Harbinger (Worm)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Archicane, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. Hemolymph 01

    I stood there shaking, water running down my naked body. I collapsed to the ground. Water pooled around me. Warm clear water flowed over me. I tried looking around and only saw red.

    Blood flowed freely down my bare chest mixing with my hair. I took a ragged breath and nearly choked on the blood running from my nose. A ringing in my ears drowning out all other sounds. I tried stopping the flow in my nose but my hands were shaking too much for me to do more than exacerbate it. I tried standing and only managed to slip in my own blood hitting the ground hard.

    I tried calling out for help to little avail. I reached out and the droning noise in my ears became a cacophony of sound. I pressed my hands to my ears to cover them. I felt more warm fluid flowing freely. Looking at my hands I saw them covered in blood. From my nose or am I bleeding from my ears too? It's too much blood. Way too much blood. I never expected this much blood. I'm going to die if I don't get help. I crawled from the shower towards the only door. My vision began to grow dim. I could barely keep my eyes open. I reached out for the phone. My hands were shaking far too much and my control was almost nil. Even still, I managed to knock the handset off the hook and press the numbers 9.1.1. I reached for the door and again fumbled with the lock. Should the police arrive, an open door would be probable cause to search the house. I tried to cry out for help to the phone but I could barely manage more than a whisper. Worse I couldn’t even hear if the call went through. Hell I couldn’t hear anything. I tried to think of why but my head hurt worse and my vision grew dark. I collapsed to the floor and darkness claimed me.

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    Minutes, hours, days, years. I opened my eyes. My vision was blurred. I reached towards my face and found my hand restrained. No, not restrained. Encumbered. I reached instead with my left hand. I held it close to my face and was startled to see it clearly. I moved it away and it was blurry again. Right where are my contacts. I tried to asses my surroundings. I was on a gurney in what looked like a proper hospital. The place looked clean but well used. I wasn't on Earth Gimel that was for sure. I didn't think there was much left on Earth Bet so maybe Earth Aleph. A nurse walked in at this point. Or at least I thought it was a nurse. She or maybe he was only in for a second before walking out again asking for a doctor Ne-something.

    Both returned to the room. The nurse and doctor were both a she. The doctor grabbed my chart as the nurse held a light to my eyes moving it from one side to another.

    “How are you feeling Miss Herbert?” The doctor asked in an oddly husky voice for a woman with such a small frame.

    “My head hurts,” I replied groggily. So they know my actual name? Could Lisa have set this up? If so why wasn’t she here. For that matter why wouldn’t I be treated by Riley or Amelia now?

    “You had a nasty incident. Do you remember what happened?" The doctor asked.

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    "I asked to be last for a reason," I told Amelia.

    She looked to me and I looked towards the Clairvoyant and Doormaker pair. I pulled on the string and brought them both towards me. I gripped their hands and looked. I sought out an answer. I looked for powerful capes. Ones that could end this fight. I thought of the attack by Phir Se and immediately saw him standing with a collection of other capes. Some of them in bright colors. Some in civilian clothes. All of them looking ragged.

    "When was this?" I mused allowed.

    "She only sees the now. She can't look back or forward." Tattletale answered without looking up from her screen of the fight just outside the makeshift shelter we were using in the wake of the attacks by Scion.

    "Take me there," I said to doormaker. And with that a portal opened before me. I walked through into the midst of capes forming a half circle facing towards me and the cape I came to see.

    "Weaver?"

    "Phir Se. I thought you dead after the Behemoth attack on new Delhi."

    "The world had no love for me. Death was convenient."

    "And after your death you decided to lay low."

    "Indeed."

    "How?"

    He looked at the Clairvoyant and Doormaker. He looked at how I was leading them and raised an eyebrow.

    "It's their abilities. They are fine."

    He gazed at me steadily and waved off the gathered capes.

    "I can walk through time as you know. Both backward and forward. To have gone back that day would have cost me the attack you saw against the Behemoth. So instead I walked forward. I walked to after he had been slain. And from there I called Particulate and departed."

    "And you have survived against Scion for this long without him noticing you?"

    "We have only fought to flee. My people work in the shadows. Scion casts light in the darkest of places. We cannot fight him. So instead we take our people and leave when he arrives. Sometimes we go forward, but other times we go back."

    "How far back can you go."

    Again he paused. I met his piercing gaze. I could not imagine the look on my face as he carefully appraised me. He took several minutes before he responded.

    "I have watched you for some time Weaver. Skitter. Taylor. You... made an impression on me. You walked a difficult path. Willing to betray, sacrifice, and murder to stop the monsters of this world. How many friends and allies have you lost when fighting these monsters. How many innocents did you leave to die to win the fights?”

    I thought back to Aster. She was still a toddler when I killed her. Had I only known it was Scion I would have saved her instead. He was right though. I was willing to murder to stop the end of the world.

    “I had been watching your actions against your Slaughterhouse 9,000. You had time to analyze your enemy and find their weaknesses. More still, you defeated an army with only a handful of allies. My daughter once referred to you as Khepri. An egyptian god with the head of a scarab. He was a bug god and his bugs moved the sun in the sky. He was the god of creation and rebirth. So too were you born anew as weaver. So to do your bugs move the heavens. You fight the giants of the world, standing against forces well beyond the abilities of a mere beetle. And yet you still stand where they are dead."

    He paused again.

    I waited for him to speak again. I could not rush this, as desperate as we were and with Scion on Earth Gimel tearing through my friends even as I waited on Phir Se to finish his monologue.

    "Perhaps with time you will find a weakness to Scion as well. Perhaps you are Khepri and your scarabs will move this sun in the sky. Perhaps I am a fool for thinking such thoughts as these."

    He looked back at the capes that he had sent aside. One was a young girl, maybe 13 or 14. She looked about Vista's height though had black hair and dark skin. I couldn't tell with her mask but she looked to have green eyes. Those eyes were fixed on Phir Se, not even taking me into her field of vision. I could ask him to do this for his daughter but he saw through my attempts at currying favor the first time and called me on it. I would wait.

    "How far back can I send you? How far back will be needed?"

    "April 11th, 2011."

    A look of sadness crossed his face. I thought rapidly what later dates I could work with. None of them would be easy. June 19th? No I would have lost Jack by then. June 8th? I could kill Jack when he comes to taunt us at Ballistic’s. No if he could make it to June 8th how much more difficult would 2 more months be and that would still leave me at a disadvantage against Coil.

    Before I could come to a decision, he did.

    "You will suffer for this."

    I tensed waiting for a strike. The other capes saw my stance and matched theirs to mine.

    "I will suffer for this." He said.

    He hadn't moved. The Indian capes were still poised ready to strike. If he moved to strike, could we get portal between us and them fast enough to get another one to get us out too?

    "I can send you back but you should know the cost." He continued without waiting for a response. "You wish to travel back two years when I have only ever journeyed a month. It will hurt you. You will suffer. You will regress. You will keep your mind but not your abilities. You will have your memories but not your body. And it will hurt.”

    He looked to his daughter. Without turning back to me he spoke again. “Me more than you.” He walked forward to the young cape who ran to her father and embraced him. They spoke in tears and in a language I was not familiar with. Hindi? Ordu? I didn’t know enough about their culture to even be sure I had just referred to languages let alone ones they might be speaking. He kissed her on the forehead and pushed her back. Turning back to me he walked the distance to where I stood.

    “We must go to where you were on this day. The city alone will do but I cannot move you back between worlds.”

    I felt with the clairvoyant for my home. The house was still standing as were several others on the street. Standing but not livable. Not really. A portal opened beside us and we walked through. We emerged at the curb where I grew up facing my house.

    “There will be blood. You will need to let it flow. You will be confused and weak. You will not be ready for a fight. You will need a day to rest at least. Maybe more. The trip may even kill you. But I do not this for a fact. When will you need to return?”

    Maybe earlier I thought? The 11th was when I fought Lung. I would need to be there for that fight but this time only with the intent to fight Lung. Last time I outed myself as a hero or vigilante even before I met Coil. I would need to change my approach. I wasn’t about to let him have Dinah either. I could fix everything, Eidolon, the Endbringers, the Slaughterhouse 9. We could push back the end till the 15 year mark. A year and a half and I planned enough to cheat my way through the psychos of the 9,000. Had I known that Scion would be the destroyer I could have changed tactics, delayed advances or moved to slow his involvement or speed it up. Having known that could have saved lives. 15 years with the knowledge I posses now, I could do this. I knew how to hurt him. I knew who could fight against him successfully. I could get everyone ready. I could be ready to take the fight to him. Maybe do it in small groups. A group of rogue capes dealing damage and taking chunks out of him till they could flee with Scion going back to helping protect the world right after. Ok that might set him off but I could have 15 years to come up with a better plan.

    “The 10th. I’m up at 6:30 with a run for an hour, then in the shower. My family is one for routine. I should be in the shower around 7:30 to 8:00. A day to recover should be fine. We have very good healers in my city.” I don’t need to beat Lung outright and if I strike hard and fast with the deadliest of my bugs first, he won’t be nearly the threat he was the first time. It could work. I would even have backup from both the Undersiders and Armsmaster when he shows up later if the fight goes on too long.

    “The price?” I asked him. “That you pay?”

    “I have said my goodbyes. Do not dwell on this. Soon you will say your hellos. Be reborn Khepri.”

    Before I could process his meaning he reached forth with both hands to my temples and blasted me with pain.

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    I turned to looked at the doctor and the room jumped. That made me jump.

    “Taylor!” my dad exclaimed.

    “Dad!” I cried in response. He moved toward me as I reached for him. The doctor stopped him with a hand. Wait when did my dad get here? I looked about the room and noticed several new faces that weren’t there before.

    “Amelia?” I asked the freckle faced girl opposite my father at my bedside.

    “It’s Amy actually. Though you might know me as Panacea.”

    “Can you tell us anything miss Dallon?” The doctor asked. Had he said his name? I couldn’t remember.

    “I don’t do brains. Her body though is fine. I looked at the CT scans you took. Looks like she was hemorrhaging from the hippocampus. She has some scar tissue there now but there is nothing I can do for that because,”

    “You won’t do brains,” I finished for her.

    “Well you seem to be able to recognize a few faces and your speech isn’t distorted in any way. We are going to run a few more tests to see what might have been affected.”

    “What could this kind of damage mean for my daughter?”

    I looked to my dad. He looked haggard and worn. I didn’t know the state he might have seen me in. Wait the police should have found me first. Dad would have left for work by the time I was back in the shower. Or would he? I know he had an odd schedule with the dockworkers union. Would he have been at the house when I dialed 911. Well that could be explained away if he was. The front door too.

    “The hippocampus controls memories. The minds ability to both remember events and the ability to produce new memories are what we would be concerned with. Given that she can recognize you Mr Herbert is a good sign. But as I said we will need to keep her for observation before we can make a complete diagnosis.”

    I noticed Amy was still looking at me. I turned to her and took her hand.

    “You healed me?” I asked.

    “Not really, I can’t fix brains. All of your bleeding was from the hippocampus. All I did was clean out blood from your nose and ears. You had a few other bruises and a fractured hand that had healed wrong. I cleaned up those few issues and started your body to produce more blood to make up for the blood loss. But no I didn’t heal you when you first came in. I wasn’t here for that. Anyway the bleeding stopped on its own.” She replied still looking at me oddly.

    “Thank you anyway. You are a true hero.”

    I had tried to put as much truth into that statement as I could. I don’t think she believed me. Could she tell a lie by reading signs from. Well yes but I thought I was honest when I said that.

    Before I could talk further my dad put his hand on my arm and I turned to embrace him. I hadn’t seen my dad in… I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen him. He would have been there for my graduation from the protectorate, had that not been interrupted by the Slaughterhouse 9,000. I hadn’t even known if he had survived the attacks by Scion. I had kept myself woefully ignorant not wanting to know for sure. But now, here he was. Safe and sound and none the wiser of my dark passenger. Oh crap maybe thats why Amelia had been looking at me funny. She won’t change the brain yet but that doesn't mean she can’t look at mine and see where it enlarged to account for my powers. Shit well I will have to be extra careful around her then. Maybe try and mislead her a bit using my powers to make them look like something else? No probably best to just not do anything around her. Besides there is another female cape in Brockton Bay that isn’t a villain. Oh, but there are a lot more that are. Crap. Well this shouldn’t change too much then should it? Could it?

    The nurse was reading the machines I was plugged into and had said something when I wasn’t paying attention. I was spending a bit too much time in my head of late.

    “What was that?” I asked.

    “I was saying that we will need you to stay for observation for the rest of the day before we are ready to release you. You will need to rest for a while longer until we can clear you.”

    “She should be fine in a few hours. Her body has enough blood back in it for her to function. But she should still try not to move around too much as she won’t be 100% for another 18 to 24 hours.”

    “We will still need to run several cognitive skill tests to be sure there isn’t any complications with her brain. Thank you for your help Miss Dallon. Now we could use your help with a Mr Daniels in the ICU.” The doctor was still speaking as he was leading Amelia out. I never saw her much when she wasn’t fixing up dying capes, running from the S9, or staring me down in a bank I was robbing. Well it looked like I wasn’t going to see her much now anyway. My father was talking with the nurse now. They had moved a bit away to give me some space to rest. I like the attempt at privacy. It let me relax a bit. I stretched out seriously for the first time taking stock of myself.

    I was the younger me. Limbs shorter and less toned. I didn’t have a mirror nor my glasses so I couldn’t see my face. I felt shorter too. And damnit I was back down to an A cup if that. Not that I had ever fully filled a B cup, but still. Next I reached out to my swarm. I had terrible control over them when I was in the shower but then again I wasn’t able to stand well either. I stretched out feeling their bodies react as I touched their minds. At first it was just the few in the walls of the room but then I could feel the ones in the next room and the one next to that and the one next to that and so on. I had the full feel of the building in seconds and I kept pushing beyond. I felt the bugs in the trees and in the ground outside. I felt the ones in the sewers beneath the street. I kept pushing. The bugs in the nearby buildings were within my grasp. I pushed further. The buildings next to those and the ones next to those held more and more. I could just start to feel the ones in the trees by that street when I reached my limit.

    Crap. My range was nothing like it used to be. At the height of my powers I could stretch 6 blocks. I was starting over again at 1. Well I knew at least that I could build up my powers and range. On top of all that I already knew how to do all the tricks I had come up with over the years. Laying string, building clones, setting up detection grids, striking a match and marching them down on a woman covered in gasoline, etc. But did I remember how to hear and speak? I tried focusing on the conversation my father was having with the nurse. Nothing but unintelligible murmuring. Well better than the first time I tried it. Talking was a bit better. I couldn't get them to annunciate but the cadence was down and certain consonants came out very clear. I still had a lot of trouble with the softer sounds. The humming and clicking didn’t quite get the right sounds for some of them. Again something that I could work on over time and build back up to. My control was slower too. I didn’t have the dexterity I had towards the end. By all accounts my powers had been reset. Not the end of the world. Well not yet at least.

    Shit. The end of the world. How the hell was I supposed to come up with a plan to defeat Scion. The immortal god that gave us all our abilities. Well lets take things one step at a time. I had to kill Jack. I had to kill the Endbringers. Before the Endbringers, I had to kill Eidolon. He only came out for the big disasters, like the Endbringer attacks. All three had come to Brockton Bay. If I left events to play out like the first time I’d have a chance to strike at all three in a span of only a mere two weeks or so. Ok so how do I kill them?

    Well Jack would surprisingly be the easiest. After facing down the 9,000 I shouldn't have any trouble with only 7 of 9. Really though if I set a bomb off in his lap that should leave too little for Riley to put back together. Leviathan I would have to go the same route we did for Behemoth. Chop him up into little bits then destroy his core. He might even be easier than Behemoth. We could trap him in the city and clock block his escape route. He might even kill himself on time frozen strings on his way out. That left Eidolon. Well he let himself be killed by Scion when he heard the truth. I doubt he would believe me if I said it but maybe I could get Cauldron to do it for me. Then again I could try catching him by surprise when he is between powers. Could work. Might have to work on that plan though. For now I would need to get out of here and get to Lung. Might be a long day.

    And with that the nurse set to asking me questions. By the nature of them I figured I was going to be in for a long day.
  2. Hemolymph 02

    The next 3 hours in the hospital wasn't so bad. The nurse just asked a lot of questions trying to get an idea on what I could and couldn't remember. I had a bit of trouble with that. Mostly because she was asking about the past week of events which were kind of hazy. Not because I actually had memory problems but because last week happened two years ago. My dad was worried at that but because I could still process memories and make new ones, they were optimistic. The final prognosis was that the hemorrhaging likely blurred or erased some memories which I was unlikely to get back. Probably not the right diagnosis but they are operating under the false assumption that I hadn't just time traveled. I could see how they could make that mistake. For now though I was told to rest and work on memory games to keep my mind sharp. I was also given a week off of school to recuperate. I could certainly make use of that time to further things here in the city.

    I had my eyes set on Lung and Coil. Lung was the more immediate threat but Coil would be the deadlier of the two. They each had their weakness though. Each had a time when they were most vulnerable. But I had to wait. I had to play a role for a time. I had to be a villain to get close to Coil again. Might have been better to go the hero route this time but I decided against it. I would need freedom to do what I needed done. On top of that I would need to kill several capes and pull a lot of other highly illegal stunts. If my plans worked out I would be risking a kill order or three. Well it would have to do. To save the world I might have to be the bad guy. I had done so for less.

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    I felt rather cheery as I perused the aisles of the retail store. I knew I needed supplies so after dad had dropped me off at home, I had checked my bank account online and had a bit of a shock. At the height of my criminal enterprising I had nearly 14 million in assets. My current funds were in the realm of $235.89. So here I was, spending what little I had. There is a saying, you have to spend money to make money. Well I was going to have to spend money to take money today.

    No I wasn't going to rob the retail store. Nor would I be hitting up any banks today either. I had actually come to the store for ziploc bags and art supplies among other things. We had the small ones at the house for sandwiches but I needed the heavy duty ones for the job I had planned. I still had a few kinks to plan around but I had the jist of it down and the plastic bags would help a bit. The bigger issues would be transportation. I could walk there and back without issue and given my abilities I wouldn't even need to be that near to the scene to get what I needed done. The issue would be moving the money once I got it. I had no way of knowing how much I'd come away with. Last time we had a pile of bags that we spit between the lot of us. I didn't see the actual denominations in the bags themselves but I had assumed it was a bit. I would also be going in a little unprepared without a costume or my mask but that was part of the plan too. I dress like a cape and its obvious I'd be the one robbing them. I also didn't want to make too big a show of my powers, namely I didn't want anyone knowing what I could actually do. Tagg had given me a level two in every classification when I had turned myself in. He was right that I was versatile. You wouldn't think that 'controls bugs' would be all that great of a power, but those level twos across the board from a PRT official who still underestimated me does say something about my abilities. My versatility would be a great asset in the early stages of this game when I was solo and still lacked the range I had become used to. I still remembered how to set drag lines and tie capes to objects or one another. I had used that tactic a lot as Weaver. I could post my bugs at the joints of arms and legs to get a full view of an opponent without having to even look at them. I had spent a lot of time training with the Chicago Wards like that. Enough that I could be just as lethal at close combat as I could from range. With that last one alone I could play as a whole new cape should the need arise. I wasn't planning on doing that exactly but its good to have a backup plan.

    I grabbed my ziplock bags and was heading to the school supplies section. I had also planned on making a few alterations to my costumes. I wanted to do simple things that could be used to disguise my body type or gender. Again I had plans and backup plans and backup plans for the backup plans formulating. Googly eyes wouldn't work for any of those. Glitter maybe. Sequence if applied correctly. Paints would be the better all around fix. Feathers? Ha! That would throw off any ideas of being a bug girl, but pink wouldn't be all that great for instilling fear or respect. Maybe if I tried out as a hero later I could try out the pink. No I think not. Paints and glitter would have to do for now. I also grabbed a few party masks for a quick cover. While I didn't plan on going out in costume, a simple mask with my hair in my face and my hood up would help to keep a casual glance from tagging me.

    "Can I help you with anything?"

    I looked up at the older gentleman in a red shirt and khakis. His name tag labeled him as Roger.

    "Hoodies?" I asked.

    "Clothing is down this aisle and to the right. Head down a ways past the baby clothes and the women's casual wear should be right there." He replied with a genial smile.

    "Thank you" I said returning the smile. I walked over to the backpacks.

    He watched me with an enigmatic smile this time.

    "Sorry, I had just remembered I would need a new hoodie but I wasn't done here yet."

    "That's fine I'll be around if you need anything."

    With that he turned and walked at a leisurely pace to a woman and her young son. I looked through the bags there. Mine was still new. I had to get a new one from the last time Emma had gotten bored. I didn't want to spend too much on another bag right after I had just gotten one. On that same token I didn't want to be tracked down by anyone should they find a backpack with stolen money and school books with my name and return address on it. That would just be too dumb. I made a mental note not to do anything too stupid today then quickly realized I was making plans to do exactly that. Well ok so maybe I will amend that to not making any stupid mistakes like keep the receipt. I continued my shopping uninterrupted and set out to take some money.
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    I had taken the bus to a stop as close as I could to my destination. I hopped off and started walking. Once in an alley between a rundown old drugstore and what must have been a pet store by the smells of animal waste still in the building, I started sorting my purchases. I put all the art supplies in the ziplocks. I put on one of the basic party masks, covered my face with my hair, and the put my hood up. I stuffed the supplies into an air duct for the pet store and had roaches ferry it further out of sight and reach. They were a little sluggish, having trouble with getting a good grip on the plastic. I had a few spiders from the eaves descend and wrap the bags a few times with the treads trailing for the roaches. That provided a better handle for them and within minutes the art supplies were safely stashed. Well that wouldn't be so hard to do with the money once I had it. After all it's not like I could just deposit it all in my bank account. I would seem a little odd for a 15 year old girl to suddenly have a couple hundred thousand. There were contingencies set in place to identify capes like that. One of them was the Numbers Man and he wasn't someone I could trust just yet.

    I grabbed the backpack with ziplocks and started out again. I started gathering my bugs. After the practice with the art supplies, I added several spiders to my swarm. It was mostly made of of very tiny bugs. I had an army of mosquitoes, gnats, and a few flies here or there. I kept them spread loosely so as not to draw attention to them. After walking a bit I realized I wasn't showing any of my face and probably looked like the girl from The Ring. I knew I wasn't going to be identified but covering up like that was just as much a giveaway as wearing a mask. I found a shattered window and checked my reflection. I fixed my hair so my mouth was a bit more visible with hints at my eyes and glasses over the party mask. I set my hair so it was thin enough that I could use my own eyes if I needed. Not that I would for this job. I planned on keeping a building or two between me and the place I was coming to raid. These weren't any pushovers and I didn't want to get caught in a fight with them. Sure I would win but not without outing myself as Skitter? No. Weaver? No Weaver was essentially dead. Weaver had fought and lost against Scion. Khepri was what Phir Se had called me. I had looked it up when I was waiting on my dad to leave again. Google noted that the scarabs moved dung balls around. The notion of the sun came from the way their dung balls were pushed between their antennas. Drawing them out it would look like a disk which was a symbol of royalty, or holiness, or maybe I would need to google it again. I knew though that I didn't want to be the dung beetle even if it was a god. I'd rather be a queen anyway. What was it the Faerie Queen had called me? The queen administrator? Well that's a mouthful. Queen Bee? No. Spider Queen. No. I'd have to take a bit more time tonight coming up with a name. I didn't want to have some other cape label me again.

    I would have to think on that more later. Eight blocks of abandoned buildings to my destination. I wasn't two in and I was already being followed. A guy had passed by an alley and had started pacing me. He was a big guy but I had taken down bigger. Lung among them. I realized though how vulnerable I actually was. I hadn't hit the army surplus store yet. I had in mind to do that with a wad of cash and just go crazy with it. All I had available was my pepper spray. I wanted to hold off on using bugs anywhere near here. Well it had worked on Lung and wouldn't point to a cape being involved.

    Instead I waited till he had passed by the intersection that could see the one I had just passed and doubled back. I waited till his attention was elsewhere and crossed behind him. I kept walking perpendicular to him for another block till he was almost out of my range. He had realized he had lost me but didn't seem to be bothered by it. He kept on his way which seemed to still be in the direction I was heading.

    I turned back to keep pace with him. I didn't recognize him as any cape in the area. My musings ended when he entered what might have been an abandoned textile warehouse. I searched the facility before he was far in. Nothing of interest really. There were three kids in a room upstairs with a woman I took to be the mother. I checked the guy who did have a knife on him but wasn't doing anything with it. He found a bathroom on the first floor and I put him out of my mind. Soon enough he was out of my range too.

    A block was all I had right now. I had been pushing out ever since I had first found my limit. I'd treat it like a muscle and work it out every second I was awake. I had gotten it maybe another 20 feet. Not much but it was improvement, and 20 feet over 5 hours or so wasn't so bad. At that rate I could get it up to 500 feet a week. If i remembered my powers though I had growth spurts when I was in danger. My biggest one against Leviathan where I doubled my range from two to four. I would be working on finding a way to get self replicating relay bugs but until then I would just have to exercise more.

    I kept pushing and while doing so, was bringing in some sturdier bugs. Sadly its mostly roaches that are readily available in abandoned areas. The spiders variety is nicer but there weren't many black widows. Not that I planned on fighting Lung right now but I had planned on making contingencies and had two dozen of them on me along with a dozen brown recluse and a few millipedes. Those weren't poisonous but they would creep people out more than the spiders I thought.

    Soon enough I had a swarm ready to move in. I was near enough to my destination. I checked the street sign. Whitmore and Regal. Sunset would be the next street over. Nothing regal about this area though. I posted up by a dumpster near the intersection. I wanted as many routes of escape as possible. Plan A called for me to casually walk out of the area back the way I had come. The intersection would be required for plans B, C, D, and E. I searched my immediate area and checked my range. I could feel the far side of the warehouse and then some. Next I shifted focus to my own area. Empty buildings for the most part. Four thugs in an empty building watching TV to the south. Added security I guess. I kept scanning and found what I was looking for. Decent cover by a dumpster that was full of bugs. I squatted down next to it and opened up my bag. I moved a pair of black widows inside and a single brown recluse. I set the pack aside and turned my focus to the warehouse. Using my "stealth" bugs I started exploring. I already knew the lay of the facility from the time we hit it with the rest of the local villains. Sure enough there was a group of naked workers on the ground floor. Unfortunately I also spotted Lung. Well like I said I wasn't planning on fighting him today anyway. I moved my bugs up to the second floor. In the side room behind a locked door I found what I was looking for. A lone woman was sitting counting money. Piles of it.

    I set my bugs to task immediately. Roaches started climbing the insides of the walls up to the office. I moved one of my black widows up there with them. I took my time waiting for her to arrive. I watched the money counter for a time. I had checked her for weapons. She had a small knife but from the taste of it she wasn't using it for defense. I had a few other spiders start threading it closed in its sheath. When my black widow arrived I had her crawl up to the counter. I placed her on one of the stacks and waited. The woman moved to grab the next stack with my spider on it and I struck. My black widow jumped off the stack and started crawling towards her. Before she jumped out though I had a mosquito bite her palm. To the woman, she will likely think she has just been bitten by a black widow. Yep her screaming confirmed it. I got to watch her in a slight panic as she realized what this meant. She grabbed a cloth and tied off her wrist. Smart I'll give her that. She then stepped out of the office locking the door behind her. Just what I was hoping for. I would have a small window of opportunity to move all the money before she had a replacement if there was to be one. A smart villain wouldn't leave the money unattended for long. In waiting for the black widow to attack, I had several hundred roaches already poised and ready to move. I sent all of them. They swarmed the table. Each set about grabbing what they could. Many grabbed the loose bills and scurried back into the wall dropping off their cargo and returning for more. I could move the money down the wall easy enough even if she found a replacement counter in the next few minutes. That wasn't all that likely as Lung had overheard her talking to an average sized man. I set my focus again to my roaches and started grouping them together to push the money, stacks and all, off the table and onto the floor. Several bills scattered and I sent a few roaches to collect them. The rest started lining up to drag the stacks into the wall. They had finished before the argument downstairs was resolved. She must have been important because Lung let her leave. During the conversation I had checked her pockets to find her keys. I had stolen them and dragged them under a table. The door should stay locked till Lung lost his temper and tore it down. Meanwhile my swarm kept working.

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    Only four bags of money?! That was so unfair. Last time there was twice as much. How the hell was there only four bags of money this time? Maybe it was an off week? Well I'd just have to come back again. Kinda like I had planned anyway. Steal the money and not the product. I wasn't in a position to stop the drug trade right now anyway. Well aside from reporting the warehouse and seeing the capes and cops descend to make arrests. But again, I had planned on coming back to raid it a few more times. Besides it wasn't like I am actually selling drugs, I'm just stealing from the sellers after they sell their product. I'm like Robin Hood. I was

    "GET OUT THERE AND FUCKING FIND HER!"

    Oh shit that would be Lung. I looked out from my post by the dumpster. Naked bodies were pouring out of the warehouse all carrying small arms and improvised weapons. A rather comical sight if it weren't for the dragon marching them out and already on fire. Well I had the money. With the ziplock bags I could stash it like I planned in various holes too small or obscure for a person to find. The problem was I was planning on stashing it further from their territory than a block away and next to a dumpster. Worse yet this area didn't have any places only my bugs could get to. Well the dumpster of course but that's still rather a dicey spot. No telling when it might be emptied and that would be one of those stupid mistakes I told myself I wasn't going to make.

    "SPREAD OUT!"

    Time for plan B. Run!

    And I ran. I had a head start on Lung and should be far enough away from him to be sure he wouldn't hear me even with superior senses if he had them now. I didn't even have a line of sight to the building to get spotted by the naked ABBs. What I didn't expect was Oni Lee.
    I saw him from the corner of my eye on the roof of a building. He stared me down as I passed by. I had my hood up and face covered. I was doubtful he could ID me but running would tip him off. Worse I wasn't even in costume to protect his sneak attacks. I had left it at home thinking if I had gotten stopped by a cop, cape, or villain, all they would find is a scrawny white girl out for a jog with a backpack of art supplies and ziplock bags. Nothing to worry about right. But now I was spotted by a freaking assassin after just having robbed their drug house. And little me with my bugs and pepper spray. I hadn't prepped for a fight. No knife. No baton. No killer arachnids or capsaicin laced flies of doom. I had been prepping strings but with Lung already on fire those would go up in smoke if i tried them on him. Oni Lee would just pop out. He was the reason I hadn't had much warning. He had popped into the room I had just robbed and popped back to Lung in a matter of seconds to report. Me trying to be discreet hadn't been able to see him in either location till my bugs detected his ash cloud when his clones had been expended.
    Figures standing in front of me stopped me up short. Three ABB's were blocking the alleyway. Shit that must have been why Oni Lee didn't just kill me. These three were young and seemed kinda skittish. They were still clothed so they hadn't come from the warehouse so…. Oh! I tasted the ash again. Shit that was smart. He was popping groups of thugs out in a perimeter. Looking for me. Wait how would Lung have even known the thief was a she? Oh he must have thought it was the woman who was counting that stole the money. Ok so they aren't looking for me then maybe they just found a girl and thought to randomly attack her. Really not as bad as it sounds.
    They moved to grab me and I didn't resist. Oni Lee might be watching and I needed to ping him before I made a move.

    "Feng check her bag." The skinny boy with the pixie cut said. I only realized he was a boy by the voice. Too deep to be a girls. I still had my hood up, my hair covering my face, and the temp mask. Well that might tip them off but at least they wouldn't see my face. Also wouldn't give them any real way of IDing me when I was out in cape.

    The girl moved forward around the big and fat one to get my bag. I still had time before she could get it opened. I kept still and looked for Oni Lee. I also started tagging everyone in a block radius and running breakaway lines at the perimeter of my range. Still nothing.

    "What the fuck is taking so long xiǎo rìběn?" The skinny one asked again. He was getting edgy and was fingering the knife in his back pocket. The girl was still fumbling with the zipper. She wouldn't be able to get through without taking a knife to it. I had a black widow knit the double zipper shut when I spotted them. She would either have to use his knife to cut the bag open or give it up as a lost cause.

    "Its stuck." She said almost in a panic. Well no shit its stuck.

    The fat one moved her out of the way and grabbed the bag, me with it, and tore the fabric. The plastic bags full of money poured out onto the ground. Four heavy duty bags and those weren't small bills either I realized belatedly.

    "Jackpo ahhh!"

    I didn't let him finish. I stuck hard and fast hitting the skinny one in the marbles and grabbed his knife as he doubled over. I swung around to catch the fat one across his stomach before he could pull his gun I had tied to his belt. The girl grabbed at her knife and rolled back when I swung at her. Ok she was quicker than I was. Naturally at least. I could still get a quicker sense from the mosquitoes I had posted on their bodies. The skinny one charged me in a half hobble and a rather weak roar. I spun low and to my right to keep skinny between me and the fat one. As he passed I had come full about and stabbed him in the back of his thigh. He went down with a shrill cry. Fat guy was fumbling with his belt to get his gun free. The girl did the more sensible thing and screamed for help.

    In seconds I could feel spider strings breaking as half a dozen thugs started moving towards us. I grabbed the bags of money and the half torn backpack and bolted. I started filling the alleys with flies and mosquitoes. Not in dense swarms but loosely spaced to get a feel for the areas but still not noticeable. I knew what would be coming and would need to be ready to strike in an instant.
    A gunshot went off. The fat guy had gotten the gun out and shot a round in the air. Well if the girl screaming wouldn't get attention the gun would. A girl screaming meant victim. A gun going off meant a fight.

    Nothing to do about it now except head for a more public place. The problem with raiding a drug house like this one is that the nearest public place was still a ways away. I had at least three blocks before I would be passing any buildings that weren't abandoned and another 4 before I was out of ABB territory. The safest route would be to the bay and the boardwalk. Not that they wouldn't follow me there but hitting the boardwalk in any public way would be bad for their business too. Not all their buyers were locals and it wouldn't do for them to scare away too many customers. I thought about heading towards the Undersiders loft but they weren't prepared to take on an assault of ABB members. White girl chased by Asians in Kaisers territory would get me help if I threw out a few racial slurs and obscenities on principal alone. That would work till they checked my bag. Then I'd be worse off. No I was going to have to lose them in a 7 block game of cat and mouse. I could normally play this game very well but with an opponent that could pop in with any number of reinforcements including Lung, I was at a bit of a disadvantage. Well if you can't go forwards, try going back.

    I ducked down an alley and climbed in through a broken window. I could feel twenty some thugs converging on the three would be attackers. They were speaking a language that I didn't. They seemed to be speaking in multiple languages when I paid more attention. Skinny seemed to know Mandarin but the ones that had met up with him didn't. Was that Japanese or Taiwanese. Moot point as they got frustrated and switched to English.

    "That bitch hit me in the dàn and took off that way," he said pointing. in the direction I would have been running.

    "Hien? Your sure?"

    "No it was a white girl. She had a pack with the money in it. She has his blade now too." That would be the fat one. He was still clutching his stomach.

    "Shit, Lung wants her dead. Go back and tell Lung its not Hien. We go find this girl and bring her back. Alive."

    Hey that's great! They want me alive. Well that should make things easier.

    The rest of the thugs moved off looking for me. I waited a bit longer till the first three started walking back to Lung. I stepped out of the building and started pacing them. Fat one had to help skinny walk. He had stuffed his gun in the back of his pants. The girl had her knife out this time and was holding it with a white knuckled grip. I waited till they had rounded the corner and was out of eyesight when I started sprinting. I closed the distance in a matter of seconds. I hit the fat guy in the back of the head with the but of the knife. As he was going down I grabbed the gun and pressed it to the girls head.

    "Drop it" I said with a gravelly voice. I didn't want her to recognize my voice and in some chance encounter down the road to get me in trouble. I had been attacked once by Emma and crew when they recognized my voice. Actually that was tomorrow. Is tomorrow? Will be tomorrow? No I'm going to Boston tomorrow.

    Feng was rigid. I cocked the gun and released the safety. At that she dropped the knife. Skinny was pinned under his buddy and couldn't see us.

    "Move" I said as I pushed her on a route perpendicular to the path the other group had taken searching for me.

    She started walking with small tight steps. When we passed her knife I stooped to pick it up and she tried twisting to grab the gun. I felt her tensing before she moved and was already moving to counter. My gun hand pulled back to my side and out of her reach and my empty hand closed on her knife. She had tried turning to grab the gun and I let her finish her turn before springing up with knife in hand at her throat.

    "That's two, on three you die. Turn around and walk."

    She looked pissed. She must have really thought she could have grabbed that gun from me. Might have been what she had planned when she dropped the knife. Oh well. The game was rigged but it was a good try on her part.

    She gave me a death glare. I slid the knife ½" across her throat. She pulled back quick. I nodded in the direction and she turned around again to walk. I sent my bugs in to check her pockets, and while I was at it, the pockets of the other two as well. Cell phones, wallets and keys were pulled out. I picked up the phones and wallets with silk lines. The keys I had a few bugs drag out of sight. I kept the gun pointed to her and stayed just out of her reach. We marched north a block then west a block opposite my original exit route. North one. West another. After the third block I stopped her.

    "Kneel facing the wall."

    She did but had started crying.

    "This is what gang life is. You mess with the wrong bitch and you die."

    She was openly crying. Her shoulders were shaking with ragged sobs. I opened her wallet and took her ID. Feng Zhen. She was 21. She had a college Id. I took the cash but left her cards.

    "Do you want to die in some ally like this Feng?" She was still sobbing. "Answer me." I said in a perfectly level voice.

    "Nnnnn nnnn no," she stutter sobbed out.

    "You are a college student why die like this?"

    She let out another sob. "I flunked out. It… School…."

    "Out with it," still calm and level.

    "It was hard!" she wailed

    "Life is hard. Death is easy. I pull this trigger. You die. Easy," cool like ice. She was a wreck.

    "I'm going to give you a choice. You can go the easy way. Or you can go the hard way. Do you want to die?"

    "NO! No nonononononono!"

    "I have your name. I have your address. I'll be checking on you. If I find you aren't back in school on my next visit…."

    "I'll do it, I'll go back, I'll study harder I swear! I'll never join another gang! And and I won't tell anyone about you just please don't kill me!"

    She was still making promises when she was out of my range. I had traveled 3 blocks north three blocks west. Further into their territory. But I was out of their search grid. With my attack on the trio that first accosted me they should also still be looking for Hien. I should be good to just walk straight out now. By now I had had my spiders seal my backpack back up. I also took off my mask and stuffed it in the bag. I still kept my hood up and my face hidden. But for the next 11 blocks I should be able to walk unmolested back to a bus stop. Actually now that I thought about it I was closer to one if I kept heading west, away from the bay. I would come across the line for the train yard in only 6 blocks. I'd have to take that to the bay line to get back to where I started. But I was planning on spending the money at the army surplus store among others and that was south, away from the docks and bay. I headed out with my new destination in mind.

    Before coming up to the bus stop I stayed in the alley and sorted my cash. I took out one of the ziplock bags and after feeling out the area, found a void in one of the walls obscure enough to hid a bag in. I had my spiders tie off an end and my roaches ferry the bag away.

    With that done I opened another bag and counted out $5,000. That should be enough for today's shopping and then some. The rest I would bury where needed. All in all a job well done. On to the next shopping trip. And maybe get more art supplies. With the cash I had in hand I wouldn't need to worry about the loss of the first set. It would be easier to just buy more supplies than head back to where I stashed them earlier.
  3. Hemolymph 03

    Shopping was a bit more fun this time. I had resupplied at an arts and crafts store this time and found a better selection. After, I found myself at an army surplus store and I had enough still to splurge. I had stashed the rest of the money at separate spots along the bus route that would take me to the Amtrak Station. I had grabbed a cart and started to shop. I grabbed a camelbak, a compass, a pair of M17 first aid kits, flashlights, a headlight, a multi tool kit, a case of MRE’s, a can of cooking fuel, water purification pills, concealed carry holster for my new gun, a set of throwing knives, the crowbar knife I had in the first timeline, a pair of spring loaded steel batons (also similar to my first one), two more clips for the gun with a box of bullets to match, a gun cleaning kit and manual, handcuffs, multiple cans of pepper spray, a short stun gun, a ranged stun gun, a lighter, matches, a flint striker, several carabiners, a rappelling harness, a wire saw, night vision binoculars, 2 packs of light sticks, an emergency survival kit, a whistle, a fire blanket, and a heavy duty backpack with a chassis to help carry some of the supplies. At the checkout counter I realized I wasn’t going to be able to carry all of it. I had to put back the MRE’s, first aid kit, and survival kit but vowed to return with a car next time.

    The clerk was watching me go about this without saying a word. He was a grizzled older man in his 60’s. White hair that was shaved close to his head to mask the balding. He was still fit though and was wearing a shirt that showed it. It wasn’t till I started putting back items that he spoke up.

    “We have a website.” There was no intonation in his voice. It was completely flat. “You can shop there and have some of these things delivered. It might be less conspicuous.”

    I turned to look at him with a level stare. “You think I’m being conspicuous.”

    “Ask no questions, hear no lies. Your total is $1,356.89, will that be cash or credit?”

    “Cash,” I replied.

    “Would you like a bag?”

    “Can you help me fit it in the backpack?” I asked.

    “Won’t all fit but I’ll get most of it in. You may need separate bags for the rest.”

    “Thats fine.” He set to stuffing the bag. He did manage to get everything in but in the end that wasn’t so much the problem. The issue was the weight. Lastly he handed me a card. I checked it over and it had a website address on it.

    “Young girl like you buying up all this combat gear might draw attention. Plus I can’t see you carrying out the cases of MRE’s on your own.”

    I didn’t say anything as I grabbed the rest of my purchases. He was right about carrying all this out on my own though. The MRE’s aside I was still a scrawny 15 year old. He helped me put the pack on but after I took three steps, I had to take it off.

    “Think you can call me a cab?” I asked.

    “Would you also like those MRE’s now too?”

    “If I can get the cabbie to help unload, I’ll take the shelf.”

    “Ill call the cab company and ring you up those cases with the survival and first aid kits.”

    “Thank you.”

    “Do you know something I don’t kid?”

    I turned back to look at him. Should I warn the general populace that Leviathan was bearing down on the city. Should I tell him that the Slaughterhouse 9 was coming to follow up. Or that Scion would end the world two years later?

    “The ABB is trying to expand again. Looks like a turf war with the Empire. I live in the middle. Just looking to prepare myself. Think you can help get these to the cab?”

    “Sure thing. The total is are $956.75. Cash again?”

    I paid him the rest and walked outside to wait on the cab. I didn’t have long to wait. When he got there I had him load up and went back to get the clerk. When he was walking out I found a pen and another card. I tapped the pen to the card a few times. I couldn’t. I had to play this game close to the chest. I couldn’t offer any aid ahead of time. I knew how she operated. I couldn’t say anything or even write it down. Too risky. To much chance events would differ too much if I did. I was banking a lot on things sticking to the original timeline. Start making too many waves and I won’t be able to predict what happens.

    I walked out to the cab and moved to tip the clerk for the help.

    “No thanks kid, I’m just making sure you’re safe.”

    “And I’m doing the same for you. Keep the MRE’s well stocked. This turf war could get ugly.” I told the driver my address but asked him to stop first a block away. No sense in having my dad catch me with all this stuff when I could scan the house first to see if he was home and adjust accordingly.

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    We stopped twice before I made it home. The first was for a phone call. I had taken the batteries out of the phones from my attackers when I took them. The boys would have need medical attention before they canceled their phones. Feng might have closed her line but her phone was easy to pick out from the boys.

    I dialed out the number. 1-857-366-5546.

    “Hello?” a woman answered.

    “I would like to make an appointment for a meeting tomorrow afternoon.” I kept my voice level and aimed for a more formal selection of words.

    “I’m sorry but this is my personal phone. Who is this and how did you get this number?”

    “You may call me Harbinger and I received this number from an associate of yours.”

    “Very well Harbinger. And the nature of your visit?” All professional now that I used a cape name?

    “I will be arriving tomorrow to discuss matters of an S class threat. I will be coming alone.”

    “I’m afraid that will be unacceptable. My employer is a very particular man and his schedule will not allow him to make such concessions for an individual under a borrowed name.”

    Well somebody had the Parahumans site open.

    “This pertains to an S class threat in your area. Your employer is currently in danger. I’d advise you find him the time.”

    “If this is an S class threat, why are you not reporting this to the Protectorate? This does not sound like something we will be willing or able to handle.”

    “This is not a threat the Protectorate is designed to handle. Furthermore the PRT is compromised and I’m afraid they will be otherwise unable to handle this threat. The finer details however I will only be able to discuss in person, tomorrow afternoon. You have my number. Text me the time and address of your offices. Goodby.

    Before she could respond I hung up the phone and took out the battery. I would need a few more things before tomorrow. I’d head into Boston a little early and get a dress, shoes, and head to a beauty salon to get fixed up. I would need to look pristine and frankly I wasn’t too good at making myself look pretty. I had spent most of my days wearing a mask and fighting or training to fight capes. Glen had had me change my image as a cape but out of costume, well I didn’t really spend much time out of costume. At least I didn’t spend much time out in public. Down time was spent training with Theo or the other Chicago wards, mass producing spider silk costumes, sitting on stakeouts, or researching the S9. Not much of a social life admittedly. Not that I was likely to ammend that any time soon. This would be a business call, not a social one.

    The cab driver was still idling. I climbed back in and had him continue. A block away I had him stop again. He must really be hating me with these random stops. Oh well nothing to do about it.

    I reached out to check my surroundings. I stretched forward to my house and didn’t find any cars. Dad was still out with the dockworkers then. Well things should be improving for him soon. Labor wise. I had big plans for this city. Those though would need to wait. Tonight I would be working on new masks and temporary alterations to my costume. Oh and dinner.

    We continued forth and upon arriving at my house, I had had the cabbie help me unload and bring the heavy stuff down to the basement. I had put my gun in the holster right in front of him before we started this so he wouldn’t get any bright ideas. Not saying he was the type to do something foolish but I didn’t want him to think it was even an option. After everything was in the basement and relatively hidden I paid the fair with a little extra for the help. I had a few hours before dinner so I started in on the art supplies. I planned on making a new mask that would still cover all of my face but one that looked nothing like the one I would use in combat. This one needed to be simple yet elegant. It would need to show complexity without being overbearing or gaudy. It would also need to work with a little black dress.

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    I had finished my mask and was halfway through cooking dinner when my dad showed up.

    “Hey there kiddo.”

    “Hey dad!” I replied while stirring the pasta.

    “You seem rather chipper tonight. You enjoy your day off from school?”

    “Yep.”

    “Oh ya whatcha do?”

    “I took a walk down to the bay, spent some time people watching on the boardwalk. Then I went and picked up some art supplies. I still have an art midterm that I’ll need to turn in when I get back to class. I was working on it a bit then came down to make dinner. How was your day dad?”

    “Taylor you're supposed to be taking it easy with this pass. I can appreciate you getting work done for school but shouldn’t you be in bed?”

    “Dad they didn’t say I would have trouble walking or even running for that matter. Just that I might not be good enough to be back school without another check up.”

    “Does that mean you’re still planning on running in the morning?”

    “Yes dad I’m still going to go running in the morning.” Wait would I?

    “With the head injury it might not be such a bad idea to take a break from it for a bit.”

    “Maybe but then that would make it that much harder to pick it back up again.”

    As much as he was prodding me to give up the running I had really missed talking to him like this. It felt good to just sit down and talk with him again. I had never asked Tattletale because I was too afraid of the answer. I honestly don’t know if he had survived the final attack by Scion.

    When the pasta was ready I drained it and set out the chicken. The rest of dinner was really nice. I wasn’t stressing about school. I had successfully pulled off one job and was optimistic about the others. After dinner I turned in early. I knew tomorrow would be long so I wanted to get my rest when I could.

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    The next morning I got up and set out on my morning jog. I figured it would be that much harder if I didn’t get up and do it. I had ample time to get my affairs in order before this afternoon. Plus it let me stash my suit and a few of my weapons where by I wouldn’t need to come home to get them. I set my path to take me to where I would be fighting Lung tonight. I had a baton, pepper spray, and a knife with me. I left them stashed in an alley 6 blocks west. It would let me come in, get changed, and mobilize without risking being seen by either the ABB thugs or any other capes in the area. Finished with that I set off for home again. I would need to go shopping, get my nails and hair done, and be mentally prepared for what was about to come.

    I checked Skinny’s phone before I was a mile from home. There was a textmessage already waiting for me. ‘250 1st Ave, Boston MA. Suit 1117. 3pm Sharp!’ I searched the address on the phones map app. Redline towards Alewife. Get off at Downtown Crossing Station and take the Yellow 93 buss towards Sullivan via Navy Yard. Hop off at First Ave and I’m there.

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    The address lead me to an austere brick and glass office building. I had on oversized sunglasses, a scarf covering my lower face, and was wearing a heavy jacket that completely hid my figure. All that and I didn’t look out of place at all. It was cold and everyone I had come across was bundled up much like I was. Entering the building I headed straight for the elevator. I wasn't about to exhaust myself on the steps. Not if the suite was on the 11th floor. I was worried about being trapped on the elevator but I doubted he would be willing to kill me before we met. Still a possibility.

    There weren’t many bugs out and about in April in Boston. The ones under my coat I had had to bringing in from home. A few hundred black widows. I wasn’t planning on fighting so much. They were actually more for defence. I had brought them with me to fix up my dress once I bought it. They were mostly done running silk through it that I could spare a few to secure the cables that my roaches had identified as being rigged to release. There would be countless traps waiting for me on the 11th floor too. Those could wait though.

    I hadn’t actually managed to secure any of the cables before the car started. I was barely finished with one by the time I reached the 11th floor. Ok maybe I was a bit paranoid? No its not paranoia if they really are out to kill you. Not that he had much reason to kill me yet. Hopefully I could go out the way I came but if not I would need to get down those stairs. Ok maybe I should have huffed it up there. No I could still reach the ground floor, I could use the time in the meeting to clear a path.

    I emerged on the 11th floor to an upscale hallway. I wandered down till I found a directory, noted my path and set out for 1117. A simple door without a name plate.

    I pushed the door open and headed in. Emerging from the hall I first noticed that the reception was pristine. The marble floors had no grout lines and even the veins interlinked to the point it looked like a continuous slab. The wood walls were much the same. Even the baseboard and crown moulding matched one another to the point where it could all have been cut from the same tree. My experience with the man had only ever been in my territory. I had never seen his facilities before.

    “Harbinger?” The woman behind the desk asked. She too was pristine in a yellow formal dress with gold trim and had on a gorgeous mask to match. Her hair was as immaculately straight as my own was today. I had made sure the stylist had an understanding of my need to have every hair in the right place.

    “Indeed. Thank you for having me on such short notice Citrine. I apologize for any inconvenience I might have caused you, Accord, or the other Ambassadors.”

    “Accord will appreciate your formalities. Have seat. He will be with you shortly.” She looked rather nervous. Oh right she never gave me her name. Well she never gave me her phone number but I still had that too. Also I was still dressed like the unibomber. Need to fix that.
    “Do you have a restroom, I would like to compose myself before I head in.”

    She smiled at this and indicated the hall to my left. I took the opportunity to scan the area with my bugs. Three stories for his office space alone. There was a lot of activity going on. I could detect at least seven individuals going about their separate tasks in the offices around me.

    I found the bathroom easily enough. It helped to have a few bugs already scouting for me. I walked in and changed. I covered my head entirely under my coat as I donned my full face mask I had made the night before. It was a female face all in white. I had painted on some soft eyeshadow and done the lips in a dark purple. The eyes were done up to have a slight asian look to them. To add a bit more of an edge I stitched over the lips to bind them shut. A harbinger with her lips sewn shut. Let them figure out a power from that.

    The black dress I had on under the coat was nothing like I would normally wear. I had gotten it two sizes too big and stuffed it with silicon padding to fit. I was checking myself in the mirror and liked the look of it. It was reminiscent of a kimono in that it went all the way up to my neck but left the arms exposed. It had zippers starting at the sides of the neck and tracking a voluptuous figure line down my normally skinny frame. It gave the illusion of a figure while being helped along with lots of silicon stuffing. It should make me look more like a woman and less like a girl. It would also distort my figure enough to ensure that if they saw me out of costume and without this dress, they wouldn’t even guess based on my body type. On top of that I had had my hair straightened and left to flow back and behind me. My normal wavy hair would come back once I washed it again but for now I was a completely different person.

    Secure enough in my new look I returned and took a seat on the bench she had indicated. It too was immaculate. Not a stitch or seam out of place. It spoke of Accord’s neurosis. Something I would have to be very careful around. I was already putting myself at odds with him by insisting on the meeting. I would have to be very careful with what I said here on out. I had my bugs with me but they were staying far out of site for the time being. They were currently scouting the insides of the walls in the next room. I might have need of a demonstration later and it wouldn’t hurt to have a few contingencies in place like the black widows I still had tucked on the inside of my thighs above my skirt line and on the back of my head well below my hair.

    A light went off at her desk and she rose. “Accord will see you now. A word of advice, he is already upset with you. Don’t do anything to upset him further.”

    I nodded and walked in. If I thought his reception was impressive, his office was awesome. As in the original definition of the word. China parquet wood flooring with real wood. Not a veneer pattern but actual wood. I remembered touring Monticello in 5th grade. This beat that by a mile. The complexity of the patterns were astounding.

    “Good afternoon Harbinger.”

    My musings would have to wait. I had a very capable sociopath standing before me and a lot of my plans hinged on this meeting.

    “Good afternoon Accord. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”

    “I do not usually make such accommodations. You said you had to discuss an S class threat that is a danger to my life. Discuss.”

    Well so much for formalities. I guess he was skipping those till he heard about the death threat. Not a good sign. I shouldn’t have rushed into this meeting, but I wasn’t about to stand by when I could be doing something to save everyone.

    “I have come to discuss several items today. If you would like to discuss the threat to your life first I can oblige,” I paused waiting on him. After time he gave a nod but nothing more. “You recently came in contact with a team of Parahumans by the name of the Travelers. One of their member has been touched by the Simurgh and will be the one to kill you.”

    “And this is the S class threat?”

    “The two are now unrelated. The threat to your life is from a cape by the name of Perdition or Cody. You recently sent him to the Yang ban for ‘rehabilitation.’ When you next meet, he will kill you.”

    He twitch at that. I hadn’t spent long enough around him to get a great sense for his ticks but the twitch was there.

    “Then I will be sure not to meet him.”

    “You will be sure to send assassins or the only outcome will be your own death.”

    “You seem rather certain of this. You know this how.”

    No way am I telling him that secret. Not yet anyway. I needed to know he wasn’t going to try and impale me from above before I would tell that secret.

    “First you will need to commit to executing this agent of chaos. Preferably before he is assimilated into the Yang ban. They are a force of order but even they can not counter the Simurgh. It will also be much harder to dispose of him once he has their full range of powers.”

    I waited. I could stand there all day till he committed. Waiting was also good for me. I had my spiders positioning themselves about the facility, climbing onto the rest of the ambassadors. If shit went sideways, I’d be ready. I was also using them to scout the room and close off the traps he had set for me. He hadn’t had me take a seat yet which was a bad sign. I was currently standing under a ceiling tile that could spit spikes. On the plus side my roaches were chewing through the trigger mechanism. Bugs were also digging through the walls looking for any other projectiles and attacking the buttons in and under his desk. I had also found a gas hose. That wouldn’t be safe to cut so I had I spider on my side of the wall covering the head where it emerged into the room.

    “You twist my arm saying you are trying to preserve my life. Very well. I can commit to correcting this problem. Have a seat and we will discuss this S class threat.”

    I moved to take a seat as he himself did.

    “Thank you Accord. I actually have several items to discuss with you. One is to relay a message to certain individuals. This is in regards to the S class threat. The second is that I would like to acquire a certain individual for my organization. The third is to purchase a plan from you.”

    He leaned back. The third one was really just to stroke his ego.

    “My plans do not come cheap.”

    Bingo. And a lie. No one ever purchased his plans and he had to force them on others who still dismissed them after he left.

    “I would not expect them to be. Were they cheap, I would have doubts of their effectiveness.”

    He didn’t smile at that but he did draw himself up bit straighter. It was marginal but I would take it.

    “And what would you have me plan? A heist. An assassination. A city takeover?”

    “Disaster relief. I will need to plan for a viable source of supplies. Routes into and out of the city will be hazardous. I have water access but will be expecting any existing structures to suffer massive damage.”

    “You have a city in mind?” I could see him getting nervous. Or maybe that was just how he looked when his powers were kicking in.

    I paused. Let him run through his powers for a bit. It might leave him less stressed. Or it might be that he was worried it was Boston that would be attacked.

    “I’m sorry but I have already said too much. I will need a general plan that can allow for adaptations. Assume capes will target supplies with capes defending the supplies. Assume any stockpiles in a city are void. All supplies must be from external sources. Back to my first item though, I wish for you to convey a message to Countessa, Doctor Mother, and the Numbers Man.”

    “I’m afraid I am unfamiliar with who you are referring to,” he said leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers.

    “Cauldron. You purchase your assistants abilities from them. You have a means of communicating with them. I’d like you to pass on a message.”

    I paused again. He had gone still. Not still as in poised to strike but still so as not to give away anything from his body language. I waited for a bit longer.

    “Do you have a pen and paper. I would like to be sure my message is exact and would not ask you to act as a scribe.”

    “Only as a messenger boy.”

    “You may prefer the term harbinger.”

    “Is that not your name?”

    “I informed your secretary that the name Harbinger was not my name while out in costume. It is simply a code name to use for meetings like this where even my cape name must be kept confidential.”

    “You don’t trust me?”

    “I do not trust that your methods of communication are entirely secure. This is not a slight against you but there is a reason I am not having this message recorded digitally. You might be surprised by what tinkers and thinkers are capable of. Some powers seem far too much like cheating.”

    “Indeed,” he paused again. Then he passed me a pad of paper and an exquisite fountain pen.

    I took extra care to write neatly. The paper had no lines which made it a bit more difficult. That was fine. I had been going over this message in my mind since I got back. I still wasn’t convinced it was the best it could be but time was up and I had to put pen to paper.

    ‘15 years. Help me clear the path to Zion. Will discuss only at your source.’

    Not very poetic but hey its not like I’m writing a prophecy. I’m just trying to peak their interest and set my terms. Besides it wouldn’t be safe to discuss anything more than that. I couldn’t be sure She couldn’t see other worlds. Of the only two blind spots I knew of, one was in their base. Only there would it be safe to talk freely.

    I passed the bad back after wiping the tip and the rest of the pen. I wouldn’t want them to find me right away and leaving fingerprints on the pen and paper would be another stupid mistake I wasn’t going to make. Not that Accord didn’t have other more subtle ways of collecting DNA or fingerprints from me. He might have already done so when I opened the door from outside. Crap I’d have to wipe that down on my way out too.

    He read it once over. Then again.

    “And they will understand this?”

    “They will. And I have another number for both of you to reach me at,” I had purchased a prepaid phone when I was doing my shopping for my dress and shoes. I wrote that number down for them as well.

    “See to it that they receive this in a timely manner. Chaos will ensue until proper action is taken. This brings me to my final item of discussion.”

    “Yes and who is it that you want in your organization? Me?”

    “We could do great things together Accord but the time is not right. No, I would like to acquire Blasto. I understand he is a rival of yours. I’d like to remove this thorn in your side.”

    “And what is your interest in Blasto?”

    “He is an agent of chaos. A wet tinkerer is something rather unsightly. I am an agent of order. Under my stewardship, I would be able to redirect his tasks to something more amenable.”

    “Yes unsightly is an apt word. I have no love for the man or his creations. They are abhorrent. They disrupt the natural order of things. They go against nature itself. They are abominations.”

    I could hear the sneer before I saw it on his mask. Ok he is starting down the crazy path. Man if he has this much hate for Blasto then why the hell did he build him a new lab? Also what is he going to think of my abilities. Well he liked me well enough the first time when he understood me. Or maybe he simply prefered speaking with me than Tattletale.

    “But why ask me of this. You already know he is an adversary of mine. It is not in my power to give him to you.”

    “No, what I want from you is peace. Hold off on any plans you have against him. I will not need him to relocate for another few months. That being said he has work to do for me. See to it that he survives without incident until such a time.”

    “This is a possibility.”

    “But?”

    “You have asked me to do a large number of things for you. Now we must talk price.”

    “For remaining peaceful with Blasto until such a time as he is to be moved, you may claim half his territory when it is vacated. The other half will remain under my control. For the delivery of the message to Cauldron. Consider that its own reward. It may well save your life even. Or use it as a bargaining chip when requesting new vials for minions. That leaves the price for the plans.”

    “I’m afraid I will require all of his territory in exchange for remaining neutral. I cannot do business with his creations roaming my streets. The price you offer is much too low. Conveying a message to Cauldron is also very expensive. I will have to ask for $200,000. As for my plans. Well they are the most expensive of all. $500,000. for the plans and not a penny less.”

    Well fuck that. I offer him a fair deal and he throws it in my face.

    “Deal. But that still leaves one item unpaid for.”

    “Oh? And what might that be?”

    “Your life.”

    “You threaten me in my own office?” He had quirked an eyebrow as if to say I’d like to see you try.

    “I gave you the information to save your life. What price should I name for that. One million? Two million? Ten million?”

    “That information was payment for an impromptu meeting. It was payment for insulting me. Furthermore it is customary to give a gift as tribute when meeting with your betters. You have much to learn when dealing with individuals such as myself. It makes me wonder if you should really be trying to play with the big boys.”

    Mother fucker. This part was so not going as planned. Hell he could take all the territory. But the money I wasn’t ready to part with. I would need all of that and more to get my plans into operation. This arrogant prick was trying to rob me when I just saved his stupid life twice over!

    “Ill give you the rest of Blasto’s territory to cover the cost of sending a message to Cauldron. As for the Disaster Relief plan, I may delay that request indefinitely. Do we have a deal?”

    He didn’t look happy at that. Well he didn’t look anything as he had gone still again.

    “I think I will have to delay the delivery indefinitely. At least until you have learned better manners. Now I am a busy man and I have many matters to attend to. If you're done wasting my,”

    I stood quickly pulling the cord wrapped around his throat taught. He grabbed at his desk and hit several buttons beneath. I had scoured the room in the time of our conversation and disabled every trap I could find and every trigger under his desk. His computer screen cut off when I had two linked caterpillars trip the breaker. The office descended into darkness.

    I hauled him over his desk and onto the ground. I pinned him under my chair and began stringing his arms and legs to the legs of it. He hadn’t been able to trigger any alerts to the rest of his staff. For that I was thankful. It would be much easier to disable them if they were isolated. Better still to not have to contend with them.

    “Youre going to regret this Harbinger.”

    “The only reason you're alive is because I still need you. I made a fair offer and you insult me by throwing it in my face and then dismissing me. Get them that message. If you need a better reason to get in contact with them I can start executing your minions. It would be easy. I won’t even have to leave the room to do it. One by one they will drop dead. Through no fault of their own. Simply because in the end you favored chaos over order. And I thought you were a smart man. It seems I was mistaken.”
    “I wont forget this.”

    “I should hope not. Next time you insult me it will be your death. Now are you going to pass that message on to Cauldron for me?”

    “Fine,” he choked out.

    “Good, and are you going to cause any trouble for Blasto for the next few months?”

    He tried wiggling free and I pulled the cord so it cut into his neck.

    “None of that. Are you going to cause any trouble for Blasto?”

    “No!” He wheezed out when I finally let him breath.”

    “Good. Now that means that there won’t be any trouble for Blasto. Not from you, or Spree, or Chain Man, any Heros, or any other out of town cape. Nobody touches Blasto or I execute every last one of you. And when I take over all his territory you will remember why its me expanding to take over the rest of Boston and not you. I’ll notify your secretary that you need some assistance on my way out.” I tied off the noose to the back of the chair and walked out.

    “How did your meeting go?” Citrine asked from her desk. The reception area had a few windows that were letting in light. Accord for whatever reason had his blinds closed. Or did I close them with my bugs? Nope, those were automated. They had been closed before I tripped the breaker.

    “The loss of power interrupted us. Accord is in a bit of a state. You may want to give him a minute before you head in.”

    She paled at that. Well that fear will either keep her out of the room long enough for me to get out or send her rushing in to check on him. I left a bug on her shoulder to keep tabs. I also set to cleaning out the webs that were still stopping his countermeasures. I had made an enemy today. One that would have been better served as an ally. Nothing for it now. I needed that message out and I wasn’t about to let him rob me blind to do so. I wasn’t about to lose to him either. Hopefully I could make amends. Delivering that message for me should get a strong enough reaction from Cauldron to let him know I’m not some kid screwing around. I’m a queen on this chess board.

    0
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    0

    I walked calmly down the stairs. Inside I was a giant rage monster. Outside I was calm cool and collected. I checked my swarm. They were agitated. Every insect for the next block was showing the emotion that I was keeping bottled up. I knew it would be petty if I infested his office with roaches, or had termites devour his desk, or better yet just have the mosquitos in my range start reproducing near his office. The problem was that once word got out about a cape in Brockton Bay that could control bugs, I’d be the obvious target for any kind of retribution from Accord. For now though he would be looking to hinder Blasto any way he could. I had read through reports that the remnant of Fenrir’s chosen had dug Blasto out his hole. It had driven him straight to Accord who already had a lab set up with everything and more. That had to have been planned. Now I was worried he might do something like that again if he hadn’t already.

    Damnit. I should have just paid him the 200k, or better yet haggled it down some. Screw the plan for the city. I had only added that to stroke his ego. For all the good that did me. I already had my own plans for that. Having him add his two cents would have helped find any gaps I had missed though. Well I’d just have to make due on my own. Crap I’m not too good at these types of negotiations am I. Last one I was at I killed everyone on the other side of the table. Ok that wasn’t the last last one but I did screw that up royally too. I’d have to work on these things. The next meeting with a villain I had planned needed to go better than this. If I botched this next one I’d be in serious trouble. I donned my coat and scarf and walked outside through the fire escape stair. The alarm went off as I was leaving the building. Let them deal with the mess. I scouted out ahead of me looking to see if there was a bus nearby. There wasn’t but being by the naval yard, there were a few taxis. I hailed one and got in. I headed out to downtown where I got out. walked to the opposite side of the block and hopped in another taxi. The mask I had changed out for my scarf and sunglasses in the last cab. This one wouldn’t know I had even been wearing a mask. Just to be sure though I had it drop me off and I again changed cabs.

    “Allston, East. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
  4. Hemolymph 04

    I needed to calm down. I was still livid from the mess I had made with Accord. $700,000. for a message and a stack of papers!

    Relax Taylor. Relax. I had to reach out to my bugs again. I was approaching the area of my next target. I had donned a heavy coat with a hood to cover my dress when I left Accord’s. While Brockton Bay might have mild weather in April, Boston was in the 50’s. Most of the insects I had available were hiding in buildings to keep warm. That meant that when I found a cluster of them outside, it was an oddity.

    I reached towards them and was a bit startled. Maggots covered a corpse. I had no idea what kind of animal it had even started as. I had the cab stop and I got out. I wandered just off the main street to see the corpse. At the moment it looked a bit green. Should mean I was in the right area. I started flies taking turns weaving in and out of the streets and the interiors of buildings to keep them warm. When I felt one start slowing down I found them a nice warm spot by a space heater to recoup.

    I didn’t have to search too long before I found another anomaly. This one was still alive and dangerous. It had caught my attention by killing nearly every bug I sent its way. I cautiously approached the area of the dying insects. I amassed a small swarm and sent half in. They were picked off one by one from a distance. As they closed in the denser part of the cluster lost many with the survivors in a wet sticky mess and slowly moving downward. Luckily I still had enough to make contact that were at the edges. I was so shocked by what they were resting on that I hardly remembered to pull them back before they were all devoured. Leaving them there actually was a good thing. When the venus flytrap monster couldn’t hit them without striking it’s body, it released a purple cloud that killed them enmass.

    Ok so this thing could spit the needles that covered its face, chomp a bunch all at once with its over wide jaws, and emit a cloud of death at close range. The thing looked like one of those killer plants in Super Mario. This one though was mottled brown and and didn’t attack on a predictable timer. I decided to moved on and keep searching. This time I started sending bugs deeper into the buildings. The live creature told me I was in the right area. It was an active defence and why would you need to defend if you weren’t anywhere near.

    I spent the next twenty minutes passing by stranger and stranger amalgamations of plant and animal biology. I had tried reaching out to their minds but was denied each time. I did find one mind that I could touch. This one had twelve legs. Six appendages sprung from the body and spit in two before ending in needle like legs. I could feel its anatomy which showed me it was slowly starving, but more importantly it was sterile. It was vaguely insectile though my commands over it were being fought by other baser emotions. It wasn’t until my other bugs started to fight against my control too that I stopped to feel.

    My bugs were all reacting strongly to a scent in the area. It told them to flee. I spread them out along the edges of the scent to get an idea of how large an area it was. Despite their urges to flee I still maintained control. I did have to focus on them more, giving an uninterrupted line of commands to keep what was effecting them from taking over. I could feel a perimeter had been set in a rough circle around a corner building. It was mostly brick and seemed to be partially overgrown with ivy. Given who lived here I had my doubts that this was any ordinary ivy. I would steer clear of that. Unless thats what he wanted me to think? Was he the type of cape to hide by something so obviously a trap so as to protect himself from the smart capes? Well that would be trumped by the dumb ones. Or the doubly smart ones. It’s like in The Princess Bride. Which cup is poised? The one on the left or the one on the right? Ok bad example, both cups were poisoned.

    How to approach then? I hadn’t had a number to call like I had had Citrine’s from when she came to work for me with the rest of the Ambassadors. Should I just knock? Finding and disabling traps would be a lot harder here than with Accord. My bugs wouldn’t be able to tell if a plant was deadly without being eaten first.

    I still hadn’t mastered speaking or hearing through my bugs. Maybe I should just come back after I had improved some. No I was here to do just that.

    I started gathering a larger swarm. As I did I sent various bugs into the building. First I noticed that once inside, their resistance to being there had faded but instead I felt a warmth or strong attraction to something through them. Odd. I wanted to find Blasto, make sure he was at least here. Scouting the building showed me a 3 story building. The ground floor was living space with the kitchen, what would be the den and family room. Those were occupied with a few cages with some creations in them. Guard I suspected. The second floor had more of the same. The third floor had mostly storage. Still no bedroom, nor did I find a lab or even him. I started searching down. Sure enough I found the lab and with it Blasto. He was hunched over a desk mumbling. I couldn’t tell if my bug hearing was bad or if he really was just mumbling. Also in the lab were three other creatures. They seemed roughly humanoid but far too hairy. Maybe a cross between monkey and ape. Could he have reverse engineered the missing link? No I recognized their description from the reports of Defiants final fight with Damsel of Distress.

    Well he was here. Now how to get his attention without starting a fight. I created two swarms sending one to the lab and one to the front door. Sure enough the ivy moved to ensnare my bugs. The problem with that was that the ivy was designed to cling to appendages. Human appendages. When the ivy closed around the mass of my bug swarm the vines simply passed through them. My bugs didn’t even need to fight to get out of the way, the ivy took the path of least resistance and slid past them. The second swarm of bugs was moving deep into his workshop to Blasto himself. I gathered clusters on the wall and started forming words. He was too preoccupied so I landed a few bugs near him to get his attention. He still ignored them.

    Frustrating. I sent several flies to buzz in front of him. He tried waving them away but was still trying to get back to work. Ok thats it. I sent the whole of the swarm I had writing on the wall onto his desk.

    This got his attention. He fell out of his chair and started scrambling back. I immediately pulled back my swarm to the wall and rearranged them into my message. He was still scrambling but I could tell he was paying attention to what I was writing. Midway through he stood and walked from the room. I tracked his movements and he made his way to the stairs and the front door. He opened the door and came face to face with my swarm. I had tried composing them in a humanoid form which might have been the reason for his face blanching.

    “You are hear to speak of Accord’s surrender?” he asked with a slight quaver in his voice.

    My swarm raised a hand to point in my direction and looked to me for further emphasis. When Blasto looked my way, I had my swarm disperse. I was walking towards him in my black dress and full face mask. I covered the distance at an easy pace. Rushing could be seen as a threat. Taking my time had him waiting on me and not the other way around. It also let me begin dealing with the minions that had begun moving into the area. He had changed the smell of the area. Now my bugs were feeling agitated. This was the smell of danger, of a threat. Should I mess this up he might switch them to an aggressive or defensive state. Both would paint me as a target. Both would also leave me fighting for control of my bugs and fighting his many minions.

    I stopped my walk ten feet from him.

    “I am here to negotiate a truce,” I lied. I had actually started a war. It would be a cold war at first but eventually it would heat up. I would need to keep it cold for as long as possible. After that Accord wouldn’t be an issue.

    “Funny I don’t recognize you as one of his Ambassadors.”

    “I’m a third party. Accord knows me by Harbinger.”

    “And what am I to know you as?”

    “For the time you may call me Harbinger.”

    “So Harbinger what terms is Accord offering me?”

    “Two months of peace whereby at the end of this time, you will be provided a new lab and biological samples you would otherwise be unable to attain on your own.”

    “Hardly an appealing offer. I have everything I need here.”

    “Not everything. The offer is better than you might imagine but as I said I was here to negotiate. If this is insufficient, what will you require?”

    “This is a trap. Another game by Accord to get to my work.”

    He had about 12 creatures I could identify moving in my direction. My bugs were having a difficult time with them. Most seemed to prey upon insects or at least be able to handle them well enough. I tried adjusting tactics and using the black widows to bite them. That had the worst effect of all. Instead of dying like most animals, these hybrids seemed not only immune to the venom but the biting acted to further aggravate them. They were still a distance away but there were moving rapidly.

    “Freedom. I can grant you freedom. I can see the chains that bind you Blasto,” I had the twelve legged creature that had been nearest, scurry towards me. It climbed my leg and came to rest on my shoulder. “He is sterile. As are the rest of your creations. This new facility will be well beyond the reach of the PRT and their rules and regulations. You will have ultimate control over your domain. It will be a garden paradise. Imagine what you can create without the fear of being labeled as an S class threat.”

    “You? You grant me these things then? Not Accord?”

    Shit I did say ‘I’ didn’t I. Well there was nothing for it now.

    “I can grant you these things. I have offered terms for peace with Accord. His terms were for your territory.”

    “So you bargain with my territory before even consulting me?!”

    “No I made a fair offer. He refused and demanded you life. I am saving your life. To do so though requires you to relocate.”

    “And what good will relocating do for me? What good will a new lab be in a garden paradise. I may be a botanist but I need tech to work my magic. How am I to get this if I’m far enough from civilization that the PRT simply don’t care what I do? I would have to be on my own island for them not to care. And an island doesn’t have much in the way of lab equipment.”
    “I can assure you the facilities will be state of the art. You will be fully stocked and want for nothing.”

    “So what is it that you get out of this hrm? It’s me you want isn’t it. You want my creations just like everyone else!”

    Ok to hell with this.

    I called in my swarm. I had every bug for a block descend on us even pulling them off harassment detail. They swarmed around me and Blasto. He cowered on the ground with his hands above his head. My bugs had already found the various vials with the pheromones he was planning to use on me. In the time we had spoken I had stripped them from him. His first instinct was to duck and cover but once on the ground he began searching for the missing vials.

    “Yes. I want your creations Blasto. But I am willing to pay for them and pay handsomely,” my swarm still obscured the two of us from each other. I closed the distance between us unnoticed. Last chance at making this work I thought. I finished what my bugs were unable to do.

    I pulled them all back just as I turned around, now standing in the same spot I was when they first descended. He looked up and saw what I had left him.

    Stacks and stacks of money were laid out before him. All the money I had taken from the ABB minus what I had already spent and a few grand for odds and ends later. I had piled the smallest bills on the bottom with the stacks of hundreds on top. I never could read well with my bugs. That was something I needed my own eyes for.

    “For now I am asking that you lay low. Keep out of trouble for a few months. I’ll be paying you more that you would ever be able to steal on your own. Yes I do want your creations but more accurately I want you to create for me. The money before you is for a specific creation. I have limits. This creation should remove some of those. I encountered a cape once who could alter the biologies of my bugs. The most useful was a dragonfly that could relay my abilities. I could chain them out to reach greater and greater distances. I would need a bug like this,” I gathered my swarm back to me and had his 12 legged creation join them. “It’s evident that your creations work well with my abilities. The relay bugs would be a start. Deliver them and I will ask for others. Fire ants. Lightning bugs. Fishing spiders. Carpenter ants. I will of course be open to any and all suggestions. And I will be paying you well enough it should no longer necessitate you having to involve yourself in any further crimes.”

    “So you want me to make you amplification bugs. You are paying me in cash. And after I deliver what then? You push your range to the ends of the earth and you won’t need me much anymore. With that kind of ability you could destroy the earth. You could have swarms black out the sun or chew through a reactor core or power lines cutting off power to nations. You could have your insects devour the worlds crops, spread diseases faster than any that have plagued our earth before! You could become a new Endbringer!”

    Wow. Just. Wow. That was a really scary thought. I could do all of that too. Natural swarms devoured to feed. I had had my bugs devour only to chew through things. And spreading diseases? I could send a group of mosquitoes to feed on a west nile victim and then spread them like wildfire across the earth breeding and feeding. I could do all that without Blasto’s help too. I did like his creativity though. I had never thought of how to turn my powers to mass destruction. Probably not a good thing those were his first thoughts. Might say something about his own abilities. That or maybe he was echoing the fears the PRT had for him and his creations.

    “I can do all of those things now. But you are right. With the relay bugs I would grow from a threat to a city to a threat to the world. I however have no interest in destroying the world. Nor am I aiming for world domination. I intend to save it. You speak of the Endbringers. Eventually they will win. We are fighting a losing battle against them. Each fight we lose more and more capes. We become weaker and weaker while they never die. We may need to tip the scales in our favor. This is where you come in. Start with the relay bugs and I will pay you for any other insect creations you can come up with.”

    “You really think bugs can fight an Endbringer? You would be taking on a Goliath.”

    “Do you remember how that story ended?” That gave him pause.

    “You want to prove you are trying to save the world fine. I’ll make your relay bugs. If you can kill an Endbringer with them.”

    “Then you will work for me. Same terms as before. Your own lab with freedom from PRT regulations. On top of that I will fully fund your operations for a further 5 years. Anything you need ask and if its attainable I will find it for you. You will however be expected to produce self replicating insects for me to use during that time. I would prefer you spend your time experimenting with new creations rather than trying to attain numbers. I can handle the reproduction rates should they be viable. Furthermore I will need a few more creations between now and when I kill an Endbringer. Again I will pay in cash, in full, upfront as a sign of trust.” I wouldn’t be able to not trust him with the mission I had for him. I had worried when he was being obstinate. I almost lost my temper again. I just hope my swarm hadn’t put him off too much. This was one bridge I couldn’t afford to burn.

    I thought back to what he had said though. I could become an Endbringer. A scary thought. One I’d have to remember when I was making plans. If I had that kind of power, it may not matter if I even used it. Just being that powerful, I would be a threat to the world and that would make me a target. And if I ended up too far on the villainous side, that alone might be reason to have a kill order on me. Well maybe not without provocation but I knew I would be doing a lot of that soon.

    “I will consider this. In the meantime I can set to making these bugs for you. Come in side. I will need to get an understanding of your abilities before I can make a bug to relay your commands.”

    I obliged and helped by having my bugs ferry the money in before he could grab any of it. He simply stared at them as they worked. He actually stopped in the doorway and leaned over to observe my swarm at work. I had spiders tying lines from the stacks to teams of roaches. They had arranged themselves in columns of four with rows of eight. The teams worked like horse drawn carriages. It wasn’t until the last of them had been rigged up and taken off that he straightened. He turned to look at me with a face full of awe.

    “Your control is amazing. They are a truly terrifying sight to behold. They act so human. The organization skills alone are beyond what most individuals can even comprehend. God help your enemies.”

    My enemies are gods I thought. Even still, the flattery was appreciated. Hell I was just glad I hadn’t killed him. That would have been catastrophic. And even better he had accepted. Well not entirely but he as good as said he would work for me. All I had to do was kill an Endbringer. I could do that. He would also make my relay bugs! Or he just wanted to lure my into his lair to kill me. When going over the files on him and the rest of those tinkers from the toybox the S9 raided I didn’t have much information on Blasto’s personality. He was listed as never having operated under another known cape nor had ever employed any capes himself. He was a plant tinker 6 with various subs as a master 5, blaster 2, shifter 2, and brute 2. He also capped out at Second degree murder. If he killed me here and now it might shift to first degree murder. But then again if he killed me here, there wouldn’t be anyone to know about it.

    We proceeded deeper into the facility. I came across many more of his creations. Each weirder than the next. None others though were even remotely insectile. Well the fact that I could control his one bug things was promising. It meant I might get him to build me a new Atlas. Preferably one that could eat though. And maybe something a bit more compact that could act just like a pair of wings. Well first I would need the relay bugs. After that I could work on flying. Or maybe the lightning bugs. Or fire ants. Actually I could really use something like both of those soon. I would need to start writing these down for later. Or maybe tell him now to get him started on them. I don’t know how long it will take him to get the job done. I will need to be back in Brockton Bay by 10:30 pm. That should give me time to get changed and be in position for Lung. It was only 4:30 now. I would need to leave here by 7 to make the train back to the bay in time. Some tinkerers could hash out a weapon in a matter of minutes. Against Bonesaw, she had performed plastic surgery on half a dozen people in as many minutes or less. I wasn’t actually sure how quick she had done so. I had been a little out of sorts by that stage of the game.

    Lost in thought again I hadn’t realized we had arrived. At our destination. We were back at the desk I had first surprised him at. I had begun to bring the money onto the table. The teams of roaches weren’t strong enough to drag the bills straight up so I had to set up rigging with the spider silk. I hadn’t even been paying attention to where I was walking let alone what I was doing and here I had bug crane with pulleys and a cluster of bugs hoisting the bills up. I forgot how creepy my passenger could be. Blasto was again astounded by the ingenuity of the insects. He again sat and watched them while they worked. He looked like a kid in a candy shop, eyes wide, mouth slightly ajar. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was even drooling a little.

    I didn’t want to ruin his fun just yet. I would want him happy and maybe seeing my bugs work together might give him a few more ideas on what more he could create for me. Then again I did have a schedule to keep.

    “And how would you like me to demonstrate my power? Will you need tech to determine what wavelengths my powers work on?”

    “Fascinating.” He hadn't even turned to look at me.

    Guess I’d just have to wait till they were done. It took another twenty minutes to get all the stacks up on the table. When they were finished he was left with a big smile on his face and a far away look in his eyes. Both I was happy with. If he was focusing his tinker powers on the bugs then I was in. First though I would desperately need those relay bugs.

    He returned to his desk and furiously started writing out long complicated sequences. I couldn't tell if he was writing in English or his own coding system like I had first used. Crap I should probably find that book and destroy it. Not that I wouldn't find some useful ideas, more that it was further evidence of who I was and what I might be planning. The only safe place for that was in my mind. To date there hadn't been a true psychic. Not a confirmed one at least. Cherish, and Gallant were close but they could only pick up emotions. Other capes like Tattletale could cold-read but that wasn't even close to psychic powers.

    Blasto was still scribbling when I tried to get his attention again. I had a single bug scurry across the page. He ignored it. Well this was oddly familiar. I didn't want to startle him again, or interrupt him for that matter but I needed him to start on the relay bugs. I moved one bug at a time onto the paper spelling out relays. It still took him until he moved to flip the page before he realized I was trying to tell him something. Man is this what tinkers are like?

    “Yes yes the relays I had another brilliant idea I had to explore first.”

    “Ill need you to refocus. First the relays then what ever else you had just been brainstorming. What will you require of me?”

    “I will need to run tests to determine where in the brain the bugs might receive your commands. There should be something like a receptor connected to antenna that they would use to sense the world. Your commands might override this area. I would need to examine this but I maybe able to allow the receptors to reverse and instead project. It might be tricky, I would need to,”

    “Just tell me what I can do here and now to expedite the process.”

    “Yes well um, here sit here. And… give me a minute.”

    I sat on the stool indicated. He came back with a bunch of satellite dish like contraptions and antenna that he pointed at me. He then set more up on his desk pointed at a group of the insects.

    “I will have you issue a series of commands. You don’t seem interested in hearing the how so I won’t bore you with the details but I will try and determine what will be needed for this experiment.”

    It was three hours later that we finished. I was in the red zone for getting back in time. Blasto had done his tests and more tests and more tests after that muttering the whole time. He told me he would be creating several strands of the relay bugs as he wasn't sure what would and wouldn’t work. So I left with no new bugs but the promise to check back in a few days to see the end results and confirm which would amplify my commands. I had also dropped every dollar I had stolen from the ABB. I had a few grand stashed away for a few emergency purchases but it wouldn’t be enough to keep Blasto happy. Actually just working uninterrupted seemed to make him very happy. No I needed to pay him more in the future. Plus I would need to get enough to get a lab up and ready for him. I knew of a few ways to bring in more money but I was beginning to realize I might need help with the negotiations. Well that cape I would be meeting tonight, and if things went as planned, we would be working together for a very long time.

    Well provided I could get back in time. I called a cab to meet me and my location. I made sure to check his face and search the car before getting in. No sense in falling prey to a trap by Accord. He would have had time to get himself untangled and likely had eyes near Blasto. One of the reasons I wanted the relay bugs. It would let me get in touch with him from Brockton Bay if I needed to and there was no way except to be me or Blasto, or to be in the room with him, to know what was being transmitted. I’d also be able to set up to watch Accord for when he made contact with Cauldron. Hell I could spy on the whole East Coast. Blasto was right. I get enough relay bugs and I’d be an Endbringer. Well that was kinda the goal anyway. Make myself powerful enough to kill them and Scion. Today was a good start but if things didn't go right tonight I could kiss any progress I made goodbye. I had promised Blasto a lot more than I was able to deliver right now. I would need a few million to get his lab started and a few more before I could get my own operations up and running.

    I started going over my plans to get that kind of money. The easiest was to rob the ABB again. That I could do in my sleep. Well almost. I could do it without putting much thought into it that's for sure. If I had my relay bugs by then I could do it from Boston if I needed to. The other two ways I would need help. I would need a team. I would need the Undersiders.
  5. Hemolymph 05

    I was late. I was very late. That was bad. Timing here was going to be everything. It was 11:30 and I was just getting off the train. It would be another half hour before I would be able to get down to where the fight with Lung would take place. I had no way of getting there by bus this late at night so I grabbed a cab straight out of the train station. I directed him to where I had stashed by costume. Sadly it was only the midpoint between the train station and where I desperately needed to be tonight. I couldn’t stop and change and hop back in the cab. That would be a little too obvious. I took the lesser of the two evils and had the cab wait while I grabbed the ziplocks with my weapons, costume, and mask that had been stuffed in a airduct of an abandoned building. I had to cut through the webbing I had used to secure the stash from earlier. That took more time. I also had to stuff it all in my backpack so the cab driver wouldn’t freak out at me bringing weapons into the cab.

    Back on the road but down 10 minutes from stopping. I was very worried. The Undersiders could take care of Lung on their own but this was my best bet at making inroads. I sorted through my bag while I nervously waited in the back seat. I had one baton, a can of pepper spray, a fire blanket, part of the first aid kit I had pieced out for tonight, a can of cooking fuel, and my new/old knife. I had brought with me to Boston some of the other gear I had picked up at the army surplus store. I had my gun, compas, phone, lighter, another can of pepper spray, my epipens, a pouch of chalk dust, and whistle. I still had my black widows and brown recluse spiders. I would however need a different kind of bug for later tonight. That was going to be far more difficult. I didn’t remember ever coming across them in Brockton Bay before but then again I had never looked for them either. They were less than useless on most occasions. Tonight though they could make or break me.

    Crap I should have shortened my time with Blasto or gone earlier. No I needed the time to get ready for Accord. Ok maybe I should have just skipped Accord. I wanted him to give Blasto space and pass along the message to Cauldron. Now he was likely to come after Blasto just out of spite. He already had reason to hate him. Just listening to him rant I could tell he wanted him dead. No thats not right he had planned to own Blasto the first time around. Crap had he been pissed I was trying to take Blasto? Damn well if I had to fight him I would. I needed Blaso more than contact with Cauldron. Well not exactly but I did have other means of getting in contact with Cauldron than through Accord. I wonder how long he had been tied up after I left. I felt kinda bad for Citrine. I hadn’t really meant for her to get in trouble for my stunt.

    Focus Taylor. I wasn’t finding the bugs I was looking for much to my dismay. I might be able to substitute. He couldn’t be that smart could he? Only one way to find out. Ok so I substitute and hope he doesn’t notice. Could work. I’d just have to choose my words carefully.

    We were closing in on the docks. I considered having him head in the two blocks to where the fight would be but thought better of it. I would need to have a minute or two to myself to get my costume on. We stopped on the main street and I paid him a 50. I didn’t want to wait for him to make change so I bolted from the cab bag in hand and headed down the side street.

    I could hear howling before I even got to the alley. No! They had already started. I didn’t have time to get my full gear on. I was still wearing the black dress with the jacket. I could throw on my mask and hit them from a distance. That would have to do. But of the group, Bitch was the only close range combatant. Well more like her dogs were. They might not be able to take on all of them. Last time there had been roughly twentyfive guys and girls plus Lung.

    I sent my bugs in ahead of time. I couldn’t get a good read on the situation. I tried tagging individuals but the only ones I was managing to get bugs on were lying on the ground. One was a girl with long hair and she was bleeding from a wound in her side. Shit. Shit!

    I donned my mask, grabbed my batton and knife, clipped the pepper spray to my side and charged in with the rest of my swarm. My bag was left behind in the street and I devoted a team of roaches and spiders to move it out of the way and collect anything that fell out.

    I rounded the corner. I couldn’t see or hear any of the Undersiders. Not Tattletale, not Grue, nor even the dogs. I couldn’t see or hear anything. The alley was covered in darkness and I had just walked right into it. I shut my eyes and reached out with my bugs instead. Ever just know where a part of your body was in relation to the rest of it? You do it every day. It’s called proprioception. Well my bugs were like my body. I could tell where each and every one of them was without even trying. It let me send a wall out to bump into bodies. It’s not like an echolocation. It’s like sending a hundred hands into a room before you. Right now I had just sent several thousand hands and feelers flying into the area. I had been gathering what bugs could keep up with the cab as we made our way down through the city. I sent the smallest in to sit on joints and near the ends of bats, pipes, and a katana? Ok that was harder to keep a bug on. I’d have to pay a bit more attention to that guy. It wouldn’t do to get blind sided by him. I wasn’t in full gear and that blade would cut through my dress like tissue paper.

    I tried sorting through the mass of bodies to identify friend from foe. Easier said than done. In darkness they seemed to have just as much trouble telling one another apart too. I reached out further. Oh right. I could feel the four of them just out of the fight up on the roof above the Alley and out of the darkness. Grue was pushing his darkness into the alley. Regent was fixated on Lung and his fight with the dogs. They were clear of the rest of the gang members. Grue was trying to control his darkness to trap Lung at odds with his attacks. Pair that with Regent literally twisting his arm when he threw punches and Lung wasn’t making much headway against the trio of Brutus, Judas, and Angelica. Bitch was calling out commands to her dogs and Tattletale was giving them all direction. Ok that makes this much easier. They are all Oh Crap!

    On of the ABB had stumbled near enough to bump me and was turning to strike. I didn’t have time to think I just had to react. He was swinging a club as he was turning around. I ducked low and swept his legs. A lot harder than I remembered from training. Was I really that out of shape compared to my older self? No time to dwell on that. He was just hitting the ground as I popped up out of the leg sweep and brought by baton down hard on his head. I hit him hard and his head bounced off the ground and connected with the baton a second time. He was out cold. I started moving forward into the group. Last time they had scattered when Lung started exploding. Now he was too far out to for his flames to hurt anyone but the dogs and they could take the beating. Problem is if he spends too much time fighting the dogs, he wins. That was just the nature of his power. The longer he fights the stronger he gets. The bugs I had on him when he wasn’t on fire could already feel the scales growing over his chest, neck, and arms. Other more sensitive areas were still flesh. Well I would just have to tell Armsmaster to use a lot of antivenom.

    I sent my deadly bugs at his nether regions, ears, and eyes. They bit and bit and pried and bit some more. He reacted instantly and set himself on fire. I auto piloted a kill on him when several gang members spotted me in a void in the darkness. Three of them charged me and I stepped back out of sight. They were coming hard and fast and when they got to where they lost me they split of one going front another going a little right and the last going a little left. I had stepped back and gone to my left so I was faced with righty. He had a club and was swinging blindly. I had a bug near the end but lost it as it came up to speed. I still had the direction of the swing and bugs on his arms to sidestep and let his arm across my blade, slicing a long opening up his arm. He cried out and stumbled. I brought by baton down hard on his head as a follow up and his cries were silenced. I turned and pounced on the one that had gone straight. My knife dug into his shoulder and he nearly crumpled dropping his blade. I pushed off him and rolled back as he dragged himself away. I had expected a counter attack. He seemed to go down too easy. Then again I was used to fighting capes and they tended to be a little more resilient. Plus a lot had minor powers that could let them take a hit. I was getting up to go after the third when a fourth came at me. He had a katana.

    Ok that could kill me. I thought as I brought up my baton to parry the blade. I was moving sideways preparing to strike with my knife when our weapons connected and the katana knocked the baton right out of my hand. I twisted hard to avoid the blade as it came down. It sliced down my left arm and I dropped my knife. On strike and I lost both my weapons.

    I was bleeding badly from the cut. I had to hope it wasn’t deep but the weakness of my grip made me nervous. He turned back bringing his weapon up in a cross cut meant to cleave me in two. I ducked and rolled to his side grabbing my knife from the ground and bringing it up as I moved to his back. I got it in just below his rib cage and turned it up aiming for his heart. You try and kill me and I’m not showing you any mercy. He dropped to the ground. My knife wasn’t long enough to actually reach his heart but there are a lot of other vital organs enroute.

    His katana was still clutched tightly in his hand. I had to pry his fingers off to get the weapon free. I also searched him and found the sheath for it. I took this from him too and turned back to the conflict. This was taking too long. I wanted to reserve my deadliest bugs for Lung and in doing so hadn’t had the less than lethal ones attacking the rest of the minions. Was that a trick like muscle memory I had developed? If so I would need a bit more practice. So far the fight had been decent. I had expected to own them outright but they still managed to make me bleed. I did have options. I just wasn’t sure which route to take. I could keep picking them off one by one in the alley. That had been fun but I was still realizing that I would tire long before the rest of them were taken out. I had run every day for months leading up to this and was still feeling my body starting to tire with the exertion. I’d have to work on that more. Before I jumped back in time, I could have walked through these guys like they weren’t even there. Now I was finding myself surprised when one bumped into me. Had my powers been more than reset? Had they diminished too? There wasn’t time to dwell as the one who had gone left doubled back for me.

    He had a gun on him that I hadn’t noticed before. He wasn’t running in headlong like the others had. He was walking slowly turning from side to side with his left arm extended out in front of him. It felt like he was trying to feel his way through the darkness and was ready to shoot the first thing he touched. I moved back behind him and started to follow him. I kept him in front of me as I reached out again to my swarm. I felt out for the damaging but not deadly bugs I had in reserve. Bees, wasps, fire ants, horseflies. They all descended and started targeting the rest of the gang members. I had to focus to redirect some of them from going after the Undersiders. Odd. I’d have to spend more time figuring that one out too. There were maybe 15 or so of the ABB left standing. My swarm engulfed them. I couldn’t hear any of their screaming but my bugs could feel it. We were almost all still fighting in Grue’s darkness and while I could get a feel for my surroundings, I couldn’t imagine the terror of being bitten and stung in total sensory deprivation. They were crumbling now. Where before they had been attacking blindly or standing back to back with another gang member. Most were spazzing out trying to strike at any perceived enemy. One was following a building out of the darkness. He was still being attacked but I doubled up the hurt and reached out for some spiders to tie him up.

    Big mistake. I found two I wish I hadn’t. They were both inside Lung and they weren't getting out. Gross. So gross. That was going to give me nightmares. The had gone up into Lung. Two black widows and they were still biting. And Lung was only getting stronger. I had given him too much time fighting the dogs. I didn’t think I could win this one now. He was blasting out flames across his whole body every few seconds. No way I could get anymore bugs on him now. This time the cavalry was already here and he was gearing up for them even as I wasted time on the minions.

    The last of said minions were dropping to the ground. I turned my attention to the Undersiders. Grue was watching me now instead of Lung. He saw me looking at him and tensed. Tattletale and Bitch picked up on this. The darkness around me dissipated and I was left standing amidst the fallen. My knife in my left hand still dripped blood. My grip was barely strong enough to grasp it so I used spider silk to both secure the blade in my hand and cover the wound. Sadly the silk wasn’t the best at staunching blood flow. My right hand held my new katana dripping my own blood. I was still in my black dress which really hadn’t suffered much at all in the fight. Everyone had turned to look at me. Even Lung.

    He roared and charged me. The dogs were on the far side and Bitch hadn’t sent them in yet. He closed the distance quickly and I had to roll to my left to get away. I extended my katana and was rewarded with a resounding clang as the blade did little more than trip him. He stumbled and I took the advantage and struck him through his still fleshy back to pierce his heart.

    He dropped. I hoped he would stay down this time. He didn’t. Wings sprouted almost immediately from his back and his wound closed even before he rounded on me. He let loose a burst of flames that sent me running for cover. I didn’t make it. Flames scorched my back and started burning through my dress. The pain was an 8. I had been burned before but now I was on fire! I heard a whistle and Judas pounced on Lung.

    “Angelica fetch!”

    I felt teeth close around me and hope it wasn’t Lung. I was still burning but being covered in drool helped staunch the flames. I was lifted up and felt myself jerked sharply upward and then back down again.

    “Drop it.”

    I fell to the ground rather unceremoniously. I was on the roof with the rest of them. At least we had a way to get down should Lung come up here.

    “She is in bad shape. What do we do with her?”

    “We call the boss. We can get her fixed up. She is gonna have some bad burns but we if we get her a doctor she should live.”

    “Will we? You said the boss wanted us to hit hard. She took out the normals but Lung isn’t going down. She stabbed him in the heart and he wasn’t down for more than a few seconds.”

    “I never run from a fight! We are kicking his ass. I don’t give a damn if she couldn’t handle a fight. I got this.”

    “You don’t I said through gritted teeth. You lost this one. You took too long to take him out. You can’t win. Run. Run!”

    They didn’t have time to respond. With Angelica out of the fight and Lung with wings, he had the upper hand. I was just starting to stand and he landed on the roof with us.

    “Kill! Kill! Kill!” Angelica lept but was caught in the air. Lung Snapped her neck with his foot long clawed hands. He threw her body down at Brutus hitting him hid leap.

    “You fucker! You killed my Dog!” Wrong thing to say to a dragon.

    “Grue cover!” Tattletale called out as she dove off the roof! We were two stories up so the fall wouldn’t kill her but she would still be hurting.

    Lung had turned and breathed fire at the group. I lay flat against the ground but could still feel the heat pass over me. All my bugs on them died. I could feel the flames getting hotter and crawled away to the side. I had dropped my katana when Angelica had first picked me up but still held onto my knife. I charged at Lung and stabbed his overlong neck. I was barely able to nick him but flames still spilled out and poured over my hands. They went cold as the nerve endings burned away. The last thing I saw was his jaws closing over my face. They crunched down through bone and brain.

    0
    0
    0

    A man sat in a chair at a desk facing a computer. He was a tall man, though one couldn’t tell from his seated position. He was wearing an all black skin tight body suit with a white snake motif climbing from his ankle to end at his forehead.

    He sat staring at a computer screen through a mask that had no eyeholes or any other openings. He sat motionless in utter silence save for his breathing.

    A phone on the desk rang. He moved quickly and answered before the first ring could finish.

    “Report.” A command issued camly from one who was used to giving them.

    “I need an ambulance bad.” The voice was a whisper though pain and desperation still seeped into those words.

    “Details. What happened.”

    “I had to jump off a roof. I broke my leg. I’ve tied it off,”

    “What happened in the fight,” he cut her off.

    “We hit Lung hard but he wouldn’t go down. Another cape showed up and wiped the floor with the other ABB. She soloed them in Grue’s darkness. She finished with them and Grue dropped his darkness on the ally. Lung was fighting the dogs but when he saw her and his gang dead or dying, he went after her. She dodged him at first and stabbed him through the heart. He should have died but he grew wings, got up and burned her bad. We got her up on the roof with us and had the dogs go after him. He flew over them and came at us on the roof. He killed Grue and Bitch. Regent made it off the roof with me but didn’t survive the landing. The other cape is dead too. She saved us from his first blast of fire but Lung ate her face and then came after us. He tore Bitch in half and Grue got us covered in darkness before Lung torched the roof.”

    “Describe her.”

    “I need help bad boss,” she mewled.

    “Describe her.” He repeated with a bit of impatience.

    She let out a whimper but answered. “She was wearing a short black dress. She had a dark mask with yellow eyes. She had a katana and a knife. She was quick. Even with Lung changed as he was, she could still dodge his claws and charge.”

    “And your own interactions with her?”

    “She tried to save us. She told us we lost the fight already. That we took too long and we couldn’t win now. She charged him with a knife on the roof and cut his throat open. She could have just run. She was protecting us.”

    “Do you think she was aware of your nature?”

    “She knew Lung well enough to know we had lost. Yes. No. I don’t know I didn’t have time to get a read on her.”

    “Try now.”

    “She isn’t a hero. There were a lot of bodies in that alley. Her blades were sharp and bloody. She had been looking to kill Lung not just hurt him. Maybe a vigilante or a Rogue. She must have been looking for Lung. She didn’t hesitate attack him but she did wait for an opening. The dress didn’t make sense though. Or maybe the mask didn’t match. Her dress was kind of asian. And her katana and straight black hair. We thought she was one of them at first. She wasn’t with the group when we first attacked. I thought she might have joined them later and just didn’t know they were on her side.

    “Your rambling. Would she join us if given the opportunity.”

    “I. I think so. She scared me though. As soon as the darkness dropped she looked right at us. She was so still till Lung started moving. She hadn’t even looked at him when she was already moving to react to him.”

    “A precog?”

    “No I think if she was a precog she wouldn’t have showed up. What precog would jump into a fight that would get them killed?”

    “Indeed.” He closed his phone and turned it off. He placed it back on his desk.

    He sat silently for a time. His phone rang and he picked it up.

    “Hey boss what's the plan? Are we still waiting? We took out Oni Lee easy enough. We ready to move on Lung next?”

    “He is with his gang and is planning to move shortly. There will be another cape there. She may wield a knife and katana. She wears a short black dress that covers her neck and dark mask with yellow eyes. I want you to watch for her arrival. Call me the minute she shows up to report.”

    “Oh. Is she going to be a problem?”

    “Perhaps a solution. You have your orders go.”

    “Will do boss. Tattletale out.”

    Again he put down his phone and waited. A time later and the phone rang. He picked up before the first ring had finished.

    “Report.”

    “Got her boss. She came in a cab and was wearing a heavy jacket over her dress. No mask in the cab. She is moving down the alley towards where you said Lung would be. She has a backpack on.”

    “The number on the cab?”

    “Sure its 6Y11a. What now boss?”

    “Get in position to provide support.” Let her strike first. See if she can take Lung on her own. If not then hit him hard and get out with her.”

    “Will do boss. Tattletale out.”

    Coil hung up but didn’t put down his phone. Instead he called one of his captains.

    “Sir,” the man answered.

    “I want you to track the movements of a cab. The number is 6Y11a. It dropped off a fair by the docks. I want to know where it picked her up along with a full description of her.”

    “Yes sir.”

    Coil didn’t have long to wait. Five minutes later and his phone rang again.

    “Report.”

    “Sir I have the cab picking up a fair at Brockton Bay station. I checked the times of the trains and if she went straight from the train to the cab she would have gotten off of the 67. I checked the routes and she could have boarded anywhere from here to Boston. From Boston there is a junction that could take her to anywhere going North into Canada to west out towards Chicago or beyond. I am working on getting an image of her from the station here. It will take time though to cross check at the other train stations. We don’t have the connections in every station on the routes she might have taken to make this something I can accomplish tonight. Of the connections we do have, few are available at this hour sir.”

    “Noted. This is not a top priority. You return to this task in the morning. Dismissed.”

    “Sir.”

    He hung up the phone. She came in from a train station and came straight to the fight. Not to help lung despite her possible asian heritage. A vigilante wronged by Lung and the ABB. A former member ousted by his takeover? He would wait for the next report for more answers. From here to Boston? Well he had his other contacts in Boston his captains were unaware of. He would put a call in to Accord in the morning. Best not disturb him so late at night. He had upset the man once. It had nearly cost him his life. Not that Accord was aware of the transgression of course.

    His phone rang again. He answered on the first ring.

    “Report.”
  6. Time travel's fun.

    I think you need a beta reader badly. Also Accord feels out of character. I don't recall him ever losing his composure, even when he was dying.
    DarkDaemon likes this.
  7. Any volunteers?
  8. Enjoyable premise. Pacing feels weird - I'm not good at the terminology, but it feels like you're trying do too much at once. A lot of times you're missing commas or breaking things up into too many sentences. This is subjective, but stuff like

    "Crap I should have shortened my time with Blasto or gone earlier. No I needed the time to get ready for Accord. Ok maybe I should have just skipped Accord. I wanted him to give Blasto space and pass along the message to Cauldron."

    could be simplified, and starting each sentence with an exclamatory ('Crap!' 'No!' 'Ok!') seems ... I want to say weak, but I think there's a better word for it. Either way, I think you could communicate some of these scenes a lot more clearly by breaking the paragraphs up some, combining sentences to serve two purposes ("I should have left earlier, or maybe found a way to skip meeting Accord") double checking punctuation (especially in dialogue) and with some second pass reordering/restructuring. The Oni Lee scene in particular was a bit hard to follow. Cool if it's intentional, but even then a bit of polish would make it much stronger.

    Looking forward to the next bit.
    brunehilda and Mendeleev like this.
  9. Robo Jesus Your Mechanical Messiah

    Dear gods, grey text on a dark background is bloody horrible to look at. Please, fix the color issues with the text first before dealing with story or plot related issues. I'll give this a read once the horrible color issue is fixed.
  10. Yak



    wut.




    Is this Taylor Hebert or Dexter Morgan?
    Satori and Mendeleev like this.
  11. Glernaj Ice Cream Herald

    You kinda need to tune back the katana wanking. It's just a sword, and it's NOT going to just slice through a baton like that, regardless of quality, unless you're trying to make it some sort of tinker-tech blade. The ancestral blade bit is EXTREMELY jarring, and gives me flashbacks to terrible anime fanfiction. There's nothing special about katanas, they can't cut through anything. (This hit a bit of a pet peeve of mine)

    Edit - If it IS a real blade, the most likely result of blocking it with a baton is the blade snapping in half. Same thing with her trying to cut Lung's legs with it, most likely result in the blade breaking.
  12. Brellin Bolos are magical

    Slaughterhouse 9000 was the actual name of the group made from the cloned members of the S9. "My dark passenger" is a reference to her shard. Passenger is a term that capes use to describe the shards themselves, or at least the term used by those aware of them.

    edit- On the katana, they actually can cut through quite a bit. There have been plenty of examples of katana being used to cut strait through an adult pigs torso in one strike, by skilled users. If the guy knew how to strike and got it at a good angle it is conceivable he could have cut through a baton. Especially since it was swinging at the katana as well in a parry, which means the baton was adding it's own energy to the cut of the katana. That said it could also just be that Taylor is buying into katana hype. The piece is written from her perspective, if she thinks katana are awesome because of popular media then she will react accordingly, even if it isn't necessarily all true.
    Varano and brunehilda like this.
  13. The pacing does feel rushed or inconsistent. Some of Taylor's thoughts seem a bit out of character for her, like when she is planning and considering resources available to her. Proprioception, not kinesthesis, is the word you want. The fascination with the katana is a bit off putting. Katanas are made of plain old steel with a martensitic edge. The sword would knock the baton out of the way before it would cut it. At most, unless you're using real shit materials, the baton would get a dent and be unable to telescope.

    It's fun to read as long as I try not to nerd rage at the minor hiccups.
    Ozymandias2x and HoodsGate like this.
  14. Nerd rage away. Let me know my inaccuracies and I will make attempts at correcting.
  15. You are aware that Harbringer was the cape name the Number Man went under when he was part of the Slaughterhouse 9? It's really, really not something people are likely to look kindly on.

    Blasto was pretty good.

    Accord was not, particularly losing his composure beyong maybe a slight tensing of his lips. Part of that was driven by our time traveller being short on time??? That makes no sense; why didn't she ask for another week or month or two?

    Even if she only went back the day before Lung, as in here, why didn't she do Lung first, and wait on Boston until she'd gathered resources? She knows what she had as a major supervillain, she knows the normal villain gift etiquette, she knows what Accord was like.

    She also outed herself - there is a 0% chance regular bugs are going to work against Accord's traps next time; he'll have planned for them.

    Interesting premise; I just don't buy the Boston execution.

    Also, she needs to plan on her first Tattletale conversation.
  16. Yea I have to agree with Epic above. She had the time its simply not smart to try to do so much in so little time.
  17. Stratagemini I'm a Fire Ferret, Really!

    Huh. Well this is getting interesting. Taylor forgot to account for the possibility of Coil screwing her over. An interesting house of cards Taylor's built.
  18. Harish Why brain, why did you betray me?

    Watched. Will things become better or will she make things worse? I can't wait to find out.
  19. I read this on FF.net and I didn't think that it was here on SB (facepalm)

    I think it's great and that I hope it's still being continued!! :D
    oliverwashere likes this.
  20. I have no idea how I missed this, this story is fantastic!
    The lung part is a bit confusing, probably coils fault.
  21. Great story so far. Keep up the good work.
  22. Hemolymph 06

    We stopped on the main street and I handed him a 50. I didn't want to wait for him to make change, so I bolted from the cab, bag in hand, and headed down the side street. I reached out with my bugs and scanned the area. I found Lung and a group of 25 thugs standing about in the alley.
    I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders. I wasn't too late. The Undersiders hadn't showed up yet. That left it to me to prepare an attack on Lung and half his gang. I could handle that.

    I sent in my swarm to start tagging bodies discreetly. I landed a few no-see-ums on Lung's torso. I remembered Kaiser stabbing him through with a metal spear, and him still not staying down. If I hit him hard enough, before he could get going, then I ought to be able to bring him down. I didn't intend to kill him, but if I did, no matter. I could still make it work with my plans.

    I had stopped in the shadows of an unlit doorway to don my costume. I would have preferred a place a bit more private to change, but anyone that could see me, would also need to be in my range. At the moment, that consisted of the 25 thugs, Lung, a family asleep in an abandoned building, a pair of drunks on the street, and drug dealer that had just made a sale to some teens. None had a line of sight to me, nor would they for the foreseeable future. I was actively searching for the Undersiders but hadn't been able to identify any of them. Bitch's dogs would make their presence pretty obvious when they arrived.

    I focused on my still growing swarm, selecting the bugs I would need. I started with the brown recluses climbing up Lung as discreetly as possible. They crept slowly up the inside of his pant legs. I couldn't move them up his bare chest without him noticing. Instead I had my black widows lower themselves on his mask.

    One by one they descended from the dragonflies that escorted them. I had the spiders landing on his forehead, then crawling to hide at and under the edges of his ornate metal mask. There they stayed, just out of view of his minions, but not in a place where Lung might feel them move.

    I set more bugs to address the rest of the 25 thugs. The useless ones mashed themselves between the hammers and firing pins of the guns. Other spiders started weaving knives in their sheaths, hammers shut, and guns in their holsters. Several of the thugs had melee weapons in hand. One guy even had a katana. I wondered how my spider silk would hold up against it. No sense in testing it though, at least not unless it was in a controlled environment, and that certainly wasn't tonight. The guy with the katana and the others, who already had their weapons in hand, I had another idea for.

    I turned my attention back to the abandoned buildings. I needed something heavy that could fall with a bit of a nudge. I found a collection of wall mounted a/c units on what was a decent place in the 90's. I had a few bugs testing out the supports, and found two that seemed ready to fall. I had black widows begin working, dragging lines from both the a/c units and the weapons in hand. Dragonflies assisted with traversing the distances. When I would need to, I would have my bugs break the supports, and the a/c units would fall to the ground. I made sure to stagger the threads. If the weapons were tugged all at once, the thugs might have a good enough grip, collectively, to stop the a/c units in midair. This way they would each have to fight the weight of the a/c unit separately. It was something to the effect of, 'a single stick is easily broken but a bushel only bends', or something like that. Tonight I needed to break a lot of sticks.

    I had just donned my mask and was checking the time. It was just after midnight. I was already in position, and was nearly finished securing the lines I would need. I still hadn't seen any sign of the Undersiders. That worried me. I remembered Tattletale telling me how I nearly got us all killed the first time I fought Lung. She had lived long enough in that reality to tell Coil about me being a hero. So instead, Coil had told her to wait longer, and to watch out for me. I had figured he would have sent them in already. It was about this time that they had joined me. It was the reason I had tried showing up earlier, just to make sure I would only be attacking Lung, regardless of the presence of the Undersiders. That worried me. Maybe in the other reality, he had sent them early, and I would win there too. This could be an alternate he would later drop. Either way, I had a plan, and I had to follow through.

    I checked my gear again. I had everything I thought I might need. My gun was already in hand, I had dragged the fire blanket up the roof, above the alley. If Lung got fired up, I could pull the blanket down to cover me, but only if I was in the alley. If I wasn't, then I would have to rely on cover. My pepper spray, cell phone, and baton were tucked away under my armor. I had my knife strapped to my calf. I hadn't had time to fix up my capsaicin bugs yet. I had also abstained from rigging up any firebugs tonight. I had that can of cooking gel I could lather my bugs in, but against a pyromancer, it would be worse than useless.

    I checked the time again. Five after midnight. No sense in delaying any longer. I gathered my swarm and started approaching the alley. I stood just around the corner and organized my bugs before me. What I was about to do could be considered utterly idiotic. No, not could. It was probably one of the most dangerous things I would be doing for a while.

    I checked the bugs on Lung. I had placed about six black widows on his mask using dragon flies. Another six were waiting on more dragonflies in the air, and were ready to dive bomb the instant he might drop his flames. I had managed eight brown recluse spiders near his crotch. I didn't actually intend to bite him there. Well not only there. Two of the largest arteries, not protected by bone and organs, are on the insides of ones legs, up near the crotch. I was planning on pumping him full of venom from there. Then, if he still got up, I was thinking about taking his testicles.
    Lastly, I checked the mosquitoes I had on him. They were there to help me get a sense of his body's position and where I was aiming. I would need one, maybe two shots, to take him down.

    In my nearly two years with the Wards, I had access to a gun range and personal instructors. I had become a damn good shot. Much of that was due to my abilities. If I could get a bug on a target, I could shoot it with a gun. At the peak of my powers, that was about eight blocks away. Today though it was a block and change. Even still, I could manage with that.
    Now though it was time to make an entrance.

    I moved my swarm clone into the alley and all conversation stopped. The swarm clone was far larger than any I had used before. I had always aimed to have them resembling me as closely as possible. That was due to the fact that my enemies knew what I looked, and would be looking for a clone the same size as me. Now though, no one knew me, and so I had decided to go bigger. Currently, the swarm stood a little over seven-foot, and if it was solid, would have weighed nearly 300 pounds.

    I gave them a single second before I took aim and fire two shots in quick succession from cover behind and through my decoy. I had my bugs all chirp, click, or buzz in time with the shots. The first hit Lung right in the heart. The second went high. My aim was perfect. My arm was steady. Sadly though, steady didn't account for the kickback. Eighteen year old me was able to empty a clip and still manage both accuracy and precision. Fifteen year old me was nearly floored after the first shot.

    As planned though, Lung dropped, and the bugs on him struck. The rest of the gang stood immobilized for an instant. Some took even longer to recover. It didn't matter. It was too late for all of them.

    The ones with guns already drawn, raised them against my decoy. The others fumbled for release of their weapons, or held back, waiting for a chance to charge me with melee weapons.

    "No" I murmured through my swarm, as I raised a hand to call a stop, and brought a moth to the barrel of each gun. The thugs didn't listen, but instead tried to open fire. Not a shot rang out. Hammers hit chitin, but not the firing pins. Before they could check their guns, I swiped my decoy arm to the side. At the same time, I released the first a/c unit. The moths took flight as the guns flew from their hands and over the building behind them.

    Suddenly I felt them, the steady pounding marked their arrival. The gang members could feel the rumbling too. I could see the fear and panic starting to spread. They stood afraid. I stood relieved. The Undersiders were arriving. The fight was almost over at this point, but I could drag it out a bit longer to give them a show.

    I was keeping tabs on Lung all during this. He wasn't moving. I sent a few flies near his nose. He wasn't breathing. I lay a spider on his jugular, but didn't feel a pulse. He should be fine right? His source of powers was in his head not his heart. Should I have let him transform a bit before shooting him?
    I didn't have time to worry about this as the first of the dogs appeared. Judas was charging straight for the gangbangers. He engaged and all the attention was now on that fight. I took the distraction to disperse my decoy. I could feel the other two dogs landing on the roof above to let their passengers off. Shortly after, darkness filled the area. The last of the a/c units dropped, and those thugs with melee weapons, soon found themselves holding nothing. Most of them at least. Some had moved far enough away from where they had stood to find the lines attached to their weapons and removed them. No matter. Of the three that held weapons, all were blunt objects and were attacking Judas. He was tearing them apart.

    Things were going well. Lung was down and out, the Undersiders were here and mopping up, and I wasn't in any immediate danger. I had worried about stepping right in against Lung with a full crew. Even with preparations, things could go horribly wrong. Nonetheless, I had accomplished what I had wanted. It wasn't just about winning the fight today. It was about winning the fight tomorrow too. The best way to do that was to beat an enemy so decisively that they never wanted to fight you again. That was why I took the chance and faced down Lung and his lackeys, walking right up to him, and gunning him down. I wanted them to think I was fearless, untouchable, and more importantly, unbeatable. I would also need to do some more work on Lung before he woke up.

    I checked on Lung again. He still wasn't breathing. I had my bugs pull back but sent one over to check the bullet hole. I found it nearly sealed up. So, he was still healing, but it seemed to take a while. I had no real way of pegging down his rate of healing, and I had started to worry I had killed him. He was halfway transformed the last time I saw his heart pierced. This time I hadn't given him a chance. Now I would have to balance keeping him alive, with keeping him dead enough that he couldn't fight.

    I turned my attention to the rest of the mayhem. The last of the ABB was falling apart. Those that could run, were. Of the ones that couldn't, some were still trying to crawl away. There were a lot though, that were just lying there. I checked them quickly. They were all breathing, though two had some pretty bad wounds. Nothing for it though, as I wasn't about to stop and help them.

    Tattletale had come out to the edge of the roof and was peering down at me behind my cover. I had my attention on Lung, but placed a few bugs on her to mark any movements.

    "Did you get him?" She called out.

    "He's still alive," I answered with my natural voice.

    "Doesn't look it."

    I turned at this point and looked straight at her. I felt a brief stab of sadness. She looked much younger than I remembered. Her face was clean and unmarred, without any scar from Jack's blade. I held myself still, trying not to give anything away. At this point though, Grue had also come out to the edge to survey the scene, and I nearly lost myself.

    "You did all this?" he asked.

    I didn't answer but instead reached out to my bugs. My body had no more reactions, but the unfortunate side effect of trying to push my emotions into my bugs was that a fair number were now collecting on him. Not biting or stinging, they were just trying to get close to him.

    He was wearing his all black outfit, basically motorcycle leathers, and a motorcycle helmet. The facemask had a skull sculpted into it. My bugs were crawling over it now.

    I tried pushing more bugs on the others to draw attention away from what I was doing to Grue. Tattletale was still gazing down at me, but clearly bothered by the bugs that were now crawling over her.

    "You really saved us a lot of trouble," I felt Tattletale twitch at that. I turned back to look at her. Was this the preferred path Coil had chosen? That was a little scary. Sure this had been an easy win, but if I had showed up to find them already fighting, would that really have been that bad?
    "How much trouble were you in?" I asked Tattletale. She wasn't wearing her typical vulpine grin. Could it have really gone that bad, or was she not liking what her power was picking up from me?

    "We got word that Lung was coming after us tonight," Grue answered instead. "We were pretty freaked. We were arguing strategy for the better part of the day. We eventually decided, fuck it, we'd meet him halfway. Wing it. Not my usual way of doing things, but yeah."

    ""And how did that work out for you?"

    "Wouldn't you know, his flunky Lee is there with a half-dozen guys, but Lung and the rest of his gang are nowhere to be found," he laughed at this. God how I had missed that laugh. He was so easy-going and carefree now. I couldn't remember the last time I had heard him laugh like that. He hadn't laughed at all after Bonesaw broke him.

    "Lee is no slouch in fight, but there's a reason he's not leader of the ABB. He got spooked without his boss there and ran. I guess you're responsible for that?" Grue continued.

    I looked back at Lung. The bullet wound had healed and I could feel a faint heartbeat. The spider venom would start spreading now.

    "Holy shit is that Lung?! What did you do to him?"

    "I shot him in the heart," I replied raising the gun that had taken him down. "And then I poisoned him."

    "Lung is dead?" Grue said with a bit of awe in his voice.

    "Not dead. His heart is still beating," Tattletale interjected. "You had spiders bite him."

    "Black widows, and brown recluses. He heals to fast and the bullet wouldn't keep him down for long. I needed to make sure that once his heart started beating again, he still wouldn't be up for a fight."

    Grue whistled at that. "You weren't holding back any were you?"

    I smirked at that. It's funny, I was holding back.

    "She was," Tattletale said to Grue in almost a whisper. He gave me another look from toe to tip.

    "What's your name?"

    I stayed silent for a moment. I didn't want to seem to volunteer it too easily.

    "Right, kinda rude to just put you on the spot. Introductions. This is Tattletale," he said indicating Tattletale, who was wearing her skin-tight, full body costume. The purple and black colors, I had remembered, were a challenge to get right when I tried making her costume. "I'm Grue. The girl with the dogs," he started indicating Bitch. She wasn't in much of a costume, but I had kinda come to recognize what she wore as her costume anyway. She had on a plaid skirt, army boots, a torn-up sleeveless T-shirt, and a hard plastic dog mask that was lifted up to show her face clearly.

    "We call her Bitch, her preference, but in the interests of being P.G., the good guys and media decided to call her Hellhound instead. Last and certainly least, we have Regent."

    Regent...

    "Fuck you, Grue," he retorted, with his normal chuckle and artificial tone of voice to imply he wasn't offended. A sociopath by upbringing. I knew he could still feel things, but being raised by Heartbreaker, any emotions would be buried. It said something that he had chosen to leave that life. Saving Imp said a lot more about what he was capable of as a human being.

    "The Undersiders, I take it. You can call me Monarch."

    "A queen for our Regent?" Tattletale had that vulpine grin now.

    I reached out to my swarm and called forth the bugs I had collected for Armsmaster. They were substitutes, but they should work. I drew them to me, covering every inch of my body. I had a Polyphemus moth land directly on my nose and spread its wings to cover my eyes. It had a wonderful effect of creating a set of brilliant false blue eyes with its wings.

    "Monarch, like the butterfly," I replied when all were in place.

    This seemed to get a chuckle out of Regent who had made his way over to the gathering.

    "But those are moths," Tattletale interjected again. This time with a bigger grin.

    "A bit of a buzzkill aren't you Tattletale? Yes, these are moths, but do you know how hard it is to find butterflies at night? Moths are at least nocturnal. Butterflies need time in the sun before their wings can beat," I replied a little vexed. Her power was starting to annoy me. It was what she wanted to do, of course. It was just who she was. I could tolerate this bit, and it was better her picking at the moths, than anything else.

    "Ha buzzkill! Get it? Cause of the bugs right?" Regent asked looking at both Grue and Tattletale in turn. Grue let out a little chuckle, and Tattletale smiled a bit at the banter.

    I tilted my head to the right as I appraised him. I guess it was kinda funny.

    "So Monarch, you new in town? I haven't heard of anyone with bug powers in the city. Or anywhere really," Grue ventured.

    "I live here. It's my first night out in costume in this city," I partially lied. It was my first night out as Monarch in this city. Raiding the ABB, I hadn't worn more than a hoodie, so that didn't count as in costume either. Speaking of the ABB.

    I checked on Lung again. The venom was coursing through his veins. His heartbeat was there, his breathing shallow, but he wouldn't be up for a fight anytime soon. I thought about binding him in web, but decided against it. He could burn right through it. It wouldn't be the first thing he tried, but it would be the second.

    "Just you then?" Grue asked.

    "Just me. It's not like there is a friend finder app for capes looking for a crew."

    "Ha! Ya I guess that would be a little difficult." I had missed Grue a lot over the past year and a half. He had been my first boyfriend. He had been my first in a number of things too. I hadn't ever really gotten over losing him. I wouldn't have to, if I got my way.

    "Well hey if you're looking for crew, we could certainly use you…" he trailed off. Tattletale had whipped her head to look at him. No not him, just past him.

    "Cape coming in. We gotta scram. We can talk later Monarch. You got a way we can get in touch?"

    I hadn't expected this so soon. I had picked up several prepaid phones this morning but I hadn't expected to give out so many numbers so soon. Gathering my bugs, I wrote out the numbers in the air.

    "I'll text you mine. Bitch lets move."

    They mounted the dogs. Bitch, who was tending her dogs during our conversation, stared me down. I looked down, relaxed my stance, and acted submissive for her. She looked away and took off on Brutus.

    "Well, Monarch, a cape is gonna show up in less than a minute. You did us a solid by dealing with Lung, so take my advice. Someone from the Protectorate shows up, finds two bad guys duking it out, they're not going to let one walk away. You should get out of here."

    "I have to take care of a few things with Lung before they arrive. Less than a minute? I can manage," I replied. Her only answer was an even wider smile. I amused me how predatory it was. She might think she had me pegged, but I knew she could be wrong, and had been before. It would be a dangerous game of cat and mouse for a while. I could play that game though.

    Grue gave me a salute as they took off over the rooftops into the night. I could just hear Armsmaster approaching in his motorcycle. I rushed over to Lung. My bugs had collected an empty ziploc bag while I had talked to Tattletale. It was ready and waiting by his head by the time I got there.

    I pulled out my knife and got to work. I carved out his eyes first. They were necrotic with the poison from my spiders, and thus useless. I instead pried open his mouth and pulled out his tongue. I tried cutting from underneath, sliding the blade to the back of his throat. I had to be happy with just the tip as I could feel Armsmaster closing in quickly. I dropped the part of the tongue in the ziploc and tossed it down the alley. My bugs dragged it the rest of the way to my backpack along with the fire blanket I had on the roof.

    I was putting distance between myself and Lung and had just sheathed my knife when he rounded the corner. He drew up his Halberd and swept the scene with it, scanning with his visor too no doubt. The weapon was about six-foot long, but had more gadgets and gizmos than I could remember. The blade was sharp enough, but with the plasma injectors, he could cut through almost anything. Well save an Endbringer. For that he needed his nano tech, which he hadn't made just yet. This blade, though had also housed an E.M.P. at one point, but should currently house a grappling hook. Right now it was pointing at me.

    "You gonna fight me?" he called out.

    "Wasn't planning on it," I replied. I couldn't say I was a good guy, not with his lie detector on.

    "That doesn't mean you wont fight me. So are you a hero or a villain?" He hadn't lowered the weapon in the slightest. That annoyed me.

    "Yes," let you lie detector figure that one out.

    "Yes to what. You won't fight me? You are a hero? Or you are a villain?" I could almost hear his teeth grinding in his response. I shouldn't antagonize him too much. I needed a favor after all.

    "Think of me more as a rogue. I want to save lives, but I'm not going to bind myself with kids gloves to do so. I'm not here to fight you, but if you attack me, I'm going to stand my ground."

    "You think you could take me little girl?" He smiled a bit at that. He had lowered his blade to a more defensive position than aggressive.

    "I did just wipe the floor with Lung and 25 of his gangbangers." Those little girl comments were starting to annoy me.

    "You probably got lucky," he supplied

    "You might think that, but trust me when I say that my luck runs out pretty quick. No, I took down Lung because I'm just that good."

    "All on your own?" he seemed to still doubt me.

    "The Undersiders showed up, but by that time, Lung was down for the count, and the rest of his thugs were scrambling."

    "And where are they now? Did you fight them off too?"

    "My fight was with Lung. Their fight was with Lung. We had no reason to go after one another. Same situation here and now. I came here to fight Lung, just as you did. I don't want to fight you, and you don't want to fight me. So, with no reason to go after each other, why don't you lower your weapon?" I asked.

    He took a moment but he did eventually slap his halbert to his back and relax his stance. "You're a new face and you look like a villain. That's two reasons not to trust you. Whats your name kid?"

    "Monarch, and stop calling me kid," that was really starting to piss me off.

    "You even have a name like a villain. A child who thinks herself a queen."

    Was he trying to get his ass kicked? No, he was just stupidly blunt. He wasn't saying it to antagonize me, despite the fact that was exactly what he was doing. Still I had to put this villain nonsense to rest.

    I reached out to my swarm again. Just like with the Undersiders, I gathered the moths to me. I had them cover every surface of my body with their outstretched wings. Lastly I mounted the polyphemus moth on my nose again.

    "Monarch, like the butterfly. Now can we drop this villain thing?" I asked as calmly as I could manage.

    "Those are moths, and none of them look like the monarch butterfly," he replied with a half-smile.

    "You got me. I don't have any butterflies tonight. They don't fly well at night, unlike moths, which look close enough when you aren't hooked up to a search engine," I confessed. "So are you gonna keep grilling me, or focus on Lung, who is starting to come to?"

    He walked over to Lung's body with long powerful strides. He held a hand up to the side of his visor and pressed a few buttons.

    "Black widows and brown recluses. Multiple bites along major arteries. Be sure you treat for those or parts may rot off," I supplied.

    He grunted in reply. He then bent down and injected Lung with, what I assumed, was a tranquilizer. He then pulled a pair of heavy-duty restraints, seemingly out of nowhere. These he cuffed to Lung, then drilled a few holes in the asphalt, and finally bolted the cuffs down. He turned back to me as he stood to his full height.

    "You need to be more careful. If he wasn't still breathing, we would be having a very different conversation. As it happens, Lung's abilities include healing. The venom may do damage, but if a cape can heal at all, and they are still alive at the end of a fight, they don't suffer any lasting effects. Were this any other cape, I'd be placing you under arrest. As it stands, we have something else to discuss."
    He must not have noticed I had cut out Lung's eyes and tongue yet. Best to keep him from noticing then.

    "I'm not joining the wards. You can take credit for Lung, but that's a favor you owe me. I'm well aware of Lung's abilities, and the rest of the capes in his gang. Were it any other cape, I wouldn't have needed multiple bites to take him down. I may be a new face, but I know what I'm doing. Oh and I'm calling in that favor tonight."

    He seemed a little put out that I had interrupted him. "You say the rest of the rest of the capes in his gang."

    "Bakuda and Oni Lee. Tinker bombmaker, and teleporting assassin, respectively. A deadly combination, given how unique Oni Lee's power is. He leaves a ghost of himself behind for ten seconds after a jump. Rig him up with a bomb, and he can pop in a location, pop out, and have the ghost detonate the bomb. The two make a strong pair. It would be best to move Lung to the Birdcage, as soon as you get a chance. His gang will be looking to get him out, and with infinite suicide bombers, they are likely to succeed."

    "I'll take that under advisement. You seem to know your enemy. I'd ask why you went after them, but I'm more interested in hearing about this favor you think I owe you," he said crossing his arms.

    "I hand you a badass cape. You take credit. Your reputation goes up. Therefore, you owe me a favor."

    "Indeed. Well you can ask but I won't make any promises to deliver."

    "Fair enough. This is a Priority 1 Cape. There is a very small window of opportunity, but it has to be off the record."

    "Priority 1 status is reserved for S class threats. Capes like the Endbringers, Sleeper, or the Slaughterhouse 9. You are saying that one such cape is here in Brockton Bay?" He had tensed at this and hit a button on his visor.

    "Yes, there is a Priority 1 Cape in Brockton Bay. I also said that this would have to be an off the record favor. No recording, and no broadcasting. Please turn off your communicator. There are spies in the PRT, and if they get wind that we know about the threat, she may be moved before we can get to her."

    He took a minute again before he said or did anything.

    "You are telling the truth."

    "You need Dauntless and Triumph. We can end this now before it's too late. You also need to delete this recording. Anything written down, or kept in digital format, no matter how secure, can be found. Consider this a shadow operation."

    "Confirm," he stated to no one present. "Explain."
    I waited on him. "Problems?" I asked.

    "Dauntless is occupied."

    "Then find someone who can fly long distances, and can carry passengers. You need to move faster, as in, this needs to be taken care of in the hour."

    "Yes fine, and come yourself. She may think that's all we need, but with an S Class threat, I'm not taking any chances. Also clear the recordings. She honestly believes there are spies, and with an S class treat, I wont take any chances."

    "A Priority 1," I clarified.

    "Do you even know the difference?" he asked me.

    "A Priority 1 includes S Class threats, A Class threats that have the potential of becoming S Class threats given time, and capes that have a unique ability that can counter an existing S or A class threat. An attack on, or breakout from the Birdcage would also qualify. All, save for the counter cape, are preauthorized with kill orders."

    "You know our manual," he wasn't asking but stating a fact.

    "I've done my homework," and I had. I had spent just shy of two years working under rules and regulations, bending those rules I could, and covertly breaking the ones I couldn't. I knew their rules and regulations inside out.

    "So this is a counter cape then. And who might this counter?" he asked.

    "No more questions till the required capes arrive," I answered turning from him. I reached out with my bugs just remembering the rest of the ABB members on the ground around us. I would need to tie up any loose ends here. Lung might be on tranquilizers, and not on speaking terms with Coil, but that didn't mean the rest of his minions were completely out of it, nor unwilling to dish the dirt for a quick pay off. I checked pulses and breathing. There was one who was awake, though feigning sleep. He was close to the wall I had sent the weapons over.

    I sent my bugs to search the roof. I found that most of the weapons had actually ended up there. A few had traveled fast enough to make it over the lip on the far side, and fall back down to the ground. I found an assortment of guns, bats, and blades still on the roof. My bugs found a short knife that they could move and I started rigging them up in teams. They dragged the knife, first over to where the 'sleeping' thug was, then up the lip of the wall. I also had a pair of dragon flies with black widows, running a line to the opposite roof.

    When the knife reached the top, I had a third line looped over the line running to the other roof. My bugs then push the knife over the edge, and it swung back and forth near the roof lip. My first team of bugs kept the knife near the roof lip. I placed a few more dragonflies on it to slow its swing till it was at rest.

    I turned away from my work to look back at Armsmaster. He had turned away as well and was looking back to the floating Protectorate fortress over the bay. I walked forward to watch for the approaching capes with him. I made sure I was in his peripheral vision, and kept his line of sight away from my bugs.

    With him unawares, and unlikely to pick it up if he went back to a recording, I lined up my target. Gravity would do most of the work, but with only one shot, I needed to be on target. I had a few more bugs start moving the looped line further out into the alley, away from the wall. I placed a fly over his heart, and lined a few more bugs directly under the knife to get a sense of wind. When I was sure of my aim, I cut the looped line. The knife dropped through the air. I held my breath and watched Armsmaster with my bugs. I was about to murder right under his nose. If he caught on…

    "Armsmaster," I said rather loudly, just as the knife hit home. "What's taking so long?" I finished keeping his attention on me, as blood drained from the body.

    "If this is a counter cape, we will need to contact the Triumvirate,"

    "You can do that after securing her. You don't have time to involve them." I also really didn't want to fall under their scrutiny, nor alert Eidolon that there was another cape that could outdo him.

    "We have procedures,"

    "Yes but those require a confirmation of the cape, their abilities, and further confirmation that they aren't going to be a threat themselves. You don't have any of that."

    "Perhaps they are for you?" he retorted.

    "Is this the cape?" Aegis interrupted and he touched down with Triumph.

    "Aegis, Triumph, this is Monarch. She says she knows of a Priority 1 Cape."

    "Monarch, is it safe to assume you can tell the difference between Aegis and Triumph?" Armsmaster asked again.

    "Aegis," I started, turning to the younger cape in a rust and silver costume. "Can you carry the pair of us?"

    "You and Triumph, yes. You and Armsmaster, no. Want to tell me who you are and what's going on?"

    "No, now lets move. Grab me and Triumph and take us up. I'll give direction from there." I checked my backpack again. It was safe and secure. No one was going to find it any time soon. I had also made sure to collect the webbing I had used to murder the thug. Armsmaster would be more focused on Lung right now, and if I was lucky, wouldn't be checking the body till it had been dead long enough they might confuse the time of death. It wouldn't do to have him realize I had killed someone while standing right next to him.

    "I don't fly girl. Or did you forget that?" Armsmaster called out.

    "You got Lung. Or did you forget that?" I retorted. "Aegis, up."

    He looked back to Armsmaster who grudgingly nodded. "Hold on tight," he said to us as he lifted off.

    We were up and out of earshot of Armsmaster in a matter of seconds. "North," I told him. We turned to follow the boardwalk. I didn't want Armsmaster or any other observers to figure out where we were going just yet. After we had cleared out of ABB territory I had Aegis head west, away from the bay.

    "So you gonna tell us what the hell this is all about? I had Miss Militia personally chase me down and order me out here. Why isn't she using the coms, and who the hell are you?" Aegis exasperated.

    "Classified," I lied. "Rory," I called over the wind rushing past us. "Dinah is the Priority 1. She is not a danger, but in danger. Take Carlos," I felt them both flinch at my casual mention of their names. "Go to her home, and get her out of the city. Take her far away, but tell no one, save her parents, what's going on. Keep her away from the PRT. They are compromised and can't be trusted. Don't use any PRT, Ward, or Protectorate safe houses either. Lastly, don't trust any other capes with her identity or location. Rory, you are going to be staying with her while she is in hiding. Carlos, I can't expect you to drop everything, but they will need you if you're willing. Two months at the least. Think you can manage?"

    "No now what the hell is going on, how do you know who we are, and who the hell is Dina?" Aegis/Carlos asked a little vexed.

    "Classified."

    "You keep saying that but I don't think it means what you think it means. Now who is Dinah in danger from?" Triumph/Rory asked.

    "Everyone once they find out what she can do. Which is why it has to be just you two. I can't trust any of the other members of the Protectorate, the Wards are run by Piggot, and the PRT is infiltrated by villains."

    "And what about you. You're not coming with us?" Triumph asked.

    "I have to find the cape that is actively hunter her. Two months to deal with him at the least. I'll contact you when it's safe to return. Right, you need to get rid of your phones and get disposable ones. When you do, text me at this number," I said as I took out a piece of paper and pen. I wrote out the number on one side and my message on the other. I handed him the slip. He looked at the number and pocketed the paper without looking at the back. "The phone stays off so they can't find me either. When you're not using yours, take out the battery."

    "Paranoid much?" Carlos quipped.

    "Rory, should the wrong cape get his hands on her, she will be a slave. She will be drugged up to be lucid enough to use her powers, but not enough to ever get free. The wrong cape gets a hold of her, and you will never see her again. Am I being too paranoid?"

    "How do you even know about her?" Rory replied. "Oh wait let me guess. Classified?"

    "Yep, now stealth is a priority, but if you encounter resistance, kill orders are in place for any cape that tries to get in your way regardless of affiliation. This goes for anyone from the local Wards, all the way up to the Triumvirate. There are perhaps only six Priority 1 counters in the world. Dinah makes the seventh. She cannot be lost, understand?"

    They both nodded. I let that sink in. I was lying my head off, but I needed them to be alert. Cauldron might try to get their hands on her at some point in the future, and if they called in a favor, anyone might be after Dinah. The best way to keep them from finding her though, was to make sure they didn't even know to look for her. That would hinge on Aegis. If he didn't go…

    "So Carlos," I said looking at him directly. "Are you in or out?"

    "Is she a threat to others? Are we hiding her to protect the world from her, or her from the world?" He asked. He was dead serious.

    "Both. Directly, she isn't a threat to anyone. If a bad guy, or a good guy gets his hands on her though… Game over."

    "If you're wondering, Dinah is worth protecting. She is innocent. She would never hurt anyone if she could help it. And from what you're saying Monarch," he stated turning to me, "she might not ever hurt someone?"

    "With the two of you, she will save the world. If not, then she may doom it," I answered him.

    "In or out Carlos?" Rory asked this time.

    "I'm in. What do we do?"

    "Go in from the air. Drop straight down to their roof and use the door from the roof to access the building. Rory knows where she lives and can give you direction there. When you have her, head straight up again till you have cloud cover. Then head out to sea till you are clear of land. From there head north or south. Stay out of major cities, areas with surveillance, or areas with any kind of cape presence. Keep your heads down and keep on the move. Get out of PRT jurisdiction if you can. That means South and Central America and the Caribbean."

    "What about money? We aren't about to start stealing food, and if we can't contact any capes, we aren't going to find any places to stay without cash."

    "Dina can help with finances. You should be able to figure out what I mean when you meet up with her. Remember, go straight there and straight out."

    "Got it. So what do we do with you?" Rory asked.

    "Put me down up ahead, I'll show you where," I replied.

    I had one last dead drop of cash left. It was a few major intersections ahead. There wasn't much left, but I figured it would do. I indicated our destination and Carlos put us down.

    I had bugs moving before we had even touched down, so when Carlos did let go of me, I was already covertly pulling a line of silk with my bag of money towards me. I reached down and picked it up when it was near enough. Rory had noticed the bag by the time I was reaching down for it. I reached in and pulled out the last bit of cash I had from the ABB raid.

    "Here is a couple grand. It won't last you more than a few weeks, but again, she can help with the finances." I said handing the money to Rory.

    "Thank you," he replied accepting the money and stashing it in awkwardly in a pocket on his skin-tight suit.

    "Maybe you should take this too," I said handing him the backpack. Carlos chuckled at the awkwardness.

    "Now go!"

    And with that Carlos took hold of Rory and flew straight up. I had to trust that they would be successful. I couldn't be seen anywhere near them. I had already risked discovery by Coil enough tonight. Maybe not though. I tried to think back.

    Had he known I wasn't a villain. Yes, he had told Tattletale after all. Had he known about my conversation with Armsmaster after the Undersiders fight? Hard to know. Would he be watching the area, or keeping tabs on Dinah? Keeping tabs on Dinah most certainly. But that's why I had tried this right after the fight against Lung.

    If I remembered how his powers worked, he would need to hear back from how the Undersiders fight against Lung had gone before he could be sure this was the future he would want. At that point he would be able to split time again. That should though, leave him only the time it took for us to organize and head out, to realize we were mobilizing, and do so himself. Where he might have the advantage of having eyes, and maybe a few operatives in place, Aegis and Triumph would make that battle heavily one-sided. Even more, they could call on both the Protectorate and Wards, should Coil mount a full offensive. I didn't think that Coil was smart enough to beat out the combined power of those groups of capes, nor was he stupid enough to risk it.

    No, if he was aware of what was going on, he would likely wait in the shadows and use his contacts to track her down.

    For now though there was little else I could do, save trying to chase them down and provide support. Doing that though, would out me as having been involved, much like how I was outed as a hero in the first fight against Lung and the Undersiders.

    I would just have to trust in the heroes. But now though, I had to heal with getting home without drawing further suspicion.

    I searched the area for shops and did find a woman's shoe store. It would have been most girls dreams to raid a shoe store like this, but I wasn't most girls. I used my bugs to open the door so I could get in. The alarm started going off but I would be in and out with what I needed before too long. My bugs had found a pair of running shoes I would be able to fit in. I checked the price and left enough to cover the shoes on the counter with their box. The shoes themselves, I took with me out the way I had come in. I was dangerously low on funds at the moment. I would need whatever I got in that lunchbox tomorrow.

    Shoes in hand, I headed home. Today had been a long day. I would be happy to be getting home and back to my bed.
  23. That's a whole lot of update. Glad to see it.

    Armsmaster comes off as the typical asshole, but once he accepts that there's a serious threat, he gets professional real quick. I like it. That he's willing to trust this person is impressive.

    Dropping names like that, and the use of manual information, probably is making him think that Monarch is some kind of agent, or InOps or something. It'd be real interesting to see an interlude from the heroes' perspective.

    At first I was thinking the cape in question was Noelle, and that Taylor was going to orchestrate an assault on Coil's compound. Rescuing Dinah is a lot easier though, and throws a bigger wrench in Coil's plans.

    Taylor seems to have a lot of nostalgia and emotion for the Undersiders, which is gonna make it hard for her to keep Tattletale from picking up a few things. However, the fact that she's also been with the heroes for awhile makes me wonder just what side she'll eventually take: Undersiders for camaraderie, or Protectorate for the infrastructure and ability.
    brunehilda and Teal_Thanatos like this.
  24. Lunaryon Lesbian Catgirl Nurse

    Obviously, Monarch is some sort of super high ranking Shadow Ops Cape, so she can do whatever she wants to because [CLASSIFIED]. So when she ends up joining the Undersiders it's because the fact of the matter is that they are also secret Shadow Capes and are acting as villains because [CLASSIFIED]
    Ame, .IronSun., Satori and 2 others like this.
  25. It'd be wonderful if Taylor somehow got the local Protectorate to accept that the Undersiders are some kind of secret government group, and they just stand aside whenever they pull a heist, assuming its part of some greater plan.

    Piggot is on the phone daily with Director Brown, trying to wheedle out the facts. Alexandria would tell her the truth, but she's too busy laughing her ass off at these buffoons.
    Ame likes this.

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