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The Paranorms (Worm AU)

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

  1. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 19
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

    Jul 13, 2017
    Likes Received:
    "You can't keep doing this," Grue growled at me. He was standing directly in front of me with his arms crossed, his smoky tendrils that came out of his helmet were much larger than normal. Tattletale was leaning against a wall not that far away. Skitter was standing passively and patiently next to Grue. Apparently, I had ticked them both off. Regent was laying on a nearby bed, idly picking at the frayed edges of the blanket. I was also aware of Imp lurking behind me, ready to stick me with a thumb tack, probably to poke fun at that little tidbit Cherish had to share.

    Damn it that made me want to punch her so badly. The moment she pointed it out I felt everyone staring at me like I was some freak. So I like the occasional scratch or whatever, big deal. But you mention masochism once and suddenly everyone thinks you're some weirdo that loves getting injured. Then don't even care about the different kinds of pains there are and the fact that I only enjoy one of them. And I would make the argument that anyone who likes to read books is their own kind of masochist because all the best books break your heart in some way.

    At least Queen hadn't treated me like I was strange. She was standing by me as Grue and probably Skitter prepared to lecture me. We got Troll to go deliver a message to the Protectorate. He only agreed to go because he would get to blow his brains out all over Legend.

    And they think I'm the weird one.

    "We go in with a plan," Grue scolded me, "We are all on the same page and work with each other. You can't just hijack conversations for your own benefit and hope the others are on board with it!"

    "I didn't do it for my own benefit," I retorted sorely. "I did it for Queen, to get back at Bonesaw for cutting her head open like she did." I felt Queen tensing a little behind me. "And I got Cherish talking which is exactly what you wanted! So what is the problem?" Grue sighed and pressed the palm of his hand to the face of his mask.

    "The problem is that you don't tell anyone. Teams have leaders for a reason. If you had just told us we would have helped you and it would have been much safer and we wouldn't have to scramble to catch up with you and play along. This isn't the first time either. This is the exact same thing that led to the Nine and everyone destroying that part of the city."

    "I'm not going to apologize for going to help Queen!"

    "Damn it Tsundere! That's not what I'm saying! We would have helped you get Queen. If you had just come back, let us regroup and come up with a plan we could have gone to save Queen as a team. Then maybe we wouldn't have been partially responsible for tearing down part of the city."

    "You wouldn't have come for me," Queen practically whispered. Grue fell silent and turned to Queen. Queen slowly met his eyes. "You wouldn't have come for me, no one ever comes back for me. To them I'm just the Mad Tinker, I might be good if I'm on your side but I'm too dangerous for people to go out of their way to save." They all fell silent.

    She wasn't wrong. Queen is given a very tentative class A threat rating because of the part she played in The Coastal Skirmish a year ago. Before that Queen was labelled as a rogue and was put on a watch list, but then one of her aircraft carriers got too close to a city on the coast of California. I remember reading about it in a stack of files Skitter had given me about Queen. Legend approached the ship but found it empty. Any attempt to land on the ship was met with defensive fire from whatever AI was guiding the ship. When Legend attempt to get the ship to turn around with warning shots from his lasers the ship responded with offensive fire. As a result, Legend destroyed it and things went quite.

    But a week later an armada of battleships appeared in the same area, and from what I read they were much larger than the one I got to see. For three days her ships tore up and down the California coast, destroying everything in its wake. The ships weapons killed the first parahuman response teams and managed to keep Legend at a distance for several hours until Alexandria appeared and assisted in taking down the ships. When the last one sunk people were on edge for a counter attack, but it never came. It was the first time Queen was ever called The Mad Tinker, and the message was clear. Destroy anything of hers and she returns the favour at three times the cost. It was the second of three things that made Queen terrifying and why the Protectorate is unwilling to put out a kill order.

    And in that sense, Queen was right that it was unlikely that they would have returned for her. While Queen has been known to briefly work with others for money or resources, they always get rid of her as soon as they were done or tried to stab her in the back. It simply wasn't worth it, to have her running about in your area. She was too unstable to trust that she wouldn't screw you over down the road. And I was one-hundred percent sure that Coil would prioritize a hundred different things before sending us to save Queen.

    At times like this, I almost think that Queen of the Castle was more sane than she let on.

    "Look," Skitter said in a diplomatic tone. "This can't keep going on like this. We're not expecting you to apologize for going to help Queen when she need it-" I got the impression that was directed at Grue. "-But we need to know your willing to play ball. You are useful, a good addition to the team, but not if you're doing more harm than good. And if you can't fight with us, then you being on the team is not going to work."

    I slumped where I was standing. I had been expecting this, I'd been afraid of it for a while, but as much as I tried to fix it, I had to look out for Queen first and it only drove me closer to this moment.

    "You're kicking me out from the team," I stated bluntly. No point in beating around the bush, they had probably been tossing the idea around back and forth for awhile now.

    "No," Skitter said. "I want you on the team, we want you. But you have to stop doing things your own way. You're going to make a mistake one day and it's going to bring the Protectorate down on our heads."

    "So either I change the way I think and behave or I will be forced to leave the team?"

    "There is a third option," Tattletale cut in. Skitter nodded in agreement immediately, but Grue hesitated.

    "We talked about something while you were on Queen's ship," Tattletale continued. "Eventually, probably sometime soon, we are going to fight Coil." She let that sink in. It wouldn't be easy, Coil gave us everything and I would imagine he would have a tight grip on all of that. But he was kind of an asshole, even if he pretended to be all slick and suave. If we were going to fight him, I'm all in if for no other reason than that.

    "Which means what for me?" I asked slowly. Tattletale smiled slightly.

    "We aren't going to be able to fight him directly and when we do, things are going to get dodgy for us. But it wouldn't be hard to make it look like we had a disagreement and you left the team with Queen and Troll. After that you can form your own rival team, maybe take over some territory in the city, and then you can fight Coil directly. And if we take him down, you can choose to either join us again or stay your own team." I frowned. It was clear what she was doing, she wanted to get several degrees of separation between the Undersiders and the three rogue elements The Undersiders were dealing with, myself included. And what she was saying made a lot of sense too. It would give me what I wanted and still gave them a reason to get rid of me.

    I drew my eyebrows together and crossed my arms over my chest. "It will be my team entirely?"

    Tattletale nodded. "So long as you can keep Queen and Troll on it."

    "And when this is all over I can come back if I want?"

    "Yup." I sighed. She already knew I would accept. Damn her and her power.

    "Fine, I'll do it." Tattletale grinned.

    "Great, as soon as we're finished with dealing with the Nine you should disappear to The Spire, we'll handle the rest." I nodded and turned to walk out the door, Queen following right behind me.

    I hadn't ever considered running my own team. The idea of taking charge, leading people and getting them to trust me frankly didn't sound like something I could do or be good at. But I guess things were a little abnormal. I knew I wasn't any semblance of 'normal', but I didn't think that was bad. I wasn't better or worse, just more. In fact, a team with me, Troll, and Queen would be far from normal too, and we would be so much more than any other kind of team. We were more than human, parahumans. And we would be more than a normal team, a parateam. And we were far, far from anything normal. Paranormal.

    Brute gave me a firm handshake before we left. We were splitting up into three teams again, only this time it would be just me and Queen with Troll so we could slip away as soon as this whole deal with the Nine was done. I got the impression the Brute was almost sad that I was leaving. We had some good times I guess. My only regret was not spending more time with PillowMan and his adorable little sister. He was still talking to Panacea when I left. I had to wonder if those two were becoming a thing or if that was just me being weird again. Either way, I hope those two found something good to do with themselves. I don't think PillowMan was happy working as a villain anyway, so maybe Panacea could get him into New Wave.

    I left with a sigh and one more goodbye before Queen and I climbed into the helicopter she had dropped Troll out of earlier today. We climb silently into it and took off without another word.

    We sat in silence most of the way there, so I took the time to observe Queen's costume a bit closer up. She wasn't wearing the combat skirt today, she was still in the process of building a new one since Bonesaw destroyed the last one. So all she had on now was the skin tight black jumpsuit with glowing pink lights. She had miniature battery rams mounted on each arm and compartments that contained missiles on her lower back. She had a thin backpack looking device that covered her back, and it had a thruster in the bottom and wings that would extend when she needed to fly. There were a series of metal blades on her arm which I knew she could extend into hydraulic claws that could turn concrete into a pile of rubble. On her shoulders were mounted sonic cannons that could hit with enough force to send a person flying. Her legs also sported battering rams and her black and pink combat boots could have wheels extend underneath her and become a pair of roller skates. The most interesting thing was the black metal railing that lined different area's all over her suit, allowing her to change her load out at will.

    I also noticed that she was shorter than me. As obvious as it was, I kind of missed it even though we spent a lot of time around each other recently. Now that I thought about it, I didn't really know Troll's or anyone's height in relation to mine. It sounds like a small detail, easy to miss, but that was some basic stuff back when life was normal. It felt just a little surreal to learn I missed that.

    She only came up to my shoulders if we both stood. Her bright orange hair was cut short at the base of her neck and curled slightly outward. If I ignored the very deadly machinery that surrounded her I could see she had a thin frame, something I could almost see as frail if I didn't know any better. Through her skin tight suit I could see she was well endowed, though not quite as large as I was. Maybe a size or two smaller. She had a thin waist and very toned legs, even more so than Skitter who I knew ran every day and and been packing on a lot of muscle recently.

    I found Queen was staring at me with her wide green eyes. I suddenly realized something rather ironic. Neither Queen, nor I, nor Troll needed to wear a mask. None of us had civilian lives to return to. And while I did alter my face and Troll had his mask, we didn't need to do that. I did it because the others wanted me too and because I might want to go out for coffee sometime. I think Troll does it because he likes the Lenny face on the front.

    "Thanks for that back there." Queen said solemnly.

    "For what?" I asked, a little surprised to hear he acting so seriously.

    "For defending me I guess. You didn't have to come help me, no one else does, and you didn't have to defend yourself by saying you were only helping me. I haven't met anyone who would have done that for me before. They would have abandoned me to standby their team. That's how people do." I gave her a warm smile.

    "Of course, it is how I do. And things will be better now, that we're by ourselves." Queen nodded, her smile faintly returning to her face.

    "Do you really like pain." I groaned and leaned my head back against the seat.

    "Yes? I don't know it's kind of hard to explain."

    "We have a few minutes before we get there…" Queen trailed off. She was looking at me a little shyly. I sighed, I can't say no to the face she was giving me right now.

    "I like sharp, stinging pain. Like getting a small cut or walking barefoot across gravel or legos."

    "Are there other kinds of pain?"

    "Yeah, you got your aching pain, searing pain, burning, shooting, ghost pains, cramps, and growing pains. All of them different, I just happen to find one specific kind marginally enjoyable." Queen grinned before looking out the window.


    Great, now she thinks I'm weird too.

    We swung down a few blocks away from the Protectorate headquarters and picked Troll up. He was having a good time messing with the Protectorate as he took pot shots with a sniper rifle at windows. Shooting coffee cups and cigarettes out of people's hands every time he had an open shot. I waved to the Wards as we came in and picked him up. I guess they were in charge of dealing with him as they evacuated the building.

    I wasn't too worried, they wouldn't risk hitting one of Queen's machines. But I got an idea that a few of them were ready to mutiny and blow up the chopper even if it meant delaying Troll just a little bit more. Weld was the only one who didn't seem too annoyed with Troll. Probably had to deal with him in the past and got off easy. There were two ways encounters with Troll. Either you kill him enough times he gets bored and leaves or he doesn't stop until you give him what it is he wants. And since he always respawns in pristine condition, he doesn't need to sleep if he is dying constantly.

    Queen flew us high above the city where eighteen more helicopters were waiting on stand by along with a few jump jets hovering with them. I checked my phone. Eight minutes until the plan get put into action. PillowMan, DeathKid, and Panacea left to go warn the New Wave and hopefully patch things up between them and Panacea. I let her know there was a place on my team if things didn't go well. I don't think she'll take me up on the offer.

    With Troll alerting the Protectorate and Coil informing Hookwolf and Purity we should have all our ducks in a row soon. Queen was working a thermal camera she had turned on Jack and Bonesaw. I assumed Siberian was there too, but she appeared not to have a thermal signature or something like that.

    Queen wanted fire bomb the area before they had a chance to respond, but the others had refused for good reason. They were hiding out in a heavily populated area and there was no way to completely evacuate it without them noticing. Instead, Skitters bugs were slowly directing people away as discreetly as possible while Legend lined up a shot far out of sight from the city. I could see members of the truce surrounding the area as the countdown continued.

    My power had be working ever since we got in the chopper, over twenty minutes ago and I felt it building up some effect for what I was about to do. Then the timer went off and a spear of blue light exploded into view from over the horizon. Only right before struck something collided with it in mid air.

    A massive transparent ethereal knife pushed against the beam, causing it to scatter in a dozen different directions before Legend cut it off. The instant the beam was gone red mist began to rise from the location Jack and the others were hiding out in. It was spreading faster than I would have thought it could of, racing across the water and enveloping the buildings.

    "You know the plan Queen!" I called before grabbing Troll by the shirt collar and throwing him out of the chopper.

    "Curse your suddenly but inevitable betrayal," he shouted at me as he tumbled towards the city below. A jumped out of the craft a moment later with a katana drawn.

    "Sky Strike!" I shouted and instantly fell into a deadly plummet straight towards the earth below.

    Troll hit the ground too hard.

    The notification came just before I slammed into the concrete with a massive wave of force that caused a small crater in the pavement and created a massive bubble of clean air around me. Before the miasma could close around me again Queen's fleet of helicopters and jump jets descended just above the buildings in the area. The air blasting out from under the crafts cleared the rest of the air.

    Hookwolf leapt into view as a massive metallic wolf made of moving hooks and blades. The instance he appeared Siberian leaped forward and tore through his leg. Clockblocker was carried on to the field by another one of the Protectorate's fliers and froze her in a metal cage produced by another cape.

    I grinned because the real fight started now.
  2. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 20
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

    Jul 13, 2017
    Likes Received:
    Skitter ran through the streets, her third mind mapping out the path in front of her. Her second mind working with Tenant to make that path a reality with periodic releases of adrenaline and strategic releases of muscle resistant to allow her to jump higher and further when needed. Her first mind focused on her bugs as they sweep through several dozen buildings at a time, locating every last person in the area checking to make sure they weren't a trap or one of the remaining Nine. Her first mind was also laying cords of silk for her to grab and swing on when the path ahead required it. It was on of the few times she and Tenant were working at full power, and it was exhilarating.

    The buildings blurred past so fast that she had to close her eyes to avoid getting disoriented. But that was fine, as her bugs provided her thousands of eyes to see from. Her body hummed with power and energy. It was almost addicting.

    She was breathing in the miasma deeply as she ran, but Tenant negated the effects for her. It was spreading too fast to be slowed down at all, but as soon it reached New Wave Panacea would be working on some sort of antiviral or something like it. Until then anyone without a way of countering are to avoid coming in contact unless Queen's helicopters have cleared the area.

    Her bugs heard and saw a jump jet firing its main cannon before an extended blade cut through it and then swept through others around it. Skitter ground to a halt and changed directions to head through the gap in the perimeter that Queen had established. But it appeared that the others had a similar idea.

    Skitter immediately knew that Jack wouldn't be leaving through that gap. She continued running in the direction of the cleared smoke. She leapt through the air and kicked off the side of a building with a sudden burst of strength. She sailed through the air and found the cord she had draped from the landing gear of a helicopter and put all her weight into the swing. Her momentum carried her in a wide arc. She waited until she reached the optimal point in the swing before letting go, when she was parallel to the ground.

    Skitter did a backflip through the air over a second helicopter before opening her arms and legs to slow her descent as much as possible before she grabbed the spider silk parachute her bugs carried to her. She felt Bonesaw enter her range before Jack did. He was heading far to Skitter's left while Bonesaw was heading to her right. Immediately Skitter made two giant arrows at both locations and felt everyone, including Queen's aircraft, move in their direction.

    Siberian changed course behind Skitter and was running towards her as fast as she could. Tenant slowed time down slightly to give the third mind a moment to process the information and detail a new path.

    Skitter let go of the parachute and grabbed on to another cord hung from a different helicopter and swung out of the way at the last second. Siberian landed on the ground with a crash and turn back toward Skitter as she rolled onto a roof. Siberian was in the air a second later was about to land on Skitter when she was suddenly assaulted with white pillows.

    PillowMan darted into view with DeathKid on his back, an unending stream pillows firing like a machine gun from his hands. Space warped and contracted for a brief instance then snapped back to normal with Clockblocker suddenly appearing on the roof mid-jump. He began freezing the pillows one after another and then added a second layer so that Siberian was almost guaranteed to be trapped for ten minutes at least.

    Tsundere landed on the roof a moment later. Her hair was a rich purple this time and her wide anime eyes shone with an unnatural bright red. She had a katana in her hand, a light purple colour glowing faintly on the blade as her power imbued it with whatever power it was this time.

    "Where's Bonesaw?" She asked with a manic grin. Skitter wasted no time pointing her in the direction of Jack before spinning on her heels and running after Bonesaw.

    Tsundere would be furious with her after this, but if all went right, Skitter wouldn't be on a team with her anymore and the conflict would only help their claim.

    Bonesaw was running as fast as she could with a skinny man in tow behind her. Likely Siberian's master.

    It took only a few seconds of Skitter running across the rooftops for her to reach their location.

    Two silk cords found their way into Skitter's hands as she approached rapidly. A moment later she leapt into the air once more, sailing as high as her powerful legs could take her. Bonesaw and Siberian's master entered her line of sight for a moment before she fell. They were fifteen feet away from each other with two silk cords around their ankles, draped over the arm of the nearest street light, and the other ends gripped into the falling Skitter's hands.

    True to form each of them were wrenched off their feet as the cords pull taut. Skitter let go of the man's cord as soon as he was on the ground so more of her weight would go into disabling Bonesaw. The girl's lightweight sent her upward as the cord pivoted around the street light before Skitter let go of it and Bonesaw hit the ground head first.

    Bonesaw jumped to her feet before Skitter anticipated and lashed out with some sort of red glowing knife. Skitter dodged it easily. She was fast, but nowhere near as skilled with a knife as Jack.

    Skitter gripped her arm and twisted it before bring her elbow first into the joint where her elbow was then, in one fluid motion, brought her elbow back into Bonesaw's face. It didn't do any apparent damage, but it stunned her just enough for Skitter to strike her with an open palm and send her stumbling backwards.

    Skitter head the click of a gun and turned to see Siberian's master pointing a shotgun at her. Instantly her perception of time slowed down as her third mind pulled the make and model out from her past memories of the books she read. A millisecond of real time later she had an approximated spread radius and was already moving forward when the master pulled the trigger.

    Skitter had bent just enough to avoid most of the spread, assuming it was bird or buck shot, though she took a bit into her arm which was caught by her new costume. Skitter moved in and punched him in a sensitive part of his armpit, causing his arm to freeze up momentarily. Just long enough for Skitter to pry the shotgun out of his hands. She spun it around and clubbed him in the face before turning and shooting Bonesaw's legs out from under her as she moved to strike Skitter while she had been preoccupied with Siberian's master.

    A rare moment occurred where her second and third mind disagreed with her first. Her third mind had plotted a course where Skitter moved behind Siberian's master and snapped his neck with an abnormal amount of force Tenant and her second mind would produce. But Skitter's first mind hesitated in at the idea of killing another person for a moment. A blinding headache ensued.

    Tenant quickly reached a compromise and soothed the headache. Skitter repositioned herself behind Siberian's master and locked his shotgun against his throat in such a way that she cut off his blood flow.

    Suddenly Siberian appeared next to her and Skitter was forced to let go in order to avoid her attack. Skitter first and second mind slid into each other to form the now familiar hyper aware consciousness she had used before while her third mind continued to observe Siberian's trajectories and movements.

    Skitter drew out the word 'Siberian' in the sky with her bugs as she dodged each of the projection's attacks. Between her mind's Skitter had enough information to move only just enough to avoid her.

    For almost a minute Siberian attempted to strike Skitter only to for her to stay frustratingly out of reach, even when the projection leapt through the air. Then Skitter felt something glass strike her in the back.

    'Bonesaw.' She thought was she went down, a faint burning sensation crawling over her back. Which with Tenant's pain block meant it was an agonizing burning sensation. Skitter managed to look up and see Glory Girl pass by and deliver an earth-shattering blow to Siberian's master, turning him into a blood stain on the ground. Suddenly Bonesaw threw powered into Glory Girl's face, who collasped a moment later. Bonesaw took a breath and glared at Skitter, her knife held out.

    "You're not the Skitter Jack had told us about," Bonesaw noted as she skipped backwards. She glanced upward to make sure there were no heroes coming immediately. "Your faster, smarter, stronger." Bonesaw grinned. "If your friends get here in the next few minutes the acid probably won't do any serious damage. Come on by if you're ever in need of a job, you exactly the kind of person Jack would love to have on the team." Bonesaw turned on her heels and began skipping away. Skitter clenched her jaw and tried to stand up. She saw Bonesaw stop and lift up a sewer grate and knew if she got into it they weren't going to be able to capture her again.

    "Are you sure you want to do this?" Tenant asked seriously. He wasn't judging or warning, but rather asking permission.

    'Yes.' Skittered answered. Instantly another wave of adrenaline and various other hormones flooded her bloodstream and she leapt to her feet. She felt her body become numb as Tenant took over the involuntary systems, much more seamless this time. It was still enough to feel her bones breaking her her muscles contracting around them. A second later she had Bonesaw in her grip and she was pulling on her hard. She didn't have another moment to think and Bonesaw let out a mangled cry as her right arm was ripped from her shoulder and Bonesaw went tumbling down the open man cover.

    Skitter moved to chase her but found herself returning to her body. Tenant came into her vision and shook his head.

    "Your muscles are shot, several bones are broken, and you have acid eating its way through your back. If you don't lay down in some water it's going to eat through something important and then we're both screwed. Not to mention Bonesaw got you with a dozen different mind altering substances when you grabbed her and I don't have the power to fight them off while I'm working to give you the ability to kill her."

    'She is going to get away.'

    "Yes, but if you chase her you will die. Not worth it. So just lay down in some water while I try to keep you from dying in the next three minutes." Tenant disappeared from view as he normally does when overworking himself. Skitter could almost imagine the feeling of him moving around inside her mind as he worked.

    With a sigh Skitter laid in a pool of dirty water on the side of the room, the acid hissing as it made contact with it. "It's up to you guys now."
  3. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 21
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

    Jul 13, 2017
    Likes Received:
    Damn fucking decoys!

    I kicked a building out of frustration and the whole thing collapsed. I could feel my rage and power working together to push for another anime transformation but it wouldn't do me anything good now. Jack and Bonesaw were gone with the Dragon suits pursuing them. And to top it all off Skitter betrayed me just before I left the team, as if she wanted to make me as angry as possible.

    I slammed my bokken against another building that didn't seem to be in good shape anyway. I was just so goddamn pissed at the moment that I wasn't even thinking about it until Miss Militia came up to me with a rifle pointed at me.

    "I'm going to need you to stop."

    I rolled my eyes, I did not need this right now. "Whatever. Queen? Take me out of here." Immediately a helicopter swooped down and a hook dangled below it. I grabbed it and out of spite, I flipped Miss Militia off as the helicopter lifted me into the air.

    I waited as the helicopter dangled me above a jump jet that hovered next to the helicopter that Queen and Troll were in. I let go of the hook and skipped across the jet before landing gently inside the open door of the helicopter. Queen shut the door as I slid in my seat and immediately the sound of the helicopter blades faded. She had sound proofed the cabin.

    "So," Troll said, "Now we go and nip a bit of territory for ourselves right? Get in on a bit of that warlord action?" I shook my head.

    "No, they decided they are going to play hardball, so we'll play hardball. Queen?"

    "Yeeees Tsundere?" She sang.

    "Call in your weapons cache from New York and any free floating ships you have in the area. We're going to take the dock and you can strip all the ships for their material. Then we're going to take that one out of the way place, Trainyard. And that area where our fight with the Nine destroyed almost everything, The Scar, we're taking that too. Queen, I want you to build something big where The Scar is. A military base or a runway or something. Something just enough to scare them without bringing everyone down on our heads." Queen grinned and threw her arms up in the air to shout,

    "Yay! Destruction!" Queen lifted her wrist to bring the wristband she used to communicate with the AI to her mouth. "AI, bring in the North Atlantic fleet and mobilize the New York motorcade. Deploy all Jaws of Vulcan onto the coast of the city." Queen looked extremely happy with herself.

    "Jaws of Vulcan?" Troll asked out of mild curiosity as he toyed with a Rubix cube idly in his hands. As she always was when she got to talk about her machines, Queen was excited to the point she was clapping her hands together rapidly.

    "Anti rubble machines! Rubble and blockades make it hard for things to drive over a road so I made Jaws of Vulcan!" Troll shrugged, apparently satisfied with that description. I nodded, Queen wasn't the best at describing her machines past what their actual purpose was. It would be easier to wait and see.

    "How long until everything gets here?" I asked her. Queen tapped her chin with her long slender fingers.

    "Like in two or three hours? Just enough time for me to start sketching new ideas." Queen pressed a button behind her that I hadn't noticed before. A small blue table rose out of the floor at arms length from us. Resting on top of it was some grape juice in a wine bottle, a few champagne glasses, and an old sketchbook that could only belong to a Tinker.

    Queen grabbed the book and a black gel pen and began drawing erratically. Troll shrugged and drew a real bottle of wine out of his inventory and poured himself a glass. He held the bottle out to me.

    "Want some? To celebrate our new found freedom from tightwads that only held us back?" I shrugged.

    "Why the fuck not?" I took it and poured myself a glass. I turned and stared out the tinted windows of the chopper as we moved over the city. I saw the red mist and water clearing up as whatever Panacea made went through killing things and what not. Hero's were still buzzing around while they tried to find Jack and Bonesaw. But Jack had disappeared before I even got to him, not so much as one final confrontation before he fled the city. Skitter would be down there, probably celebrating some victory or cursing herself over some loss after she decided to chase after Bonesaw.

    A glanced at Queen. We didn't get Bonesaw nor would we get her anytime soon, yet Queen happily scribbled in her sketch book. I might have thought she was over it or was okay if it weren't for the fact that the device she was sketching was titled 'The Bonesaw Breaker'.

    Oh well, we all deal with things in different ways.

    I saw the fleet enter the bay an hour and a half later. Most were battleships larger than The Spire, but those along with the three aircraft carriers that came with it stayed out of The Bay, creating a thin blockade between themselves in the distance. However, in the bay a dozen small warships Queen labelled as Corvettes patrolled the area as Higgins boats delivered the Jaws of Vulcans onto the beaches.

    The Jaws of Vulcan was the size of a semi-truck cab and had similar smokestacks billowing thick black smoke as they crawled across the ground at snail's speed. Each of the five Vulcans that were roaming around had four massive clawed arms that grabbed the wrecked ships and tore them apart before scooping them into the gaping 'jaw' of the machine. The jaw would open up to accept the scrap it was being fed and bright red light could be seen radiating out from the white hot core contained inside. Every twenty minutes or after eating a particularly large amount of scrap the Vulcan would stop and a back hatch would open up, depositing three cubes the size of small cars. One made of glass, one made of assorted metal, and one made of any material that wasn't made of the first two. The glass and metal cubes were carted off by other armoured vehicles and loaded onto Higgins boats before they would be transported elsewhere for whatever Queen decided to do with them.

    The motorcade had appeared at roughly the same time, only I first saw them as the crossed over the crest of Captain's Hill and entered the Scar before immediately deploying two of their own Jaws of Vulcan. The motorcade didn't have any tanks, as Queen had said, but they had plenty of mounted artillery. Or at least, what I thought was artillery as the Tinker weapons made it hard to tell.

    Apparently, Alexandria and Eidolon had come to Brockton Bay in response, but they hadn't done anything yet. They're probably still trying to assess the situation and get the Protectorate's Thinkers to decide how much a threat Queen was. But that was the third thing that made Queen terrifying to everyone.

    One, Queen was incredibly efficient with an unparalleled amount of free time. She completed millions of dollars and year-long projects with approximately a few thousand dollars worth of effort and in just weeks.

    Two, Queen was insane. You touch her ships and it's an act of war, and something she is more than willing to respond to. You do anything to her, say the wrong thing, threaten her, insult her, anything at all and you risked sending her on a rampage or something like it. There weren't a lot of people who knew Queen as well as I did now, so all they saw was The Mad Tinker who could crush entire cities if she wanted to.

    But the final nail in the coffin, the third thing that absolutely terrified every villain, hero, and otherwise was that somehow she was immune to almost all Thinker powers and her tech doesn't make any sense to other Tinkers. We got a little insight to that with Dinah, she described Queen being like a cloud of fog that wrapped things near her into fog as well. She said that Troll and I had become hazy ever since we started working closer together, something Skitter was banking on it helping them fight Coil. Not to mention she might also have some effect on Coil's power, whatever it was. I didn't know considering no one bothered telling me.

    But one thing was for sure, there was no way they were condemning Brockton Bay now. I had heard the idea getting tossed back and forth and Tattletale talking about plans around it. The Slaughterhouse Nine brought a new bout of destruction to the city, granted that was mostly our fault. Troll running around certainly didn't help the case. If I didn't know Coil better I would have said that before we made this move, the city was as good as condemned.

    But there was no sane person on this planet that would hand Queen the city now that she had started applying the pressure. Not even me if I was in that position.

    About forty minutes in the Vulcan's had cleared an area about the size of a parking lot, with blocks made of the more useless rubble stacked like a wall off to the side of the beginning of the territory.

    After I had vented a little I calmed down and called off the takeover of Trainyard. I know Ballistic had his eyes set on it and there was the doll girl there too, Parian I think. Instead, I decided we should secure the area encircling the land surrounding the crater lake. That put Grue's territory to our North, Imp to our south, and Tattletale to our West. Strategically, it put us in a bad spot since we're technically fighting now. But with Queen holding the coast and Captain's Hill it was more like they were sandwiched in between us. And if they try to take our central location it would be easy to move and counter-attack from another part of the territory.

    It probably screwed them over a bit but I wasn't exactly in the mood to care.

    Queen brought the helicopter down over our new territory around the crater. Several jump jets were hovering in a v-pattern around us to help stage our entrance. I notice The Spire was looming on the water nearby.

    The three of us stepped out onto a building top above the crowd we had gathered. In the crowd, I could make out Assault and Battery, Glory Girl, and the Wards. A little more hero presence than I was anticipating, but I could roll with it. I shouldered a bokken and strode right up to the edge with Queen and Troll right behind me.

    "Goooooood evening Brockton Bay!" I shouted over the crowd, my power making my voice carrying further. "I'm sure you're getting tired of hearing it, but we are claiming this area!" I grinned and raised my arms into the air. I suddenly noticed Eidolon hovering alone far above us and suddenly everything was put into perspective. One slip up here and it might be us vs Eidolon, and as much faith I had in my power I think there was only one outcome to that fight.

    "We are a bit old fashioned if you care to call it that," I continued. "From now on you follow our rules and such. Past that you're free to do as you wish, we'll have a protection fee though. Like, ten bucks a month? Troll? Anything to add?" Troll stepped forward and said,

    "If you are selling drugs, you better share."

    I nodded. "Yeah, we'll put a tax on that. Ten percent of all illegal sales or activity go to us. Now, if any of you want some work, a warm place to sleep, good food and all that jazz, you may talk to Troll." Troll saluted comically before I pushed him over the edge of the building.

    Troll fell from too high up.

    "He'll be back in a minute," I said. "Now, for clarification. No one, unless they are working for us may enter the parts of Captain's Hill that Queen is annexing. The coast is free for anyone, but don't interfere with Queen's machines. We're not like Skitter, we won't be giving you food or anything of the sort unless you work for us. You have to handle all that by yourself, all your get from us is a sense of security. If you're lucky." I grinned as wide as I could manage.

    "Now, just to confuse you, I asked Queen of the Castle here to do this." I signalled to her and she gave a cute little laugh before pressing a button. Suddenly The Spire disappeared from view as it's cloaking measures kicked in. I knew that a few dozen of her armour cars and half of the ships disappeared as well. Enough to know they were there, but also too many invisible to let them rest easy.

    "And with that, I'll bid you adieu." I gave a mock salute with my free hand and spun my bokken around in my hand. I turned to climb back into the helicopter when I paused and looked back and said,

    "By the way, call us the Paranorms."​
  4. Threadmarks: The Paranorms, Chapter 22
    Grim Lord

    Grim Lord Lip-man of a hated god

    Jul 13, 2017
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    Everything had changed, becoming a little more insane while simutanously more stable. The more insane part of that, as Coil discovered, was that apon the final fight with The Nine, things had changed. Dinah's numbers had changed. The end of the world wasn't happening in two years, it was happening in four.

    As big of a revaltion as that was, Taylor couldn't help but feel it fell flat. A massive reveal and victory as that should have come with more dramatic responsese. But instead, people seemed more focused on the fact that they still failed to stop them and the fact that The Paranorms were now craving out large chunks of the city without anyone willing to pick a fight with them. Yet, despite all of that, things had not been particularly stressfull.

    Things had gone quiet ever since Tsundere pulled her stunt a few days ago. Almost everyone was terrified to make a move, with only a few of the Chosen and Pure attempting to try anything. Only to get ejected from the city a few days later. The Chosen collapsed without Hookwolf, who died fighting Siberian, and the Pure didn't seem interested in this city anymore once they had been beaten several times. Past that, things were quite.

    All talk of condemning the city ended just as swiftly as Queen's machines appeared. Even though days have gone by Alexandria wasn't leaving the city as a countermeasure for Queen of the Castle in case things went bad.

    In the meantime, Skitter had been addressing her territory. She very nearly got months of work set back with Burnscar and Shatterbird's attack. Ironically, she had avoided that crisis by people Tsundere was entirely responsible for bringing on to the team. And by an odd strike of luck, all those same people were gone now.

    The construction had been going well for the most part. Most places had running water and electricity and most places were habitable again. The only real issue is dealing with the squatters that had taken to living in someone else's basement or otherwise. Easy enough to deal with, as Tattletale had been making sure that people had been moving out of the shelter she was running as soon as their home became available to them. That way she had plenty of spots still open for other people and enough room that the ones that wanted to be secluded can still do so. Even still there were a lot of people lurking in her territory, but she and Tenant had been slowly and surely clearing them out with well placed bee stings.

    For the day, she had decided to spend her time with her father. Not as Skitter, but Taylor, clearly. She hadn't had a lot of moments as Taylor recently. With Tenant in her mind there was always a new project, a new skill to practice, a new book to read.

    But today she was going to be Taylor, a little reminder that she Skitter wasn't the only part of her. Though, if she was being honest with herself she more than likely was doing it to reassure herself that Tenant wasn't doing something that had changed who she was.

    Maybe she was being paranoid, considering she had been running with Tenant for more than a month now and he had done nothing but help during that. With sarcasm and rude comments sure, but only helping her nonetheless. However, maybe it was the fact he was in her mind and would be there until she died. Or how that her operating at such high capacities that there was no possible way for her to work at even half the strength and efficiency without him. And that latter meant he was very capable of exercising control over her. He hasn't, yet, and she had no reason to think he would based not just on the fact the resulting feelings toward him would lessen his control.

    But there was the niggling thought burrowing in the back of her mind that Tenant was no doubt aware of. The seed of doubt planted by Brute not that long ago, that before Tenant was Tenant he was a man who tortured others to get them to have trigger events.

    The effect wasn't pronounced, but during fights she felt like there was some untapped potential residing just out of reach. Something that she is unintentionally blocking herself from reaching because of that tiny bit of doubt in the back of her mind.

    "You know you can just ask me about it instead of thinking it through yourself." Tenant said tiredly. "I can already hear most of the thoughts you have, so there is no real point in pretending like you don't know how to approach a subject."

    'Then you already know that I know your answer and how the conversation turns out. Kind of ruining the point.' Taylor thought back at him. Tenant sniffed.

    "Fair enough, but what about those pesky moral questions? If you're wondering what mental block you have that stops you from reaching that little bit of power you feel there then who better to ask than me?" His voice was heavily laced with sarcasm as he said it.

    'You obviously want to dish out the dirt on me so get on with it.'

    Tenant rolled his eyes and lazily fell into a seat Taylor's father had pulled out from the table. "As you already know it is because you heard Brute say I tortured people back in a life I don't even remember." Taylor mentally agreed. "But what you don't know is why you can't move past it. Because once again, feeling and morals have won out against logic and level thinking and somehow, though I can't even begin to imagine how, in that powerhouse of a mind you have you have equated me to that little girl Dinah." Taylor frowned. What he said made sense, and more frustratingly he would know better than she would. While she was generally self aware Tenant knew the finer points of what she was feeling without all the interference she experienced on the way through her own thought process. Tenant took the frustration as a sign to continue.

    "In those twisted thoughts of yours, somehow my past crimes are equal to that of Coil's crime to Dinah. And the only way you could move past this mental block with me and grab that new power is to be able to dismiss my past crimes. Which, you might have earlier when we met. But now they only way you'll do that is if you can dismiss Dinah's situation as well. Which we both know you can't."

    'And thus your entire point is pointless because you already know the outcome.'

    "Oh, I wouldn't say that. You see, self awareness is a powerful tool. And knowing you, you'll probably stay up one night until you can rationalize a scenario where me being a bad person back when I was alive is forgivable but Dinah still isn't."

    'Is that honestly what it is like to be in my mind?'

    Tenant waved at her dismissively. "It is like that to be in anyone's mind. People are stupid and will do whatever they can to justify preconceived notions. Which is fine, because often times the struggle to do that only weakens a person's beliefs until logic eventually sways them.

    "Although, you are much different than anyone else. Skitter, the girl with bug powers. You see, anyone may conceive that as a useless power. Because, after all, what are bugs going to do to the Endbringers or the Slaughterhouse Nine? But you," Tenant lifted the cane he carried and pointed it at Skitter, "found a way. That is what you do, you take small, fragile, bugs and turn them into an army capable of fighting Lung and other massive threats that more combat inclined capes couldn't even do. You don't search for ways to make the world fit they way you think like asshole's like Accord, instead you search for ways to make things work. And I happen to know you will do anything for a tactical advantage if you feel you really need it."

    Tenant relaxed back into the chair, apparently satisfied with his work. Taylor had noticed that he rather enjoyed picking apart her mind on a semi regular basis. It was his way of entertaining himself after spending hours to days on end regulating her blood pressure and hormone levels.

    Suddenly Taylor's dad sat in the chair Tenant had been occupying, forcing him to teleport his mental image back into a standing position nearby. He gave her father a sour look before he leaned up against a wall and silently twirled his cane.

    "I could make you a bed if you…" Her father began then trailed off hopefully.

    "I'm not staying," she said immediately. Her father's expression immediately fell, and was maybe a little hurt. "But I could come by again," Taylor said quickly. "Maybe we could go to the mayoral debate in a few days?" Her father smiled weakly at her.

    "You promise you'll come?" Taylor hesitated.

    "Yes." She finally said. Her father nodded, satisfied. Taylor raised the cup of tea her father had made to her lips and took a small sip. "Maybe after a time-" She was cut off by sirens going off.

    Immediately both her and her father sprung to their feet. There was only two reason's that the city-wide sirens would be going off, and since the Leviathan already struck Brockton Bay that only left the other reason. They were evacuating the city because of a cape.

    Taylor pulled out her phone and immediately saw a message from Lisa flash across her screen.

    'We got trouble. Not Tsu. Get ready, I'll txt you meeting place.' Taylor sent back a message and slid the phone back into her pocket before looking about at her father.

    "I'm going to meet with Lisa!" She shouted over the noise. Her father frowned. Her reached out a hand and took hers in his.

    "Be safe," he said before hurrying out the door with whatever he could grab on the way. Taylor nodded and started running out behind him, but turning to go the opposite direction. She felt her muscles move stiffly in her arm. Tenant was keeping them contracted tightly around the break she had experienced when she attacked Bonesaw a few days ago. He'll let it go when he feels it is completely healed.

    As soon as Taylor entered her territory she could see what was approaching and it suddenly made sense. There was almost nothing that could make anyone condemn the city while Queen was in it, ready to stage a takeover. But there was at least one thing that could appear that would make them stage a city-wide evacuation. Something that would bring the Triumvirate to Brockton Bay once again, only this time to contain the threat, not fight it.

    The Citadelian.

    Skitter was in her costume in moments once she was in her lair. Charlotte and Sierra had already taken everyone out and locked it up by the time she got there. She relaxed a bit, this evacuation was going much faster than the similar one when the Leviathan appeared.

    The Citadelian was still at least several hours out, but the construction was still large enough to be seen approaching over the horizon. Skitter noticed that all of Queen's machines had gone invisible or collected around other machines with large cloaking fields. Not a good sign.

    Tattletale had sent her the location of a new meeting place since Skitter had gotten her costume. Skitter took a deep breath and headed in the direction.

    Skitter was wearing her new costume, something that would certainly throw a few people off when they got to see her. She had followed Tenant's suggestion and sowed in fake breasts into the chest area to help hide her figure. She also put in padding around waist to further obscure it. She was already dreading Regent and Imp's reaction.

    But more than that she had started applying the data she had gathered on Tinker devices she had studied and memorized with the help of Tenant. Inside of her costume was a thin metal frame layered over her skin meant to give support and let her hit things harder without doing damage to herself. On the outside of her suit were several telescoping blades reminiscent of Mannequin's tech. She had replaced the compartment she normally wore on her back for something that would have been larger if it weren't for the Tinker components that took up most of the space. If she needed to, the armour panel on her back could release a thin framework of wings with thin spider silk stretched across them to allow her to glide. The wingspan was almost twice the size of her body to allow her to do it and the mechanical arms that acted as a framework for the wings were very fragile. To avoid an incident in case someone broke her wings the compartment also included a spider silk parachute similar to the one she had used the other day.

    They had tested the gliding mechanisms at night where it would harder for anyone to learn what they were doing. Tenant allowed for her muscles to allow her to jump high enough in the air to activate the wings and let her glide twenty or so feet. The parachute was a little more difficult. She and Tenant already knew several designs for conventional parachutes, but the difficulty was adapting it to the lighter material of spider silk and allowing her to have to mobility she might need if falling through the air. They had settled on a rectangular shaped chute made of two layers with several cords she could pull on if she needed to change the direction.

    The reason she had decided to pull this suit out now was because if they were going to be fighting The Citadelian then most of the fighting would be done in the air.

    She was still having a block between her and Tinker devices. While she could gain a fundamental understanding of every Tinker device she had come across besides Queen's, their power source was impossible to understand. Most power sources were sealed or too hot to get any of her bugs close enough. As a result, Skitter had to stick with the purely mechanical aspect of the devices. She built them to be almost like clockwork devices and worked almost completely mechanically. She stripped batteries whenever she could, and like watches, the clockwork mechanisms took that power a long way, but it wasn't efficient and was quickly becoming costly.

    Brute had joined with her not long after she had set out from her lair. He gave a quick look over and gave her an odd look. But he didn't say anything as he held out his hand for Skitter to take. She gripped it with her unbroken arm and half a second later they were in the air.

    Brute wasted no time leaping from building to building to get the meeting location, the landing pad Queen had built on The Scar. It wasn't hard to see Queen had been hard at work developing the area. What was left of The Scar had been flattened and consumed by her Vulcan's while other machines began constructing runways for planes and other craft. The entire area had two layers of fences blocking off the area. One fence Queen put up, the other the city did.

    The Travelers and the rest of The Undersiders were gathered in a circle on the helipad Tsundere had designated as the meeting area. Coil was there with a few dozen mercenaries. The complete opposite of what he normally had. But then again, nobody treated Queen the same way they treated their other enemies unless they wanted to lose.

    The Paranorms were there to greet Skitter as soon as she landed with Brute, Tsundere wrapping her in an excited hung. Skitter guessed the name was fitting, she didn't know of any other rival supervillain teams that would greet her with a hug.

    "Skitter! You've become a Tinker!" Queen cheered. She was in a much heavier combat power armour this time, with none of the skin tight suit underneath showing.

    Skitter was surprised just how much they have changed in a few days. Tsundere was no longer wearing a kimono, instead she was wearing a bright red Chinese qipao. Her hair was a dark shade of electric blue with sapphire eyes. According to recent reports, her power has also been changing the colour of her clothing on occasion.

    Troll was more or less the same but today he decided to abandon his normal costume in favour a French aristocrat costume that didn't even mask his face. Skitter didn't even want to know why he just happened to have it or why he decided to wear it today. More than likely it was just to screw with them.

    But the most surprising was the apparent fourth member of their team. Just behind Tsundere, still and silent. A constant reminder of the dark aspect of their team. It hard to tell where he was looking through the large pitch black lenses on his mask that seemed to take in everything. His mask was bird like in fashion, a mask anyone who knew their history could tell you was worn by doctors through the Black Plague. The rest of his head was shaded from view with a wide brimmed circular hat.

    Out of habit she sized him up. He was about as tall as she was, but his hat made it hard to get a view of his neck and head. He had thin shoulders and almost unaturally long arms as well as long legs. Matching his black mask and hat he wore a long black tail coat that hung barely above the ground. Black pants, black shoes, black vest, black undershirt. Not a speck of any other colour to him except in the weapon he carried. A long silver scythe that had the distinctive red edge that all of Queen's armour piercing swords carried. The crescent of the scythe held above his head like a sword dangling from the string.

    Skitter didn't know much about him, only that he appeared as a new Paranorm on the second day of Tsundere's take over. She, and likely the others as well, only knew him by his name. Reaper.

    "She has grown too." Tsundere said with a grin before poking Skitter in the fake breast. Skitter looked at her flatly.

    "Don't do that."

    Tsundere gave her a suggestive grin. "If you were jealous you could have just said so."

    "Tsundere, we have a much bigger problem to be talking about."

    Tsundere rolled her eyes. "Ugh, when did you become boring?" Skitter didn't dignify that with a response and instead joined Grue and Tattletale on the left side of the helipad while Coil took the bottom center and the Travelers took the right side. Tsundere, Queen, Troll, and now Reaper all stepped up the to the upper center. Skitter wasn't unaware of the parallel between Brute looming behind her and Reaper hovering behind Tsundere.

    'Is she trying to imply that Reaper is her counter to Brute?' Skitter thoguht.

    "You think she is that intelligent?" Tenant asked her in response. "I doubt she looked into that much, I doubt she really considers you an enemy in anything but friendly sense." Skitter didn't reply.

    "Soooo….." Tsundere began. "You guys want to keep staring each other down or are we going to talk about the threat coming to kill us all?"

    "To be fair," Coil said, "Brigadier is only coming to kill Queen of the Castle." There were nods of from the Travelers. Imp and Regent looked at each other and Grue leaned over so Tattletale could whisper in his ear. Even Tsundere looked a little confused.

    "We all need to get on the same page," Skitter stated. "Share what we know, so we're all on the same page." Coil looked at Skitter with a nod.

    "I'm inclined to agree. Tattletale? Would you like to start us off?"

    Tattletale nodded and took a step forward. "After the Coastal Skirmish, the Protectorate began searching for a way to fight Queen and her machines." Queen grinned and waved as everyone looked at her. "Eventually they found Brigadier, the fortress Tinker." Everyone fell silent as that sunk in. A fortress Tinker pitted against the siege Tinker, ironic and a little nerve racking at the same time.

    "But he must have been too much of a loose cannon because they kicked him out." Tattletale continued.

    "Loose canon how?" Trickster asked from across the pad, his arms crossed.

    "As in he was willing to do anything the destroy Queen and Queen was, well, Queen was Queen."

    "That's me!" Queen cheered as she pumped a fist in the air. Most of them looked at her flatly.

    "But there is still a standing hope that Brigadier will kill Queen of the Castle, which is why all the heroes are standing outside of the city in hopes of containing the fight without interfering otherwise." Skitter nodded. She had memorized all the information on Brigadier available on Parahumans Online, so most of this was familiar. The only thing she didn't know about was…

    "The Citadelian," she said, "What do we know about it?"

    Tattletale glanced at Skitter then back to the group. "Not enough. I know it is roughly the size of the city and can float hundreds of feet above the ground if Brigadier commands it to. The thrusters and anti-gravity panels you'll see are all powered by at least a hundred compact fusion reactors he has stored in The Citadelian. The issue is that it isn't that hard to take them out. Only if you do you either drop The Citadelian on top of the city or cause the fusion reactors to fail. And you don't want that."

    "Indeed," Coil said. "Which is why we're going to have to refer to Queen on how to defeat him."

    "Oh, umm…" Queen tapped on her chin for a moment. "He is like those Endbringer thingys, if you hurt him enough he'll leave." Not exactly reassuring, but it made sense.

    "But what kind of defences are we going up against?" Coil asked. Skitter froze for a moment. Coil never needed to ask two questions to get the answer he wanted.

    'He power isn't working.' Skitter thought. Tenant agreed with her silently.

    That was massively important. If Queen was a blind spot in Coil's power then their plan to fight him was all that more feasible. Tattletale noticed it too, she was sure, and with that small conformational suddenly a wide variety of possibilities opened up.

    Possibilities that would wait until they were done fighting Brigadier.

    "Well, the first time we fought I exhausted his power banks by shooting his energy fields enough times that he couldn't keep it up anymore." Queen mused. "But he fixed that the second time around."

    "What energy fields?" Tattletale asked her. Queen again paused to think.

    "Well, he has this magnetic thingamajig that redirects any shells smaller than a helicopter and totally repels anything smaller than a monster truck wheel. Then there is like a electo-something or other that fries my systems if I don't insulate them. Then there is the sound thing that shatters glass and computer chips and causes steel to hum and bend. After that, he has laser anti-missile systems, heat beams, anti-aircraft weapons, reactive armour, thunderbolts, moving walls, acidic dust storms, repair drones, and whatever he added when I beat him last time."

    There was a pause.

    "You beat that?" Tsundere asked incredulously. Queen nodded excitedly.

    "Yeah, but only because he caught me off guard so I didn't have any time to prepare, otherwise I would have killed him."

    "That sounds utterly impossible." Sundancer murmured just loud enough to hear.

    "If it was just you guys maybe," Queen said. "But you guys have me!"

    Tsundere nodded and took a step forward. "Yeah guys, don't forget that this is the first time Queen has ever had help and she still won agaist him before." Skitter nodded in agreement and said.

    "We have the advantage of him being used to it being Queen and Queen alone. We should press that advantage as much as we can. Queen? Are you willing to listen to our suggestions?" Queen's eyes narrowed at her and she pursed her lips. She opened her mouth to say something when Tsundere put a hand on her shoulder and Queen stopped. She looked back and Tsundere nodded to her before stepping in front of her, almost as if to put herself between Queen and the rest of them.

    "We can at least listen." She answered for Queen. Skitter turned to look at Grue and Tattletale, silently prompting them. Tattletale got the message immediately and began speaking.

    "It would help if you gave a list of all the machines you have in the area. Then we can talk about strategy and what might work." Queen crossed her arms stuck her tongue out at Tattletale. Tsundere rolled her eyes.

    "Tattletale, I don't think things are going to work out if you are going to try to tell her how to siege a fortress." Tattletale seemed taken aback, a rare thing. The Travelers noticed it too and started staring at Tattletale. She frowned and tried again.

    "Right, but maybe you can tell me how you normally fight Brigadier and what has worked in the past? Then maybe I can take what you tell me and apply it to the rest of us. That way you can command your machines effectively and I can instruct the others on what they can do?" Queen looked away and shrugged dismissively.

    "Queen," Tsundere said, "What is normally the first thing you do when The Citadelian starts coming for you?"

    "I attack and attack hard." She said simply. "He makes it hard to fight anyway but directly, so I just do my best to overpower him. Sometimes it works, other time it doesn't. But it's always fun!" Queen's disposition towards Tattletale flipped on a dime and she jumped up into the air to show how excited she was. "Do you know how rare it is I get to prepare like this?! This is going to be the best battle for survival ever!" Tsundere let out a strangled sigh and an anime teardrop slid down her head before disappearing.

    "So when do you attack?" Tattletale asked. Queen lifted up her wrist and gazed at the band.

    "That's funny, the transcontinental osmium kinetic strike should have struck fifteen sec-" She was when hundreds of red-hot projectiles descended from the sky and began exploding against The Citadelian in the distance with no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

    "Oh, there it is!" Queen sang.