have seen a lot of things. Unfortunately for my last host, the Leviathan killed him during the battle. And you just so happened to be nearby when I got evicted.

    “So now you are my host presumably until you die. While I’m am here I have a limited ability to manipulate how your brain functions if you want it. Are there any questions?” Taylor felt like letting her jaw drop but resisted as the last part caught her off guard more than anything else.

    “Manipulate my mind how?” Tenant thought it over for a few moments.

    “That depends entirely on you. The better we get along the more leverage I am going to have. A measure of trust on your end if you will. I have seen a lot of people both hate and enjoy my company over the years, and I have seen people both hate me and like me. Not so much the latter, because you know, the whole mind control thing. But in general terms I’m going to be able to increase your power’s range to some degree, increase your ability to multitask, take extremely limited control of your ‘swarm’ as you call it, and I may be able to increase your brain function overall. I’m studying your mind now and just from what I see you're not a complete moron so we should get along more or less.” Taylor frowned at him and opened her mouth to say something, only to get cut off again.

    “You're about to wake up. Again, don’t try to speak to me, just think at me if you have to. I can try and dull some pain, but otherwise, you're going to be fine. They’ll use their cape magic on you and you’ll be ready to risk your life like every other idiot out there.” Tenant was rolling his eyes as Taylor’s vision began to fade and she slipped back into a sleep like state.

    A dull pain ached around her arm and hand were they had been injured. The rest of her body felt equally as stiff and sore as she tried to move. She was suddenly aware that someone was touching her. She turned her head slightly to see Panacea focusing as her hand and arm twisted back into shape, The pain swiftly faded as they came back together. Her hand and arm moved back into place as they were supposed to and began to function again.

    “Um,” Skitter grunted, stirring slightly in the bed. Panacea glanced up at her and moved her hands away.

    “So, you're awake.” Panacea sighed. “You had a broken arm and lost your hand along with a small rib fracture. There was a bit of brain damage, but that was beyond the scope of my abilities.

    “Those things you said at that bank? About making me obese or making everything I ate taste like bile, you didn’t do any of that did you?” Panacea smirked with a smug reassurance.

    “I could have. I guess you will have to trust that I’m a decent person and wouldn’t do that. Or I might have set things on a time delay, I guess time will tell.” Skitter paused for a moment, thinking.

    “Are you a decent person?” Panacea frowned.

    “Of course I am.” Skitter nodded and looked down at her hands, one of them still handcuffed to the bed.

    “I still like to think I am. Not everything I have done has worked out like I meant it to, but there was always some good reason for it. To the point, I don’t think of myself as a bad person.” Panacea’s eyes narrowed.

    “Then either you're ignorant, deluded, or have a very twisted perspective.”

    “Or maybe,” A new voice joined the conversation. Skitter looked up to see The Russian standing on the inside of the curtain we the two of them, Tenant lurking in the corner behind him. “Your own feelings towards Skeetar,” His Russian accent gave the name an odd sound, “has deluded how you think of someone who wants to be good person.” Panacea tensed.

    “You don’t know her, you haven't seen what her friends did to-”

    “I thought ve were talking about Skeetar? And I saw vhat she did buring Leviathan attack. She helped tinker hero without needing to. Sound like good person to me.” Panacea rose from her seat angrily and stiffly walked out of the curtain area, the PRT officer with her following close behind. Skitter sighed audibly and looked back down.

    “Thank you for that,” she said.

    “No problem,” The Russian answer, taking a seat next to her bed. “The name is Brute. Or Brute the Brute if you’d like.” Skitter smiled behind the mask. He had to be every bit of Brute 8 or maybe even Brute 9 to do what he did against the Leviathan. The humour of the name choice wasn’t lost on her.

    Skitter absently pulled on her restraints while she thought. She looked up and met Tenant’s eyes for a moment.

    “The guy obviously wants something.” Tenant said plainly. “Only reason he would be here.” Skitter frowned and Tenant rolled his eyes. “Make conversation you idiot, find out what he is here for. The worst that-” He was cut off by Brute rising from his chair and reaching over the bed. He pinched the handcuff in between two fingers and the metal snapped under the pressure.

    “Thank you,” Skitter said.

    “Mm,” Brute grunted.

    “Do you know why I was chained to the bed? Are they planning on arresting me?”

    “Doubtful. They want to make sure no villain goes hunting for enemies’ secret identity. But I also heard that a particular laser hero and tinker hero want to talk to you.”

    “Legend and Armsmaster?”

    “Yaes.” Skitter nodded and fell silent for a few more awkward minutes before asking,

    “So, are you Russian?” Brute frowned.

    “Actually, the accent came with the power, not sure why. I come from Boston, originally. But have been roaming for while now.” At that moment the curtain opened again and Armsmaster, Miss Militia, and Legend stepped into the room. They each froze when they saw Brute waiting patiently by Skitter’s beside.

    “What are you doing here?” Armsmaster asked dangerously. His arm was still missing, but it apparently it didn’t bother him. He could probably build a new one, Skitter guessed. Brute shrugged.

    “I have decided to follow Skeetar for time being.” Skitter froze.

    ‘What does that mean? Follow me?'

    “This is either really good news or really bad news,” Tenant said, observing the scene casually. He glanced back at Skitter and said, “And no, I don’t know what it means either.”

    “We have you on record as being a mercenary,” Legend said. “Does this mean Skitter has hired you or something of the sort?” Brute shook his head.

    “No, I am not mercenary. I am a tool to be used, and I pick those who are worthy to use me and lend myself to them. My last wielder did not want to fight Leviathan, and he lost my respect. So I killed him and came to fight. During which, Skeeter has impressed me by helping tinker hero there and little girl she met along the way. So Skeeter is my wielder for moment.”

    “Hey, this little girl has a name,” the girl said, walking from around the corner. The hole in her shoulder was all bandaged up and she wore that trademark grin Skitter was getting used to seeing her with. “Riza, at your service.”

    Riza had stylish blond hair, if you could ignore all the drying blood in it. She wore a low crop black shirt that had ‘Badass’ written on the front along with a pair of incredibly tight short shorts.

    “Skitter,” Tenant said with mild amusement, “I can tell you're not into that sort of thing, so can I ask why you're staring at her chest?” Skitter blinked and turned away, suddenly glad she was wearing the mask as she felt the heat rising to her face.

    ‘It's not my fault’ she thought at Tenant. ‘Those things should be illegal.’ Tenant paused and thought about that for a moment.

    “Alright, can you stop everyone else so we can discuss that specifically?”

    “You need to get out of here.” Armsmaster was telling Riza in a rather threatening tone. Riza quirk an eyebrow at him.

    “I don’t need to do anything. I can be in here with Skitter if I like, right tough guy?” Brute grunted his agreement. Miss Militia looked between them all and stepped forward, place an arm across Armsmaster to prevent him from doing more.

    “This isn’t going anywhere, we need to talk about-”

    “Hey guys, whatsup?” Tattletale asked easily, striding in with Grue and Bitch behind her. Miss Militia sighed and said,

    “We were just about to discuss certain questionable actions Skitter took during the fight with the Leviathan, however Brute has posed a new problem.” Everyone’s eye turned to Brute, who remained emotionless. Tenant, invisible to everyone else, came and sat on the end of Skitter’s bed, he would have been sitting on her legs if he weighed anything.

    “Interesting…” He said thoughtfully.

    ‘What?’ Tenant tilted his head.

    “Brute is important or dangerous enough to derail possible allegations of you breaking the truce while in the fight.” Tenant turned and looked at Skitter. “And you apparently control him now, a bit more useful than bug powers.” Tenant paused. “Of course if that is the case they are going to try and take him from you, someway somehow. Oh look, there it is now.” Skitter turned her focus back on the conversation.

    “We are heros.” Legend had said. “If you are looking for people doing good, then you should be allying yourself with us.” Brute crossed his arms.

    “Skeeter has impressed me. You? Not so much. It isn’t a matter of ‘be good’ it is a matter of ‘do good’. And while you Protectorate,” Brute sounded out the word slowly so his accent didn’t mangle it, “do good, you are bad at it. My wielder must be smart, and use me well. You are government, and government never do anything efficiently.” Brute nodded toward Tattletale and Grue. “And I have it on good authority that Skeeter does things well. Does them smart.” Slowly, Skitter got up out of bed, she couldn’t take lying down any longer, not while people argued around her.

    “But we can’t let you leave,” Armsmaster stated sourly.

    “Then you’ll have to break the truce,” Tattletale told him. “We’re leaving with the two of them, unless you want everything to come falling in on your head.” Armsmaster’s eye narrowed at her, but it was Legend who spoke.

    “Brute is a threat that everyone understands, just as easily as he is a turning point in Endbringer fights, he extremely detrimental in all other regards. No one, not even villains who would want this to blow up in our faces, would fault us for wanting to stop him. But I am giving him and you a chance to give up peacefully.”

    “We would fault you,” Tattletale said seriously. “If Brute is swearing his allegiance to Skitter than he is officially an Undersider. And if you try to hurt our team during a truce…”

    “Again,” Miss Militia cut in. “Everyone understands the threat of Brute, no one but you will claim we broke the truce.

    “Ah, but we can raise our voices pretty high, like this;” Tattletale pressed the armband and a broadcast opened up on everyone’s armband saying,

    “Manpower deceased, CD-6. Aegis deceased, CD-6. Fenja down, CC-6. Fenja deceased, CC-6. Kid Win down, CC-6. Skitter deceased, CC-6. Kaiser deceased, CC-6.”

    “Oh, he got tense.” Tenant pointed out, looking at Armsmaster.

    “You see,” Tattletale said, “I happened to notice Skitter isn’t dead. So it would seem that someone intentionally broke her armband to make her seemed dead. Someone with an EMP, someone who thought they could take on the Leviathan in a one on one fight.”

    “Hey,” Riza said, “That sounds like Armsmaster.”

    “Huh, imagine that,” Tattletale said with a smile. She leaned back and stretched before continuing. “So what I’m thinking is that a certain Tinker we all know used his predictive program to put a bunch of villains in the way of the Leviathan while Clockblocker had it tagged so that he could have his glorious battle and kill the Leviathan once and for all. Only it didn’t work and I imagine that it would be rather bad if other people learned about this.”

    Armsmaster suddenly launched himself at Tattletale, only to be hit with a beam of light from Legend. Armsmaster went careening to the ground. When he stopped he looked up and managed to say,

    “You bitch.” Tattletale shrugged.

    “I’ve been called worse. And honestly? Your plan was pretty stupid. The way Endbringer physiology work you could have-”

    “Shut up, you don’t know everything,” Armsmaster spat, his eye settling on Skitter.

    “Oh dear,” Tenant said, understanding what was about to happen the exact same time Skitter did.

    “Grue, shut him up.” Skitter said quickly. Grue raised a hand, but didn’t throw his darkness out.

    “She’s not who you think she is,” Armsmaster said, pointing a finger at Skitter. “She’s a wanna be hero, has been from the start. Since the night Lung was first brought into custody. I met her that night. She said she was a hero, that you Undersiders mistook her for a villain. I didn’t think twice about it until she arranged a meeting with me, the night before the bank robbery. Told me she had joined your group as an undercover agent, getting the dirt on you so she could hand that group over to us. Talked to me again the night you raided the fundraiser, out there on the balcony. Told me if I let her go, she’d get the details on your boss to me. Guess she hasn’t gotten around to figuring that little detail out, yet.” Tenant raised an eyebrow at Skitter.

    “Your throat is a little dry there. I can tell your brain to activate the salivary glands if you want.” Skitter didn’t answer, too paralyzed from watching the scene unfold.

    “Is this true?” Grue asked Tattletale. She sighed and said,

    “Yeah.” Skitter looked between them all for a moment. Bitch was staring at her with wide eyes, her teeth bared. Skitter took one step backward, then another, and then she was running. No one moved to stop her, but Brute disappeared as he followed her out.

    There was a tense moment of silence as everyone stood there, Armsmaster on the ground with one of Miss Militia’s guns trained on him. After a moment Riza looked a Tattletale and said,

    “So I heard there was an opening on your team…”
     
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  3. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Interesting.

    How did Taylor lose her hand? Divergence from canon ...

    Also, a formatting thing.

    Please, please, please put the dialogue on the same line as the actions of the people who are saying it. Otherwise I get headaches.

    Like this:

     
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  4. Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    Firstly, Skitter loosing her hand happened in the cannon when she reached for Armsmaster's halberd and got too close to its blade. It was later fixed by Panacea.
    Secoundly, what you discribe is a format of writing called action tags, something I generally avoid as it isn't conventional writting and goes agaist the rule of starting a new paragraph with every new speaker. I do it sometimes, when I feel it would work better, but in general it is something I avoid.
     
  5. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 3
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    I had been considering becoming a superhero, a good guy, someone in The Wards maybe. And I would probably really good at it too. But I was just out of my trigger event and wasn't thinking straight. I mean, I was probably a lot more coherent about things than other capes, but still, I was pretty out of it all things considered. But it didn't take long after getting my shoulder patched up for me to remember that being a supervillain would be much more fun. And after seeing Skitter run away from her problems I saw my opportunity and took it.

    Only I didn't think that would mean following Tattletale around until she understood my power. It is so boring and everything I do she has to pick apart. I want to sneak a doughnut, she knows. I want to wear an underwire bra, she is there to remind me I don't need it, like I don't know that. I want to go shopping, she knows what I want and gets it for me because apparently I'm not worth the entry payment into The Undersiders until she is done vetting me.

    I didn't need this, I flip a middle finger to physics and I had to hang around Lisa because she didn't like my explanation. Everyone else liked it, particularly Regent. I gave the world around me anime physics.

    I honestly don't know why Tattle didn't accept that answer, we pretty much proved it too. I extended my influence over the area and after in a few minutes, everything looked a little more cartoonish. I could jump incredibly high and move really fast among a dozen other things. Although the real test was when Regent asked me to jump up and down and they all got to my breasts move like they were made of jello.

    If that wasn't proof enough I don't know what was.

    But regardless I was stuck following her around until I could sell her on the idea that I made the world around me the greatest anime ever. I guess I can't complain much as Coil was already working on putting a costume together for me, so anime is the theme whether Tattle likes it or not. But that doesn't mean much when she tells me to stay behind while she does the interesting thing. Like talking to the previous member of the team while I grabbed a coffee with Brute.

    So Brute and I got to chill out inside a coffee shop near the memorial. It was an odd thing, like they just decided 'fuck it, we'll put a big brick of black marble down on the untouched side of town and carve these losers name in. They will keep them happy right?'. But guess there was sentiment there that I just wasn't getting.

    I shrugged and slid into the booth, Brute sitting across from me. "So, Brute," I spoke quietly so no one heard his villain name. "Why don't you have a civilian name?" Brute looked at me for a moment. It was my first time seeing him out of costume, as he had been following Taylor around for a while. He had black hair that he was beginning to grow long. His face was thin, but with a strong jaw line.

    "Because civilian identity died many years ago. Have not needed since," Brute half grunted half said. I shrugged.

    I understood the sentiment. My family, my job, and pretty much everything else I cared about all died when the wanna-be Godzilla monster stepped on my family's bakery. I would be more torn up about it, but I've been making sure my focus was shifted elsewhere. Like running from said Godzilla monster, getting the rebar out of my shoulder, getting pumped up about getting superpowers, joining a supervillain team. Anything but dwelling on the fact that I probably won't need my civilian identity anymore either. I would have to face that reality eventually, but maybe if I put it off long enough it won't have any real effect on me.

    "But you really should pick a name. Maybe something that also sounds Russian." Brute nodded.

    "Mhm, I vill think on it."

    "So, been hanging out with Taylor huh? Anything going on in that department?" Brute looked at me flatly.

    "No." I rolled my eyes.

    "My god, you suck at small talk!" Brute raised an eyebrow at me.

    "Hm?"

    "You spent the last few days hanging out with someone who had clearly been planning on betraying her team. Surely there have to be some stories in there." Brute shrugged.

    "Perhaps. She is like others before her. Unsure of how to handle me. But she vill learn, in time." And yet another statement that brought our conversation to a grinding halt. Come you big brute, I'm trying not to go mad with boredom before Lisa gets back.

    "So, what is your power, specifically?" Brute shrugged.

    "I hit hard, am hard to hit, and heal what does hit."

    "There has to be more to it than that. These are superpowers, they don't settle for something simple. It is always something a little off kilter, something different." Brute shrugged again.

    "I steal the strength, healing, and durability factors of those I defeat. Works better if I kill them."

    "Even from normal people?" Brute nodded.

    "Smart man explained it like this to me once; Normal person has healing factor of one. I make them unable to fight, I steal .3 of factor. If I kill them I steal .5 of factor. So I travel and beat stronger opponents. Then one day, I will kill Behemoth."

    "Is that why you killed your last guy? He didn't want to fight the Leviathan so you took it as a personal insult?" Brute shook his head.

    "No, if he had ordered me to search and rescue I would have been unhappy, but fine. He did not want to help at all, something even racist prick leading racist army did for everyone. Because that is what you do for Endbringer attack. My last wielder is dead because he lost my respect."

    "Huh, neat." I quickly searched for a new topic to talk about, as this one came rapidly to an end. I could see Taylor and Lisa leaning against a railing some distance away from the coffee house, it didn't look like they were going to be done soon.

    "So, that is all you do? Go around from worthy person to worthy person, sticking around until they die. Nothing else?" Brute shrugged dismissively. Oh, no. I'm not letting him off that easy. "Come on tough guy, there's got to be something. Maybe an old boss you want to egg the car of. A certain hero that is constantly a thorn in your side. You didn't seem like you like the Protectorate that much."

    "Hmm, well there might be one thing." Brute paused and thought about it. "There is a man I'm looking for. Older, unshaven, greying hair."

    "Okay… Any particular reason for wanting to find him?"

    "He caused my trigger event."

    His trigger event, that was a conversation gold mine. But how to approach it?

    "Your trigger? Can I ask…" Brute frowned, but he was always frowning so it was hard to get a read on him.

    "Government has nasty business trying to understand trigger events. Sometimes they take people and try to force them to trigger, sometimes the person volunteers, I didn't." I elected to stay silent on that, see if he would continue.

    "The man's job was to torture me and others night after night, see if we could trigger within the week. I and very few others did." Brute took a deep breath and sighed. "Only the man died during a riot staged by me and my best friend."

    "Kind of hard to find a dead man isn't it?"

    "No, when he died his mind moved into my best friend's mind. It drove my friend mad and he eventually killed himself, causing the man to move to someone else. I chased him down for a time, but he disappeared before long." Brute looked out the window and saw Lisa and Taylor making their way back towards us.

    "I don't know what I would do if I found him. I can't kill him, but I would feel better knowing he was where I could see him." Taylor and Lisa entered the coffee shop and found spots next to us.

    "We have a job," Lisa said cheerfully. I grinned knowing what comes next.

    "So I finally get to be a supervillain? Name and all?" Lisa sighed.

    "Yeah, name and all." Taylor look between me and her for a moment before asking,

    "What name?" I flashed my grin at her.

    "Tsundere."

    My costume wasn't that special in general terms, it was how it stood out that made it interesting. It was a kimono styled slightly different so it didn't trip me up when trying to move. The fabric was a dark purple that looked black in the night. The red sash the wrapped around my waist and stomach was packed with shuriken, my power apparently giving them the ability to cut through most things.

    I have found dozens of uses for my power, making me almost more versatile than Skitter. The first thing I found as that my power takes hours to wear off, so my shuriken keep their unnatural sharpness even after leaving my area of effect.

    Secondly, after spending hour agonizing on a mask that would look even remotely cool enough, I found that with the proper application of my power I could change my appearance so drastically that not only was unrecognizable, but I also looked like an anime character. I even got these absolutely massive eyes that make my field of vision five times larger than it would have been.

    I can affect my friends too. A few test runs and it turns out that I can make pretty much anyone who stays in my bubble capable of flying through walls and able to move and jump with incredible agility. Only it took about ten minutes for the effect to become that powerful. I think the longer I pushed it the more dramatic things would become, but for the moment the most I have tested was ten minutes, and that started making all the object around look a bit more cartoony, my friends became more durable, and I began looking like an anime character.

    Best. Power. Ever.

    I think my favourite part was the two bokken and two katanas strapped to each side for symmetry. I didn't have a lot of sword training or practice with shurikens for that matter, but I moved like an anime character, so it only made sense I could fight like one too.

    Which only made the fact that my first real enemy could turn herself into a ghost a little more than irritating. Like, I went through all this trouble to defy how the universe works and still look awesome and you become something I can't even hit? How dare you!

    "Hey Tats?" I asked.

    "I told you my name is Tattletale." She responded. I smiled.

    "Okay, hey Tattle?" She sighed.

    "Next time she enters my range, can I try something." My hand stroked the handle of the katana on my right side in anticipation. Tattletale glanced down a for a moment, probably just long enough to begin working her power on me. It was really getting annoying, her doing that. Not that I cared too much about my privacy, but what if I wanted to get the drop on someone? She would make it really hard to surprise her.

    Suddenly it clicked in my head. That should be my goal, get things to the point where I could throw her a surprise party. It might be difficult, I wouldn't be able to use any misdirection at all. It would have to fit into some gap in a normal schedule, and everything I got for the party I would have to get through other means, but yes. This was doable, I was sure of it.

    "Wait until Bitches dogs make their third pass then you can," she finally told me. I punched a fist into the air and as loudly as I dared said,

    "Sweet!" I got shushed anyway. I stuck my tongue out at her and crep forward keeping out of sight as possible. I could feel Shadow Stalker and Skitter entered my range before I got too close. I waited until they were a good ten feet into my general range before and found a good hiding spot to stay in. From where I was I could see Grue beginning to coat the area in darkness. I could feel Imp trying to catch me from behind. I couldn't feel her in my range as I feel the others, instead, I felt her feet lightly hitting the ground as she stalked toward me. I resisted the urge to react to her in any way. It was one of the more fun things I did, making her believe I couldn't tell she was coming and then acting all surprised when she 'got me'. I've been saving up the big reveal for a while now, just waiting for the right moment to surprise her. It had to be with a wide enough audience, for the greatest effect.

    She pressed two fingers in the soft part of my body between my ribs and hips and felt a literal shockwave move through me. A cartoonish ripple that moved from the spot where she pressed on my sides going from head to toe. And when it finished travelling I reacted by jumping up and then rolling across the ground because that still hurt like a motherfucker.

    "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow," I moaned every second I rolled. Suddenly I felt Bitch's dogs making passes and immediately got to my feet as if nothing happened. Imp was probably grinning behind her mask, but I needed to focus. I took out my katana and let the shining blade flash in the moonlight. I could sense Shadow Stalker's shadow form even better. Normally people entering my range were only shadows compared to the detail in everything else. But ironically when she became an actual shadow I could see her almost perfect. Including her costume and the face beneath it.

    I stepped out into the open and waited for the third pass of Bitches dogs. The moment it came I flicked my katana out in front of me in two distinct slashes.

    Apparently, my power knew exactly what I wanted and gave me the perfect X-shaped projectiles. The tip of my katana drew two white arcs in front of me that immediately flew forward and intersected Shadow Stalker's form. She collapsed to the ground an instant later.

    Feeling a bit smug with that display I twirled around the katana and slid it back into its sheath. The darkness dissipated and the others began to circle around Shadow Stalker. Brute stepped up behind me from where he was told to hide, a cigar dangling from his mouth. They were talking to Shadow Stalker now, but I had to do something first. I had seen her face, and I knew her.

    I walked right past Skitter and kicked Shadow Stalker onto the ground swiftly before planting my foot on her shoulder. I could feel Skitter coming towards me to pull me off when I said,

    "Sophia Hess." Skitter froze in her tracks. I would too if the roles were reversed. Sophia was absolutely hated by anyone who didn't love her back at school. And by extension I assume that girl who always hung out with her, Emma I think, was very likely also a bitch. I was among the crowd that hated her. She never really did anything directly to me, but I hated her more on principle.

    "So how did someone as lowly as a school bully manage to get powers. Was mommy a little too tough on the precious little baby?" It was mean and condescending, but damn if this bitch didn't deserve it! Every day I would go to school and see her and her lackey and immediately fell a pinch of anger. She never approached me, probably because she knew I was liable to punch her in her overly pretty face. Somehow that made it worse, she only bullied people that either wouldn't react or would react weakly. I only saw a few people she got though after awhile she stopped chasing a lot of them and refined her attacks on someone. I never did find out who.

    I felt a hand on my shoulder, Brute, and let myself get pulled away. It was Skitter that walked forward next, Regent's staff in her hand. She said something to Shadow Stalker before she tazed her. With that done I clapped my hands together and said,

    "Alright, let's go break into the PRT headquarters." Everyone's head turned towards me. "What? Did I do something wrong?"
     
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  6. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 4
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    Tenant had a yo-yo instead of a cane this time. Skitter watched him silently do tricks as the PRT containment van drove them closer and closer toward what would become a progressively more impossible situation. She knew it wasn't going to work, it was just a question of when and where. The closer they could get to their goal the better chance they stood of succeeding in their goal and getting out again.

    "Fifty-seven percent chance Regent screws up in the first five minutes." Tenant said.

    'What?' Skitter thought at him.

    "You were thinking about the particular moment of our initial failure. So I rerouted portions of your brain to other tasks and used the freed processing power to start crunching some numbers and scenarios until I got that number for you." Tenant paused. "And judging by how I just lost some influence over you, I'm not winning any favours."

    'Then maybe you should stop messing with my mind without asking me first.' Tenant rolled his eyes.

    "Don't be stupid. I'm not going to do any serious harm, I'm not even sure I can. Call it a special case of the Manton effect, there are just somethings in the brain I can't stop or change. I'm stuck with you just as much as you're stuck with me." She didn't like him most of the time, he never really consulted her on anything he did. But he was becoming invaluable. He already extended her range about two more blocks and her already impressive multitasking abilities were almost unbelievable now. Not to mention he can keep track of Imp, block Regent's power, and had a perfect memory to refer back to whenever she needed it. And yet she knew that there was still massive untouched potential that her own feelings for him was preventing them from reaching. She thought back to when he had first introduced himself. He said that he would be limited by both how she liked him as a person and in what he did to her mind.

    While she wasn't a fan of either, it was hard to deny the power he brought to the table when fights like the one soon to come were about to happen.

    "Oh?" Tenant asked with a raised eyebrow. "I just felt a little more ground give way and a slight loss after I pointed that out, but a net gain no less." Tenant cocked his head to the side for a moment. "Well, that is interesting."

    'Find something new again?' Skitter asked him. Tenant nodded.

    "Always interesting, I forget most of my abilities when I move to a new host, and then later I remember and rediscover them all at the same time. Quite the interesting feeling. But you don't care about that." Tenant grabbed his yo-yo and sat straight up, only to lean forward so as to give Skitter his full attention.

    "You are that bothered by me as a person, not as good as liking me, but much better than disliking. At best I annoy you. In terms of what my power does; you're a little on edge about it, it bothers you to some large degree, particularly every time I tell you about it, but you're mostly okay with it. That makes you a lot better than most people I have paired up with. Just some unhealthy protectiveness people have with their own minds, I guess.

    "But my point is that, while far from perfect, we fit well enough together that I think I can pull off a few tricks I rarely get to use."

    'And those are?'

    "First and foremost, understand that I am a living conscious. I might not have a body anymore, but I still remember how to breathe and pump blood. Essentially, I can rewrite certain portions of your mind to do other things while I take over all your breathing and other involuntary reflexes." Tenant frowned. "Oh well, I can see you're not too keen on that idea. Well, this next one is a bit better. If I stop everything else I'm doing, upping your power range, your multitasking capacity, hormonal balances to keep you calm, and a dozen other things I am managing in the back, if I stop all that I can slow your perception of time down to the point where a bullet will move at speeds relative to a baseball." Tenant paused and thought. Skitter felt a twinge of annoyance that he could apparently hear all of her thoughts but she couldn't hear his.

    "Let's see... you once read a bullet could move at two thousand five hundred mph and about six months ago you read that a baseball in major league game averaged about a hundred mph. So, about twenty-five times slower, give our take." Immediately the possibilities quickly began to flood her mind, the speed at which they came was probably on Tenant as well. Quickly, Skitter addressed each and every idea and kept mostly likely to be useful ones nearby in her mind space. Tenant had helpped with that too. One restless night on an uncomfortable cot and together he had made her mind feel more three dimensional, as if it were a complex building that she could teleport through to find and file everything they needed.

    He was just as comforting as he was an annoyance. Even in the lonely shelter where she knew no one he was there beside her. Either ready to talk to her or just staying within her sight. One nice thing was that he always seemed to know when he should and shouldn't talk. Whether that was an intuitive thing he had learned from her mind or just something he was good at, she didn't know.

    "You're doing it again." Tenant reminded her.

    'Doing what?'

    "Wondering if I am making you a different person by my mere presence or otherwise. What is interesting about you is that you don't care so much that I mess with your brain, you care that I might mess with that integral part that is you. And that seems to be what holds you back, always asking yourself if you're different because of me."

    'Only because you haven't answered the question before.' Tenant sighed.

    "To be honest? I don't really know. They say 'you are you, plus your circumstances' and I am a pretty big circumstance. I don't think my existence changes who you are, but the fact that you see me all the time, talk with me constantly, and just generally recognize that I'm here, that might be changing you in small ways. Nothing noticeable, nothing talking with anyone of your friends for an extended period wouldn't do.

    "But I'm not just doing that, I'm also unloading load of information into your mind. You take it much better than others have, no doubt because of your pre-existing power, but that is still a lot of information to be receiving."

    'So? Do you think I'm still me?' Tenant looked her over for a moment and gave a weak laugh.

    "Of course you're you. Nothing I do will stop you from being you, I just have to wonder if your an entirely different you than you would have been if the Leviathan hadn't killed my last host. And another thing they say, 'absolute power corrupts absolutely'. Which makes you wonder; does every time you gain power corrupt you just a little bit more, or is it the changes in a person as a reaction to their circumstances being misconstrued as corruption in those that were given massive power as part of their circumstance?" Tenant shook his head.

    "I'm sorry, I ramble. I think I may have started out a philosophy professor before I died. I hope I answered you question because it looks like we're out of time."

    'No, you didn't really.' Skitter thought as the doors to the vans opened and they began pulling Regent, Grue, Bitch, Tattletale, Imp, herself, and Tsundere from the inside of the vehicle.

    "Ah well, a shame. But now we get to see what it is like in a fight now, and that ought to be a little fun right?"

    Thanks to Tenant Skitter was able to both not focus and focus on the events going around her. She was aware of the conversation that led up to Weld alerting everyone that this was a trap, even tensed at particular moments were Reagent narrow dodged a bullet in conversation. But she was able to keep her real focus on Tenant up until that moment. Like she had two minds, each equally capable yet with one taking more prominence. However when Weld did catch on the two minds slid into each other to form one hyper aware consciousness within her.

    The moment the shoe dropped Tsundere was a leaping into motion. Bitch, Grue, and Regent all made a move to take out the PRT uniforms closest to them, but Tsundere got them first. Her hands were a literal blur of motion as she threw a few dozen shuriken over the span of a few seconds. They found their way into shoulders, legs, and arms. Her ability apparently giving her the skill to throw them with some degree of accuracy. Flechette, Clockblocker, and Vista all hit the ground before the rest of them had time to blink. A few shurikens struck Weld, only to be absorbed into his body. Kid Win dove to the side immediately, his costume absorbing the shuriken for him.

    However nine hundred and seventy bugs sweep out from underneath Skitter's costume and the caspian bugs crawled over Kid Win's face.

    "It burns!" he cried as he tried to shield his face. Suddenly the swarm Tenant had helped her gather began pouring through doors and windows of the building. She immediately surrounded Weld, Clockblocker, and Vista. She couldn't do much against Weld's metal skin, but she could block his vision along with making sure Vista couldn't see to put her warping effects in place. Every time Clockblocker attempted to move she ordered her bugs to sting and bite the part of his costume were the shuriken cut through the fabric.

    Skitter felt Tattletale lifting a foam sprayer at the swarm and immediately made a clear path for the first person Tattletale targeted. Flechette screamed from the caspian bugs that were now away from her face before the foam muffled her. Weld was coated in the foam next, but he was making it difficult by refusing to maintain shape. Suddenly, Regent had Shadow Stalker stick two bolts in each eye before they solidified. Weld began attempting to claw them out, giving them just enough time to coat him thoroughly in the foam. It wasn't difficult after that. Grue coated the remaining Wards in darkness until Tattletale and Imp could coat them in the foam.

    They all paused before working towards their next objective. It couldn't have gone better without a single on of them getting taken out of action, but the worst part had yet to come.

    "Tsundere," Tattletale said to her. "This area is going to be our best way out, from here to that gift shop. Start working your power on it. Imp and Shadow Stalker can back you up.

    "Sounds like fun," Tsundere said with a goofy grin as she moved into position. Immediately the walls and glass around her began to grow smoother, more cartoon like. It would be a few minutes before it had any meaningful effect, but by the time they got the data they should be ready for a fight.

    "Skitter?" Tenant asked with a bored tone.

    'What is it?'

    "How well do you think anime powers are going to work against Dragon when she shows up?"

    'What? Dragon?' Tenant rolled his eyes.

    "Oops, spoiler alert. But yeah, you're about to have a bad time.
     
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  7. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    No, she didn't. She comes within inches of touching the blade (he should have put an 'and' instead of a comma there). The wording is ambiguous, but there are references in the text thereafter to "my one good hand" and so forth. She never bandages the left hand, and if she'd been bleeding all that time, she'd be dead. Also, she only ever refers to her broken arm (and later back), not a missing hand,

    Note that her left arm is broken, and that's the one her armband is on (and you have her speaking into her armband after it's been EMP'd by Armsmaster). She can't use her left hand for anything, so she has to be feeling around with her right hand for the halberd (and later, using it with that hand).

    But the clincher is when she's in the hospital bed and they put manacles on both her arms. Around her wrists. If she'd lost her left hand, she could pull the wrist right out. Lastly, there's a blow-by-blow with Panacea, and there's no mention of replacing the hand.

    EDIT: In fact, there's this line from Panacea when she's examining Taylor:

    No, what you're doing is having the dialogue of one character sharing the same paragraph with the actions of another character. It's hella confusing.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
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  8. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 5
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    "Aw fuck all kinds of duck," I said as Dragon's craft landed outside and immediately began filling the lobby with containment foam. Shadow Stalker turned into her shadow form and Imp disappeared, leaving me essentially alone. Asshats.

    I was pretty sure I could have cut through that foam if I had my katanas, but we have left those behind for our 'arrest'. For the time being I was left with a handful shurikens. I felt my power make a few more, but I haven't had long enough time to make them seem infinite yet.

    I could feel the Dragon suit within my range and began noting details about it. I could feel around inside of it too, feeling around all the components as my power started affecting it. I found some sort of life form piloting the craft, but I couldn't tell what it was but I knew it was human. I let my power press down on it for the moment, I still had no idea what it did to people I classified as my enemies but it was going to be something.

    I wasn't a computer expert or anything, but a gun was a gun and this ship was packing a metric fuck-ton. Yet it wasn't using them. Hmm, curious. Based on what I was sensing it could tear the inside of this place apart, yet it was holding back. A restriction by the pilot's superiors? Was that Dragon herself inside or was that some person warped by their power? Either way, it didn't seem to have a lot of non-lethal weaponry, which is what it was limiting itself to. It was an advantage for me.

    I dove out of cover, three shurikens in hand and gave them a throw. I wasn't that skilled in throwing them, but my power seemed to give me what I needed. The six pointed ninja star sank into one of the suit's turrets, causing foam to open expanded over the mech. I counted it as a win even though the other two stars glanced harmlessly off Dragon's suit.

    I swore as a glop of foam got my leg and I stumbled behind cover. When I looked back the suit was releasing a vapor that was causing the foam to melt away off her. I swore again, my stars can't do anything against her normal armour and the damage I did to her gun almost didn't matter.

    The suits mouth opened and suddenly began spraying some sort of flaming liquid across the lobby. I felt Imp's feet pound the ground as she dodged for cover from the flames. She made her way next to me behind a wall.

    "Damn it, how can she do that?" Was her first words when she reappeared.

    "She is using cameras to see from within the suit, along with other things I don't know about," Imp swore again. Suddenly I grinned.

    "You have that look again," Imp said. I raised an eyebrow.

    "What look?"

    "The one you get every time you get an awesome idea."

    "Wow, you guys must see that face all the time." She and I grinned at each other for a moment before I held up six shurikens in between the spaces between my fingers and said, "Watch this."

    I dashed out from the hiding space and leapt into the air, my power letting my sail up until I nearly touch the ceiling. I twisted my body and shouted,

    "Holy Shuriken Strike!" All of the sudden the world went so dark it was almost black. Grue? No, this was my power reacting to my shout. I grinned like a mad man as I threw all six shurikens with an impressive body spin. Each star spiral outward in an arc, leaving behind a white trail behind them as the converged on the Dragon suit and punching all the way through it. I landed with a roll and moved to cover, suddenly aware of the rest of The Undersiders joining us.

    Six holes the size of baseballs now dotted the suit's body. I don't know if I could do it again, and I'm not sure I want to try. I only had two shurikens left and with my luck it would need a full six to activate the power. I saw Grue do his thing and coat Dragon with darkness to keep her from advancing any further. Which was good because the foam was getting uncomfortable close

    "Run through the gift shop, I'll meet you outside!" Grue shouted. I stood up to bolt when I felt someone new move into my power. I heard metal tearing before I even realized who it was.

    Grue was banishing the darkness before Brute was done ripping his way through the mech suit. Bitch's dogs right behind him tearing at limbs they could get their claws and mouth on. Electricity leapt to them the moment the touch Dragon's suit and they leapt backwards with various howls of pain. Bitch whistled and motioned her hand, calling the dogs to her. She only lost Judas during the fight with Leviathan, which gave her plenty of trained dogs to use here. All the same, there were two smaller dogs to replace him and the one that was too injured to fight anymore.

    Brute didn't seem to care about the electricity burning his arms as he continued to crush and tear the suit apart with his fists. His Russian themed suit was taking a beating, but it was managing to hold together much better than it would have if it was outside of my power.

    "Run, run, run!" Grue shouted at me. Right, running. Almost forgot. Although I had always wondered what being electrocuted felt like. And there would be no safer time than now as the machine told specifically not to kill was preoccupied with the heavy hitter on our team. If I could just get close enough to touch as I ran by...

    I was distracted as I saw Bitch attempt to shove Skitter into the foam in my vision. I was suddenly aware everyone else was outside of the building except for me and these two. I moved forward to help her, Bitch and I were going to have problems after this. But suddenly I saw Skitter react with faster reflexes than I gave her credit for.

    She took a well placed step as Bitch shoved her, as if she saw the move coming, and grabbed Bitch just right to spin her around. In the blink of an eye, Skitter was holding the much heavier Bitch face first just over the foam. That was far more coordination than I had ever seen her move with. Had she been taking lessons or something?

    After a moment she let Bitch go, pulling her back to avoid falling into the foam and without another word they ran out of the building. Then it was just me and Imp hiding behind me with her power. I shook the scene out of my head and ran out of the building as fast as I could, which was pretty fast because of anime physics and all.

    Skitter was better than me, I would have dropped Bitch into the foam for trying to do me in like that. But maybe she was feeling a little guilty over having almost-but-not-really betraying the team before. Weird people, but I don't think I'm in much a position to talk.

    Which reminded me I didn't get a chance to electrocute myself. Damn it!

    I suddenly found Assault and Battery in my range and swore. I quickly located the one dog Bitch had that was carrying my stuff. Bentley I think she said.

    I grabbed my katanas and bokken. I decided to keep the katanas away for now. Battery could make electro magnetic charges, and I didn't want the metal blade getting caught up in that.

    Smoke was pouring out of the building, making things hard to see. I raised a bokken and darted towards Battery. I saw Grue's darkness hit her in the face an momentarily blind her. Seeing my chance I raised the wooden sword and suddenly found Assault standing in my way. A swung my bokken at him, but he redirected it with a wave of his hand. I had the advantage of speed because of my power unleashed a barrage of swipes. Not a single one managed to hit.

    I needed to find a new approach. Luckily I didn't need to think too hard as Brute came barreling through the smoke and started swinging at Assault. Immediately, Assault went on the defensive. Brute was fast even without my power making him faster every second he stayed within my effect. And while Assault was almost a perfect counter for him, it meant he couldn't afford to be distracted.

    All the same I didn't want to get caught up in that so I went back to charging Battery. One of Bitch's dog steam rolled her as Grue drowned her in darkness. I raised my bokken and shouted, "Seismic Swing!" I entered Grue's darkness in the middle of the swing, but it hardly mattered as I was hyperaware of everything going on in my sphere of influence. The enhanced swing struck Battery in the stomach so hard it created a crater around her, shattering the ground. My power was probably the only thing the stopped her from turning into jelly from the strike. Although she probably felt every bit of pain that would have caused if I let the strike obliterate her soft insides.

    I felt Assault moving towards me and Miss Militia entering the battlefield at the same time. Assault found himself trying to fight of Brute again and bugs started swarming Miss Militia. I turned towards Miss Militia, as she was where I was most likely to be helpful, but suddenly found myself no longer needed. One of Bitch's dogs barreled over her and knocked her to the ground. Imp moved behind Assault and hit him hard upside the head, he crumpled to the ground.

    I immediately moved towards Tattletale the moment I was sure those two were out of action.

    We were moving before I even got there, running to safety before more heros had a chance to show up. I could feel Skitter, Tattletale, Imp and Grue in my range and started exerting power outward from myself. We were going faster and faster every second. Because I had already spent almost twenty minutes of my power working at full effect, I was jumping off roof tops in the same fashion I saw Naruto characters jumped and ran through the trees.

    We stopped sometime later to wait for the others. We might have needed to catch our breath in any other scenario, but my power had a ton of passive effects I'm still learning. The instant I felt Bitch, her dogs, Regent and Shadow Stalker enter my range I saw Skitter start forward.

    I was mildly surprised when she hit Bitch and started straddling her while angrily saying things into her ear. I couldn't hear and didn't make any attempt to, this seemed like something that should stay between the main team. Brute apparently got the same feeling and moved to stand silently beside me.

    I busied myself by reattaching my swords to my waist and replenishing my shuriken stash. I relaxed my influence on the world around me, drawing my power back into my body and allowing it to continue to work its magic on me. I felt a wave of weariness hit me the moment I relaxed my power. I briefly wondered if that was a side effect of my power, but dismissed it as something I would have to check later.

    "Kinetic man was very annoying, yaes." Brute said bluntly. I shrugged.

    "You got him in the end."

    "Bah, horn girl stole final blow. I barely got enough of his strength to lift ball."

    "But you got some of his durability too didn't you? That will make thing easier dealing with him in the future." Brute frowned.

    "People can regain strength, and durability heals over time too. Healing though take many years. Bad for people I fight."

    "You know speaking of which, how did you build up your strength? Clearly, you couldn't just jump in and start swinging at the strong capes immediately." Brute frowned and lifted a cigar to the gap around his mouth on his mask. His hands were completely healed from the electric shocks by now.

    "Do not tell Skeeter. She would not like answer, yaes." Brute paused to take a breath from his cigar. "I bullied others for many a year. Picked fights, strong armed the weaklings around school. Vhen I turned eighteen year ago I pick fight with bodybuilder and win. I take so much of strength you could see muscles shrink. Later he sent his friends after me to avenge him or something like that. I was forced to kill one, becoming much more powerful. Ever since I trusted my wielders to build up my strength in constructive way. Is better than killing, yaes." So that made him about nineteen, two years older than me. Strange, if it wasn't for the abs I could almost picturing him being younger than me. Those flat, ridged, sexy abs. I- Wait, no. No, no, no, no, no. I will not think about Brute's abs. I will not. Focus. Find something else to say.

    "Then-" I was cut off as Tattletale came up and told us where we were headed to. A grinned, more happy to have a chance to get that out of my mind than anything. So now all I had to do is walk straight into Coil's den and come back out without him ordering me killed. Fun.

    I was having a good day. I got to use my powers in a really fight for the first time. That included me throwing shuriken through one of Dragon's suits, coming incredibly close to completely snapping Battery in half, and jumping across roof tops like a true anime character. I got time to chill in between, Imp and I had a hell of a time screwing with the other members. All and all, I was have the time of my life.

    Which makes it all the more depression when you hear Coil's precog predict the end of the world in two years.

    "If I were to send the Travellers? How likely would they be to kill him?" Coil asked Dinah. The little kid was absolutely pitiful to see. It almost hurt me just to look at her, so I looked anywhere but at her. I heard Skitter talk about her sometimes, but this was just sad. I got the feeling I wasn't about to start liking Coil anytime soon.

    "My head hurts."

    "Please, pet, this is important. To one decimal point."

    "Twenty two point six percent. Thirty point nine percent chance some of them die."

    "And The Undersiders?"

    "Twenty two point seven percent. Forty one percent chance they die trying to fight them." Only a point of a percent difference between us and the Travelers? I haven't met them yet, but I liked to think we were at least cooler than them in terms of style.

    "Can I ask her a question?" I asked. Everyone turned and looked at me for a moment. Why was everyone doing that? It seems like every time I open my mouth around the team someone looks at me like I just took off my shirt.

    Coil turned and placed a hand on Dinah. "Is that alright, pet?" Slowly Dinah nodded her head.

    "I think I can answer a few more." Coil turned to me and nodded. I took a step forward and kneeled down in front of Dinah. She would look so adorable if it wasn't for the bags under her eyes.

    "Just out of curiosity, what are the chance of The Undersiders killing Jack if I die in say... the next five minutes?" I could feel people staring at me again, literally because I could sense their bodies move slightly after that question.

    "Twenty point five percent." Well, that was reassuring, at least everyone now knows I'm at least useful. But to keep myself from looking like a complete ass I had to ask on someone else's behalf too. Let's see...

    "What if it was Skitter, instead of me?" I could feel Coil moving forward to stop me from answering another question. That was fine, it would be easier to make it seem I was not completely selfish for wanting to know I was important.

    "Eleven point nine percent chance they succeed." My blood went cold and I could sense everyone else freeze. Slowly I stood up and tried to fade into the background. Not so easy as the stupid anime physics made my body completely white to match my feelings. I let my power enter a resting state and saw my colour entering back into my hands, but also saw my depth of field shrink as my eye began returning back to normal. Trying to find a balance between the two states gave me something to focus on while the others talked things out.

    After a few minutes of them discussing the implications of that, the conversation moved on to territory for everyone. Coil laid out a ground plan giving everyone but Imp, me, and Brute their own territory. Brute would of course follow Skitter, and Imp would hang out with her brother. Which just left me, the odd woman out as it were.

    Who would I want to hang out with? I would be working for whoever it was I joined, but I could live with that. Just so long as they made it fun enough. Tattletale could use some power in her corner. I shivered at the thought. No, no more of that. Regent was fun, but kind of a prick. Maybe Bitch, I'm sure she could use some help running her territory, not sure she would want it though. And I wasn't completely convinced she wouldn't kill me in the first couple days. The left Grue and Skitter. I didn't really think too much for either of them. Grue was boring and Skitter was kind of on the fence whether or not she was accepted into the team. Imp was fun to hang out with, but I kind of like talking to Brute. He was simple, easy to understand, plus we are both newer members to the team than anyone else.

    I shrugged and said, "I think I'll stay with Skitter for the time being, but I'll go around everyone's territory and see where I'm needed."

    "I see," Coil answered. "Well, is there anything else before we part ways for the night?" No one said anything, so we began heading for the exit, with exception of Skitter who stayed behind to have a private conversation with Coil.

    A little put out not being able to be more useful at the end of the conversation, I turned to follow Brute out. Hopefully I can find some more skulls to crack before the night is over.
     
  9. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Grim Lord if you're interested in constructive criticism, say so, otherwise I'll wince and ignore it.
     
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  10. Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    Criticism is always welcome.
     
  11. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 6
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    Taylor woke up after a long and dreamless sleep. She almost felt like she was confused by the strange place she was waking up in before she recognized it as the headquarters, but the secondary consciousness Tenant was maintaining made sure she didn't make that very human mistake. She sighed and sat up, immediately seeing Tenant stretching like he had just woke up as well.

    It had been a long night for the two of them, although Taylor wasn't sure Tenant would be affected by it all that much. He didn't ever seem to get tired, not even when she was and it was her mind he was living in.

    They had moved into their new base of operation that Coil had provided them. The last two weeks they had been working together to make it a true super villain base. The second floor in particular.

    She and Tenant had got a system together where she could extend a measure of trust to him when she was asleep. At midnight Tenant would snap his fingers and she would fall into a dreamless sleep, leaving him to control her power during that time. The next six hours Tenant spent working nonstop working with her bugs. Making sure the black widow spiders were constantly working in a cycle. Eating, silk producing, breeding. He couldn't manage it nearly as complexly as she did, stopping him from working on the costumes for everyone. But by morning she would have several yards of silk to start working with.

    She was coming more and more to terms with him every day. The simple truth was that she was able to work with Rachel, which meant she could work with someone even as insulting as Tenant got to be. And his power was more and more useful every step they took, resulting in him having a bit more influence when she wanted it. The increased influence made him even more useful, compounding the factor.

    Her reading speed was getting to the point she only had to glance at the page and with the increased retention he gave her she could memorize it in that instance. That resulted in almost every night getting spent pouring over books. In the last two weeks, she had learned more about guns, swordplay, martial arts, knife fighting, cold reading a person's reactions, clothing design, negotiation skills, and acting than she had learned in her entire life time.

    But it didn't all click. She could memorize it all, but it was more or less like knowing how to play every single note on the piano perfectly. She could read the sheet music, memorize, know how each note is meant to sound, but she was missing that fundamental component that let her string it all together into a comprehensible song.

    But even that was getting handled slowly. The more she practiced with her knife and making the costumes the closer the notes sounded like the song the were meant to be. It was still slow learning, but exponentially faster than anyone besides Thinkers could learn.

    Her collection of books was growing rapidly. She preemptively asked Coil for three massive black bookcases, and one was already full. They were slowly getting filled with skill books of all sorts. Things were getting to the point where a majority of everything she knew could be found on those shelves And while she held an almost perfect retention of everything in those shelves, Tenant could access her memories and recited word for word every last thing on any page you picked. It was like perfect memory with a middleman in between each detail.

    "All ready?" He asked lazily. Today he had his cane back and was twirling it idly.

    "Almost," Taylor said aloud. She didn't need to speak to him using her voice, but it felt more natural doing so. "I'd like to try it again this morning." Tenant nodded rose from where he had been sitting. He turned and looked at her, leaning on his cane. He waited until she was ready, which of course he simply knew without any confirmation from her.

    Between her two consciousness, two different tasks were accomplished. There was the primary mind, the one that talked to and interpreted everything Tenant did. The second one was in charge of paying attention to the world around her, maintained conversation and preformed the tasks she needed to do. It was a lot like the AI Dragon had built for the armbands and what Tenant suspected to pilot her suits. When the task at hand required a bit more of her focus she would switch the roles, that usually meant during a fight were Tenant fell more or less silent to focus on making it all work.

    However now Tenant was prompting the growth of a third mind to join her. This one would be even simpler than the AI-like mind. The hope was that it would keep important information like martial art styles she had memorized at the fore, just in reach whenever she needed it until it became second nature. Tenant said that once she had a good handle on it all the third mind could work like Armsmaster's predictive computer. It would use her frame of reference to generate a detailed outline of what she might expect to happen in the next few seconds. Incredibly useful when fighting fast opponents and avoiding projectiles.

    But just as the third mind was approaching its climax and becoming established she felt it pop like a bubble. The exact result she had felt a dozen times. Tenant let out a tired sigh.

    "What happened this time?" She asked. Tenant rolled his eyes.

    "You're annoying human emotions got in the way again. Your brain is taxed to capacity until you give me more room. Of course, I could make the room for a third mind and even a fourth if you just let me-"

    "No," She said sharply. He was talking about taking control of her involuntary reflexes again. She couldn't let him do that. She couldn't quite explain why, but it felt like going too far. Like he was breaking some taboo by suggesting it. Tenant sighed again.

    "Stupid, but whatever you want I suppose." Tenant paused. "All ready for doing the plan today?" Taylor nodded. Everyone on The Undersiders and The Travelers would be making bids for territory today. And she and Tenant had finished setting up for it last night making their plan.

    "Do you think it will work." Tenant snorted dismissively.

    "Of course it will work, people are idiots." Taylor nodded. She didn't completely agree, but she knew what he meant.

    Taylor slipped into her costume and became Skitter before slipping down stairs onto the second floor. Brute was leaning against a wall watching Riza practice with her shuriken against a dummy they had set up away from the terrariums. She was back in her black crop top that said 'Badass' on the front. Apparently, she had a lot of those.

    She was throwing the stars without her power to guide her. And her aim was getting uncanny. Skitter watched silently as she flicked her wrist three times and each time a razor sharp star went flying out, each one striking roughly the same place on the dummy. Of course things would be different in a combat situation, but she could rely on her power to fill in the gap.

    Riza smiled when she say Skitter watching. And lowered her hand and flicked the stars that were in her in hand lightly in the air before catching them and hiding them in between her breasts. Skitter's eye twitched at that.

    "You're staring again." Tenant commented with a slightly amused tone.

    'She is lucky enough to have those and she is shoving sharp objections in them like they are glorified storage containers.' Skitter thought at him defensively. Tenant sarcastically pretended to look baffled at the way she said that, then paused for a moment.

    "Actually, I've been thinking on that. I-"

    'I bet you have.' Tenant acted offended for a moment.

    "What I was going to say was that you should make your identity harder to discern by putting in fake breasts in your custom." Skitter was about to retort to that when she realized that it wasn't that bad of an idea. She was sixteen, it wouldn't be hard for the local capes to assume that the growth was because she was a late bloomer. The real issue would be dealing with Alec, Imp, and probably Riza. Tattletale would probably have a few comments on it too, but she could deal with that at another time.

    "That is going to be one interesting call to Coil." Tenant mused. "Hello? Yeah, can I get a pair of B or C cup silicone breasts? I assure you that it is of the utmost importance." Skitter decided to ignore that for the moment and turned her attention to Riza and Brute.

    "Are you ready for the job today?" Brute nodded seriously from where he stood.

    "Well, thing is," Riza began, "I can help you and all, but Tattle wanted me and Imp to help her knock some heads in her own territory. I can stay if you want but..."

    'But Imp is more fun.' Skitter finished in her head. Tenant shrugged.

    "We don't need her for the tone you're going to want to set. I say dump her of for Tattletale to babysit." Skitter nodded in agreement, although it would look like confirmation to Riza.

    "Alright," Skitter told her, "But do exactly what Tattletale says or I'll put another spider in your bed." Riza paled a little.

    "Right," Riza said with a slightly forced cheerful tone. "But before I go, Brute picked a name." Skitter raised an eyebrow.

    "You picked a civilian name?" Brute grunted. "What did you pick?"

    "Stravik." Skitter nodded.

    "Good, then let's get loaded up." Stravik nodded and moved away from the wall. He ran a hand through his shaggy black hair before walking toward the door.

    The first part of the plan was simple. Gather a massive black cloud over the centre of her territory. With Tenant increasing her range to five blocks, Skitter grabbed every last bug in her territory, which now included her house. She was uncertain about making him part of the territory, but Tenant assured her it wouldn't be a problem after they changed her costume a bit more. For now, she just didn't invite that section of the territory.

    People were already beginning to show as her bugs urged them from all over her soon to be territory. Her bugs finding them and directing them in one direction, the centre of the swarm. The cloud was rotating rapidly clockwise in the air over the area they had decided on, enough to cast a shadow without completely blocking out the sun. Slowly, Skitter and the others approached with a much thicker swarm of bugs coating them, shielding them from view as they passed.

    People had gathered in a largely open area, waiting to see what was going to happen and unable to leave as her bug created a way behind them that only let people enter. Skitter took a small breath and told Brute to step forward.

    Brute was carrying a large platform with ten supply crates, the dozen of Coil's men, and herself, all held above his head in an impressive display as he stepped through the mass of bugs like a ship breaking through a wave. People instinctively moved backwards, but the bugs stopped them from going anywhere.

    Brute sat the platform down in the street, the platform doubled for showmanship and keeping the crates out of the water. Skitter rose, standing above everyone else on a box as Coil's men began opening boxes.

    "Some of you know me!" Skitter called over the crowd. "You may call me Skitter, and you are now all part of my territory. But rest assured, I am not the ABB! I am not the Merchants, The Empire or The Chosen. These groups will no longer be allowed operate in this area." Tenant had located Battery in the crowd and Skitter paid a little more attention in her direction.

    "I have come to act in your interests, so rest assured that you will be protected completely free of all payment you may have been asked for from aforementioned gangs for the same treatment." Skitter waved a hand at the supply crates behind her, and clumps of bugs she had hanging around cleared out of the way for more a visual effect to the movement. "Every family is welcome to some supplies I have here. Food rations, water filters, first aid, anything you might need in the coming weeks during reconstruction. If your family is large enough you may have two." Skitter paused and looked out over the crowd.

    "I don't want anything from you accept your corporation. Do not assist other gangs, do not sell drugs, do not steal, do not hurt others. If you do I will know." She gathered a cloud of bugs around her hands and held them up for everyone to see. "I have millions of eyes to watch you from. Play nice and you get to sleep without worrying of bugs biting you in your sleep or tainting your food. Do not and you learn just how fast my army ants can strip flesh from your bones.

    "With that said, I thank you for listening. You are welcome to come forward and take some supplies, but if you want more, if your want a better place to stay for you and your family, if you want pay, come work for me. You don't need to do anything criminal, pass messages, help with the rebuilding, distribute supplies out to others, there are a number of things you can do to help the other people in the territory. If this interests you, talk to Brute, the man in the Russian clothing." With that speech done, Skitter raised her hand in the air in a completely unnecessary motion that made it look like she was dispersing all the bugs. The cloud above her cleared an open space in the sky so the bugs were moving a halo around the area, barely visible from where they were.

    The first man stepped forward. His wife and kids behind him. The parents didn't meet her eyes and the children hid behind their mother who look like she had a cold. When the father accepted the box one of Coil's men handed to him. The family began moving away, but for a moment the father met her eyes. He nodded once then turned away, a crush of bodies surging forward directly after him as they found a bit more courage after seeing him coming out unscathed.

    Skitter and Tenant made sure they would have more than enough. It would be better for come out with more than needed than less. It would also serve to show how well off they were.

    Things were going well until she heard shouting. The crowd parted around a man flanked on either side by a group of other men with him. He was holding a rusty knife and seemed to be enjoying the reaction of everyone around him. The scruff of beard on the chin of the lead man was white, but it seemed rather premature given his apparent age. He was shirtless, with a long sleeve shirt tied around his waist, and scratches crisscrossing his upper body. His buddies stood back, smirking and grinning.

    "See?" Tenant said, "People are idiots." Skitter silently agreed with him on this one, it was incredibly stupid to attempt this right in front of her, and that ignoring the fact that he had to have seen Brute carry them in.

    "You there." Skitter said, stalking forward slowly. "Do you think that crude knife of your makes you tough? That it make you strong and important?"

    "Fuck you! I'm not scared of bugs." Skitter stopped and tilted her head slightly. They were now only two yards apart now, people watching intently to see what would happen.

    "Would you like to be?" Skitter asked, she held her hand out to the side and four tendrils formed out of the halo of bugs in the sky. They each arced downward, depositing a mass of bugs in her hand. "Because if you plan on threating my people, then you better be ready to face me."

    "I'm not scared of you!"

    "Then prove it, use that knife on me. Or are all of the Merchants just as cowardly as Skidmark?" The man's eyes widened a little bit more as Skitter labeled him. He lifted his knife as if he was going to attack, but didn't follow through.

    "What is the problem? Weren't you tough just a minute ago when you were threatening unarmed people? Is all it takes is a few flies to over power you? Are you that much of a weak bully?" The man launched forward and attempted to thrust the knife in her side. She felt Tenant slowing time slightly around her, just enough to notice. She waited for him to get within arms reach of the knife before spring into action.

    Tenant only slowed her perception of time, not speed up her body to accommodate it. She watched her body move slightly slower as she grabbed his wrist. The moment she had the grip and stance she wanted she silently told Tenant to release the time effect.

    But in real time she twisted his arm and pulled him forward, forcing him to drop the knife. A quick flash of her elbow and she broke his arm where she twisted it before shoving him back and letting caspian bugs flow from underneath her armour and over his face. Causing him to scream and cry as he tried to put out the burning feeling in the water without lying on his broken arm.

    Battery was suddenly there in front of her a second after Skitter had picked up the knife the man had dropped.

    "I can't let you do that." She said.

    "Wasn't planning to," Skitter said dismissively. She gently tossed the knife towards her. Battery dispersed her power and caught it by the handle. Skitter looked her over for a moment. "But just out of curiosity, what do you think you could have done to stop me if I wanted to?" Through her bugs she could feel Brute moving towards her with a small following of people behind him. Battery looked at her then at Brute before answering.

    "I would have tried to stop you, whether I thought I could win or not. That's what it means to be a hero." Suddenly Tenant moved forward and glared at Battery.

    "Skitter," he started, "Let me have the reins on this conversation."

    'Are you sure?'

    "Yes." Skitter moved into a mindset that would let her repeat everything Tenant said as he said it. Not giving him any measure of control, but enough that he might as well have been speaking himself.

    "Do you want to know the real difference between a hero and a villain, Battery? Villains are more honest."

    "What? Your kind lies, cheats, and steals their way through life and you claim to be more honest?"

    "Sure, we lie to others," they said in stride, "But unlike heros, there is one thing we almost never do; lie to ourselves." They observed Battery tense in a way that suggested they hit a nerve of some sort.

    'Someone she knows?' Skitter asked.

    'Or someone she likes,' Tenant answered.

    "You see," they continued as if nothing had happened, "We know what we are, and we know what we have to do. But heroes can be the most honest person to others, but they will always lie to themselves to convince themselves that they are happy the way things are." Their head tilted. "But you already knew that, didn't you? Someone you know is like that, aren't they? Maybe you have been seeing it, maybe you didn't want to believe it. But the reality is, this person you know is a villain at heart because of lack that self-delusion you and every other hero around you has." Tenant relaxed and slid into the background again, actually looking worn out from the effort of the effect.

    Battery stared at them for a long moment, not saying anything or moving at all. Suddenly her power swelled and she darted away, disappearing from sight around a building. But with her bugs, Skitter could tell she was beginning to stumble before she got far after that.

    Skitter and Tenant returned to the crates and began silently observing the remaining people going through. Brute had about twenty men and a few woman signing on with him. Most looked like previous ABB members. They had counted on that. It would be better to have everyone doing no criminal work, but it didn't hurt to have experienced gang members on hand in case something requiring a more villain element to deal with.

    'I don't approve of what you did.' Skitter said.

    "But you wouldn't change it either." He answered uncaringly. "Whether you liked it or not, it was effective." Skitter was about to say something in response when a girl walked up to her, trying to get her attention without being overt. She had red hair that was tied into deadlocks she had probably been growing for years, covered partially with a colourful bandana. She was pale and wide-eyed, fidgeting back and forth. Nervous, Skitter observed.

    "You got a box, is there something else?" She nearly jumped.

    "You said you would protect us, and you took down that Merchant man a few minutes ago. Does that mean you'll fight them?" Skitter nodded, not sure where this was going.

    "My kid brother. I- he needs help. My parents are sick and they're in the hospital and I can't tell them because I told them I'd take care of him, um, and I asked the cops but they're so busy and there's no way they can help, and I was going to ask that hero, Battery, but then she disappeared so fast and I- I just- I-" She was beginning to choke up and her words were becoming less and less intelligible the more she spoke. She began shaking again.

    "Stop, take a breath, and when you're ready, tell me what it is you want to tell me." She looked up and swallowed.

    "The Merchants took my kid brother. I want you to get him back. Please." Skitter heard Tenant sighing behind her.

    "I get the feeling you're annoying sense of goodwill is going to get us dragged into something we should probably stay out of but you're going to do anyway, because you're you." Another sigh. "Oh well, it'll be interesting at least."
     
  12. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 7
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    I had two weeks to train and hang out until everyone had decided to claim their territories. Not that I didn't appreciate the exercise, but I had told myself I would deal with the fact that I could never go back to my old life during the break.

    I was always aware of it. It lingered in the back of my mind where it had been since I triggered. I had chosen to focus on the path ahead of me to avoid it. Following Skitter to help Armsmaster, joining the Undersiders when I got the chance, training with me new power and weapons, hanging out with Aisha, whatever kept me busy. But I couldn't keep it out of my mind, not forever.

    I sighed and looked up at the ruined buildings along the Boardwalk. It sucked. It all just sucked. One moment I'm helping my mother bake the cupcakes for the day's sales in the bakery. I think she wanted me to take the shop over one day, but then the sirens went off signalling the Endbringer on route to our location.

    My mother, meticulous as ever insisted we shut off every light, stove, and unplug everything except the freezers and refrigerators. My father burst through the door shouting at us to get our stuff together and my little sister had burst into tears. My mother had told us to grab the things I packed and my little sister and head outside while she and my father locking everything down and got done yelling at each other.

    I remember how my eyes widened as the Leviathan stepped on the small bakery. We had taken too long and the Leviathan moved too fast. I remember my five old little sister holding on tight to my finger as the building collapsed. Then a wave of water hit us and we got separated.

    I stood up as soon as I was able and started looked for Miza among the water. I found her collapsed and coughing up water some twenty or thirty feet away. I picked her up and clutched her against my shoulder. I think it was at that moment I realized how fragile she was. She was so light even when soaked with water. It was terrifying. She coughed against my shoulder weakly. I looked up and saw the Leviathan looming above. I swallowed as I saw the hero's buzzing around it like flies, striking it left and right with impressive effects. I increased my grip on Miza and started running.

    I couldn't remember how I got there, but eventually I found myself in the carport I would soon trigger in. I thought I was getting as far away from the Leviathan as fast as I could, but I suddenly found it just outside the carport. Its tail clipped the side of the building. I didn't see what happened in the mess of rock but I felt myself go flying and a sharp pain where Miza had been. I was dazed for a moment, staring at the grey ceiling above me. I looked over and saw the metal rebar in my shoulder. But past that I saw Miza's feet sticking out from underneath a car, a pool of blood soaking into her yellow sundress.

    I felt something snap in my mind and I suddenly triggered. The information flowing forward from everything around me it gave me something to focus on. I did the only thing I could think to do and I ignored what was going on around me. I pushed it out of my mind and did everything I could do not to think about it. I knew I would have probably broken down in tears back then. Now I was just sad.

    I took a deep breath and continued forward. I guess I did it. Somehow I thought facing the fact that my entire family had died would be much harder, much more dramatic. Or maybe I was just thinking that because that's what would happen in an anime.

    But as sad as it was, I can't afford to dwell on it. I had things to do, things to focus on. After all, that had worked out for me so far.

    I entered Tattletale's hideout with the crowd of people moving into the shelter. I passed the big burly man she had stationed to direct everyone, but I knew he was really on watch for Merchant members. I made my way to the front desk and slid into the room behind it where Lisa and Taylor were already waiting and talking. I was also aware of Imp hiding in the corner, but it seemed she didn't want to be seen for the moment. Lisa smiled at me the moment I walked into her information network hub. I had seen it already, but it was still slightly impressive. I recognized Minor, Senegal, Jaw, and Brooks.

    "Well geez Lisa," I said to her, looking the three large men and Brooks up and down. "You could have at least gotten some good looking guys to take us." Lisa grinned.

    "Unfortunately, it is hard to find supermodel soldiers, but I'll keep looking."

    "Mm, you better," I said looking them over. My eyes fell on the shorter man, Brooks. "I guess I'll take this one." Brooks made a face but didn't say anything.

    "Minor, you're with me and Senegal, you go with Taylor." Jaw raised an eyebrow.

    "Four men and three girls?" Suddenly Aisha popped into existence and put a hand on Jaw's arm.

    "I guess that means this one is mine."

    "What the fuck?" Brooks and Jaws said together. I smirked.

    "Watch it," Minor spoke. Both of the two of them looked like they had been slapped. Lisa grabbed arm bands from a drawer and started passing them out to each of us. I got a yellow one.

    Lisa and Taylor talked a bit more back and forth as we made our way out of the base and towards the Merchant event we were going to infiltrate. Brooks stayed a distance away from me up until the point we were getting to the door. Probably because the last time Tattletale paired me with him during a job I nearly broke his foot.

    Aisha and I were both wearing short shorts. She had a black strapless top and I wore one of my few white crop tops. Only my top said 'Look out, badass here'. I was waiting for someone to point out how my civilian clothing almost always had a crop top shirt that said 'badass' somewhere on it. However, to my disappointment, no one did. Aisha and I stayed close to each other all the way there. At one point Aisha elbowed me and pointed out how Brooks would glance at my chest every few minutes. I grinned as an idea appeared in my head.

    "Check this out." Aisha immediately grinned with me, that had become something of a catch phrase with us. Slowly, I began seeping my power into him. When I felt it was about right for what I wanted I asked,

    "Brooks?"

    "What?" He asked swiftly, turning to face me more fully. With a sly grin, I put my hands together in front of me and use my arms to press my breasts up and together before saying,

    "If you keep staring you might as well see them in full." The effect was delayed, but a secoud later blood exploded out his nose with enough force that he was sent sprawling to the ground.

    Aisha and I burst out laughing as Brooks attempted to get back to his feet. I could see Segenal and Jaw making no attempts to mask their silly grins as Taylor failed to resist smiling. Lisa was grinning, but she did that alot.

    "What the hell was that?" Brook growled while attempting to stem the tide of blood with a hand. I relaxed my power on him and the bleeding stopped almost instantly. It was Aisha that answered him.

    "The sight of Riza's tits was so, heh, stimulating that you began bleeding out your nose." She began to cackle madly and Jaw started to chuckled. Lisa put a hand to her forehead and shook it.

    "At this rate it'll be dark before we even get there," Taylor told us. Aisha rolled her eyes, but started walking forward anyway. I cast a glance at Brooks and winked once, causing a little bit more blood to leak out his nose. He shot me an angry look but I was already walking forward to join the rest.

    We were at the 'party' a minute later and I almost fell over when the smell hit. The only reason I didn't was because I was scared of what might be on the floor. It smelled like sweat and garbage. Not to mention we had to push our way through the crowd of smelly, rowdy, drugged, people

    "You should have brought Stravik." I said, staying as close to Taylor and the others so I didn't lose them and Senegal and Jaw pushed us through the crowd.

    "I needed someone to watch the territory," she answered automatically, like she had the thought prepared. "Besides, he probably would have broken somebody's bones by accident." Suddenly we stopped by a man attempting to sell Minor another woman. When he declined the man tried to sell them drugs, but when Minor tried to turn them down Lisa stepped in and purchased a something called 'decadence'. She handed me a pill and I looked it over while she was attempting to convince Taylor to take it.

    Drugs and anime powers? I would say it was a bad idea if I wasn't so curious. I looked at Aisha and we grinned together. We linked our arms together and popped the pills simultaneously with the linked arms and then we waited.

    "Just a sugar pill," Lisa whispered into my ear.

    "Damn it," I said, a little disappointed. Man, that would have been awesome. Aisha looked a little sad too, but I think Grue would have personally killed Lisa if she had actually given her drugs.

    We suddenly stopped when we walked past a display where women were changing their clothing for the other's viewing pleasure. Some of them look like they were actually enjoying themselves, but there were at least two that were clearly forced up there. One was doing her best to put on a show, but the other was a shaking teenager who looked too terrified to do anything.

    I felt a pang of sympathy for her. I could see Lisa urging us forward and I suddenly felt guiltly at the very idea of leaving her up there. Fortunately, Taylor was ahead me on that one.

    "We need to help her," she said seriously.

    "There is at least a hundred people in here that need help," Lisa said to her. "We can't save everyone."

    "But we will help her. I'm not going to be able to walk away with this without doing something."

    "I agree," I said suddenly cutting my way into their conversation. Taylor looked a bit baffled at me. Was I really that bad? "And I have an idea." Lisa looked me over for a moment.

    "No," she said flatly.

    "But it would work." I protested.

    "That is why I don't want you to do it."

    "Come on, please? Aisha is already getting ready." Lisa looked around and swore when she didn't see her around.

    "Alright, but just this one time." I flashed a grin and darted up on stage. They got ready to drag me down and throw insults until they realized I was another woman and suddenly they cheered.

    "Hey everyone!" I shouted, a say a few dozen head turn my way, I guess not many could hear over the music. Oh well, there were enough looking my way for what I was about to do. I grabbed my top and pulled it down, flashing the crowd. Like a wave, the crowd in front of me fell backwards in a chaotic storm of bleeding noses and tripping people. The only people still standing in the immediate vicinity was Lisa's guys who she wisely told to advert their eyes. Although I think Taylor was glaring at me for some reason.

    As I put everything back where it belonged I turned and saw the women backing into the clothing store while the teenager from before was being dragged off by an invisible set of hands. The rest of us moved to follow Aisha and the girl down the hallway they moved into while the piles of nose bleeding men struggled and fought among themselves.

    The girl was crying before we even got there and Aisha looked severely uncomfortable. Girl looked up wild eyed as we surrounded her from where she was crouching on the ground.

    "You're safe," Lisa assured her. "We're not doing anything to you."

    The girl wiped at her eye with the back of one hand, smearing thick eyeshadow and eyeliner across her temple

    "But-"

    "She's right," Minor spoke, standing, "You're as safe as you're gonna get for the next little while."

    "Oh god," the girl sobbed. She moved forward, ready to give Minor a hug, but he stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. He didn't speak, but only turned to Lisa.

    "Don't thank him. Thank those two there." She pointed at me and Taylor with two fingers. "If they hadn't insisted we would have been on our way." One moment the girl was standing there, the next she had thrown her arms around Taylor.

    "Thank you." Taylor reflexively hugged her back.

    "I didn't do anything," She said.

    "Yeah," I said, "I did. Over here, significantly short on hugs and thanks."

    "Thank you," she repeated. Now I was confused.

    "Was that for me or-"

    "Oh god."

    "What?" Taylor asked, suddenly tense.

    "Have you realized I flashed a bunch of drug fiends for you yet?" I got the distinct impression I was getting ignored.

    "You go- you went to Winslow high."

    "No." Taylor responded. I turned and looked a Lisa.

    "Am I not here or something?"

    "You're the locker girl." I suddenly looked back to the exchange between the two of them. Locker girl? Where had I heard that before? It sounded vaguely familiar, maybe someone from around- suddenly it clicked.

    Oh. Oh, fuck all kinds of duck.

    "You were the locker girl?" I asked incredulously. That was why she was pissed at Shadow Stalker?

    "Both of you are thinking of the wrong person, and I seriously suggest you drop it." Suddenly the girl bit her lip. I almost felt guilt, but really. She was the locker girl? There were a dozen ways off the top of my head I could see her screwing with Emma and Sophia by doing. Why hadn't she ever done anything? Did she seriously let herself get bullied by those assholes, or was there another reason? I suddenly felt the distinct urge to punch someone as I thought about it. I made a note to punch Shadow Stalker in the face on Taylor's behalf the next time I saw her.

    "Lisa, let's keep moving," Taylor said curtly, turning on her heels.

    "Wait! You can't just leave me here!" Taylor looked between the girl and Lisa.

    "It's up to you if you want to take her with us. Or we can have Aisha and Riza watch her." Taylor sighed. I noticed the girl was looking desperately between them.

    "She can come."

    "More dead weight." Brooks said.

    "Keep it up Brooks," I threatened, shooting him a glare. Brooks held my gaze for a second then shrugged.

    "Whats going on?" the girl asked. Suddenly Aisha threw her arm around her and said,

    "Trust me when I say you don't want to know." That seemed to quite the girl.

    We spent about five more minutes trying to find the kid Taylor was apparently looking for. I spent most of that time reminding the girl she didn't thank me. Eventually I got her to say it, but she didn't respond to anything else I said. Now I really felt bad.

    I decided I would do better looking for Taylor's guy with the others for now. I looked up and saw a guy I recognized only from his photo walking across the catwalk above. Skidmark. He was setting up some containers around him. More drugs? I didn't like the thought, this party was barely staying from being a bloodbath as it was, they didn't need any more drugs in circulation here. I was about to say something when they apparently found the kid they were looking for.

    They were just about to approach him when Skidmark announced his presence. "Hey Sisterfuckers!" We all paused and looked up at the platform he had built were the rubble was highest. Skidmark was grinning like an idiot, but I got the feeling he did that a lot.

    "We have a free-for-all brawl planned for you piss-lickers tonight! Anything goes, use a weapon or jump in at the last second, I don't give a fuck! But whichever one of you shit-stains gets to be the last five standing in the ring, you get a little prize." Skidmark held up a round cylinder taken from the box. "Powers in a can!" A cheer went up from everyone in the crowd, cut off suddenly when an earth shattering crash sounded on the roof.

    I could sense everyone around me freeze and look up where the crash came from. There was silence for a second as everyone waited. There was another loud thump and the ceiling sprinkled dust on us.

    "Taylor?" Lisa asked quitely.

    "A Tinker." Taylor said. "Orange hair, black and pink power suit of some strange design, hard to make out." I wanted to ask something but paused. Since when could she see through he bugs? My thinking was interrupted as the roof cracked along the edges. It took me a moment to realize what was happening. The roof was being lifted.

    A cute ginger girl with large green eyes poked her head into the room from where she held the roof up. She smiled widely as she scanned the room with her wide green eyes.

    "Ooo, a party." She said happily.

    "Oh shit," Lisa swore.

    "What? Who is she?" I asked, my hand drifting towards my chest for the hidden shuriken.

    "The siege weapon Tinker, Queen of the Castle."
     
  13. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Okay, one more time.

    It should be clear on reading who is saying what.

    With the bolded lines, there is no indication as to who is saying what. In fact, it's easy to mistake Skitter's line for Tenant's. It is possible to determine from context, but having to read back and forth and puzzle out who said what kills the rhythm of reading.

    Dialogue can be assigned to characters in one of three ways:

    Dialogue tags (" ..". he said.)

    Action tags (Joe thought about that. "No.")

    Or ongoing context:


    What is not a standard way of writing is dropping the dialogue into a paragraph about the other character. Each paragraph is about one character. Don't mix them up.

    The section above, fixed:
    You see what I'm trying to say?

    If your stories are hard to read, then people won't read them. I'm just trying to help you out here.

    [Also: it's 'sharp objects', not 'sharp objections'.]
     
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  14. Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    I see what you are saying, and it is something I'm working on correcting, but it is a minor detail so I don't always catch it. My biggest issue going forward is that I copy paste chapters from Spacebattles where I have 18 chapters posted, but I also paste to Spacebattles from Fanfiction where I have 36 chapters posted. All the things I have posted so far I have written and edited once already. So you might not see those changes on here immedatly.
    But yes, I do see what you're saying.
     
  15. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    I don't do serial posting. I do simultaneous posting. That way, if I need to edit something, I set to and edit them all at once.

    And it's more than a minor detail. Ease of reading is often the difference between someone choosing to stick with a fic and dropping it.

    Here's an example from a chapter I recently posted ('I'm HALPING!', in my sig):

    See how much easier it is to figure out who's saying what?
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  16. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 8
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    "What the fuck? What do you mean what the fuck?" Lisa said, her eye widening. Taylor turned her head and stared Lisa.

    "What's happening?" Lisa was staring angrily off into space as if she was talking to someone else entirely.

    "You're my power! How can you not know, you always know!"

    "Lisa!" Taylor shouted, lightly slapping her across the face. "What's going on." The slap seemed to do it as Lisa blinked and then shook her head out of the daze.

    "My power its- its having its own personal mental breakdown and I'm not even sure how that is possible." Taylor glanced up at Queen of the Castle. She wore pink, black, and white power armour with dozens of unrecognizable weapons placed all around her. Miniature missiles were flying from unseen portions on her armour and causing explosions the size of small cars all around The Merchants. It didn't look like Skidmark made it thirty seconds after Queen of the Castle began opening fire.

    "Lisa we need to move." Taylor urged. Lisa nodded and made a hand motion to Minor who turned and began instructing the other soldiers she brought.

    "Should I distract her?" Riza asked. Taylor looked her over and automatically knew her power was already working. She was holding it back, letting it seep into her but not letting the effects take hold. Probably waiting for the go ahead.

    'Tenant,' Taylor thought.

    "On it," he responded. Tenant lifted his hands and closed his eyes to focus. Taylor felt her two mind slowly move into each other and fuse together. Immediately she was aware of everything around her. She could see and hear through her bugs and was able to understand and process that information from every single bug in the area. Her own senses doubled and she gained the capability to intuitively take in and understand every detail no matter how small that her eyes and ears took in.

    "You have a few tidbits on Queen of the Castle." Tenant said. "But nothing critical. She is known as 'The Mad Siege Tinker' I think I understand why now." Even though the conversation between Tenant and her was taking place almost instantaneously, Queen of the Castle was putting on a show every second Tenant had to pause to do something. She was laughing happily as she opened fire with miniature machine guns on the underside of her arms. Merchants were collapsing left and right.

    Taylor clenched a fist.

    'How many people have died?' Tenant paused what he was doing.

    "I don't think we should be using processing power to-"

    'Answer the question Tenant.' Tenant fell silent and she could feel the numbers running somewhere in her subconscious, drawing information from her bugs and her own senses.

    "Fifty seven so far, climbing every second." Taylor mentally nodded and turned her

    'I have an idea in mind, got anything better?'

    "I do. Your idea, using Tsundere's power over Tattle's soldiers to help us barrel through this people is only going to make us a target. She has been striking large groups."

    'You want us to split up?'

    "Yes, smaller groups. Two in each, sticking to the edges of the room while avoiding groups of stampeding people."

    'With Tsundere and Imp to distract her for the best chance of escaping.'

    "God, it's nice to have a host that can keep up with me." Tenant paused. "Wait, Faultline's Crew coming in. Shouldn't be hard to get them to work with Tsundere once they see Queen doing her thing."

    'Got it.' The entire exchange only took a few seconds and she was back into the fray.

    "Riza, Aisha, do your thing." Riza grinned and almost as if the snapped her fingers she was an anime character again. She struck an interesting balance between the two kinds of existence, her body keeping most of its dimensions while her features stretched and shrank until she resembled the cartoon more than a normal person. She always seemed to have trouble with the lips though.

    This time when she allowed the accumulating power to flood over her her blond hair turn it a shiny black. Aisha disappeared from most people's minds, but Tenant allowed for continued observation.

    "Lisa, go with Minor towards the hole in the wall over there." She pointed on the other side of the mall, along the wall they were closest to. "Senegal and I will go through there," Taylor pointed at the opposite wall, "and meet you in the front." Lisa raised an eyebrow, but said nothing as she instructed Jaw and Brooks were and they supposed to do and go.

    She and Senegal dodged and weaved through the crowd expertly. Senegal shoving anyone who got in there way and Taylor ducking and twisting to avoid touching anyone. Tenant stopped a few background functions and slow time to a quarter of its speed for her mind, giving her more time to notice and avoid other people's bodies.

    Through her bugs she could feel Tsundere leaping all around as she avoided Queen's missiles, each time she managed to leap forward a few more feet. She threw a shuriken at her but just before it struck and would have sunk into her armour at the shoulder, some sort of sonic blast shot out from her suit and not only stopped the shuriken, but also killed all the bugs Taylor had placed in the area.

    She saw Faultline's Crew grabbing the canisters that Skidmark had said would give a person powers. They didn't seem to care about anything more than that.

    Her bugs told her that Jaw lifting the kid, Bryce, they came for while Brooks was escorting the girl they had saved out through a third path out of the ruined mall. They were almost to the hole in the wall where she had pointed when Tenant spoke.

    "Careful, Queen shot you through your right leg." Taylor glanced down and saw he was right. "I don't think she hit anything important, no pain signals from the bone or major arteries. But you might want to avoid aggravating it nonetheless." Taylor nodded and then noticed something happening in one area of the mall. Through her bugs she could see a kid with glowing orbs popping in and out of existence around him.

    "Senegal." Taylor ordered while Tenant made a disapproving noise in the background. "There is a kid back there, recently triggered. We're going back and grabbing him, the flashes of lights around him look harmful, but they won't touch you." Senegal nodded once and let her lead the way. As she moved she let her two mind split again, the secondary one turning on to Queen and Tsundere's fight.

    Tsundere was in striking distance now, but was trying to avoid weapon's mounted on Queen's arm. A telescoping battering ram and some sort of sonic cannon. Queen seemed unable to use the missiles in that range and there was a shuriken stuck inside the machine gun on her right arm.

    Tsundere was holding a pair of knives she probably picked up off someone and was attempting to slash the components on her suit. Her power was steadily increasing as the fight drew on. She was becoming a blur of movement each time she darted to a new position, only visible when she was actually moving to attack.

    "You're not the bad men!" Queen wailed plaintively as she reach down and pulled something from the mechanized combat skirt that was part of her suit. Tsundere hesitated in the next attack, changing at the last second and leaping backwards. Queen held up a large red blade that cut through the wall behind her.

    "You're after villains?" Tsundere asked.

    Taylor found the kid she had been talking about before unconscious on the ground. She practically shoved him into Senegal's arms and they turned to run back towards the hole they wanted to escape from.

    "Nope," Queen of the Castle answered, "But the shiny capes leave me alone more if I test my weapons on bad men." Queen suddenly did a back flip and opened fire with miniature missiles again. Tsundere darted out of the way and threw a knife at her, it glanced off her upper thigh.

    A small explosion suddenly erupted from the soles of Queens feet, propelling her forward and stabbing Tsundere in the shoulder. Tsundere swore and moved further out of the way, but Queen made a wide gesture with her remaining machine gun, shooting everywhere, but still missing Tsundere.

    "Careful you idiot." Tenant hissed at her. Taylor suddenly realized a bullet had struck all the way through her chest, a dull pain creeping forward despite Tenant attempting to block the signals to her brain. "She missed your heart, but you might have a punctured lung." Tenant informed her. "I'm triggering an adrenaline rush to compensate in three, two, one-" Taylor's eyes widen as the substance was released began to flow through her. She worked a bit harder at moving towards the door.

    "We don't have to fight," Tsundere was saying. "If you joined us we would give you unending targets to test your stuff on. And if the heros come after you, we can fight them together, we'll have each others backs." Tsundere stabbed a knife into Queen's other machine gun.

    "Nope," Queen said, pulling out a second blade from her mechanized combat skirt. "People and me don't work together at all. They say my things are too big, that I'm crazy, that I break too many buildings."

    "I wouldn't say that." Tsundere told her. "The suit you're wearing looks awesome! Why would anyone want stop you from making that?" Suddenly Queen stopped moving and tilted her head.

    "You really think so?" Tsundere grinned and strode up to her nonchalantly, one hand pressed against her shoulder to stem the bleeding.

    "Of course, I've heard of a lot of Tinkers, but how many have combat skirts as part of their costume?" Queen began jumping up and down.

    "I know! Isn't great, it gives me so much armour and I can hide things in it too! It a skirt and an armoury!"

    "Like those swords you have." Queen began jumping up and down, clapping her hands together.

    "My armour piercing blades? That not even the half of it! I've got grenades and EMPs and C4 and shaped explosives and wall drills and glass cutters and laser cutters and all this other stuff I don't even know what to call!"

    "Sweet! I just think, if you joined us we could give you all the supplies you need and plenty of people to use them on." Queen tilted her head and paused.

    "I'll think about it."

    "Trust me when I saw its really fun!" Queen eye's widened again.

    "Really, really fun?"

    "Oh like you wouldn't believe."

    "Now I really have to think about it. See you later cartoon girl." Queen turned to leave when Tsundere said,

    "Look forward to it, and its Tsundere by the way." Queen offered a grin before sticking her arms out, wings extending out the length of her arms. Small thrusters appeared and she started flying away. The second she was a good distance away from the roof Aisha reappeared where Queen had been standing.

    "Did you just win a fight by recruiting the person that was trying to kill you?" Tsundere considered it a moment.

    "Yeah, I suppose I did." The two of them chuckled and then start making their way towards the rest of the group.

    Taylor approached Lisa and the others a good distance away from the mall and collapsed against a wall, all the energy she had leaving her in an instant. Lisa snapped something and Brooks immediately moved to work on the holes in her chest and leg.

    "How the fuck did you stay standing?" Lisa said, moving by Taylor's side.

    "I had a lot of incentive." She answered.

    "The bullet clipped her lungs." Brooks said. "It isn't serious now, but you're going to want to get her to the doctor." Suddenly, she felt the rest of the pain clear away and the lightheadedness she hadn't realized was accumulating dispersed. Riza and Ashia walked the corner a moment later.

    "You stopped losing blood." Tenant observed. "Or rather your still losing blood, but Tsundere is making it pointless. I can't tell if she is making more blood or is just replacing it all as it gets lost, but you won't run out so long as she is nearby." Taylor nodded just as Riza spotted her and her eye widened.

    "Riza," Taylor called. Riza froze in place, unsure if she should move or not. "Please don't invite psychopath Tinkers to join the team." Riza relaxed and grinned.
     
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  17. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 9
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    This sucked. I thought that joining the villains would have been fun, and it has to some degree. I just thought it would be more. But I don't even feel like an Undersider at all. I'm there for the fun stuff, I guess. I got to fight Dragon's suits, Tattletale calls on me and Imp whenever she needs some heads bashed, Skitter sends me and Brute to make some displays around the territory every now and then, and then there was the thing with the Merchants. But I don't get to be part of the important things.

    I don't get to talk to Coil about supplies, he barely acknowledges me. I was basically ignored when the whole end of the world thing came up. I have been left out of every conversation about the Slaughterhouse Nine. Even now I am all by myself while Lisa and Taylor get patched up and talk to Charlotte and Sierra. I was part of The Undersiders, but I wasn't a Undersider. I felt more like hired help, only getting told what I needed to know.

    Suddenly, I wondered if that is what they think as Brute and me as. I basically told Coil that I was for whoever needed help and Brute had labelled himself as a tool long before anyone else had. Grue certainly didn't seem to like me all that much either.

    The more I thought about it the more it seemed like that is exactly how things were. And if I was going to change it, I would need to fix a few things.

    First, I needed to become more connected to Skitter. It will mean I get to spend less time with Aisha, but I can't be loaning myself to Tattle whenever she wants. Next, I need to be more involved. It was great doing things just for the fun of it, but I need a more active role in these meeting and such. Maybe even ask for territory later. Finally, I need to build my own reputation. I was new on the scene, and they had a name and face to me thanks to me not caring all that much about a life I don't have anymore. But I haven't been in anything major since joining. That would have to change. Hopefully, this whole deal with The Slaughterhouse Nine would let me earn my stripes. But I needed more, and hopefully being the chick that recruits Queen of the Castle to the team would be an important thing.

    I have been reading up on Queen while Taylor and Lisa got patched up. According to the Protectorate, Queen of the Castle is incredibly resourceful to the point of completing projects would take anyone else millions of dollars projects with just a few thousand. She can also build much faster than any other Tinkers with few exceptions, needing very little to almost no prep time.

    Being a Tinker that specializes in siege weapons makes her incredibly dangerous everyone and everything. But she is also mentally unhinged, which would probably be the reason everyone, hero and villain alike, get nervous when she appears in their town. But there was a smaller detail that the Protectorate was trying to hide before they stole the data from their base. She had a history of screwing with Thinker powers, which is probably what caused Tattletale to freak out earlier for. But there isn't anything written down as why she messes with those power. Maybe a Tinker device, but it doesn't fit with the siege weaponry.

    I sighed. While this was really nice to know for when I saw Queen next, it didn't do me any good now. And I was still bored, only now I have told myself I can't go and help the other Undersiders. Maybe I could go and talk with Brute, he is good for conversation if you force him into it.

    I was just about to get up a leave when the four of them, Lisa, Taylor, Charlotte, and Sierra, walked out of Coil's doctor little set up. Taylor looked at me for a moment before saying,

    "I'm taking these two back to my territory for some food and rest if you wanted to come. Or you can do your own thing." I made face. I wanted to be more involved with the team, but would I still be acting like hired help if I went with her?

    "I think I'll patrol the territory for a bit, get some practice in."

    "Sounds good." She started walking away with the two girls in tow when Lisa approached me.

    "Hey Riza," She greeted with a little wave and a smile, "Can you keep an eye on Taylor for me?" I raised an eyebrow.

    "How come?"

    "Cuz she's been acting strangely. She took those bullets like they were nothing and according to Senegal, she was moving through the crowd like an expert. I think there's something up."

    "Hm, well, she has been reading a lot."

    "Reading?"

    "Yeah, like mountains of books every night. All based on combat and skills she might need." Lisa frowned.

    "Well, keep an eye out for me, will ya? Thanks." Lisa had turned around and left before I even had a chance to answer. I stuck my tongue out at her and turned to leave myself. I had to get my stuff, there were some things I needed to test.

    I had noticed that my hair had changed colour when I fought Queen. I was thinking that if I could manage that again I might be able to apply it more, maybe have my costume appear out of nowhere, or have my swords materialize out of thin air.

    My power tended to more finicky when I tried to narrow it down to more specific things. Most of the time I exerted the force of my power to myself and everything within my area of influence. It made me and all of my allies more durable and stopped us from bleeding out. Firearms become less accurate the more my power begins to affect them, but blades become sharper and stronger the longer my power seeps into it.

    I had started to think of everything as a spongy material that can soak up my power as I put it out, and that certain things had a threshold where they wouldn't change much more. Things like guns and other people tended to become as affected as they're going to get within ten or twenty minutes. I didn't have a threshold, or at least I haven't found it yet. The longer the fight carried on the more time I had to let my power change me, I was like Lung, I got stronger the longer the battle carried on.

    It would be nice to know specifics about my power, but so many thing revolved around how long I let myself soak up my power. But that wasn't the only issue, as soon as I stopped using my power I get dead tired. The battle with Queen only last a few minutes, but I could tell I would fall asleep the moment I relaxed my power completely. So instead I focused it on my surroundings where no one would notice it. Then at night I'll just stop it all and pass out.

    The effects on the world weren't as obvious as the effects on my body. Lines got straighter, walls became smoother, people moved a bit more fluidly, small things like that only someone really observant would notice. But right now I wanted people to notice me.

    I let my power build up around me but forced the effects of it away. Like holding a bowl over a sponge and slowly filling that bowl with water. It wasn't perfect, the changes started to seep through; making my eyes wider and smoother, a certain energy I got that told me I could start running and jumping at unrealistic speeds. Small things like that begun to take hold as I stalked my targets.

    A larger group of Merchants, living on the border between Grue's and Skitter's territory. I need a show of force, not just for the Undersiders. I needed the local groups, The Pure, The Chosen, and the Protectorate themselves, to know I'm here, that I'm a threat. I'd seen Skitter leverage that reputation a number of times and I know that the team itself thrives on the same kind of thing.

    I had paid off a few people to stand by and record what was about to happen with cell phones and the like. When the Protectorate came through here that video will circulate for a bit, then in the next few days I might have a little something to leverage.

    I closed my eyes and focus on a specific picture as I let all my power wash over me in its entirety. After a few moments when I felt the changes stop I opened my eye checked my hair. Pink.

    The picture I had been focusing on was the image of an anime girl with pink hair pulled into curly pigtails, and my power copied it exactly. Or well, almost exactly. As ran my fingers through my new hair I found a pair of cat ears poking out of my head. And like that I found myself grinning like an idiot.

    I dropped into the center of the Merchants and immediately had an understanding of the area through my power. Twelve were around me outside the ruined house they were camping in, fifteen more inside surrounding a… pillow fort? Interesting, but not why I'm here.

    I unhooked my left bokken and slashed out in front of me, sending a visible wave of force arcing outward. It slammed into seven on them, sending them literally head over heels across the street. I turned to face the others and felt firearms in their hands.

    I zig-zagged forward in a blur of movement, easily dodging the gunfire from pistols and one really rusty rifle. I didn't even want to know how they got those guns.

    Three men stood shoulder, concentrating fire on me for however much good it will do them. I hit the rifle that was held in the man in the centre of the group, shattering it on contact with the bokken. Two more quick strikes and I broke the other two guns.

    Two of them turned to run and I flashed out my bokken again, breaking one leg each for both of them. For the final one, I turned my bokken around and slammed the handle into his throat and he went sprawling on the ground.

    I turned and saw most of the Merchants I knocked to the ground running away. Most drug fiends were like that, only sticking around for what they thought would be easy for them. Unfortunately, the others were still on said drugs and rushed me with wide-eyed, dilated, crazed stares.

    I tripped the first one and elbowed him into the ground, the pavement cracking from the impact. The others went down similarly, except for the last one. She swayed towards me, probably on some hallucinogen rather than the stimulants though other guys were on. I flicked the wooden sword towards her and she went flying through the air, crashing into a building face. My power saved her from turning into a blood stain as I willed it to.

    The others were coming out of the building, looking a lot less drugged up and a lot more smug. In the centre of them was a greasy looking man in a crude costume made of scraps of clothing and metal. He stood about six feet tall and held a massive chainsaw in his hands. I slid the bokken back onto my hip and rested my hand on katana below it.

    "Ah, nice to see a pretty face I can tear apart," the greasy Marchant cape said through yellow teeth. I felt my power swell as he spoke. I began to grin.

    "Aw, but my face is my best feature." I could see his eyes behind his mask glance downward.

    "Well, I would disagree with that."

    "Nice of you to say? And before we get to the killing each other, can I have your name?" With every word I felt my power build up, a classic staple of anime; extending fights with dialogue. It wouldn't help me with an Endbringer but capes tended to lean toward the dramatic, one more tool for the arsenal.

    "Yours first, cat girl."

    "Tsundere, newest member of The Undersiders."

    "Snapper, veteran of the Merchants."

    "Good to hear, I don't suppose you'll team me your power while we're at it."

    "No."

    "Ah," I sighed, "What a shame." He opened his mouth to speak but was cut off as I unsheathed my katana, slashing it outward in a wide arc. I didn't want to kill anyone if I could avoid it, brings hell on me and The Undersiders alike. My power did its best to accommodate that want, but bokken smashed, cracked, shattered, and otherwise broke things. Katana's cut, sliced, separated, and sheared through things.

    A trail of fire traced the path my blade took as I unsheathed it and the force blade took a red tint as it flew forward. It cut through the chainsaw Snapper was holding and bit into his chest, knocking him backwards. The non-capes surrounding him took much deeper cuts and feel to the ground. I immediately extended my power over them all to keep them from bleeding out. Snapper tried to stand back up, but before he could move another inch he had two shurikens embedded into his shoulders.

    I was aware a flying cape entering my sphere of influence from above. I turned and saw Glory Girl floating downwards behind me. I sheath my sword and put my hands up.

    "They're all yours," Glory Girl frowned.

    "You know I can't just let you leave right?"

    "Who says you can stop me?" At that moment someone fast had entered my range and punched Glory Girl hard in the face, launching her into a building her where she then collapsed to the ground.

    "Brute, good timing." Brute greeted me with a nodded then looked at Glory Girl.

    "She is strong, very durable. Should not have defeated her so easily. She is faking, yaes? But then why did I steal some of her power?" I smiled at him.

    "Her invulnerability goes down for a few seconds after she takes a big hit, and you kind of hit her into a wall before it could come back."

    "Hm, thought hero capes were supposed to be tough. Wait, vhy do you have ear of cat?"

    "Oh, you know, just kind of felt like it." Brute shook his head.

    "Skeeter sent to bring you back. Slaughterhouse Nine is doing something, yaes. Bad for team, bad for city." His accent made the word 'slaughter' sound particularly gruesome.

    "Yeah, just a sec though. I have to check this out." I strode into the building the Merchant people had been in and walked up to the pillow fort. It was more like a pillow bunker, with no ways in or out. I could sense two people inside with some food rations that looked like barely enough for a day's worth of eating. One of the people was tall, skinny. Mostly likely a guy. The other was very short and I got the general since she was a little girl. Father and daughter? Brother and sister? And why were they in a pillow bunker, and why did it interest the Merchants?

    Slowly I pulled out a katana and attempted to cut the pillow bunker down, only for my katana to bounce off harmlessly. I looked over my shoulder at Brute and he seemed to know what I was thinking. I stepped out of the way to let him move in to grab a handful of pillows.

    The pillow bunker came down a second later, leaving the two people inside standing stock still, staring wide-eyed at us. The man, about seventeen or eighteen by my guess, wore a blue spandex suit with a red cap and mask. The little girl didn't wear a costume but…

    "Oh my god!" I shrieked, getting strange looks from everyone. "She is just too cute! Eek!" I don't know why I said 'eek' instead of making the sound but damn was that girl cute! She had snow white hair and pink eyes against incredibly pale skin and her whole face was just… fucking adorable. If my power changed other people the way it changed me, I was ten thousand percent sure I could turn her from person to chibi in two seconds flat!

    "I want one! I want ten oh my god! It's too much! Too much cuteness!"

    "Why are you touching my sister like that?" I heard the other guy ask, more in confusion than in defense. I couldn't stop myself, I was rubbing her adorable little head before I knew it and she had this adorable little wobble and an adorable cute look of confusion in her eyes and-

    "She is just too cute!" I said defensively. The cape guy sighed.

    "Yeah, I know."

    "Vhat are you doing here?" Brute asked, trying to get back on track with a conversation that made sense. But I didn't need him, I contented myself with cuddling that adorable girl's head until she told me to stop. Which she didn't, and for that I am glad.

    "The Merchants were chasing us and we thought we could hole up in here for the night. But they found us and we had been stuck in fort every day since." Brute nodded.

    "I see, yaes. And vhat is with the pillows?" The guy suddenly straightened and puffed his chest out a bit.

    "That would be my amazing power. The awesome strength of PillowMan!" We paused for a moment.

    "PillowMan?" I asked.

    "It's a great name," Pillowman said a little too quickly. "Look." He held out a hand and in a little flash of white light a pillow appeared in the air and flew toward Brute. Brute caught it without issue.

    That had to be the most disappointing power out of all the universes.

    "Trying damaging it." Pillowman said confidently. Brute looked at him, then at me, then back at him. He turned the pillow over in his hands and began to pull on it, but despite what was probably Brute's full strength the pillow didn't break.

    "This is stupid power." Brute said, a little put out from the fact the pillow was in perfect condition.

    "You're just saying that because you can't summon indestructible yet surprisingly soft pillows at whim." PillowMan crossed his arms and actually stuck his nose in the air in indignation.

    "Oh my god, he is adorable too!" I shouted, grabbing PillowMan in a headlock and pulling him and his sister close while PillowMan sputtered.

    "Can I keep them?" I asked Brute with a pouty face. "Please, I want them so bad. Look at their adorable little faces. Their half starved, ragged, in need of shower, adorable faces." Brute looked at me flatly.

    "You vould have to feed and water them regularly, yaes, and make sure the get plenty of exercise." Brute lifted a pillow. "And you vill have to clean mess they make."

    "I can do it, I promise." Brute nodded.

    "Take them back to lair and met me at Bitch's territory, ve have the Slaughterhouse Nine to deal with." Brute turned and leapt to the top of the nearest building and disappearing from sight. PillowMan tried turning around in my death grip to look at me.

    "I'm confused," he said, "Did we just become your slaves or your pets?" I squeezed the adorable two closer to me. It would have been this awesome collective of cuteness if Pillowman didn't start bleeding out his nose when I accidentally hugged him into my boobs.

    But maybe that was cuter, I don't know.

    Then I saw it. Brute saw it, PillowMan and his sister saw it, every last person in the city saw it. It announced his arrival, the man that everyone knew, the man almost more feared than an Endbringer. Quite possibly the only man capable of upstaging the Slaughterhouse Nine. The man entire nations have attempted to stop before and failed. The man that can cause a truce between villain and hero with his mere presence.

    I the bottom left-hand corner of my vision, a message appeared, the same message everyone else in the city got.

    Troll has committed suicide.
     
  18. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 10
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    Skitter watched passively as Squealer and Black Tar pulled up in their massive yacht sized cruiser ship and immediately started to pick a fight with Faultline. Understandable, her crew was seen at the crashed party, and they couldn't really take their anger out on Queen of the Castle.

    Bugs told her the inner workings of the ship, laying out all the weapons and corridors inside of it. It wasn't any better on the inside than it was the outside, slanted, thrown together, looking like it might fall apart. The information had the on guns let her start dismantling and jamming the weapons discreetly as the conversation went on around them.

    Skitter's second mind was focused on thinking about the two people Tsundere had brought back with her yesterday. PillowMan, real name James, and his sister, Anna. Both of them were capes, but each of them kind of useless. PillowMan obviously summoned pillows that were almost indestructible didn't get dirty or wet. And, as Taylor found out last night, every side of the pillow is the cool side of the pillow.

    His sister Anna, on the other hand, could tell if were about to die, but usually only a few hours before it happens. Like Dinah, she could see the chances but instead of percentages she saw it as fractions. Skitter would have dismissed their powers as completely useless until Tenant pointed out that the pillows might be able to stop Siberian. But even then it was unlikely that would become a viable option.

    She turned her second mind to the conversation at hand and her general surroundings as her primary mind worked with Tenant to pick apart and understand Squealer's ship. Every now and then she picked up a little bit more technology information and stored it away, very much aware that Tenant was not only making her a Thinker but also a Tinker.

    Brute was smoking a cigar while he stood next to Skitter, waiting for instruction or otherwise. He was probably the most valuable person she had working for her, even though she still didn't quite understand his mentality that made him offer himself to people. He not only dealt with almost all threats very easily, he was managing all the hired muscle as well while she dealt with the reconstruction side of things.

    But in terms of this meeting he might as well be another Siberian. He is strong, fast, and now that he stole a bit of Glory Girl's invincibility, incredibly difficult to injure. No one has seen him lose a fight or get hurt since the first few times he had appeared on the cape scene. She knew that now was because he hadn't beaten a lot of heroes at that time, but the others didn't know that. It made him a tool in the political sense as well.

    Tsundere was pulling on a pair of dark purple gloves that went up to her elbow and matched her kimono. She had more reputation than she realized, simply by helping everyone of The Undersiders and even Sundancer at one point secure their territory. Her power gave her incredible offensive and defensive strength, and allowed her to use lethal force without actually killing them. Skitter had been silently observing all the applications Tsundere had discovered thus far. She has learned something new each fight, and appears to be able to change her face and hair colour easily as well. Tonight she had black hair with large teal eyes that reflected the moonlight.

    Skitter's first mind was working on that task when Miss Militia stepped onto the building top they were meeting at. It was barely sticking up out of the water and provided them neutral ground to talk with each other.

    Skitter observed everyone. Miss Militia to represent the Protectorate. Coil, by himself. Purity with Crusader, Fog, and Night. Black Tar, the new leader of the Merchants with Squealer and the ship full of Merchants and disabled guns behind him. All of the Travelers, with Genesis in some sort of turtle snake form. Faultline's Crew, standing passively off to the side. Which, besides The Undersiders, left Hookwolf and his Chosen.

    Hookwolf had been casting glances in Skitter's direction, combined with a smug look and the confident way he held himself it wasn't hard to tell what he was up to.

    'He knows.' Skitter thought.

    "Yes," Tenant agreed. "And he is probably going to try and turn this entire meeting against you if you let him."

    'Suggestions?'

    "Turn it against him. You're not stupid, and he is a smug idiot white supremacist douchebag. It shouldn't be that hard." Skitter suddenly noticed Tattletale staring at her.

    "It seems we have a problem," Miss Militia said as she approached the teams.

    "We do," Hookwolf answered, "Four problems actually." The rest of them nodded.

    "Four?" Purity asked. "I only counted three."

    "Its those." Hookwolf point over at The Undersiders, and then the Travelers. "They think their smart, clever even. But I think it's better that we get it out in the open, you too Coil, Miss Militia."

    "Perhaps you'd better explain," Coil said.

    "They have been taken territory all over the city. Upper downtown, The Boardwalk, College Neighbourhoods, Trainyard, The Docks." Hookwolf turned to address the Travelers. "They ain't much better. Got Sundancer in the shopping district, Genesis in the downtown coast, Trickster driving looters out of the heart of downtown. See the pattern? They're all moving to take pieces of the city for themselves."

    "We already knew they were talking territory," Miss Militia responded, "This isn't a priority. The Nine-"

    "They haven't taken territory," Hookwolf snapped back, "They're taking the city. Split it up all nice and proper between them, and now they're taking advantage of the distraction the Nine are giving them to secure their positions before we fucking catch on."

    Grue and Trickster looked at each other for a moment, sharing in some unspoken agreement.

    "We didn't know about the Nine before we started this."

    "So Hookwolf is right," Purity said bluntly, a bit of her surprise appearing on her face. Grue nodded silently.

    "This isn't a concern for us," Miss Militia said sternly, "We are here for the other three problems. Dealing with the Slaughterhouse Nine, moving against Queen of the Castle, and resisting Troll until he gets bored and leaves." More notifications announcing more of Troll's deaths have popped up in the last twenty-four hours. From getting run over to getting electrocuted by Squealer.

    The issue with Troll wasn't that he was dangerous by himself. He didn't have any more ability than any other person. The difficulty with Troll was that there was no way to stop him despite that. Every time he dies he 'respawns' a block or so away and just comes back over and over again until he gets what he wants. And when what he wants is to screw with people, things tended to end badly with him around.

    "That might help for the next week or two, but from a month from now you'll be regretting it." Hookwolf told her. "What we need is to stop them from using the Nine as a distraction to gain more control."

    "That is not our intent." Trickster said quickly.

    "Then agree to the truce and stay away from your territories or in a hotel on the Protectorates tab until this is all sorted. You won't hold territory until the Nine are dealt with."

    "You're attempting to turn this meeting against us." Skitter suddenly said, drawing looks from the other in her group. "You want to set things up so would have to agree to terms we would never agree to or be forced out of this alliance." Hookwolf frowned and opened his mouth to say something, but Skitter cut him off. "Whether you want us out of this truce out of spite or because it would give you the advantage in the future it doesn't matter, you want us on this truce." Hookwolf's eye narrowed at them.

    "You're all full of yourselfs. There is no way we can fight the Nine if we have to worry about you trying to extend your influence." It was Tsundere that spoke next.

    "Brute?" Brute took the cigar out of his mouth and looked at Tsundere.

    "How many punches to kill Jack Slash?" Brute paused for a moment, the answered with,

    "One punch."

    "And what about Bonesaw?"

    "One punch."

    "Shatterbird?"

    "One punch."

    "Mannequin?"

    "One punch."

    "Crawler?"

    "Eh, at least two, yaes."

    "And what about Hookwolf here." Hookwolf tensed as Brute cast a fleeting glance in his direction.

    "Please, I could sneeze in his direction and he would fall into pile of metal toothpicks." Grue looked over and realized what happening and took our lead by saying,

    "We have power you can't ignore, nor go without if you want to fight the Nine. And if you insist on excommunicating us, then we will have to extend our own truce to The Protectorate and others willing to participate."

    "I'm inclined to agree." Coil said with a nod. "And perhaps now is the opportune time to share this information; I have sources that inform my that should Jack Slash survive his trip to Brockton Bay it bodes ill for everyone."

    The conversation turned away from them for a moment as Coil shared the fact that the world might end in two years. Skitter took the moment to pull her bugs out of Squealer's contraption and to observe everyone's reaction. Coil was on board and Miss Militia seemed willing to come to a deal with them. Hookwolf looked profusely agitated, while the others look angry. They didn't like getting played as fools, but they knew what the Undersiders and Travelers brought to the table between Brute, Tsundere, and their general collective power. If they could get Miss Militia to value their strength over Hookwolf's Chosen then more might follow her because of the Protectorate's resources.

    "-for this to happen," Hookwolf cut in, turning Skitter's attention back to the conversation. "Travelers and the Undersiders must agree to our terms." A few of the nodded, Faultline, Coil, and Miss Militia excepted. Coil was about to say something when they heard a massive horn, something like one might hear from a large cargo ship.

    They turned just as the ship appeared in their line of sight. It was a full-scale battleship, large enough to make Squealer's cruiser look like a toy next to it. Obvious Tinker made guns were mounted all along the sides, on the decks, and the control tower. The barrels for the weapons were large enough that any one of them could have crawled inside of it and fit comfortably. Some of them looked like energy weapons, pointing into the sky.

    The moment the horn finished going off everything fell into an eerie silence as it slowly drifted the last few dozen feet without making another sound. Purity grew bright as she activated her power and others prepared for a fight but Hookwolf and Grue waved them down.

    "If you provoke that thing we're all dead," Hookwolf growled. The others heard and didn't attack, but none of them backed down. The ship jerked to a dead stop just inches away from the building. It became very apparent that whoever was driving the ship could have run them all over without a second thought and there probably wouldn't have been a thing they could have done about it.

    A figure appeared above them, leaping off the front of the ship and falling towards them before wings on her suit opened up and Queen of the Castle landed gently in the centre of everyone.

    "Why is everyone here?" She asked, her head tilting slightly. "Is it a party? I like parties."

    "Queen of the Castle," Miss Militia said cautiously, "What are you doing here?"

    "Oh!" Queen said, her eyes lighting up and pointing a Tsundere. "She invited me! Saying it would be fun!" All eyes fell on Tsundere. Her mouth fell open a bit and a large cartoonish teardrop appeared on her head for a second before disappearing. The effects were immediate, Skitter knew in an instant that everyone except maybe Hookwolf was going to be completly okay with their inclusion. Queen of the Castle is one person you do not want to have against you.

    "Hey, Queen." Tsundere said slowly. "We were just discussing how to take down the Slaughterhouse Nine and-"

    "Oh wow! Those are like really bad people." Tsundere smiled at her.

    "Yeah, so bad in fact, that everyone in the city, heros, villains, us, are going to not fight each other at all while we fight them." Queen's grin widened.

    "So I could use whatever to kill them and no one is going to chase me for it?" Tsundere looked to Miss Militia, who hesitated before nodding.

    "So long as you stick with us, then sure."

    "Yay!" Queen pumped a fist into the air, the jets on her flight suit lifting her a few feet higher into the air as she did. Skitter turned to look at Hookwolf.

    "Would you like to join our truce?" She asked.
     
  19. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 11
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    After strategy was discussed, Queen invited me onto her giant battleship. I could have gone with the others to finalize our plans, but I think there was only one correct choice here. Skitter sent Brute with me just in case.

    The ship itself was just as impressive on board as it was to look at. The Spire was a flawless combination of aircraft carrier and battleship, packing enough firepower that this ship alone could probably devastate every building and person standing on the edges of the Leviathan made lake. Not to mention several dozen helicopters and fighter jets that were waiting to pilot on top of it.

    "How does any of this count as siege weaponry?" I found myself wondering out loud. Queen smiled and twirled completely around, taking in everything on her marvellous ship.

    "Because people a great at killing each other." She said in a sing-song voice. I gave her an odd look.

    "How do you mean?" Queen rolled her eyes.

    "First people make tall walls to keep others out, and others don't like staying out so they build catapults and trebuchets and siege towers to go over the wall. People then make thicker walls to fight the catapults, and others make cannons to fight the thick walls, then they start blocking their ports with wooden ships. The others make thicker and shorter walls to stop the cannons and people make bigger artillery. Others make the walls so short, wall get negative tall and become trenches. So people put their artillery on cars, making othesr come up with armour piercing bullets. Then people put more armour on their artillery cars and call them tanks. Others make anti-tank rifles and bazookas and their own tanks. People make more tanks and start using planes and submarines. Then others make bunkers and dig their trenches for miles and lay mines. People make anti-bunker missiles and chlorine gas and mine sweepers. And the cycle goes on and on!" Queen rolled her eyes a bit at the end but grinned again. "The age of castles and walls and moats didn't go away, they just got so short the went underground!" I looked at Brute who looked back at me blankly. I turned back towards Queens and asked,

    "So every weapon is a siege weapon?"

    "What? Pfft, no! Just the really big ones!" Before I got the chance to ask what she defined as 'big', she took as on a tour of the top deck. She showed us every gun she had, and she had a lot of guns. Cannons, missiles, anti-aircraft, torpedoes, naval mines, mortars, flame throwers, machine guns, grenade machine guns, railguns, magnetic repulsion trebuchets, deployable U-boats, and all the helicopters and planes. And for each gun there was usually a laser, sonic, and/or pure energy forms of the weapons. Which just left one question.

    "How the hell did you get this on the lake without anyone noticing?" Queen rolled her eyes.

    "Well, obviously I did it while you guys weren't looking."

    "And how long did all this take?" Brute asked. Queen waved dismissively.

    "A few weeks or so, but I spent about a week of that getting all the metal together." Again Brute and I looked at each other, completely baffled.

    "Queen…" I began but faltered as I became unsure how to ask.

    "Yes?"

    "What are you going to use this for? There aren't any people to man the bridge or pilot the aircraft or anything."

    "Oh, I can do that all myself."

    "Okay, but what is the purpose?" Queen frowned for what I was think was the first time since I'd started talking to her.

    "I don't know. Fun I guess, but I can't stop building."

    "You can't stop." Queen shook her head.

    "Ever since I got my power I could never stop building or fighting. I must keep moving, I must keep making more, like siege weaponry." I paused as a thought hit me. Could Queen's mind be like it is because she makes siege weaponry? Like how in times of war the pressure was on to build more and more weapons until the war ended. Or was she like me, just trying to focus on other things to avoid facing something specific? I might have pressed her for more information, but my phone buzzed. I fished it out from the sash around my kimono. A text from Skitter.

    'Come fast. The Nine, cloud of bugs. Approach cautiously.' I looked at Brute, and he looked at me grimly from behind the mask. He had it too.

    "Queen," I spoke suddenly. "We have a hit on the Nine's location, watch where we go from the ship and keep the guns trained on our position. Look for a cloud of bugs if you lose us, but be ready to open fire if things go badly."

    "Okaaay!" Queen gave a cheerfully salute and began to skip towards the command tower. I grabbed Brute's arm as he offered it to me a nodded. A second later he kicked off the boat deck and we went sailing through the air. The force of his jump enough to make the boat rock.

    When we got there it was too late. Tattletale was laying on the ground, bleeding everywhere while Skitter attended to her. Giving her expert care as Jack Slash talked to the group.

    "...With this in mind, you would be well advised to stay away from anything made of glass or any beaches, and be sure to put away anything in your pockets with a screen." I saw Skitter's movements slow as he said it, but she didn't stop. Tattletale was reaching down for her pouch of pens. Did she need to write a note? A message to the others? But she wouldn't have enough time, not else someone gave her some.

    I suddenly remembered something Taylor had told me about Jack a while back. He was an artist, and he took pride in his work. Then maybe something artful like that could distract him, some kind of gesture or otherwise. I could-

    "It looks like she has finally come up with a plan." Cherish said. Was it just me, or did she seem a little off put? Did something happen before this I was unaware of, and more importantly, could I press that to my advantage? But they knew I was here, so there was no point in delaying.

    I took my first steps out, with Brute behind me. My plan still a bit of a work in progress. Jack waved a knife at me with a thin smile.

    "I wouldn't try anything," he said easily, smoothly. "It wouldn't be that hard to kill you and the rest of these here."

    "Oh, but what if I said you would like what I am going to try?" Jack raised an eyebrow. I met it with my own smile, I wasn't about to let a precarious situation stop me from being effective. I am good at ignoring things like that.

    Slowly and deliberately, I pulled off my glove on my right hand. I threw it on the ground in front of him and said, "1v1 me, bro."

    Jack blinked for a moment, as if processing what just happened. But then he cracked a smile.

    "A olden tradition for challenging one to a duel and pedestrian talk. Interesting. Annoying, but interesting." I grinned and pulled out a katana, slowly so they wouldn't have a reason to attack me.

    "Then you know that you can accept my challenge, or be completely dishonoured and all."

    "Really going all in on the Japanese thing aren't you." I shrugged.

    "It's kind of my thing." Jack grinned and twirled his knife in his fingers.

    "What are your terms?"

    "A fight to the death, but we stop when Shatterbird does her thing. And clearly, neither of our friends help." I had to guess on the Shatterbird bit, he was saying something about putting away things with a screen so I kind of assumed.

    "Alright, I can agree to that, but only if you met one more stipulation should I win."

    "What's that?"

    "If I kill you, Brute must leave the city until we are gone." I glanced back at Brute, who was getting instructions for Skitter. Everyone else was frozen, watching me practically commit suicide. Fair enough I suppose, I didn't really have much hope for beating Jack but if I could keep the fight going long enough then maybe I had a chance of not dying.

    "We can do that." Jack paused and silently examined his knife blade.

    "Good." I barely knocked the extended blade away from my face, getting a lock of my hair cut off in the process.
     
  20. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Welp, no more critiquing from me, because you just aren't listening.

    Yes, I get it that you're relatively new to writing. But the only way to get better is to learn and improve.

    Want to get more likes? Improve your writing.
     
    Prince Charon likes this.
  21. Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    No need to get up in arms, I am listening, and I apreciate the critique. But I'm applying it to the new chapters when I put them on Spacebattles because I can't go back through and nit pick through these pages a fourth time just to rearrange five or six peices of dialouge. But I have taken what you said to heart and I am applying to everything after chapter 18.
     
  22. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Hmm ... okay.

    I forgot that this wasn't the original posting.

    Sorry for the harsh tone.
     
  23. Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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  24. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 12
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    "The game should buy you time." Tenant told her as Skitter ran through the streets.

    "Not now, Tenant." She growled at him, not even noticing she said it out loud.

    "Why a not? Between me and you, the bugs are alerting everyone possible in the area we cover. A five block radius around us, using the swarm speak and other tools to tell hundreds of people to take cover. So why not have a little chat about our strategies on taking on the Nine?"

    "Because I'm focusing."

    "But you don't need to. You know as well as I do that your second mind is more than capable of taking you all the way to your father's house while we have a chat and manage your bugs. So the real reason you don't want to talk is because you're too busy worrying about your father." Tenant paused as if to see if she would agree. The clanging of metal as Tsundere and Jack fought was sounding off in the distance. They were just leaving her range, but through Tenant she could watch them through her bugs. Tsundere was on the defensive as Jack attacked her with quick, measured strokes. Every now and then they would say something to each other, but it was too garbled in background noise.

    "It is so humanly stupid," Tenant continued, "To be worrying about something when you are already doing everything you can to fix it. You need to focus on the here and now, because even though we gave Bonesaw the game proposal, the Slaughterhouse Nine are not playing. And the truce hinges on us being able to make a strong first strike." Skitter ground to a halt in the middle of the street.

    "I'm not going to be fast enough," she murmured, blood pounding in her ears. Tenant frowned seriously.

    "I can make you faster." He said slowly. "But you know what you have to do." Skitter nodded and closed her eyes.

    "Do it." Tenant hesitated, then started to work.

    For a few fleeting moments she felt her heart stop. She couldn't remember how to take in a breath, even blinking was impossible. She tried to move but found that she had forgotten how. There was a rising panic in her chest and she started to sway on her feet. How she stayed standing at all, she didn't know.

    Then everything came back to her at once and she gasped for breath, finding the action both easier and more distant from her. Instantaneously she was perfectly healthy again, but she felt out of her body. She could move her arms and legs, but she didn't feel her weight on them. She was numb.

    "Triggering adrenalin rush in three, two, one-" Skitter did feel that when it triggered and broke into a sprint immediately, running as hard as she could in the direction of her dad's house. She couldn't feel the strain on her body as she poured every last bit of effort she could muster into running. Her breathing was hard and her heart was beating so fast it felt like it would burst out her chest. Even then those feeling were distant from her, just enough for her to be aware but not enough for her to care.

    "I'm about to take it up a notch." Tenant said.

    'What does that mean?'

    "You know how it only takes the same amount of pressure as biting through a carrot to bite through your pinkie finger? Well, your body stops you from doing that, and it does a lot of things on that scale. Including keeping your muscles from exerting themselves so much that they would actually do damage to you. Well, I'm about to give the okay for your legs to work so hard that things might start to break." Skitter nodded once and was suddenly hit with a burst of speed.

    It was exhilarating, her legs moved so fast they were barely touching the grounded as she kicked up water and dirt in her wake. She could hear the wind roaring in her ears as she moved. Her legs were burning, but Tenant was stopping most of the pain as she sailed along.

    She was at her father's house with almost three minutes to spare. Tenant began helping her second mind warn him and tell him to get to cover. While he did that she turned her attention upward, where her Tenant enhanced eyesight allowed her to see Shatterbird in the distance.

    Her kaleidoscope of glass shards carried her high into the sky where she held out her arms and began to emit a high-pitched note that quickly exceeded the range of human hearing and then kept going. Skitter was about to get on the ground to curl up when a blast of bright blue light cut through the air and struck Shatterbird.

    All at once her sound stopped and all the glass that had been carrying her flew away from her and she went careening towards the ground. A Tinker made fighter jet appeared out of nowhere and began to fire more balls of blue light at the falling Shatterbird.

    The more she tried to slow her fall the closer the shots from the jet were getting, and it had its nose tilted to hit her if she didn't get out of the way. Shatterbird apparently thought it better to fall and stopped trying to catch herself. She was probably setting something up on the ground to catch her when the jet did a dive and deployed missiles where she was falling. Shatterbird disappeared into the ball of fire a second later.

    The jet pulled out of the dive and did a backflip until it was upside down and parallel to the ground. Another barrel roll to straighten itself out and then it turned toward Skitter. The propulsion on the jet flared to life and it was over her head in a matter of seconds, all the way from one end of the city to the other in just a couple of seconds.

    A figure climbed out of the jet and began to drop down from the air as the jet turned and made its way back in the direction of the lake.

    Brute landed hard on the ground next to her, the impact making the rubble on the street jump a little. He held out a small blue device.

    "Crazy Tinker girl says press once for noise cancel, twice for distress signal, three time for small explosive on ten second timer, and four times to rest to first option." Skitter took the button and looked back a where she came.

    "Do you know how Tsundere is holding up?"

    "She was moving too fast to tell when ve went past her, but I think there vas no blood on ground." Skitter nodded. That probably meant that she survived her duel with Jack when Shatterbird failed to hit the city.

    "They're going to retaliate." Tenant dryly. "Probably start killing people in your territory that you would've saved if Shatterbird didn't fail." Skitter silently agreed with him.

    "Brute, take me to my lair, fast." Brute grunted and held out his arm which she took, and then they were off.

    The area was on fire by the time they got there. People were ducking into buildings, trying to get out of the way as Burnscar tried to light things on fire. However, every time she raised her hands to start generating fire she was assaulted with flying pillows.

    Pillowman was running around the area, dodging balls of fire he couldn't smother with pillows. Anna, now wearing a white mask that matched her hair, rode on his back. Her arms wound tightly around his neck and her legs hanging his torso.

    She whispered something in his ear and Pillowman changed directions on a dime and turned to pelt a woman that was running for cover in white pillows a second before a wave of flame washed over her.

    "Brute, occupy her as best you can." Skitter said.

    "Lethal force?"

    "Yes." Brute nodded with a grunt and leapt forward, nearly catching her with one of his fists before she teleported away into a nearby flame. Skitter caught PillowMan's attention and motioned him toward her before ducking into an alleyway to be out of sight in case Burnscar attempted to torch her.

    PillowMan scrambled into an alley clumsily and Anna immediately fell off his back onto a small pile of pillows that broke her fall.

    "What has been happening?"

    "Anna told me there was a four-fifths chance a bunch of people died here in the next twenty minute a little bit ago. Then this crazy fire lady showed up and started trying to burn the place." PillowMan glanced down at his sister for a moment. "Anna tells me when people are likely to die and I try to save them, but the crazy lady keeps trying to build up this massive fire that I have to smother with my power before it gets too large. And Anna is worn out from using her power all they time." Anna was staring unblinkingly upwards while murmuring this string of numbers under her breath.

    "Take her inside the lair," Skitter told him. "Then come back and keep putting the fires out and distracting her. I'll handle evacuating my people."

    "Alright." PillowMan said with a nod before turning around and picking up his kid sister. He darted for the third entrance to the lair Skitter had built; a small cellar door inside a collapsed building that leads to the same network of pipes that lead into her lair.

    Skitter edged around the area and extrapolated the data her second mind had been collecting with her bugs. At least two hundred people that would be endangered if Burnscar managed to get a large enough fire going. Tenant immediately grasped her intent and helped her create hundreds of arrows and warnings all over the area, directing them out of Burnscar's range and to safety.

    "There could be other members of the Nine, here." Tenant told her. "You should do a more thorough sweep." Skitter nodded and created a dense circle of bugs, something no one would be able to move out of the way off and began expanding it over an area.

    She felt pillows scattered across the ground everywhere. Even her smallest of bugs couldn't get into the fabric of the pillows. PillowMan was back on the field, assaulting fire with his never ending stream of pillows.

    Skitter got the feeling she wasn't going to get used to seeing hundreds of indestructible pillows on the battlefield.

    There was an area where people were lying on the ground at odd angles. Skitter had the bugs inspect them closer and froze. Dead, cut open like fish, some of them even strung from the ceiling.

    Skitter tapped into her bugs' eyesight and began surveying the location. An abandoned factory, some people had been sleeping inside of it but other were going inside to escape the flames. They made it a few feet inside until something moved and killed them and began moving them out of the way for the next unlucky person to enter the building.

    Mannequin.

    Skitter ran full sprint into the building, ignoring Burnscar releasing a wall of flame towards here as she felt PillowMan moving to stop it. Skitter reached down and grabbed a pillow off the ground and jumped forward through the door, twisting her body so she faced the ceiling with the pillow held in front of her.

    Mannequin's blade bounced harmlessly off the pillow as he descended from the ceiling, but the force knocked Skitter into the ground and sent her rolling across the floor. She recovered almost instantly by rolling onto her feet, only to see Mannequin charging her.

    Skitter drew her second mind into her first and felt Tenant pushing all the information they had on martial arts towards the forefront of her mind. As her two minds became one she gained an intuitive sense of the building they were in so she didn't need to spare bugs to map the walls and floors, just the people. Her increased senses let her hear a faint humming coming from Mannequin's chest. With all this new information in mind, she drew out her knife in her left hand and her telescoping baton in the other.

    Mannequin swung his arm and blade too far to actually hit if his arm didn't extend on its chain. Skitter closed the distance and held her baton up to catch the chain instead of the limb. The arm pivoted on her baton and began to swing back towards Mannequin just before Skitter stabbed her knife into one of the chain links and pulled Mannequin forward. She felt the muscles in her arms burning as Tenant let her tap into their unnatural power.

    Mannequin went stumbling forward but recovered too quickly. His other arm lashed out a glanced off one of her armour platings. She danced backwards and held her baton and knife at the ready. Mannequin tilted his head at her and slid more blades out of his body.

    'Brute?' Skitter asked. Tenant shook his head.

    "Then Burnscar torches your territory. And god forbid anyone touches your people."

    'Pillow?'

    "Busy with much the same, and even with those pillows this guy would cut him up like nobody's business."

    'Queen's device?'

    "Calling for her help might mean she will level the building. But maybe the explosive your work for something. Other than that you're on your own." Skitter nodded and started laying lines of silk.

    Mannequin launched his left arm at her. It sailed over her shoulder and struck the wall behind her. But before she could do anything, Mannequin began spinning like a top, becoming a torrent of bladed death. Skitter grabbed her baton in both hands and slammed it one of his arms, sending it flying into the other on and the two chains getting tangled.

    Skitter start pouring thousands of bugs into the gears and gaps of his armour as Mannequin attempted to pull himself back together. She charged straight at him before she realized that the bugs weren't accomplishing anything on their own. Mannequin suddenly pulled his arms free as if they weren't tangled to begin with and a blade struck her in the head.

    Skitter went flying across the ground and hit a wall on the other side of the room. Mannequin began approaching slowly, as if to taunt her. Skitter grabbed her baton and raised it, only to have Mannequin slam it out of her hand by using his arm like a whip. She wisely didn't raise her knife to give him the same opportunity.

    'Tenant, freeze it.' Tenant didn't respond, and instead shut everything down. She felt her second mind disappear entirely and all her senses when back to the dull normal. She felt like she was suddenly shoved back into her body as she resumed control of her heartbeat and breathing. Pain flooded her senses and made her tear up. Her arms, legs, shoulders, and her back was screaming in agony. She had burns on the back of her legs she hadn't noticed before and her head was almost certainly bruised and maybe concussed.

    And then time stopped and all the pain faded again. Skitter tried to move before she remembered that her body was still moving at normal time, her mind was just understanding it faster.

    "I'm going to speed it up slightly so I have some brain power to work with." Tenant's voice said. His body had disappeared as he activated the time stop, like it normally does when he is pushing himself to his limits. Skitter mentally agreed with him and watched as Mannequin's movements went from a dead stop to just an incredibly slow, like he was trying to move through jello.

    "So do you have any ideas?" Skitter asked, her voice strangely disembodied from herself. Tenant observed Mannequin studiously. Tenant popped back into existent near her and turned to face their attacker.

    "Oh, a few. But I can see you have some of your own which aren't half bad. So nice to have a host with some actual competence. Not a lot, but more than most which is good. Anyway, your silk is almost done being drawn and you can start using the first bits the moment we get out. Split your minds and let your secondary one control the bugs and silk for you, use your primary mind to fight Mannequin." Skitter mentally nodded.

    "He adapts fast." She observed,

    "So adapted faster. He has been keeping you at arm's length, so get in close. I'll release as many muscle restrictions as I can without permanently harming you and you should be able to get the drop on him with your speed."

    "He uses closed systems, if I can pierce one area he will probably lose it because of bacteria he would be exposed to." Tenant nodded and drifted over to Mannequin. He began touching areas on him.

    "These are the weakest points in his head, chest, arms and legs. With the strength boost, you should be able to stab through them with your knife."

    "There probably isn't anything in his head. Likely just something to through other people off." Tenant nodded in agreement.

    "Are you ready for this?" Skitter nodded seriously. Tenant shrugged and crackled his knuckles. "Alright, real time in three, two, one-"

    The was a second when Skitter was feeling all the effects Tenant imposes without him to meditate all the actions in between. All the information she had memorized, all the pain, all the hormones Tenant had been managing, all the information the bugs were picking up through their eyes and ears. All of it assaulting her at once for not even a second, and then Tenant was back at the helm, managing it all to make it all one constant stream of useable information and power.

    Skitter was hit with the odd realization that she and Tenant were two of probably only a handful of people alive capable of multitasking on this scale. But together, their abilities combined and multiplied, there probably wasn't anyone capable of thinking as fast or about as many things except very, very extraordinary Thinker powers.

    Mannequin had only taken one step forward in the time Skitter and Tenant had done all of this. And then Skitter was behind him before any human mind could process she had moved.

    She stabbed at the back of his chest with a knife, but he managed to move just enough that it glanced off his side harmlessly. Skitter ducked under his backswing and jammed her knife where a normal person would have had an armpit, damaging the joint heavily before she darted backwards to avoid his counterattack.

    Skitter's hand closed around a thin cord of silk as she stopped backpedalling away from him. Mannequin didn't stop for a moment before launching his arm full force at her. On que, Skitter jumped high into the air, tugging on the cord hard. The pillow the cord was attached to flew into sight and collided with his bladed hand.

    A second later Skitter was winding the cord around Mannequin's arm and tying it to a metal pole sticking out of the ceiling. He brought out another knife and began to cut the cord off immediately, but in that moment her swarm made a pass over him. Jamming every joint with hundreds of threads of silk.

    Skitter darted forward, her knife held out to her side. Mannequin moved to block her, but the silk jammed in his joints and the new one wound around his arm and attached to other object stopped him from moving fast enough. She jabbed the knife deep into his chest and shoved downward.

    A blade caught her in the chest and sent her flying backwards. Mannequin stumbled forward, black gunk the consistency of tar oozed from the hole in his chest. Mannequin was injured, probably deathly ill in a few seconds, but more than anything else he was angry.

    Skitter leapt to her feet and gave another strategically placed cord a good pull. A pillow struck Mannequin from behind, distracting him just long enough for Skitter to plunge the knife in the location where his neck meet his body and she began to pry it apart.

    Skitter felt a dull jolt of pain and Mannequin broke her arm with the impact of one of his blades. She was thrown to the ground a second later and felt a rib snap. Mannequin loomed over her, two of his largest blades held up, ready to plunge into her. She didn't have her knife anymore and no silk would help her now. He had her completely trapped for that moment, and Skitter laughed.

    She laughed because there was absolutely no reason to attack his head. No reason because she already knew there was nothing important in it. But she attacked it anyway, so he didn't notice when a piece of silk binding a blinking blue button to his midsection.

    Mannequin broke in half as the explosion ripped through him. Skitter felt the lenses on her mask break and fire scorching the unbroken arm nearest to the flame. Tenant could block a lot of pain, but it was too much and the damage to her body was too extensive. She saw Brute coming into the doorway before just before she passed out.
     
  25. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 13
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    Getting stabbed sucked. I would have thought going toe to toe with Jack Slash for thirty minutes and living would have at least giving me a little bit of an ego boost, but instead it just hurt. A lot.

    For someone with the word 'slash' in their name he sure did a lot of stabbing, He got me in both shoulders and my stomach. But that was ignoring the thousands of smaller cuts the now covered my entire body. My power made them pointless in terms of injuring me, but damn it they stung.

    I suppose I did better than Taylor, who laid in a bed next to me. We were in her lair, waiting as Tattle's medic, Brooks, tended to us. Brute stood watch from the doorway. He had been quiet and angry since he brought Skitter in. I'd tried talking to him but was only met with grunts or silence. PillowMan had a few burns but was otherwise okay. He was out banishing his pillows back to where ever it is they all come from. Queen swung by earlier, but Brute wouldn't let her into the room. For a minute I thought they were going to fight right then and there, but I got up and talked with her outside of the room. My power meant I didn't bleed and pain was only a faint, almost pleasant stinging sensation.

    I don't know what it was that Skitter did that cause those injuries, but damn. If I didn't know any better I would have said she was trying to show me up by doing something more reckless and more stupid than what I did. We all heard the numbers, but I at least had the sense to put a time limit on things. She went head to head against Mannequin, no holds barred and still came out on top. Skitter was kind of terrifying when I thought about it.

    She had muscle tearing all over her body and by all counts shouldn't be able to walk or move without excruciating pain when she woke up. Her right arm was broken and her left arm was burned and filled with bits of Mannequin. The lenses on her costume protected her from the explosion at first, before the shattered bits scratched her face. Luckily her eyes were fine. She also had bruising where Mannequin had hit her several times, particularly around her broken rib.

    It was like she just came out of a war. My scratches in comparison looked petty and minor.

    My thoughts were interrupted as Brute let Tattletale and Grue in the room. I saw Taylor's eyes open almost instantly and I frowned. Had she been faking it? Was she focusing on her bug and use them to let her know when the others had come in?

    Taylor sat herself up on the bed without so much as a flinch at the pain. Did she just have that much of a pain tolerance or did Brooks give her something?

    "Christ, Taylor!" Grue exclaimed as they began to surround her bed. I got up out of my bed and flinched a little as one of my stitches tore, but I made my way to her bed anyway.

    "That bad?" Taylor asked with a dry smile

    "I'd say it's pretty bad," Tattletale said. She was speaking quietly on the account of the stitches stretching from the corner of her mouth to the corner of her jaw, her lips pulled down in a perpetual frown. "You fought Mannequin and won. Killed him completely."

    "Are you crazy?" Grue asked. "We all heard the numbers, Forty-one percent chance we die trying to fight them."

    "Numbers are probably better now," I said off-handedly. Mannequins death probably tilted thing in our favour a bit.

    "Not the point," Grue said. "You could have died, you had both him and Burnscar there with you. What you did was insanely stupid."

    "He was threating my people. I had to step up and save them, as the leader of my territory."

    "You did that, yaes," Brute said, walking up to the bed, smoking a cigar. "Now you have many people wanting to work for you, but you nearly died." I cracked a smile and said,

    "I think you made Brute angry with you for taking a strong target from him." Brute snorted, letting out an irregular puff of smoke.

    "But something is bothering you." Tattletale observed. Brute shrugged and looked away.

    "I serve good people. I serve good smart people when I can. I rarely serve strong people, yaes. But never have I gotten to serve smart, good, and strong person before, and then she nearly dies fighting opponent I could have squashed like bug."

    "See, even Brute is concerned by the fact you took on Mannequin by yourself," Grue scolded her. Taylor sighed.

    "On the plus side, a lot of people are talking about it," Tattletale mentioned.

    "That's good for my rep, I guess," Taylor said. "What about Burnscar? And Shatterbird."

    "Fire lady is hard to catch, yaes." Brute said with a nod. "But I took her arm. Is abnormal." Taylor raised an eyebrow and Tattletale stepped in to inform her.

    "Bonesaw apparently had made modifications to everyone on the team. Reinforced their bones, built in painkillers, and such and such. Given that, Shatterbird probably made it out of the fire alive. But Queen said she would have her sonic cannons ready to fire in case she tries to attempt it again."

    "Do you know if Jack accepted the deal?"

    "Something like that, this was delivered today." Tattletale held out a piece of paper and I looked over Taylor's shoulder to read it.

    The terms of engagement are as follows:

    1. Three days to each member of the Slaughterhouse Nine so we can conduct our tests. Tests will be performed one after the other, with eight rounds in total.

    2. A successful test or the removal of a candidate who has failed a test will earn the tester bonus time. 3-12 hours for a successful test depending on the number of candidates remaining and 24 hours for an execution.

    3. Should a tester suffer a sound defeat at the hands of any individual during their allotted time, they will be penalized one day of allotted time.

    4. Each tester operates independently, with no hands-on assistance from other members of the Slaughterhouse Nine. Assistance may be bought, bartered or otherwise rendered in a hands-off manner, possibly including medical assistance, information, provided equipment and suggestions.

    5. Candidates may receive assistance, hands-on or otherwise, from Brockton Bay residents only. We are fully aware that Legend and his teammates are in Brockton Bay. Should they interfere with a tester, all candidates will lose the protection of any rules, all terms offered here will cease and the threat implied in point eight will be carried out. This only applies to confrontations with the active tester.

    6. The Slaughterhouse Nine will handle the punishment of any members of their own team, in the event of failures, the inability of the tester to perform at least a partial round of testing or killing a candidate without notification.

    7. Should the defending parties have two or more candidates remaining when the eighth round of testing concludes, the Slaughterhouse Nine will depart Brockton Bay without incident and refrain from returning for three years at a minimum.

    8. If and when the Slaughterhouse Nine do eliminate five of the six candidates, or if any candidates leave the city, the Slaughterhouse Nine are prepared to penalize the city for their failure.

    Shatterbird is the first to carry out her round of testing. She has two days remaining.

    We will be in touch.

    "Coil wants to have a meeting with us and the Travelers to discuss strategy," Grue said, still a little off put.

    "Alright, let's go," Taylor said, swinging her legs over the bed to stand up. As if that was some sort of signal, Tattletale nodded to Grue who moved to stand in her way.

    "What are you guys doing?" She asked, looking up at Grue. Tattletale moved closer.

    "Nothing really, it's just that recently you have been doing done very un-Taylor like things. You've been acting off since the Leviathan attack, but I didn't say anything because I thought maybe it was a result of fighting the Endbringer. But you started working differently too." Tattletale paused and seated herself on the bed opposite of her.

    "You have been able to see and hear with your bugs, something you couldn't do before. You react faster than you ever have, fighting Dragon and dodging every single one of her attacks. You took two bullets during our thing with the Merchants and were still able to walk and weave through the crowd expertly, even after saving Eraser. You're suddenly verbally skilled during the truce talks with Miss Militia and Hookwolf. And to top it all off you manage to kill Mannequin and have injuries all over your body that should stop you from moving, but it seems like you don't even feel the pain.

    "So," Tattletale leaned forward on the bed and stared directly into Taylor's face. "What's going on, what has changed you?" We stared at her in silence for a long, tense moment. Taylor stared back wide eyed. The only sound was coming from Brute's cigar as he tapped it into an ashtray he had set on a nearby table. I thought she wasn't going to answer when she hung her head and said,

    "There is a man in my mind." I could see Brute tense from where I was standing, the cigar snapping in his hand.

    "What?" Grue asked, clearly taken back a step. Taylor shook her head.

    "There is a cape that jumps from one host's mind to another when they die. His name is Tenant and he has been living in my mind since the Leviathan killed his last host."

    "What's his real name?" Brute asked acidly. Suddenly everyone turned to look at him. His shoulders were rising up and down with repressed anger.

    "He says he doesn't remember." Taylor answer, confused.

    "Does he remember me? Does he remember what he did to me?" Slowly, Taylor shook her head.

    "He says he doesn't remember anything from when he was a human, and he doesn't remember you either."

    "Then tell him that he tortured me. Tell him that he force me to trigger and then I killed him while trying to escape. Then let the bastard know that he killed my best friend by getting into his head and tormenting him to death." Taylor opened her mouth then closed it, frowning deeply. She furrowed her eyebrows and look a little frustrated before speaking again.

    "He says that he is a practical man and that probably did it for a good reason and that he can't gain enough control over a person to make them kill themselves so it was probably your friends own being weak willed that killed him. And he says he doesn't hold it against you that you killed him." Brute clenched his fist and turned on his heels, storming out of the room.

    I should go after him, see if he is okay. On the other hand, Taylor has had a second voice in her mind for weeks and I really want to know what that means. I looked at the door, then back at Taylor. She was talking about Tenant's effects and Grue did not look happy at all.

    There was drama with either decision, but the drama with Brute was slightly more interesting to me. Only issue being that the reason it was hard for me to be an Undersider and not just a Undersider is the fact that I kept missing these important conversations. I sighed a shuffled out the door, I had to be a friend to Brute because he is probably one of the few people on this team that still gives me the time of day.

    Sometimes it's hard being as awesome as I am.

    I found Stravik just a block away from the lair and quickly caught up with him. He was smoking a cigar again, leaning against a brick building that was falling apart. Neither of us were in our costumes anymore. I was back in one of my low cut tops that said 'badass', Stravik was in a white shirt with the sleeves tore off.

    "Hey, big guy." I said, joining him on leaning against the wall.

    "Have you come to have one of those heartfelt conversations you see in those cartoons you make me watch?" I shrugged.

    "I mean, why a not? The others have their important conversations. Why can't we?" Stravik grunted.

    "Look, you don't have to say anything if you don't want me to," I said diplomatically. "Just tell me how you feel and then maybe we can go find someone for you to punch? I know the Merchants aren't around anymore, but maybe you could pick a fight with some other gang?" Stravik sighed and tapped the ash from his cigar over sidewalk.

    "I tell myself that I won't look for this man. Is lost cause, yaes. I kill him and he moves to another body, and with my luck other body is connected to good person. So I tell myself that he doesn't matter, that I will not care about it. I believe too.

    "But now he is in the mind of my wielder. A wielder that so far has used me effectively and smartly." Stravik made a face as if deciding whether or not 'smartly' was a word. "I got angry, wanted to kill him. But he was in body connected to good person. Only now I don't know if people stay themselves with him. If he somehow changes their minds."

    "For what it's worth, I don't think he changes who they are," I said sullenly. I wanted to help Stravik, but meaningful conversation just wasn't my thing. But, I guess I could offer him this. "I don't think he makes anyone better or worse, just more. If he actually changed someone we would have noticed the difference over time." Brute didn't respond to that for a moment. Instead, taking another pull from his cigar and tapping the ash out over the ground.

    "I have vanted to find him," Brute continued, "Ask him many of things. But now I find out he does not even know his name. How can I be mad it a man who clearly doesn't even know who he was or vhat he did?"

    "I don't know." I paused. "But you want to do the punching thing now? maybe go get something to eat?" Brute grunted and shrugged

    "I guess."

    "Oh! Can I come?" Queen flew down the street and landed next to me. I blinked and looked around. There were a few people hanging around the area that were now staring because of Queen. The infamous and at least partially insane Tinker, just flew down and landed next to me like I was a good friend. Wait, was I a good friend to her? It certainly seemed that way, but I've only know her for a few days.

    But then I remembered when I saw her ship that she had so much, but everything was empty. She was alone, and I invited her to the team. Maybe that was all she needed.

    "For punching things or going out to eat?" I asked. Queen shrugged.

    "Either or. Just so long as we hang out." That was proof enough for me, even if her voice was in a permanent sing-song kind of tune. I looked at Brute. He was watching me patiently as if seeing what I wanted to do. Just then, Lisa came around the corner.

    "Hey, 'sup guys? You all set to head over to Coil's to talk plans?" Brute turned away and started continued smoking his cigar. Queen suddenly looked uncertain, but I flash a reassuring smile at her.

    "Sure, that's where we figure out who we get to punch and when right?" Queen suddenly grinned and jumped up and down.

    "Yay! Can I use my new stealth bomber plane? Please? Please?" Suddenly a voice cut in from a nearby alleyway.

    "That sounds like explosive fun." We all turned to face whoever it was that said it. Striding confidently out of the alley was a cape in an all white costume. He wore a jumpsuit like in NASCAR, only there was a troll face where the logo should be. His mask was a solid white one way mirror with a black Lenny face painted on the front.

    "Troll." Lisa stated.

    "Oh my, it appears I'm famous. Oh wait, I already knew that."

    "What are you doing here?" Troll stared at her for a moment.

    "Tsundere invited me to the team." Lisa whirled on me.

    "You did what?" I blinked.

    "Didn't I tell you?"

    "No, no you didn't!"

    "Oh, well. Troll showed up when I was fighting Jack, claiming Jack killed him at some point and some time. And then when Jack started running, like a little bitch might I add, Troll invited me for an early breakfast at some Waffle House across town. I didn't want to be rude, so I went with him and at some point, I invited him to the team."

    "Christ Riza! You can't just invite every psychopath with powers to the team!"

    "Excuse me, two. I invited two people to the team, not counting PillowMan and his sister. And for the record, I don't think Troll is insane. Just kind of a dick sometimes."

    "Thank you." Troll said honestly. Lisa put her fingers to her temple.

    "You can't even control Queen, how do you expect any of us to get anything done with Troll around. It was bad enough when he was just in the city."

    "Control them? Who said they needed or could be controlled?"

    "She has a point, you know." Troll said with a nodded.

    "Yeah." Queen agreed. Troll held out his hand and Queen high-fived it. Lisa stared at them for a moment before shaking her head.

    "Then let me rephrase; how do you expect to get them to work with us instead of against us. And how do you expect them to not to kill a whole bunch of people in the process." I rolled my eyes.

    "Come Tattle, you out of all people would know the answer better than me." Lisa shook her head.

    "Just answer the questions." I looked back at Queen and Troll.

    "Shared interested." Lisa nodded slowly at my answer. I felt my eye twitch. I was this close to surprising her. I made her panic a little with Troll, but honestly everyone panics with Troll. No matter how many times you kill him, he always respawns a block or two away and then just keeps coming back until he takes what he wants. Whatever that may be.

    "I'm running with you guys because it's fun and because you do some good things on occasion, heroic things. It's a win-win for me." I jerk a thumb over my shoulder at Queen. "She wants to be able to use the things she builds, and she builds a whole lot. So long as she is with us we'll give plenty of chances to use those devices and we'll have her back if someone comes after her because of it. And Troll, is well…" Troll stepped forward and I was pretty sure he was grinning behind the mask.

    "I chase the fun things in life. Endbringer attacks always stir up a lot of people to mess with. But I'm a sucker for fighting the Slaughterhouse Nine. They just make it too easy to screw with them. Jack trying to be all artful and Bonesaw begin the adorable little psychopath she is. But my favourite is Crawler, the perfect killing machine but can't kill a guy with no invulnerability or super strength or anything." Troll threw his head back and laughed. "I can't tell you how many times I ran up to his face and called him gay."

    "And the body count?" Lisa asked me dryly. I looked at Troll, who said,

    "There is nothing less fun than a corpse." Then I turned to Queen and said,

    "Want to play a game?" Queen's eye lit up.

    "I love games!" I grinned and said,

    "Then how about this, for every person that isn't the really bad people in the Nine that you kill you get a point. And whoever has the most points at the end of the game looses."

    "Like golf!"

    "Exactly." Well, not that exactly, but close enough.

    "Yay!" Queen clapped her hands together. Lisa shook her head.

    "Alright, but they're your headache, not mine. If they do something, it's on you." Lisa paused for breath and looked between the four of us, Brute included. "You can put your costumes on or not, but we need to get going. It's time to fight the Nine."
     
  26. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 14
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    They all sat tensely around the table. Coil at the head, the Travelers including Genesis' real body and a blond boy Skitter didn't recognize to Coil's left. The first of the Undersiders to Coil's right. For a minute it was almost like things were as they were meant to be, just the original Undersiders members before the Leviathan attack, before Tsundere and Brute. Before Pillow and Queen and Troll. But Tenant was standing behind Coil's seat, attempting to hide himself in the shadow. A dark reminder that The Undersiders have expanded larger and into stranger territory.

    Tsundere walked in with PillowMan, Queen of the Castle, Troll, and Brute in tow. Excluding Brute, it would have been her own little band of misfits. Tsundere, the reality warping anime otaku. Troll, the immortal but otherwise powerless annoying thorn in the side of everyone in with any semblance of power to them. Queen of the Castle, the unstable, unpredictable, and insanely fast siege Tinker. And PillowMan, the… well, PillowMan.

    Brute suddenly froze, staring at the Travelers. Skitter studied him, looking for any signs of what he was thinking.

    'Hostility? Maybe he knows one of them? No, not showing any of the normal signs. Maybe one is an old friend or he worked with them for a while? No, Brute is not relaxed enough for that. Something has shocked him.'

    "Maybe if you paid attention, Skitter, you would see." Tenant said tiredly. He had been a little put off by all of her teammate's reactions to the fact she had someone in her head, changing how her mind works.

    "Hey, Brute?" Tsundere asked, waving a hand in front of his face. Brute didn't even blink. "Brute?" Tsundere asked again, frown and waving harder. The Travelers looked at each other apparently as confused as everyone else. Suddenly Troll pulled out a revolver from nowhere.

    "Would it help if I shot him?"

    "No!" Several of them said simultaneously. Troll paused and slid the gun into the pocket of his jumpsuit.

    "Geez, it was just an idea. And he could probably take it."

    "Brute? What are you staring at?" Tsundere said, giving him a little shove. Brute shook his head as if coming out of a daze.

    "I'm sorry," he said, "I just had never seen someone so beautiful." Troll clapped his hands and jumped out of his seat.

    "Excuse me?" Tsundere said, looking genuinely offended. Brute didn't even glance her way, continuing to look at one of the Travelers. "Well fine. I'll just take me and my tits elsewhere." Again, Brute didn't even look her way. Tsundere turned to look at Queen, her mouth open in shock. Queen put a hand on her shoulder and reassured her by saying,

    "For the record, I think your tits look great today." Tsundere nodded glumly.

    "Thanks Queen, but I just- I'm just not feeling it today, you know?" Troll's Lenny face mask seemed even larger now.

    "Now you're speaking my language Russian man." Troll threw an arm around Brute and asked, "Alright, who are we looking at." Brute raised a finger, pointing at Genesis still in her wheelchair. A little bit of colour rose to her cheeks as she opened her mouth and closed it again. Troll lifted his mask so we could all see his grin. He had a thin face, with high cheek bones. Blonde hair and blue eyes, fair looking.

    "Brute, as much as I can appreciate admiring a woman's, erm, natural beauty. You can't just walk into a room, point at a girl, and say she is beautiful."

    "Vhy a not?" Troll opened his mouth to answer but then considered it for a moment.

    "You know what? Your right, screw social norms! Now let's see." Troll scanned the room and his eyes feel on Sundancer.

    "Sundancer, might I say that you look-"

    Tsundere bashed Troll's skull in.

    Everyone looked at her, holding her bloody bokken over Troll's body as it began to decompose into shards of light.

    "What?" She asked. "He'll get better." Coil pressed his hands to the side of his head.

    "If you're quite finished, we should get on with the meeting." Tsundere nodded and they all took their seats, except for Brute who elected to stand protectively behind Skitter. Troll walked back in a second later.

    "It happened so fast, I saw my life flash before my eyes. Or one of them at least."

    "Troll," Tsundere chided him. "Serious time."

    "Serious? I can do serious." Troll waved his hands in the air for a moment, pressed a few invisible buttons and suddenly his clothing flashed for a second. Then was in a three-piece suit and a porkpie fedora, complete with a feather sticking out of the hat. Troll slid into his seat and crossed his feet up on the table.

    "We're going to make them an offer they can't refuse." Everyone else elected to ignore him.

    "As part of the truce, we have made two groups," Coil said. He held out a hand to represent one group. "Miss Militia, Hookwolf, and Purity are going to be pooling their resources to create a massive fighting force that would overwhelm the Nine if they did anything overt. This, of course, is a tact that has tried and failed many times in the past. However, they should serve to keep the Nine occupied while we, the other team," Coil held out his other hand, "Preform measured strikes against the Nine. Do what we are skilled at and pick our battles, force the Nine out from wherever they're hiding."

    "The Nine have done this hundreds of times, playing games exactly like this." Skitter said. "If they are anything like us, which I think they are, they count on their enemies to perform a certain way. Meaning we need to do the opposite." Grue shot her a look, reminding her that she wasn't exactly trusted for the time being.

    "I agree," Coil said, "However you decided to accomplish that, you'll have my support." Skitter looked at Grue, silently telling him she was done for the moment. Grue sighed and turned to face the group.

    "We have a lot of firepower between all of us. We should split up into groups, divide the city three ways."

    "What did you have in mind?" Trickster asked. Grue thought for a moment.

    "Myself, Skitter, Genesis, Bitch, and Brute in one team. We'll take the coastline."

    "If you don't mind," Tattletale said, "I'll think I'll be more effective gathering intel here than I will be out in the field. I've taken a few hits recently." Grue nodded.

    "Just so long as you're contributing. Regent, PillowMan and DeathKid, Ballistic, and Sundancer in the second group. Taking the centre strip of the city, including the lake." Trickster nodded, understanding.

    "And Trickster, Imp, Tsundere, Queen, and Troll in the last group. They get the upper third of the city, all the way to the outskirts of the city." He was separating the more problematic members and delegating them to Tsundere, who would be watched over by Trickster. Not what Skitter would have done. Those three were easily their most effective members, excluding Brute. But Grue wasn't exactly in the mood to be challenged on that fact.

    "I have explosives for everyone!" Queen said excitedly. She threw her arm up and more blue buttons went flying across the table. "Press it once to make quite, press it twice to call for help and I'll send a jet your way, press it thrice for ten seconds till explosion, press it forice to reset from the beginning." Queen reached down and pressed a button on her mechanized combat skirt. The outside layer spun around and two panels opened and she began pulling out several guns. "Also, railguns for everyone!" Queen began tossing the weapons across the table.

    "How do they fire?" Trickster asked, looking over the gun in his hand.

    "You pull the trigger, duh."

    "Where's the safety?"

    "Psh, who needs safety?" Queen rolled her eyes and pressed another button on her skirt. The top and second layer spun in opposite direction and a new panel opened up. She pulled out a few dozen cylinders and began rolling them towards everyone at the table. "Went the clip is spent it will pop out the side and you just need to slip in the new one. Easy as cake." Everyone shared a concerned look, but picked up the explosives and the gun.

    "You should make individual plans of attack for each member." Tenant prompted her. Skitter agreed and turned to face the group.

    "I think we would benefit in the long run if Brute kills Crawler." Brute nodded with a grunt of approval. "But we should make plans for each individual member while we're here." Queen grinned and clapped her hands.

    "I have bomber planes ready drop napalm strikes on them at any moment."

    "Let's save that as a last resort." Coil said smoothly. "What of the others. Jack?"

    "We'll need to take out the others before we can kill him," Tattletale said. "He knows his power won't be all that against ours. We take Cherish and Shatterbird, then Crawler and Burnscar next. Then we deal with Bonesaw, Jack, and Siberian."

    "Doing in that order might make them more desperate and more likely to lash out." Skitter pointed out.

    "Which is why we have we have Miss Militia ready to strike when that happens. With these weapons, we should stand a good chance of wounding anyone except Crawler and Siberian." Skitter and Tenant nodded.

    "Then, if that is all," Coil said, rising from his seat, "I must go and make some calls. I'll have computers and other equipment getting shipped in shielded against sound incase Shatterbird attempts another attack like the last one."

    "Just one thing," Skitter said. Coil paused and waited for her to continue. "Queen, how many vehicles do you have like your planes and submarines?" Queen paused.

    "Well, my nearest weapon's cache is in a corner of New York state, but that isn't going to have the kind of cars you're talking about. You want tanks and things right?"

    "If you can." Queen tapped her chin ponderously.

    "I have a bunker on the coast of North Carolina. I can get armoured cars, tanks, a small fleet of ships, some subs, more planes and helicopters, and a few mechs."

    "Mechs?" It was Tsundere who spoke. Queen shrugged.

    "Siege weapons changed from Ballistas to cannons over time. Tinkers build things ahead of their time, and siege weapons of the future include mechs."

    "Is anyone else confused?" Brute asked.

    "Robots." Tsundere said. "Giant robots you can get inside and pilot." That made Brute look even more confused that, but he didn't say anything else.

    "How much?" Skitter asked, lacing her hand together in her mouth. Queen leaned her seat back on two legs so far Skitter thought she would fall.

    "You wouldn't have to spread it too thinly to patrol the whole city." The others gaped at her. Skitter took a little satisfaction at the idea Coil did a double take under his mask. "But it would take a day or two for everything to get here. And of course the shiny heros would know about it and I wouldn't be put everything back."

    "Why would you need that much fire power?" Queen grinned.

    "Well, obviously the best way to test my stuff is against an Endbringer. But they never attack places near my bunkers."

    "Bunkers?" Grue asked. "How many do you have?" Queen thought about it.

    "I two more in America, I have one floating around somewhere. I've been trying to get some in Europe, but I never find the time to sail overseas."

    "When do you find the time for any of this?" Grue asked, getting increasingly more exasperated.

    "It's not like I'm doing anything else." Skitter noticed Tsundere making a concerned face as they spoke.

    "Perhaps this would be a good time for us to head out," Coil said. "I don't think Queen's little military will be necessary for the time being." They all nodded in agreement and rose from their seat, each moving into their respective teams.

    PillowMan and Ballistic's team left immediately, heading for the centre of the city and started looking for Shatterbird or otherwise. Skitter caught Brute staring at Genesis again, Genesis for her part was doing her best not to look back. Troll walked up to Brute and threw an arm around him again.

    "Give it up Brute." Troll told him. "Woman and wheelchairs are almost impossible to land. They always think they're being made fun of, or not good enough, or too good and no one is good enough for them. Believe me, I've tried." Brute shot him a sidelong glance.

    "I can kill this one, yaes?" Tsundere shrugged.

    "For the most part, but try to refrain from doing it too often." Brute growled at Troll, who's Lenny face mask looked back at him unchanging.

    "Nine words." Brute said. Troll tilted his head.

    "You think so?"

    "Nine words to get her to go out with me. One thousand dollars." Troll moved back and looked at him.

    "Well, now I'm so curious I have to take the bet. Let's see it big man." Brute nodded and walked in her direction. Tsundere moved close to Troll and they watched the exchange together. Skitter thought she saw them lean forward when he stopped to talk to her, but she wasn't sure.

    "Have you ever gone dancing?" Everyone drew a breath and started watching him intently. Genesis got flustered, unsure if she should be offended or not.

    "No." She said flatly.

    "Would you like to?" Brute held out a hand to her. There was a pause and she took it.

    "That sly mother fucker…" Troll said, pulling a wad of bills from his pockets. Skitter glanced over and briefly wondered how deep those pockets were.

    Genesis took Brute's hand and was lifted up out of her wheelchair. Brute handled her entire body weight easily and the upper body strength she had built up over the years helped keep her steady. Her knees went straight and for a moment, it seemed like she was standing. Her eyes widened, but Brute was pulling her forward.

    It took Skitter a moment to realize what he was doing. He was using his strength, her strength, and the momentum between them to give the illusion she was on her feet. He spun her around himself once before sliding her effortless back into her chair.

    "I know place, if it is still there vhen we finish with the Slaughterhouse Nine." Silently Genesis nodded her head. Brute turned around, and for the first time Brute was smiling smugly as Troll slipped him the thousand dollars.
     
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  27. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 15
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    "Yep, we got Jack and Siberian here on the west side of town. Look for Queen's helicopters. Yes, that is why you keep getting notifications that Jack is killing Troll, just hurry okay." I sighed and hung up the phone.

    Queen and Troll were chasing down Jack while Trickster, Imp, and I hung back and waited to see if an opening came up. There were explosions and gunshots going everywhere as we followed them. Siberian was holding on to Jack granting him her invulnerability for the moment.

    "This sucks," I said.

    "Hm?" Trickster asked, lighting a cigarette.

    "We're fighting some of the scariest people in the world and not only is my own team excommunicating me, but I'm also stuck with you as a babysitter."

    "I'll try not to take that as an insult." Trickster said dryly.

    "I should be down there, having fun with the others."

    "Fun?" I cocked my head at him.

    "Well, yeah. You can't tell me you don't find fighting exhilarating. Not to mention fighting someone as skilled as Jack or Siberian, just adds to the challenge." Trickster took a pull from the cigarette and sighed a puff of smoke.

    "That there is why your team is excommunicating you."

    "What?" I didn't understand. Did he know something I didnt know?

    "Is Imp still here?"

    "Nope, she darted off a minute ago." Trickster nodded and leaned against the edge of a building as Queen chased Siberian inside a construction yard. I had to give her credit, she was at least attempting to keep the destruction to a minimum. Not that she was succeeding as her weaponry was created to destroy armour and thick walls.

    "Then I'll ask you this, why is Grue on the team?"

    "Because he needed money for him and his sister."

    "And why didn't he join the Wards?"

    "Need more money than that, and faster." Trickster nodded.

    "Right, and Regent?"

    "Running from Heartbreaker."

    "Bitch?"

    "She was told people would leave her alone if she got enough power."

    "Skitter?"

    "Wanted to be a hero at first, now she thinks we do more good than they do."

    "Do you see what I'm getting at here?"

    "Not really." Trickster took another breath of the cigarette and sighed.

    "Everyone has a good reason for being a villain. For some of us, we had no choice. For others, it was simply our best choice. But there are three people who choose this life because they actually enjoy it. Queen of the Castle, Troll, and you." I blinked.

    "You're saying I'm just as bad as them."

    "Bad? No. I'm saying the three of you share the same insanity, but you are closer to sanity than the two of them."

    "That isn't much better." Trickster shrugged.

    "You're a rogue element. For the most part, you have done what you want when you have wanted to. Grue probably doesn't feel like he can exercise any control over you like he does the others, and honestly just look at what you have done in the month or so it's been. You have invited PillowMan, DeathKid, Queen, and Troll to the team without even asking anyone. You're lucky it was Skitter who you gave PillowMan to because no one else would have been happy about. As far as Queen and Troll are concerned, no one wants to get rid of them because of the usefulness they might have. But both of them are almost their own S-class threat and as soon as the thing with the Slaughterhouse Nine is done, they'll probably want you to get rid of them. And then they might try to get rid of you." I fell silent. Purity was coming on the scene know with her Pure. Queen was in the middle of dropping a building on Jack and Siberian when Purity obliterated it with a beam of light.

    Purity wiped Troll from the face of the planet.


    "So what am I going to do?" Trickster thought for a moment.

    "Well, one thing can do is prove that you're willing to play ball with your team. Listen to instructions, including getting rid of Queen and Troll." I didn't like that idea. I didn't mind doing whatever Skitter asked, and even Grue to some extent, but I didn't think that I could tell Queen to leave. I thought of her ship and how empty it was, and how Queen actually seemed upset when I pointed it out. Maybe Queen and I weren't the same brand of crazy, maybe she was some other crazy entirely. The kind of crazy that is obsessively constructing weapons and is really helping me because she wants a friend. I couldn't prove that, I could only guess. But would I be willing to risk betting against the chance she wanted a friend? I didn't think so.

    "And the other thing?"

    "Strike off on your own. Maybe you can get Queen and Troll to follow you for a bit. You might even get PillowMan and DeathKid to come."

    "Just like that? Break off from the team and go my own way." Trickster nodded.

    "Let's be honest, The Undersiders were doing just fine without you, and will continue to do fine without you. Especially with Brute working for Skitter. But I wouldn't count on you being able to form a cohesive team." I raised an eyebrow at that.

    "Why do say that?"

    "Because to lead a team you need something. Something that pulls people together and gets them to follow you. And simply saying 'we're in it for the fun' isn't a good enough reason."

    "You know, your team isn't exactly all that fond of you either." Trickster crushed out his cigarette and pushed away from the railing he was leaning on.

    "I know, and I think that a few of them are going to turn their back on me soon. They have wanted to for a long time." I drew my eyebrows together trying to puzzle that together.

    "So why haven't they before?"

    "We all sort of came into this together, and we made a promise to stick together no matter what. It has kept us as a team for years, but I don't think it is going to do anymore. I'm just waiting for that final act that finally pulls the team apart." He was so calm about it as if there was nothing wrong at all. He didn't seem concerned, just bored.

    "So what are you going to do?"

    "Nothing. I could do something, find a few smaller things to keep us together for a few more years, and then I could find something else after that. But I don't think I will. I'll do what I can to make it easier for the others to leave, but I think the Travelers are just about over." He didn't say anything else after that, and I didn't ask.

    Siberian tore Troll apart.

    "Well, let's get going," I said, drawing my katana. "I have had my power working on my body for the last twenty minutes we've been watching them and I'm dying to use some of this." Trickster nodded once and held up his railgun. Mine was strapped to my back. I wasn't planning on using it, knowing blades are more effective in anime than guns, but it would be a nice fallback.

    I glanced up at Purity as she floated in the air, overlooking the battlefield. She kind of struck me as the silent God passing judgement from above when she did that, fitting, I suppose, with her beliefs.

    Night, Fog, and Crusader were hounding Jack and Siberian on the ground, pushing them back towards Queen and Troll. Queen was in her power armour and mechanized combat skirt, Troll was carrying an RPG that he was reloading with ammo he got from his inventory.

    I had learned a little bit more about Troll's power while we prepared to hunt the Nine. It was like a limited version of The Gamer power I read about on that one webcomic a few years back. He respawned, but he also had an inventory capable of storing weapons, clothing, and food, but nothing else. He also said he had a menu that let him turn on subtitles and musical accompaniment for himself, but nothing useful. His real assets were his inventory and his respawning ability.

    Every time Jack was in between the two groups Purity would send a beam of light down on his head. Things were slow going, but Siberian couldn't fight back properly and hold on to Jack at the same time. And every minute we came that much closer to knocking him off. Siberian had stumbled a few times. Skitter had said, or maybe it was Tenant, that all powers had a drawback, some limitation that stopped them from being all powerful. One of the things we speculated Siberian's might be was an overall limit to how much she could take at one moment. Another was that she might not be able to take a lot of hits from several different directions.

    Either way, they were cornered for the moment.

    My phone rang a second before I was about to jump off the building for a dramatic entrance into the fight. I paused and answered it, hearing Tattletale's voice on the other end.

    "Grue and Skitter's group are fighting Shatterbird, Cherish, and Burnscar in their area. I heard some of the Protectorate saying that you have Jack and Siberian there?"

    "Yeah, you think that means that the last of them are going to show up somewhere in the third territory?"

    "Maybe, I can't-" Tattletale was cut off by the sound of Crawler tearing through a building he had been hiding in and clawing Purity out of the air in a single leap.

    "Tattle, I'm going to have to let you go. I just found Crawler." I hung up the phone before she could say anything and leapt off the roof of the building. On my way down I saw Trickster swapping Crawler out with cars while Purity ascended back into the sky, this time higher than Crawler could reach.

    I hit the ground with an earth shattering crash and drew a second katana. If it came down to it, I was sure I could kill Jack with the dual wielding skills I had picked up.

    I looked up only to find that Jack wasn't riding on Siberian's shoulder anymore, and now she was facing me.

    "Flash Strike!" I shouted, moving in a circle as I shouted the move. I disappeared briefly from view as I teleported behind her. I spun around, slashing both katanas through her back.

    My logic was sound, the one thing that we knew would stop her was her running into one of Clockblocker's time frozen objects. So the only thing that can effect Siberian was anything ready to break the laws of time and space. And I certainly did that.

    I felt my blades tearing through her like she was made of paper, which made me pause. When I finished the move I looked back at her and saw she was still standing there, four cuts going clean through her torso. She twitched, like a glitching television screen, her body pulled and stretched into unnatural proportions.

    Then she was back to normal no evidence of my cuts at all. The good news was that she was running, the bad news was that Crawler was still behind me somewhere.

    I turned and sheath one sword, I would need strength more than speed if I was going to fight Crawler. But as I turned I saw Fog enveloping Crawler in her gaseous form. The shadow from Night moving from the inside. I bit my lip. Between Fog and Night, they stood a good chance of actually killing Crawler, but if they failed they would make him that much stronger.

    I took out Queen's button and pressed it twice before throwing it in Crawlers direction. Hopefully, a fighter jet or something would finish the job if they aren't done.

    I found Troll entering my range of power as I darted behind a nearby building. I didn't sense Queen around and I wasn't hearing the normal explosions that accompanied her presence. Come to think of it, Troll was coming from a completely different direction from where I saw him last. Did I miss his last death notification?

    "You're not going to like this." Troll said as he slipped into the same alleyway as me. I peeked out around the corner and checked on the fight with Crawler. Not any progress as far as I could tell.

    "They got Queen." I froze and slowly turned his way. "Jack lead her into a building and Bonesaw blew this dust into her face and she went down a moment later. I thought about going after them, but I thought you'd want to know." Before I could answer Trickster teleported next to me.

    "Shatterbird is dead," he said bluntly. "And they've captured Cherish. Coil wants us to pull back and regroup." I didn't hesitate to answer.

    "Tell Coil he can go fuck himself. Bonesaw's taken Queen and I'm going after her. While you're telling him that let him know that Crawler is here and he should send Brute." Trickster was saying something, but I grabbed Troll and started running.

    Fuck everyone else, I invited Queen and I would get her back. And if they did kick me from the team then I'll have to live with it.
     
  28. Threadmarks: The Paranorms. Chapter 16
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    Skitter hadn't had a lot of opportunities to observe either Tsundere nor Brute in a fight. She mostly had managed them from her lair as she and Tenant worked on her other projects. She only came out when she felt like doing another power play or Sierra and Charlotte informed her one of her people was having an issue that required a more delicate or precise touch. Like families out of supplies or having issues with rats. Brute handled serious threats, managed and trained hired muscle for her, and clear large debris out of the way. Tsundere handled day to day policing of the territory and some of her more mundane tasks.

    As a result, she never got a real glance into what a battle would be like between Brute and Crawler and she didn't expect the extent of power Tsundere would have after an entire hour of fighting.

    Everyone was here now, an impromptu all out battle. Both sides were forcing the other to play they way they didn't want to. What was at first a carefully measured operation turned into all out war on both sides.

    Tsundere had refused to return when Coil ordered her to in favour of chasing down Bonesaw and Jack. So, Skitter's team moved into help, putting Brute on Crawler and assisting in whatever way they could. That bought time for Burnscar and Siberian to join the fray. At first, Burnscar was attempting to help Jack deal with the unrelenting force that Tsundere had become, but Hookwolf and Miss Militia suddenly moved in on the scene and began engaging her and Siberian. The third team The Undersiders and the Travelers had split up upon arrival and began helping as well. And thus everything devolved into something resembling an Endbringer attack.

    Legend and several of the Protectorates strongest fighters were fighting Siberian to little effect but keeping her from killing anyone too easily. Others were trying to take on Burnscar, but fire was everywhere and she was only making it worse. The Pure were helping Brute fight Crawler, but their effect was barely noticeable.

    Brute moved fast, striking Crawler repeated over and over again. Bits of Crawler was exploding all over the place as he struck, but they were healing back into place too quickly. The two of them fighting together were destroying buildings that beforehand had been relatively untouched. It was like they were wrestling with each other instead of actually trying to kill each other. Crawler's acid and claws rarely did anything but scratch Brute's skin, Brute's fists were hurting Crawler, but Crawler recovering too fast. But oddly, not as fast as he should be.

    Skitter's primary mind recognized what was happening a moment later.

    'Crawler is losing.' Over and over again Brute struck him with enough force to completely incapacitate the monster. Thus, Brute 'defeated' Crawler for an instance and stole some of his strength, healing, and durability. Then Crawler's power kicked in and attempted to adapt to what hurt him, but only managing to build himself up enough to make up for what Brute stole. Resulting in a constant loop that eventually would eventually come out with Brute on top.

    Which meant Skitter didn't need to focus on him, so long as Siberian and others didn't interfere, Crawler was as good as dead if he doesn't run soon.

    Skitter turned toward the rest of the fighting. This portion of the city was on a steady track of getting completely levelled. Burnscar had six tall building completely engulfed in flames. Creatures made out of fire were rising out of them and assaulting heroes and villains all over the area. Legend was cutting down buildings as he pursued Siberian across the breaking buildings. Genesis was a creature that seems to be some combination of a wall, a rhino and a mole. Barreling through buildings with a large flat face plate and releasing powerful jets of water out a dozen blow holes lining the creatures back.

    Everyone had started to realize that the damage to this part of town was already too extensive for them to care about holding back anymore, so they weren't.

    "What about civilian's?" Skitter asked. The earpiece hidden under the mask of her costume picked up her words and sent them to Tattletale on the other end of the line.

    "Being evacuated by the Wards and the less effective people, including PillowMan."

    "PillowMan should be put up against Siberian to see if he can do anything." Tenant said before Skitter repeated it for him.

    "It won't be good. PillowMan feels strongly about helping others, but he is an absolute coward and completely unsure of himself in a fight." Skitter nodded even though she knew Tattletale couldn't see her. She had noticed the same thing when taking him out on patrols. He feigned confidence if he thought someone was watching him, but he was clumsy, socially awkward, and easily terrified. It made him good for evacuation, but not much else.

    "We should still get some of his pillows on the scene."

    "We have other priorities. They said that Tsundere cut through Siberian, and then she apparently flickered and was fine again. It doesn't fit her power set."

    "So what are you thinking?"

    "I think that she is like Genesis someone nearby projecting or controlling her. We need to find that person and take them out."

    "Got it." Skitter said and started sweeping the area with her bugs. She wasn't sure how much luck she would have finding the master, as this portion of the city had already sustained significant damage. But she would look as she moved toward Jack and Tsundere.

    Tsundere went sailing overhead, carried by a hundred foot blade. She collided into one of the few buildings still standing in the area, causing the roof and surrounded walls to collapse in on her as she crashed. She burst back through a second later and Skitter got to see her for the first time since the fight started.

    Her hair was a bright red and had flames radiating from it. Her kimono had change colours to red as well but was in much worse shape. It was torn and burned, as well as a little revealing now. Her skin was covered in black lines, the kind that might be drawn on an anime character to show they were bruised or scuffed. But she had apparently become strong enough that she couldn't be wounded enough to bleed.

    'We aren't ready for this.' Skitter thought with a touch of trepidation. Tenant waved his hands dismissively.

    "Neither were they, each of us was knocked unbalanced a little by this escalation. But it's in our favour as we have more firepower on our side."

    'This seems like something Jack would have anticipated happening and planned for, but he doesn't seem to have any tricks so far.'

    "Want my guess? Jack plays his game based on the fact that he has done this enough times he can predict how others are going to play the field. He hadn't spoken to you enough to realize you would try playing it against the way he wanted, which led to Tsundere being here in the first place. Then Tsundere, who isn't your average cape, made her way here and Jack certainly didn't have enough chat time to know she would chase after him like she did. Leading to this whole charade. Jack is smart, but if the little things he can't predict are put into the right places you can the jump on him big time. No, the real question is, what was his original plan and how can we use it against him?" Skitter made a mental note of what he said and turn her minds back to the battlefield

    Skitter found Jack a moment later, or rather she found the cloud of gas that surrounded him that was killing all of her bugs. Using her bug's sight she found him standing surrounded by tall piles rubble. Out of sight of anyone willing or capable of doing something to fight him. He was perfectly unharmed except for three scratches, two on his clothes and one across his cheek.

    "Skitter." Tenant said. Skitter looked over at him. "You've found Queen, you should go after her before Bonesaw does something serious. And we all know she doesn't need any more brain damage." Skitter pursed her lips and thought. Her second mind had worked with Tenant to scan through the buildings and found Queen and Bonesaw at the edge of her range.

    "I have to help." Skitter said. "Jack is right there. This is the best chance for us to kill him, when both sides are knocked this far off balance."

    "Sure, you could do that." Tenant said sarcastically. "If you want to die. Tsundere's power gives her more speed, skill, and strength than I could ever give you and she barely scratch him. Your bugs die before they even get close. What are you going to do? Throw silk at him and hope something hits?"

    "I can do this." Tenant fell silent as he felt her idea take form in her head before she voiced or acted on it. All the flying bugs in the area converged over Jack, spelling his name in massive letters with an arrow pointing downwards at him.

    Immediately, everyone on the field moved towards Jack and Tsundere. Burnscar torched the bugs Skitter had put out, but it was too late. Crawler and Siberian were running in Jack's direction as Legend and Purity flew towards him as well. All the firepower was consolidating on Jack position, maybe that gave him the advantage in the long run but it would delay him for the moment.

    Skitter jogged around the corner and caught up to where Tsundere was kneeling against her sword where she had stuck it the ground, breathing heavily. Legend and Purity's beams of light drilled into Jack's location, blinding light keeping them from seeing anything going on. PillowMan jogged up to them with DeathKid riding on his back.

    "Tsundere, can you walk?" Tsundere grit her teeth and grunted, she sword shaking in her hand. "I found Queen, PillowMan and I are going after her while Jack is occupied. I want you to stay here." Tsundere's hair flared with a bit more flame and she rose to her feet. She flicked her katanas out from her her body and they flashed with light. Her right katana taking on a blue light and her left turning red.

    "Let's go." PillowMan and Skitter shared a concerned glance, but Tsundere was waiting for her to point them in the right direction. Skitter sighed motioned her in the general direction and they started running.

    Bonesaw was hiding out in a wide three story building with a few dozen people inside with her. Tsundere was slowly healing with her power but it wasn't very fast. Yet she was standing steady.

    "Why aren't we going in?" Skitter and PillowMan shared a glance again.

    "Bonesaw has hostages in their." Skitter replied.

    "Skitter, this is Bonesaw of the Slaughterhouse Nine, if she has these people marked for death, then they're as good as dead aren't they?"

    "Exactly what I had been saying." Tenant pointed out for the sixth time in the last five minutes.

    "Doesn't mean we should kill them." PillowMan said weakly. DeathKid was sleep against his shoulder, the white mask that covered her cheek bones sliding off slightly. "Can't we wait for the others to get done so they can help?"

    "Well, correct me if I'm wrong," Tsundere began, "But didn't you say, Skitter, that Jack wants us to play a certain way. He would be expecting us to hold back because of the hostages. Every minute we wait is another minute that Jack has a chance to escape and Bonesaw has a chance to work on Queen's body. We need to do the opposite, and strike without even considering the hostages if we are going to win."

    "She makes a lot of sense." Tenant said.

    'She is going to get those people killed.' Skitter thought back at him.

    "And Bonesaw is likely to kill them anyway, or worse. On top of the fact that Jack and her will get away because this is all likely all part of a plan. Then they both get away and release the fail safe because Legend got involved and thousands of people die. Then they get away in the end and do this again in some other city. Sorry, but it looks like Tsundere and I have been cursed with the ability to do math." Skitter frowned and looked back at Tsundere, who was impatiently waited for an answer.

    "You and Tenant agree, not a good sign." Tsundere gave a determined smirk.

    "So I can?" Skitter sighed.

    "Go ahead." Tsundere turned and stepped out into the open, raising a colour katana in each hand.

    "Elemental Strike!" Tsundere leaped into the air and slashed both swords in front of her. A red and blue energy cross flew forward, cutting through the air and sinking deep into the face of the building where it exploded into a wave of ice and fire. Cold air met warm air and a miniature tornado kicked up for a second, slinging rocks and debris for a few seconds before dispersing.

    Skitter felt that Queen and Bonesaw were still fine, if totally unmoving inside the room they were in. The remainder of the hostages started running out of the building, letting everyone see what Bonesaw did.

    Each and everyone was given a patch job surgery to make them look like a member of the Nine. Faces twisted and warped, limbs cut short, hair dyed, cut, and grown. Not perfect copies, just enough for them to get mistaken with a glance and getting killed by some cape. It would probably cost each of them hundreds of dollars to get to a point looking anything like their old selves.

    Skitter shook her head, no time to think about that. Tsundere was already moving into the building, one katana drawn and the other sheathed. Skitter and PillowMan leapt to their feet to follow, the anime effects taking hold and propelling them forward incredibly fast.

    The movement jarred DeathKid awake. She sat up a little and looked around at the blur of the world around her as PillowMan ran at anime speeds. Her eyes settled on Skitter.

    "One-fourth chance you die. One-fifth chance my brother and I die. One third chance Queen of the Castle dies. One twentieth chance Tsundere dies." Skitter could see the colour drain out of her face as she told the numbers. Her voice was soft, almost frail to the point Skitter only heard her because of the bugs she had placed on the collar of PillowMan's costume. As soon as she said them she was out again, slumping against her brother's back.

    The numbers were in their favour, if less than fifty percent could be called that, they just had to keep them that way.

    Skitter directed them to a door. On the other side, she could feel Queen and the death cloud around Bonesaw. She motioned for all of them to get ready, Skitter stood to the left of the door, gathering a swarm and cords of silk. PillowMan stood to the right, holding one hand out ready to fire a pillow at any moment. He looked nervous, but otherwise prepared. Tsundere cut down the door a second later.

    A powder flew into their faces. Skitter toppled to the floor, limp. Tsundere, PillowMan, and DeathKid fell next to her. Skitter fell in just the right way that she could see Bonesaw approaching. Her eyes were wide and questioning, like she just saw a ghost pass through a wall in front of her

    "Doesn't make any sense… no sense… no sense." She muttered. Tenant was chuckling in the background.

    "This moron of a Tinker just attempted to disable the part of your brain that controls your powers." He said with a knowing grin. "You can move on your own now, your power is free too. Completely no effect on you at all. But wait for a good moment to strike, that will really catch her off guard." Tenant grinned and leaned his head up against a wall. "It's villains like these that make what I do worthwhile."

    "You," Bonesaw said, pointing at Tsundere. "You're her friend right?" Tsundere managed a slight nod, her power at work probably. With this powder Bonesaw used Tsundere likely was maintaining constant 'pressure' as she called it. It was probably going on passively, affecting everyone including Bonesaw.

    "Her brain is messed up. It doesn't make any sense. Her Corona Pollentia is on the other side of her mind, cutting through her brain lobe. She is impossible, shouldn't be alive. But instead is working better than any other Tinker." Bonesaw sat on the ground, her knees up to her face and her hands gripping the sides of her head. "I can't understand it. I always understand it. But I can't. Her mind shouldn't work, but it does anyway. Cherish said she couldn't sense her emotions, said it shorted out her power if she tried to focus on it. We didn't believe her, but now I know. I know I don't know and it scares me."

    "It will be okay," Jack said, coming into the room with a knife spinning in his hand. "Take what information you can Bonesaw then kill The Mad Tinker. We must retreat for the time being." Jack turned and smiled at Tsundere. He gave a little mock bow.

    "I must applaud you for today, not many have ever thrown me off balance like that before. And because of that, I think we might have to cut out stay here in Brockton Bay short." Jack paused to study Tsundere's face. "You know? I was looking forward to my time here. This game we were going to plan would have made everything much more interesting. I could have done so much, but the real pain is that I won't get to figure you out. I simply don't have the time to find that part of you that will make you fall apart." Jack glanced back and saw the Bonesaw was almost about done. "Oh well, another time perhaps."

    "Hey Jack." Tsundere said hoarsely.

    "Hm?"

    "You like art don't you?"

    "I will admit I tend to have a flare for the dramatic."

    "Do you watch anime?"

    "I can't say I have. We have little time for cartoons because of the games we play."

    "A shame, it is really amazing to watch. But I suppose it isn't surprising you haven't watched it. Because no one who has watched anime would be as stupid as you are being right now." Jack frowned.

    "Sinking to petty insults? My expectations of you were higher."

    "Petty? Oh no, do you realize how serious an insult it is to say your more idiotic than an anime fan? No, I suppose you don't, otherwise, you would say such stupid shit. Because you made one glaring flaw, one enormous impossible to ignore flaw that every anime fan could see from a mile away!" Jack frowned and pointed the tip of his blade towards Tsundere.

    "What is that?"

    "Didn't anyone ever tell you? There is one thing you never do to an anime character, you thing you never do if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans on surviving until tomorrow, there is one thing you never ever do to an anime character!"

    "And what would that be?"

    "Threaten their friends." The moment Tsundere said the last word she was enveloped in a glaring yellow light. Everyone froze and watched as her golden silhouette rose up off the group and floated into the air. The golden form began to change; the vague outline of her kimono changing until it resembled something closer to a long coat.

    Skitter only had a moment to realize what was happening over before she sprang to her feet at lightning speed, Tenant assisting. But with the speeds her mind was working at these days, Skitter only needed a moment.

    Tsundere's purple kimono had turned into a red and purple suit with a purple long coat and gloves. The suit glittered and even with Tenant it took Skitter a moment realize exactly why it glittered. It was chainmail, so finely linked that it looked like fabric. Tsundere hovered with the toe of one foot off the ground, the other bent behind her as the long coat flapped in an invisible wind.

    A fraction of a second later Skitter was on her feet and the rail gun was in her hand. Tenant helped her point the gun accurately and she pulled the trigger. The gun barely recoiled at all as it fired a blue beam of light satisfying sound. It struck Bonesaw in an explosion of blue light and blood. Bonesaw's right arm went flying across the room and her chest caved in. Skitter turned her gun on Jack, only to see Tsundere attacking him with a constant blur of floating swords and her own railgun trained on him.

    Siberian darted through the room and picked up Jack and Bonesaw, each now bleeding from new wounds, all thought Jack was only covered in scratches. He looked a little smug about it too.

    "No!" Tsundere shouted. "Telestorm!" Her two swords came together and began spinning incredibly fast before spearing through Siberian. She flickered again as if struggling to stay in existence before returning to normal form and carrying the two of them out.

    Tsundere fell to her knees and her clothing shifted back into the way it was before, the lines marking wounds from before returning. Skitter moved to help, but Tsundere waved her off. Electing to struggle to her feet by herself. Brute came silently into the room a moment later, his mask was missing one-half and everything but his pants had been destroyed. Leaving him there in just his bare chest and heavily toned arms.

    "Where's Queen?" Tsundere asked between breaths. Skitter pointed to a door just left of them. Tsundere nodded walked forward, her hand clutching her side where she suddenly had a deep cut that she was bleeding from. It looked worse than it was, Skitter knew, but was she that depleted on power or was she just tired?

    Tsundere opened the door and found Queen suspended with her arms stretched out and the back of her head opened up. She was laying face down on a table, but she was moving so they knew she was awake.

    "Hey, Queen." Tsundere said kindly as she began removing straps from around her.

    "You came back." Queen's voice was tired and loose like she was riding the high of any drugs Bonesaw gave her. "People don't do that, you want something. You want to use me." Queen was rapidly beginning to panic. Tsundere didn't even acknowledge it.

    "We're going to take you back to your ship now, okay?"

    "People aren't nice, people don't care for Queen. They say she is crazy, evil, villain. No one wants Queen for anything except her weapons. That's all they want. Weapons. Capitalists, socialist, communists, Islamists, it's always weapons weapons weapons. No more, I won't give you my weapons. No more. No more! No more!"

    "Queen enough." Tsundere said sternly, yanking Queen off the table as the last strap came free. Skitter winced, even though she knew Tsundere's power would keep the hole in the back of Queen's head from being a real issue. Tsundere's greatest challenge was going to dealing with Queen's insanity after a Bonesaw. Bonesaw didn't make her like this, just triggered it.

    "I came back for you and you alone. Now, let me take you back to the ship." Queen stared at Tsundere for a moment. Skitter thought they might have to use force, but the Queen's eyes started tearing up.

    "You came back!" Queen threw her arms around Tsundere and began to cry into her shoulder. Tsundere panicked briefly but quickly found her bearings and began patting Queen on the back.

    "Come, let's get out of here." Tsundere slid an arm underneath Queen's shoulder and helped her to her feet. Brute moved to help but Tsundere stopped him with a glance and a shake of her head. Alone, she helped Queen out of the room and out into the open where one of her attack helicopter's was already waiting. Brute stroke his chin and chuckled a little.

    "What?" Skitter asked him.

    "Nothing, just…" Brute trailed off before finding his train of thought again. "I once told her that she wouldn't be a good weilder for me if the chance ever happened. I think I may have been wrong."
     
  29. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 17
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    Sleep hit me like a freight train loaded with thousands of pounds of coal and steel with one destination; my face at a hundred miles per hour. So yeah I was pretty tired.

    I normally didn't feel so drained after a fight. Normally, I spend twenty minutes fighting then I take a nap to regain some strength. The last time over use of my power caused me to pass out was when I first got it, back when I first met Brute and Skitter.

    But after an hour and a half of fighting not to mention a very anime kind of transformation I was asleep the moment I hit the pillow. It was everything I could do not to fall asleep on the chopper over here. Then when we landed on the deck of The Spire I had helped Queen off and she directed me to the captain's quarters on the other side of the ship. We practically dragged each other all they way there and collapsed on the king sized bed before I passed out.

    I was awake now, without any way of knowing how much time has passed. I was laying on top of the covers with Queen curled up into a ball next to me, her head resting on my shoulder.

    The room we were in was… interesting for Queen. It reminded me of a luxury hotel room with rich red carpets, red silk bed sheets and pillows, comfortable looking couches, also red. There was a large flat screen tv in front of the bed across from us and a remote in arms reach to my right on a polished black nightstand. Not a room she would have been able to put together by herself, meaning she probably stole most of this stuff. Which was fine, being villains and all, but what really struck me was the 'why'. She didn't have to have all this, and I doubted it was all for herself. Was she hoping to share it with someone? Did she have other rooms like this, and if so, who was she expecting to have visit? Or was that it, that she built them in hopes that someone would visit?

    The Spire didn't rock hardly at all, but I could hear waves slapping against the hold outside. If I hadn't spent some unnatural amount of time sleeping already I would have found it relaxing and a little hypnotic. As it was I was just a little restless, but unwilling to move while Queen's head rested on my shoulder.

    I noticed that the back of her head had been patched up. Which meant she had probably woken up sometime before and got a quick fix to keep her from bleeding all over the place. The hole was perfectly square and located at the base of her skull, right before it met her neck. I could see metal plating inexpertly covering the spot. I would have to take her to see a doctor or a healing cape sometime soon.

    Interestingly enough Queen's hair had an almost pleasant smell of strawberries and gasoline. How she pulled that off, I don't know. Most of her things don't even run on gasoline. Bonesaw had taken her power armour apart, leaving Queen in the skin tight black and pink jump suit she wore underneath. I had to say she pulled it off rather well. I wouldn't doubt it if she could give a few bloody noses of her own if she had my power.

    I found my phone in the hidden pocket inside the sash that wrapped around my kimono. It was blinking with new messages from everyone. I quickly opened up to the most recent one from Skitter.

    'Message me when you can, Spire's guns are keeping us away.' I quickly typed a message back.

    'All good, just woke up. Queen got patch job but will need medic when she wakes up. The Nine?' I pressed send and checked the time. Five in the morning. I'd been asleep for almost thirteen hours. How much of that was overuse of my power and how much was the sleep I needed normally? Technically I didn't need sleep at all, my power could keep me awake indefinitely if I chose, but the hours would build up and then if I was ever in a situation like this again I would be asleep for days. My phone vibrated and I opened it up again.

    'Gone quiet for the time. Jack left a note, come by to see. We have Panacea with us if you want to bring Queen.'

    'Okee.' I sent the message and tossed the phone onto the bed with a sigh. Then I felt Queen stir a little and I looked over.

    I was inches away from her wide green eyes. "Helllooo," she said in a sing-song voice. She sat up on the bed and stretched, allowing me a moment to get up too. It was only then I realized how stiff I was.

    "You want pancakes?" Queen asked, jumping off the bed and onto the floor.

    "Sure, but can you turn off the ship's guns so Brute can swing by and pick us up later." Queen's smile shrank a little but nodded anyway. She held up a device on her wrist and pressed a button before speaking into it.

    "AI, turn off defensive guns for familiar signatures."

    "R-r-right-z- Director Queen. I'll- I'll- I'll get rightzz on that." The AI voice was feminine in nature, but hard to tell between the glitching in the speech pattern.

    "You sure that works right?" I asked. The last thing we needed was the AI running Queen's ship having a glitch, not with all this firepower. Queen nodded enthusiastically.

    "It's a combat AI, not originally meant to take orders like that. I had to repurpose it." I gave her an odd look.

    "You work with computers too?"

    "Silly, even normal cars have dozens of computers in them. Not to mention planes and jets and stuff. My mechs are almost fifty percent computer! And don't forget that when tall walls didn't work they built short thick walls. Then when that failed they built negative walls, bunkers. And when that fails they make invisible walls. OoooOooo!" Queen waggled her fingers at me as she made the ghost noises. I assumed invisible walls meant code that protected software and things. Which meant Queen had a little bit Tinker power in hacking as well.

    "So you can't build an AI yourself? Something that would work better?" Queen shook her head, her orange hair swinging back and forth across her head.

    "Too difficult. This guy named Saint hired me to fight this huuuge Dragon suit once and he paid me with the AI to drive the ship. But I didn't like it so much, so I changed it. Then I copied it thousands of times for my other boats and planes and cars. Now I don't have to do anything but give them a job and they do it. Isn't great? Now I don't have to pilot things myself!"

    "Sweet."

    After Queen changed into a pink t-shirt and black jeans she started leading me downward through the ship. The metal walls of The Spire's wide hallways hummed with energy. I was impressed with everything happening on the inside of the ship. Hundreds of rooms dedicated to tasks, entirely managed by the ship's inner workings. We passed one door that was thicker than the others and had several locks to it. It was labelled as 'Raw Material Management'.

    We entered a cafeteria that could easily seat fifty people with room to spare. Queen walked behind a counter meant to serve several people at once and went to a freezer. She pulled out two packages of frozen pancakes and placed them into a microwave. I sat down at a long table and waited for her. Queen worked like she had done this several hundred times before. Only she did the stacks at pancakes one at a time, like she didn't know how to do two.

    Queen of the Castle exploded Troll.


    I raised an eyebrow at Queen. She didn't seem to notice. She was cutting a square of butter when the next one came.

    Queen of the Castle obliterated Troll.

    Again, Queen didn't seem to notice.

    Queen of the Castle sonic cannoned Troll into the next dimension.

    Queen of the Castle drowned Troll.

    Queen of the Castle decimated Troll.

    Queen of the Castle dropped a building on Troll.

    Troll killed himself out of spite.

    Queen of the Castle ran Troll over.


    Queen of the Castle bombed Troll.

    Troll was turned to ash by Queen of the Castle.

    Troll hit the ground too hard.

    "Queen." I called. She looked up from where she was pouring syrup on the second stack of pancakes.

    "What?"

    "Mind letting Troll on to the ship before he kills someone besides himself?"

    "Oh, I didn't even notice. AI, let Troll into the hold and direct him to mess hall A."

    "R-rzt-Right! On it!" The notifications stopped and Queen set a stack of what was probably ten pancakes in front of me. She slid a glass of milk in front of me and flashed a smile at me before sticking her fork into her stack and carving out a huge bite.

    "Mrhphed?" Queen asked with a mouth full of food.

    "Uh, what?" Queen swallowed and repeated what she meant to say.

    "I said I had a question to ask you."

    "Alright, shoot."

    "We're going to go after the Nine right? When we go and talk to Tattle today that what we're doing right?" I nodded. She had her normal upbeat attitude, but there was something off in her voice and her face look a little different. Was she nervous?

    Queen took a breath and looked at me straight in the eye. "I want to capture Bonesaw. I want to hurt her really, really, badly." I studied her for a moment. She was clearly uncomfortable, but she looked a little sad, maybe a little disappointed behind the weak smile she was putting on.

    "Sure." I stated simply. Her eyes widened as everything she had been feeling a second ago fled her face. Slowly, a smile crept across her face.

    "Really, you mean it?"

    "Of course, she hurt you. Why wouldn't I help you get revenge for that." Bonesaw had hurt my friend, I couldn't let that slide. But more than that, Queen was out of it when I had found her. Like she was in a trance or something. It gave me the distinct impression that it wasn't the first time Queen had been in a situation like that. I wouldn't say it out loud, but it think that maybe Bonesaw capturing her and tying her down may have struck a little too close to some bad experience Queen had. That made it far more terrible and there was no way I was going to not help Queen fix that. And if torturing the little psychopath does that, then so be it.

    At that moment Troll strode in with his mask off so they could see his grin.

    "Man, I thought I was in after I got underneath the boat, then bam! There are the torpedos." I rolled my eyes as he pulled up a seat and put his feet on the table.

    "You better not have scratched the paint." Queen said archly. Troll snorted.

    "Nah, you just have a few blood stains you might want to clean up." Queen nodded and took another enormous bite. Was she half done already? I hadn't even started.

    I took a bite and was instantly surprised with the fluffiness. They were microwaved just the right amount of time to melt the butter and make the syrup warm without ruining the texture. Once I started eating them it was hard to stop.

    "So, what you up to?" I asked Troll between mouthfuls.

    "Ah, you know, chill out, maxing, relaxing all cool. Shooting some b-ball out by the school when-"

    "I'm going to stop you right there."

    "Oh, you're no fun."

    "Troll, I'm an anime character and you're a video game character. Between the two of us, someone is getting copyrighted if I let you finish." I matched Troll's grin. "By the way, do you know what happened yesterday?" Troll thought for a moment.

    "Brute killed Crawler, Legend and Purity annihilated Burnscar and me, which just left Siberian. Tattletale started telling everyone her theory on Siberian having a master that is projecting her. Now it's just them three and everyone's on edge waiting for their next move."

    "You too?"

    "Me? On edge?" Troll grinned again. "I'm excited. Can't wait for their next move, then the real fun starts." I took the last bite of my breakfast and pushed the plate forward. I was a little disappointed they were gone, they were good.

    "And what about when we kill the Nine, or they escape the city? What's after that?" Troll raised an eyebrow.

    "After? More fun of course. There are still plenty of tight wads in this city to screw with. But I think I'll set my sights on Accord next, that could occupy me for a whole year."

    "Or you could stick around and join us for something more permanent," I countered quickly. Troll didn't even look at me before shaking his head at the idea.

    "Teams and I don't go together so well, besides I get the most fun by myself." I raised an eyebrow.

    "So you don't think you could have more fun if Queen let you use one of her turrets or cannons. Maybe a submarine or two." Queen jumped out of her seat and started clapping her hands excitedly.

    "Why not a whole tank? Or battleship of your own?" She said excitedly. "We could fight each other! Have Aircraft carrier jousting! Play war! Giant Mech fights! No one has ever wanted to do that with me before!" Troll looked between them with a manic grin spreading across his face.

    "You make a convincing argument." He leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling, unable to stop grinning at the ideas. "Damn, that sounds awesome. And think how freaked out the Protectorate is going to get when two battleships like this start going at it."

    "Like this one?" Queen cackled. "No, I'm thinking bigger. This is just my casual ride. We want bigger, something that won't fit in the lake."

    "Now you've got me all fired up!"

    "And just think," I said, unable to stop a sly grin from spreading across my face. "A few more days to deal with the Nine, then a week or so for things to calm down, let people get into a routine. Then it will be just right to really screw with them." Troll's eyes narrowed, but his smile didn't leave his face.

    "I see what you're trying to do, but I'm not disagreeing." Troll leaned back again. "Giant battleship war on the Protectorate's doorstep," He mused. "You think can get it going long enough for Scion to show up?"

    "I don't see why a not," Queen answered.

    "Then let's get started." Troll said, getting up out of his chair. I nodded and rose from my seat as well, pulling out my phone.

    "I'll call Brute and-"

    "No," Troll said, "I have a better idea."



    I walked into Skitter's lair with Queen beside me. Panacea was standing with her arms crossed in the corner, looking none too happy with whatever arrangement they had set up. PillowMan was looking uncomfortable in the other corner, DeathKid was hovering skittishly around him. I felt a pang of guilt. I haven't given them a lot of attention since I brought them to Skitter not that long ago. Maybe I should take them on an outing later, get a better understanding of them. Lisa, Alec, Aisha, and Rachel were there too, sitting around the kitchen.

    "What's up guys?" I asked as Queen and I stepped in. One of Rachel's dogs growled at me. Lisa waved Panacea over.

    "This is the one I told you about." Panacea scowled and moved away from the wall. Queen tilted her head as Panacea reached out and touched her hand. I watched the patch on the back of her head move and the metal plate sink into her flesh and disappear inside. Queen looked confused and tapped the back of her head, the wound apparently completely gone.

    "I made your skull grow around the metal you used to patch yourself with," Panacea said curtly with looking up at anyone. "It should be fine, but your brain is all screwed up."

    "Thank you!" Queen chirped. Panacea scowled again.

    "How do you mean?" Lisa asked her. Panacea drew away from Queen and crossed her arms across her chest.

    "Her brain isn't working right, its functioning oddly in a way I can't even understand. It's like someone went in and start moving things around." Lisa frowned.

    "Wait, wait, wait," I began with a spreading grin, "Do you not know what's going on with Queen's mind?" I could see Lisa's eye twitch.

    "I have a few theories," she murmured with a frown. "My power doesn't work right on her, Panacea can't understand her, Dinah says the future gets cloudy around her and she can't see anything, Cherish's power shorts out when she tries to focus on her, and according to Skitter, Bonesaw's Biotinker powers didn't let her understand how Queen's mind functioned. So I think it's safe to say something else is at play here."

    "That's me!" Queen said, throwing her arms into the air. We all looked at her for a moment.

    "Hey, you got any magic touch left over for me?" I asked. I was beginning to think Panacea had a face twitch that made her scowl every time someone talked to her.

    She touched my hand and I felt my stiffness fade and my other wounds close up. I quickly looked myself over and found everything perfect. I grinned as I looked back up and noticed Queen staring at me. I glanced back over at Lisa.

    "So, what's going on? Anything important happening?" I asked her. Lisa glanced upwards as if she could see through the ceiling.

    "Taylor and Brian are having an argument upstairs about helping you rescue Queen without backup and other things." I assumed by other things she meant Tenant.

    "Well, that is going to make Troll's entrance a little awkward." Before anyone could ask me what I meant there was a massive crash from the floors above.

    Troll hit Skitter's roof too hard.

    "How did he even do that?" Aisha asked.

    "I lent him a helicopter," Queen answered excitedly. "Troll and I are going to have a pirate battle!" Lisa looked her then at me.

    "Oh no. That is not a good idea." I grinned wickedly as Lisa said it. Before she could protest further Taylor and Brian came down, Brian covered in white dust from where the ceiling caved in. Troll walked into the room a moment later, looking a little too smug with himself.

    "You could have killed us," Brian said bluntly. Troll grinned widely and said,

    "Yeah, but I didn't." Brian gave a frustrated sigh and glared at me. It was impossible to reason with Troll, it was easier to just give up. But was he blaming me for Troll? No fair, I can't be responsible for Troll, its Troll!

    "Are you guys ready to go?" Taylor asked, glancing at Queen and me.

    "Go where?" I asked.

    "We're meeting with the Travelers at Genesis' lair to interrogate Cherish and hope that we can move against the Nine." I suddenly remembered the text message Taylor had sent me earlier.

    "Wait, didn't you say Jack delivered another message to everyone?" Instead of answering, Taylor pulled out a piece of paper and held it out to me. I took it and looked it over.

    I as well as the other members of the Slaughterhouse Nine conceded our lost to you. However, in light of recent events and the interference of Legend and his assistance, we have decided our depart will end not with a whisper, but with a bang. I look forward to this final game and with give you forty-eight hours to prepare.

    I look forward to it,

    Jack


    "Ominous," I said as I finished reading. Taylor nodded. "What's the plan?" Taylor frowned.

    "They aren't giving us a choice of how to play this anymore. Either we let them do what is almost certainly Bonesaw's plague or we go on the offensive and hunt them down. The only thing we can do is be smart about how we hunt them." I nodded.

    "So we are fighting the remainder of the Slaughterhouse Nine, only this time they have the home field advantage."

    "Oh fuck all kinds of duck."
     
  30. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 18
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

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    "So, is this whole Brute and Genesis thing really happening?" Tsundere asked.

    "I think so," Skitter answered her. Brute was already at Genesis' lair when Skitter and the others arrived. They were sitting a small table pushing into the corner of the room chatting with each other. Skitter observed their conversation passively. Brute didn't give much away, but he seemed generally happier. Skitter had come to know Brute to fit well into the strong silent type kind of roll. He rare spoke and mostly just waited around to receive orders. When he did speak it was brief and not much for social conversation. However, now he seemed just a small bit more eager to pursue conversation, but he wasn't very good at it simply because he didn't seem to understand social norms and would remind Jess she was beautiful every chance he got.

    Genesis, or Jess as she didn't really wear a costume on her real body, seemed okay with it in part. Skitter imagined Sundancer might have been bashful under the praise, but Jess seemed to enjoy it. Even making subtle openings for him to do it again at some moments. The other Travelers were pretending not to notice.

    Skitter turned her attention back to her own group. She had completed everyone's spider silk version of their costumes, barring Brute, Tsundere, PillowMan, and the other more recent additions. She wasn't sure if Queen would be sticking around after the Nine were dealt with and along with everyone else, she was hoping Troll would leave and never come back to Brockton Bay ever again.

    With the help of Coil, the costumes were even more protective, as she began feeding her spiders water filled with carbon nanofibers which the spiders then worked into their silk. The result was something much stronger, and Tenant had decided it could stop common bullets even without the armour plating Skitter insisted on putting in.

    Skitter's second mind had begun feeding her information about her surroundings. Regent and Imp were screwing around away from the rest of the group, talking, laughing, playing pranks on Grue. Something was going on between them. A relationship? A scary thought.

    Tattletale was going to talk with Trickster. She couldn't tell what it was about, but Trickster didn't seem all the eager to talk to her about it.

    Bitch hung out behind Skitter, not saying a word. She had accepted her new costume suspiciously, expected her to ask something in return. When Skitter told her she didn't want anything she liked to think she had moved a step towards friendship with her, but it was hard to tell with Bitch. She was also the most protected out of anyone, with the thick coat and armour plating underneath that she would be able to take most attacks.

    Skitter's real focus was on the three hanging out to the side, Queen, Tsundere, and Troll. Troll was playing some game on a handheld device, high pitched blaster sound coming out as he mashed buttons. Tsundere was chatting idly with whoever she could. Sundancer, Trickster, Troll, and Ballistic in turn until they either left or got tired of talking to her. Queen hovered oddly close to Tsundere, slightly more nervous than she had been before. She didn't like talking to much of anyone except Tsundere. But whenever she did say something Tsundere's response made her seem slightly more relaxed. Skitter also noticed that Tsundere would glance back at Queen periodically.

    'Is there something going on between them?'

    "She suspects the same thing we think." Tenant answered her without hesitation. Skitter silently agreed.

    'But what is she going to do about it? She is the only one who could.' Tenant shrugged.

    "What do you do with Bitch? You accommodate her and otherwise treat her like you would anyone else. I think the real question is going to be how you and everyone else deals with it." Queen wasn't like most people, clearly, but it isn't just her mental instability or at least not all of it. She was like Bitch, Skitter decided, her power was over writing something in her mind. Only instead of social behaviors it is her mentality.

    Queen never stopped building, it was always one project or another. It is what made her as scary as she is, because as far as anyone has been able to tell she spent every free moment working on some new machine. This is the closest anyone has ever been to Queen of the Castle and Tsundere was even closer, actually getting to see the inside of one of her war machines. That had been enough for Skitter and Tenant to deduce what was going on inside her mind.

    Queen was insane. Stable for the most part, but insane. And there were so many different layers to her insanity that not even Tenant could give Skitter the ability to puzzle it all out. But at least one small part of it, however insignificant, was the fact that she built things like a country at war. She never stops and Skitter doubt she could if she wanted to. She always needed to be building, always needing innovation or sometimes just sheer numbers. She needed to be fast and resourceful. Leading to one of the three things that made Queen of the Castle the terrifying Mad Tinker.

    He superhuman efficiency combined with unparalleled amounts of free time.

    "Hey, Skitter?" Tsundere had moved next to Skitter and started leaning up against the wall, her left hand idly fondling the hilt of one of her katana's.

    "Yes?"

    "Do you think Bitch would give me one of her dogs?" Skitter blinked at her for a second.

    "What?"

    "Bitch. Her dogs. Me. Want one. I went by her territory just to say hi-"

    "Was not expecting that," Tenant said.

    "-and such and she had this adorable little puppy. I want it sooooo badly I'm going to die!"

    "Then why don't you ask her?" Skitter asked. Tsundere made a face.

    "Because it's Bitch? I mean, you're the only one who actually gets along with her, even among her own hench people."

    "Hench people?"

    "You know what I mean."

    Skitter sighed. "I don't know what to tell you, just ask her. Prove to her you'll take care of it and give it the attention it needs. By the way, what were you doing in Bitch's territory?" Tsundere's face lit up.

    "Oh, you remember that time you and Tattletale suggested we all watch a few animes together so we would have a better idea of how my power works?"

    "Yeah…"

    "Well Bitch told me she wanted to watch more."

    'What?' Skiiter mentally asked Tenant.

    "I don't know," Tenant responded, "For the first and probably the last time, I'm just as confused as you are."

    "What did you watch?" Skitter asked slowly. Suddenly, Tsundere zipped out of sight briefly only to return a second later with Bitch in tow.

    "Bitch, remember when I swung by your place a little bit back?" Bitch nodded. "Which one did you like the most?" Bitch thought for a moment.

    "The one with weird guys in that prissy school." Tsundere clapped her hands together and jumped up and down.

    "Ouran High School Host Club! Eee! That's amazing!" Tsundere attempted to hug Bitch for whatever reason. Bitch looked more annoyed by it than anything.

    "Yo, guys? You ready?" They turned and saw Tattletale waving them over to the table.

    "Just a sec," Tsundere answered for them both. Tsundere turned to Skitter, suddenly much more serious. "I need to ask you something, or not really ask I guess but tell you about something."

    "What is it?" Tsundere glanced back at Queen.

    "Queen thinks that this conversation is going to lead her to Bonesaw. And I told her that if we found Bonesaw, she could have her."

    "Have her?"

    Tsundere shrugged uncomfortably. "I can only guess. Queen just said, 'I want to hurt her. A lot'. I think she was a little more bothered by her experience than she let on."

    "Gee, what was your first clue?" Tenant said dryly. Skitter chose to ignore him.

    "That sounds a lot like torture, Tsundere." Tsundere looked away and shrugged.

    "Yeah. But it isn't like Bonesaw doesn't deserve it, considering all the people she has killed and tortured. Plus, I don't think Queen is going to like it if I don't at least help a little."

    "So you think it is okay to torture someone just because they did."

    "Well, yeah. And she didn't just torture someone, she torture multiple someones. Comes with that whole serial killer shtick. We could capture anyone of them and kill them on the spot and the hero's wouldn't bat an eye. If we gave Bonesaw the Queen for a weekend before offing her, what do we have to lose?" Skitter studied Tsundere's face a little bewildered. She honestly did not see a single thing wrong with what she just said, it made Skitter a little concerned for the future direction of The Undersiders.

    "I'm going to have to agree." Tenant intoned. "A less than great person, has less than great things done to them. That's our legal system kicked up a notch."

    'Not helping.' Tenant shrugged.

    "Weren't you the one who just a minute ago was musing about how Queen should be handled?" He responded. "This is how, you give her a scratch behind the ears every now and then." Skitter sighed.

    "We'll see," was all she said before moving to the table with the others. Coil had joined them while they were waiting. He gave a look to Trickster and all the Travelers moved to leave as everyone had discussed. Coil dialed up the phone, put it on speaker then passed it to Tattletale before backing up to oversee the exchange.

    The phone clicked on and Cherish's voice came through. "Finally."

    "Your two minutes start now," Tattletale informed her.

    "Right, who to start with? Hm, how about you Tsundere? You know the rest of your team has conflicting feelings about you, think your weird, unstable, another Queen of the Castle waiting to happen." Skitter's looked up at Queen. She was staring at the phone in one of the few instances she wasn't smiling. "And it eats at you, not being included in the real team. Being there but not being apart of things, just kind of going along when they happened. Not to mention no one knows your a masochist." All eyes went fell on Tsundere, she clearly wasn't happy but did her best to look uncaring. Skitter had read several book on body launge and how to cold read someone, but Tsundere wasn't giving much away in terms of what she was feeling. She shrugged and said,

    "It's a low-key thing. I don't make a habit of it." Imp and Regent were whispering across the table. Skitter suddenly got the impression that Tsundere was going to have a bad time real soon, or maybe a good time depending on the information they just learned.

    "Then maybe I should go to you Troll, your the second most interesting person here." Troll grinned before replacing his mask and jabbing the phone and saying,

    "Do your worst, foul beast!"

    "How many times did you kill yourself before you gave up?" Troll paused for a moment before responding.

    "Oh you know, five or six or twenty to thirty times. You know, the normal amount."

    "You know you're never going to be able to die. That things will be exactly like they were when you first started, you'll want to die be you never can."

    "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

    "Forty-seconds." Tattletale cut in.

    "I can feel your growing disappointment." Cherish continued. "You just keep doing what you love over and over again until you can't stand it anymore. Then you escalate it. But eventually you'll hit the ceiling and you'll run out of fun things to do. And then you'll just be stuck alone on one boring little planet."

    "I wouldn't underestimate the human ability to create entertaining things."

    There was a pause.

    "Ah, damn."

    "Your time is up." Tattletale said. "Now is where you tell us what we need to know?"

    "Need? I don't think you need it. You've killed Burnscar, Shatterbird, and Crawler all by yourself. I think you'll be able to handle the next bit with or without me."

    "Listen Cherish," Tsundere suddenly said, leaning toward the phone. "You're going honestly answer every question or I'm going to hurt you." Skitter could see Grue tense from across the table. Tattletale shot Tsundere a look, but didn't say anything.

    "No, I don't think you will. You didn't make any friends by saying that, for one thing. But you honestly have no idea how you would go about torturing me. I suppose it would be kind of hard to know what other people would find uncomfortable when you find pain pleasurable." Tsundere leaned forward.

    "You're right, I don't know how I would do it. And I know they would stop me. But there is someone here that they won't and can't stop. Queen?"

    "Yeees Tsundere?" Queen asked in her sing song voice.

    "Have you ever sieged a human body?" Queen's face lit up and clapped her hands together rapidly.

    "I got a lot of idea's for that! It'll be so much fun!"

    Cherish went silent for a long moment.

    "What do you want to know?" She finally said, defeated. Tsundere leaned back in her seat with a satisfied smirk.

    "We need to know about the countermeasure Bonesaw put into place." Tattletale said.

    "A bacteria in the water that would rapidly spread and produce a miasma."

    "And what would it do?"

    "Kill everyone? Isn't that the point of things

    Skitter shook her head and said, "No, Jack and Bonesaw are about art. Whatever they're planning, it will do more than just kill people. It will do something shocking, something that will horrify people in some capacity."

    "Fine, it makes you forget who people are. You remember everything you've done with said person, but you can't connect a name to face or a face with an emotion or anything like that."

    "Turning everyone against each other," Tattletale finished.

    "Yeah. Can I go now, I have mind numbing boredom to get back to."

    "I have one more question," Tsundere said. "Where is Bonesaw?"

    "Hanging out a few blocks East of the crater, getting ready to deploy the plague. I would hurry if I were you, you only have a day left."

    Tattletale snapped the phone shut to keep her or anyone else from saying anything more. Coil returned to the table with the Travelers a moment later. Grue turned to face Tsundere and his stared her down for a moment.

    "We need to talk."

    Tsundere smiled weakly. "This isn't going to be about me getting a pay raise, is it?"
     
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