Hemolymph: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.I Mandibles: 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 1.1 Hemolymph I stood there shaking, water running down my naked body. I collapsed to the ground as the warm water flowed over and pooled around me. I looked around and saw only 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 drowned 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 no avail. I mentally reached out, and the droning noise in my ears became a cacophony of sound. I pressed my hands to my ears to cover them. They felt warm and wet. Looking at my hands, I saw them covered in blood. Was that from my nose, or am I bleeding from my ears too? There was too much blood. Way too much. I had never expected this much blood. I would die if I didn't get help. I crawled out the shower towards the door. My vision began to grow dim, until I could barely keep my eyes open. I reached for the phone, hands shaking so much that my control was almost nil. Even still, I managed to knock the handset off the hook and dial the numbers ‘911’. I reached for the door, and began fumbling with the lock. If the police arrived, a suspiciously open door would be a probable cause to search the house. I tried to cry for help to the phone but all that came out was a gurgle. Worse, I couldn’t even hear if the call went through. I couldn’t hear anything. Not the water splashing around me, nor my own breathing. I tried to think of why, but it made my head hurt worse and my vision grow dark. I collapsed to the floor and the darkness claimed me. 0 0 0 I opened my eyes to a blurry room. I reached towards my face and found my hand restrained. No, not restrained. Encumbered with tubes and wires. 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 assessed my surroundings. I was on a gurney in what looked like a proper hospital. The place looked well used, but still clean. I wasn't on Earth Gimel, that was for sure. There wasn’t 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, was only in for a second before walking out again asking for a Doctor Ne-something. The nurse, a matronly woman with little to no makeup, walked in, followed by a petite woman with straight black hair and a white coat. The doctor picked up my chart as the nurse held a light to my eyes, moving it from one side to the other. “How are you feeling, Miss Hebert?” the doctor asked. She had a rather husky voice for 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 isn’t she here? For that matter, where are Riley and Amelia? They are the ones who usually patched up the capes like me. “You had a nasty incident. Do you remember what happened?" the doctor asked. I thought back to before the shower, back to the end times against Scion. 0 0 0 "I asked to be last for a reason," I told Amelia. She looked at me and I looked towards the Clairvoyant and Doormaker pair. I pulled on the string I had tied to them and brought them both towards me. I gripped their hands and looked, seeking out an answer. I looked for powerful capes, ones that could end this fight. I was thinking of the attack by Phir Se when I caught sight of him standing with a collection of other capes, some of them in bright colors, others in civilian clothes, yet all of them looking ragged. "When was this?" I mused aloud. "She only sees the now. She can't look back or forward." Tattletale answered without looking up from her screen. She was monitoring 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. A portal opened before me and we walked through, into the midst of capes who were formed in a half circle, facing towards me and the man I came to see. "Weaver?" he greeted me. "Phir Se.” I nodded in acknowledgment. “I thought you died in the Behemoth attack on New Delhi." "The world has 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, looked at how I was leading them, and raised an eyebrow. "It's their abilities. They are essentially blind." He gazed at me steadily, then waved off the other 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 to after he had been slain. From there I called Particulate and we 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 to stare at me. I met his piercing gaze with what I hoped was grim determination. I could not imagine the look on my face as he carefully appraised me. Several minutes passed before he responded. "I have watched you for some time Weaver. Skitter. Taylor. You…” He paused again as if searching for the words, “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 have been watching your actions against the Slaughterhouse 9. 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. The god of bugs, his scarabs moved the sun across the sky. They worshiped him as 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. His face was blank and his gaze was far away. I waited for him to speak. I could not rush this. Scion was on Earth Gimmel, tearing through my friends and when they were dead, he would move onto the next group of capes and slaughter them. Even still I had to wait. "Perhaps in time, you will find a weakness to Scion as well. Perhaps you are Khepri and your scarabs will move this sun in the sky. But more likely, 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 view. 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 have to wait. "How far back can I send you? How far back will be needed?" "April 10th, 2011." A look of sadness crossed his face. I thought rapidly what later dates I could work with, though 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 two more months be, plus that date would still leave me at a disadvantage against Coil. Any time between now and after I joined the Wards might work. No even that had to be early on. If it was after the fight against Behemoth, we would have just as much, if not more trouble against the Endbringers. Before I could come to a decision, he did. "You will suffer for this." I tensed, waiting for an attack. 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 attack, could we get a portal between us and them fast enough to escape out of one behind us? "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 at most. 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 towards his daughter without turning back to me and 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. A portal opened beside us and we walked through to emerge at the curb in front of my childhood home. “There will be blood, which you will need to let flow. You will be confused, weak, and not ready for a fight. You will need a day to rest at least, maybe more. The trip might even kill you, but I do not know this for a fact. When will you need to return?” Maybe earlier? 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 had 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 had planned enough to cheat my way through the psychos of the 9. Had I known that Scion would be the destroyer, I could have changed tactics, delayed advances, or moved to slow his involvement. Having known that could have saved lives. 15 years combined with the knowledge I possess now, I can do this. I knew how to hurt him, knew who could fight against him successfully. I could get everyone ready to take the fight to him. Maybe I could do it in small groups, sending a few in at a time while he was fighting an Endbringer. It’d be enough to see what he tries to dodge and what he shrugs off. Ok, that might set him off, but I have 15 years to come up with a better plan. “The 9th. I’m up at 6:30 with a run for an hour, then in the shower. My family is one for routine and I should be in the shower between 7:30 and 8:00. A day to recover should be fine. We have very good healers in my city.” I wouldn’t need to beat Lung outright, and if I struck hard and fast with the deadliest of my bugs at the beginning, he wouldn’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.” Before I could process his meaning, he reached forth with both hands to my temples and I was blasted with pain. “Be reborn, Khepri.” 0 0 0 I turned to look at the doctor and jumped in surprise. “Taylor!” my dad exclaimed. “Dad!” I cried in response. He moved towards 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 she said her name? I couldn’t remember. “I don’t do brains, but her body 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 about 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 else might have been affected.” “What does this kind of damage mean for my daughter?” I glanced at 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 knew 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 mind’s 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 Hebert, 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 heal 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 tried to make that statement sound as sincere as I could. I don’t think she believed me. Could she tell a lie by reading signs through her powers? Well, yes, but I thought that I was being quite honest when I said that. Before I could talk any 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. Maybe that’s why Amelia had been looking at me funny, I realized in a panic. 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. 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 are a few female capes in Brockton Bay that aren’t villains. Well this shouldn’t change too much then, would it? ….Could it? The nurse was reading the machines that I was plugged into and had said something when I wasn’t paying attention. I have been spending a bit too much time in my head as 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 at 100% for another 18 to 24 hours.” “We will still need to run several cognitive skill tests to be sure that 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 she lead 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 often now anyway. Currently, my father was talking with the nurse. They had moved a bit away to give me some space to rest. I liked the attempt at privacy. It let me relax a bit. I stretched out and began taking stock of myself. My arm was back, or I hadn’t lost it yet, would be the more accurate. I was the younger me. My limbs were shorter and muscles 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 hadn’t been 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 up to 6 blocks. I was starting over again at 1. Well at least I knew 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 fine and certain consonants came out very clear. I still had a lot of trouble with the soft 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. 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 into 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 routes. 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 transitioning 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.