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Wyvern - Worm AU fanfic

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Aug 4, 2015.

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  1. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    She'd still have to be bathed in it, unless whatever it was could stick to a force field.
    Unless they burned really slowly and really hot, probably not. Besides, the force field may well prevent damaging levels of heat transfer.
     
  2. alethiophile

    alethiophile Shadowed Philosopher Administrator

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    She was crippled in canon by Crawler spitting all over her, which seemingly stuck to the shield. Similarly, Taylor could get bugs on her shield and keep them there without any special measures. It seems that the shield is (mostly) impenetrable, but not zero-friction.
     
  3. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    Relevant, timestamps 0:23-0:33:
     
  4. Threadmarks: Part Ten: Changing Fortunes
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Wyvern


    Part Ten: Changing Fortunes


    I stared at her, letting out a startled squawk. My wing was draped around her shoulders, which normally I wouldn't have been able to reach in my draconic form without stretching to my tip-toes. How did I not notice this before?

    “Hey, calm down,” she said hastily. “There's probably a perfectly normal explanation for this.”

    This time, I gave her a very dry look; despite the difference between my human face and my Wyvern face, she picked up on it without any difficulty at all.

    “Okay, fine,” she admitted. “There's not much about this situation that's normal.”

    Thank you. With another screech, which may or may not have conveyed that thought, I stretched my wings out and leaped into the air. Vicky followed, keeping up with ease.

    “Where are you going?” she called out.

    I couldn't really shrug while flying, so I let out a non-committal squawk. Somewhere I can figure this out.

    “Sorry,” she said, “I must've left my Wyvern-Human dictionary in my other costume. Can you be a bit clearer?”

    I couldn't talk, and I didn't feel like acting out charades to get my message across, so I turned my attention to flying. To my gratitude, Vicky didn't push it. She merely flew alongside me as I flapped steadily across Brockton Bay.

    It was going to take a little while to reach my chosen destination, but I didn't mind. I had a lot to think about, including what I was going to say once I returned to human form. If I even could. Oh god, what if this size change stops me from ever turning back?

    The city stretched out below us, skeins of street lights making the place almost beautiful. I wished that I was down there, mundanely human, instead of up here, trying to run away from my problems. Given that my problems were part and parcel with my powers, the odds of me pulling this off were between zero and none, but I was still willing to give it a shot.

    The sound of electronic tapping interrupted my thoughts; I looked over to see that Vicky was texting on her phone while flying on her back, not even looking where she was going. I screeched at her.

    “What?” She looked up from her phone. “What's the matter?”

    I nodded toward her phone, then pointedly turned my head to look forwards.

    It took her a couple of seconds to catch on, then she laughed and rolled over in the air so that she was at least facing the same way as me. “Oh, that? I knew you wouldn't let me fly into anything.”

    She was right, but I still thought she was being very irresponsible. My squawk might have conveyed that, but I wasn't sure.

    To my relief, she didn't do anything like that again, although she did keep texting. Finally, she put the phone away and gave me a beaming smile. “I was just letting Mom and Ames know we were going for a flight. I haven't told them about the size change yet.”

    I chirped in relief; it was something that I would rather have told them myself. First, though, I wanted to try to deal with it on my own. With Vicky there to help, of course; I was reasonably sure that I wouldn't be able to make her go away. Even if I wanted to.

    Finally, our destination loomed ahead. It was further than I had ever flown before, but while my shoulder muscles were burning slightly, I felt that I could have kept going if necessary.

    There was nobody in the carpark for the Captain's Hill observation area, for which I was profoundly grateful. The last thing I wanted or needed was for someone to post photos of me on to PHO or something before I had my size issues resolved. Flapping my wings, I came in for a landing on the observation area, putting down my 'elbows' to prop myself up as Glory Girl touched down beside me.

    “Okay, let's see if that was a temporary thing,” she said brightly. I straightened up as much as I was able in that form. To my dismay, she was still half a head shorter than me. I let out a sound of dismay.

    “Hey, hey, it'll be all right,” she assured me. “We'll get through this. We're friends, right? We'll work it out together.”

    Friends.

    I had to stop and think about it. We were definitely more than just fellow capes or even teammates. Vicky had, in her own inimitable fashion, gone above and beyond for me. From the moment that she'd found out that I was more than just a scary monster, she'd done her best to help me solve my problems. Sure, she'd had a lot of laughs over my mishaps, but she'd never been cruel or vindictive.

    It was hard for me to take in. I hadn't had an actual friend for … more than a year. And to gain one through a malicious act engineered by my last best friend … it was hard for me to get my head around that. It had been so long since anyone who wasn't my dad had even cared.

    “Hey, you're shaking. Are you all right? You're not cold, are you?”

    I raised my head and looked into Vicky's concerned eyes. If I could cry in that form, I would have, but instead I was shaking, with my wings wrapped around me. I shook my head. No, I'm not cold.

    “Then what's the matter, Taylor?”

    I couldn't answer her with words, so I just shook my head again. Even if I'd been human, I probably wouldn't have been able to give her a coherent reply. I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to deal with this.

    A pair of arms, far stronger than they should have been, wrapped around me, wings and all. I let out a startled chirp, but she didn't stop hugging me. “Hey,” she soothed me. “Hey, hey. It's all right. You're going to be all right. 'Cause Glory Girl is here, and that's what I do.”

    I managed a series of chirps approximating laughter, but the truth was that I was feeling better. The hug was just what I needed to get my head in order and stop the thoughts spinning around at a thousand miles an hour. I began to relax, little by little.

    That was when she turned her aura up. From enjoying what could have been a totally awkward hug but wasn't, I went straight into everything is awesome! land. Vicky was my friend, and that was more than okay, it was terrific. All of my worries and angst about my size change melted away, because Vicky was there and she was amazing and everything was gonna be just okay, and …

    I was crying. I realised that, after a moment. I was holding on to Vicky with my arms, and I was crying into Vicky's shoulder, and she was patting me on the back and saying something soothing in my ear.

    The aura toned back down to its normal almost-not-there background buzz, and I pulled away from Vicky slightly. “Wait, did you just make me turn back with your aura?”

    She nodded, grinning broadly. “I figured, if we can turn you into the wyvern with my aura, we should be able to make you turn back with it too. And it worked. High-five!” She held up her hand.

    I smiled through the tears still on my cheeks and gave her the high-five. After all, she had kind of earned it. “It definitely did,” I agreed. “And wow, your aura's really powerful this close. How the hell do you not have legions of adoring fans sending you love letters by the metric ton?”

    She gave me a conspiratorial grin. “Maybe I do. You never know. But I think your wyvern form's more susceptible to it or something. You definitely seem to react more strongly when you're in that shape, anyway.”

    Swiping tears from my eyes, I nodded. “Well, thanks. And sorry for crying on you.”

    “Pfft,” she said, waving away my apology. “You were kinda worried and stressed out. And hey! You're back to normal size again!”

    I blinked, then opened the pouch holding my glasses. Unfortunately, the fight had not been kind to them; I guessed that it was the close-up explosion that had left the lenses in pieces. All I knew for certain was that when I pulled the glasses out, they didn't have much glass left in them.

    “Geez, wow,” Vicky observed when she saw this. “Sorry about that. That's gotta suck.”

    “Yeah, well, it's not like I'm gonna need them to fly back with, right?” I said, trying to put a brave face on matters. “Anyway, I can tell that I'm back to normal without them. You're still shorter than me, but not any shorter than usual.”

    She made a rude noise. “Just because you're built like a giraffe on steroids ...”

    I snorted. “Giraffe on steroids? Really?”

    “Hey, gimme a break. Normally I get more time to think up my zingers.”

    Shaking my head fondly, I draped my arm over her shoulders. “Well, I appreciate you sticking by me. And I really appreciate you as a friend. I haven't got many others. Well, apart from Amy, I haven't really got any other friends.”

    “Yeah, well, I'd like to punch Winslow in its stupid face for pulling all that crap on you,” she muttered.

    “Who?” I asked, interested. “Blackwell, Emma, or Sophia?”

    Yes,” she retorted.

    I couldn't help it; I had to laugh out loud. “Not that I wouldn't love to see any or all of them get punched in the face repeatedly, but I'm pretty sure that doing anything like that would screw up the case that your mom's preparing.”

    She sighed. “Yeah, you're right.”

    I ruffled her hair playfully. “Cheer up. I'm sure we can find someone else for you to punch in the face if we really try.”

    “Yeah, I like the sound of that,” she said. “You up for any more night-time shenanigans, or should we head home?”

    “Well, home, I guess,” I said. “Dad can pick me up from your place. But first, we've got that other thing to do.”

    “Other thing?” she asked.

    “Find out if the size change was permanent or temporary,” I reminded her. “And what happens if I keep sizing up each time I get into a fight? Pretty soon, even Parian's costumes won't fit me in both forms.”

    “Ugh.” She grimaced. “You make a good point. Unwelcome, but good.”

    I sighed. “Okay, I think I've stalled enough. Time to kick this over.”

    “Need me to force it for you?” she asked; I could feel her aura starting to ramp up.

    “No,” I said, shaking my head hastily. “I need to learn to do this as fast as possible, and I won't always have you around.”

    “Okay, good point,” she agreed. The aura eased back down again.

    I turned away from her, suddenly aware that the rough gravel was hurting my feet. Come on, I told myself. I can do this. I've done it before. It was true, and I knew it. I just didn't want to do it.

    Come on, I told myself. I've got to stress myself to make the change. Stop wimping out.

    The prospect wasn't fun, but eventually I managed to force myself to bite the bullet and concentrate on the memories and feelings that I needed to experience. Closing my eyes, I clenched my fists until the nails bit into my palms.

    It was ironic, some corner of my mind reflected bitterly even as I tried to focus on the Change. Super-powers were supposed to make your life easier. Popular culture said so. But I had gotten mine through an act of supreme cruelty, and to even access them, I had to force myself to recall and relive the worst experiences of my life. So much for making things better. I wondered if that had ever been true for any cape. Or if I would ever be truly free of the torments that had put me where I was.

    Opening my eyes, I turned toward Vicky to ask her where she stood on the matter, but all that came out of my mouth was a curious chirp. Once more, I had managed to Change without even noticing that I had done so.

    "Woo!" Vicky gave me a thumbs-up. "Normal size. Nicely done."

    I hadn't actually done anything, but I preened just a little anyway. I had to admit, I was somewhat relieved; the prospect of my wyvern form growing ever larger with no end in sight was somewhat daunting, to say the least. But now I was looking up at Vicky, due to the unavoidable stooped posture of the wyvern form. It was amazing what I was beginning to find comfortably familiar.

    I raised my wrist-joint to her in a kind of high-five; she grinned and slapped it. My return grin was extremely toothy, accompanied by a chirp of triumph. Now that I was back to normal size, I found that I wasn't worried so much about enlarging during fights. All I have to do is Change back to human, then to wyvern when I'm not in danger. No biggie.

    "So, race you back home?" Vicky's eyes were alight with mischief.

    I gave her a rude noise in return. Like I could ever beat you.

    "Okay, okay," she conceded. “We'll fly back together. But if we spot any bad guys, I've got dibs, all right?”

    I rolled my eyes. So greedy.

    “Well?” she pressed.

    Snorting with amusement, I nodded, then chirped in agreement. Fine. But if any get away, they're mine.

    “Cool! Let's go!”

    She lofted into the air and arrowed down into the darkness overlaying Brockton Bay. She was quickly out of sight, or would have been if I'd been dependent on ordinary light. However, as I had already discovered, I could see some distance into the infra-red, which revealed her to me as if she was lit up like a halogen lamp.

    Flapping my wings hard, I took to the air myself and let myself fall into a swooping glide down the face of Captain's Hill. I couldn't match Vicky's pace, but I could certainly follow her; the night wind felt soothing as it keened over my wings. Glancing over her shoulder, Vicky slowed down, letting me catch up with her.

    As I slid up alongside her, I let out a disapproving squawk. Not fair! You said we wouldn't race!

    “Sorry,” she called back. “I kinda got carried away for a moment.” Her teeth shone white in the moonlight. “I'm not about to leave my partner behind, after all.”

    Partners. The warm feeling lasted me all the way back to the Dallon household.

    <><>​

    “Are you all right?”

    That was Dad's greeting for me when he came in the front door. Not 'how are you?' or 'good to see you' but 'are you all right?'.

    I was a little torn between irritation – I can take care of myself! - and happiness that he actually cared. Of the two, I wanted to go with happiness, so I did. Plastering a smile across my face, I hugged him.

    “Of course I'm all right, Dad. I've got Glory Girl backing me up, and Panacea making sure that I'm always in tip-top condition.”

    <><>​

    I wasn't actually exaggerating much there; Amy had more or less ambushed me, even before I'd managed to change back to human form, to make sure that I was healthy. It turned out that I was indeed in top form, so much so that she managed to look slightly disappointed.

    “I saw the aftermath of the battle on TV,” she complained after I was changed, dressed and we were sitting on the sofa. “There was lots of damage. How can you have gone through all of that without a scratch? Especially with your costume in that shape?”

    I blushed a little. The costume hadn't been that badly damaged, and it had covered what it needed to cover, but I had still arrived at the house showing more skin than I was used to. “Um, Vicky and I have a theory that I regenerate. Especially between Changes.”

    “And that's another thing!” she blurted. “You altered your Changer shape, and I never got to see what it looked like! Do you know how often I get to deal with someone who's got a non-human form? Especially multiple non-human forms? Come on, seriously. I need a challenge, here!” She paused to take in what I said. “Wait, you regenerate? Oh, come on now. That's just not fair!”

    “Well, I don't want to have to keep running back to you to get healing,” I pointed out. “That's not fair on you, you know.”

    “Yeah, but I'm almost certain you're pulling mass out of nowhere to make your Change,” she said. “Maybe if I could look at you when you're larger, I could figure it out one way or the other.”

    Vicky, grinning broadly, spoke up then. “So what you're saying is that you're less worried about Taylor's well-being and more about how her power reacts weirdly with her biology?”

    “No!” Amy protested. We looked at her sceptically, and she flushed. “Well, maybe a little?”

    I rolled my eyes theatrically. “I knew it! You're only interested in my body.”

    Vicky burst out laughing. Amy went beet red from hairline to neck, and threw a cushion at me. I retaliated, and then it was on.

    <><>​

    “I dunno,” Dad observed slyly. “I walked in the door to see Panacea beating you about the head with a cushion. I'm not sure how this sort of thing works in the cape world, but is that really how your healers treat their patients?”

    “Only the ones who regenerate, Mr H,” Vicky interjected shamelessly. “Turns out that your daughter's either a lot tougher than we thought, or she heals really fast. Or maybe both.”

    “Plus, it's a good way to get me used to ordinary stress,” I said. “If being smacked in the face with a pillow doesn't make me change involuntarily, then tripping in the corridor won't do it either, you see?”

    “Uh huh. And of course, we're not taking into account the fact that pillow fights are just plain fun, right?” Dad's voice was very dry. “I might be old, but I'm not that old.” His voice turned serious. “You regenerate? Is that dangerous? Are there side effects? How do you even know that you regenerate?”

    I shrugged, flopping back down on to the couch. “Well, you know that we talked about it before. This time around I got caught in an explosion again, which knocked me out. Vicky says that I changed back for a moment, then I woke up, changed again, and got back into the fight. I personally don't remember much of the fight. It was all a blur.”

    Dad looked startled. “Whoa, hold it right there. Time out.” He even made the 'T' sign with his hands, a thing he hadn't done in years. This should have clued me in to how agitated he was. “Explosions? What the … No!” He shook his head almost angrily. “This was not what I agreed to.” Turning his gaze to me, he more or less pinned me to the couch with his glare. “Explosions?!”

    I could tell that he was on the edge of an explosion of his own, and I tried to defuse it. “It's all right, Dad. I wasn't hurt, really. It was like the last time, when I blew up the locker.”

    “You. Got. Knocked. Out. This. Time.” He gritted the words through clenched teeth.

    “But I got back up again,” I pointed out. “Straight away, even. Look, not a scratch!” I slid the sleeve of my t-shirt up my arm and showed him the unmarked skin. “Nothing at all. I'm all right, Dad!”

    I don't care!” he screamed. “You still got hurt!”

    “I'm a superhero now!” I yelled back at him. “I'm not a little kid any more!”

    “You're my little kid!” He took a sharp breath, then continued before I could interrupt. “And until you turn eighteen, you do not get to risk yourself like that!”

    “Hey, hey,” interjected Mrs Dallon from the doorway to her office. “What's going on here?”

    Dad swung toward her. “Explosions that knocked her out!” Even though he wasn't looking at me, his finger swung unerringly to point in my direction, stabbing at me with every word. “Is that your idea of a safe introduction to being a superhero?”

    “No. It isn't.” Mrs Dallon's expression was never the warmest, but now her voice hit sub-zero temperatures. “Victoria, you didn't tell me about any of this. It was supposed to be a shakedown flight, not a patrol for crime. You knew you weren't supposed to do anything dangerous on Taylor's first flight as a member of New Wave.”

    “First and last,” muttered Dad. “If I don't get an ironclad guarantee that this is never going to happen again.”

    “Dad -” I ventured.

    “No!” His voice could have carved plate steel. “I lost your mother. I'm not losing you!”

    “Mom. Seriously.” Glory Girl spread her hands, the very picture of innocence. “The guy blew out the side of a ship while we were flying over it. What were we supposed to do?”

    Dad swung toward her, his expression furious, but Mrs Dallon got there first. “Victoria. Go to your room. Now.”

    “But -”

    Now.”

    Vicky began to float up from the sofa; Brandish cut in sharply. “And no flying, or you're grounded for a month. Literally.”

    Not daring to say a word, I watched as Glory Girl dropped to the ground and trudged toward the stairs. She was halfway up them when her mother turned to me. Mrs Dallon's voice was still stern, but held less of an edge as she spoke to me. “Taylor, please join her. This is between your father and myself.” As I stood up, I saw her glance at Amy, then toward the stairs. Looking resigned, Amy stood up as well.

    <><>​

    I joined Vicky in her room; as I closed the door, she flopped on to the bed with a gusty sigh. “So, what do you want to do tomorrow night?”

    I stared at her, not quite sure if she was pulling my leg. “You have got to be joking.”

    “No, seriously,” she said, lifting herself on to her elbows and looking at me. “It'll all blow over by then. So what do you want to do? Hit the Merchants for real?”

    Leaning against the wardrobe, I slid downward until I was resting on the floor. “This is not going to blow over any time soon. I can't remember the last time I saw Dad this pissed. Like, ever. I'll be lucky if I'm allowed out as a superhero before my wedding day.”

    She frowned at me. “I didn't know you had a boyfriend?”

    I glared right back. “I don't.”

    “Oh.” She took a moment; I hoped that she was beginning to realise the level of trouble we were in. “Um. So, um, how bad do you think it's gonna get? Grounded for a week?”

    I facepalmed. She still didn't get it. “Pretty sure that I'm out of New Wave. For starters.”

    “Wait, what?” She sat up in horror. “But – but, that's not even fair! You weren't even hurt!”

    “Do you think that's gonna matter to him?” I shook my head. “You heard him down there. My mom died a few years ago. Even the suggestion that I might get hurt's going to set him off. Telling him I got knocked out was a mistake. A huge mistake.”

    There was a soft tap at the door. Vicky raised her head. “Come in, Ames.”

    The door opened briefly as Amy slipped inside. “Oh, good,” she said. “You're dressed.”

    As a joke, it fell kind of flat. From downstairs, I heard my father's voice.

    - no way in hell I'm gonna let -”

    It closed again, cutting off his tirade. I looked between Vicky and Amy. “So, how good a lawyer is your mom? Because it's gonna take a really good one to get around Dad when he's in a mood like this.”

    “What are you talking about?” asked Amy cautiously. “Your dad's gonna calm down some time soon, right?”

    “Nuh uh.” I shook my head. “He's got a temper. Doesn't show it off much, but when he goes off, he goes off big. First time I've been on the wrong end of it, though.”

    “Mom's a pretty good lawyer,” Vicky said complacently. “She should be able to work around your dad pretty easily.”

    Amy pulled the chair out from the desk and turned it around, sitting down and resting her arms across the back. “Taylor, isn't your dad in the Dockworkers Association or something?”

    I nodded. “Yeah. He's head of hiring.” I looked over at Vicky. “And before you ask, he's done his share of negotiations.”

    “But nothing in the courtroom, right?” Vicky's voice was hopeful.

    I snorted bitterly. “He doesn't do courtroom rules. Why is it, do you think, that none of the gangs in Brockton Bay have ever gotten a toehold in the Association?”

    Vicky opened her mouth and closed it again. No-one spoke. The silence in the room was so complete that I could hear the ticking of the clock on the wall over the distant sound of raised voices from downstairs.

    “ … none of them?” Vicky had found her voice at last. “Really?”

    “Really.” I looked her in the eye. “So I'm not so sure that your mom's gonna win this one, you know?”

    “If he makes you quit New Wave, what do you think you'll do?” asked Amy.

    I shrugged. “Dunno. Go back to Winslow, I guess. I can't see your mom pushing through my case if I'm not in New Wave any more.” The admission pained me even more than the idea of being forced out of the team that I'd just joined, but I couldn't see any way out of it.

    “She wouldn't do that … would she?” Vicky stared at me. “I mean, you need Mom's help on this.”

    “And if it was a superhero thing, she'd probably jump in to help me,” I said. “But this is a lawyer thing. Something she usually gets paid for. And I'm pretty sure that Dad can't pay for her time on this sort of thing. I know for a fact that I can't. So, case closed. They win. Hell, Emma won't even know that there was a court case to begin with. Fuck.” Closing my eyes, I bumped my head backward against the wardrobe.

    “Mom said it was for damages,” Vicky reminded me. “You and your dad don't have to pay up straight away. She'll just take her cut from what you guys get out of the girls and the school.”

    I grimaced. “Not if Dad pisses her off so much that she decides not to take the case after all.”

    “You could still try to apply for Arcadia anyway.” There wasn't much optimism in Amy's voice, but I gave her a weak smile for trying.

    “Yeah, I could.” I sighed. “I mean, Winslow'll be closed for a few days. It might be worth a shot.” My grimace deepened as a thought occurred to me. “Of course, Emma and Sophia and Madison could also apply to Arcadia. Which means nothing changes.”

    “Hell yes, something changes,” Vicky said. “I'll be there. So will Ames. And a lot of my friends. I'd like to see this Emma bitch trying anything on you with them on your side.”

    “Until she gets them on side and turns them against me.” My prediction was gloomy, but I had bitter experience to back me up.

    Vicky shook her head. “Not gonna happen.” Her voice was filled with confidence. “My friends are better than that. Tell her, Ames.”

    Amy didn't hesitate. “She's right about that. Her friends are about as likely to turn on you as Kaiser is to give up crime and open a kosher hot-dog stand in partnership with Inago.”

    “Wow. That's pretty unlikely, all right,” I admitted.

    Vicky tilted her head. “Your dad's not yelling any more.”

    I turned my head, listening. “You're right. Though I'm not so sure that it's a good thing.”

    “I think -” Amy paused, then kept going. “I think someone's coming upstairs.”

    I had the impression that she'd been about to say something else, but she was right anyway. Moments after she spoke, there were footsteps in the corridor outside, then a brisk knock on the door. Amy got up and opened it.

    Mrs Dallon stood in the doorway. I tried to work out how the argument had gone from her expression, but she gave absolutely nothing away. “Taylor, Victoria, please come downstairs now.”

    It's not gonna be good news, is it? Slowly … reluctantly … I climbed to my feet. Vicky made a move as if to levitate directly off the bed, then caught her mother's gaze. Carefully, she planted her feet firmly on the floor and got up that way.

    I was the first downstairs, followed by Vicky. Mrs Dallon followed us, with Amy trailing in the rear. Dad stood in the living room, his hands behind his back as he faced us. From what I knew of him, given the tension of that posture, his hands would be clenching each other tightly enough to cut off the circulation.

    “Sit.” Mrs Dallon pointed at the couch. Vicky and I sat. Wonder of wonders, Vicky didn't even try to argue. “Now, Vicky. Tell me what you did wrong.”

    This wasn't what I was expecting. From Vicky's expression, nor was she. She opened her mouth, then shut it again. Even though I'd known her for less than a day, I could imagine the phrase but we didn't do anything wrong trembling to be let out. However, I knew beyond a doubt that this would be the worst possible thing to say. I hoped that she did too.

    Vicky's expression was agonised. She wasn't stupid – far from it – but it seemed to me that she wasn't used to being called to account on her actions. Trying to figure out what she had done wrong, instead of blithely assuming that she was free and clear on all accounts, was obviously new territory for her.

    “I guess …” Vicky paused, feeling her way. “Attacking Stinger like we did … we should have called for backup?”

    Mrs Dallon folded her arms. “Correct. You should have called for backup. Or called nine-one-one. Or waited and observed. More or less anything except dive right in. Which is what I'm guessing you did do.”

    I had to admit that she knew her daughter pretty well. But I had dived in after Vicky, so I felt obliged to back her up. “Uh, may I say something?”

    “A moment, Taylor.” Mrs Dallon didn't shift her gaze from Vicky. “Are you aware of how badly things could have gone in that fight? You could have been hurt or killed. Taylor could have been hurt or killed. You're just lucky – both of you are – that you encountered a villain who was relatively easy to beat, and that Taylor's power allowed her to survive the explosion.”

    Vicky mumbled something under her breath.

    “Speak up,” snapped Brandish.

    “Taylor's immune to explosions,” Vicky muttered. “She blew up her locker with her in it. She survived that.”

    There was a crackle and a snap as Brandish created a thin blade of pure energy from her own hand. Dad and I stared at it; it was a stark reminder that Vicky's mom really was a superhero in her own right, and was speaking from experience. With a quick, brutal movement, she stabbed the blade into her other palm; it fizzled out on contact. “Taylor may be immune to her own power, but you had no way of knowing that she was immune to explosions in general. In fact, we still don't know if she is, or if it's just her regeneration that allowed her to survive this one. Do you see my point now?”

    Vicky's eyes were wide. “Uh, yeah,” she managed, then swallowed. “I screwed up, didn't I?”

    “Uh, Mrs Dallon?” I raised my hand this time.

    Mrs Dallon ignored my interjection, keeping her eyes on Vicky. “Yes. You did.” Only then did she turn to look at me. “Yes, Taylor?”

    My mouth had unaccountably gone dry. I tried to moisten my lips. “Uh, I just wanted to say that the guy – Stinger – was pretty slick. If we'd waited around, he would've been ready for whoever came after him. I could be wrong, but I think hitting him as early as we did made it a lot harder for him to prepare a response.”

    “That may well be.” Mrs Dallon was well into Brandish mode by now. “But there's a time and a place to engage the enemy. Victoria should not have done what she did. Taking an inexperienced teammate into battle against an unknown foe, as she did, was foolish in the extreme. It would have been better if she'd gone in alone and left you outside. Not much better, but some. Because I'd prefer he gets away than either one of you gets hurt or killed.”

    I saw her point. We had been reckless, and it could've gone badly wrong. “Oh. Oh, yeah. I see what you mean.”

    Her expression was more like a smile than a frown, but only just. “Good.” She turned and gestured to Dad, who hadn't moved from the spot. “Danny, you had something to say?”

    I began to wonder what was going on here. This didn't sound like the preamble to me being removed from New Wave.

    Dad stepped forward. To my relief, he didn't look quite as angry as he had been before. But that wasn't to say that he looked happy. He cleared his throat roughly. “Mrs Dallon and I have had an in-depth discussion over your future in this team, Taylor.”

    My future in the team? Hope burst inside me. “Does that mean -” I began.

    He held up his hand, palm out, and I shut up.

    “Now, I am not in the least bit thrilled that you'll be going into danger.” His hand went back to his side, and I saw his knuckles clench. “But Mrs Dallon has impressed upon me the fact that unless they're given an outlet, your powers will manifest and you will use them, and not necessarily on purpose.”

    I hadn't known that. Daring to glance sideways, I caught Vicky's eye. Is this true? She gave me the slightest of nods. But Dad was still talking. I got the strong impression that he didn't want to say what he was saying, but that he knew that he had to.

    “We talked about putting you in the Wards, but she pointed out in the strongest possible terms that forcing you into a team, where you would very likely resent both them and me, would be worse than simply having you on your own.” He paused. “Unless you want to join the Wards?” His tone was hopeful.

    As opposed to joining New Wave? I shook my head swiftly. “No. They'll want to poke and prod me. They might not even let me be a hero.”

    From the look on his face, he wasn't averse to me being kept out of the line of fire. “We didn't think so.” But it was worth a try. He didn't say the words, but I heard them loud and clear anyway. “So, the only other option is to let you stay in New Wave.” He didn't sound happy, but nor did he seem angry about it any more. His tone was more resigned than anything. “But there's going to have to be some conditions.”

    I had been just about to leap up and hug him, and then maybe Vicky – Mrs Dallon did not come across as the most huggable of people – until he said those last words. They were more than a little ominous. “Uh, conditions?” I ventured.

    Mrs Dallon stepped forward. “Your father has expressed his reservations about Victoria's level of judgement in the field.” For all that I knew nothing about the law, I was pretty sure that I could decipher her lawyer-speak. He thinks she's a reckless idiot. Vicky shifted uncomfortably on the couch beside me; I figured that she'd heard the same unspoken judgement as I had.

    “However,” Brandish continued, “you do work well together, so we've decided to let that state of affairs continue. With, as your father said, conditions.” She fixed me with an unrelenting stare. “You're home by ten every school night. You pay attention to your grades. And when you do go out, someone else goes with the pair of you. Someone responsible.”

    “Oh, that's easy,” Vicky said, perhaps a little too hastily. “Ames can come along.”

    “I hardly think that Amy could keep you in check if you decided to go your own way,” her mother corrected her. Vicky slumped very slightly; I suspected that she'd had that same thought herself.

    “No.” Mrs Dallon's voice was firm. “We had in mind someone more adult. A flyer would be ideal, given that both of you are also flyers.”

    “So, Crystal or Aunt Sarah then.” Vicky looked back at her mother. “Have you asked them if they want to chaperone us?”

    “If they're unwilling, then the choices are either Manpower, your father, myself or not going out at all.” Brandish wasn't giving an inch. “Those are your options. They are not negotiable.”

    “Uh, I'm good with someone coming out with us,” I said quickly. “I am really new to this, so I'll take all the pointers I can get.”

    “Uh, yeah, what she said.” Vicky didn't sound enthusiastic, but at least she was agreeing.

    “Very well, then.” Mrs Dallon nodded in curt approval. “We'll give you your chance.”

    Unspoken were the words: Don't screw it up.

    I didn't intend to.


    End of Part Ten

    Part Eleven
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2017
  5. hamof

    hamof I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Who?
     
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  6. Antaeus

    Antaeus Making the rounds.

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    ABB leader
     
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  7. AntonioCC

    AntonioCC Verified Procrastinator

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    Ack, didn't you say earlier that Taylor had Lung shard here?
     
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  8. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka Kimochi~

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    Yeah Ack isn't Kenta's name either Chinese or Japanese for cricket?
     
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  9. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Dallon vs. Hebert in "Parenting Dispute"... that's some handicap right there.
     
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  10. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    In the process of fixing that.
     
  11. hamof

    hamof I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Not this time, Kenta exists, Lung doesn't.
     
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  12. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Fixed.
     
  13. pepperjack

    pepperjack A Variety of Cheese

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    You're doing this on purpose now.
     
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  14. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    Maybe he was hoping that one would be so easy none of us would bother... He was wrong, of course.:p

    Taylor and Vicky went for a 'flight' together... In the Dragonriders of Pern sense.

    OK, most of you probably haven't read Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McAffrey (seriously, do so, GREAT series), so quick explanation: in Dragonriders, once a Dragon matures, at 2-3 years old, they start rising for 'mating flights' every few months. A mating flight involves the female 'blooding' (killing, then drinking the blood, rather than eating the meat, like an athlete eating a banana, quick and easy to digest while providing ample energy without weighing them down) a number of herdbeast (think cow), they'd then roar a challenge at the males before launching into flight. The males would chase after the female, and the one who eventually caught her would mate with her mid-air (while the psychic bond with their riders meant the riders of those two dragons would be mirroring the act). often times the riders would shorten the phrase to a "flight" rather than saying the whole phase of "mating flight."
     
  15. SwiftRosenthal

    SwiftRosenthal Connoisseur.

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    Thanks for that explanation. I know the Pern series exists but I never read it.
     
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  16. Threadmarks: Part Eleven: Show and Tell
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Wyvern

    Part Eleven: Show and Tell



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



    Dallon Household
    The Next Morning


    “Taylor, what's the matter?” Vicky's voice was full of concern. She hovered over me, almost literally, while I paced back and forth. I was wearing the bathrobe she had given me; if it was any fluffier, I might just have drifted away on the breeze.

    “I don't know,” I said. “Everything. Maybe. Fuck!” My thoughts whirled in my head. “I'm going to to your school today. To Arcadia. As the wyvern.” As my agitation grew, I found myself speaking in shorter, choppier sentences. Ugh. Me caveman. Me no English good.

    “Yes,” she said, putting her hand on my shoulder. “What's the problem with that? It's not like you'll have to stand up and make a speech.” That wasn't my problem at all, but before I could articulate that, Amy cut in.

    “Even if she does,” Amy said, spraying a few crumbs on the table from the muffin she was eating, “it'll go something like this.” Pursing her lips, she let out a series of weird noises.

    A few seconds later, I got what she was trying to do. “I do not sound like that!” I said hotly. “I don't, do I, Vicky?” Looking at the blonde, my heart sank; she was giggling.

    “You kinda do, actually,” she admitted. “A little bit, anyway.” Breaking into a smile, she hugged me, bathrobe and all. “But they'll be more interested in the fact that you're a dragon.”

    “A wyvern,” I corrected her, but my heart wasn't in it. “There's a difference.” A difference that I hadn't been aware of two days ago, but still a difference.

    “I know that, you doofus,” she said fondly. “But they won't. I'm betting you're gonna have to explain the different about two dozen times.” My heart sank. Surely she wasn't serious. I'd thought people going to Arcadia were smart.

    “And three times just for Dennis' benefit,” Amy put in cheerfully. That surprised me; I'd thought Amy was nicer than that, even if she was just joking. “And even then he'll want you to prove it by setting fire to something.”

    I frowned, not sure that I liked where this was going. “Um, I really don't think that I should do that. People might get hurt.”

    Amy's eyes were alight with mischief. “Well, you could set fire to Dennis. That would prove you can do it, and stop him from bothering you. Win-win situation. And I'd heal him afterwards. Maybe.”

    “Amy!” I protested. “You're joking, right?” I really hoped that she was. Because if she wasn't, then this Dennis guy must really deserve it. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in the same school as someone like that. “Vicky, tell me she's joking.”

    Vicky let me go and put her finger on her chin. “Hmm. You know what? Feel free to set fire to Dennis. I'm good with that idea.”

    I stared at her. “You're not serious.” She had to be messing with me. Both of them did. I'd spent way too much time with them to think anything else.

    A moment later, I was proven right as Vicky burst into giggles. “No, we're not. Dennis isn't that bad. He's just a bit of a boy sometimes.”

    “Most boys are, in my experience,” I replied dryly. “Is this guy one of your friends?” One of the people they swore would not turn against me?

    “Actually, yeah, he is.” Vicky's voice was blithe. “I mean, he can be annoying as crap, but his heart's in the right place.” She smiled at me and spread her hands. “I think you'll get along with him. With all of our friends.”

    “That remains to be seen.” I wasn't holding out much hope. Prior experience had given me too much reason to be pessimistic.

    “Well, this time around, you don't have to worry about talking to anyone,” Vicky said brightly. “Just be yourself. And, you know, don't bite anyone. Unless you really have to.” I had to admit, she could do the innocent tone of voice really well. She almost sounded serious.

    “I've never bitten anyone,” I reminded her firmly. “Not even as the wyvern. Jeez, I could take someone's hand off.” I shuddered at the thought.

    “And then cauterise it straight away,” Amy pointed out. I shot her a sharp glance; she innocently took a bite out of her toast. Her poker face was a lot better than Vicky's.

    “So it's going to be fine,” Vicky assured me. She put her arm around my shoulders. “Me and Ames will be with you all day. Where's the problem?”

    I took a deep breath. “The problem is that Stinger's explosions kind of put some holes in my costume. As if you didn't already know. And I am not going to school in that, even if I never turn back to human for the whole day.” Almost unconsciously, I clutched the bathrobe a little more tightly around myself.

    “Oh, is that all?” Vicky burst out laughing. I stared at her. This wasn't something to laugh about. This was serious, damn it.

    “Yeah,” I said. “That's all. I don't want to have my first appearance at Arcadia be in a costume that's all tattered and …” My voice trailed off as Vicky reached into her bag, which was sitting on the counter. Triumphantly, she produced something made of cloth; with a flick, it unrolled on to the table.

    “You were saying?” she asked smugly. Which, to be honest, she'd earned. On the table in front of me was a copy of my damaged costume, only in white. On the front was a silhouette of me – or at least, something with a long tail and widespread batlike wings – in red, with gold edging. “Flew over there and picked it up this morning, before you woke up.”

    I looked down at it, then back up at her. If her grin became any wider, I figured she'd need Panacea's help to get it back to normal. “You cheeky cow,” I accused her. “You knew I was freaking out about the costume all the time. And you let me get all worked up anyway.”

    Vicky's level of smugness went up another notch. “Yup. It was all for a good cause, honest.”

    I rolled my eyes as I picked up the costume. It looked like it would fit, and the heavy zippers down each side seemed to be the same as on my first one. But I was still a little pissed at Vicky. “Oh, this should be good.”

    “Well, it seemed to be a good idea to see if you'd turn into the wyvern if we were teasing you just a bit,” Amy put in from where she was sitting. “Better than having it happen if you got stressed out at the mall or something, right?”

    I stared at her, feeling just a little betrayed. Amy had seemed to be the safe one, the quiet one. “You too? I'd expect this sort of shit off Vicky. But you?”

    Amy shrugged just a little. “Hey, I like a joke as much as the next person.”

    “And you have to admit, it was for a good cause,” Vicky reminded me. “Unlike us, you've got a secret identity to maintain.” She wasn't grinning any more; her voice was totally serious.

    Even if I didn't want to admit it, she had a good point. “Yeah, but you both still suck.” I ran the costume through my hands. “Anyway, thanks. I appreciate it.” Even so, I decided that I would get my revenge at some point. Once I figured out how.

    <><>​

    Arcadia looked weird from the air. The buildings were pretty high, but instead of one big solid block, they were kind of like a giant skinny capital 'H'. There was a substantial fence around the whole school, including the playing fields, which looked reasonably well-maintained. Winslow had a fence too; it was a lot lower, and whole sections of it were basically non-existent. As were the playing fields.

    From the air, the school actually looked kind of pretty. I had no doubt that it would be somewhat less so, once I got down to ground level. That was true for anywhere, not just Arcadia. The urge was strong just to keep flying, to bypass the school altogether and go … where? Home? Dad wouldn't be there, and I couldn't guarantee to be able to change back to human form. Even if I didn't out myself, I would certainly draw unwanted attention.

    “So you ready for your big debut?” Vicky, flying alongside with Amy in her arms, sounded absurdly cheerful.

    I replied with a screech that I hoped got the message across. I've already debuted. Twice, even.

    “What did she say?” asked Vicky, looking down at Amy.

    The healer shrugged. “Um … maybe something about how this isn't exactly her first time out in public?” She threw me an apologetic look. “Just spitballing here.”

    Well, you basically got it right. I nodded, adding a chirp of agreement.

    “Well, duh,” Vicky agreed. “But this is the first time you're actually deliberately meeting the public as a member of New Wave.” She slowed and began to descend toward the main gates. I flared my wings and followed her down.

    “Uh, well, there was that -” began Amy tentatively.

    “As a fully costumed member of New Wave,” Vicky amended her own statement. “In public. With no criminals to fight, powered or otherwise.”

    “Wow, gee, specific much?” asked Amy dryly. She grinned as Vicky poked her tongue out at her. “Just saying.”

    “Well, if you're going to be nitpicky,” Glory Girl said, and pretended to be about to drop her. Amy shrieked in mock fear and clutched her sister around the neck.

    Snickering to myself, I glided in for a landing; when I was just above the ground, I backwinged to stop my forward motion, landed relatively neatly, and furled my wings. In the meantime, Vicky had landed nearby and dropped Amy on to her feet.

    “That was mean,” Amy said. “I'm going to tell Dean on you.” She glared at her sister, although I could see that she had a grin lurking on her lips.

    A tall blond boy pushed his way out of the crowd that had surrounded us. “Uh, two questions,” he said, looking just a little uncertain. “One, what were you going to tell on her about? And two, what exactly is that?” Oddly enough, the longer he looked at me, the less worried he seemed to be.

    “Dean!” Vicky more or less leaped into his arms and gave him a smacking kiss. “Dean, I'd like you to meet Wyvern, the newest member of New Wave. Wyvern, meet Dean Stansfield, the best-looking guy in Arcadia, and my boyfriend.”

    Because of course she's dating one of the richest kids in town. I'd never met Dean before, but I knew of the Stansfields. They were one of Brockton Bay's high-society families, along with the Christners and the Anders'. I eyed him, not exactly jealously, because there was no way in hell I'd even have a chance with a guy like that. But I was feeling a certain amount of envy, because there was no way in hell I'd even have a chance with a guy like that.

    “Wait,” one of the other kids crowding around said. “This is your new teammate? You've got a dinosaur as a teammate?” His voice sounded more incredulous than disbelieving.

    I turned and gave him a hard stare. He stepped back a little; apparently, as a wyvern, I was really well equipped to give menacing looks. Perhaps it was the crest … or maybe the teeth.

    “No, Carlos,” Vicky said, almost wearily. “Weren't you listening? She's a wyvern, which is a type of dragon. Not a dinosaur. Sheesh, people, crack a book sometime.” She pointed at me. “She's wearing a costume and everything.”

    A red-headed boy decided to stick his oar in at this point. “Okay, so she's a wyvern, which is a type of dragon. Where did you even get a dragon from? And what's the point in dressing her up in a costume? It's not like she'll be going out fighting crime with you, right?”

    “Because she's not just a dragon.” It was Dean. “She's a Changer, right? This is just one of her forms?” He was still staring at me a little oddly, but I didn't care. Giving him an affirmative chirp, I followed up with a nod.

    Oh,” the redhead said, his eyes open wide with realisation. “So when you say she's your teammate, you actually do mean that she's your teammate.”

    Amy had been quietly standing by, not saying a word. I suspected that she preferred it this way. But now she marched up to the redhead and grabbed him by the collar. He was a few inches taller than her, but she hauled him down until her mouth was level with his ear.

    “Yes, Dennis,” she said, the tone of her voice clearly indicating that what little patience she had was rapidly eroding. “She really is a wyvern, and she really is our teammate. And Dean's right; she's a Changer. Now, did you have any other stupid questions you wanted to get out of the way?”

    He paused for a moment, then opened his mouth. She yanked on his collar. “Any questions to do with Wyvern, right here, right now?” I was a little surprised by the suppressed anger in her tone, but it certainly did the job; he closed his mouth again.

    “Okay, gotcha,” the boy called Carlos said. “So when did this happen, Vicky? Yesterday? I remember you blowing out of school during home room, and you didn't get back all day.”

    “Yeah, there was kind of an incident with Wyvern, here,” Vicky told him. “I had to get it sorted out. The Protectorate kind of got involved, but Wyvern ended up joining New Wave.” She gave the assembled crowd a beaming smile. “I'm sorry, folks. I can't tell you any more. Cape business.”

    “Okay, sure, but why bring her to Arcadia anyway?” asked the redhead. He looked apologetically at Amy. “I'm sorry, but it's a legitimate question. It's not like she can really do any schoolwork.”

    Amy sighed as she released Dennis' collar. “I'll get this one, Vicky. Guys, Wyvern is new to her powers. She's joined New Wave in her Changer form, but the public's probably not ready for a fire-breathing dragon flying unattended around the city. So we're bringing her to school so she can get used to people staring at her, and so that people will pass the word around. Wyvern is one of the good guys.” She flushed a little as everyone stared at her. “Well, it's true.”

    “ … wait.” Dean raised a finger in the air.

    Vicky gave him an odd glance. “What?”

    “Uh … did Amy say fire-breathing?” Dean's eyes flicked from Vicky to me. “Wyvern can actually breathe fire? You're not just pulling our chains?” He sounded as though he really wanted this to be true. Which it was, although I wasn't about to demonstrate right then.

    The grin that crossed Vicky's face was composed of pure smugness. “She sure can. You should see what she did to Armsmaster's halberd.”

    “Why, what did she do?” This was the red-headed boy, his expression composed of equal parts interest and cautious anticipation.

    “Glory Girl!” Amy's voice was sharp. “Remember what Brandish said about that!” I winced; Mrs Dallon had been rather explicit about the need for discretion. We don't need anyone knowing about that particular confrontation, she had stated. I had agreed with her, although I didn't need to worry about spilling the beans, given that my Wyvern form was non-verbal.

    I wasn't mute, however; turning my head, I chirped in agreement with Amy's words.

    “Did she just … agree with you?” asked Carlos. “Oh, wait. Of course she did. Sorry, Wyvern,” he offered. “I'm not used to talking to people who look like they belong on the set of the next Jurassic Park movie.” His face flushed dark with embarrassment. “I'm gonna stop talking now, before I make an even bigger idiot of myself.”

    Vicky smirked. “Well, that would be kind of hard to do.” She tilted her head toward me. “You ever been inside Arcadia before?”

    I shook my head. Nope. Drove past a few times, though.

    “Come on, then.” She strode onward while I did my best to keep up. It was useful that people moved aside, often with some haste, when they saw me. Less helpful was the fact that I wasn't actually good at moving fast on my hind legs. Fortunately, however, the wyvern body had a work-around. Using my 'elbows' as makeshift forelegs, I was able to maintain a reasonable pace, even though it probably looked ridiculous.

    “Hey!” It was Dennis, behind us. “I want to hear about what happened to Armsmaster's halberd!”

    Amy caught up with us, breathing slightly faster than normal. “Nice going, Vicky.”

    The blonde looked over at her sister, her expression irritated. “Hey, it just slipped out. Think he'll figure it out?”

    “Hope not,” Amy said, her lips tightening a little. “We both know it puts her secret identity at risk.”

    Vicky nodded. “Right.” She turned toward me. “Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to let it out, but it is an awesome story.”

    I rolled my eyes and gave her an irritated squawk. This was only partly because of her faux pas; the rest of it was because she was walking so fast.

    “I said I was sorry,” she muttered. With a worried expression, she turned back to Amy. “Do you think he'll start bugging, uh -” She coughed, then cleared her throat. “- you or me about it?”

    Amy shook her head, her lips set in a straight line. “How can he not? You know what that boy's like when it comes to things like that.”

    At that moment, the bell went, causing me to raise my head in surprise. At Winslow, they made use of the geriatric PA system to transmit the sound of a siren around the school; the unspoken joke was that more kids in the school would react to the sound of a siren than a bell. At Arcadia, it was a proper bell; clear, crisp and brassy.

    “Well, that's the home-room bell,” Vicky said with some relief. “See you at lunch, Ames?”

    The brunette shook her head. “Sorry. Field trip with Mr Jankowitz, for History. We're visiting the Isaac Lord Memorial and the museum.”

    I was a little envious at that; I rather liked the Brockton Bay Local History Museum, but the last time I'd gone had been years ago, before Mom passed. And the closest that Winslow had to field trips was when one student or another was arrested and taken down to the precinct house.

    Apparently, Vicky didn't share my opinion of it. “Oh, well. Your loss. Come on, uh, Wyvern.”

    “This isn't over yet,” Amy said as I started to follow Vicky off down the corridor. “If Dennis says anything, you're gonna be in so much trouble.”

    Says anything to who? The puzzle occupied me all the way to Vicky's home room. It wasn't like he could get answers out of me.

    <><>​

    “ - Wyvern,” Vicky said patiently. “That's because her Changer form is a wyvern.” She pointed at my wings. “See how her arms are her wings? That's the difference between a wyvern and a dragon.”

    The group gathered around us in the English classroom nodded or made various noises of assent, though I doubted that they'd followed all of that. Most of them seemed to be more worried that I might bite them or something.

    “So, it, uh, she, really breathes fire?” asked one of her classmates. “I mean, actual fire?” He looked down at me; at that moment, I was resting back on my tail, which allowed me to keep my head up without causing my neck to start aching. “Because biologically speaking, unless her diet allows her to build up concentrations of flammable gas -”

    I snorted with amusement. Vicky echoed me, but then she actually burst out laughing. “Oh, my god. No, seriously. Just no. Breathing fire is a power for her.”

    “Oh, right,” he said. “So how -” He looked around, breaking off as the door opened and the teacher entered.

    “Sorry, all,” he said, not even looking around as he headed for his desk. “Last-minute teacher conference. Apparently there's a new cape in school, and she's fairly … what the hell is that thing?”

    I covered my eyes with my wing. It looked like this was going to be happening a lot. It also didn't raise my expectations of being treated as 'normal' if the teachers were going to be blurting out stuff like that.

    “Mr Robertson,” Vicky protested, “this is New Wave's new recruit, Wyvern. She's a person, not a 'thing'.” The hurt in her voice warmed me. She cares. She actually cares.

    I lowered my wing just in time to see the look on the teacher's face. As far as I could tell, it was somewhere between you have to be shitting me and how long till retirement, again? “Wait … this is your new teammate, Glory Girl?”

    “Yes, sir,” she said promptly. I added an agreeable chirp, and nodded.

    He closed his eyes, as if hoping that I was a passing hallucination. Opening them once more, he slowly shook his head. “Well, Vice Principal Howell said she was likely to be distinctive … I'm going to have to congratulate her on a truly masterful use of understatement.”

    “I don't know about that, sir,” Vicky said; I could tell she was trying to hide a smile. “Wyvern hasn't actually met the Vice Principal yet. Mom said she was going to make a call before she went to work.”

    He shook his head again. “Well, I can tell that it's not going to be a boring day today. Everyone, take your seats, and have your homework ready on your desk … ah, yes, Miss Dallon?” From the tone of his voice, I figured he knew what she was going to say next.

    Vicky grimaced, just a little. “Uh, sir, I had to go and deal with matters yesterday, that kind of resulted in meeting and recruiting Wyvern, here. So I … kind of … didn't get the homework?”

    Mr Robertson sighed. “Very well. It's clearly obvious that you're not making it up.” He looked at me over his glasses. “Though I have no idea what to do in this specific circumstance. Miss, uh, Wyvern, can you just do me a favour and not disrupt the class too much?”

    I nodded and gave him another agreeable chirp. A vaguely pained expression crossed his face, as if he were uncertain about his own mental stability.

    “Thank you.” He turned back to Vicky. “I won't report you this time, but this must not happen again. So I'll be assigning you extra homework tonight, to make up for it. Superhero or no, a good education is absolutely essential in this day and age.” He seemed to have recovered from his surprise as he strode back up toward his desk. “Now, if those of you who have actually done the homework can pass it forwards, I'll be collecting it.”

    Extra homework? Ouch. I shot Vicky my best sympathetic look. She shrugged in return, looking resigned. I got the impression that this was not an unknown situation for her.

    Oh, well. At least me being here saved her from more trouble. I settled down to watch and learn as Mr Robertson began to call the roll.

    <><>​

    Glory Girl

    “So all through the class, he keeps sneaking Wyvern glances, like he thinks she's about to jump up and attack him.” Vicky grinned at the memory, then took a bite of her burger. Beside her, Taylor-as-Wyvern rolled her eyes, apparently just as unimpressed with the English teacher as Vicky had been.

    “So what happened then?” asked Dean. His eyes went from Taylor to Vicky and back again. “I get the impression that there's more to the story.”

    “Well, Wyvern may have decided to mess with his head, just a little,” Vicky allowed, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “Every time he looked away from her, she changed posture. She's really good at moving quietly if she has to.” It had been funny as fuck. The changes had been minor to begin with, then more and more blatant. And every time he'd looked at her, Wyvern's eyes had been fixed on him. Robertson hadn't quite run screaming from the room, but he'd been more than a little unnerved by the time class ended. And he'd forgotten to give Vicky the extra homework, so that was a win too.

    “So what was that you said earlier about Armsmaster's halberd?” Dennis put in, his flaming red hair in disarray. He looked for all the world as if he'd been obsessing over the question since class started. “What did she do to it? Did she steal it and bury it?”

    Vicky rolled her eyes. “No, and stop asking about it. I'm not going to tell you, because it's not something that needs to get out.” She gave the importunate Ward a medium glare. So don't go asking Armsmaster about it, either. “What happened was between Wyvern and Armsmaster, and nobody else needs to know about it.”

    Dennis held up his hands, the very picture of injured innocence. Vicky would have been taken in, except that she knew the boy, and didn't trust him an inch not to do something that he thought was funny. Such as declare his name as 'Clockblocker' in front of a live TV interview.

    “I get it, I get it,” he assured her. “But, you know, it's easier to keep a secret if you know what it is that you shouldn't be talking about.” He tried his best to give her puppy-dog eyes, but he just didn't have the wherewithal to pull it off. It didn't help that his mouth kept trying to curl into a grin.

    “You know what Benjamin Franklin said about secrets?” Vicky asked, leaning across the table toward the redhead. Lowering her voice, she made the question sound conspiratorial.

    Dennis looked puzzled. “Uh, no. What did he say?” Out of his line of sight, Carlos's eyes opened with sudden realisation. Beside her, Taylor started snickering, wyvern-style, which sounded positively creepy. She's heard this one, too.

    Vicky locked her eyes with the Ward's. “Three can keep a secret,” she quoted, “if two of them are dead.” Right on cue, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Taylor lean forward as well and bare her teeth. They were very sharp and very white, positively gleaming in the overhead lighting.

    “Whoa, hey, let's keep this friendly, huh?” Dennis backpedalled so hard he nearly fell out of his chair. “I'm really not all that invested in knowing about Armsmaster or his halberd. In fact, what halberd? I've never even heard of such a thing. No idea what you're talking about.”

    By the time he finished babbling, both Carlos and Dean were chuckling. Carlos turned to Vicky. “Any chance she can hang around with us for a while after school? I've never seen anyone shut Dennis up so effectively before.”

    “Hmm, might not be such a great idea,” Dean said seriously. “You know Missy will be there. And as adorable as she is, how do you think she'll react to Wyvern? Be honest, now.”

    Vicky began to giggle, imagining the scene, as Carlos and Dean both eyed Wyvern gravely. Taylor, for her part, obviously had no idea what they were talking about; she glanced at Vicky with a questioning chirp. Putting her hand over her mouth, Vicky managed to muffle her giggles, though she was in no state to actually answer the unspoken question.

    “Well, I think the first sign that Missy has seen Wyvern will be a high-pitched squeal,” Carlos decided; his mock-serious tone was spoiled only slightly by the grin tugging one corner of his mouth upward. “And then I think she'd shriek 'Dragon!' at the top of her lungs.”

    “Even though she's actually a wyvern,” Vicky managed, just as Taylor flared her crest in irritation.

    “Well, of course,” Dean agreed, the grin growing on his face. “And then I think Wyvern would find herself being glomped by a force of nature masquerading as a thirteen year old girl.”

    “Demanding a dragon ride,” Carlos forced out, before he started laughing in earnest. By rights, he should've fallen off his chair, especially when Taylor squawked angrily and nudged him in the ribs with her … wrist? Major wing joint, anyway. “Sorry,” he amended, wiping tears from his eyes. “Wyvern ride.”

    “Pretty sure that Wyvern isn't actually built to ride on,” Vicky pointed out. “Even if she was big enough. Which she isn't.” Taylor, apparently not on board with the idea of giving rides, nodded vehemently in agreement.

    “But they'd look so cute, posing together,” Dennis put in. Vicky had to admire his fortitude.

    He wasn't wrong, though. Art class had come after English. Mr Francesci had adapted to the idea of having a real life wyvern in his classroom much more readily than Mr Robertson had. He'd even been aware of the difference between wyverns and dragons, which Vicky supposed that she shouldn't really be surprised at.

    Taylor had ended up posing for the class, something to which she had taken to rather more readily than Vicky had expected. It seemed that in her wyvern form, shyness was not something she suffered from. Francesci had asked – almost begged, in fact – Vicky to bring Wyvern back at some point so that he could render her in oils, something that had surprised Vicky. If she was any judge, Taylor wasn't sure what to think of it either. It was definitely something different.

    “And I can guarantee nobody would bother Missy when they were out and about, either,” Dean agreed. “I mean, wow, those teeth.” He paused for a moment. “And does she actually breathe fire?”

    Vicky rolled her eyes. “Everyone asks that, and yes, it's true. She really does breathe fire.” When you see it, you won't be asking twice, she thought with amusement.

    At that moment, Carlos' phone went off; a moment later, so did Dean's and Dennis'. That was the first intimation that Vicky had that something was wrong. Carlos got his phone out first, and answered it, just as Vicky's phone pinged with a text from Amy.

    She read it, a cold feeling crawling down her back.

    At museum. Merch & ABB clashing. We're in the middle. Come quick. Bring Wyvern.

    Amy would be smart enough to silence her phone. She tapped out a quick reply. On way. Hold on.

    Shoving her phone away, she stood up abruptly. “We've got to go. See you guys around?”

    Carlos nodded, already putting his own cell phone back in his pocket. “Yeah. Got stuff to do.”

    I just bet you do. She had no doubt that she'd see the Wards on the scene. But right now … “Come on, Wyvern.”

    Taylor had obviously picked up that there was something wrong, but even though she was mostly in the dark, she didn't hesitate to follow. Which was good, because Vicky wasn't waiting around.

    Her priorities were simple. Costume up. Go and save Amy.

    And God help anyone who got in her way.



    End of Part Eleven

    Part Twelve
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
  17. SamueLewis

    SamueLewis Not too sore, are you?

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    Will Lung be there or is it just rabble?
     
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  18. kokuenDG

    kokuenDG Altera my Love~❤

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    Who's Lung? There's no one like that in this story.
     
  19. Asheram

    Asheram Know what you're doing yet?

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    Lung? That's a silly name for a cape. What'd his power be?
     
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  20. SamueLewis

    SamueLewis Not too sore, are you?

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    My memory, why do you keep failing me... :(
     
  21. ShadowStepper1300

    ShadowStepper1300 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Inago and Oni Lee vs. Skidmark, Squealer, and Mush vs. Glory Girl, Wyvern, Aegis, Clockblocker, and Gallant. Dis gonna be gud.
     
  22. SwiftRosenthal

    SwiftRosenthal Connoisseur.

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    Super-breathing, like that one thing Silver Age Supes could do - but only that one thing.
     
  23. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Actually, given that Lung becomes covered in metal once he's ramped up a bit ...

    ... does that make him an Iron Lung? :p
     
  24. pepperjack

    pepperjack A Variety of Cheese

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    You're not making this easier on me, here.

    Uh-huh. She must have been so scared.

    Ouch, Victoria, could you shut a girl down any harder?

    Well, not to just anybody!
     
  25. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Ah... the ABB and Merchants done goofed. Loved Taylor's introduction to the (unknown) wards. Dennis was his usual self. And the interaction with the Dallon sisters was spot on.
     
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  26. Malcanthet

    Malcanthet Shy Adorable Arachne

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    • Don't necro. This is against Rule 7.
    I am feeling a little wary about this fight. Especially if some idiot with grenades tries to 'accidentally' harm people. Like Pan-Pan.

    Actually now that I think about it who would deal with said idiot first? The sister/love interest or the Severely Protective Newbie ... My guess is the Newbie after gaining about 30% more mass from anger. Of course this would also be most likely after said newbie throws herself over the grenade.
     
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  27. Threadmarks: Part Twelve: Bugging the Dragon
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Wyvern

    Part Twelve: Bugging the Dragon



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



    Wyvern

    I let out a screech as Victoria opened her locker. The blonde was moving fast enough to accidentally rip the door clean off though to her credit, she hadn't actually done that yet. Reaching into the metal box—I still had unpleasant memories of my locker—Vicky grabbed a familiar-looking set of folded clothing, with a tiara on top. Irritated at being ignored, I screeched again.
    “What?” Vicky whipped around to face me. “Amy's in trouble. Whatever it is, can it wait?” Her aura pulsed back and forth, making me feel almost palpable waves of fear interspersed with saccharine levels of adoration. Fortunately, the latter didn't last long enough to trigger my change back. Even if they could, given my current agitated mindset.

    This was the huge problem with the wyvern form; specifically, my inability to communicate in any meaningful way. Right now, the only messages I could get across with ease were 'yes', 'no' and 'I have lots of sharp teeth, so don't mess with me'. Anything more required time that I just did not have. Unfortunately, the message I was trying to get across was you can fly a lot faster than me, so I'd better start right now, but I have no idea where you're going. Hoping against hope that Vicky would figure it out, I reached out with my wingtip and traced the letter 'W' on the floor.

    “What?” Vicky stared at the letter, then up at me. “What's a 'W' supposed to mean? Why am I costuming up? Who are we going to save? You know all that.” She lofted off the ground, preparatory to flying down the hallway—which I was almost certain was forbidden within the grounds of Arcadia—but I spread my wings to block her way, letting out another screech. This one was louder and more forceful than before, and included more sharp teeth. Pay attention to me. Again, I traced the letter 'W' on the floor.

    “What the fuck's gotten into you?” Vicky seemed about to barge past me anyway, then paused. “W …. um … who, when, where, why—” She stopped as I let out yet another screech before waddling awkwardly backward a step on my digitigrade legs. “Um, back? Back! Why … where! Fuck, I'm an idiot. You want to know where she is.” I nodded and let out my most encouraging chirp. “Isaac Lord Museum. You know where that is?”

    Finally. I nodded enthusiastically, then turned and scuttled off down the hallway. My clawed feet scrabbled at the plastic floor tiles and my 'elbows' ached slightly from thumping against the floor, but I still managed a fair turn of speed. Students scattered out of my way, whether from courtesy or fear I wasn't sure. Just so long as they actually get out of the way.

    The front doors slid open in front of me, and I burst out into the courtyard. A van with PRT markings was just pulling up at the gates, but I ignored it. Spreading my wings, I leaped into the air, beating them strongly for altitude. As I passed over the outer wall, I saw an armoured man get out of the van, his helmet faceplate tilted up toward me. I suppose he doesn't see a wyvern fly overhead every day of the week.

    Perhaps it was the urgency of the matter, but I felt no strain on my muscles as I pushed myself to fly faster and faster. While I hadn't known Amy for long—only a few hours less than I'd known Victoria, after all—the occasionally-snarky healer was someone I had decided I liked having as a friend. This was quite apart from the fact that she was Victoria's sister. The idea of her being put in danger by a bunch of gangsters and drug dealers made me … angry. Very angry. They're not going to hurt her if I've got anything to say about it.

    I'd spent my entire life in Brockton Bay and I liked to think I knew the city fairly well. The Isaac Lord Museum was a place I knew rather better than that; Dad had a fondness for local history and he'd dragged me along to the place about once a year until I left middle school. Based around the life and exploits of the man after whom Lord Street and Lord's Port was named, it wasn't particularly fancy or upmarket. Isaac Lord was one of the pioneers who had opened up the Brockton Bay region for settlement, so his name was well-known in the local area, but not so much anywhere else. As such, the museum had been gradually declining in the last few years, subsisting mainly on donations from local residents and a few patrons of cultural history.

    Fortunately, it wasn't all that far from Arcadia as the crow—or the wyvern—flew. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do when I got there, except for the broad strategy; chase off the gangsters, save the innocents, make sure Amy was okay. If that involved scaring the living bejeebers out of a few dozen low-lives, or even inflicting minor first-degree burns on a few of them, I didn't mind. First-degree burns were survivable, after all, and would make the experience all the more memorable. And if me being memorable meant they wouldn't try this shit again in a hurry, then I intended to be as memorable as fuck.

    I was about halfway there when I saw the flying form in front of me. For a second I thought it was Victoria, and wondered how the hell did she get ahead of me? Then I got closer and realised it wasn't her. For a start, the figure was wearing rust-red armour. And of course, there was the whole 'big muscular guy' thing. He was travelling on the same course I was, which indicated that this was either a huge coincidence or he was also going from Arcadia to the fight at the Isaac Lord Museum.

    By the time I figured that out, I was almost up alongside him; he turned his head to stare at me. I figured it out just before he spoke; this was Aegis, of the Wards. He was their only innate flyer, as far as I knew, though there was footage (mainly shown on the PHO boards) showing Kid Win zipping around on a flying skateboard. And falling off of it too, which made for much more entertaining footage.

    I wasn't sure what was going to happen next, but nothing was going to stop me from going to save Amy. Whatever he did or said, I was going to basically ignore. Amy's welfare was more important. Besides, it looked as though I could fly faster than him. Which seemed odd, seeing that Vicky could fly faster than me, but who was I to argue? Maybe he'd gotten his version of bullshit no-effort wingless flight from the dollar store.

    As he turned to look at me, I made a private bet with myself. Either he'd say what the hell are you, with or without a panicked scream, or he'd decide I was an animal and treat me accordingly. After all, that was what most people I'd met in wyvern form had done. It was actually kind of depressing.

    “Oh, hey,” he said. “You're, uh, Wyvern, aren't you? Armsmaster briefed us on you.”

    Or he could just say hi. For some reason, I hadn't considered that possibility. I let out a friendly chirp and nodded my head. It was nice to meet another parahuman who didn't consider me a dangerous monster. In fact, it was nice to meet another person who didn't consider me a dangerous monster.

    “Yeah, he said you were nonverbal,” Aegis noted. “Also that you could breathe fire. Please don't kill anyone with fire, okay?”

    Now I was just plain surprised, though I really shouldn't have been. Armsmaster had passed on what he'd learned about me, and Aegis had actually listened? Did this mean I wouldn't have to beat him up until he paid attention to me? This revolutionary concept went against every comic book I'd ever read, not to mention most of my real-world experience to date.

    Unsure of what else to do, I gave him a toothy grin and a shrug. I could see that my conversational inputs were going to be fairly limited, unless he asked me some extremely specific leading questions. Fortunately, we were going in the same direction and I was pretty sure he was on my side. The trouble was, I had no way of articulating Panacea's in trouble and I'm trying to save her without either landing or carrying out some remarkably improbably charades in mid-air.

    “Wyvern! There you are! Oh, hi, Aegis. Sorry, can't stay to chat. My sister's in the middle of that gang fight, and I'm gonna get her out.”

    Or Vicky could tell him. That works, too. I looked around and let out a screech of welcome as Glory Girl swept up between us.

    “You ready to go toast some gang butt?” Vicky gave me a remarkably vicious grin. For a human teenager, her teeth looked almost as sharp as mine. “I figure if you fold your wings, I can give you a lift.”

    That … actually sounded like it could work. I began to nod vigorously, then paused, remembering the meeting of the previous night. Mrs Dallon and Dad had agreed that we could go crime-busting so long as we had a chaperone. Preferably a flyer. While 'but Amy was in trouble' could possibly serve as a good excuse for going in two-fisted, the fact was that we had a ready-made chaperone right there.

    Before I could talk myself out of it, I pulled one of my patented snap barrel-rolls, ending up on Aegis' back. This was obviously something he hadn't been briefed about—probably because Armsmaster hadn't observed me in flight—and he yelped in surprise as my prehensile feet latched on to the heavy belt he was wearing. “Wait, what are you doing?” he shouted. “Glory Girl, call her off!”

    I had to say this about Vicky; she wasn't slow on the uptake. Quite possibly, she'd been aiming to violate the terms of the agreement by omission—sorry, Mom, but it totally slipped my mind, and Ames was in trouble—but I'd dragged it out into the open. So to speak.

    “Aw crap,” she said, even as she facepalmed. “Okay, fine. Aegis, we're gonna need you to stick with us. Mom's decided we need a minder, and you're the closest thing we've got at the moment.”

    “Sure, fine,” he said; for a flying Brute, he certainly sounded more than a little nervous. “But can you make the nice fire-breathing lizard girl let me go, please? I don't know what she's doing back there, and I'm not sure I want to.”

    “I'd love to,” she replied sweetly. “But she's got the right idea. Say, if your spine dislocates, you'll get over it, won't you?” As she spoke, she swung up behind me. I crouched, clenched my claws through Aegis' belt, and furled my wings.

    “Yeah, but whaaaaaahhhhhhh!” he hollered as she wrapped her arms around me and piled on the pace. From the pitch of his voice, I suspected that I might've been inadvertently giving him an armour-wedgie but as Victoria had said, he'd get over it.

    Even with me and Aegis as dead weight, Vicky managed to accelerate to speeds that I could only normally reach in a dive. I flicked my nictitating membranes across my eyes and left them there; while they made things a little blurry, I could still see where we were going. It helped that Aegis had stopped struggling and stretched himself out in an effort to be more aerodynamic. I appreciated the effort.

    “It's up ahead!” Vicky called out. “Aegis, stay with Wyvern! She's the rookie here!” As she let me go, I reflexively spread my wings and released the grip I had on Aegis' belt.

    “What are you going to be doing?” asked Aegis. “My orders were to observe but not engage until backup arrived.” I could kind of see his point. The gangs were definitely out in force today, with Roadhog and her crew occupying one street and the ABB in the other. The museum was on the corner where these two streets converged, and the intersection was by now a no-go zone. Unfortunately, it would only be a matter of time before some overly-sneaky gangbanger decided to go through the museum to ambush their rivals on the other side. Unless, of course, they already had.

    “Saving Amy,” Vicky stated through clenched teeth. “And oh, look.” She pointed at me. “Backup.” That seemed to be all the words she was willing to use, as the last one was punctuated by her abrupt departure.

    Aegis watched her dive toward the museum, then turned to me. “Okay, um … have you done this much before?” Implicit in his question was the subtext I'm not being paid enough to try and stop her, and I don't think I could even if I was. I kind of sympathised with him; Victoria Dallon was a force of nature unto herself. While there were probably things on Earth Bet that could make her reconsider, once you got past the Endbringers and the Triumvirate they'd have to be few and far between.

    Irritated, I shook my head. You'd think Armsmaster would've covered that bit as well. Unless he's been holding back on my trigger details so as to keep my identity secret …. huh. Maybe he's not such a dick after all. But I was still irritated, if only because Vicky had ditched me so I could watch Aegis' back while she went to find Amy. Down below, there was a distant crunch; going by the brand-new hole in the roof of the museum, Vicky hadn't bothered finding a window or door. Well, that's definitely her, all right.

    “Um, okay.” Aegis seemed to come to a decision. “We need to maybe disperse some of these gang guys before they get the idea to take cover. Or hostages. Follow me and act scary.” Looking a lot less sure about what he was doing than Vicky had, he dived toward the street below where Roadhog's Merchants were tussling with Inago's ABB. I followed, not because of anything he'd said, but because Vicky was trusting me to not let him get killed.

    He swooped down over the street, about a dozen feet over the heads of the gang members. With my superior speed and manoeuvrability, I was able to match my speed and course to his while staying alongside him. Follow him, my scaly wyvern ass. As per his suggestion—I certainly wasn't taking it as an order—to act scary, I opened my jaws wide and let out the loudest screech I could pull off. From the way Aegis recoiled sideways, he hadn't been expecting that.

    Nor had the people beneath us. With matching screams, they fell away before us, some of them not even looking around before scrambling for safety. A few brave souls fired guns at us but they must have missed us altogether, because I didn't feel anything hit me. Aegis, of course, was wearing armour and he was a Brute anyway.

    Our path led us to the intersection, where the front-line capes were clashing. Roadhog's latest mechanical abomination, looking like the illegitimate offspring of a Mack truck and a centipede, was attempting to climb all over what looked like an honest-to-goodness giant robot. I'd never seen a robot of this type in Brockton Bay before, which made me wonder who the ABB had recruited as a Tinker. Inago's been holding out on us.

    “Whoa, hey!” Aegis pulled up in a steep climb to avoid the oversized combatants. I couldn't see the rest of the ABB and Merchant capes, but I knew they had to be around here somewhere. Inago wasn't one to watch from the back lines, and while Skidmark was no longer alive, Roadhog still had a few capes to call on. The word on the street was that he'd died when she backed up over him with one of her vehicles; the sixty-four million dollar question on the PHO boards was 'accident or assassination?' Whichever one it was, she'd renamed herself (from 'Squealer', believe it or not), taken over the team, and started a program of active recruitment to bring the Merchants into the big leagues.

    One of the large picture windows in the side of the museum exploded outward, and Vicky came flying out, backward. A massive cloud of bugs poured out after her, and just like that, I knew exactly where the leader of the ABB was. Also, from the way Vicky's limbs flopped bonelessly, she was in a bad way. Twisting in mid-air, I swooped down with all the speed at my command. I had less than a second to catch her before she hit the ground. Normally I wouldn't have worried, but something had disabled her, and I didn't know if it had gone through her invulnerability or if her invulnerability was down.

    There were still some gang members on the street when I came back through. They didn't bother trying to shoot at me a second time, which showed that they could learn after all. I paid them no heed at all, straining forward with my wings beating furiously. It was going to be close; too close. Far too close. I wasn't going to be able to catch her and still pull up, so I did the next best thing.

    A fraction of a second before she would've hit the curb on the other side of the street, I caught up with her. Wrapping my wings around her body, I curled the rest of myself into as close to a ball as I could manage. The impact was massively bruising; we hit the curb, then bounced over it and demolished a mailbox. Loose letters went everywhere as we kept going. I closed my eyes as we smashed into a storefront in a hail of broken glass. After we rolled to a stop, I cracked an eyelid to see what was going on. Pieces of glass were lying everywhere, but nothing seemed poised to fall on us quite yet. For a mercy, it appeared that the storefront wasn't in use right at that moment.

    “Shit, are you guys all right?” Aegis swept into the store then crouched down beside us, heedless of the broken glass. I ignored the pointless question and unwrapped myself from around Victoria. Despite the fact that every inch of my body was sending me urgent messages about not doing that again ever, I reserved the hiss of horror for when I saw Vicky's face.

    She looked like she'd been on the receiving end of a pile-driver, repeatedly. One eye was swollen shut, and it looked like her jaw was broken. Blood was leaking from both nostrils, and lumps and welts covered every free inch of her skin. Worst of all, her mouth was wide open and she was trying to breathe but from the sound of the choked gasps, nothing was going in.

    “Shit!” Aegis stared at her. “She's choking.” He grabbed her jaw and pulled it open a little farther, then hooked two fingers into her mouth. When he pulled them out, I saw a couple of fat black bugs fall on to her face, then scuttle back toward her mouth. With a growl, I darted my head forward; my teeth clamped on to the bugs and I bit down hard. With a pop, they dissolved into a bad-tasting gas. I shook my head in confusion. What just happened?

    “It's Inago,” Aegis muttered. “They're his bugs. She's got them in her lungs. She'll suffocate if we can't get them out.” Taking a deep breath, he crossed one hand over the other and shoved down hard on her sternum. She coughed convulsively; bugs flew out of her mouth, but most of them buzzed straight back in on the inhale. I snapped at another one, just as Aegis tried to grab a few; at the last instant, I pulled back before I would've taken his hand off at the wrist. Or broken some teeth on his armour, whichever happened first.

    Scrambling out from under Vicky's body, I chirped to get Aegis' attention, then nodded at Vicky. Take care of her. He stared up at me, his eyes wide behind his visor, as he prepared to repeat the chest compression. “What are you going to do?” he asked.

    I didn't bother trying to explain. Turning, I lunged out through the broken storefront window. Vicky's only got so much time, even with Aegis doing CPR. I've gotta fix this shit. My wings spread wide as I took to the air, but I didn't fly too high. My target was just across the street, after all.

    <><>​

    Panacea

    A Little Earlier

    Amy Dallon knelt on the floor of the museum in the middle of the timeline exhibit. This was where the teachers had made them gather when the shooting started, as the bulky stands actually provided cover from all sides. When the ABB had burst through, looking to ambush the Merchants, they had merely huddled up a little closer, on the principle that if they didn't look like a threat, the gangsters wouldn't bother them. That had worked, up to a point.

    This point had come when Inago himself strode through the museum, his steel bug-mask gleaming in the overhead lights and the long black coat flaring behind him. He looked over the teachers, obviously dismissing them almost instantly. His gaze similarly raked over the students, and he pointed at the two Asian students in the group, beckoning them to come to him. Hesitantly, Chet and Kayla did so, and Amy's heart sank. Inago had already built a reputation for recruiting or killing off all the Asian gangs in the surrounding cities. She had no doubt he was about to make them an offer they couldn't refuse, as the old saying went.

    “Leave them alone!” she had shouted, standing up. “Leave us all alone!” Guns were levelled at her, but Inago knocked them toward the ceiling; he, at least, recognised her. Recognised that hurting or killing Panacea would paint a huge target on the ABB's back. Of course, she realised a second or so later, it may not have been the smartest thing after all to reveal herself to him.

    “I will leave them alone,” the gang lord said in accented English. “You will heal my men.” Raising a hand, he barked an order in some other language, and men scurried to obey.

    “No,” she'd told him, with a boldness she didn't feel. “I won't. You can't make me.” Go ahead, she dared him silently. Touch me. I'll make you sorry you ever came to Brockton Bay.

    Inago didn't hesitate. He reached out and grabbed the Asian girl by the throat. Her feet lifted from the floor and he began to squeeze; Kayla began to let out the most horrendous choking noises, her hands vainly pulling at his iron grip.

    Amy's eyes widened. “No!” she shouted. “Stop! Don't kill her!”

    The girl continued to choke and thrash, although her movements were becoming weaker. Inago ignored her, staring directly at Amy. “You will heal my men.” His tone was implacable. The sky is blue, water is wet, you will heal my men.

    There was no way out of it. Even if she let Kayla die, there were dozens more in the class. She had no doubt but that he'd butcher his way through every last one of them if he had to, in order to get her to cooperate. “I'll heal your men,” she said, hating the sound of surrender in her voice.

    “Good.” He opened his hand and Kayla fell to the floor, coughing and choking and clutching her throat. Amy wanted to go to her but she felt eerily certain that if she did, Inago would end the girl as an object lesson. She's breathing. I'll heal her after all this is over.

    After that, it had become a nightmare of one wounded man after another; bullet wounds, knife wounds, more bullet wounds. Amy wanted to sabotage her own efforts in some way, but short of screwing with their brains, she couldn't think of a way to make it so that these men couldn't fight without alerting Inago of what she was doing. And all the while, she could feel the accusing stares from her teachers and classmates, silently asking why are you helping them?

    The crash as Vicky came in through the roof came as both a total shock and a welcome surprise. Her sister's aura swelled in response to her anger, causing the men with the guns to cower away from her. Vicky took advantage of this opening with vicious glee, punching out all three armed guards before they could react. Inago was the next to feel her wrath; her next blow sent him flying through a stand in a shower of rubble.

    “Okay, Ames,” Vicky said, landing next to her sister and extending a hand. “Let's get you—”

    She didn't get any farther because a mass of black, buzzing bugs enveloped her, hiding her entirely from Amy's sight. Two of them alighted on Amy's hand and she instinctively tried to exert her power on them. Absolutely nothing happened; there wasn't even a life signal from them.

    That was when Inago came out of the cloud of bugs, even more of them buzzing around him, and back-handed Vicky into an up-till-then unbroken display stand. The stand broke and Vicky started making horrific choking noises, her bug-covered arms clawing at her bug-covered face. Amy felt Vicky's aura flickering wildly as Inago strode over to her and smashed her to the floor in a single punch. His foot met her head on the way down, snapping it back so hard Amy thought Vicky may have fractured her spine. Reaching down, he picked Vicky up, her limp form dangling from his hand like a doll. The bugs began to leave her. As he reared back, Amy saw her face; her eyes were closed, blood running from her nostrils. Amy couldn't tell if she was dead or just unconscious.

    When Inago threw her, Vicky flew through the air in a flat ballistic arc. She struck the plate glass window in the outside wall, shattering it and continuing on with barely any reduction in speed. Amy lost sight of her sister then. She wanted to scream and run after Vicky in the hope that she'd survived the brutal beating but she knew exactly what would happen to the other hostages if she did. Kneeling on the floor of the museum, she wrapped her arms around herself and wept for her heroic sister. I'm so sorry, Vicky. So very sorry.

    “You will heal my men.” Inago's voice was as relentless as ever. She ignored him, clutching herself more tightly. Vainly, she tried to will away the emptiness that grew inside her, threatening to envelop her very soul. A sob was wrenched from her throat.

    A scream jolted her attention back to the here and now. Raising teary eyes, she saw a cloud of bugs descending on the hostages, who were thrashing and rolling on the floor in an effort to get away from them. Inago stepped forward, as if there was a chance she would think someone else could control such a swarm. “You will heal my men. Now.”

    The screech cut through the screams of the hostages like a knife through hot butter. In a totally unconscious reflex action, Amy threw herself flat. Terror twisted her guts into a knot as the sound grabbed every primitive atavistic instinct she had and yanked on it, hard. Looking up, she barely had time to register a red-and-gold blur before it was gone again. Something metallic hit the floor with a clatter, rocking back and forth slightly. She stared at it; it was Inago's mask.

    <><>​

    Aegis

    Fuck, I'm losing her. Aegis tried to compress Glory Girl's chest again, but the bugs were too far down her throat, filling her lungs. Her heartbeat was thin and thready now, her finger relaxed against the floorboards. He gritted his teeth and tried again, refusing to give up hope.

    Suddenly, the breath whooshed out from her lungs; he caught a whiff of it, and started to cough at the acrid taste. Poising himself over her, he pushed down on her chest once more. This expelled more of the noxious gas, allowing her to inhale life-giving oxygen.

    “Vicky!” he heard a familiar voice calling from outside. “Vicky! Oh god, where are you?”

    “In here!” he called out, not pausing in his efforts. Glory Girl still wasn't out of the woods, but he wasn't going to let her die on his watch. He could hear the sounds of ongoing combat, but this was more important.

    Panacea came scrambling in through the shattered window, moving carefully to avoid the shards of glass. “Vicky!” she nearly screamed. “Oh, god. Is she—?”

    “She's alive,” he assured her. “Just. There's some crap in her lungs—”

    In the next instant, she was on her knees beside her sister, cradling Glory Girl's hand in hers. The blonde hero convulsed, inhaling deeply, then coughed. More acrid gas came out of her lungs, then Amy triggered another deep breath. And another.

    Thank God. Aegis slumped back against the wall. She's going to be okay.

    <><>​

    Wyvern

    We smashed our way out through the plate glass and into the open air. Immediately, I turned my muzzle skyward and tightened my grip on Inago's arm. I was going to make him so very sorry for hurting my friend and frightening her sister. A fall from twenty thousand feet, I figured, would be a good start.

    Inago, as it turned out, had other ideas. He wriggled and twisted, causing me to jink oddly in my flight, but he couldn't break my grip. That is, until the sudden weight fell on my back. That came as an unwelcome surprise, as did the blade across my throat. Oni Lee, I presume. As he tried to slice my neck open—it seemed that even my soft underbelly was proof against ordinary blades—I twisted my head around and snapped at him. Coppery-tasting blood filled my mouth as my teeth crunched through flesh and bone alike; the weight vanished once more. All except for an itch right in the middle of my back; a second too late, I realised that—

    BOOOM

    I came to with wind rushing in my ears. As with the last time I'd been knocked out by an explosion, I found myself in human form. Unlike the last time, I was still in mid-air, falling. Inago had wriggled free while I was engaged with Oni Lee, and had presumably already hit the ground. My costume was flapping about me in a rather less than intact manner, but I wasn't even worrying about that. Looking down, I could see the blurry ground rushing up at me. And Inago—at least, I presumed it was him—watching as I fell to my death.

    Not gonna fuckin' happen. I took the surge of rage and rode it through the fastest Change I'd ever experienced. My wings spread and flapped mightily, catching me just yards above the ground. As I looked down at Inago, my jaws opened and I let out a screech of pure challenge. I found that I didn't care about the Merchants or Roadhog. The ABB had threatened Vicky's sister, and Inago had tried to kill Vicky herself. They were going down.

    Inago opened his mouth and replied with a chittering screech that was nothing like mine. It was like the combined, concentrated sound of every biting, stinging insect I'd ever heard. As I watched, his mouth opened wider and wider, and mandibles began to push out from inside somewhere. By now, his eyesockets were filled with bulbous black masses. Compound eyes, I guessed.

    From his open mouth poured more of the bugs, swarming up toward me in an almost impenetrable cloud. I flapped my wings, gaining height. The bugs followed, until I had them right where I wanted them. Inhaling deeply, I released a long, rolling burst of flame. The cone blasted downward, overwhelming the upward-moving swarm and reducing them to nothing but immaterial ash. It also hit Inago, setting fire to his long-coat.

    He didn't seem to be overly worried by the fire, even as the coat burned around him. I bared my teeth and prepared the cutting flame; if it could melt Armsmaster's halberd, it could surely fry Inago where he stood. Furling my wings, I dropped into a dive; while I could easily target him from higher up, the distance might attenuate the flame.

    Again, I felt the weight on my back at just the wrong moment. However, this time I knew what to do. Altering my focus, I spat out an explosive fireball. I didn't spit it far, and it was quite short-fused; less than half a second later, it went off … just as I was passing it, with my unwelcome passenger on board. He screamed and fell off, his costume on fire. I didn't care; all my attention was focused on Inago.

    When I saw the long dark shape covering his back, I began to wonder where he'd found another coat. My mistake was revealed a moment later when the dark wing-cases opened and long, gossamer wings emerged from just behind his shoulders. Chitinous plates had grown over most of his body by now, with a second set of arms emerging halfway down to his hips. He was getting more and more insectile by the moment, and this wasn't a good thing. If I wasn't much mistaken, he was also about nine feet tall by now.

    My jaws opened wide and I let out a blue-hot cutting flame. It lanced toward Inago as I closed with him, but at the last minute, his wings started beating with an audible thrumming sound, lifting him out of danger. He vomited another swarm of faux bugs toward me; almost contemptuously, I toasted them with a wide-stream blast of flame. I'd hoped that my fire would also wreck his fragile-looking wings, but no such luck.

    The preliminaries over, we closed with each other.

    I let loose a stream of blue-white cutting flame, but he dodged it; while he wasn't as agile as me in the air, it seemed he wasn't exactly clumsy either. His bugs swarmed at me, but they couldn't get through my scales and any that got as far as my mouth were incinerated by the flames escaping from between my teeth. Some tried for my eyes, but my nictitating membranes sufficed to sweep them away and keep my vision clear.

    We slammed together, clawing and tearing at one another. I had to use my wings to stay aloft, which meant that he had two sets of limbs to bring to bear as opposed to my single pair. On the other hand, my neck was much more flexible than his, and my teeth were a good deal sharper than his mandibles. Locked together, we tumbled over and over in the sky. I wanted to toast him, but if he dodged my blast as he had before, it could endanger others. So I tore at him with my claws and crunched his chitin between my teeth.

    When he got his mandibles around my neck, I had a bad moment. I didn't have the leverage to pull free, and he was squeezing almost hard enough to cut off my air supply. Fortunately, they were only sharp on the tips and not the inner edges, giving me enough time to claw frantically at his abdomen with my foot-talons. For the most part they just slid off, though I may have cracked or broken one or two chitin plates.

    Useless as my efforts may have been, they stirred a memory. I'd been trapped once before, and my claws had failed to help me there as well. But I'd gotten out of my locker in a different way. If I could do the same here … this would take some doing.

    I latched on to his lower abdomen with my feet and pushed upward as hard as I could, jamming a thicker section of my neck up into the vice formed by his mandibles. This forced his mandibles apart slightly, and gave me more of a chance to take a deep breath. Capitalising on that, I twisted my neck almost into a knot, until my muzzle was nudging at the gap between myself and Inago. Then I spat out an explosive fireball.

    The concussion left my ears ringing, even as we were flung apart. Though I knew I couldn't let up for an instant. Inago was too powerful for me to gradually wear down; I had to take him down hard and fast. The memory of what he'd done to Vicky flooded my mind with anger and resolve, and the last of the fuzziness disappeared.

    Inhaling deeply, I launched another explosive fireball; it flew straight and true, detonating right next to him. Weathering the blast wave, I flew at him as he tumbled through the air. Not giving him time to get oriented, I sent another blast of fire at him. This one was perhaps the most intense cutting flame that I'd produced yet; he barely had a chance to dodge before it seared off one of his wings.

    Out of control, unable to fly, he began to plummet toward the ground. Given what he'd endured at my hands—teeth, claws, whatever—I strongly suspected that he'd survive the impact. I didn't intend to make it that easy for him.

    Arrowing in at him, I latched on with both feet. His compound eyes could convey no more emotion than the mandibles, but I thought I detected both fear and anger in him. I didn't care any more; opening my jaws, I lunged in and clamped them on to his right upper arm. He screamed, a high insectile screeching, as I clenched my teeth together and wrenched hard with my neck. Chitin crunched, bone popped, and flesh tore; I came away with his arm in my mouth.

    As I spat it out, I realised the ground was getting very close indeed. As I released my grip on him with every intention of flying up and away, his other three arms latched on to me. I flapped once, but when I failed to break his grip, I went with Plan B. Grinning a very draconic grin, I treated him to an explosive fireball. You'd really think he'd have learned by now.

    The explosion was probably just as jarring as hitting the ground would have been. For my part, that is. My spread wings caught a lot of the blast, pushing me up and away. Inago, on the other hand, got slapped down hard, then stopped just as hard by the asphalt. I hovered over him, staring down at his crumpled body as it began to shrink and shed shattered chunks of chitin. It looked like he was unconscious at last. Still, he was dangerous as long as he lived. Better that he end now rather than—

    “Wyvern, no!” It was Vicky's voice; a moment later, she flew in between me and Inago, holding her hand out toward me. I swallowed back the fire I'd been intending to unleash, a cutting flame that would've bisected Inago from crown to crotch. Vicky stared up at me with earnest, anxious eyes. “Wyvern, he's down. You can stop now. I'm okay.”

    I took a breath, and let myself relax just a little. Vicky looked so small, but she also looked … well, a little ruffled, but alive and well. Her tiara was missing, though that was no big deal—she'd shown me her collection of spares—and she looked like she'd been dragged through a hedge backward, but she was alive. I let out an inquiring chirp.

    “Aegis kept me alive until his bugs vanished,” she explained rapidly. “Then Ames got to us and made sure of it.” She flew up and put her arms around my neck, which seemed to be wider than her whole body now. This seemed odd, but I couldn't figure out why. “You saved my life.”

    Gently, I came down for a landing beside where Inago lay. He was down to human form now; that is, a lot smaller than me. Once my wings were no longer needed for flying, I used them to hug her in return, then let out a friendly chirp. You're welcome. Then, remembering the rest of the fight, I looked around.

    The giant robot and the centipede/truck combo were no longer fighting. Nor were the gang members clashing. In fact, most of the latter seemed to have vacated the field of combat. I couldn't even see the Merchant capes. Glaring at the mechanical monstrosities, and by proxy the people driving them, I drew in a deep lungful of air. Letting Victoria go, I took up the same pose as when I'd confronted Armsmaster; crouched, jaws wide, wings spread. I didn't spit fire this time, however; these two hadn't attacked anyone I cared about. Instead, I went to let out a screech. What came out, however, was nothing less than a full-blooded roar. Fuck off. When I want to deal with you, I'll come looking. As the echoes died away, I could hear car alarms going off up and down the block.

    They got the hint, breaking off from one another. The giant robot ignited some sort of flight pack and roared off over the rooftops, while the centipede-truck thing scuttled away down the street. Another glance around told me that the remaining gang members were likewise decamping at best speed. I didn't really blame them; after the show I'd put on with Inago, I really doubted they wanted to push me at that moment. I'd not want to push me at the moment.

    “Well, crap.” Aegis' voice startled me for a moment. “I thought you were scary before.” I swivelled one eye his way, noting that Panacea was standing beside him, and let my teeth show for a moment in my version of a grin. He grinned back and indicated where Roadhog and the giant robot had been. “I'm pretty sure they'll both be changing their underwear when they get back to base.”

    Vicky snickered, and I echoed her. The imagery was kinda funny. She looked up at me, while leaning against my shoulder in a familiar fashion. “So, I'm gonna take a stab in the dark here and guess that you got kinda mad when you were fighting him?”

    Twisting my neck, I looked down at myself. Compared to her, I realised, I was kind of on the large side. At least twice as long as our car, I figured, and tall enough that even Aegis only came up to my lower chest. Nodding my head, I chirped in the affirmative, then shrugged. Fighting someone like that, what can I do?

    “So wait, you don't normally get this big?” Aegis looked up at me, with something approaching respect in his voice. “I guess you scale up according to the threat you're facing?” Looking down at Inago's unconscious body—still missing an arm—he nodded slowly. “Seeing how powerful he is, I'm kinda not surprised you got this big this fast.”

    “Can I see, please?” Amy stepped forward, hands twitching as she reached out toward me then pulled back again. “You're a lot bigger than you and Vicky described. I mean, wow.”

    I gave her another wyvern-grin and an agreeable chirp, then extended a wing toward her. She took hold of it, her eyes widening as she stared at nothing. “Wow,” she breathed. “Wow. Your whole system's reshaped itself on the fly to be more efficient at the larger size. I can't believe … wow. How hot is your flame, now?”

    I gave her a helpless shrug. Not only could I not talk, but I had zero idea about how to measure the heat of something that could melt concrete and slag Tinkertech weapons. All I knew was that it was hot enough. Also, I had no idea where the cone of flame had come from, but it had definitely been handy against Inago's weird bug-swarm.

    “I got a better question.” Vicky's grin was downright mischievous. “Where's your costume?”

    The answer was simple: 'gone'. As the first PRT van screeched to a halt, I closed my eyes and covered my face with my wing.

    This day was just getting better and better.



    End of Part Twelve

    Part Thirteen
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
    Eryk, Zhen_Electric, udkudk and 56 others like this.
  28. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Great Chapter! Loved the fight - pure action, tense and vivid (and brutal). Nice changes to canon there, and Inago makes for a terrifying Bug-Lung. Although with Taylor growing in response to a threat, she might take up Lung's canon mantle instead as the biggest cape in Brockton Bay.
     
  29. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Well, he's not gonna be using it ... :p
     
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  30. Chojomeka

    Chojomeka Kimochi~

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    And pokemon proves true once again....Fire beats Bug.
     
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