Epilogue One (continued)

Part Four: One Year Later

Monday, June 11, 2012

"What I don't get is why the train station isn't closer to the town," groused Aisha, kicking at pebbles. "Why do we gotta walk?"

"Because they wanted it that way," Brian told her.

"That's not an answer," she shot back.

Danny cleared his throat from where he was walking with Taylor on one side and Amy on the other. Each of them was carrying an overnight bag. "They didn't want the train going right by the town, with all the noise and pollution that entails. Also, gawkers. Plus, having to walk half a mile from the train stop discourages casual visitors."

"It's sure as fuck discouraging me," Aisha complained. "Why are we coming here, anyway?"

"Because Taylor and Theo asked me to come along," Brian told her. "And I wasn't going to leave you in Brockton Bay unsupervised."

He turned to walk on; she made a rude gesture at his back. Taylor grinned at her. "Come on," she encouraged the younger girl. "It's not that far now."

"I could carry you," offered Theo. "If you wanted." Hearing this, Amy smirked.

"What, really? You'd do that?" Aisha eyed him suspiciously. "What's the catch?"

Lisa stopped alongside Taylor to watch the show; her green eyes glinted mischievously. "The catch is that he'd carry you over his shoulder. And then find a mud puddle or something to dump you into."

Aisha stared at Theo, who tried to look innocent. "You wouldn't. Would you?"

"Uh, yeah, he would," Amy told her.

"Definitely," Taylor added. "You haven't seen him taking down the bad guys. He's ruthless." But her eyes twinkled as she put her arm through Theo's. "You know, he actually asked me out on our first date while we were out on patrol? He'd just captured Kaiser. So what could I say?"

"You guys talk too much." Rachel was standing at the edge of the road, looking out at the landscape. Beside her, the three dogs sniffed at the air and whined softly.

"Rachel, are you -" Brian only got that far before she stepped off the road, the dogs following. "Where are you going? The town's that way."

She didn't bother turning her head. "Looking to see what's there. I'll be in later. If I feel like it."

At a steady trot, she started off into the trees, the dogs following at her heels. Taylor fancied that she could already see them growing in size.

"Arrgh. Why does this always happen?" Brian rubbed at his scalp with his fingertips. "Where's she going now? Why does she do this?"

"Didn't you see the look on her face?" asked Lisa. "Seriously? This is probably the first time she and her dogs have ever had the chance to get out and run in the woods, just for fun. I wouldn't be surprised if she comes back here on a regular occasion, now."

Danny nodded. "I have to agree with Lisa. It fits with everything I've been told about her."

As they resumed the walk, Brian turned to Taylor. "So why did you want to come to Sanctuary for Vee-Zee Day, anyway? Why not just have it back in Brockton Bay?"

"Because it's my birthday," she told him patiently. "And I've got friends in Sanctuary. Plus, it's special. It's where I was when he died. I miss him."

"Who are you talking about?" piped up Aisha impudently. "Mike or Zion?" She ducked as Brian went to cuff her lightly on the back of the head.

"Mike," Taylor replied shortly. "I shot Zion myself, and my only regret is that there weren't more bullets in the gun."

Brian blinked. "I'd heard the stories. I didn't know that one was true."

"Believe it," Danny said. "I was there."

Aisha whistled softly. "Badass."

"You better believe that, too," Theo told her. He put his arm around Taylor's shoulders, having to reach up slightly to do it; she leaned into him.

Amy stepped up alongside Danny and grinned. "Hey, Aisha."


"What do you call a magical time-travelling dinosaur?"

Danny was already chuckling as Aisha frowned. "Uh … Steve?"

Amy grinned. "Nope. The Wonderful Lizard of Was."

"Holy shit," Aisha exclaimed. "That's got to be the single worst joke I've ever heard. I love it."

Taylor rolled her eyes. "Seriously, Dad. You've infected her. The plague is spreading."

Theo shook his head. "Aisha, that sort of joke is not to be remembered. That sort of joke needs to be taken out back and shot."

"And then buried in a shallow grave," added Brian. "Amy, that was terrible. You shouldn't encourage her."

"Too late." Aisha made a rude gesture at him, then danced behind Lisa. "I'm gonna tell that joke to every one of your girlfriends."

"Hey, leave me out of this," Lisa told her. "I thought the joke was terrible, too."

"No, it was great," Aisha said. "Got any more, Amy?"

"Uh, no?" From the look on her face, Amy had decided that denial was the better option.

"Come onn …" Aisha urged her. "You gotta have something."

Danny came to Amy's rescue. "She got that one from me. I have others."

"Ooh, tell-me-tell-me-tell-me." Aisha turned toward him, eyes bright.

Brian leaned in toward Taylor. "Are you sure he knows what he's doing?"

She grinned. "Do you hear her complaining?" she murmured back.

"Okay then," said Danny. "A bear walks into a bar …"

As they entered the outskirts of Sanctuary, three people moved together to bar their way. It was easy to tell that they were true Sanctuary citizens; one had purple skin and no eyes, the second was a woman whose limbs and body were actually disconnected from one another, and the third had skin with the same texture and colour as charcoal. They weren't armed, but Taylor figured they probably didn't need to be.

"Names," the purple man stated. "And your business in Sanctuary." He paused, looking at Taylor. "Wait, I know you. You're Gladys' friend Taylor. You shot Zion."

"That's right," Taylor replied. "This is my father, Danny, and my sister Amy."

The charcoal man looked at Danny. "I remember you too now. You were here when it happened."

Danny nodded. "That's me. Sorry, I don't remember you."

The disjointed woman nodded. "That's okay. You're good to go in. These people are with you?"

Taylor nodded. "They are. And we've got one more. A girl with dogs. Her name's Rachel."

"Where is she?" asked the purple man.

"No idea," Taylor confessed. "But she'll be back. She was just taking the dogs for a run."

"We'll keep an eye out for her," the purple man said. "Gladys would be just finishing the day's classes, if you were looking for her."

Taylor raised her head slightly. "If I recall correctly the school is … that way?" She pointed.

The three Case 53s looked impressed in their various ways. "Good guess," the purple man told her. "That, or you used your bugs to find it."

"You got me." Taylor grinned. "I did kinda cheat, yeah."

"We all do," the eyeless man agreed. "I'm guessing you're here for the anniversary?"

"We are," Danny confirmed. "We decided we wanted to spend it among people who really knew what it meant."

"I can understand that," said the disjointed woman. "Well, have a nice day." The impromptu greeting party stepped aside, allowing them to move on.

"Keep an eye out, hah." Taylor's head jerked around. For a moment, she wondered who the girl walking with them was, then memory returned. Aisha. Brian's sister. Can make you forget her.

"Aisha," growled Brian. "Not the time or the place."

"But he's got – mmph!" One of Brian's brawny arms had wrapped around her head, his hand over her mouth.

"Not the time or the place." He repeated it, more intensely. "I brought you along so that you could relax and unwind. So that I could relax and unwind. Not so that you could antagonise everyone you met."

Aisha mimed something; gradually, he loosened his grip.

"Chillax, bro," she told him. "I didn't say it where they could hear me."

"Um, you do realise that this is a community of people with powers, right?" Theo pointed out diffidently. "Any one of them could have the power to listen in on what we're saying, and we'd never know it."

"He's right," Brian pointed out. "Apart from Taylor and Danny, the people living here are the last ones who saw Mike alive. This is the last place he stopped off at before he did what he had to do. That makes this place special. So let's have some respect, okay?"

Aisha wrinkled her nose. "You're no fun."

The schoolhouse was relatively easy to pick out; it was a large, low-set building with windows along its length. It was one of the few buildings that was entirely prefabricated; most of the others incorporated local materials in their construction.

As they got closer, the doors opened and a horde of children, from early teen and upwards, poured out. Were it not for the fact that no two looked alike, and few looked truly human, it could have been a scene from anywhere in small-town America.

Aisha looked startled as the children thronged past; a few stopped and stared at them, but most just kept going. "You never said there were kids my age here," she said accusingly.

"We did actually say 'school' several times," Brian pointed out.

"I never listen to you," she retorted. "You know that!"

Taylor chuckled. "She's got you there."

"Excuse me." It was the oldest of the children from the school; Taylor thought he might be fifteen or sixteen. With his dark-grey skin and red eyes, however, it was hard to tell. "Who are you? You're not from Sanctuary."

"No sh-" began Aisha, but Brian was ready for her this time; his hand slapped over her mouth before she had a chance to say anything else.

"No, we're not," Taylor replied. "My name's Weaver. You might remember me. I'm a friend of your teacher's."

"Weaver? Really?" The children looked at one another, then back at Taylor. "Prove it. Do something with bugs."

There were, of course, insects aplenty in this world; Taylor had been gathering a swarm as they walked. She caused a squadron of flies to buzz past, followed by a bunch of bees and then three hornets. These circled around the children, then back to orbit her head. Some didn't make it back; one of the younger children darted out a three-foot tongue and snapped a dozen of the flies out of the air.

"Okay, you're Weaver," the grey-skinned boy conceded. He held out his hand. "I'm Ray. Welcome to Sanctuary."

"Thanks, Ray. I'm glad to be here." Solemnly, Taylor shook it.

The kid with the tongue pushed forward; Taylor decided that he looked more like a lizard than a frog, for all that his skin was a normal healthy pink. "Did you really shoot Zion with a big gun?"

Taylor nodded. "Yeah."

"My dad says you cried afterward." That was Ray.

"I did." Taylor folded her arms. Almost automatically, Theo put his arm around her; she leaned into him. "Mike was special to me. Like a really cool uncle. The type who shows you how to do stuff your parents won't let you do. And Zion killed him. So I helped kill Zion."

Gravely, the boy nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense. Miss Gladys told us how Michael was the one who made Cauldron let us go."

"My mom says that if anyone ever threatens Sanctuary, he'll come back to protect us," piped up a girl who couldn't be older than thirteen. Water seemed to flow over and around her in a never-ending stream so that wherever she walked, she left puddles.

Taylor realised that the talk of 'mom' and 'dad' must be due to the older adults informally adopting the children into their homes, forming family groups on the fly. She wondered how it was working out for them.

"I, uh, don't think it works that way," she began, then paused. Mike did say that he was an extradimensional being. He might just be able to do that, after all.

"Well, it might," Theo suggested diplomatically as the girl's lip began to quiver. "But it's best to depend on yourselves first, yeah?"

"Excuse me, what's going on out here?" The voice was very familiar. Taylor turned. Gladys stood on the schoolhouse porch with another familiar figure beside her. "Who are – Taylor?"

Taylor felt a grin spreading across her face. "Mrs Knott? Riley?"

Gladys shook her head with a smile. "I'm just Gladys, here, remember? Even in school, I'm 'Miss Gladys'. How have you been? You look well." She descended the steps with the blonde at her side.

"Thanks. Wow. You look so different."

Gladys smiled uncertainly. "In a good way, I hope?"

"Well, yeah." And it was true. Gladys' long blonde hair had been braided and then wound around her head. She looked a little more muscular, somewhat more tanned, and her cheekbones were a bit more prominent. The knuckles on one hand were skinned, and two nails were broken, but she looked … serene. At peace with herself.

"Thank you." She smiled at Taylor. "Goodness, you've grown, even since I last saw you. And this is … Theo, isn't it?"

Theo nodded. "Yes, ma'am. We met at the dinner, at Taylor's place."

"I remember. You've done well for yourself, I see. Lost some weight?"

"And gained some more muscle." Brian poked Theo in the ribs, then offered his hand. "We haven't met, but Taylor's told me all about you. Brian Laborn. This is my bratty little sister, Aisha."

"Hi, Aisha. I'm Riley." The blonde teenager stepped up to Aisha and stuck out her hand.

"Riley, huh?" Aisha eyed her suspiciously. "Didn't you use to be a supervillain or something?"

"Aisha …" Brian's tone was ominous.

Riley made a throwaway gesture. "It's okay. Yeah, I was."

"Hey, I'm cool with that," Aisha said cheerfully. "So was my big bro. You'd never know it now. He's a superhero now. Totally lost all his cool factor. So anyway, what's to do around here that's fun?"

"One sec." Riley turned to Amy. "Big sis. It's so good to see you." She then proceeded to wrap the startled biokinetic in a hug.

Startled, Amy chuckled. "It's good to see you too, Riley." She held the younger girl at arms' length and looked her over. "You've definitely grown a bit. And you're so tanned." Her fingers trailed through the shoulder-length fringe of Riley's hair. "And you cut your hair, too?"

"It kept getting in the way," Riley explained airily. "So, you found yourself a girlfriend yet?"

Amy rolled her eyes. "No. And I'm not looking. There'll be plenty of time for that sort of thing later."

"Pfft. First it's 'later' then it's 'too late'." Riley grabbed her hand. "There's some girls I could introduce you to around here, if you're interested."

Amy looked around, a little panicky. "Taylor, some help?"

Taylor grinned. "I seem to recall someone trying to set me up with Chris, once upon a time," she said cheerfully.

"But that was funny." Amy tried to extract her hand from Riley's grip; somehow, despite being stronger than the blonde, she didn't seem to be able to do it.

"And so is this." Taylor stepped away from Theo and gave her best friend and sister a hug. "Go on. Meet new people. At least here, you'll know that they like you for you."

"Um …" Amy turned to Danny. "Dad?" Her tone wavered between 'help me out of this' and 'can I go do this'.

Danny paused, undecided. "Gladys?"

"She'll be safe." Gladys bent a stern eye on Riley. "Won't she?"

"Oh, sure," Riley agreed. "I'll make sure of that. Wanna come with, Aisha?"

Aisha grinned. "Boo-yah." She turned back to Brian. "I thought this'd be no fun at all. Looks like I was wrong."

Together, along with the other children, they bore Amy away in triumph. After one last look over her shoulder, which Taylor wasn't quite able to decipher, Amy disappeared around a corner in the middle of the chattering horde.

Danny leaned close to Taylor. "You'll be keeping an eye on her, of course."

She grinned in reply. "Well, duh."

"That was a little mean of you, wasn't it?" asked Brian dubiously. "Abandoning her like that?"

Lisa grinned. "Are you kidding me? She wanted to go, but she didn't want to seem eager to go."

"Huh." Brian rubbed the back of his head. "I guess I didn't know girls as well as I thought I did."

Danny chuckled. "Trust me, son, if you didn't know that by now, you would've learned it soon enough."

Taylor nodded to Brian. "Anyway, if she didn't want to go, do you really think that they'd be able to drag her anywhere?"

"You know, you could've gone with her," Theo offered. "I don't know much about girls, but I do know that sometimes you like to get together, no guys allowed. I can deal."

Taylor shook her head. "Thanks, sweetie, but I think it's a better idea for her to meet new people without me there to make her second-guess herself."

Theo frowned. "Second-guess?"

"Yeah." Taylor captured his arm. "Remember when you first asked me out? If Amy had been there, I don't know if I would've said yes. I might have felt that I was being disloyal to my friendship to her, no matter how silly it seemed. Same thing."

Gladys nodded. "I can understand that. In any case, Riley will also be making sure she's okay." She indicated a direction; Taylor figured out that it was toward the river. "Sveta should be coming in with the boats now. I like to go down and meet her. Want to come along?"

Taylor looked at the others. Nobody seemed averse to the idea. "Sure."

As they neared the bluff, Lisa touched Taylor's arm and fell back slightly. Taking the hint, Taylor slowed her pace a little as well. Theo glanced at her, and she gave him a quick tilt of the head and a glance at where Danny and Brian were chatting with Gladys. I'm fine; go on ahead.

He took the hint; as he moved up, Lisa gave Taylor a very fox-like grin. "You've got him well trained."

"We understand each other," Taylor corrected her. "You might have noticed, we also practise nonverbal signals for use in combat."

"Well, true," agreed Lisa. "Not that I get into combat much. But all joking aside, you two do kind of go well together. He's a nice guy."

"He is," Taylor said. "He's really attentive, and he doesn't back down from anything. I kinda like that in a guy."

"Yeah." Lisa's voice was contemplative. "It's just a bit funny. I kinda thought that it would be you and Brian, if it was anyone."

Taylor tilted her head. "Well, he is kinda my type, but I get more of a big-brother vibe off of him, you know? Anyway, Mike told me a few details about how it would've gone with him, and I'm a lot more comfortable with what I've got with Theo." She grinned. "Besides, the way Theo took down his dad impressed me, a lot."

"Plus, he's been working on building muscle as well," Lisa pointed out mischievously.

Taylor's look of innocence needed work. "And there's that too, yes." She turned her head to look at Lisa as they started down the broad stairway leading to the bottom of the bluff. "So is my boyfriend all you wanted to talk about?"

"Actually, no. There's a question I've been meaning to ask." Lisa took a deep breath. "Do you consider me to be a good friend?"

Taylor blinked, taken somewhat by surprise. "Uh, sure? I like you. We get along reasonably well. Mike said that in the original timeline, we would've ended up best friends, so there's that too."

"But this time around, you didn't need my help as much."

"Well, no, because Mike helped me out, and then I met Amy," Taylor agreed. "But I still see you as a pretty good friend. I'm definitely glad that we're on the same team."

"Me too," Lisa said. She didn't say any more, but her thoughts were busy. Since finishing the story, with her power filling in the gaps where Mike had had to condense it for brevity, she had found herself brooding over what had happened to Taylor; or rather, what would have happened. No wonder she turned out so harsh in the story, with all that happened to her. I think I like this Taylor a lot better, even if she's still a little terrifying when she has to be.

"Wow, will you look at that." Taylor's voice broke into Lisa's thoughts. There, sailing in twos and threes up the river toward a couple of sturdy piers jutting into the current, were a dozen fishing boats. With their sails spread to catch the onshore breeze, they made a stirring sight.

"Fishing boats. Wow." Lisa jumped down the last few steps; a moment later, Taylor landed beside her. "That's kind of impressive. Low-tech, but impressive."

"Especially considering that a year ago, Sveta was the only one who knew how to sail a boat or use nets or lines to catch fish in bulk," Gladys pointed out in reply to Lisa's comment. "Now we've got a fleet, and she's training more all the time. And some of the people she's trained are training others, too."

Several other people were waiting down at the shoreline; a few turned at Gladys' voice. One was a tall, broad man who didn't seem to show any sign of being a Case 53, while the woman beside him was petite, with pastel yellow hair intermixed with feathers of the same hue, and was heavily pregnant.

"Taylor!" called out the woman. "It's good to see you."

She turned and began to make her way up the slope toward them, but Taylor waved her back. "Stay there. We'll come to you."

"Wait a minute," Brian said. "That's Canary, right?"

"Her name's Paige," Taylor told him with mock severity. "She's left 'Canary' behind."

The two groups came together; Paige greeted Taylor with familiarity, but other introductions had to be put on hold because the boats were coming in to dock. Each had a respectable haul of fish, some quite large; the first boat to come alongside was sitting the lowest in the water.

From it jumped an energetic figure, comprised of a metallic skeleton animated by dozens of pale yellow tendrils; in the 'head' of the figure was a surprisingly human-looking face. She shouted orders which were briskly obeyed by her crewmembers, even while she doubled a rope around one of the posts of the pier and tied it off.

"Sveta!" called out Gladys. "Surprise for you!"

Sveta turned and looked, and her face lit up with delight. With a quick aside to one of the other sailors, she strode down the length of the pier. "Taylor!" she exclaimed happily. "Are you here for the anniversary?"

"Yeah," Taylor answered. "Sveta, you remember my dad?"

"Of course," the Case 53 answered. "It's good to see you again, Danny." She looked at the rest of the group. "And you brought friends."

"Yeah. I don't think you've met Theo." She hugged her boyfriend's arm to her side.

"It's nice to meet you, Theo." The twinkle in Sveta's eye indicated that she had picked up on Taylor's nonverbal signal. "And who's this tall hunk of man?"

Lisa fought to hold back her giggles as Brian blinked at Sveta's flirtatious tone. "That's Brian. I'm Lisa. We're Taylor's teammates."

Sveta smiled broadly. "Well, any friend of Taylor's is a friend of mine. Welcome to Sanctuary." She glanced around. "Does anyone know where Riley is? One of the trainees hurt himself."

"Oh, no," exclaimed Gladys. "Is it bad?"

"Not serious." Sveta shook her head wearily. "Young idiot thought that being able to breathe water made him a natural sailor. Grabbed a line as it was paying out and took all the skin off of his palm. We've got it bandaged, but I'd really prefer Riley to have a look at it."

"I can contact her," Taylor offered. "She's with Amy and Aisha, introducing them around."

Sveta frowned. "Amy … oh, Panacea?" She nodded toward Taylor. "I should have known she'd be here. You two are good friends, aren't you?"

Taylor smiled. "Amy's my sister now, actually. We adopted her."

"Oh, congratulations." Sveta's face lit up; she stepped forward and hugged Taylor. "Talking about that, did Gladys tell you that we've sort of adopted Riley between us?"

Danny turned to Gladys. "No, you didn't. How's that working out for you?"

"Rather well, actually." Gladys nodded slowly. "She really needed a parental figure, or two. Sometimes I need to hold her before she can get to sleep."

"I got Riley's attention," Taylor told them. "She's on her way."

"Oh, good," Sveta said. "Thanks for that." She smiled again. "It really is good to see you."

"It's great to see you too," Taylor agreed. "You look happy."

"Oh, I am, I am." Sveta's tone was definitive. "I belong."

The house that Gladys shared with Sveta was surrounded on three sides by a vegetable garden, with flowers at the front. Other dwellings had much the same arrangement. They were constructed with a mix of prefabricated components and local materials; this was mainly stone, with a little wood here and there.

Theo paused, looking around at the rows of houses. "I'm impressed," he admitted. "This must have taken a lot of work to get set up."

"You forget, we've nearly all got powers of one sort or another," Paige reminded him. "Mine might not be good for manual labour, but it's amazing how much people enjoy hearing a song while they work."

"Plus, we brought in some construction equipment right at the beginning," Joe added. "Got the heavy lifting over and done with early on." He helped Paige settle herself on to a comfortable seat on the large porch, then sat down beside her. "I'm pretty sure that helped my standing in the community. Otherwise I'd just be the token normal."

"Yeah," Paige told him, "but even if you were, you'd be my token normal."

Theo sat down with his back up against a post; Taylor settled herself so that she was leaning back against him. His arms naturally went around her, and she laced her fingers through his. "I like it here," she decided. "It's nice and quiet."

"I think so too," Gladys replied, emerging from the house with a tray. On it were several glasses and a large pitcher of juice. "Lemonade, anyone? Home squeezed. I know it's kind of a cliché, but it's very nice."

Taylor accepted a glass and raised it to Lisa, who was sitting opposite her. Lisa grinned. "You look so domestic, right now."

"Leave her alone," Brian chastised her idly. "She saved the world. She's got a right to be domestic."

"I wonder where Amy and Aisha have gotten to," Danny said. "Taylor?"

"And Rachel," Brian added. "She's been gone a while."

"Rachel's not in my range," Taylor told them, "but Amy's on her way back. Aisha's with her."

Lisa eyed her speculatively over the rim of the glass. There was something she wasn't saying; Lisa figured that it was about the two absent girls, but Taylor wasn't concerned, so she chose not to pry deeper. And besides, the lemonade was delicious.

Sveta came out as well, minus her armature. She used her tendrils to support herself from the rafters, settling herself on a shelf by the chairs, which Lisa decided had to be purpose-built. Several tendrils snagged the glass that Gladys held up toward her. "Thanks," she said. "It was a good day out. The mackerel are running. This keeps up, we'll have plenty to tide us over the winter."

"Oh, excellent," Gladys replied. She addressed herself to the larger group as she went on. "We're trying our best to become self-sufficient, here. Currently, the powers that be on Earth Bet are benevolent, but we can't always count on that."

"Well, no," agreed Danny. "Politics can be a problem. The more you can export, the better."

"So what's been happening in Brockton Bay since I left?" asked the teacher. "We get newspapers, but I must confess, I don't have the urge to read them as much as I once did."

"Where do I start?" asked Danny. "The economy's up. Crime's down; ever since Kaiser was taken down, every wannabe crimelord that sticks his head up gets smacked down again, hard. And once the Boat Graveyard got taken away -"

Gladys sat up. "Wait, the Boat Graveyard got taken away? By whom?"

"We're not totally sure," Taylor confessed. "But some people claim the Simurgh just showed up early one morning and just … picked it all up. If it was her, we have no idea what she's doing with it."

"Which opened the way for Lord's Port to be renovated and reopened," Danny went on. "So the Dockworkers are showing a lot of black on the balance sheet for once. Employment's up across the board."

"Which means that people have more money, which means they're spending it on more stuff, which means more shops are reopening, and so on," Brian filled in.

"Of course, it's not all wine and roses," Lisa noted. "There's still crime, and criminals, and some of them are really hard to pin down. Politicians are still politicians, but there's more good than bad going on."

"Oh, Gladys, do you remember Sophia Hess?" Taylor was grinning now. Lisa grinned too; she knew what was coming.

"Uh, vaguely?" Gladys frowned. "Wasn't she one of the ones who -"

Taylor nodded. "That's her. She's also Shadow Stalker. You know, that vigilante who was in the Wards?"

"I seem to recall you telling me something of that sort," Gladys said. "She was the one who tried to murder Michael. Has she gotten out or something?"

"Nope." Taylor's grin was even wider, now. "I went and saw her a few weeks ago …"

John H Sununu Youth Services Center
Manchester, New Hampshire
Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Hess. You've got a visitor."

Sophia looked up at the guard, then came to her feet. "Visitor? Who?" It can't be Emma. She's never visited me even once. Mom?

"Cape. Name of Weaver." The female guard, blocky in her uniform, sounded supremely disinterested. "You want to go see her or not?"

"Yeah, I'll go see what she wants." Sophia tossed the magazine she had been reading on to her bunk, the movement made awkward by the heavy cuffs she had to wear. Nobody shared her cell; this had been hard to achieve, but after Sophia had put two other inmates in the infirmary, and had visited there three times herself, it was deemed a bad idea to put her in with others.

The guard held her by the upper arm the whole way; a reasonable precaution, given that the cuffs were a heavy, if unwieldy, weapon. She was walked into one of the private rooms; Weaver was already there, seated at the other side of the metal table.

Sophia sat still as her cuffs were secured to the table. She could sit and stand, but she wasn't going anywhere apart from that. The table was, of course, fixed to the floor, as were the chairs on either side.

The bug controller's mask covered her face; Sophia had to admire the creepy aspect of not being able to see her eyes, and the mandibles were a nice touch as well.

"Do not pass anything to the prisoner, or accept anything from her," the guard droned. "Do not make physical contact with the prisoner. This exchange will be monitored via that camera there." She pointed, and Weaver twisted around in her chair to look at the camera dome back over her shoulder. "Do you understand this?"

"Yes." Sophia heard Weaver speak for the first time. She couldn't see the bugs, but they were buzzing in time with the cape's voice, adding an extra layer of creepiness.

The guard moved back, leaving the room. Sophia heard the door shut behind her, but she didn't look. All of her attention was taken up by her visitor. But she was damned if she was going to ask what this was all about.

Time stretched out. One by one, Sophia heard the bugs moving around; some buzzing, some humming. A few walked across the table in not-quite random patterns. She wondered what Weaver's reaction would be if she squashed some.

"You don't know why I'm here, do you?"

The voice was almost human, this time, with just an underlay of buzzing.

Sophia jerked her chin up. "Why don't you tell me?"

Weaver tilted her head. "Do you remember Michael Allen?"

Unconsciously, Sophia jerked at the cuffs; the restraint clanked loudly. "Yeah, I remember. That asshole framed me for trying to murder him." It was the line she had decided on before the trial even started, and she had not wavered from it; sooner or later, she figured, someone might fall for it.

"Right." She got the impression that Weaver didn't much care. "Did you know he's dead?"

And good riddance. She was careful enough not to say it. "Heard something about that. Not much in the way of details, though."

Weaver's voice was flat; the buzzing had picked up again. "When Zion attacked, Mike deliberately made himself into a decoy. He drew Zion out until he was too badly injured to continue, then Zion killed him. But this provided enough of a distraction that I was able to take Zion out. Then Dragon finished the job."

Sophia's eyes opened wide. "Fuck." She stared at the cape across the table. "You took Zion out?"

There was no pride, no swagger, in Weaver's voice. "Yes."

"But why are you even telling me this?" Sophia shook her head. "So you killed Zion. That's kind of fucking impressive, but I don't know you and you don't know me. Unless you've come here to tell me that I'm your inspiration? Because I'll totally take that."

But Weaver was shaking her head. "You're not my inspiration, Sophia. Not in the way you're thinking."

"Then why the fuck are you even here? What do you want from me?"

Weaver stood up, and for a moment, Sophia thought she was going to leave. "I came here to show you something."

Sophia frowned. "You're not allowed to give me anything."

"I know, which is kind of a pity. There's a poster which would be a perfect present for you. But this is almost as good. Are you ready?"

"Ready for what?"

Weaver didn't answer with words. Instead, she took hold of the back of her mask and pulled it over her head. Fuck, she's unmasking herself to me. What the fuck?

For a moment, Weaver stood, head down, hair hanging over her face – wait, that hair looks familiar – then she straightened up, putting a pair of glasses on as she did so. Taylor Hebert grinned at Sophia and gave her a little finger-wave. "Hi."

Sophia pushed herself back as hard as she could; the top of the chair-back dug painfully into her shoulder-blades. But she didn't care. Her eyes were wide open, her jaw dropping as she stared at the apparition before her. "No. No. No fucking way."

Taylor nodded. "Yes fucking way, Sophia. You did your best to destroy me, and Mike and I saved the fucking world." The satisfaction in her voice burned like acid in Sophia's ears.

Sophia shook her head. "No!" Her voice rose with every shout. "No! NO! It's not true! It can't be true! You're a fucking wimp! There's no fucking way!" She began to thrash around, jerking at the restraints holding her cuffs down.

Unhurriedly, Taylor removed her glasses and then pulled her mask back on. She was just settling it into place when the door opened and two guards hustled in. "Holy shit," one of them shouted over the noise of Sophia's escalating tantrum. "What the hell did you say to her?"

"Just caught her up on current events," she replied, the buzzing of her bugs helping to convey the sounds to the guards' ears. "I think she took it badly."

"No shit." The other guard gestured her back. "She needs some time in cooldown, I think. Stay back; we need to take care of this."

"Sure thing." Taylor stood back and watched. The two women attempted to hold Sophia down long enough to undo the restraints from the table. Then they called in two more guards. It took all four of them to wrestle her from the room; by that time, she wasn't even articulating words any more. It was just one long scream of frustrated rage.


Monday, June 11, 2012

"... Goodness me," breathed Gladys, shaking her head slightly. "I really can't imagine hating someone that much."

"I don't think she hated me, as a person," Taylor countered. "She barely knew me. Emma is the one who knew me. Sophia just hated the idea that someone she considered to be weak or beneath notice could rise up and be better than her. Stronger than her."

"Weren't you taking a risk, though?" asked Sveta. "She could out you. Unmask you to everyone she speaks to."

"She could," agreed Taylor. "But I consider it to be an acceptable risk."

"Yeah," Theo put in over her shoulder. "What's she going to do, broadcast to the world that Weaver, the extremely successful and popular hero, is actually the downtrodden wimp Taylor Hebert?"

"And if that happens, the PRT then releases the fact that Taylor's the one who popped Zion," added Lisa.

"In any case, if that outburst was anywhere near as violent as you say, she might just end up in an asylum," Sveta said hopefully. "That's where people like her belong."

Taylor relaxed back against Theo some more. "I'm pretty sure Mike's friend Contessa is keeping an eye on her, just in case."

"Contessa?" asked Danny. "I don't know that one."

"Not many people do." Taylor took another drink from her lemonade. "She likes it that way."

Amy wasn't sure if her feet were touching the ground. Logically, she knew they had to be, but the emotions within her said otherwise. She wanted to sing, to dance, to show the world how she felt. Hugging the gleeful feeling to herself, she glanced sideways at Riley.

The blonde was looking less than thrilled. Catching sight of Amy's grin, she rolled her eyes. "I can't believe you did that," she muttered.

"What?" Aisha, almost skipping on the other side of Amy, also seemed to be bubbling over; this time, with mischief. "What I did, or what she did?"

"Both." Riley stomped along as if she had a personal grudge against the ground. "That was highly irresponsible, Aisha, and you know it."

"Hey, irresponsibility is my middle name, or it woulda been if my mom knew how to spell it." Aisha airily waved aside Riley's mood. "It turned out okay, didn't it? Anyway, she didn't have to do it."

Riley glowered. "You dared her to do it."

"And she accepted. What's the problem?" The angrier Riley got, the more chirpy Aisha's mood became. "You're just pissed that you lost the bet."

"I never thought she'd do it!"

"And that's what losing a bet feels like," Aisha informed her smugly.

"And here they are now," Taylor announced, just before the trio rounded the corner. "Hi, Amy. How'd it go?" She knew, of course, but Amy probably would not have been thrilled to find out that she was under surveillance.

"Oh, my," Gladys interjected at the same moment. "Riley, what's the matter?"

"She's the matter," snapped Riley, pointing at Aisha. "She's got no sense of, of propriety."

"Oh, god," muttered Brian, coming to his feet. "Aisha, what did you do now?"

"Why does it have to be something that I've done?" asked Aisha, the very picture of injured innocence.

"Because it usually is," Brian said flatly. "So what did you do?"


"It wasn't nothing, and you know it." Riley glowered at her.

"Oh, my god." Lisa was sitting up and staring at Amy. "You didn't."

Amy nodded vigorously. "I did."

Taylor and Danny frowned at the same time, with almost exactly the same expression. Danny got in first by a split second. "Did what, Amy?"

Amy hugged herself. "I kissed a girl!"

Taylor's eyes went wide. "You didn't!"

Amy nodded again, her hair bouncing wildly. "I did. I really did."

Danny cleared his throat. "You do realise, that as your father, I now have to ask embarrassing questions. Was this girl nice?"

Amy nodded wordlessly, turning pink.

"Do you think you want to see her again?"

More nodding. Amy got pinker.

"Do you think she wants to see you again?"

Once again, she nodded. "She said she'd find me at the party tonight."

"Hm." Danny rubbed his chin. "Well, that seems to be fairly harmless."

"She hasn't told you why she kissed Nara!" Riley burst out.

Taylor stood up, then stepped down off the porch to Amy. "Okay. Why did you kiss this girl?"

Amy hung her head. "Because Aisha dared me to," she mumbled.

Brian put his hand over his eyes. "Aisha," he groaned.

"What?" protested Aisha. "I had to do something. Riley was gonna win the bet, otherwise."

Sveta and Gladys spoke at the same time. "What bet?"

Riley sighed in aggravation. "Aisha bet me that Amy was going to kiss one of the girls we introduced her to. I never thought she would. I mean, big sis is awesome in so many ways, but she's terminally shy. So I took her up on it. And then Aisha dared her. And Amy did it!"

Lisa and Theo began laughing at the same time. Brian just shook his head and sat down again. Taylor, beginning to chuckle herself, hugged Amy tightly.

"Congratulations," she whispered into her sister's ear. "One more embarrassing question. Was it nice?"

Amy's only answer was an emphatic nod.

Taylor smiled. "Good."

Monday, June 11, 2012
Almost Midnight

The bonfire roared loudly; someone threw another log on, and sparks roiled into the air. The night was warm, so everyone was sitting a little way back from the fire, except for those few who were resistant or impervious to the flames. The atmosphere was convivial; drinks of varying level of alcoholic content were making the rounds. Off to the side, tables held the remains of the food that had been set out earlier.

Several of the locals were playing musical instruments of various types; some looked normal, while others had obviously been made to suit strange body shapes. Paige was leading the singing, her gorgeous voice rising above all the others. Some of the songs were familiar to Taylor, while others were not. All, however, had easily learned choruses, and were fun to sing along to.

The seating consisted of stone or log seats. Theo had examined these earlier on, and then used his power to give each of them a proper back. All the same, he was once more acting as a backrest for Taylor. She rather enjoyed leaning back against him; with his arms around her, it gave her a comforting sense of belonging.

Next to them, Brian and Lisa were chatting with Danny and Gladys, while Sveta was off somewhere else. Amy was sitting nearby, with the Case 53 girl called Nara. Nara was about seventeen or eighteen and had blue scaly skin, while her hair had been replaced by odd flat tentacles. From what Taylor understood, she had the ability to generate a light static field over her body. Taylor couldn't quite hear what they were saying, but she suspected that there might be some hand-holding going on.

Riley had apparently gotten over her annoyance with Aisha, given that she and the dark-haired girl were in a huddle with a few of Riley's friends. They were giggling over something; Taylor wasn't sure she wanted to know what it was.

She lifted her glass of lemonade and took another drink. It really was very nice; she had never had anything quite like this back in Brockton Bay. "Hey," she murmured back over her shoulder.

"Hey," Theo replied.



"Not squashing you?"

He snorted. "Like that's gonna happen."

"Thanks for coming along, by the way. I guess I kind of just assumed you'd want to come. I don't think I ever actually asked."

"Well, duh, I wanted to come along," he retorted. "See where it all happened? I wasn't gonna pass that up. And Gladys is pretty cool, too."

"Mm." She leaned back and turned her head, giving him a light peck on the lips. "Still, thanks."

"What for?"

"Being you."

They settled down, his arms around her, her arms over his arms. It was warm and comfortable, and she felt loved and secure. In front of her, the bonfire roared and crackled; behind them, in the darkness, her bugs scouted and explored.

"Hm." She sat up slightly.

"What's up?" he asked, tensing.

"Nothing's wrong," she assured him. "Rachel's back."

Sitting up more, she turned to watch as Rachel entered the circle of firelight. The stocky girl stopped at the tables and picked out a few scraps to toss to her dogs. The animals, now once more normal sized, snapped these out of the air. Rachel took a bone that had once held a weight of ham, and gnawed upon it as she approached where Taylor sat.

Taylor waited till Rachel had plunked herself down on a log seat before turning to her. "Good run?"

"Mm," grunted Rachel. She tore more ham off with her teeth. "Saw tracks of some pretty big animals."

"Gladys says there's something like bison that get into their crops sometimes," Theo said.

"Big funny-looking cows?" Rachel took another bite of ham.

"Sounds about right," Taylor agreed.

"Bison gotta eat, too."

"Yeah, but before Sanctuary was settled, there wasn't much for them to eat here. They're coming here for the crops." Theo's voice was reasonable.

"Hm." Rachel tossed the bone to the dogs. "See what I can do." She eyed the glass of lemonade that Taylor held. "That any good?"

"Yeah, it is."

"Okay." Getting up, Rachel moved over to the table, found a pitcher, and poured herself a cup.

"So you're setting Rachel on the bison?" asked Taylor in a murmur. "What do you have against those poor innocent bison?"

Theo laughed, then turned it into a cough as Rachel glanced suspiciously their way. Taylor concealed her smile by taking another drink of lemonade.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" Joe's voice rose over the noise of conversation and the crackling of the flames. Taylor realised that the music had stopped without her noticing it. "You all know what day it is. What happened a year ago."

Everyone was listening now; only the calls of night-hunting birds competed with the crackling bonfire. "Sanctuary was new, then. We were barely established. Since then, we've grown together as a community. I might not be exactly one of you -"

From out of the crowd, a voice called out, "Bullshit!"

He chuckled. "Well, okay. I did volunteer to be here, so I guess that's one in my favour. Anyway. It's midnight in a few minutes, and then it'll be exactly one year since we gave shelter to Weaver and Gladys and Danny. One year since Weaver shot Zion. One year since the war started and ended. One year since we beat that big golden bastard, once and for all."

As the cheers spontaneously arose, Taylor became aware of something odd moving through the town, a large bulky object being towed toward the bonfire on a large flatbed trolley. Sveta was doing the towing, but the trolley wasn't cooperating. She was about to go and give some assistance, when she realised that Joe was still talking.

"So anyway, Mike Allen couldn't be here …" He bowed his head for just a moment, and most of the audience, those with recognisable heads, did the same. "But we do have the other three who were here, including Weaver herself!"

"What?" she murmured. "Nobody told me …"

But Theo was already nudging her. "Go on," he whispered. "Get up there."

Reluctantly, she climbed to her feet, handing off her glass to Theo, and made her way through the crowd to where Joe stood on a makeshift podium. As she stepped up beside him, the crowd applauded once more. On an impulse, she brought a swarm of bugs down to stream through the firelight and out the other side. More clapping and cheers resulted.

"Uh, thank you," she called out. "I didn't have a speech prepared, so I'll just say thanks again, and I hope we all have a great night."

Before she could be roped into saying more, she stepped down off of the podium and back into the crowd. More applause followed her; several members of the crowd held up their hands for her to high-five.

Sveta hauled the flatbed trolley into the area before the bonfire; now that Taylor could see it clearly, she could tell that whatever was on the trolley had a sheet draped over it. However, she still couldn't figure out what was under the sheet, with the limited number of bugs under there.

"And now, ladies and gentlemen," Joe continued, "it's midnight! It's Vee-Zee day! If you can, please stand."

Taylor hadn't yet sat down, so she stayed standing and turned to watch what was going on.

"Today," Joe said, "we honour those who fell so that we might live. And we honour those who did what had to be done. Everyone, fill your cups."

Taylor felt Theo nudging a cup into her hand; it was her glass of lemonade. "Thanks," she murmured.

"Everyone, a toast! To Michael Allen, who made the ultimate sacrifice!"

Taylor heard Michael's name being murmured over again, as she herself repeated it. As she took a sip of her drink, she recalled a comment by Gladys. It was the older woman's belief that, once the inhabitants of Sanctuary began to have children, a large number of them would be called 'Michael' or some derivative thereof. Right now, I would not be surprised.

"To Weaver, who fired the shot!"

Taylor flushed as Theo and everyone around her deliberately turned to face her before raising their glasses.

"And to Dragon, who finished Zion off!"

This toast Taylor could make; she took a larger drink from her glass. But Joe wasn't finished. "And now, to commemorate this day, here's something that our very own Sveta has been working on for most of the year!" He gave Sveta a nod, and tendrils flowed out to grasp the sheet, whipping it off in one smooth movement.

It was a statue; Taylor could see that now. The statue was of her and of Mike Allen; she was in costume as Weaver, while he was in plain clothes. His hand was on her shoulder, as if giving encouragement and guidance. As he did, so many times. Tears pricked her eyes, to see his likeness standing there, the flickering firelight giving it the illusion of life.

As the applause arose, Gladys frowned. "He didn't want a statue," she said, just loudly enough for Taylor to hear. "He said so, in his will."

Taylor was just opening her mouth to ask what will? when there was a tremendous crack and crash from overhead. Lightning lanced down from the clouds that had gathered unnoticed, striking the statue. The baked clay that made up the core of it flew apart, the pieces miraculously missing all and sundry. All that was left was the part that showed Taylor in costume.

"Well, crap," Riley remarked into the silence that followed. "He said he'd find a way to tell us he was still alive."

Tuesday Midday, June 12, 2012

"You're leaving already? But you only got here yesterday." Gladys looked upset.

Danny shrugged. "I'm sorry. Believe me, I'm sorry. I'd love to stay even one more day. Or a week, or a month. But work will already be piling up for me, and Taylor and the others have their own responsibilities."

She sighed. "Okay, yes. I understand. But you will come back and visit, yes? And don't wait a year this time."

"I promise." He stepped up and hugged her. "Thank you for having us."

"Thank you for coming," she replied, returning the hug.

"I'll definitely come back when I can," Taylor assured her, then was treated to a hug of her own. "And I'll bring Theo again."

"Darn right you will," Theo agreed. "This was fun."

"Uh, Rachel said to say that she'd be hanging around for a few days," Lisa put in. "She said something about dealing with your bison problem."

"Oh." Gladys brightened. "Well, that's something anyway, I guess."

Still talking, they stepped out on to the porch, where Brian was chatting with Sveta. "Anyone seen Amy?" asked Danny.

"Gone to see Nara?" hazarded Brian. "Riley and Aisha are missing too."

Taylor focused on her bugs, spreading her awareness out. She'd brought a few relay bugs, and they were expanding her radius of capability quite nicely. "Found them."

Danny frowned. "Well, where are they?"

"On the way back here."

"Good." Danny checked his watch. "We've still got to make the walk to the train stop."

"It's okay, Dad, "Taylor assured him. "We'll make it. They're not far away."

When Amy did arrive, she brought with her not only Riley and Aisha, but also Nara. The blue-skinned girl smiled shyly and hung back a little, but Amy kept a grip on her hand.

Taylor walked up to them. "I was beginning to wonder if you were gonna just stay behind," she said cheerfully.

Amy turned pink; she seemed to be doing a lot of that. "I'd like to. I'd really like to. But I know there's stuff I've gotta do back in Brockton Bay." She turned to Nara. "But I'll be back. I promise. And this time I'll stay. A week, maybe more."

Nara nodded. "I'd like that," she replied. "I'd like that a whole lot."

"And in the meantime you can email each other, or just chat online," Gladys pointed out.

Theo blinked. "What? You've got the internet here?"

Sveta chuckled. "Well, yes. They ran a line through the portal and put up repeater towers. How do you think I keep in touch with Dragon for the game?"

"Uh, game?" asked Brian. "What game?"

"Oh, it was something that Mike started up with me, back when I was in the asylum," Sveta explained. "He gave all the details of the world to Dragon, and now she's running it. I'm playing something called a 'Queen's Rider'. It's a lot of fun."

"So wait, you've got this awesome town in the middle of nowhere, you've got sailing boats to catch fish, and you still use the internet?" Aisha shook her head. "Wow. Just wow."

Danny cleared his throat. "I hate to be the responsible adult here, but we've still got to get back to the train stop." He picked up his overnight bag. "Thanks again for putting us up, Gladys. I'll see you again sometime."

"I'll hold you to that," the teacher replied. She watched fondly as Riley embraced Amy.

"You come back soon, big sis," the bio-tinker told the biokinetic. "I miss you a lot."

"I already said I would, but yeah, I'll be back." Amy grinned at Riley. "And I am so gonna tease you when you fall for a boy for the first time."

Riley rolled her eyes. "Pfft, never happen."

"Uh huh, right." Amy turned to Nara, then glanced at the others. Theo and Brian studiously looked off into the distance, while Taylor made go-ahead gestures. Aisha openly grinned as Amy leaned in and kissed the blue-skinned girl, then clung to her for a moment.

"Okay," Amy said roughly as she broke the embrace. "Let's go." She didn't look back, but Taylor caught her wiping her eyes. Stepping up alongside Amy, Taylor put an arm around her shoulders, giving her a comforting squeeze.

"It's so sweet," Theo observed cheerfully. "Our little Amy's growing up."

"I'm older than both of you, and you know it," Amy muttered, then blew her nose.

"Hey, I'm younger than all of you, and I've had more kisses than Amy," Aisha declared.

"Oh, really?" Brian's voice was full of interest, and not in a good way. "So whose kneecaps do I have to break, once we get back to Brockton Bay?"

Aisha made a rude noise. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

As her friends bantered, Taylor caught Danny's eye and grinned; he grinned back. Life was looking good; there would be challenges ahead, but with luck and the help of those near and dear to her, she would be able to face and overcome them.

End of Epilogue One

Epilogue Two: Mike

Life was looking good; there would be challenges ahead, but with luck and the help of those near and dear to her, she would be able to face and overcome them.

I blinked myself awake as I typed these words. "What the hell?" I muttered, looking at the text on the screen. Slowly, I scrolled upward. Page after page of story was there, stuff I didn't remember typing. But it was stuff that I had dreamed.

"Okay, that was weird." I knew I was talking out loud; it's an old habit, from years of living alone. "Did I just dream that and type it up in my dream, or what?"

Putting the laptop down on the small table I use to rest my legs on, I got up and went to the fridge. Taking a bottle of water out – I keep several there for that purpose – I swigged from it, feeling the coolness spreading through my chest and stomach. It didn't wake me up as much as I wanted, so I went and had a shower. Standing in the cubicle with the warm water running over me, I felt my head clearing.

"Did I just dream that, or did I actually go somewhere else?" I asked the shower wall. A moment later, I chuckled. "Yes." It was the age-old question; when we dream, does it all happen in our own skull or do our consciousnesses actually travel to far-distant worlds?

I was ill-equipped to answer that one, so I shelved it for the moment. After drying off, I got dressed and went back to read over what I had written.

It was actually pretty good. Reading through it, I found myself reliving the dream. Unlike most of my dreams, it had been coherent, and I was able to recall large chunks of it.

"Huh. It was an interesting experience, but I don't think I want to repeat it." I set about posting it to Spacebattles, Sufficient Velocity, Questionable Questing and Fanfiction dot net, as I usually did. That done, I wondered what I would do next.

Hm, I thought. Maybe a sequel.

The reviews were already starting to come in; I read over a few of them, and was encouraged. People seemed to like the character 'Michael Allen', so I figured that I could use him, er, me, again. The only trouble was, he was dead. In that world, anyway.

"So," I mused, "Let's do something different."

Lisa sat at her computer. Since returning from Sanctuary, she'd spent a lot of time thinking about Michael Allen, and the story that he had apparently written, the one that she had lived through. She had also started browsing all the fanfiction sites she could find online, trying to get an insight into the mind of the fanfiction writer.

He enjoyed being the smartest person in the room, especially when I was around, she told herself. He wrote himself that way, even though he knew that would annoy the crap out of me.

Leaning back, she mused over that, while her power made other connections. This was not the first fanfiction he's written, she realised. No fanfiction writer ever kills off their self-insert on the very first fic. What else has he written? And what's he had us do in the other ones?

She thought about that for a while. He's a guy. He lives alone. No love life until he met Gladys. Which was kind of a surprise for him. So … The connections were inevitable.

Her lips tightened. Write that sort of fanfiction about me, will you? Opening a new word-processing document, she began to type. Let's see how you like it.

I found my fingers typing without my conscious volition. I, Panacea spelled itself at the top of the new document. I blinked. What?

I felt my consciousness slipping away, even as I typed more lines. The truth came to me, all too late. I went somewhere, all right. I fell into the story.

My last conscious thought was, Oh god, here we go again.

End of Epilogue Two

End of Security!

Thank you for reading. This story is over, but Michael Allen's adventures will continue in the pages of I, Panacea, by the same author.