1) This story is set in the Wormverse, which is owned by Wildbow. Thanks for letting me use it.
2) I will follow canon as closely as I can. If I find something that canon does not cover, then I will make stuff up. If canon then refutes me, then I will revise. Do not bother me with fanon; corrections require citations.
3) I welcome criticism of my works, but if you tell me that something is wrong, I also expect an explanation of what is wrong, and a suggestion of how to fix it. Note that I do not promise to follow any given suggestion. Posting negative reviews using an anonymous account is a good way to get said reviews deleted.
Part 1-0: Introduction
Blackness surrounded me. I huddled in my rocky grave. I didn't know how long it had been since thunder and lightning had wracked the sky, since the wall had collapsed on top of me.
Saving my life.
The earth had not shaken for a long time now. No more dirt filtered down on me. But it was getting hard to breathe. The air was getting stale. The rocks and earth surrounding me had saved me from Behemoth's fury, but it may yet kill me.
I shifted, turned. Stone ground, something pressed on my ribs. I pushed, tried to dig. There was the faintest sensation of giving, of movement. I shoved harder. Something reluctantly gave way, and I tasted fresh air. Not cool, not sweet; it was hot, baked, filled with dust and smoke, but it was breathable. I greedily sucked it into my lungs anyway.
With that one stone loosened, I scrabbled at the others around me. Some shifted out of the way; others began to grind downward, pressing on my body. I scrambled, shuffled forward. Something trapped my ankle; I kicked frantically, freed myself. And then there was a rush and rumble of tumbling stone, and daylight was suddenly visible.
Dusty, bruised, coughing, bloody, I emerged from the base of a mass of tumbled rubble. Overhead, the sky was a scorched brass colour, stained with smoke from a thousand fires. My costume was torn, almost shredded from me in places.
My mask was damaged; one lens was gone while the other was starred and opaque. I took it off and discarded it; it wasn't going to do me any good now. Likewise, the electronic armband was now dead and dark. It joined my mask on the ground. A pouch held my glasses; astonishingly, they were intact. I put them on. At least now I could see clearly.
I staggered to my feet, favouring the ankle that had been momentarily trapped by the stones. Any bugs I had in my costume had been crushed by the trapping stones, but I reached out now, gathered in my swarms.
What was left of my swarms.
I did not know where Behemoth had gone, but he had rampaged across the landscape, scouring it with fire, lightning and probably radiation as well. And in doing so, he had killed most everything above the ground, and some things below it.
Including most of the insects and other bugs.
But there were some. Cockroaches, long heralded as being the most likely survivors of a nuclear apocalypse, scrambled from niches and cracks. Flies rose here and there. Other bugs, more exotic, native to India, also responded to my call.
I set them to looking for survivors, while I myself stumbled from rubble pile to rubble pile, calling out names. The names of my friends. All the names I could recall of the heroes, the villains, the capes who had attended the call, the Endbringer Truce.
My bugs spread far and wide, finding no evidence of human life. Just blasted devastation. Even where the city had been, there were not even the stumps of buildings.
I remembered the battle beforehand; the defence of New Delhi falling apart even before it could be properly formed. Falling back, looking for options.
Meeting Phir Sē.
Arranging the distraction, the damage to Behemoth. Holding the monster in place just long enough.
Giving the word to unleash the 'time bomb'.
And then ... disaster.
Behemoth had not been killed by the blast. He had been ... invigorated. His blasts had wiped out Eidolon's force field, sprayed energy across the battlefield. I had tried to organise an orderly retreat, scouting out safe avenues of escape. A stray blast had trashed my flight pack, set it on fire. Only my costume had saved me, but it had been badly damaged. I'd had to abandon the pack.
Running for my life, dodging falling stones, I had been barely grazed by blobs of flying magma, blasts of fire. Once again, my costume had saved me, but at the cost of its own integrity. My armour panels were shredded, and the spider silk underneath as well.
And then I had taken cover under a leaning wall, sought to catch my breath, use my bugs to locate my teammates.
And the wall had fallen in on me. Everything had gone black.
I didn't know how much time passed before I awoke and freed myself, but I suspected it had been a while.
I sobbed, the dust rasping in my throat.
And then I heard the voice, tiny, distant, through the ears of a scuttling cockroach.
I followed the sound through my bugs, zeroed in on it.
There was a pile of rubble, up against a flat-sided chunk of rock, remnant of some massive obelisk. Heedless of my already-torn fingernails, I scrabbled away rocks until I uncovered her. She had half a bed on top of her, keeping the rocks off her body. I lifted it away.
It was Lisa.
She smiled up at me, helped me remove the last few stones. Grinned her familiar vulpine grin. She looked a little the worse for wear; there was a bandage around her throat.
"Hey," she said cheerfully, if a little raspily. "Good to see you. Give me a hand shifting this thing? I can't feel my legs anymore."
I looked at 'this thing', being the chunk of obelisk. The size of two large cars, it lay firmly across her pelvis. I looked at it, dropped to my knees, scraped away dirt. If she was on soft soil, if her legs had just been pressed into it …
She wasn't. They hadn't. The masonry under her was cracked but essentially intact.
Barring the intervention of someone like Panacea, she had basically zero chance of survival.
My heart, which had risen upon the discovery of a living friend, fell once more. I swallowed, turned to her.
She read it in my face, of course. "Fuck," she said quietly. "I thought as much. But I didn't want to look, so I wouldn't have to know."
"Fuck," I agreed. "Fuck, fuck, fuck." Tears ran from my eyes.
She grasped my hand. "Sit down," she urged. "There's no need for any urgent rescue attempts, to find help, so sit down. I don't know how much more time I've got, but I'd rather spend it with you."
I sat, my back up against the mass of stone that had killed my best friend.
"What … happened?" I asked. "A wall fell on me. I missed most of it."
She rolled her eyes. "Behemoth took that big blast that came out of nowhere, and he … redirected it. Absorbed it. Survived it. Blasted everything around. Blasted everyone around. And then he just … kept going."
I bumped my head back lightly against the stone behind me. "Fuck. I'd hoped it would at least do more than piss him off."
She squeezed my hand. "Shit happens," she said. It was a mantra, a statememt of belief.
Tears started in my eyes. "Shit happens," I agreed.
"Something funny," she murmured. "I think I had another trigger event. While all that shit was going on."
"Didn't spontaneously give you the ability to get out of this, did it?" I asked, semi-hopefully.
She shook her head. "No. But I'm seeing a lot more. About everyone and everything."
I looked at her. Was she becoming delirious? Hallucinating?
She grinned at me. "Nope," she said. "I'm perfectly lucid. It's actually kind of cool. I know I'll never get out of this, but I get to answer all those questions that always bothered me, that my power wasn't quite able to answer before."
"Yeah?" I said. "Like what?"
"Your parents," she said. "Just for instance. I know when they were born, when and where they met. Everything about their lives." She raised an eyebrow. "Did you know your mother was a follower of Lustrum when she was in college?"
"Yeah," I said. "She used to talk about it sometimes. About how it's dangerous to let others tell you how to think."
She nodded. "That's true. But when Lustrum started inciting them to attack men, she got clear of the movement."
I nodded. "She used to wonder sometimes if Lustrum really meant it to get that bad." I squeezed her hand.
She smiled. "For something closer to home, how about Coil? I'm sure there's questions you have about him."
And so, I sat back against warm stone, and held Lisa's hands, as the sun crept down in the sky. She reeled off facts and figures about Coil, as well as Brockton Bay's finest and not so fine, stretching back years, decades. It seemed to make her happy to be able to shock me with her newfound knowledge.
She grew weaker as time passed, and I had to lean forward to hear her whispered words.
Eventually, she stopped to catch her breath during an admittedly fascinating description of how the Travellers got to Earth Bet from Earth Aleph, and how a girl named Noelle Meinhardt became the monster called Echidna.
"Lisa," I said softly. "You can stop now. Please."
She smiled up at me. "It's kind of a relief, to be able to say, enough," she breathed. "I've told my tales. Now I can rest."
My tears ran down my face. "Lisa … I…"
"Taylor," she whispered, her eyes huge in the gathering dusk. Her hand rose, wavering, to touch my cheek, to wipe away the tears it found there. "You kissed me once before, to cure the memory plague. Kiss me again, before I go?"
I leaned forward, kissed her. Her lips tasted of dust and blood.
"Huh." Her voice was barely audible. "Nice."
And then she stopped speaking. Stopped breathing. Stopped doing everything a living person does.
I cried, then, as I closed her eyes.
Cried as I tore the sleeve from my ruined costume, ripped it down its length to make a spread of cloth to cover her face.
Cried as I carefully stacked stones over her corpse.
Covered her face last.
My last friend.
My best friend.
I determined that I would die there too.
After all, there was no point in getting up. For maybe half a mile all around, the devastation continued unabated. My bugs had found no living people, barely even parts of corpses. In my meanderings before I found Lisa, I had seen no hint of the cityscape, the landscape, that had been there before. It was like a terrible war had raged for years over that area of land, and everything had been smashed, pulverised, buried, excavated, and then beaten flat again.
Behemoth's rage, his power, must have been … incandescent.
I wondered that, even under a dozen yards of rock, I had survived.
Well, not for much longer.
Whoever found me, would find me here.
I regretted that I had crossed her hands over her chest before I piled stones on her, because I would have appreciated holding her hand again.
I watched the sun go down into a purple-red dusk, a huge pall of smoke overhead. The stars did not come out; they could not. The smoke and dust were too thick.
I coughed. A chilly wind was whipping across the devastation, picking up dust, causing me to huddle into myself in my thin, torn costume.
The wind picked up more sharply, sending grit stinging against my exposed skin; I covered my eyes.
What the hell was going on here? It felt like some sort of storm was kicking up, right next to where I was. Even dying, I wasn't to be left in peace.
"Seriously?" I yelled, and coughed again. I covered my mouth with my other hand. "Fucking seriously?"
And then there was a sharp crack,a flash of light, the wind died … and he was standing there.
Dishevelled body, opulent clothes and all.
He looked just a little more haggard, a little more drawn, a little more disarranged than before.
My heart had lifted on hearing Lisa's voice. Seeing her face.
It did nothing at all when I saw him.
"What the fuck," I grated, "are you doing here? What happened? Did your one big shot not work as well as advertised?"
"Should have worked," he said dully. "But monster was stronger. Took power, used it. Nearly killed me. Narrow escape."
"So you made him stronger, and more able to kill," I said flatly.
A long silence passed between us.
"Well?" I asked.
"Well, what?" he asked.
"What the fuck are you going to do to fix your fucking mess?" I yelled.
He looked at me and spread his long hands. "Have used much power. Need to recoup. Stepping through time … not easy."
"So you can't just build another fucking time bomb and scorch his ass to small pieces, then?" I asked him.
"Not know how to locate him. Base, my equipment, all gone," he said. "Rocks fell. My friend is dead."
"Fuck," I ground out.
"Can do one thing," he said in his accented English.
"What's that?" I asked incautiously.
He smiled. "Time. Can send someone back. Warn about this, so never happens."
I frowned. "You mean me."
He gestured to the horizon of blasted, scorched rock, barely visible in the shadowed night. "No other volunteers, yes?"
"What makes you think I'm going to fucking volunteer to get sent on a one-way trip back in time?" I growled.
He leaned forward. "Back then …" he said gently. "Your friends all still alive."
And there he had me. I couldn't go forward. I had not the energy.
But if he sent me back …
I could fix things.
Fix it so this shit never happened.
Fix it so we won next time.
Painfully, feeling every creak and crackle, I pushed myself to my feet.
"Right," I said. "Do I need to do anything special?"
He shook his head. "No," he told me. "Just stand there. Effect will take little while to take hold. Might help to breathe deeply."
I started breathing deeply, while shimmers of his power began to build up around me. The wind started kicking up again, the grit once more stinging my skin, the chill making me goosepimple. I wrapped my arms around me, looked down at Lisa's grave.
Bye, Lisa, I told her silently. Thanks for … everything.
While I was thinking about it, I told everyone else goodbye as well. Brian, Alec, Aisha, Rachel. Dennis, Weld, Missy, Lily, Sabah.
The power nimbus around me was making it quite hard to see what was going on outside. Directly overhead, I could see a spiral swirl in the clouds of smoke. Centred on me. That was more than a little sobering.
"How far back am I going?" I called against the hum of his power effect. "Couple of months, a year?"
"Oh my, no," he replied, his very white teeth flashing in the glow of his own power. "Sending you back twenty years."
My mind short-circuited. He did not just say twenty ye-
It was a good thing that I had been breathing deeply, because I fell in the ocean.
Water went in my eyes, up my nose, and into my mouth. But I wasn't immediately out of breath, so I was able to gather my wits, tread water, and try to get my bearings.
It was night time, and I was in the ocean, in the tattered remains of my costume, which even now were being worried and torn away by surging waves. Under which was my, well, underwear. Which, while it made reasonable swimwear, was not best suited for holding in body heat. And this water was cold.
But I didn't have an option. Already, the remains of my costume were becoming waterlogged, dragging me down. My armour panels were the worst culprits. I could hardly stay afloat; finding the zipper, I pulled it down, wriggled out of the costume. It sank without a trace. I struggled to keep my head above water.
Out of nowhere, a white hull came slicing past me, heeled far over in the (I realised) howling wind and driving rain. I could have put out my hand and touched it. But in another moment, it was gone.
And a moment later, from the direction it had gone, I heard a terrible splintering crash.
Lightning briefly illuminated the scene, like God's own flash photography. I saw two boats, sailing yachts by the rigging, locked together and slowly sinking.
A wave slapped me in the face, and I choked and went under for a moment, before clawing my way back to the surface again. My glasses were gone, lost to the waves.
I had no idea where I was, no idea which way shore was, and no idea where even the nearest non-sinking boat was.
And then an actinic glare washed over me, pinned me to the surface of the water like a bug to corkboard. I heard a distant shout, and a foghorn. Then the rumble of engines, and a much larger craft shouldered its way through the waves toward me.
I was spending all my time staying afloat, so I had no time to wave. Besides, waving involves lifting one's arms out of the water, when they are much better employed keeping one's head out of the water.
But they'd seen me, and they were coming for me.
I never saw the chunk of wreckage behind me. Just as the rescue boat pulled up alongside me, there was a tremendous smash to the back of my head.
I struggled feebly to swim, to keep my head above water, to reach the boarding net. My fingers tangled in rough fibres, but I had no strength.
A massive splash beside me. Then a strong arm holding me tightly, while another hung on to a rope that was steadily hauled upward. A warm, kindly voice. "I've got you. You'll be fine, now."
A familiar voice.
And then I knew nothing.
I awoke in a cramped bunk, wrapped in heavy blankets. Despite them, I shivered. The warmth in me had fled with the immersion in the chilly ocean water. But feeling was starting to return.
The bunk rocked back and forth, back and forth. I could feel the thrumming of powerful engines through my spine. I decided that I liked it. I loved boats, especially rescue boats.
There was a constriction about my head, pressure on the side of my face. I wormed my hand up under the blankets, touched –
"Careful, you don't want to loosen the bandage."
The voice was maddeningly familiar. I gave up my attempt to see what had happened to my head, and looked around. My head immediately began to ache strenuously.
The young man who sat there in his ill-fitting storm gear could not have been more than nineteen. He was slender, dark-haired and fresh-faced and wore what my fuzzy eyes interpreted as an anxious expression.
"Hi," I said, faintly.
He smiled. It was like the sun coming out. I frowned. I was looking at him mostly upside down and sideways, not to mention without my glasses, but the face – I knew that face.
"Hi," he replied. "How are you feeling? You took quite a knock to the head."
"I'll tell you once my brain decides to stop rattling," I said. "Are you the one …"
"Who jumped in after you?" he asked, then blushed. "Yeah, that was me."
"Thanks," I told him feelingly. "My name's Taylor," I said. "What's yours?"
"Danny," he said. "Danny Hebert."
End of Part 1-0