• It has been confirmed that Spacebattles is filtering out links to The Sietch. Discussions with the owner of SB have indicated that they desire a clean break with us and feel that this is a means to that end. Out of respect for their desire for a clean break we request that our members refrain from violating this unwritten policy.
  • We have defeated the e-COVID! (we hope). If you are still running into issues with posting, post in the technical support forum about it. If you can't post there, PM Tippy.

Worm Amongst the Shadows[AU]

1.1

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
4,972
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
AN: Crossposting from SB

1.1​

It was easy to lose track of time in a library and let the stress of a bad day just drift off into the ether. The bullies didn’t matter; most of them probably wouldn’t be caught dead around a concentration of books; they might be at risk of learning something. Teachers too blind to notice or too apathetic to care that Madison’s handwriting didn’t match what I’d written on the paper she turned in didn’t matter. The stacks served as visual obstacles for the few windows, the noise from outside was muffled, and the mind could latch onto an interesting story for hours under the soft light of the old-fashioned chandeliers unless otherwise interrupted. Like the interruption provided by the librarian that had just tapped me on the shoulder.

“I’m almost sorry to interrupt you, dear,” the elderly woman smiled as she spoke, but even I could see she was tired, “You looked so intent on what you were reading, but I’m afraid we’re about to close for the night.”

I could feel my eyes opening wide as I uncrossed my legs and moved to stand up. Judging by the pins-and-needles sensation from my legs, I really had been sitting longer than I thought. I took two steps to the left and was able to get a line of sight to the nearest clock. The hands confirmed the librarian’s statement. “Oh, God, my dad is going to kill me!” I lamented. Even if this was one of the nights he worked late, he ought to have been home almost an hour ago. Worse than that, the last bus was scheduled to leave from the bus stop down the road in about thirty seconds, so I’d have to walk home. None of the library’s pay phones worked, and I knew from past experience that the librarians wouldn’t let me use their phones.

“Well, if you want to check that book out, I can help you up at the counter. Surely he won’t be too hard on you if you explain what happened.” The platitude was mouthed with apparent sincerity. I gave her a nine and a half out of ten. She’d have had full marks except that her eyes indicated that she wanted me out of the building so that she could lock up and go home for the night.

Instead of delaying either of us with the paperwork, I slipped the book back on the shelves and departed. I wasn’t looking forward to the walk home in the dark, but it wasn’t going to get shorter or less unpleasant if I tried to delay it.

A quick glance confirmed that the bus stop was empty, the bus long gone, as expected. I slid my hands into the pockets of my jacket. It might only be the middle of September, and Brockton Bay might tend toward unseasonably warm weather through the fall and winter, but the sun had gone down hours ago and there was a stiff breeze. I might look a bit like an upright frog, but I didn’t actually have much extra weight on my tall frame, and I was feeling chilly.

I shot another regretful glance at the bus stop, but if it had been running late there would have been at least one person there waiting for it. I grimaced, kicked at the asphalt, and started walking home. At least it was a Friday, that meant two glorious days free from Winslow and my three tormentors. It also meant that if dad decided to ground me for being out after curfew, not calling him, walking home alone, or keeping him up all night worried about me . . . Where was I going with that thought?

Of course it was only now, after reading happily for hours that my brain decided to remind me that I started my day well before sunrise. I muttered imprecations at myself and trudged towards home. Then my stomach chimed in to remind me that I hadn’t eaten anything since a hurried lunch at school more than ten hours ago now. It was really not my day.

XXXXX Shadow Stalker XXXXX​

It was really not my day. I clenched my fists and fought back the urge to punch the wall. I’d done that once and ended up with a boxer’s fracture. Breaking another knuckle punching bricks would be stupid, and successful predators couldn’t afford to be stupid. Besides, it would be hard to use my crossbow with broken bones in my hand, and I wanted to be out hunting Nazis and weakling Merchants, not sitting around getting soft waiting for a break to heal.

Instead of punching the wall, I gave it a half-hearted kick and headed for home. I don’t know how they knew, but the fucking Empire stash house I’d intended to hit had been empty. Not so much as a single skinhead had been left there to knock around for more information. It was like being spit on. A trap would have been acknowledgement that they couldn’t take me in a fair fight, but to just be ignored . . . that felt entirely too much like they were saying I wasn’t even worth the effort. I realized my fists were clenched again and forced them to relax. No point in letting the bastards get to me. I’d just make sure to take it out of the hide of the next E88 thug I ran into.

Plus, I could have used the money. Basic broadheads were alright, but some of the fancy heads they made for hunting big animals, like bears, were wicked. I’d been eying some of those for weeks now, but they were under too much security to risk snatching and they were expensive. A pack of three-just the heads-was fifty bucks. Still, with chisel points for breaking bones and the rear-deploying blades . . . the thought of what one of those would do to even a mid-ranked Brute was enough to bring a smile to my face for a moment. Then I remembered that thanks to some too-clever Empire jackass, I couldn’t afford them and my mood soured again.

I made sure to change my route up tonight. The last thing I needed was to let the Empire track me back home. Besides, it was good practice to pick out a new path along the rooftops on the fly. I made another long jump in my shadow form and landed back on the roof of the abandoned building I’d set out from earlier that night. A quick slip into my Breaker form dropped me through the roof and into the single room in the top floor without leaks. I swapped out my costume for the clothes I’d worn when I left home earlier, then moved to the boarded-up window in the room next door to make sure there was no one who could see me drop down into the alley.

There was a girl walking home that’d be out of sight soon, bu-

I did a double-take, and couldn’t believe my luck. Hebert, out alone this late at night? What, was the useless bitch trying to get abducted by the Merchants or something? A wicked grin stole over my lips. It could be awful dangerous on Brockton Bay’s streets at night. Maybe I should put Hebert in her place and do my good deed for the day by demonstrating what can happen to a stupid sheep that wanders away from the safety of the herd.

Yeah, I decided, that sounds like fun. With the damn Nazis standing me up, I had some aggression to work off. Checking again to make sure the coast was clear, I phased through the wall and dropped lightly to the alley floor. I had to walk a bit quickly to catch up to Hebert. I was familiar with this stretch of road and had just the location for her education in mind. There was a dead end alley up ahead that I’d run a Merchant dealer out of as Shadow Stalker a week or so ago. Given the beating I’d laid on the assholes, they wouldn’t dare to show back up there for another couple weeks yet.

I shook my head in disgust as I stalked up behind Hebert on silent feet. The idiot was hunched forward making far too much noise as she walked. The sound of her feet dragging on the sidewalk was more than loud enough to cover for my almost totally silent footsteps. It really was like she was asking for it.

I’d be happy to deliver.

I had timed my approach perfectly. With a lunge, I buried my left hand in her hair right up by the scalp to make sure I had a good hold, and then slammed my right fist into her back over the right kidney. Instead of a scream, all that emerged from the stupid bitch’s throat was a soft, pained gasp.

Her back arched reflexively to try and move her away from the pain, and with my left hand, I was able to steer her into the mouth of the alleyway. Much as I would have enjoyed ripping a fistful of her hair out, that was the sort of thing that would draw too much notice. As she started lo lose her footing I gave her a helpful shove that sent her tumbling to the ground.

Yeah, this was what I needed after the disappointment earlier. “Really should watch your footing, Hebert. It’d be a shame if you ruined those clothes.” I gave just enough of a pause for who I was to sink in and for her eyes to slide up to meet mine. The ugly bitch looked like she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. If she was that useless, maybe I should break her glasses while I was at it, since even with them she couldn’t see what was right in front of her face. Then, before she could manage to string together something to say, I continued, “Oh, wait, you’re wearing them. They’d be worthless even without the stains.”

It might have been petty, but Herbert deserved it. At least with me administering the lesson she might toughen up a little bit and she wouldn’t get raped. Hard to imagine someone desperate enough to touch her, though. Plus, I’d get to enjoy working her over where there wasn’t a teacher nearby to intervene if she screamed.

Hebert tried to scramble to her feet, but the trash along the alley wall where she’d fallen slid out from under her feet, and she went back down again. “S-Sophia?!”

She sounded as stupid as she looked. Or almost, at least. That tone of voice? It had ‘victim’ written all over it. If she whimpered at some gangbanger like that? He’d skip right past suspecting she’d be easy prey right into knowing it. “God, four-eyes, I know you can’t see straight, but don’t you use your brain for anything but filling the empty space in your skull? I’d think you’d be used to laying on the ground looking up at your betters by now.” I waited for a moment, to let her start to scramble to her feet before I kicked her legs out from under her. “Or are you just strung out?” I asked, remembering the rise we’d gotten out of her last year with a similar line of insinuations, “What, spend all evening on your back so you could get high?” The result this time was disappointing. Hebert used the few seconds I gave her while I waited for a reaction to scramble away from where she’d fallen into a cleaner section of alleyway and clamber to her feet without the garbage fouling her footing.Seems I needed to turn it up a notch.

Hebert was looking past me, already trying to figure out how to escape. Run away. Just like the worthless sheep she was. Couldn’t have that. Time to pull out the big guns. Emma knew her best, time to take a page from her book. “I wonder what your mother would think if she could see you now. Nothing but a whore for th-”

Hebert’s eyes moved from the road behind her to making contact with her own, and suddenly they looked like anything but prey.

XXXXX Taylor XXXXX​

This. This was just the last straw. How dare she?

I’d call the sound that came out of my mouth a yell, but it was nothing so formal as that. It was a year’s worth of rage and hate distilled until there was no impurity left to remove, focused and thrown at one of my oppressors. I stepped forward behind it, and threw the most forceful punch I could manage. It had to have been sloppy as hell; the sum total of what I knew about how to throw a punch was that you didn’t put your thumb inside the fist unless you wanted a broken thumb. I still made the lightest contact with Sofia’s chin as she stepped back, eyes wide. How dare she?

I stumbled over something on the asphalt and nearly fell, only barely registering that Sophia’s right fist had just passed through the space that my head had just occupied a second ago. I was too off balance to even try to hit her again, so I just lowered my head and let myself fall forward. There were advantages to being tall, and the crown of my head hammered into Sofia. We both went down in a tumble of limbs, and a small part of me took satisfaction in knowing that at least I wasn’t the only one who would be replacing a set of clothes this time. How da-

Sophia’s right elbow slammed into the top of my left shoulder, and my whole arm went numb from the contact. Before I’d recovered, her left fist hammered into my lower right side once and then again. I could feel my ribs creak and tried to move away from the source of the pain. All it did was let Sophia grab me by the shoulders and throw me over on my side. I tried to fight the motion, but my left arm was still uncoordinated and my fingers skidded uselessly across the pavement. All I got for my effort was a spike of pain as a nail tore, then Sophia slammed her clenched right fist into my face.

I felt something pop and the burst of pain had me seeing stars. I tried to swing at her with my right arm, since my left wasn’t cooperating, but she fended the blow off easily with her left arm and slammed her right down onto my left breast. For the first time, pain overcame shock, and I let out a feeble yelp. That one had hurt more than the one to the face which had probably broken my nose. I tried to curl up around the blow.

Sophia didn’t let me. She adjusted her position so that she was sitting across my stomach despite my attempts to buck her off, then she threw another right-handed fist at my face. I flinched at remembered pain and twisted. Instead of another blow across my probably-broken nose, her knuckles skidded off my cheek. I abruptly realized that Sophia was screaming at me, and had been almost since the start of the beating. “-thless little bitch! How fucking dare you lay a fucking hand on me!” she yelled and drove another punch, left-handed this time down at my face. I twisted to take it on my right jaw and tasted blood, then her right hand flashed in faster than I could follow and contacted the bridge of my nose.

If I hadn’t had a broken one before, I certainly did now. For several moments, I was simply stunned by the pain, my vision whited out and my glasses either dislodged or broken, Sophia was just a blur over top of me.

A blur that reached down and wrapped her hands around my throat. As she began to squeeze, I panicked and reached for her with my right hand. Sophia let go of my throat for a moment, and I tried to snatch a gasp of air. Instead I started coughing helplessly as she pinned my right hand with her left and went back to strangling me with her right. “-amn, bitch! Whore! I’ll fucking kill you, yo-” Sophia had leaned down so far, she was practically spitting in my face as she yelled.

Finally, my left hand more-or-less listened to me when I tried to get it to do something. I’d mostly meant to aim for her jaw to try to push her away. I was a little taller than her, right? That meant I had longer arms. I could push her away, and-

Leaning forward to get down in my face like she was, Sophia couldn’t have had a good angle to see what I was doing, so when my nails moved right in front of her eyes, she flinched backwards and, for just a moment, she dissolved into shadows, and my nails passed through them before my tormentor’s face reformed.

For a moment, we locked eyes and it was as if the world was frozen. Mine were wide and incredulous. Sophia had powers. She was a cape. I was dumbfounded. Sophia was a cape, and she didn’t have anything better to do with her time than ruin my life? She-! I-! For a second I could almost read Sophia’s mind. For just a second, she thought about running. Then she changed her mind.

. . . I’d seen her use her powers. I knew her secret identity. And I had no reason not to yell it from the rooftops. Sophia was no longer screaming. I tried to get my hands in the way, but I was too slow, and another thunderbolt of pain rocked my world as her fist hit my broken nose again, then her fingers latched onto my throat and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make her loosen her grip again. I battered at her with both hands, but my arms were only a little longer than hers. Not enough to make a difference. I was weak. So weak, and even aiming for her eyes didn’t work. She just shifted her head to the side, and I . . .

. . . There was something in front of me. I had nothing to compare it against, no sense of scale, but I knew bone-deep that it was massive beyond any other living thing I’d ever seen. Ever imagined. Parts of it, pieces I knew were the size of continents were coming off, and each of them was tiny in comparison. A worm next to a whale, swimming away as if each was directed by an invisible hand, but I had no more time to look, because one of them was coming straight for me, growing larger, and larger, and-

XXXXX Sophia Hess XXXXX​

I tried to force my eyelids open, but they each felt like someone had tied a barbell to them. What just happened? Had I really seen . . . something. Something big, and . . . maybe little pieces? Babies? Something.
Tha-thump
My eyes were closed again, and I couldn’t . . .
Thump
There was something important. Something I needed to do, but . . .
thump
I couldn’t remember.
thump
Why was it so . . .?
 
1.2

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
4,972
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
A/N: Many thanks to LordsFire and Seraviel without whom this story would be much the lesser.

1.2​

I was really uncomfortable. My bed was cold and as hard as rock, and my blanket had gotten all messed up somehow. It also felt far too heavy for some-

I turned my head and my nose brushed up against the weight on my chest. The spike of pain brought me to full, merciless consciousness in less than an eyeblink. My eyes watered and I suddenly remembered what had happened. I blinked a couple times, then coughed as my throat protested the deep breath I’d just taken. I whined, in turn, at the second spike of pain that the cough had caused.

Then my vision cleared to reveal a head of black hair on my chest. I flinched and threw Sophia aside, then started to scramble to my feet before I realized she wasn’t moving. There was something about the limp state of her body as I scurried out from underneath her that was tickling at my memory as well, but I wasn’t focused on that.

What the hell happened? my hands flew to my throat. Sophia had been trying to strangle me to death and making good progress. Now . . . Did she have a stroke? She’d certainly been angry enough to have blown a gasket. A voice in the back of my head told me to leave, to run all the way home and forget tonight ever happened. I ignored it. I was better than Emma and her underlings, and I refused to leave even Sophia fucking Hess unconscious on the street for whoever happened by to rob or worse.

I still approached hesitantly. I hurt in places that I hadn’t realized existed before the beating I’d just taken. Dropping to one knee, I rolled her over, then sort of got stuck. What was I supposed to do to wake her up? I’d seen movies where they used smelling salts, but I didn’t have any of those. Water?

I looked around the alleyway. There was some liquid trapped in folds in plastic, but I didn’t want to touch it. Actually dumping it on someone would probably be considered cruel and unusual. The only other possibility that came to mind was slapping her, which was starting to look like the best option, even if I’d probably enjoy it too-

She’s not breathing I swallowed and looked again. Sophia’s chest wasn’t moving. Phone. I need a phone. I reached into Sophia’s left pocket and pulled hers out with some minor difficulty. The angle was awkward and the torn nail on my left hand caught briefly on the fabric. I put the password in absently while I tried to remember everything I’d ever heard about CPR.

I navigated out of Sophia’s text messages and brought up the phone app, then dialed 911 and put the phone on speaker. I was going to need both hands for this.

First I needed to know if her heart was beating. I knew you could find a pulse in the neck, but not where. Instead, I reached for her left wrist, then compared it with my own. Even with the uncertain light of the street lamps, I was able to make out where the doctor had taken my pulse for my sports physical. I carefully mimicked his action as the phone rang once, then twice. Nothing. That was bad. I realized I was gasping for breath, and tried to slow down. Passing out wasn’t going to help. Before I could decide what to do next, someone answered my call.

“911, what is your emergency?” a calm and professional woman’s voice asked.

“I, I’m in an alleyway off of King Street, between the Library and the Docks,” I replied trying to remain calm. “One of my classmates . . . she isn’t breathing, and I can’t find a pulse.”

I could faintly hear tapping in the background as the woman responded, “Do you know CPR?”

“Only what Winslow covers in health class.”

From the sound the woman made, she shared my opinion of that hellhole. “If you don’t suspect a neck injury, tilt your classmate’s head backwards so that the jaw juts forward. The idea is to line up the windpipe so that you’re blowing air into her lungs rather than her stomach. EMTs have been notified and I’m tracking your phone. They’ll be there soon, but until they arrive your classmate is depending on you. What you need to do is-”

XXXXX Armsmaster XXXXX​

It had been a slow night so far. That likely meant the weekend would be busy, so I was relieved that I was performing some maintenance instead of wasting time on patrol for crimes that wouldn’t happen until some time in the next few days. It wasn’t confirmation yet, but it was another data point for my prototype prediction algorithm. When I could manage to finish constructing it, then I would be down to the final piece, a powerful fast-acting sedative, in my plan to capture Lung. Given current trends, I predict that I will be able to complete both in perhaps half a year if things do not go too poorly. If I am correct, then the ABB problem will finally be solved and the Protectorate ENE will be able to focus all our attention on suppressing Empire activity.

I put the wrench I’d been using down, and systematically checked the engine for damage. The new configuration I was using was nearly as large an improvement over the V-twin as the V-twin was over an inline engine. The downside was that my models suggested that the extra stress put on the cylinders due to the radical new design would tend to cause metal fatigue at an accelerated rate. That necessitated actions like the strip-down and rebuild I was forced to complete when I would much prefer to be working towards removing Lung as a complicating factor in Brockton Bay’s internal dynamics. Still, I had done the calculations, and the improvement in weight and efficiency of the engine during normal operation was well worth the extra upkeep. It was just inconvenient when my motorcycle engine’s need for maintenance kept me from working on a project that was so important for the long-term.

As I reached for the next tool I would need, an alarm sounded over my helmet’s internal speakers. It took a frustratingly long moment for me to recall which one this was. When I did, I jerked upright. Abandoning my position at my workbench, I called up the monitoring software. The number immediately jumped out at me. The need for calling emergency services was likely to represent an escalation for Shadow Stalker. On the other hand, it would probably be possible for experts to ascertain a great deal about her mental state and the possibility of bringing her in as a probationary Ward from her recorded words and actions. I set the audio to playing, and was almost immediately notified by the suite of software in my helmet that the voice speaking was not, in fact, Sophia Hess.

Before I could begin to speculate on what the reason for that might be, the voice reported, “-ne of my classmates . . . she isn’t breathing, an-” that was a red flag. Either Shadow Stalker had been badly injured or she had escalated and badly hurt someone else. In either case protocol demanded that a Protectorate member be dispatched to the scene. The computers in the Rig had already determined the location of the call-an alleyway between the Docks and the downtown area-and my HUD was already updating with the shortest route to take on my . . . bike.

I shot a look at the thoroughly disassembled motorcycle and grimaced, then checked my copy of the night’s schedule and hit my radio. “Velocity, I’m sending you a location. Wiretap reveals a cell phone call to nine-one-one from Shadow Stalker’s phone. Recording reports significant injury to a teenager that may or may not be Shadow Stalker. Teenaged female whose voice print does not match Shadow Stalker is in contact with emergency services and,” I checked the transcript of the ongoing conversation, “attempting CPR. No neck injury suspected.”

Only waiting long enough to hear Velocity’s, “Roger, got the location,” in acknowledgement, I headed down to the garage while simultaneously passing the information to the PRT side. Taking conventional transport would likely mean that I would arrive too late to do anything, but I would still need to make the attempt. I was also going to have to build a second engine for my motorcycle and switch them out when one needed maintenance to avoid a repeat of this problem in the future. I made a note of it even as I prepared to send Miss Militia a notification to go on standby just in case someone took note of this disruption and attempted to capitalize on it. “Notification to any Wards on the Rig. Possible parahuman event in th-”

XXXXX Taylor XXXXX​

It turns out that CPR is hard work. I leaned over Sophia’s face, clamped her nose, and blew for a count of ‘a thousand one’. I watched her chest inflate and start to fall while I gasped for breath and tried to ignore the pain in my broken nose. Then I dipped down and did it a second time complete with a second spike of pain.

Another couple gasps for air and I shifted my position back down to chest level. I laced my fingers back together and positioned the heels of my hands between Sophia’s breasts. I hoped again that I wasn’t too low. I remembered something about that maybe breaking the xiphoid process, which was bad. Then I threw my weight down on my hands and tried not to listen to Sophia’s ribs creak.

Remembering the call center lady’s instructions, I let Sophia’s ribs bounce back all the way before I threw my weight into another chest compression. Then another. I continued, counting each one and making sure to allow full recoil. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty. Thirty. I was gasping for air, and sweating in exertion. I could feel my pulse in my nose, each heartbeat a throb of pain. My everything hurt, and all I wanted to do was stop and rest. Instead, I shifted up and made sure that Sophia hadn’t started breathing on her own again, then took a quick look to make sure her head was still in the right position. I gave her two more breaths, each with as much air as I could manage in one seconds bursts (over ventilation was apparently a bad thing) at the price of two spikes of agony in my face. For whatever reason, bending over really made my nose hurt.

I panted for air and moved back down to start chest compressions again. The lady on the phone was saying something, but it was all I could do to force myself to find what I hoped was proper positioning for my hands again. My torn nail caught as I weaved my fingers together and I flinched but forced myself to start again. One.

At ‘thirteen’ a blur sped past me and abruptly resolved into a person in a nearly skin-tight red uniform. The ‘V’ on his chest was distinctive. Velocity wasn’t my favorite member of the local Protectorate, but if someone had asked me at that moment, I wouldn’t have taken Alexandria over him.

He said something I didn’t catch over my panting and the pulse pounding in my ears then knelt down on Sophia’s other side. I realized I had stopped chest compressions, and threw my back into number fourteen. As Sophia’s chest was recoiling, his hand landed on my shoulder.

“I’ve got it from here,” he said, lifting my hands off of Sophia’s chest. “Sit back and catch your breath. Depending on how long the ambulance takes, I might need you to spell me,” he instructed and I was tired enough that I didn’t object, despite remembering reading that two people doing CPR together were more efficient.

He placed his hands a touch higher than I had, I noticed as I tried to stand and stumbled backwards into the alley wall and sat down. “That’s fifteen,” I told him as Sophia’s chest recoiled.

He nodded and ran through the rest of the chest compressions, then blurred and was already giving two quick rescue breaths before my eyes were able to finish tracking his movement. Then he blurred again and was back to giving chest compressions with almost no time lost. I could definitely understand why he hadn’t wanted my help. All I could do would be get in the way.

He must have seen something on my face, because as he was performing his second set of chest compressions, he looked right at me, “You did a . . . good thing, working on her . . . until help could arrive. She’s got . . . a shot . . . thanks to you.”

If I hadn’t been so exhausted, that probably would have turned me into a blushing, stuttering mess. A member of the Protectorate praising me? A real life hero who rescued people during Endbringer fights? As things were, I could barely muster the strength to smile a bit as I tried to catch my breath. Then the 911 call center lady finally spoke again. “Ambulance should be there inside two minutes and the police have been notified,” she declared.

Before I could think to say anything, Velocity spoke up. “Understood, Velocity from the Protectorate onsite. I’ve taken over CPR. Our Good Samaritan is exh-”

I stopped paying attention to what he was saying. In the distance I could hear a siren and I finally started to relax.

XXXXX Velocity XXXXX​

Hearing the siren was a relief. I didn’t want to say anything to the poor kid, but things weren’t looking good for Shadow Stalker. The girl was starting to head toward ambient temperature which was never a good sign and it was likely to hit the brunette hard. I was still trying to put together what I was seeing from the scene and fit it into what we knew about Shadow Stalker.

The Brunette had a whole lot of injuries, but everything looked defensive. On the other hand, Shadow Stalker had no visible life-threatening wounds at all. The best guess I’d been able to put together so far was that Shadow Stalker had seen her getting worked over and jumped in to assist despite being out of costume. Even that didn’t quite hang together. If the notional perp in that case was a cape, why would he have left any witnesses alive? And if he wasn’t, then how did he kill Shadow Stalker without leaving so much as a mark on her?

Or am I missing something because of her skin tone? That was possible as well. I wasn’t a trained physician or anything. In most cape fights I could track the injuries by the blood, but she might have something that was concealed by her clothes. I kicked my power on and shifted positions as I hit thirty chest compressions. Under the effects of my power, I took a couple of deep breaths then stood and flexed my shoulders a bit to keep them loose. I took a step to the side, then knelt down and looked to make sure the young cape’s head was still positioned right. Then I got into the correct position and deactivated my power. I immediately started rescue breathing, then flashed through the whole process in reverse. Minimizing interruptions in the chest compressions was the single most important step in bringing someone back according to the newest guidelines for CPR.

The ambulance finally pulled up just before I finished the next set of compressions, the driver turning it at the last moment to shine the vehicle’s headlights over the alleyway to provide some much-needed illumination. I blurred through another pair of rescue breaths as the crew piled out.

By the time they arrived with the defibrillator, I was most of the way through the next set of chest compressions. The second EMT, carrying the automatic defibrillator, was a few steps in front of the driver. He dropped to his knees on Shadow Stalker’s other side and started to open the device as the driver, a forty-something veteran arrived. He laid a hand on the younger man’s shoulder and the look on his face wasn’t encouraging. “Check for a pulse,” he ordered and I stopped chest compressions to let them. The moment stretched out to five seconds with each of them holding position, the veteran at her carotid and his younger partner at her wrist before the older dark-skinned paramedic shook his head. “No resumption of circulation, and it’s been more than twenty minutes. I’ll put the call in.”

I grimaced even though I’d been expecting it. The simple fact was that most attempted resuscitations were unsuccessful. That didn’t mean it wasn’t a shame to lose a teenager like this, but it wasn’t totally unexpected.

“W-What’s going on?” I’d almost forgotten about the brunette. This . . . wasn’t going to go over well. Especially if Shadow Stalker had saved her from an assault. She was trying to stand even though she still hadn’t quite gotten her breath back. “She’s . . . you have to-”

The paramedics finally seemed to notice her and I realized she’d been mostly hidden from their perspective by a dumpster. I tried to come up with something to say, but the older of the two beat me to it. “She’s gone, miss. I don’t doubt you did the best you could, but the odds were against you.”

I nodded in confirmation, but the girl was looking at Shadow Stalker’s body. I stated to try to console her. “It’s not your f-” I began.

She wasn't listening. Her eyes were wide, and she was repeating something under her breath. Then she turned into what looked like a shadow and disappeared through the wall behind her.

XXXXX​

A/N Well, you've seen the Trigger Event now, and I went with Wildbow's WoG about what causes powers to develop certain ways. Anyone care to guess what Taylor's powerset is in this?
 
1.3

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
4,972
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Took some time away from BfA to finish this chapter. I'd actually planned to have this out before the 14th, but the last section really fought me. Had to leave it alone for a week to settle before I could finish it.

1.3

XXXXX Taylor XXXXX​

I’d only made it halfway to my feet, so when I stumbled backwards and the wall didn’t stop me, I ended up tumbling back to the floor as I snapped back into normal human form. There was something wrong with what had just happened, but more than that, there was something wrong with me.

It didn’t make any sense. Sophia and Emma had made my life hell for most of the last year. I didn’t even like her! Why did it hurt so badly that she was dead? I wanted to just collapse and cry and only the knowledge of how much that would hurt my ribs and nose was keeping me restricted to a serious case of sniffles.

I was trying to process . . . everything and not having much luck. I was completely exhausted. I was hungry and nauseous at the same time. I’d somehow passed through a solid brick wall without displacing anything but myself and my clothes. I leaned back against the once-again-solid wall and pulled my knees up to my chest.

I had powers, and all it had taken to get them was the worst day of my life. Had Sophia’s death been a coincidence? Or had I somehow caused it? My mind was racing, but my thoughts seemed sluggish. A small coherent part of me wondered if maybe I was going into shock, then I heard a noise and in a flash of red, Velocity was standing in front of me again.

XXXXX Velocity XXXXX​

As the girl disappeared, my brain tried to lock up for a second. That certainly appeared to be the same effect as Shadow Stalker’s power was known to have, but Armsmaster had done the research, and he was almost never wrong when it came to investigations. Besides, with the amount of time the two spent together, Dragon had almost certainly gotten involved at some point, and she was wrong even less than Armsmaster was. That meant that the brunette was either a Breaker that just happened to have a power visually identical to Shadow Stalker’s, or she was a Trump, probably some variety of power copier.

My eyes slid down to Shadow Stalker’s knuckles. The signs weren’t obvious with her skin tone, but now that I was looking closely, there were definitely contusions there. A scenario fell into place that fit Shadow Stalker’s known violent history much better than her stepping in to save a random teenager from a mugging. If I was right . . . It took a special kind of person to do CPR on the one who caused their Trigger Event.

“Not a word,” I said to the two paramedics, both of whom were staring at the wall where the new mystery cape had vanished. For once, it was the younger one that looked more composed after he had a moment to process my order. That situation would probably require a short stack of NDAs in the near future, but the PRT could handle it when they arrived.

I burst into motion, my power allowing me to jog faster than most people could process visually. While the amount of time that passed as far as the rest of the world was concerned was negligible, for me, it took the usual amount of time to jog around the building and look for an easy ingress point. There wasn’t a great one; the windows were all boarded up and the door was locked. There was, however, a roof access, and it had been kicked open by delinquents somewhere along the line.

I hadn’t seen the brunette running away when I’d done my lap around the building, and I would have if she had been. Given what adrenaline did to people, that meant she was probably trying to hide instead. We didn’t have complete knowledge of what Shadow Stalker’s power let her do, but unless it was well above average, her Breaker form likely had a relatively short time limit on it. First floor it is, I decided and made my way carefully down the stairs. When I stepped off the staircase, I took a moment to reorient myself. The wall toward the alley was on my left, and there were only a couple rooms to choose from. I guesstimated the distance from the street and picked the most likely option, then walked up to the door and dropped my power long enough to open it, then kicked my power back on just in case.

I hardly needed it. The brunette was curled up next to the outer wall in almost a fetal position. A couple of tears were leaking down her cheeks, and she was making a sort of low keening noise of almost animal distress. Judging by the look in her eyes as I dropped my power again and knelt down in front of her, she was also heading towards shock. She had that bewildered look about her that meant she wasn’t really processing much at the moment. I decided to lead off with something simple.

“It isn’t your fault,” I assured her. My only answer was another note of distress and a couple tears. “It really isn’t,” I assured her, doing my best to project sincerity. “You did everything you could to help her, but this isn’t a TV show. Without your help, she would only have had a ten percent chance; with you trying to save her, she had even odds, she just . . . came out on the wrong side of them.”

I took a deep breath and took a bit of a risk. “And let me tell you, there aren’t many people who would try to save the life of the person who caused their Trigger Event.” The young woman flinched, and I knew that I was right. “It’s been years,” I admitted, “and I don’t think I could bring myself to give CPR to the person who caused mine. You did something very difficult. It isn’t your fault that it didn’t work.”

The girl tried to respond, but didn’t have much luck. She coughed, then sniffled and winced before trying again. “But what if I . . . I mean, I have powers . . . what if I accidentally-”

I could see that she was starting to work herself up again and cut her off before she could have another panic attack. “Accidents happen after Trigger Events. Even without that, everyone has a right to defend themselves. If something you accidentally did with your power-” not killed, not killed, not killed “-hurt your attacker, then it’s no different from defending yourself in any other way.” I paused a moment for all of that to sink in, then extended my gloved right hand and wished for a moment that I had Miss Militia’s half-gloves. “Would you mind coming out to the ambulance and getting looked over?”

She hesitated for a moment before extending a hand in return. “You’re not going to arrest me?” she asked and I helped her to her feet, noting the way she favored her side.

“Not with the way things look now,” I responded, then mentally shrugged and inquired “Are your ribs bothering you?” She nodded. “We don’t really have the equipment or personnel here to document your injuries. Would you be willing to come to the PRT building to get them photographed and give a statement?”

She looked concerned and hesitant, so I was careful to reinforce what I’d told her earlier. “You aren’t under arrest. You have defensive wounds, and I spotted injuries on the knuckles of-” Especially don’t say Shadow Stalker “-your assailant outside. We just want you to tell us what happened and take photographs so if anyone tries to question your story, we have proof of how badly you were injured.” After a long moment, she nodded her assent, so I carefully lead her to the entrance of the room before it struck me that taking her out the roof and over a couple rooftops to the way up I’d found was probably less than optimal.

Thankfully, the front door of the building turned out to be easily unlocked. The heavy door and sturdy framing seemed to have been judged to be sufficient deterrent by whoever had boarded the place up. I went to call the brunette’s name and abruptly realized I’d forgotten to ask her what it was. Instead, I walked back towards her, keeping my power deactivated now that the situation was less urgent. “Do you have a name you want to use?” I asked as I started leading her toward the entrance.

“Uh,” she said, seeming a bit embarrassed, “sorry, I’m Taylor Hebert. I, well, it’s good to meet you?”

If she hadn’t sounded quite so lost, it would have been adorable. I also hadn’t worded my question as well as I might have. “I actually meant a Cape name, but thank you for the trust,” I explained as I pulled out a thin domino mask. I couldn’t carry much due to the limits of my Breaker power, but I did carry that, just in case. If anything Taylor seemed even more embarrassed.

“Oh, that makes sense . . .” she trailed off. “I can’t think of anything.” she admitted a moment later as she slid the mask on, flinching as it put pressure on her obviously broken nose.

I thought for a moment as I opened the door. “How about ‘Ace’ for the moment?” I suggested, then elaborated at her look, “Since your power seems to have a Trump element to it.”

I’d expected a bit of reaction to that, but Taylor just nodded and followed me. “Ace is fine,” she decided after a second’s thought.

She’s a good kid, I decided. She hadn’t had much time since her Trigger. I doubt the fact that she had powers had really had a chance to sink in yet. “If you run into Vista, don’t be surprised if she tries to get you to join the Wards. Right now the local team is all young men except for her; she’s feeling a little outnumbered.”

Taylor just nodded her head.

Things had changed in the couple minutes we’d been gone. A police car had arrived, and so had the PRT’s rapid response vehicle. Armsmaster was talking to the cops-probably letting them know that we had jurisdiction due to parahuman involvement-though I didn’t see his motorcycle.

We’d been in view for perhaps half a second when his visor tracked toward us with mechanical precision. He said one last thing to the policemen and then stepped toward us. Taylor’s eyes were wide open behind her borrowed mask. I suspected that she was a fan. It only took a couple more steps to bring us into range.

“Velocity,” he said with a nod. “Miss,” another nod. Knowing how he hated wasting time, I started right in on my report.

“I arrived to find ‘Ace,’ here giving CPR to the young woman down the alley. She was pretty thoroughly exhausted, so I took over until the squad arrived. Due to time elapsed and other factors, they decided to discontinue resuscitation. Ace was distressed by this, and proceeded to phase backwards through the wall behind her.” Armsmaster’s visor had been aimed halfway between us, but at that his head snapped around to look directly at me. Before he could interrupt, I answered his probable question.

“Yeah, exactly. She’s almost certainly a Trump, and she’s newly Triggered. She was attacked and injured before her Trigger, then when she came to, she attempted CPR. On the person who had just caused her Trigger Event.” I didn’t have to highlight how rare that made her. Armsmaster’s helmet covered most of his face, but it left his mouth exposed. For just a moment, there was a bit of a gap between his lips. For Armsmaster, that was open shock.

“I’d like to take her to PRT headquarters to get checked out. She’s got injured ribs, and I doubt she wants to take her shirt off around a bunch of men to get her injuries photographed.”

I caught some motion in my peripheral vision, but by the time my eyes flickered over to her, Taylor was still, if a bit more hunched over than she had been previously. “Better make it the Rig,” Armsmaster ordered instead. Down the block, another PRT van turned the corner, lights and sirens on. “Take the van, there,” he indicated the parked ready vehicle, then turned back to Taylor.

“Ace, I would like to commend you.” Uncharacteristically, he paused for a long moment before continuing to address her. “Here and now, I could make myself do it, but I was a teenager when I Triggered. I would not have been able to bring myself to do so then.” He did the best he could to meet her eyes with his helmet on, then extended his hand. Taylor took it, and they shook. When she let go, Taylor’s eyes were wet. It seemed Armsmaster was impressed. I didn’t think I’d ever heard him even make a reference to his Trigger Event before.

“I . . . Thank you, sir. Sophia might have treated me like crap for the last year, but . . . I didn’t want her to die.” That drew Armsmaster’s attention as well as my own. I could tell he wanted to question Taylor about that comment, but he needed to process the scene, and she needed a parent present before she was questioned.

“I hope you will consider joining the Wards, Ace, we could use more heroes with your moral courage,” he said, then turned to advance down the alley. “Console, please get ahold of New Wave. We have a new Trigger that was injured badly enough to require medical attention headed for the Rig. If Panacea is available, I would appreciate her being there-”

I finally gathered enough presence of mind to speak as I led Taylor over to the PRT van and opened the sliding door. “Well, it sounds like you won’t have the injuries for too much longer. Panacea is usually willing to stop by and help when we ask. I don’t suppose you have a number that we can get ahold of your parents at?”

Taylor froze, one foot in the van, but the second still on the sidewalk. “Oh, God, dad’s gonna kill me!” she gasped, voice horrified.

I tried to smother a chuckle and didn’t quite succeed. So there is a teenager in there after all.

XXXXX Taylor XXXXX​

“Alright, Ace, that’s the last of them,” the female investigator said with a smile. For a second I didn’t know who she was talking to before I remembered that Ace was my Cape Name. It was so odd, it didn’t seem real. The woman packed up her camera and left while I made sure the hospital gown I’d changed into was mostly covering me again. I laid back on the bed in the medical room and pulled the blanket up with my right hand. The rough fabric kept getting caught on the torn nail on my left. I breathed out under the covers to try to warm my fingers up and did my best to make sense of the last . . . hour? It felt like longer than that, but the clock on the wall declared that it was barely past eleven.

Velocity had passed dad’s number along to someone called ‘Console’ to make the call. I wasn’t sure if I was glad of that or not. On one hand, I wouldn’t be able to judge how angry he was by the yelling. On the other hand, I could remain ignorant of how angry he was, and maybe he’d calm down by the time he drove to the Rig. I shivered again, but not entirely from the cold. Dad had never turned his temper on me, but just being in proximity when it slipped his grasp was uncomfortable.

I’d barely managed to get some warmth back into my hands when there was a knock on the door. “Come in?” I asked more than stated. In other circumstances the group that piled into the room would probably have drawn a gasp, maybe even a squee. Armsmaster might be my favorite Brockton Bay hero, but Miss Militia was right up there on the list and Glory Girl was basically Alexandria-Lite. Almost all the Alexandria in a bubbly-teenager-shaped package.

Then there was Panacea. I was really happy to see her. I just wanted tonight to be over.

Miss Militia broke the ice before my staring could get uncomfortable. “Ace, we were able to get ahold of your father. He’ll be here soon.”

I nodded. I both wanted to see my dad and really didn’t want to see him at the same time. Then I realized I’d been quiet for too long again. I wracked my brain for something to say. “Um, thanks. Ah, could you pass on to . . . Console, that I said thanks too?”

Glory Girl snickered and Miss Militia did something that made her mask move. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking until she spoke. Then there was clear humor in her voice. “You’re welcome. I was working console tonight, it’s a position, not a cape name, though I can understand why you wouldn’t know.”

For a moment, I would have been relieved if the ground had opened up and swallowed me. It was too much like Winslow. I was feeling surrounded, and people were laughing at me, and-

“Man, I remember when Clockblocker joined the Wards. Vista let him think Console was an actual person for four days before she clued him in.”

Something in my chest lightened, and for several moments I was immeasurably relieved. Then Panacea elbowed her sister. “Vicky, aura. She’s had a bad night.”

Glory Girl wilted just a little, and I was back to feeling nervous and stressed, though maybe not quite as bad as before. “C’mon, Ames, she looked like she could use a little pick-me-up.”

I was trying to figure out what I could say when Miss Militia preempted me. “Please be careful about that in the future. All we really know about her powerset so far is that she’s a Trump. An unexpected interaction with your Shaker power could be dangerous.”

Glory Girl winced a bit at that, “Didn’t know that. Uh, sorry Ace, didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

Panacea just shook her head as she stepped forward. I couldn’t get a good look at her face with her hood, but I had the feeling that she was as done with tonight as I was. I hoped they hadn’t woken her up to come in just to see me. I’d feel really guilty if they had. “Do I have your permission to heal you?” she asked.

“They got all the pictures they needed, so please do.” I actually managed to get a full sentence out without stumbling over my words. Progress.

Panacea reached out and laid her hand on my left arm. “Alr-bwuh?” I’d already been looking at Panacea, but with that her sister and Miss Militia focused on her as well.

“Everything okay there, sis?”

“It’s weird,” Panacea said, sounding almost offended. “For a second, I could see everything clearly, but now her whole body is . . blurry.”

I felt something almost wriggling on my face and froze. It didn’t feel bad so much as really odd. Then I realized my nose didn’t hurt anymore, and I let out a sigh of relief. “Her ability might be reacting like you’re attacking her,” Miss Militia suggested.

Panacea nodded absently, “Someone really did a number on your nose. That wasn’t just cartilage damage, you had bone broken as well. Swelling’s taken care of. Your ribs aren’t actually . . . No, wait, there is a hairline fracture there.” The healer’s stream of words cut off in a yawn. “That’s strange,” she continued more slowly, “I dun fell su-”

I froze as the girl who’d just been healing me stumbled and then collapsed sideways, the side of her head hitting the neighboring bed’s footboard then the back making an awful sounding thud as it hit the ground. There at the end, had I really-? Glory Girl burst into motion, shocking me out of my thoughts as a burst of intense fear ledged in my chest. She reached out to grab me.

I yelped and reflexively activated my power. Instead of running into me, Glory Girl passed right through me, scattering some of the smoky shadows that I was made of momentarily. That was uncomfortable. I popped back to normal, and scrambled off the bed and over towards Miss Militia, who had moved to kneel beside Panacea, my eyes wide. Glory Girl was sprawled across the wall of the room, floating at about chest-height, and seemed disoriented. I was trying not to panic.

“Victoria, stand down!” Miss Militia barked and reached out to drag me behind her. Her fingers were warm against my arm, and I was trying not to panic as the lump of fear in my chest seemed to burst and coat all of my insides. My hands leapt up in front of my body, ready for me to try to defend myself, just as a crackle of green lightning seemed to spark between my fingers.

Glory Girl hesitated at that, and Miss Militia abruptly let go of my arm.

That was about the time two people in bulky PRT gear burst through the door with my Dad on their heels.

And I was standing in the middle of the room with nothing more than a hospital gown and a domino mask on. God, I should have let Glory Girl paste me.
 

Simonbob

Well-known member
Joined
May 16, 2021
Reaction score
1,812
I don't see a lot of Shadow Stalker being killed in the first chapter.

Interesting. I'm not too fond of the full copy Trump, a bit overpowered, but you're a good writer, so I'll wait ans see.
 

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
4,972
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
I don't see a lot of Shadow Stalker being killed in the first chapter.

Interesting. I'm not too fond of the full copy Trump, a bit overpowered, but you're a good writer, so I'll wait ans see.
I mean, if she desperately wanted to be the next Jack Slash/GU, then it would be an amazing power. For a hero? Not so much.
 
1.4

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
4,972
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
Many thanks to Seraviel and Lordsfire without whom this story would be much the lesser.

1.4

XXXXX Danny XXXXX​

I’d been following a pair of the PRT’s uniformed officers through the Byzantine halls of the Rig, the local Protectorate’s base, when we all heard a loud thump. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, but both of the PRT’s people immediately stiffened.

One turned to me and ordered, “Sir, I need you to stay here.” Then he turned and took off down the hall after his fellow officer. My temper, which had mostly been smothered with worry as Taylor’s curfew had come and gone, started to stir.

All I’d gotten was a call from a female voice requesting that I come down to the Rig’s Onshore Transfer Site, what nearly everyone in Brockton usually referred to as the Ferry Dock since the actual Ferry had been out of commission for so long. I’d expected to take one of the fast ferries that transferred most supplies out to the Rig. Instead I’d gotten an up close and personal look at the Light Bridge that the Protectorate used sometimes. That had made me even more nervous. I’d had to interlace my fingers and grip hard to keep my hands from shaking. Taylor was . . . If she was hurt, I didn’t know what I’d do.

So being told to wait in a hallway simply wasn’t going to fly. I took off after the officers; I doubt they could hear my sneakers over the sound their boots made as they dashed along the corridor. My only challenge was keeping them in sight. They might have been weighed down by their gear, but they were both at least a decade younger than me and in better shape.

But my daughter was somewhere in these corridors. I didn’t know what condition she was in, but I doubted it could be good and I just knew that she’d be where the PRT troops were headed.

I didn’t quite lose sight of them as they rushed through a door marked ‘infirmary.’ I followed as quickly as I could despite the sudden feeling that I shouldn’t, that I’d be intruding.

It was … wrong. It - I needed to get to Taylor to find out if she was okay. That wasn’t an intrusion, even if maybe …

I forced myself through the door to find a scene of chaos. My eyes were drawn to a hovering figure. I might not keep up with Cape news much, but even I recognized Glory Girl. I’d read about her aura, but if that was what I’d run into in the hallway, it was a lot more substantial than I’d thought.

Still, even if she was a celebrity, she wasn’t who I was looking for. I found her ducked down behind a woman who could only be Miss Militia. She was in a hospital gown and a mask, but I’d recognize her anywhere.

“Taylor!” I called out as a weight lifted at least a bit off of my shoulders. She turned her head towards me, and appeared to try to fold in on herself. I resolved right then not to be angry with her. The last thing she needed right now was my damn temper.

I tried to go to her, and my resolve was immediately tested as the two PRT agents in front of me moved to keep me back.

“Sir, thi-”

“Officer, that is my daughter over there, and it will take more than two of you to keep me away from her,” I said levelly, trying not to grit my teeth.

The man on the left opened his mouth to speak, but the whole room seemed to tilt before he could get a word out, and the uncomfortable feeling for before came back with a vengeance.

“-mn it, I want some answers here, starting with what she did to Amy!”

God, this was Glory Girl’s aura in action? How did anyone even try to fight her if-

“I said, ‘stand down,’ Victoria!” Miss Militia fired back as though the sudden weight I was feeling couldn’t touch her at all. “She’s a new trigger, she wouldn’t have done anything intenti-”

My heart skipped a beat. I was watching a confrontation between Glory Girl and Miss Militia over a new parahuman, and my daughter was standing behind the bandana-clad Heroine. In a mask. And I’d just yelled out her name for anyone around to hear. What a damn nightmare.

XXXXX Miss Militia XXXXX​

What a nightmare this scenario was. I had a justifiably terrified new parahuman behind me, her worried father trying to get in the door, and a pissed off flying brick who was both a notional ally and rightly worried about her sister, in front of me. My instincts were telling me to open up with beanbag rounds before the hostile Brute in front of me could get into grabbing range. Thankfully, I had practice ignoring my instincts and leaning on my training.

“Get your aura under control. What we have here is a failure of communication,” I told the floating blonde. She might be pissed off, but she didn’t look ready to risk me actually using the shotgun I had aimed at her.

She looked at me like I was crazy, but she seemed to be trending towards ‘confused’ instead of ‘enraged.’ If I could get her thinking instead of reacting … “Ace, what did Velocity tell you he thought your power was?” I asked. It risked drawing Glory Girl’s ire back towards her, but if I could involve her as part of the discussion, make her a scared young woman instead of a target-

“T-that I was a Trump?” Tay- Ace responded.The stutter made it pretty clear that she was feeling Victoria’s aura keenly, but she was holding it together well in spite of the situation.

“That’s correct, but Trumps often have secondary power ratings.” I concentrated through the directed emotion that was trying to make my voice shake. If there was any chance of getting the situation under control, it was in action, not reaction. “We didn’t know what yours was before now. It seems that you’re a Striker, someone whose power is touch-based. Unfortunately, so is Panacea’s-” Even as I was saying it, I knew that was the wrong thing to have said.

“So while my sister was healing you, you were-” Vicky started to yell and her aura only got more oppressive. Both the PRT agents and Ace’s father were bent, as though supporting a heavy weight, so I did the only thing I could think of.

A twelve gauge pump action shotgun made a distinctive sound when it was racked. The click-click drew Glory Girl’s attention and gave her a moment’s pause. I exploited it ruthlessly. “You’ll notice she also got some of my power as well. Not the sort of mistake she’d make if she’d been using her power out of curiosity. Not when she’s just seen what her power did to Amy.

“Yet she still had a trace of my power after touching me. That would suggest that her power functions involuntarily.” I gave a moment for that message to penetrate. Glory Girl was far from stupid, if I could only get her brain in gear …

“But she’s been in contact with lots of other people since she got here! Why-”

I cut Glory Girl off again. “Skin to skin? The PRT officers are in full-body armor, Velocity has full coverage gear, and the medical staff wear sterile gloves. Universal precautions. That seems to be enough to stop her power, even assuming it does anything to someone who isn’t a parahuman. This was not her fault, just bad luck.”

Again I took a moment to let Victoria process, then struck. “Now will you calm down so we can get the nurse in here? Amy hit her head pretty hard when she fell.” At that, the oppressive aura faded like the Bay’s morning mist once the sun was up: Suddenly and without a trace that it had ever existed. Glory Girl’s expression had performed a sudden handbrake turn as she realized that her temper was preventing her sister from getting medical attention. Victoria wasted no further time going to Amy’s side, and for just a moment, as medical personnel flooded into the infirmary to take care of the downed healer, I could let my eyes drift closed, and take a deep, cleansing breath. Then I heard the girl behind me give a mewl of distress.

“Then, I did kill her.” Thankfully it wasn’t a whisper. Whispers carried much farther than softly spoken words, and the medics were making enough of a fuss to cover up Ace’s quiet sentence.

I turned around to find Ace curling in on herself. I could wish she’d been a bit less perceptive, but that she had made the connection said good things about her intelligence. I started to reach out and lay a hand on her shoulder, then checked myself. With my half-gloves, I was at risk of being subjected to whatever her power was if I wasn’t careful. I eyed the hospital gown she was wearing to make sure that it was fastened securely, but before I could finish my aborted motion, her father stepped past me and swept his daughter into a hug.

“God, Taylor, are you okay?” he demanded as he pulled her into a hug, his arms wrapped around her shoulders.

“D-dad,” she managed in turn before collapsing into sobs, her arms snaking out to wrap around his back as she shook.

I spared the rest of the room a glance, but everything seemed to be under control. Rather than have this happen in the crowded infirmary, I started guiding the pair out into the hallway. There was a room a couple doors down that was usually reserved for the medical staff, but they were busy at the moment. On the way out, I did manage to grab a pair of nitrile gloves for Ace’s father. The last thing the poor girl needed was to be traumatized further by knocking her father unconscious if her power did extend to non-parahumans.

XXXXX Danny XXXXX​

I maintained the hug, arms cradling my poor daughter, as I slipped on the gloves Miss Militia handed me. A break room didn’t seem like the best place to have this discussion, but it was at least empty and somewhat private.

Then she handed me a domino mask. I must have had a confused expression on my face, because she launched into an explanation.

“I apologize. The guards should have given you one before they brought you into the infirmary.”

I winced even as I waved the mask off.

“Ah, I don’t think they were expecting me to be right behind them,” I admitted. The masked heroine raised an eyebrow and I found myself guiltily explaining. “They told me to stay put in the hallway when we heard the commotion start up.”

Miss Militia closed her eyes and shook her head.

“I apologize, one of them should have remained with you. Things are a bit chaotic tonight, but that’s not an excuse.”

I was still acutely aware that I’d blurted out Taylor’s name like an idiot in the heat of the moment. I probably should have just stomped on my instincts and waited, but …

Recriminations can wait, I decided. At least Taylor seemed to have recovered her balance a little bit. She was still clinging to me, but she wasn’t sobbing anymore. I ran one gloved hand over her back.

“I’m so glad you’re alright, Tay-” I cut myself off. What had Miss Militia called her? “uh Ace.”

Somehow that seemed to be the wrong thing to say, because Taylor started to sniffle like she was fighting back tears again. She turned her head so she could see the flag-masked hero.

“H-how long do I have?” she asked, much to my confusion.

“What do you mean?” Miss Militia asked. I suppose I wasn’t the only one lost.

Taylor seemed to hunch over in my grasp.

“Before you a-arrest me,” she said and my breath froze. My heart started to hammer in my chest and my mind started racing. I didn’t know much about criminal law, but I sure as shit knew that if they’d questioned her without me present, then I was going to-

“Oh, Honey,” Miss Militia said, interrupting my building fury, “we aren’t going to arrest you,” she laid a hand on Taylor’s shoulder. Not being able to see half of her face should have made it difficult to read her expression, but she was clearly emoting sympathy.

“But I killed her!” Taylor all but wailed and buried her head against my chest, shaking with sobs again.

My eyes shot to Miss Militia, expecting … I wasn’t sure what. A denial, a clarification. Something.

“Ace,” she began, then stopped herself. Her other hand reached up to place itself on Taylor’s other shoulder and I could feel her putting light pressure on my daughter’s shoulders.

Taylor let go of my waist and let herself be turned around. Her hands wrapped around her sides and she hunched forward, her posture defensive. My hands came up automatically to rest on her shoulders.

Miss Militia leaned down and met my daughter’s eyes.

“Taylor, may I call you that?” Taylor nodded miserably, and she continued, “Taylor. I’m going to say this very clearly. You were not at fault for what happened.”

“But-” Taylor tried to interject, but the hero wasn’t having it.

“No buts. According to everything we can put together at this point, Shadow Stalker attacked you. All the injuries we documented when the medical staff checked you over were defensive wounds. What happened to her was, quite literally, her own fault. If she hadn’t tried to kill you, she wouldn’t have caused your Trigger Event, and she would still be alive.”

My heart just about sank down into my boots. It was my turn to pull Taylor into a desperate hug.

“What! A Cape tried to kill Taylor!” I demanded “Is she,” I began before realizing that I was literally speaking over her head, “are you okay?”

“She’s fine now.” “I-I’m okay, dad,” they both spoke over each other. Taylor immediately stopped talking when she realized she was interrupting the Protectorate heroine.

“Panacea healed her before the confrontation you saw in the infirmary,” Miss Militia explained. “She had a badly broken nose, cracked ribs, and defensive wounds to her hands as well as some bruising on her neck. We had to get it documented, but we made sure female staff were present at all times during the process,” she assured me.

I was relieved to hear that Panacea had seen to Taylor’s injuries. I didn’t really follow the Cape scene anymore, but it was impossible to live in Brockton Bay and not know about New Wave’s miracle healer. That still didn’t satisfy me, though.

“What happened?” I demanded. Miss Militia seemed to be ordering her thoughts to respond, but it was Taylor that spoke up first.

“I-i was walking home from the library,” she began. “I didn’t mean to stay so late, but they had just gotten some new books and one of them was really interesting and I didn’t realize how late it was until the librarian came and told me it was closing time,” she was almost stumbling over her words and heading towards frantic. I did the first thing that came to mind and pulled her back into a hug. She took a couple of breaths and I thought she was going to break into tears again. Instead, she pulled herself together and continued.

“I missed the last bus and all the payphones have been vandalized. And the librarians wouldn’t let me use the desk phone the last time I asked, so I had to walk home,” she explained and I had to grit my teeth. My daughter had been attacked because a bunch of heartless bureaucrats wouldn’t let a teenage girl call home after dark?

“I’d almost made it into the docks when Sophia found me. She hit me,” Taylor said, her hand drifting over her lower back. I’d been in my share of bar fights as a young man and recognized the spot; it was right over top of a kidney. It was a struggle not to let my fingers tighten into fists. “Then she grabbed me by my hair and dragged me into an alley and threw me into the trash on the ground. She knocked me down the first time I tried to get up and taunted me like usual, but-”

I saw red.

“Like usual!” I growled out, furious, and Taylor flinched. I took a deep breath to try and reign in my temper. I barely heard Miss Militia speak.

“This has happened before?” she sounded as appalled as I was, which helped me get a grip on myself.

“She and E-um a-a couple other girls have been bullying me at school since about this time last year,” Taylor admitted, and all the heat of my temper left me. If I hadn’t been holding onto her, I might have just fallen down. This had been going on for a year and I hadn’t noticed?

“Nothing as bad as t-tonight, but Sophia’s always been the physical one. She’s pushed me down in the hallways a couple times and she’s tripped me and stuff.”

“I see,” Miss Militia said, her shoulders slumped and she shook her head.

“I’m so sorry, Little Owl. I’m so sorry,” I wanted to demand to know why she hadn’t told me, but I was afraid I knew. I … hadn’t been much of a father since Annette had died. I swallowed despite how dry my mouth was. “You don’t have to keep going if …”

Taylor seemed to consider it but shook her head.

“I think … I feel like it needs to be said,” she responded quietly.

“I can transcribe it later tonight, that way you can just sign it and you won’t have to tell it again later,” Miss Militia offered. I couldn’t see her face, but Taylor nodded, seeming grateful.

Taylor took a deep breath and continued.

“I was trying to get past her, but she kept blocking me, and accusing me of being a wh-prostitute for the Merchants and an addict,” my temper was flaring again, but I just hugged my daughter. “Then she said that m-mom must be so disappointed in me, and … I lost my temper. I took a swing at her, but I just sort of grazed her, then she took a swing at me, but I tripped and fell into her. Then the next thing I knew, she was on top of me, and I think that’s when she broke my nose.” I didn’t want to hear this, any of this, but I wasn’t about to leave Taylor to tell it alone.

“She was yelling at me and swearing, and that’s when she started to choke me,” Taylor raised her left hand. “I kinda reached to push her away, but my left arm was all numb and my nails ended up closer to her eyes than her chin. She flinched and turned into a shadow.”

“My glasses were broken by then,” she continued after a long pause and a couple deep breaths, “but I could tell when she decided to k-kill me to make sure I didn’t tell anyone.”

I drew in a ragged breath, jaw muscles knotted and thumbnails digging into the sides of my index fingers. I could wish it hadn’t been my daughter that did it, but if this Sophia was the one that she said she’d killed, I was glad the little bitch was dead.

“I tried to fight her off, but she was choking me again, and I’ve never … I didn’t know what to do, and I passed out,” Taylor stumbled through the explanation. “When I woke up again, she was on top of me. I pushed her off and stood up, but I didn’t want to just leave her there. I was trying to figure out how to wake her up when I realized she wasn’t breathing. I got her phone out of her pocket and called 911 and the lady who answered walked me through how to do CPR, and I kept doing it until Velocity got there.”

Her story concluded, Taylor seemed to deflate.

“Throwing that punch wasn’t the best decision,” Miss Militia said and extended a hand to again lightly rest on Taylor’s shoulder, “but people often don’t make the best decisions when we’ve just been attacked and there’s someone we’re scared of between us and safety.

“I’ll say it again, Taylor, we aren’t going to be arresting you,” the hero repeated. “Sophia assaulted you, and using force or the threat of force to keep you in that alley was also a crime, something called ‘Deprivation of Liberty’. You defended yourself, and, frankly, the way your power works corroborates your story. We don’t know everything about how powers work, but there are people who have studied the trends. Trump triggers are only known to occur when the victim is under threat by someone with a parahuman ability.

“Besides, Shadow Stalker was already under investigation for crimes she’d committed as a vigilante. This, unfortunately, fits with her known actions,” that made me grit my teeth.

“You knew she was a criminal and you were just letting her roam the streets?!” I demanded angrily through clenched teeth.

“There’s a difference between knowing something and being able to prove it in court,” she explained. Her patient tone should have been calming, but, paradoxically, only made me angrier. “The last thing we want to do is make an arrest and then have to let a criminal back out on the streets to hurt more people because we didn’t have enough evidence. We-” she cut herself off with a grimace detectable even through her mask. “There’s not a lot I can tell you at this point. It’s late and my superiors aren’t here. Besides, I can see both of you are tired and this is better discussed with clear heads. If you can come in tomorrow and are willing to sign NDAs, I can let you know more then.”

That … that wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but …

I glanced down at my daughter, looking exhausted, and forced myself to take a deep breath. To think instead of letting my temper direct my actions.

…Maybe she was right. Some rest or maybe some distance might be what both of us needed at the moment.

“Alright,” I agreed, “I think both of us could use some sleep.”

Miss Militia nodded, then seemed to remember something.

“Oh, and make sure Taylor eats more than usual for the next few days. Panacea does good work, but at least part of the energy burden for healing always comes from the patient.”

I nodded my understanding and thanked her for her time. One of the guards was waiting for us outside the break room we’d been talking in, and he led the way back out of the building. We were driven back across the light bridge again. It was the sort of thing that would have had Taylor babbling in excitement a couple years ago.

She barely seemed to notice.

It dawned on me that I hadn’t even had a real conversation with her in … weeks? Months? When was the last time we’d done something together? I’d taken a day off work so I could take her to the doctor’s office for the usual pre-high school medical screening, I finally remembered.

That had been more than a year ago, and neither of us had been in a talkative mood with … with Annette’s death still so fresh.

I clenched the steering wheel in both hands so tightly my knuckles hurt. Had I really had my head so far up my own ass I’d ignored my daughter for more than a year?

I wanted to make excuses, to blame my memory for being faulty, but even if I was forgetting a few things, the very fact that nothing stood out in my mind was damning.

I was furious, but this time there was no one to blame but myself. What would Annette think of me? How disappointed would she be that I’d buried myself in my work instead of being there for our daughter?

Very, I concluded as I pulled into the driveway. But there was nothing I could do to change what I’d already done.

All I could try to do was unfuck myself moving forward.

XXXXX​

A/N: So this has languished for literal years because I felt that I wasn’t good enough at writing characters to do the story I wanted to tell justice. In that time, I think my writing has improved enough that I can actually get at least this first novella out the way I want to, so I’m taking another stab at it.
 

Xixtosovix

New member
Joined
Jan 17, 2022
Reaction score
1
Taylor puts Sophia's password in absently, navigates out of texts and into the phone app, and calls 911 in chapter 1.2.

Was that an intentional part of the story, or was it just something that shouldn't be in there? Most phones will let a person call 911 without needing to be logged-in. Why, or how, would Taylor know Sophia's password? I would think that Taylor would have no inkling of one of her bully's phone passwords. Unless you are going for an X-men/Rogue type of power copier set wherein the powers gained are the entire set if she manages to kill the parahuman touching her.
 

Tangent

New member
Joined
Jan 17, 2022
Reaction score
2
I've noticed that there are at least some differences between Taylor's striker power and Rogue's, despite their powers being very similar:
  • Taylor's touch does not instantly render the other person unconscious. Panacea's interaction with her proves this.
  • Taylor does not instantly absorb/copy another parahuman's full powers. Again, the interaction with Panacea proves this.
What has not been demonstrated (yet) is:
  • How much of Pan Pan's biokinesis did Taylor copy?
  • Did Pan Pan even temporarily lose her powers at all (and, if so, how fast will she recover them, if at all)?
  • How long Taylor can keep her copied powers from someone she doesn't actually kill via her own power?
The answer to these questions are important if she's going to be a member of any team at all. After all, if a teammate can granter Taylor temporary use of her powers while still remaining viable themselves, she becomes a valuable force multiplier for any team she is on. If, however, they lose access to their own powers for the entire duration that Taylor has access to those powers instead, then it's more of her being Shadow Stalker Plus. A good ace in the hole to allow her to stand in for a teammate who was taken out of a fight, but otherwise very situational in scope.

And that's even assuming that the original Parahuman even loses part or all of their powers while Taylor is copying them. If all she does is straight-up copying the power while temporarily draining energy (and apparently some memories) from those she touches, Taylor then becomes even more valuable to the team.

Need a quick double up on a flying brute? Taylor high-fives Aegis and for the next little while their team has two flying brutes!

Miss Militia needs someone able to provide cover fire so that she can position herself for a better shot? High Five her Ward tagalong, Taylor, who can now lay down that cover fire for her!

Armsmaster needs an extra set of hands for a project where it would help to have an assistant with the exact same Tinker specialty? High five Taylor and she's his lab assistant for the next little while!

Need a lawyer to prevent the Protectorate from taking shameless advantage of Taylor's time? Well, I'm sure Carol Dallon would love to make herself available!
 

Speaker4thesilent

Crazed Deplorable
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Reaction score
4,972
Location
An undisclosed bunker in Flyover Country.
I've noticed that there are at least some differences between Taylor's striker power and Rogue's, despite their powers being very similar:
  • Taylor's touch does not instantly render the other person unconscious. Panacea's interaction with her proves this.
  • Taylor does not instantly absorb/copy another parahuman's full powers. Again, the interaction with Panacea proves this.
What has not been demonstrated (yet) is:
  • How much of Pan Pan's biokinesis did Taylor copy?
  • Did Pan Pan even temporarily lose her powers at all (and, if so, how fast will she recover them, if at all)?
  • How long Taylor can keep her copied powers from someone she doesn't actually kill via her own power?
The answer to these questions are important if she's going to be a member of any team at all. After all, if a teammate can granter Taylor temporary use of her powers while still remaining viable themselves, she becomes a valuable force multiplier for any team she is on. If, however, they lose access to their own powers for the entire duration that Taylor has access to those powers instead, then it's more of her being Shadow Stalker Plus. A good ace in the hole to allow her to stand in for a teammate who was taken out of a fight, but otherwise very situational in scope.

And that's even assuming that the original Parahuman even loses part or all of their powers while Taylor is copying them. If all she does is straight-up copying the power while temporarily draining energy (and apparently some memories) from those she touches, Taylor then becomes even more valuable to the team.

Need a quick double up on a flying brute? Taylor high-fives Aegis and for the next little while their team has two flying brutes!

Miss Militia needs someone able to provide cover fire so that she can position herself for a better shot? High Five her Ward tagalong, Taylor, who can now lay down that cover fire for her!

Armsmaster needs an extra set of hands for a project where it would help to have an assistant with the exact same Tinker specialty? High five Taylor and she's his lab assistant for the next little while!

Need a lawyer to prevent the Protectorate from taking shameless advantage of Taylor's time? Well, I'm sure Carol Dallon would love to make herself available!
Just copying would be overpowered. I won’t spoil too much, but I will say that it’s a temporary power drain that only becomes permanent if the target is killed.
 

PainGod85

Member
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Reaction score
6
I guess Panacea could now theoretically be considered safe from disease and injury as well, with Taylor being able to heal her if she ever requires it as long as she's still alive by the time she reaches her.
 
Top Bottom