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Trump Card (Worm AU) [Complete]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Sep 2, 2014.

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  1. Threadmarks: Index
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Taylor gains powers in the locker; this much is familiar.
    But the power she gets, and what she does with it, begins to change things around considerably. Faced with the pressure of the power she has, and official apathy, she must make her own decisions, and take a different route to achieve her goals.
    There will be trouble.

    Disclaimers:
    1) This story is set in the Wormverse, which is owned by Wildbow. Thanks for letting me use it.
    2) I will follow canon as closely as I can. If I find something that canon does not cover, I will make stuff up. If canon then refutes me, I will revise. Do not bother me with fanon; corrections require citations.
    3) I welcome criticism of my works, but if you tell me that something is wrong, I also expect an explanation of what is wrong, and a suggestion of how to fix it. Note that I do not promise to follow any given suggestion.


    Index
    Part 1 (below)
    Part 2
    Part 3
    Part 4
    Part 5
    Part 6
    Part 7
    Part 8
    Part 9
    Part 10
    PHO Interlude
    Part 11
    PHO Interlude 2
    Part 12
    Part 13
    Part 14
    Part 15
    Part 16
    Part 17
    Part 18
    Part 19
    Part 20
    Part 21
    Part 22
    Part 23
    Part 24
    Part 25
    Part 26: Return of the Dragon
    Part 27: Setting the Trap
    Part 28: Dragonfall
    Part 29: Challenge Accepted
    Part 30: One Damn Thing After Another
    Part 31: Revenge, Interrupted
    Part 32: All Cards on the Table
    Part 33: Epilogue: Whatever Happened To ...


    Omake: [/URL]Three Shards Walk into a Bar
    Omake: Highlights
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2019
  2. Threadmarks: Part One
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Trump Card

    Part 1


    [Author's Note: Due to critiques made by readers, this fic has been rewritten to a certain degree. Some plot elements have changed, but the overall direction is the same.]


    I couldn't breathe. There was no air in the locker that wasn't tainted with the stench of the things that were sharing it with me. I couldn't breathe, and yet I had to, struggling and screaming and banging and retching.

    And then something odd happened. Several odd things, in fact. At the time, it seemed as though everything happened at once, but afterward, I figured that there must have been a sequence of events, and an interval between them.

    Looking back, the first odd thing was the spot of light that appeared on the side of the locker. It was so odd that my struggles and screams ceased, as if my brain were doing its best to distance itself from the horror of the situation by focusing on something new.

    As bizarre as it seemed, the spot of light wasn't inside the locker at all. It was outside, some little distance away, but it was moving nearer to me, to the locker. At some point, it must have dawned on me that I wasn't seeing it with my eyes, but this was immaterial, because the second odd thing then took my attention.

    The spot of light was speaking to me.

    Not in words, nothing I could hear with my ears in the close, echoing confines of the locker, and nothing I could understand in any case, but there was meaning there, if I could just decipher it. It was a stream of data, almost intelligible, something like listening to someone speaking English in a very strong accent; if you listened long enough and attuned your ear to it, you could make sense of it.

    And then, as the spot of light came closer, as the voice I heard without hearing grew louder, more clear, I made sense of it.

    It said, You don’t have to be in here if you don’t want to be.

    I didn’t want to be in there.

    And suddenly, I wasn’t.

    I was sprawled on the floor of the hallway, in front of the locker, looking around me with some bewilderment; the odd thing being, of course, that I had exited my locker, and left the majority of its disgusting contents behind, while not actually opening the door in the process.

    Standing nearby, with several of their cronies, were Emma, Madison ... and Sophia.

    And the fourth odd thing occurred to me.

    I could see each of them clearly. But Sophia ... Sophia was illuminated from within by that same spot of light. The light that was still communicating data to me, more and more of which was becoming intelligible, understandable.

    And suddenly, I understood a great many things.

    I knew who and what Sophia Hess really was.

    I knew, or thought I knew, why she had gotten away with so much at Winslow.

    I knew how she had performed some of her meaner pranks.

    I knew, in fact, her greatest secret.

    ><><​

    As I struggled to my feet, I heard the girls speaking to each other.

    “Holy shit.” That was Emma. “Did she just ...?”

    “Stay back.” Sophia. “I think ...”

    “What the fuck just happened?” Madison.

    I got myself upright and stood swaying. Small, blackened, horrid things peeled from my clothing and plopped to the floor. My eyes fixed on the small group.

    “You,” I growled. “Sophia fucking Hess.”

    My fear, my terror, my disorientation ... it was all fading away, subsumed in a growing anger. I knew who the architect of my incarceration was. She was standing not a dozen feet from me. I lurched forward, nearly fell, regained my balance. Another step; it was becoming easier, despite the endless time I had spent trapped in the locker. My cramped muscles were becoming uncramped.

    Sophia stepped forward as well, putting herself between me and the others.

    “What the fuck, Hebert?” she snapped. “How did you do that?”

    I laughed in her face; I couldn’t help it. Her expression registered anger and confusion; she wasn’t used to being mocked.

    “How would you do it?” I retorted, and swung my fist.

    It was a wild punch, but she was so taken aback by my laughter, my comment, that she didn’t even try to dodge. I clocked her, right in the mouth.

    It wasn’t a hard blow, having more of an effect via surprise than anything else. Nevertheless, Sophia took a step back. She put a hand to her mouth, checked her fingers for blood. There wouldn’t have been any, but I wasn’t going to stop there.

    Stepping forward again, I swung at her once more.

    This time, she reacted as she had obviously been trained; she caught my arm, half-turned me, locked it down, turned me all the way around, and got both my arms up behind my back.

    “Okay, Hebert,” she snapped. “We’re going to –“

    I wriggled free of her grip.

    Actually, no, I did not.

    There was no possible way I could have gotten free of her compliance hold; she was stronger than me, and although my arms are longer, she had the leverage and the training.

    But the voice, now very close, whispered to me again.

    You don’t have to let her hold you.

    And so I didn’t let her hold me. One moment, she was holding me, the next ... she wasn’t.

    I capitalised on my sudden advantage; driving an elbow back into her ribs – that one would have hurt – I turned and punched her again.

    Or swung, anyway.

    Just before my fist would have made contact, she shimmered and went ghostly, just for an instant. The instant it took for my fist to traverse the space occupied by her head.

    I wasn’t surprised. I knew what she could do, who she was. The voice had told me everything; or rather, it had told me all about her powers, and I had inferred from that who she was.

    She went solid, swung a fist at me. I evaded it, exactly the same way that she had. Her fist hit nothing except shadowy air.

    I saw the shifts of emotion on her face. All of this had taken a very few seconds; she was just now coming to the realisation that not only did I have powers – the exact same powers that she had – but she had just now outed herself to those of her friends who were not in the know.

    Over her shoulder, I saw Emma’s face. She had seen the same thing that Sophia had; I was using powers. Madison was confused; Emma must have known about Sophia’s powers ahead of time.

    More clues were clicking into place, but I was busy. I swung at Sophia once more. Of course, she evaded it by going ghostly. But I went ghostly as well.

    It was a strange sensation; all bodily life signs halted. No breathing, no heartbeat, nothing. But my fist still moved, and it connected with Sophia’s immaterial face just fine.

    We both went solid at the same time; Sophia had her hand to her face. “How the fuck did you do that?” she demanded.

    “With great fucking satisfaction,” I told her.

    She was barely breathing hard; I was panting fairly heavily. More of the horrid items were falling off of my clothing. She glanced down at them, and then back up at me.

    “You triggered,” she realised. “In the locker. You triggered.”

    “If you say so,” I replied with a shrug. “But you locked me in there, and you’re fucking going down for it.”

    She shook her head. “Not a chance, Hebert. I’m fitter than you, and a better fighter. And I’ve been doing this longer than you have.”

    "Really?" I asked. "So come on. This is your chance. Beat me up. Golden opportunity, right here."

    I watched her hands. I watched her eyes.

    And I 'listened' to the murmuring non-voice of the light-spot.

    She came at me fast, practised. She knew what she was doing, all right.

    Unfortunately for her, I also knew what she was doing.

    It wasn't quite anticipation. But her powers were explaining themselves to me, in detail. And so I knew what little tricks she had worked out with them. And I knew what would work best in any given situation.

    So I had a fair idea what she was going to do, even before she did it.

    The small crowd of spectators was growing by the moment, even as we passed through each other. She'd been going to go shadow, then go solid almost at the point of contact, hitting me hard then going shadow again before I could hit back.

    I went shadow when she went solid, then matched her transitions. Her shadow body passing through me gave me a little chill, but I shook it off and turned fast. I went shadow, instants before she would have hit me, then went solid just in time to kick her in the side of the knee.

    Going shadow again, I reformed standing up. It made life so much easier.

    “What the fuck?” she muttered, stepping back warily from me. I couldn't kick as hard as she could, but she was limping slightly. “How the fuck are you doing that?”

    I grinned tightly. “I'm not the fighter you are. And I'm not a runner. But I'm as good with my powers as you are. Maybe better. You can't use 'em to cheat, not in this fight. You're gonna lose.”

    That brought fire into her eyes. “You just said the wrong thing, Hebert,” she gritted. “I don't lose. Not ever. And definitely not to a pathetic little nothing like you.”

    My grin widened. “First time for everything.”

    I had been slightly mistaken. I couldn't pick everything she was going to do. I had thought she would try once more to gain the upper hand with her powers – Sophia was nothing if not stubborn. But she didn't. She simply launched herself at me, a fist swinging in a smooth arc.

    If I had been even two feet closer, she would have clocked me hard enough to put me out for the duration. But I wasn't. I had just enough time to register what the fuck? and jerk my head back, almost out of the way. She still clipped my cheekbone, and my head jerked back, my ears ringing.

    But then my instincts took over, and even as she tried to tackle me to the floor as a follow-up, I went to shadow. She came through as well, trying to wrestle me into submission.

    But here was her problem; she had never had any experience in dealing with other insubstantial capes, who used her brand of powers. And the behaviour of things in that realm was not quite the same as in the real world. Sophia had no baseline to work from.

    But the murmuring non-voice was filling me in on things I could do, if I wanted. I considered options for half a second, then moved my shadow-body around hers in a way that would have been utterly impossible if we were both solid. She grabbed, and missed, because I wasn't there any more.

    I was behind her. Taking hold of her. Bracing myself in a way that should have been impossible in a shadow state – except that I had figured out how to let the soles of my shoes, only the barest layer of rubber, extrude from the shadow state. Against the vinyl of the school corridor, I had excellent traction.

    In the shadow state, Sophia struggled as I shoved her, hard. Her mouth opened, working; if we'd been in the real world, where air acted like air, she might have screamed. Because I was shoving her toward the wall. Where we both knew there were very likely electrical conduits.

    She could have gone solid, but of course I would have done the same, and she would have face-planted the wall. So she didn't. And I shoved her into the wall.

    And what do you know, there were electrical conduits in there.

    I felt her convulse – I only held her there for a split second; I didn't want to kill her – and then I pulled her out of the wall again. Stunned or unconscious, she went solid when I did. It seemed to be a proximity thing. Or maybe a safety thing.

    “Right,” I panted. “Now I'll -”

    “Now you'll do what?”

    The new voice came from behind me. At the same time, there was a subtle pressure in my mind. I turned my head, not letting Sophia out of my eyesight.

    Twelve feet away, a young man stood, wearing an easily recognisable costume.

    Velocity, of the Protectorate.

    Sophia groaned and forced herself upward.

    “Help,” she croaked.

    ><><​

    “Clear the corridor!” called Velocity. “Everyone back, out of the way!”

    I stood there, irresolute, as Sophia painfully scrambled to her feet. She was recovering rapidly; I suspected that I should have held her there longer. If I attacked her, Velocity would defend her. And I didn't want to fight him. He was a real hero, unlike Sophia.

    Everyone moved back, apart from me and Sophia. Emma had already been keeping them back a ways; now they were well beyond earshot.

    I looked at Velocity. He could move faster than I could think; if I even considered attacking him, then I would lose. Being able to turn insubstantial would not help me in the slightest, there.

    And then, as I focused on him, I made an interesting discovery. If I concentrated, I could move the spot of light from Sophia, to Velocity. I could even move it back, if I wanted. But I didn’t want to.

    Focusing it on Velocity, the data stream changed, dramatically. I could understand it more than I had originally with Sophia, but I supposed that it was due to familiarity with the ‘accent’.

    It was all about Velocity’s powers.

    Huh.

    “Uh, can I say something?” I ventured.

    Velocity eyed me warily. “If you come peacefully, you’ll have your chance to speak,” he advised me.

    “No,” I stated flatly. “I want to say something, now. Here.”

    He compressed his lips. “Make it quick. And don’t bother making a run for it. You've got the same powers as she does. We know all the counters to her powers, and she could never outrun me.”

    I took a deep breath. “My name is Taylor Hebert. Sophia’s been bullying me for months,” I rattled off, as rapidly as I could. “She and her friends locked me in my own locker with all this shit. That’s why I attacked her. I want them punished. They did the wrong thing, not me.”

    I stopped for breath. Velocity was staring at me, as was Sophia.

    “How the – how did you do that?” he demanded.

    “Did you even hear me?” I asked.

    “Oh, I heard you,” he replied.

    “Heard what?” asked Sophia. “She coughed, or something.”

    “This girl just made a statement to me at roughly one hundred to one compression speed. I understood it perfectly. What I want to know is, how is she able to speak that quickly?”

    Sophia stared at me. “Oh shit,” she muttered.

    “Oh shit indeed,” replied Velocity. “She doesn’t have your powers.”

    He turned to look at me.

    “She’s a power copier.”


    End of Part 1
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2015
  3. Threadmarks: Part Two: Flashbacks
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Trump Card

    Part 2: Flashbacks


    "How's your tea?" asked Miss Militia.

    I sipped at it., then sipped some more. It helped calm my nerves.

    "It's good," I confessed. "Really good."

    Beside me, Dad put his coffee cup down with a definitive clunk.

    "Can we get past the ass-kissing and deal with the problem at hand here?" he asked. He wasn't angry - yet - but I could tell that he was on the way there.

    "Yes," decided Director Piggot. "Let's."

    Her gaze roved around the table, from Velocity to myself and Dad, Miss Militia, Triumph, and finally Shadow Stalker.

    "You all know what we're here about," she stated. "The incident at Winslow, this morning. Where one of our Wards apparently shut an innocent girl into her own locker with toxic waste, and left her there.”

    I stared at her. “Excuse me, what?”

    “Yes, Miss Hebert?”

    I felt my voice rising; I tried to control it, but there it was. “There's no 'apparently' about it. It happened. To me. I -”

    Director Piggot cut me off with a raised hand. “Miss Hebert, kindly contain yourself. This is a serious undertaking - “

    “A serious waste of time, you mean,” I interrupted. “Cover your ass all the way. Downplay what Sophia was supposed to have done, until there's nothing to answer for. And if I try to get redress elsewhere, I'm the bad guy.”

    ”Mr Hebert.” Her voice should have turned the air in the room to solid ice. “Kindly tell your daughter to cease disrupting the proceedings.”

    “I'm not sure why I should,” Dad told her, in a calm, measured tone of voice. “She does have a point. I've been in the odd negotiation before now, and a key tactic is to use language that downplays the other side's position.” He pushed his glasses up his nose slightly. “Why are you doing that, exactly? After all, my daughter was locked into her locker, there is evidence of what was in there with her, and she has named Sophia Hess, among others, as her tormentor in this case.”

    He wasn't shouting, and he wasn't overriding her. I saw now my mistake in doing both. This gave her the perfect excuse to shut me down.

    She looked uncomfortable for the first time. “I understand that the locker incident did happen. But the school has been interviewing the girls in question, and they claim innocence in the matter. Furthermore, it appears that the faculty is – at least in part – backing them up.”

    I shook my head violently. “They're lying! Covering their asses! They've been letting this shit go on since – fuck, since I started at Winslow! And you're believing them over me?”

    Director Piggot cleared her throat. “Language, Miss Hebert. I will not warn you a second time.”

    I breathed deeply for a few moments. “Sorry. Sorry. It's just that -”

    Dad put his hand on my shoulder. “Kiddo, take a breath,” he advised. Then he looked at Piggot, and his eyes were angry. “You're doing it again, Director,” he told her. “She was bullied for more than a year, she was shut in a locker. And you're pulling her up for swearing? I see exactly what you're doing.”

    He deliberately turned away from her, dismissing her, to address me. “Classic technique. Cause the opposition to retract something, to apologise, and they're on the back foot from then on, more ready to offer concessions.”

    I felt anger overcoming the brief feeling of guilt. “Director Piggot. Are you even going to listen when I say that Shadow Stalker's been bullying me for months? Or have you already made up your mind not to do anything about it?”

    ><><​

    Earlier

    “Okay, Velocity, once more, from the top."

    Velocity looked ill at ease, seated in the chair before the Director’s desk.

    "I got the call that Shadow Stalker was fighting someone at Winslow, with her own powers. I think the Barnes girl sent it in. When I got there, they were both in shadow form, and I didn't know who was who. Then one of them pulled the other one out of the wall, and dropped her, and they changed to normal, and one of them was Shadow Stalker, and the other one ... wasn't."

    Piggot glared. "Why did you even stop to talk to the girl, rather than just taking her down hard? She had already attacked Shadow Stalker.”

    “Look, I know it looked bad. But Shadow Stalker was still moving. The Hebert girl was talking. She could have killed Hess, but she didn't. I've been trained to de-escalate situations, and I figured that it might work in this case. So I decided to find out what she wanted.”

    “You took a huge chance with an unknown factor, Swoyer,” snapped the Director. “You should have taken her down and brought her in. A dangerous cape ...”

    Velocity took a deep breath. “Director, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job –“

    “Then don’t,” growled Piggot.

    “ – but you haven’t been out and about with Shadow Stalker. I have. She has an ... attitude problem.”

    “She’s a probationary Ward with an attempted manslaughter charge hanging over her head. Two and a half years of being a solitary vigilante in Brockton Bay before we brought her into the Wards. That will breed a certain attitude. One which we need to iron out of her, yes, but understandable that it is there in the first place. Your point being?”

    “My point being, Director, is that I’m actually fairly good at reading body language. When I arrived, I got the impression that Shadow Stalker was overacting. Pretending to be hurt worse than she really was.”

    Piggot was silent for a long moment. “So you’re saying that you believe that Shadow Stalker tried to incite you to attack with overwhelming force, so that the Hebert girl would never have a chance to say her piece.”

    “Or that we’d never believe her, given that she'd just taken down Shadow Stalker,” agreed Velocity. “But when she told me what she did, at a speed only I could pick up, it changed the whole equation. Made me wonder if there wasn't more to the situation, something going on that we didn’t know about.”

    “Well, we’ll know more in a few moments,” the Director noted. “Miss Militia’s interviewing her now. By the time she’s finished, I’ll know whether to commend you for initiative, bust you down to probationary member, or hit the Endbringer siren.”

    Velocity searched the Director’s features. She appeared to be serious on all counts. He swallowed involuntarily.


    ><><​

    I looked up as the slim woman with the flag-print scarf entered the blank, spare room. There was a chair, moderately comfortable, and a table. There was another chair on the other side of the table, and a large mirror on the wall beyond. I had seen enough cop shows to know what was beyond the mirror.

    I wasn’t handcuffed, which was a small mercy; however, the door had been locked from the outside, so the lack of handcuffs was only a detail. I had been allowed to shower; the jumpsuit I wore fitted well enough vertically, but bagged out on me like a clown suit. Still, it was clean and dry.

    I knew the newcomer immediately, of course. More to the point, I knew her, all the details of her power. The spot of light resided in her now. Immediately, I began to learn all about guns. Weapons of all sort, to be honest, but guns seemed to be a really, really big part of it. I knew how they worked, what made them fail, and a host of other things about them. And perhaps most interestingly, I found that I could recall every single aspect of the fight with Sophia in the most exacting detail.

    “Hi?” I greeted Miss Militia. “Am I under arrest, or ...?”

    “Your status is, at the moment, fluid,” she replied bluntly. “You attacked a Ward, assaulted her in a potentially lethal manner. You also caused her secret identity to be exposed to other students in the school. The criminal charges resulting from such an act are quite severe.”

    “But I didn't mean to do that bit,” I protested. “I didn't force her to use her powers.”

    “Did you know she had powers when you attacked her, using powers of your own?” she asked.

    I nodded. “I can feel when people have powers. They have to be fairly close. But I know who I can tap powers from, and who I can't.”

    “Are you using your powers right now?” she asked.

    I nodded.

    “Who are you tapping from?”

    I held up my hand, opened it to show her a small pocket knife. “Doesn't it feel really weird to know that you're armed every second of the day?” I asked her, placing the tiny weapon on the table between us.

    I had not even considered attacking Miss Militia, of course. For a start, she was a real hero, just as Velocity was. She'd been a founding member of the Wards, and had since gone on to serve with distinction in the Protectorate.

    Plus, as much as I knew about her powers - and I knew a lot - I felt a lot less confident about trying to overpower her with my borrowed powers. She'd had decades to learn how to get it right. And finally, even if I managed to get the drop on her, I did not doubt that the room would fill with containment foam instants after I tried something.

    Besides, it wasn't her that I had the grief with.

    She shrugged slightly. “I got over it. It's been a very long time. Since I was younger than you are.” She paused for a moment. “So, why did you assume that Sophia was the one who had shut you in the locker?”

    “Because it's her style,” I told her bitterly. “There's three of them. Emma Barnes, Madison Clements, and Sophia. Emma does the stuff that hurts my feelings, Madison thinks up pranks, and Sophia does the physical stuff. Like tripping me down stairs, or throwing all my clothes in the shower. Trust me, this is not the first incident. Or the second. Or the tenth. They do this to me all the fucking time.”

    Miss Militia frowned. “I had to deal with a little hazing, as a female Ward, who didn't speak English all that well, when I started … “

    I had to laugh; it came out bitter, harsh. “This is not hazing.” Shaking my head, I continued. “You know, I used to dream about calling you guys up, having you come in and stop them all. I never thought that involving superheroes would make this worse.”

    Her frown deepened. “Here's my problem. Your story sounds convincing. Very convincing. But then, so do theirs. And Sophia Hess is a Ward. So, against your word, and the evidence of the locker, we have the word of a superhero and two other students. You see how this puts us between a rock and a hard place.”

    I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, you and every goddamn teacher at Winslow!”

    She seemed taken aback. “Beg pardon?”

    I got up from the chair. It probably looked bad, but I was so agitated that I had to move, to pace.

    “It’s the story I get every single goddamn time I try to complain. My word against theirs. Emma Barnes is the most popular girl in school, so when her friends back her up, and I’ve got no-one to back me up, guess who they believe? Shit!” I slammed my hands on to the back of my chair. “Why would you be any different? You're all the same.”

    “Calm down,” she advised me. “Acting out in this manner will only make you look worse.”

    I took a deep breath. Tears were running down my cheeks. “Why the hell should I? Nothing I say or do matters. I’m a liar, I’m not to be believed. She’s won. Again. No evidence I show matters, or counts.”

    “Well, no,” she agreed. “Anything that you tell us about what she is supposed to have done will easily be countered by her own testimony that she did not.” Her eyes were full of sympathy; I felt that she wanted to help me, but did not know how.

    I stopped. Stared at her.

    “How about … written testimony?” I asked carefully.

    She frowned again. “If you write something out, it's the same as saying it … “ she ventured.

    I shook my head. “No. Previously written testimony.”

    She tilted her head. “That could work. Do you have something like that?”

    I nodded. “I need to make a call.”

    ><><​

    “Hello, this is the Dockworker’s Association. Danny speaking.”

    “Dad, it’s me.”

    “Taylor? What’s the matter? Why aren’t you attending class?”

    “Dad, I have a problem. I need your help. Please.”

    I sensed the change in the tone of his voice. “What do you need?”

    “I need you to go home, and go to my bedroom. There’s a stack of papers in my wardrobe, on the second shelf ...”

    ><><​

    Director Piggot leafed through the sheets. “And Miss Hebert had no time alone to write this all up?”

    Miss Militia shook her head. “She did not. She simply had her father fetch them from home.”

    Piggot turned over a few more pages. “And this is just from September. Christ.”

    “According to her, the bullying has been going on since the previous September.”

    Director Piggot tapped the pages. “Shadow Stalker became a Ward at almost the same time as this particular record begins. This is where our responsibility lies.”

    Miss Militia nodded. “I need to ask Shadow Stalker some stringent questions.”

    “You realise that she will simply tell you what she thinks you need to know.”

    “I know. I'll ask her anyway.”


    ><><​

    I looked up as the armoured figure entered my room. Wavy brown hair, red and gold armour …

    “Oh, hi,” I greeted him. “Kid Win, right?”

    He nodded. “Miss Militia's tracking stuff down, so she asked me to sit in with you. You being a Trump and all, I was the one they had to worry least about.”

    As the nearest cape, the spot of light zeroed in on him. I didn't force it to stop.

    Immediately, his power started talking to me, building designs and constructs in my mind. “Wow.”

    “Wow what?” he asked.

    “Your power. It's really cool.”

    He shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah, well. It's not the greatest. I have trouble finishing projects.”

    I frowned. “No, really. What's the best thing you've built so far?”

    “A flying skateboard. But I've got it half pulled apart, because I needed to use the parts in something else.”

    I could see the flying skateboard, envisage it, see the schematics in my head.

    “So you don't know your speciality yet?” I asked.

    “Not really,” he grumbled. “I've built all sorts of cool stuff, but none of it seems to really work better than anything else, or is easier to build, or anything.”

    “Maybe it's not a thing,” I suggested, listening to the non-voice. “Maybe it's a way to build stuff.”

    He turned to me, his frown visible behind the visor. “I'm not sure what you're getting at.”

    I waved my hands. “Maybe you need to be able to take your stuff apart, to use the parts in different gadgets. Plug and play, that sort of thing. Multiple use?”

    His eyes opened really wide. “Modular?”

    I nodded. “That's the word. Look, what have you built so far? Let's go over them one at a time, and see how they could be done modular.”

    He grinned. “Okay.”

    ><><​

    “Shadow Stalker, I need to speak to you. Now.”

    “Can’t it wait? I’m kind of busy. I need to get back to school.”

    Now,” repeated Miss Militia implacably.

    Shadow Stalker came to a reluctant halt. “What about?”

    “The girl we brought in. Taylor Hebert. Did you lock her in her locker?”

    “No, I already told you that!” she protested.

    “And yet she says you did.”

    “That’s because she’s a liar,” Sophia snapped.

    “You're very ready with that accusation,” Miss Militia observed mildly. “What would you say if I said I was inclined to believe her?”

    “That you've been taken in,” Sophia told her immediately. “That she's manipulative and deceptive. She tells all sorts of stories about me and Emma and Madison. No-one believes them any more.”

    “None of the teachers we spoke to mentioned her telling any stories,” Miss Militia pointed out softly. “And the locker was no story, no lie.” She fixed her gaze on Shadow Stalker. “She also mentioned valuables going missing from her locker. She thought someone was figuring out her locker code, but there are other ways to bypass a locked door. Aren't there, Shadow Stalker?”

    “If you're going to accuse me, accuse me,” snapped Shadow Stalker.

    “I don't need to,” Miss Militia told her. “Hand me your phone, please.”

    “What?” blurted Shadow Stalker. “My phone?”

    Miss Militia nodded. “Your phone.”

    “But this is my personal, private -”

    “You're on probation. You don't get to have personal or private anything. Hand it over. Now.”

    Wordlessly, reluctantly, Shadow Stalker handed over the phone.


    ><><​

    “ - and if you rebuild it so the power source can be plugged in via the socket we've put in the rear quarter,” I told him, “the whole thing could be broken down and the power supply and the lift panels could be reused at a moment's notice.”

    “Holy shit,” he murmured, looking at the schematic he was projecting on the wall from a small device on his gauntlet. “That could work. That could really work.”

    I nodded. “Of course it will work. We're Tinkers. Mere physics has to run and hide when we come around.”

    The door opened, just as we started laughing; I didn't hear it.

    “Well,” I heard from behind me, “you're less distraught than I thought you'd be.”

    I stopped laughing and spun around.

    “Dad!” I was out of my chair and running into his arms.

    ><><​

    “They told me what happened, kiddo,” he told me, holding me tightly.

    I held him just as tightly. “I bet they didn't tell you everything.”

    “I just bet,” he agreed. He looked at Kid Win. “Hello. Are you the guard?”

    The armoured Ward grinned disarmingly. “Hardly. Just giving her someone to talk to. It's been educational.”

    “Learning something of how a Tinker does stuff, huh, Taylor?” he teased me gently.

    “Actually, it's the other way around,” Kid Win confessed. “Your daughter just schooled me in the use of my own power. I'm very impressed.”

    There was a knock on the door, and then it opened to reveal Miss Militia. “Mr Hebert, Miss Hebert, the Director will see you now.”

    I looked at Dad. “Shall we?”

    He nodded, taking my arm.

    “So,” he commented as we exited the drab, bare room. “What’s this about you having powers anyway ...?”

    ><><​

    The Present

    “We have some idea of what she's done to you,” admitted Piggot. “Your written record, correlated with texts she has sent back and forth, seems to present solid evidence.” She paused. “But that's not what we're here to talk about.”

    “So what are we here to talk about?” I asked.

    “A very delicate matter,” admitted Director Piggot. “You are a Trump; you tap into the powers of whatever cape is near to you at the moment, correct?”

    I nodded. “It doesn’t have to be the nearest cape, but that’s the easiest,” I replied.

    “Kid Win and Velocity both reported that you seemed to be remarkably quick at grasping the uses of their respective powersets,” observed Miss Militia. “Who are you drawing from, now?”

    “Kid Win, actually,” I told her. “He's still in range. We were conferring on how to make his Tinker work more effective -“

    I cut myself off. They were staring at me.

    “What?” I asked.

    Velocity pointed at the pad in front of me. I hadn’t even been aware of holding the pen or drawing with it, but the top page was covered in an intricate diagram. I glanced at it, and it became a three-dimensional model in my mind, complete in every detail.

    “Oh.” It was all I could say.

    “If I could have a look?” prompted Miss Militia.

    Velocity slid the pad down to her, and she studied the diagram.

    “I ... have no idea what this does, but I'd like to take it to Kid Win,” she requested.

    I nodded; she tore off the page and carefully folded it, before placing it in a pocket. “Director, I will restate what Velocity and Kid Win have already mentioned. She grasps the nuances of our powers very quickly indeed.”

    Her tone was so unexpected, so full of praise, that I blushed furiously. Dad squeezed my hand.

    “Well, then. Miss Hebert.”

    I looked around at the Director. “Yes, ma’am?”

    "In light of the evidence which has been presented, it seems clear that you are not at fault here. There will be no charges laid for the assault on Shadow Stalker, or the potential unmasking of a Ward."

    I raised a hand. "I kinda got outed too."

    She nodded. "We have people talking to those students and teachers. Believe me, they are being warned in no uncertain terms to keep their mouths shut over the whole affair."

    Dad raised his head. "And are we being warned to shut up, too? Taylor was victimised for over a year. By your Ward. Where is her compensation coming from?"

    Piggot looked uncomfortable again. "That was an ongoing situation that we accidentally inherited. Were I you, I would take it up with the school, and the parents of the children involved."

    "But you're at least partially responsible for letting it go on," I argued.

    She nodded. "And in recognition of that, as I said, we're dropping all legal consequences for what could have been a very serious offence. Also ..." She took a breath. “I would like to kindly ask you if you would like to join the Brockton Bay Wards program.”

    I looked at Dad. He looked at me. I took a deep breath.

    “No.” I paused. "Actually, let me rephrase that.

    "Hell no."


    End of Part 2

    Part 3
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2015
  4. Adyen

    Adyen Experienced.

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    This is rather interesting to read, but I don't see how Taylor would be able to solo this. Her power and the fact that she had revealed herself when triggering means she needs someone to protect her father and she needs another cape for her to be useful.

    I could see her join new wave though. But that's another can of worms by finding out Pancrea can work brains...
     
  5. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    Here's the question, is the Manton Limit for her powers set to current host or current shard? Because if it's per host, Amy and Taylor can affect each other freely....and they didn't abuse it to make each other look better, they're just late bloomers and finally growing into themselves!
     
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  6. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    She gets access to whatever improvements the host has made to their shard.
     
  7. inverted_helix

    inverted_helix Connoisseur.

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    I'm always wanting to see New Wave Taylors, and this power would work really well with that, but this story was posted further on SB and she joins up with Uber and Leet.
     
  8. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Dude. Spoilers. :p

    I will be transferring the story over; unfortunately, I can't get access to the BbCode, and so transferring straight over loses all the text formatting, such as italics and bolding. So I've got to go through and manually insert it.

    Slow process. Be patient.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  9. Biigoh

    Biigoh Moderator

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    Try this...

    Just select the story... don't bother with BB code... copy it.

    Click on reply button and then paste it in there instead of using quick reply... results might be fun for you. ^_-
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
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  10. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    Isn't the problem that Ack is banned and thus can't actually perform such a task? However, any number of fans could conceivably do such a thing.

    Well... once SB is back up, at least.
     
  11. Biigoh

    Biigoh Moderator

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    The main issue with being banned on SB isn't that you can't view stuff... You can as long as you don't log in, view the stuff.

    Also SB is going up and down due to Search function.
     
  12. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    Okay, I am clearly missing something Bii, as I have no idea how what you said would help Ack preserve italics and such for a post onto QQ. (Getting a LibreOffice file of it with proper formatting isn't much of a challenge, of course, but translating that to a properly formatted QQ post is something I have no experience with.
     
  13. Biigoh

    Biigoh Moderator

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    If you use copy and paste into the rich text reply window, it keeps the formatting for you for the most part.
     
  14. ThrustVectoring

    ThrustVectoring Getting out there.

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    Copy the raw html from the page for your story, and gsub the html tags back into bbcode ones.

    Just realized that might not make sense without a programming background, sorry. HTML is what the browser uses to show content, and it formats italics and the like slightly differently that BBCode. If you understand regular expressions or can futz about with them on rubular or something, you can do all the changes at once.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  15. Navrin

    Navrin Experienced.

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    So less "removes all tedium" and more "cuts down on the tedium"?
     
  16. Biigoh

    Biigoh Moderator

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  17. doomlord9

    doomlord9 Experienced.

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    I just thought of something(and haven't read the SB release so if it happened, I don't know about it :p).

    She needs to meet Tattletale and copy her power. For everyone watching, the two just stop and stare at each other twitching slightly for about 2 minutes before nodding slightly to each other and walking away. To them they just had THE single most deep and rewarding conversation they have ever had followed by a comprehensive negotiation and agreement for mutual cooperation.

    They meet up every few days for more chats, which also coincide with Amy dropping by for a chat with Taylor as well as discretely checking to ensure she wasn't having a seizure.

    Either that or they both get stuck in an endless loop of "I know that you know that I know that you know that I know that you know that I know that you know that I know that you know that I know that you know that-" until someone smacks one of them out of it.
     
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  18. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    This is planned to happen.
     
  19. tsuknoryu2986

    tsuknoryu2986 Not too sore, are you?

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    Last chapter. Taylor and Lisa die from brain aneurysms from looking at each other.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
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  20. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Oh noes! You have uncovered my secret twist ending!

    Now I'll have to let them live, dammit!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
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  21. Peanuckle

    Peanuckle Versed in the lewd.

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    After they have their deep and meaningful conversation, they can run down to the store together to load up on painkillers and icepacks.

    They can be migraine-buddies!

    "Lisa, you keep dragging that strange girl into your room. What do you do in there?"

    "We get in bed, turn out the lights..."

    "Yes, go on."

    "Then we stay very still and try to not make any noise."

    "That... wasn't at all what I was expecting."
     
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  22. Threadmarks: Part Three
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Trump Card

    Part 3


    Hell no.”

    The reaction was immediate. Everyone began talking at once. Everyone, that is, except myself, Dad ... and Shadow Stalker.

    Huh.

    She was now sitting bolt upright in her seat, staring at me. I couldn’t make out her expression behind the scowling-woman mask she wore, but I could tell that her dark eyes were fixed on mine.

    “ – for your own good –“ That was Director Piggot.

    Experimentally, I concentrated and moved the spot of light to Sophia. It wasn’t hard; the more I did it, the easier it was. Immediately, I began getting the familiar data-stream explaining to me what I could do with her powers.

    “ – need more heroes in the city –“ Velocity’s input.

    I already knew most of it, so I shifted the focus of my power to Triumph, beside her.

    This time, it wasn't really a data-stream, like the others. It was more like I was reading it off of a manual.

    Triumph's main power was his sonic shout; it could pulverise concrete if he wished, or blast people across the room without hurting them too much. If one didn't count ruptured eardrums, that is. Apart from that, he was at the absolute peak of physical fitness and durability for a normal human; this was also an effect of his power.

    There was nothing else there for me; I shifted the spot again, to Miss Militia.

    “ – really help round out the Wards –“ Even Triumph had something to say.

    I had been there before, tapped into Miss Militia's powers. Under the table, a knife formed in my hand. Then it was a gun, then a knuckleduster. With these powers, I knew, I could kill Sophia before the others could even react.

    I shuddered and moved the spot of light along before temptation could go farther than speculation.

    “ – be interested in knowing your reasons –“ Miss Militia was also talking, but not trying to out-shout the others.

    The light spot settled on Velocity, and I activated the power. The world seemed to slow for me, and I had all the time in the world to think. Not that I needed that long.

    I stood up. They all quieted, looking at me.

    “Before we go any farther with this,” I said quietly, “there’s something we need to address.”

    “Which is?” asked Director Piggot.

    “What is going to happen to Sophia?”

    She coughed, and glanced down the table at Shadow Stalker. So. I was right.

    “You’re not sending her to juvey, are you?” I stated, before she could speak.

    “We –“ she began.

    “You’re not even kicking her out of the Wards, are you?” I went on, my voice rising.

    Silence fell, the more damning the longer it rolled on.

    It was Miss Militia who spoke up. “We can’t.”

    I turned to face her, still standing. “Why? Why the hell not? You saw what she did! You know what she did!” I slammed both fists on the table, making them all jump. “For fuck’s sake, she shut me in my fucking locker!”

    “We’re dealing with that.” Piggot’s voice was calm. “Shadow Stalker will be disciplined to be extent that we are able. She is a probationary Ward; proceedings will be started to send her to juvenile detention. But it will not be a short process.” She raised her voice slightly. “Now, kindly sit down.”

    I sat. My hands were shaking; Dad took hold of one and squeezed it comfortingly.

    “So why can’t you shove Sophia Hess into the deepest, darkest hole you have and throw away the key?” I asked bitterly.

    Miss Militia sighed. “We’d dearly love to. But ... we can't do it. Not right away.”

    “Why not?” asked Dad. "What's the holdup?"

    "Removing a Ward from the position is tricky when the Ward is not willing to go," explained the Director. “There are procedures that need to be followed.”

    “And ...?” I demanded.

    “And sending her to juvenile detention requires a court date,” Miss Militia explained. “While we have her phone, your written record, these are just raw evidence. Allegations. They need to be cross-referenced, checked for inconsistencies, entered into the record, and so on. She gets legal counsel, who also gets to go over the evidence, and a court date is set. But until she goes to court, she's still a Ward, for PR purposes. Just yanking her from the lineup, throwing her in jail ... we can't do that, any more than the ordinary courts can."

    “So ... this means that she gets to stay in the Wards?” I demanded, incredulous.

    Triumph let out a humourless laugh. “More or less. For appearances' sake. Until she goes through court, the paperwork is all filed, and it's all made official. Then she officially retires from the Wards, and Sophia Hess ends up in juvenile detention.”

    Everyone looked at him.

    “What?” he asked. “I read the guidelines too. I like to know what’s going on.”

    Looking back to me, Miss Militia nodded. “He’s essentially correct. Wards can quit at any time. But to be fired, there's a whole book of procedures that has to be followed.”

    She muttered something under her breath, something about "youth guard" that I didn't catch.

    I frowned. "So is this what’s been happening to date? Sophia bullying me and getting away with it?"

    Director Piggot shook her head. “No, but it seems that the person we’ve had overseeing Shadow Stalker’s tenure at Winslow has been taking less care than she should have been.” She frowned. “I’m going to be addressing that during her exit interview.”

    Well, at least one person’s going to be fired over this. But I drew cold comfort from the fact.

    “So here and now,” I pressed. “Shadow Stalker’s not going to be fired? Not going to juvenile detention?”

    “Not immediately, no,” the Director admitted. “We will be pushing forward the court appearances, but such things follow their own pace, I'm afraid. And if Shadow Stalker decides not to make it easy on us ...”

    She gave Sophia a distasteful look.

    Sophia sneered back at her. "Yeah, I'll go quietly. Like hell."

    “Shadow Stalker, shut up,” Triumph advised her quietly but urgently. She shot him a poisonous glance, but closed her mouth.

    “Seriously, what the hell?” I blurted, not caring that I was swearing in a room full of adults. “You’re going to leave her in a team full of impressionable kids, until she finally goes through court and gets sent to juvey, and expect that to turn out well?”

    Director Piggot shook her head. “Oh – no, no, you have the wrong impression altogether.”

    I stopped, halfway to my feet again. “How do you mean?”

    “I mean,” she told me, “that she will not be partaking in any regular public activities. Publicity shots, yes. Endbringer truce, yes. Regular patrols, no. In fact, she will effectively be confined to base when on duty, or under house arrest when not.”

    “Which means that we'll be down one Ward when it comes to going out on patrol,” commented Triumph.

    “We could do with a talented and flexible power like yours to round out the Wards,” suggested the Director.

    I snorted. “With Sophia there? Not a hope in hell.” I stood up. “Come on, Dad, we’re getting out of here.”

    My father stood up beside me. “What she said, in spades,” he told them all. “Come on, kiddo, let’s go home.”

    I was almost at the door, when I heard the mocking voice. “Go on, run away. Like a little bitch.”

    I turned, fast, using Velocity's speed. Once the turn was complete, I put the light spot on to Miss Militia. She could already do paired weapons; I decided to try a variation. In my left hand, I held a taser. In my right, a heavy caliber pistol. The taser jerked as I fired it, the compressed-air cartridge propelling the prongs straight and true. They hit Shadow Stalker, nailed her through her clothing. Current flowed. She jolted, convulsed, slumped in her chair.

    The huge revolver in my right hand was aimed dead-centre at her chest, the hammer all the way back. I could have fired. But I didn’t.

    Velocity was out of his chair and almost all the way over to me by the time I let the weapons dissolve; I held my hands up to show that they were empty.

    “Keep her away from me,” I gritted.

    Turning, I stalked from the room.

    <><>​

    "She tried to fucking kill me!" shouted Shadow Stalker. She glared at Miss Militia. "With your fucking power!"

    "No," Miss Militia replied. "She did not."

    "I don't think so either," agreed Velocity. "She could have shot you, easily, before I got to her.”

    "Well, it was assault, anyway!" stormed the teenager. She rubbed the spot on her breastbone where the prongs had impacted; it was still very sore.

    "Provoked assault," Miss Militia corrected her. "We all heard what you said. I'm not saying she was justified in doing what she did, but I'm certainly not blaming her for doing it."

    "So she just walks? After what she did to me?"

    "I would be very careful, Shadow Stalker," cautioned Director Piggot, "about throwing out comments about someone getting away with their misdeeds."

    Sophia fired her last shot. "What if I went and told Youth Guard about this shit? About how you're letting her get away with attacking a Ward? Twice, even?"

    Piggot's voice was as grim as her expression. "I will be sitting down with them tomorrow, and going over how best to approach your case. You've already used up your welcome, Miss Hess. You're damaged goods. You have no grounds for appeal, not any more.

    "We're going to be lucky not to take a huge PR hit. I very nearly had to accept a Youth Guard watchdog into the building to oversee all of our Wards' operations, to ensure that nothing like this happens again. And if you keep up your whining, I will push for incarceration before your court date. So don't push me."

    Eyes wide behind her mask, Shadow Stalker subsided back into her chair.

    "Make no mistake," continued Piggot implacably. "You will be under heavy scrutiny from now on. You will only go on patrol when there is absolutely no other option, you will not be going on solo patrols, and the school will be directed to report any more misdemeanours directly to Deputy Director Renick. And if anything even vaguely suspicious happens to Taylor Hebert, at any time of night or day, we will be looking at you. Do you understand?"

    Shadow Stalker sat silent.

    "I said, do you understand?"

    Finally, the cloaked teen nodded reluctantly. "Yeah, I got it," she acknowledged. "Can I go now?"

    Piggot nodded sharply. "Get out of my sight."

    Shadow Stalker went meekly enough, but there was rage building in her heart.

    They can't do this to me.

    This is all Hebert's fault.

    She's going to fucking
    pay.

    <><>​

    As we drove away from the PRT building, Dad turned to me.

    "You all right, kiddo?" he asked.

    I nodded. "Yeah, I think so."

    "So you've got powers. What are you going to do with them?"

    I hunched down in my seat. "I have no idea. But I'm going to find out."


    End of Part 3
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2015
  23. Threadmarks: Part Four
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Trump Card

    Part 4


    I did some thinking on the way home. A solo career was right out; unpowered, I would not be able to depend on there being someone with powers nearby.

    So I would have to join a team of some sort, and soon; once word got out that a powerful Trump was in Brockton Bay, some would want to hire me and some would want to put me out of the way. Maybe permanently.

    I could see why Director Piggot wanted me in the Wards; with my insights, I would not only be able to double-up on any powerset in the team, but I could help train new capes in the use of their powers.

    But that wasn't going to happen; mainly it was about not wanting any sort of proximity to Sophia Hess, and partly about not wanting any part of the team that allowed her to get away with it for so long. But also partly because going into yet another rules-heavy environment loaded down with teen politics and drama was exactly what I didn't need at the moment.

    "Kiddo?" Dad's voice broke into my reverie.

    "Yeah, Dad?"

    "Any thoughts yet?"

    I came to a decision. "Yeah, actually. Can we stop at a phone booth?"

    ><><​

    I paged through the phone book, which was still surprisingly intact, until I found the number. Picking up the handpiece, I checked it for bubblegum or more noxious substances, then dialled.

    "Hello, Mark Dallon speaking."

    "Mr Dallon, hi. I'm calling about New Wave business."

    His voice showed a little interest, but not much. "Very well. You have my attention. What's the problem?"

    "Well, it's not really a problem as such. I, uh, I want to join New Wave."

    That seemed to get his attention, all right.

    "You are aware, are you not, that New Wave is not in the habit of taking recruitment?"

    "Sure, I know that. But I figure that it's better to try and find out than to never try at all."

    "Hm. You're also aware that you will be required to reveal your identity to the public as part of your membership?"

    I was aware of this. I was also aware that this policy had led to the death of Fleur, and of Lightstar subsequently leaving the team, back in 2000 or so. Fleur's murderer had never been officially arrested, but some people had their doubts about whether the surviving members of New Wave would have bothered turning him over to the authorities. Certainly, no-one else from New Wave had been targeted since.

    But that would be of little comfort to Fleur.

    I looked out of the phone booth, at Dad. Could I risk his life? Did I dare take the chance that no-one would follow up my identity, decide to take out on Dad what they couldn't do to me? Heck, might they even hit me at home, take me out when I was unpowered?

    The more I thought about it, the less I liked it.

    "Are you still there, miss?"

    I sighed. "Yes, I'm here. Sorry, I think I've been wasting your time. Thanks anyway."

    "Have you considered the Wards?"

    "I ... have my own reasons not to want to go into the Wards."

    "Oh well. Best of luck then. Have a nice day."

    "You too." I hung up, then looked at the phone.

    Wow, I thought. He just didn't really care, did he?

    Dad was waiting outside the phone booth, having heard my side of the conversation.

    "So, didn't go so well?"

    I shook my head. "No. I kind of forgot about the whole public identity thing, and how it would impact you."

    He ruffled my hair. "That's okay, kiddo. I'm sure we'll have better luck elsewhere."

    ><><​

    Mark Dallon put the phone down and leaned back on the couch. He felt vaguely as though he should have been more helpful to the girl, but he couldn't think how. I should really take my medication, he told himself.

    But he didn't do that, either.

    Hours later, when Vicky and Amy got home, he was still watching TV.

    He had totally forgotten about the phone call.

    ><><​

    Dad took me home, and started putting together a cold lunch, while I sat on the couch and brooded. There were three superhero teams in Brockton Bay; I was too young for the Protectorate proper, I didn't want to go into the Wards, and joining New Wave would mean outing myself and putting Dad in danger.

    And I wasn't about to go out there on my own, for obvious reasons.

    Worse, if any of the criminal groups heard of me, I'd be vulnerable. The truth was, I was too powerful to be let alone, but not powerful enough to force people to let me alone. And even if the PRT opted not to force the issue, I could not be certain that Emma and her cronies, or even Sophia on her own, might not 'accidentally' let something slip. How could I know for certain that someone wouldn't come after Dad, or even me, when I was unpowered?

    The answer was, I couldn't.

    When I first got these powers, I had thought them to be a boon. Now, I saw them for what they really were; a white elephant. Far more trouble than they were really worth.

    It was a conundrum and a puzzle; a two-edged sword.

    How do I get out of this mess?

    ><><​

    Dad called me into the kitchen for lunch. We sat, and ate, and made desultory conversation. Dad carried the most of it, while I continued to try to work out a way out of the dilemma, only paying occasional attention to his words.

    " ... TV spot," he finished saying, and I realised that I'd missed everything else he had said.

    "Sorry, what was that?" I asked apologetically.

    "Well," he repeated, "if we wanted to get damages out of the school for all the crap they let those girls put you through, I have a friend in the media, and she might be able to swing us a TV spot. Maybe something on Youtube. Raise public awareness."

    "Unless we outed Sophia, our position would look pretty weak," I pointed out. "And if we outed her, her family would be in danger, and we'd be in deep legal trouble."

    "We could run it as a straightforward bullying case," he suggested. "Let Blackwell try to squirm her way out of that."

    "Mr Barnes is a lawyer," I reminded him; from his grimace, he hadn't needed the reminder. "If we start saying things about Emma ..."

    "He's a lawyer, but he's also my friend," Danny objected. "Surely he'd be able to see reason?"

    I pointed at the phone. "You could call him, see what he says?"

    He nodded; while I ate and thought, he got up to go to the phone. There was something that was nagging at me, something Dad had said. Something significant. A clue to a solution.

    The phone call was short and to the point; Dad did not do much talking. When he put the receiver down, his face was pale; whether with anger or with something else, I wasn't sure.

    "Not good?" I asked.

    He shook his head. "That slimy, two-faced, double-dealing ..."

    Anger. It was definitely anger.

    "Lawyer?" I suggested.

    "That sonofabitch!" he exploded. "He threatened me with court, with bankruptcy, if I ever tried to make a thing of it! I thought he was my friend!"

    I nodded sadly. "Welcome to my world, Dad," I told him. "Welcome to my world."

    Slowly he sat back down in his seat, looking slumped, defeated. "What do we do, kiddo?" he asked quietly. "He's got the game rigged; no matter what we do, we'll lose."

    And that was the final clue that I needed. About ten seconds later, the pieces fitted together behind my eyes with an almost audible click.

    "Nothing, Dad," I replied, slowly. "We do nothing. Because there's nothing legal we can do."

    He looked at me oddly. "What's that supposed to mean?"

    I got up, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and headed into the front hall.

    "Where are you going?" he called after me.

    "Just to my room," I reassured him as I trotted up the stairs. "I've got to get online. I need to check something out."

    If I'm right, I may just have solved both my problems at once. If I'm wrong ...

    I didn't want to think about how badly it could go if I was wrong.


    End of Part 4
     
  24. Threadmarks: Part Five
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Trump Card

    Part 5


    Up in my room, I logged on to the Parahumans Online site. After idly browsing the wiki, I finally bit the bullet and went to the “Connections” part of the message boards, and created a new account, with a new username, using a throwaway email account.

    It took me a while to work out the exact wording of what I wanted to say.

    It took even longer to build up the nerve to actually type the message in.

    Even with the message typed in, my finger hovered over the Enter key for the longest time.

    Should I be doing this from the library?

    But I knew that if I got up from the computer without sending the message, I would never muster the nerve to do it again.

    I hit the Enter key.

    ><><​

    Hey, check this out.”

    L33t looked up from the latest invention he was wrestling with, and frowned. “Disturbing my concentration here, bro.”

    Uber shook his head. “No, you really gotta come see this.”

    L33t sighed and got up. He wandered over to where Uber was sitting at the computer.

    PHO boards. So what?”

    Check it. A message for us.”

    L33t leaned in closer. Sure enough, there was a message titled “Uber and Leet”.

    Noob,” he snorted. “Doesn't even know how to spell my name.”

    Check the message,” Uber insisted.

    L33t did.


    Below it was a string of comments, all along the lines of, “Oh great, another loser joins the team.”

    They looked at each other.

    What the fuck?” wondered L33t.

    Is he challenging us or what?” asked Uber.

    Only one way to find out,” L33t told him.

    Uber clicked on the username, and selected “send private message”.

    What do I say?” he asked.

    The message, as they finally agreed on it, simply read, “Is this a challenge? If so, name your game.”

    L33t read it through a few times, then nodded. “Looks good, bro.”

    The message was sent.

    ><><​

    When I came downstairs again, Dad was standing there, watching me.

    “What?” I asked.

    “What are you up to?” he asked me bluntly.

    “I … what?”

    “You made a cryptic comment about there being nothing legal we could do, then you went straight upstairs. What are you planning? Because if it's something illegal, I can't condone that.”

    I shook my head. “What am I going to do, Dad? My powers only work when other capes are around. And I need some sort of protection, some sort of help.”

    “The Protectorate -” he began automatically.

    I cut him off. “- will do exactly nothing. You saw them. Cover your ass mode, all the way. They're not even going to be pulling Sophia from the Wards, for PR reasons. I bet she even gets to go back to school, like nothing's happened! And if I say anything, do anything, I'm the bad guy!”

    He sighed. “I know, I know. Your mother would counsel turning the other cheek -”

    “ - but all that gets me is bruised cheeks, Dad! They won't stop! Sophia's got nothing to lose, now. They're already really good at giving each other alibis. And now I've got a way to do something about it -”

    What are you going to do, Taylor?” he insisted. “Please tell me it's not illegal.”

    I looked him in the eye. “It's not any more illegal than what's already happened to me.”

    “That's not an answer.”

    I drew a deep breath. “Mr Barnes, who's been your friend as long as I've been alive, threatened to bankrupt you if you tried to have what Emma did exposed. Legally. The PRT is covering up what Sophia did, concealing a crime from the public. Legally.”

    I threw up my hands. “Is the law actually doing us any good, here? I'm obeying the law. You're obeying the law. And we're getting walked all over.”

    “Watching others bend the law is no excuse to break it yourself,” he retorted, but there wasn't any conviction in it.

    “It is if they're using the law to get an unfair advantage over us,” I shot back. “You know what they're doing is wrong.”

    “I know, I know,” he admitted. “But that doesn't make breaking the law the right thing to do.”

    “So tell me what is the right thing!” I yelled. “Sit here and take it? Wait for some villain to break down the door because Sophia said something at school and it got around that I'm a powerful Trump? Let Mr Barnes get away with threatening you? Let Emma get a slap on the wrist from the court system, because she's pretty and I'm not?”

    Dad shook his head slowly. “I … don't know, kiddo,” he admitted at last. “I'm out of options. I don't know what to do.”

    “Then let me do what I'm going to do,” I told him bluntly.

    “What are you going to do?” he asked.

    “Better you don't know.”

    “Just tell me that it's not illegal.”

    I looked him in the eye. “It's not illegal.” It was a lie; I knew it, and he knew it. But he hadn't asked me if it was illegal; he had ordered me to tell him that it wasn't. Which I had.

    After another long moment, he nodded. “Okay, fine. Just tell me you aren't going to hurt anyone.”

    “No-one's going to get hurt if I can help it,” I assured him.

    We hugged; he rested his chin on top of my head.

    “Just be careful, kiddo,” he whispered.

    I rested my head against his chest. “I will,” I answered, just as quietly.

    We stood there for a long time.


    End of Part 5
     
  25. Threadmarks: Part Six
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Trump Card

    Part 6


    It was the next afternoon. I sat in Fugly Bob's, wearing an ugly sweatshirt I never normally dug out of the closet, the largest sunglasses I could find, and an old Brockton Bay Boomers baseball cap.

    After I finally got a message back from Uber and L33t (and yes, I had been corrected on the spelling) we had established that I wanted to join their team, and had thrashed out a meeting place. My last message had read, Will be in Fugly Bob's, wearing Boomers cap. I'll know if it's not you.

    I'd been sitting there for half an hour, wondering if I should get another basket of fries, when two new powersets impinged upon my consciousness. I say 'new' because I was already tracking two parahumans in Fugly Bob's. Fortunately, neither of them seemed to be there as part of a sting operation for yours truly.

    The first was a mousy woman in her late twenties, accompanied by a teenage boy and an infant child. I didn't recognise her from what I'd read of the Parahumans Online wiki, but she had some serious power, based around flight and blasting. For a moment, I thought she might be Lady Photon, but she looked too young, and her hair was the wrong colour. Besides, there was the baby; I wasn't an avid cape-follower like some, but I was fairly certain that Photon Mom didn't have a third child.

    Anyway, she wasn't there for me, and that was good enough for the moment.

    The other one was a red-headed teenager with an older couple, who I presumed to be his parents. The man looked unwell, and his wife and son treated him with careful solicitude. The powerset I recognised at once; the teenager was Clockblocker, from the Wards.

    Again, I was fairly certain that he wasn't there to trap me. But I felt kind of embarrassed, knowing who he was, while he didn't have a clue about me.

    When the two new powersets showed up, I immediately shifted the light-spot to the nearest one. Immediately, I felt that I knew how to do virtually everything, and that what I didn't know how to do, I soon would.

    That felt like Uber to me; I shifted the spot to his companion.

    This was L33t all right; the light-spot started whispering to me the techniques to construct virtually anything I could imagine. But it was weird; whereas with most powersets, the 'voice' was calm and emotionless, if one could imagine a voice without sound or tone to possess emotions, the description of L33t's powerset seemed to be almost ... pleading? Almost as if it were saying, I am here, all this potential. Please use me.

    I couldn't figure that out, but it wasn't really my problem. Uber and L33t had showed up to the meeting. Now all they had to do was notice me.

    ><><​

    It actually took them a little while. They conferred, and split up. Uber checked the other half of the restaurant, while L33t came my way. I watched him from behind my sunglasses, while keeping track of Uber with the light-spot. In the meantime, just to see how Uber's powers worked, I learned how to do counter-surveillance and parkour. It was child's play. Everything was child's play.

    L33t walked straight past my booth twice, his eyes skating over me each time. I couldn't believe it. Did he need glasses? There I was, sitting there, bold as brass, looking directly at him, and he wasn't seeing me. It got so I began to wonder if Uber had some kind of Stranger power that I'd accidentally activated.

    They came together again, not far from me, and conferred again.

    ><><​

    "Any luck?" asked L33t.

    "No sign of him," Uber replied. "No-one wearing a Boomers cap at all. How about your side?"

    "Haven't seen him either," grumbled L33t. "I think this is a bust. Maybe someone's watching us and the whole thing's a troll."

    "Hey, wait a minute. There's someone wearing a Boomers cap over there."

    L33t looked around. "Where? Oh, yeah. No, that's a girl."

    Uber frowned. "Oh, okay." He paused. "But still ..,"

    L33t shook his head. "A chick, calling herself Hax? A dude would call himself Hax. A gamer chick would be something like Princess Fairy Unicorn Sunflower or something."

    "Wow, showing your prejudices much?" chuckled Uber. "I got pwned the other week in Space Opera by this chick calling herself Meteor Strike. Only way I knew it was a chick, we were on voice chat. She handed me my ass, bro. And that chick over there's wearing a Boomers cap."

    L33t sighed. "Fine, go ask her. Serve you right if she pepper-sprays your ass."

    "Fine. I will."

    ><><​

    I watched Uber approach the booth. He was tall, muscular, graceful. More than one set of feminine eyes followed him over; I had to admit, I didn't mind the view either.

    Leaning into the booth, he cleared his throat. "Excuse me, miss?" he began.

    His voice was firm, resonant, deep. The sort of voice suited to an action hero. I began to wonder why he hadn't made a fortune already in the acting industry; he would be able to set his own price.

    I nodded. "Yes."

    "I was just wondering if ... I was supposed to meet someone and ..."

    "I said 'yes', you idiot," I hissed. "I'm Hax. Get L33t over here and sit down before people start staring."

    He blinked. "You're Hax? Really?"

    To his credit, he turned and gestured L33t over before I even answered. They sat down opposite me in the booth.

    “Really,” I answered Uber's question. “I'm Hax.”

    “Wait, what?” blurted L33t. “You're him? I mean, he's you? I mean ...”

    “Yes, she's me,” I told him tartly. “I'm a girl. That last bit you're going to have to take on faith, because I'm not showing you any body parts to prove it.”

    It was becoming clear to me now. They had thought Hax was going to be a guy. Which was why L33t had looked past me several times.

    “Okay, you're a girl,” Uber agreed. “That's fine. You want to join the team? Let's see what you've got to offer.”

    I gave them a half-grin. “You know that old song that goes 'anything you can do, I can do better'?”

    “What is this, some sort of feminist crap?” asked L33t, still obviously put out by the whole 'Hax is a girl' misunderstanding.

    “Nope,” I told him. “It's my power. I'm a Trump. I can copy your powers and use all the tricks you've ever figured out to use with them, and add my own variations on top.”

    “Copy, or steal?” asked Uber carefully.

    “Copy only,” I assured him. “You don't lose your powers, just because I'm borrowing them.”

    “So wait,” interjected L33t, “you can copy all of our powers at once? That's bullshit.”

    I grinned and shook my head. “No, just one powerset at a time. Yours, his, or whoever else happens to be around at the time.”

    “So whose powers are you copying at the moment?” asked Uber curiously.

    “Yours, actually,” I told him.

    He blinked. “I can't feel anything different.”

    “Believe me, I can. To quote an old movie I saw one time, I know kung fu.”

    “Well, that's definitely hax, right there,” he allowed. “Just being able to pick and choose between whatever set of powers you wanted ...”

    “ … between the guy who can build anything, and the guy who can learn any skill, you mean?” I added.

    “Hey,” L33t wanted to know, “can you build stuff that I can't? Like, I've already built?”

    I shrugged. “We'd have to see, wouldn't we?” Privately, I was fairly sure that I could. His powers had been begging to be used.

    They looked at each other. “So, bro, what do you say?” asked Uber.

    L33t shrugged. “Can't hurt to give her a try-out. Even if she is a girl,” he couldn't help adding.

    I raised an eyebrow at that, but made no comment. Girls apparently didn't factor very much into L33t's worldview. That was fine; he didn't factor very much into mine.

    “Okay, then,” Uber agreed. “You're in. Welcome to the team.”

    I grinned at them. “Player three has entered the game.”


    End of Part 6

    Part 7
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  26. inverted_helix

    inverted_helix Connoisseur.

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    I'm kind of surprised it took so long for the other parts you'd already written to go up here.

    I'm still pretty disappointed she doesn't join New Wave. Considering she had a very public trigger at school, she probably didn't have a secret identity left anyways. That's just personal bias seeking a New Wave story though.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  27. Galeiam

    Galeiam Optimistically Asexual.

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    Public trigger in the form of two sycophantic bitches and a sociopathic cape....yeah witnesses
     
    ShadowStepper1300 likes this.
  28. inverted_helix

    inverted_helix Connoisseur.

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    Three witnesses is more than enough if they all make it their pleasure to make your life miserable.
     
  29. alethiophile

    alethiophile Shadowed Philosopher Administrator

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    I would have enjoyed a New Wave fic, but I also really want to see a U&L one somewhere. There's one somewhere that has a lot of association with New Wave, but I can't recall any with lots of U&L.

    Anyway, very much looking forward to more of this.
     
  30. Threadmarks: Part Seven
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Trump Card

    Part 7


    I didn't like Uber and L33t; nor did I understand why they did what they did. But I did understand two things; one, that a place on their team meant a sanctuary from which I could work without fear of forcible recruitment into one group or another, and two, that I could accomplish great things with L33t's power.

    Truly great things.

    It told me so.

    I could change the face of Brockton Bay.

    I could change the world.

    All I needed were the tools to build the things I needed, and a place to build them.

    ><><​

    “Okay,” began Uber, once we got back to their base. His voice was still resonant, impressive. Less impressive to me, now that I realised that he spoke in no other way. “There's a game plan we've been wanting to try out, but it needs three people, so we've had to shelve it until now. But with you here -”

    I cut him off. “Sorry, boys, gonna have to call a raincheck on that one. L33t, your power's been throwing ideas at me, and I really like some of them. But I'm going to need more components than I think you have on hand. So we're going to have to go out and get them.” I dusted off my hands and beamed at them.

    “Wait a minute,” objected L33t, looking like a ten year old boy who's found that a pushy girl has invaded his clubhouse, and he doesn't know how to throw her out, “you're not the boss of us.”

    “No, I'm not,” I agreed. “But if I'm a part of this, then we're a team. And a team works to help each other out. Right now, channelling your power, I'm a tinker sadly in need of equipment to build with. So you're going to help rectify that, right?”

    I grinned winningly at him; the skills to manipulate males into doing what I wanted were coming along nicely. “Besides, do you want the team of Uber, L33t and Hax to keep being bottom-drawer, or to become a name that people fear and respect?”

    L33t looked at Uber, and they both looked at me.

    “Now, listen,” objected Uber. “We do the video game theme. It's what we do. It's who we are.”

    “And how far has it really gotten you?” I argued. “Far be it from me to change a winning formula, but you have to admit, what you have right now hasn't really turned out to be a winning formula after all.”

    “But … video games,” whined L33t. “We can't just … not do them. People expect us to do them. They watch our channel faithfully. Our fans are depending on us.”

    I snorted. “Most of your so-called 'fans',” I told him acidly, “are watching to see how spectacularly you crash and burn on any given show.”

    The blunt words, forcefully delivered, hit L33t perhaps harder than my fist would have done.

    “They don't,” he almost whimpered, then turned to Uber. “They don't … do they?”

    Uber put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it supportively, but he addressed me.

    “We don't always crash and burn,” he informed me steadily. “And L33t is right. We can't just drop the video game theme. It's integral to who we are; without it, we're just another couple of supervillains.”

    With it, you're like just another couple of supervillains, only less successful, I thought. But I didn't say it; I needed them on side.

    I shook my head. “I'm not saying that we have to drop it. Just that we might be wanting to pull a couple of less than public heists, where we don't actually have to use it. Sometimes it's better to be subtle than loud and flashy.”

    At this, L33t looked a little confused, but Uber's expression turned thoughtful.

    “You're working on more than 'a few ideas' from L33t's powers,” he charged me. “You've got a specific plan in mind.”

    I worked at keeping my expression bland. I was getting better at that, too; however, Uber was no doubt getting better at reading it.

    “Maybe,” I admitted, pretending reluctance.

    Despite his misgivings, L33t was drawn in. “What plan?”

    I grinned; or at least, I showed my teeth.

    “By the time we're done, no-one in Brockton Bay is gonna want to mess with us.”

    ><><​

    If Shadow Stalker had known that the Hebert case would draw the attention of the Chief Director of the PRT, then perhaps she may have thought twice about her actions. But then again, perhaps not; Sophia Hess was an arrogant young woman who believed implicitly in the privilege granted her by her powers, and its utility in keeping her out of serious trouble.

    In any case, she was unaware that when the report of the incident – specifically, the description of Taylor Hebert's powerset – went online, Dragon ensured that it came to Rebecca Costa-Brown's attention as soon as humanly possible.

    And so, when Chief Director Rebecca Costa-Brown initiated a video conference between herself and Director Emily Piggot, the former was understandably concerned.

    "Emily," she began brusquely. "Tell me about the Shadow Stalker incident. The one with the Trump."

    "It should all be in the report -" began Director Piggot.

    "I have read the report," Costa-Brown cut her off harshly. "There is a great deal missing from it."

    "The entire incident was documented -"

    "Everything that was done and said, yes. But I fail to see exactly why you allowed such a valuable cape to literally walk out the door. Worse, you allowed her to gain such a negative view of the PRT and the Protectorate that she's likely to never trust us again."


    ><><​

    "- never trust us again."

    Emily Piggot felt that she was squarely on the back foot. Chief Director Costa-Brown's acid tones, carrying clearly through the audio link, made that extremely obvious.

    "Uh, we tried our best -" she ventured weakly. It wasn't quite a lie, but it wasn't really the truth either. She knew that she could have done more, worked harder to gain the Hebert girl's trust. But she particularly disliked being put on the spot, and the girl's tantrum hadn't helped her case much.


    Indeed.” The pitch and spin that Costa-Brown gave the word made her wince.

    Piggot decided not to elaborate on exactly why she had let the girl storm out without making more than a token protest. Costa-Brown already knew about one lapse of judgement; she wasn't about to commit a second one, in order to alert her boss about a third. “It was basically Shadow Stalker,” she explained, deciding to fall back to the truth. “The rules about not firing a Ward immediately -”


    Did you think perhaps that you may have simply had Shadow Stalker arrested on the spot?” snapped the Chief Director. “She is definitely guilty of several crimes already, just from reading the report.”

    Uh … ma'am … PRT East North-east is already on relatively thin ice, as far as the locals are concerned,” Director Piggot explained. “One bad PR situation may cause us to lose what control we have over the local cape situation. Besides, regulations -”

    Screw regulations!” snarled Costa-Brown. “Because you missed the signals from a sociopath, then decided to soft-pedal her punishment, you missed out on recruiting someone who had the potential to be a second Eidolon, or a second Alexandria! Can you imagine what that might mean when it comes to the next Endbringer fight?”

    Piggot felt her world sinking away beneath her feet. Costa-Brown was correct, of course. She had handled the Shadow Stalker situation badly.

    The trouble was, she couldn't think of any other way she could have done it without having Youth Guard putting pressure on her to accept a watchdog into the Brockton Bay PRT building. And Emily Piggot had long ago sworn a private vow to never let that happen.


    I will attempt to re-establish communication with the girl in question,” she promised. “I'll tell her that Shadow Stalker's punishment is being fast-tracked.”

    Costa-Brown's voice was flat. “And will it be?”


    It will have to be,” Piggot admitted. “Which will cause a whole new range of problems, all by itself. But as you say, a Trump with that level of capability is worth it.”

    Chief Director Rebecca Costa-Brown was silent for a moment.


    Do not make me regret this conversation.”

    And then there was just a dial tone in Piggot's ear.

    She put the phone down, and booted up her computer. She had work to do, and not much time to do it in.



    End of Part Seven


    Part Eight
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2015
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