Chapter Eighteen: In the Dark Days That Lie Ahead


Taylor felt more than a little surreal as she walked down the street almost naked, surrounded by the members of the Undersiders. Or, if Lisa was to be believed, what used to be the Undersiders.

At her side, Lisa asked, "Want to fill me in on what Alexandria was trying to hide?"

Did she? Taylor thought about it for just a second, then slowly nodded her assent. "Sure, I guess. The Travelers got their powers from vials, not the usual way. She was trying to hide that, so I guess that means she already knew that vials like that existed, as well as that being the way the Travelers got their powers. I could see it in her aura."

For a brief moment, there was almost a transcendent look upon Lisa's face, then she winced so hard she stumbled. It was only Taylor's lightning quick reflexes, still boosted by her boots, that allowed her to catch the girl's elbow. She slid an arm around the other girl and pressed her fingers against the skin exposed by her costume at her neck.

Pushing healing into Lisa, Taylor chided, "You know I can heal your headaches. All you have to do is let me know you're hurting."

From behind them, Alec drawled, "I have an ouchie if you're healing."

Taylor rolled her eyes. "Liar."

Lisa seemed to have recovered and gently shook off Taylor's arm. "Thanks for that. Sorry, it just overwhelmed me with how much crap's been going on. Shit! That bitch! I knew she was hiding something, but not that she was hiding that."

She looked contemplative for a moment, then a gleeful look crossed her face. "You know, if we wanted to fuck the Protectorate over for what they did to you, this would be the perfect means."

Taylor nodded absently, thinking about the weave she'd created to cure Noelle, when she was suddenly was struck by Lisa's words. "What exactly happened, anyway? I was working on fixing Noelle from within when everything started changing. It was almost as if I was turning to stone." She shivered as she remembered the strange, draining sensation of becoming something else as she'd slowly grown more and more unable to move.

Oddly, it wasn't Lisa who answered, but Brian, who was walking just ahead of them. His tone carefully neutral, he said, "Eidolon used some kind of transmutation power to turn her to stone with the help of the other members of the Triumvirate. It didn't seem to matter to them that you were inside of her at the time. I... we thought you were dead."

Emotion leaked into that last sentence, as if something powerful was starting to break loose within him. When Taylor used her power on Brian, his aura was filled with an enormous variance of shades of crimson. For some reason, he was beyond furious. Glancing over at Lisa to see what her take on this was, she saw the faintest smug smile on the blonde's face. Her aura had a sense of satisfaction to it that was even more puzzling.

Well, given time, and maybe a little rest, she thought with a yawn, she'd figure out what all of those mysterious emotions were. Until then, she'd stay focused on the here and now, firmly pushing aside the emotions of the people around her as well as thoughts of what she'd done to Noelle. In the resulting mental lull, her attention turned to Eidolon.

Taylor didn't exactly know how she felt about the fact that at least one of the Triumvirate had tried to kill her, and maybe all of them. It didn't make her happy, but neither did it distress her unduly. She knew they had their reasons for wanting to stop Noelle as soon as possible if for no other reason than how destructive the other had been. How dangerous to the public. That was something she could relate to.

On the other hand, finding out that some people were getting powers artificially, something that apparently Alexandria knew about and wanted to hide, wasn't something that particularly pleased her.

She was musing on exactly what was going on when a sudden thought hit her. Her dad didn't know she was all right. And after the hell that had occurred Downtown, he was sure to be freaking out. Fortunately, they were nearly to the building which the Undersiders called home.

Taylor turned to Lisa who said, "Of course you can use the phone inside to call your dad. But you really should get a cell phone."

Giving the blonde know it all a glare, Taylor headed inside, following Alec who'd already unlocked the door to the loft. A few seconds later found her next to the kitchen counter using their land line to dial her home number. Glancing behind her as she waited for the phone to ring, she noticed that Brian was waiting nearby with arms crossed, while Alec had already gone to his room. Of Rachel, there was no trace, so she was likely in still outside with her dogs.

The phone in her hand barely rang once before her dad answered, "Taylor! Is that you?"

Keeping her voice calm, she said, "It's me, Dad. Sorry I didn't call you earlier, but we've been glued to the TV for the last few hours, watching the feed from the helicopters."

There was both anger and relief in her dad's voice as he said, "We'll talk about you not calling me later. For now, I just want to know if you're all right?"

"Dad, I'm fine. I'm not anywhere near where all of that went down. I'm really sorry I didn't call you."

"Give me your address so I can come pick you up."

Giving Lisa a desperate look, the blonde took the hint and grabbed the phone out of Taylor's hand. "Danny?"

"Yes, it's Lisa. How are you doing?"

"I promise that Taylor's fine. She's more worried about how you'd react than what went down earlier."

"Yeah, I'm keeping an eye on her. Sorry we got so caught up in watching the news that we forgot to call. Look, I can give her a ride home, but it would really be better if she just spent the night. There's no reason you need to worry about getting out this late."

"What's my address? 11200 Kingman, apartment 206."

"Yeah, I know it's on the other side of downtown where everything went down. That's why I thought it would be better for her to just stay here with how screwed up traffic is. It would take hours for either of us to make it across town right now, assuming we could even get through all of the roadblocks. Plus, you probably have to work in the morning."

"Yeah, sure. I'll drive her home tomorrow before rush hour traffic starts up. I figure if I swing over by the boardwalk and drive up alongside the bay, I'll miss all of the torn up streets Downtown. How's that sound?"

"Yeah, okay. We'll see you tomorrow morning for breakfast. I actually like my eggs scrambled though. Thanks, Danny."

Taylor stared at Lisa, who had a smug smile on her face as she hung up the phone. However, there was a wistful note to the blonde's voice as she said, "I really like your dad. Anyway, he's cool with you spending the night."

Brian, who had been silently standing on the other side of the living room, asked, "Seriously, Lisa?"

Lisa shrugged. "Coil's still out there. We're safer with Taylor here."

He pointed out, "She doesn't even have most of her gear."

Taylor decided to speak up. "I can make more. If anyone has some old clothes they can afford to lose." Suddenly lowering her voice, she whispered, "Lisa, I'm going to need to borrow another pair of underwear."

The brief grin the blonde sent her way contained all of the wickedness in the world. Aloud, Lisa said, "Brian, calm down. Taylor's staying. Now back off so that she can take a shower and put on some clothes. I mean, she's probably feeling a draft right now."

Taylor almost fainted at the sheer embarrassment she felt. Still, she was aware enough to notice Brian's aura flare as waves of pink clashed with the crimson in his aura. A second later he headed toward his own room without saying another word.

Turning towards the girl who was supposed to be her friend, Taylor hissed, "Okay, what the hell was that?"

Lisa gave her a contemplative look. "You know, for a empath, you still suck sometimes at realizing how someone feels. Go take a shower. You stink. I'll have you some clothes by the time you get out, including something to make more armor from. Okay?"


Taylor headed toward the bathroom, aware that she was still blushing. What the hell was Lisa thinking? Regardless, she was going to kill the other girl once she was finally clean.

Hardly aware that she was humming as she undressed, Taylor turned on the shower.


Brian pulled off his helmet, then kicked off his boots. Unzipping them, he stepped out of his leathers. Finally, he threw on some warm ups and tried to get some rest. But he couldn't stay still and found himself pacing restlessly back and forth in his room.

What the hell had Lisa been thinking pushing his buttons like that? Didn't she realize that Taylor was way to young for him? Despite her tall, slender form, the other girl was only fifteen, while he was seventeen. Plus, she was innocent in a way that he hadn't been in years. She didn't need to have anything to do with damaged goods.

Brian ran a nervous hand over the short stubble on his head. It was bad enough what was happening with Coil, but now he had to deal with a firestorm of emotions. Seeing Taylor nearly die had been difficult to deal with. He still could hardly believe the girl had somehow survived.

Worse, despite how he'd forced any feelings he had for the girl aside, it had been all that he could do not to attack Eidolon after what he'd done. Eidolon! The man would have swatted him like a fly, darkness and all, if Brian had actually carried through with what he wanted to do.

Still, the intensity of his anger and hatred for the other cape for his callousness had shocked Brian. Then, swiftly on the heels of that anger had come relief from finding out that Taylor had survived. The strange welter of emotions that had torn through him at finding out she was alive had allowed him to ignore her state of undress at the time, despite a glimpse of pale, curved flesh before the shirt had finally covered her. Truthfully, he'd barely registered it.

Until just now, that is. When Lisa had pointed out that Taylor was standing there by the counter nearly naked, he'd been surprised by the flash of desire he'd felt, staring at the girl's long, coltish legs poking out from under Alec's shirt. He'd also become aware that the shirt wasn't completely opaque, at least not in the bright lights of their living room. So he'd left.

What the hell was wrong with him? Brian wasn't some kid who could afford to ignore his responsibilities. Especially not now, with the threat of Coil looming over him and the others. He was even considering having Aisha stay here because of the threat of their former boss. It wasn't as if he thought the man would hesitate to use family members against them. Unfortunately, at the moment, he was the only one who was vulnerable as the rest of the Undersiders didn't either weren't close to their families, or didn't have any.

He needed to figure out a path going forward. For now, he was going to ignore the thought of Taylor with her thoughtful brown eyes taking a shower just a few feet away from him. Because if he didn't, he was likely to make a mistake, one that he couldn't afford.


In one timeline, Thomas Calvert drove to the PRT to provide himself a safe haven. In another, he checked each of his secondary bases on his way to see his pet, discovering that they had each and every one been eliminated by the vigilante known as Carnelian.

Once he asked his questions of his pet and checked with Mr Pitter regarding her health and the continued availability of the drugs that kept her docile, he quickly dropped that timeline, then immediately opened another. In that timeline, Coil left work and drove back to Thomas Calvert's home, using his computer to check each of his bank accounts, including the half dozen hidden ones he'd set up in case of emergencies. All had been drained. It was a brief moment's satisfaction to grab the keyboard and slam it through the computer monitor in a shower of sparks, then tear the tower out of its cubby and throw it through the home office's plate glass window.

He dropped that timeline before the sirens even began to be audible and opened another. In that one, he used the computer to figure out that his human resources had dried up. Payments to back up troops had been missed, leading them to head to other, greener pastures.

Dropping that timeline, he reached out to secondary resources, including compatriots in other cities. The results were not promising. Exactly as the numbers from his pet had indicated, in Boston, Accord imprisoned him when he could not meet the man's ridiculous price for the plan he wanted. In New York, he never got a chance to meet with the Butcher as one of the woman's Parahuman minions cut his throat before he could even make his presentation. The Fallen also dealt with him with equal facility.

In the end, with ever shrinking recourse, Coil could only see two possible outcomes. He could leave Brockton Bay and attempt to establish himself in another city, rebuilding everything he'd accomplished so far from scratch. Or he could attempt to use the PRT and Protectorate to help him recover his funds and enact his revenge. Neither choice had good numbers backing it, although leaving town provided a slightly better overall chance for success at thirty-nine percent to just under twenty-three percent for staying.

Almost, he chose exile. But his pride just wouldn't allow him to leave. Tattletale had crossed a line. He wouldn't feel whole again until he'd shown the little bitch using his own special methods just how big a mistake she'd made. Coil's smile as he considered the many and varied ways he would hurt her, to break her spirit until she was just a shell of a person, was cruel and gloating.

One of his biggest concerns was that the numbers he was getting from his pet, sequestered in a house at the edge of town, continued to show that his chances of success were slowly, but surely declining as time went on. He could not discover the cause as the questions he asked didn't really provide answers.

However, there were a handful of things, that if they succeeded, would help turn the tide. One of the biggest being putting Carnelian and the local Protectorate at odds.

Over the next couple of days, he split timelines again and again. His attempts to drive a wedge between the Protectorate and Carnelian did not bear fruit despite using both his own and his pet's power with profligacy. First, she healed that brat Gallant, something he found out through the last of his agents within the agency. Next, she managed to not only get videotaped saving and healing preschool children, something which made huge waves both locally and nationally, but she also eliminated the source of the explosions that had rocked the city, Bakuda of the ABB.

Finally, she even managed to save the lives of multiple members of the Chicago Protectorate and Wards as well as several citizens in the most recent crisis involving Hydra. That was almost outweighed by the way she somehow changed Hydra back into the girl she'd been before, who was now a guest of the PRT. But even he couldn't find out what was happening in their inner councils.

He'd considered anonymously providing the PRT with the location of the Undersiders' base, but when he ran the numbers by his pet, she indicated that there was only a thirty-two percent chance they would even act, likely a result of his former minion's team up with Carnelian, while the odds of the operation successfully taking down any of their members was less than ten percent. Damn Tattletale to Hell!

From his desk within the PRT Headquarters, Coil stared sightlessly at yet another report on the incident. He could feel Tattletale's noose slowly enclosing his neck, only the deft use of both his and his pet's powers allowing him to stay ahead of her. He knew it was just a matter of time until she figured out who he was. In his earlier arrogance, he'd left her far too many clues as to his civilian identity, something he now regretted.

Unfortunately, surrounded as she was by her team and allied with Carnelian, he simply couldn't get to Tattletale. He needed to split up her group so he could deal with them no more than one or two at a time. He considered several possible strategies, but none of them had just the right mix of effectiveness and cruelty that he needed.

Finally, though, an idea occurred to him. Slowly, a smile equal parts cruel and capricious creased his lips. He knew exactly what he was going to do. And exactly who he was going to do it to. Then it would be up to Tattletale to make her own response.

It took less than a day for him to discover that the odds of him successfully accomplishing his mission were better than ninety percent, while the odds of him being identified as the perpetrator were less than one. Additionally, there was a better than sixty percent chance that this would give him an opportunity for a one on one confrontation with another member of the group.

In one timeline, Thomas Calvert continued to work in his office within the PRT's Headquarters. In another, he left early and traveled to a hidden weapon's cache that was still untouched, where he liberated an automatic pistol and extra two loaded clips. The former he tucked into the back of his waistband, while the latter he tucked into his pockets.

Whistling along with the song playing on his car's radio, he drove over to an address in the upper crust neighborhood of the Sand Dunes far to the south and west of Brockton Bay proper. Parking in the circular driveway out front, he got out of his car, then rang the doorbell.

Thomas drew his gun as he waited. When a woman opened the door, he shot her twice in the face. As he walked into the house past her body, he noted both the surprise on her face and the Hispanic features and uniform. Housekeeper or maid, he decided. Walking briskly deeper into the house, he headed towards the sanctuary that belonged to the head of the household.

Ahead of Thomas he heard a voice call out, "Anita? What the hell was that noise? I'm working in here and I need it to be quiet. Plus Angela's lying down upstairs. Anita?"

Turning the corner of the hallway, Thomas noted the man who'd been calling out. An older man, with the self assurance that usually came with wealth, he barely had time to register the thin man's presence when he raised the gun and shot him twice in the torso. He walked up to the dying man and finished him with another round to the head.

Humming the same tune he'd been whistling earlier, Thomas jogged over to the grand staircase. Then he made his way upstairs. He knew approximately where the main bedroom was, at the end of the second floor hallway.

Approaching the door, he opened it to see a huge room dominated by the larger than king size bed along one wall. A slim figure was lying on top of the comforter there, one who called out as he entered, "Stephen, what was that noise? It sounded like a car backfiring."

Not a car, he thought, as he walked over to stand directly alongside the bed. The figure lying there, a blonde woman in her early forties, had her green eyes closed. She opened them when he did not reply, barely having time to register the gun when Thomas put two rounds into her head, one entering through her forehead, the other through her right eye.

He took a critical look around, deciding that the décor was surprisingly tacky for an old money home. Dropping the gun and the unused clips on the woman's body, Thomas whistled Singin' in the Rain as he almost danced his way out of the house, got into his car, and drove away. Halfway back to the office, he pulled off the latex gloves he'd worn and tossed them into a nearby dumpster.

Arriving back at the office, he headed to his office. Assuming there was no evidence that one Thomas Calvert had been involved with a murder, he'd drop the other timeline in a couple of days. He'd be prepared to move on to Grue's family next. In the meantime, he'd watch and wait to see if anyone came to visit them.

Unfortunately, the other two lacked levers of this nature and he'd never learned Carnelian's real name as Tattletale had kept it to herself. Still, it should help divide and weaken his foes. It might even be worth it to launch a frontal assault on their base himself if the opportunity presented. After all, it wasn't as if he could lose, was it?

Besides, it would be fun. At least as much as it had been to execute that little bitch's remaining family. With a much lighter heart, Thomas Calvert went back to reading reports.


Colin sat one side of the table, while Director Piggot sat on the other. Her face was utterly blank as she stared at the paperwork in front of her. Since it was the results of his disciplinary hearing for what had happened to Gallant, it didn't bode well.

He reflected upon the time he'd spent in Brockton Bay, some of it good and some of it much less so. Oddly, he'd consider last night a mark in the good column. Casualties had been low, and he'd fought on a level that had been only a step down from the members of the Triumvirate.

Better yet, it wasn't ego talking when he came to that surprising conclusion. After all, he didn't have to worry about being captured by Hydra and having to play it safe. Unlike Alexandria, Eidolon, and Legend, he was only a Tinker, any physical accomplishments he had a result of hard work, not powers. So if he had been captured, it wouldn't have made much of a difference in Hydra's general firepower.

At least so long as any clones didn't get away and gain time to actually build something.

Colin felt a sense of pride in knowing that he'd accomplished a great deal with his Tinker abilities. Even if he was demoted and sent to another city, at least he'd have that going for him. Knowing that he'd left the city a little bit better than when he took over and had been able to hold the line against an ever increasingly powerful Parahuman gang element.

As the minutes stretched on, Colin kept his expression impassive. He wasn't sure why the Director was keeping him waiting so long, but he refused to allow it to bother him. He'd accept the committee's decision with grace. After all, no matter where he ended up, he'd still have Dragon to keep him company as well as his Tinkering. Certainly, the new predictive program the two of them were working on together showed a great deal of promise in giving them advanced notice of where the Endbringers were going to-


Looking up, Colin met Director Piggot's eyes. "Yes, Director?"

She glanced once more at the top page of the report before her, then closed the binder. "It's been the decision of the Committee that you retain your post as head of the Protectorate East Northeast for now. However, a letter of censure has been placed in your file stating that through not following protocols, you did allow harm to come to a Ward under your watch. Officially, I can let you know that any deviations from standard procedures will result in your removal and transfer to a secondary position in another city."

"And unofficially?"

The woman sighed heavily. For the first time, something like a human emotion touched her face. After all, the two of them had worked together for years, and if not always getting along, at least they'd achieved a certain level of understanding. "Unofficially, I'll tell you that you need to be careful. Think before you act, something that I'm aware that you do anyway. Just do it twice now. Because they're going to be looking for a reason to remove you. I personally believe that it was your prompt and decisive actions against Hydra that swayed the committee's decision in your favor. Without that, you would already be gone."

Colin nodded. "Thank you for the information, Director."

Piggot merely nodded. Then she reached over and hit a switch on the side of the table. "Geraldine? Please send in the others."

On the other side of the room, a door opened and three figures shuffled inside. At the front was Miss Militia, followed by Aegis, with Assistant Director Rennick bringing up the rear.

"Please be seated. Armsmaster will be taking the lead in this briefing, bringing us up to speed on our latest information on exactly what transpired last night and the latest results of the testing being done on our 'guests'."

Colin knew by the relieved look in Miss Militia's eyes that she immediately understood the significance of him leading the meeting. As did Rennick, whose sharp glance carried with it an unknown emotion. Only Aegis appeared to not grasp that a decision had been made about his fate. It was a gap in his training, one that he would need to address within the next few days.

Using the interface on his HUD, Colin made a note to do exactly that, no later than Wednesday.

In the meantime, there was a meeting to run.


Noelle sat in the cell, shivering. Not from cold, as despite the faint draft from the room's ventilation, it was temperature controlled to a fault. Instead, it was emotion that drew the physical response from her. She still didn't know what had happened to her last night. Or even during the last few weeks.

She'd been steadily losing herself to the thing that she was becoming. A creature of appetite and destruction, her alter ego had been steadily taking her over more and more, as the girl who had once been known as Noelle steadily languished in an ever darker and more isolated world. She'd had only moments of lucid thought recently followed by frighteningly long descents into darkness and insanity.

Francis had been the only light in that darkness for such a very long time. Their chats had kept her from teetering over the brink, while his jokes and gentle affection had been her only true moments of happiness, as isolated as those had become.

She still couldn't believe that he was dead. Or at least she thought he was. Noelle couldn't remember everything from that time, as much of it felt like a fading dream, but she was pretty sure that much was true.

Francis was dead. And Carnelian had killed him.

Should she hate the other woman, Noelle wondered? She must have at one point as her memories were of a mad rage that had filled her, sending her off in a destructive spree that beggared the imagination. She vaguely remembered toppling buildings and fighting against heroes whose powers should have terrified her. Certainly they did now.

Noelle shivered again at the thought of fighting someone like Alexandria. Or Legend. Or the cape that she thought had finally stopped her. Eidolon.

They had been strong beyond belief, powerful beyond anything she'd ever imagined. And they would have killed her in the end. If not for Carnelian.

Carnelian had saved her. That was something Noelle distinctly remembered. Exactly what the other girl had done, she didn't have the faintest idea. But she'd clearly done some force that had not only staved off Eidolon's power, but had changed Noelle back to the girl she'd once been.

Sitting there on the hard bunk with its thin, uncomfortable mattress, Noelle searched for any remnant of the thing she'd once been but couldn't find any. She was clear of the other, nothing of its vast hungers and strange urges touching her any longer. She was just Noelle once again.

She'd even eaten once since awakening, a breakfast that had been plain if filling. Still, she'd relished every bite of the oatmeal, cleaning the bowl completely of its contents. That there hadn't been bacon with her breakfast wasn't even an issue. After all she'd gone through, Noelle was seriously contemplating becoming a vegetarian.

She was even looking forward to whatever they were going to serve for lunch even as a weird, foreign emotion filled her. It took her a moment to understand just what she was feeling.


Something that had been absent for so long that she'd forgotten what it felt like to experience it. But it was present within her now. As was something else.

Noelle didn't know exactly what potential lay inside of her now. But there was something, it's presence announced by a restlessness and desire to do. To go out and make a difference. To accomplish greatness.

She didn't have the slightest doubt that this feeling was also a result of whatever it was that Carnelian had done to her. Or that the potential had been placed inside of her by the other girl.

However, while imprisoned here, surrounded by containment foam sprayers, tasers, and armed guards, she didn't dare even contemplate experimenting with it. Later, once she was out of here, away from the scrutiny of others, she would do so. She'd find out the limits of exactly what she'd become.

Plus, she'd finally be able to confront the person to whom she owed a debt.


Jess sat on the uncomfortable bed, rubbing her aching legs and glorying in doing so. She'd been trying to walk inside of her tiny cell for the last several hours, and had managed it in a clumsy fashion, as muscles that were unused to moving were forced into motion.

However, the movements had pushed muscles that weren't used to being able to move, resulting in an intensity of muscle aches and pains that were painful to say the least.

Not that Jess really minded. She still couldn't believe that Carnelian had healed her spine when she'd healed her enough to interrogate her about Noelle. It made the entire situation, being able to walk, to feel, much less enjoyable than it would have. After all, feeling like she'd betrayed the girl who had once been her friend wasn't exactly conducive to enjoying her newfound mobility.

Like Judas, she'd gotten her thirty pieces of silver as payment for betraying her leader.

Shivering slightly in reaction to her thoughts, Jess reflected on the events of the night before. A lot of it she didn't remember as she'd been trapped inside of Noelle, fodder for the clones she made.

When she'd awakened, it had been to Carnelian's looming presence as well as prickles and needling sensations from her legs. Nearby had been Marissa and Luke, also laying on gurneys, and equally helpless against the force of nature that had been the enraged vigilante.

None of them had even contemplated using their powers against Carnelian, memories of what she had done to them down in Coil's base still too fresh. There, she had handled them as if they were children, even Krouse's power, one that he had used to escape from the Protectorate all those many months ago, surprisingly ineffectual.

Jess shivered again as she remembered the shouted demands, and worse, the harsh, cold voice that had forced them all to speak their deeply held secrets aloud. To betray Noelle, Krouse, and their own foreign origins.

Surprisingly, there hadn't been any form of judgment or censure in the woman's voice afterward. Instead, she'd merely dismissed them, leaving them to the tender mercies of the surrounding troops while she had gotten onto her flying device and left, moving so fast she'd been a blur.

The three of them, held up to their necks in containment foam, had managed a brief conversation as they'd been transported to their current prison. From Luke and Marissa, Jess had learned that Krouse was dead. Although deathly ill at the time, they'd both been conscious enough to see him die and Noelle's subsequent rampage.

They'd also been aware enough to realize they were being swallowed alive by their erstwhile teammate. Unfortunately, that was the last thing they remembered.

Jess, herself, only remembered the fight, and losing her creation, before there had been some powerful explosion that had apparently brought the building down on top of them. She knew that Noelle must have dug through to where she lay trapped to save her, although why she had bothered was still a mystery.

None of them knew what had become of their onetime teammate. Noelle's fate was a mystery, one that the PRT was not enlightening them on. Truthfully, though, Jess thought she was dead.

Remembering the way that Carnelian had probed for weakness in an attempt to learn everything she could about Noelle so that she could take her down left little doubt in her mind that she would have succeeded in accomplishing her mission. The woman was violence personified.


There has a hard clang from somewhere in front of Jess, then a hard voice stated, "Prisoner Genesis, place your hands and feet in the yellow circles. If you have not complied within twenty seconds, you will be subdued. Prisoner Genesis, place your hands and feet in the yellow circles. If you have not complied within fourteen seconds, you will be subdued. Prisoner Genesis"

Before the first set of commands had even finished, Jess had struggled erect and shambled off to the front of her cell where four yellow circles, two on the floor and two on the wall in front of her, waited. She stepped into the ones on the floor, then leaned an uncomfortable distance forward and placed her hands into the ones on the wall.

So far, she hadn't been tased or enveloped in containment foam, but it had been a near thing twice now. And since she had to do this ever time she was fed or had a visitor, it was a struggle that she wasn't sure she'd always win.

Not that she'd had many visitors so far, just the cold-eyed man from the PRT who had initially interrogated her.

Of course, he'd threatened her with all different types of punishments under the law, but compared to Carnelian, he hadn't been particularly intimidating. Still, Jess didn't think he'd appreciated actually being told that.

In the end, though, she'd explained to him much of what had happened to her, just holding back a few things, like the original home of their group and how they got their powers. From the things he'd let leak, he'd already gotten much of what she said from Marisa and Luke.

The door to Jess' cell opened at that moment, and a woman stepped inside. Jess didn't need to consult her memory to recognize her, as the combat fatigues and American flag bandanna concealing her features made her identity obvious. She'd known of the other before she'd ever been shanghaied into this world.

Miss Militia was in her cell.

In a quietly conversational tone, she said, "You can stand up straight, Genesis."

Jess pushed herself back to vertical with trembling arms, then took a couple of steps back until she was next to her desk. She braced her shaky legs against it, half sitting on the top. She didn't speak, too busy wondering what was going on.

Miss Militia walked further into her cell, apparently completely unintimidated by being so close to a villain. Then again, for someone who fought Endbringers, this was probably a walk in the park. Not that Jess had any overt powers she could bring into play at the moment. Without being asleep, she was just a girl recovering from being crippled.

"Do you prefer to be called Genesis or Jess?"

There it was. Someone had talked even more than she had. At the very least, they'd named personal names. Clearing her throat and trying not to sound nervous, Jess said, "I prefer Genesis."

Miss Militia nodded. "Why don't you have a seat while we talk?"

Jess managed to shuffle over to her bed, leaving the chair by her desk for the Protectorate hero, who sat down a moment later. Staring into the woman's dark brown eyes, she asked, "What do you want from me?"

"Not too much. Mostly, it involves gaining a better understanding of just what your group has been up to the last couple of weeks. Marissa stated that your group has been working for a local villain named Coil, whose name popped up in a different situation. She also mentioned that there was a young girl there. What can you tell me about her?"

What could Jess say about the preteen that Coil had kept drugged, bringing her out every so often and parading her around for everyone to see as if she was some kind of trophy? All she knew was the girl was important to him, but she'd never been told why. Shrugging, she said, "There was a girl. I think her name was Dina. But that's all I know."

There was a strange intensity to Miss Militia's stare as she asked, "Do you know why Coil kidnapped her? Why he was holding her prisoner in his base? What use he was making of her?"

Jess shook her head. "Sorry, but I really don't. I only saw her a handful of times, and never talked to her. Coil never explained what she was doing there. Maybe Trickster knew, but my understanding is that he's dead."

"Yes, Francis Krouse is deceased, killed in the confrontation in Coil's base by Carnelian. Jess, it would go a lot easier on you if you cooperated fully. I'm not going to berate you with the potential penalties for your actions, as I'm sure that Assistant Director Rennick did an excellent job of outlining those in his initial interview. But I will say that you are in trouble. Both Luke and Marisa have already cooperated fully in an effort to gain leniency. Unfortunately, they didn't have any useful information."

"Well, if Carnelian hadn't killed Trickster, maybe he would have helped you!"

If Miss Militia was surprised by the intensity of Jess' accusation, she didn't allow it to affect the eyes or her body language. "Perhaps, if Francis Krouse had lived, he might have been of more help. However, based upon what Noelle has told us, he wasn't exactly the cooperative type."

Stunned by the woman's words, Jess blurted out, "Noelle's alive?"

There was a smoothness to the small pause before Miss Militia spoke, as if she'd done this before and knew exactly how to keep her audience's attention at its peak. "Yes, Miss Meinhardt is alive and doing well."


The one word question hung in the air between the two women. Again, Miss Militia allowed the tension to build to almost unbearable levels before speaking, "During the battle, Eidolon manifested a power that would allow him to eliminate Hydra once and for all. However, prior to its use, Carnelian crashed into Hydra at high speed and was enveloped by her. Fortunately, no clones of her appeared for us to fight. A short time later, Eidolon used one of his powers to change Hydra to stone. A few minutes later, the stone crumbled, revealing Carnelian and Noelle, both unharmed, the latter in her human guise."

Jess wasn't blind to the implications that a member of the Protectorate had almost killed an ally, but she was too focused upon Noelle's fate to worry about it. "What about her power? Is she..."

She almost screamed when Miss Militia didn't immediately answer. After a moment, the woman said, "I've given you a fair amount of information for free, Jess. However, in the interests of fairness, I think we should work out some kind of trade. I'll continue to provide you details on your teammates; in return, you answer my questions as honestly and completely as possible."

Feeling like she was making a deal with the Devil, Jess slowly nodded.


Hannah waited her turn to speak, as the meeting continued. Finally, Director Piggot turned her way.

"What do you have have for us, Miss Militia?"

"After intensive questioning of all of the surviving members of the villainous group called the Travelers, I managed to discover that Coil was holding a young girl with precognitive abilities that was almost certainly Dinah Alcott. She was not present when Carnelian attacked the building, already secreted away by Coil or someone in his employ.

"He had apparently been using her abilities to give himself an edge over the other gangs in Brockton Bay. Unfortunately, however effective this might have been against Empire 88 or the ABB, it did not work against Carnelian, who was able to blow through his security forces and engage and defeat the majority of his Parahuman assets."

Director Piggot frowned. "How was she able to find them when we couldn't do so ourselves?"

From across the table from Hannah, Armsmaster made a gesture that pulled everyone's attention his way. Once everyone was looking at him, he said, "I would think the answer is obvious: Tattletale of the Undersiders. We've narrowed her power down to some kind of pattern recognition or enhanced intuition, which allows her to fill in blanks and draw conclusions from minimal data. If Carnelian has really teamed up with her, whether the rest of the group has disbanded or not, she likely used her power to figure out the location of Coil's base."

Hannah shook her head. "I'm afraid it's worse than that. While the other members of the Travelers did not know all that much about Coil's plans or organization, it appears a certain amount was shared with Francis Krouse, aka Trickster. While he did not survive, Noelle Meinhardt did. Krouse shared a great deal of what he learned about Coil and his organization with her. One of the things that she shared with me was that the Undersiders were working for Coil."

There were frowns from everyone at the table at that statement. Director Piggot in particular, looked like she had just sucked a lemon. "Well, that explains how Tattletale would know where Coil's base was. Of course, the question that comes to mind is whether she and the rest of the Undersiders are still working for him now?"

Hannah suggested, "I do not think she, or they, are. Rather, I believe that the reason that she aimed Carnelian at Coil was because of a falling out between them. She's possibly looking to supplant him in whatever territory he controls."

Director Piggot sighed. "Well, that's a topic for a different meeting. Are we any closer to figuring out what, if any, power that Coil may possess?"

Armsmaster answered this one. "Somewhat. While at first it was believed that the villain known as Coil did not possess a Parahuman ability, Dragon and I, based upon analysis of the operations he has been involved with, have discovered a statistical improbability as regards his success rate."

Hannah leaned forward, interested. Attempting to play Devil's advocate, she asked, "Are you sure this isn't just the result of careful planning?"

Armsmaster shook his head. "While we can't be one hundred percent certain, the numbers suggest that the blip in question cannot be accounted for by planning alone. Instead, it appears to be a result of probability manipulation of some variety. Additionally, when we actually dug deep into the local police and PRT files on crimes within the city, we discovered that a larger than normal number were unsolved or performed by anonymous perpetrators. Together, and digging deeper, we linked a surprising number of those crimes to Coil. He may be more dangerous than we initially believed."

"Actually, that is in line with information I received from Noelle. Apparently, when Coil first recruited the Travelers, he put on a show for their leader, Trickster. According to information she received from him, Coil indicated his power to be one where he always won and demonstrated it by flipping a coin and it coming up heads ten times in a row."

Director Piggot rubbed the bridge of her nose a second, then looked around the table at each of them. "And now he possesses what appears to be a powerful precognitive Parahuman in the form of Dinah Alcott. Has there been any success in pinning down her location now that we know who it is that is keeping her prisoner?"

Assistant Director Rennick cleared his throat, then spoke, "We've contacted all of the standard Protectorate assets. However, each of them, from Eleventh Hour to Future Bent, indicate that their power is being interfered with. So they are unable to locate the girl, other than that she is still within the city."

Hannah mused, "Since it's well documented that Thinker powers often interfere with one another, I wonder if we're dealing with interference from her power or his?"

"It could be either, or another factor entirely. We need to come up with a plan to locate Coil. Armsmaster, work with Dragon and see what you can come up with regarding Coil's civilian identity."

Hannah felt a vague unease at the Director's words. Keeping her tone carefully respectful, she asked, "Ma'am, are you certain this is the best way to go about rescuing Dinah Alcott? Breaking the unwritten rules?"

Director Piggot glowered at her a moment, then grudgingly pointed out, "He broke them first, Miss Militia. He went after an eleven year old girl at her school. As far as I'm concerned, he should receive a Kill Order. However, since we don't know what all he's done to her, I can't swing that. But I can swing going after him wherever and as whoever he is."

The heavy woman looked around the table. "I think that finishes up our discussion on Coil. I would like to direct it now to the Travelers. What is going on with Noelle?"

Hannah nodded for Armsmaster to take this one as he had done most of the testing when it came to the villainous Parahuman. "Noelle Meinhardt, Hydra, is no longer a Parahuman."

"What?" Director Piggot exclaimed as she leaned forward in interest. "What exactly do you mean by that, Armsmaster?"

He shrugged. "I mean, she no longer possesses a Corona Pollentia or any other brain characteristics typical of a Parahuman. Additionally, the powers that she had before are completely gone. I've gone over the transcripts from Miss Militia's interviews and all of the Travelers agreed on just how dangerous her power was virtually from the beginning. It is no longer present.

"However, what is present is some form of ability that Carnelian imbued within her, just as she did with Gallant. I would guess at strength, speed, as well as other physical abilities. I don't know whether it was necessary in order to remove her power and to heal her, but they are definitely there based upon my analysis of her movement. For now, we are treating her as a Brute 6 just in case. We should contact Carnelian as soon as possible to discover exactly what she did."

Hannah's mind was racing. What Armsmaster didn't seem to be grasping was that Carnelian had successfully removed a Parahuman's power permanently for the first time ever. Director Piggot, on the other hand, understand it all to well.

"Right now, I am making this information classified. You are not to discuss it with anyone else under threat of imprisonment. Is that understood?"

After a chorus of 'yeses' from around the table, Director Piggot said, "This information is simply too explosive to let out at this time. If villains were to find out that a violent vigilante possessed the power to permanently remove their powers, making them no more than human, it would likely result in an escalation of violence that beggars the imagination. The last thing we need is this city to become any more of a war zone."

Hesitantly, Hannah asked, "What about all of the other heroes who were present when Carnelian healed Noelle?"

The Director shrugged. "What about them? As far as they are concerned, Carnelian manage to fix Noelle's power, not remove it. Or Eidolon did. While they might speculate, they won't have facts to back up their speculation. I would almost prefer to prefer to send something out for everyone present to practice discretion, but that would just add legitimacy to any speculation. Now, what about psychological testing for the Travelers?"

As the discussion continued, Hannah couldn't help but wonder how long they would be able to keep something like this under wraps. Somehow, she didn't think it would be all that long.


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Topic: Carnelian
In: Boards ► Places ► America ►Brockton Bay

► Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Posted on April 24, 2011:

I still don't think there is enough evidence to suggest that Carnelian somehow neutralized both Eidolon's and Hydra's power. The clip is just too grainy.

► Harden (Veteran Member)
Posted on April 24, 2011:

Maybe there would have been if the person taking the video hadn't been such a little b**** and shaking like a leaf. User received an infraction for this post: Don't use insults when speaking of others. Keep it civil, people.

► Chrome
Posted on April 24, 2011:

Harden Dude, I don't think any of us would have been calm, cool, and collected with a major cape battle taking place right outside of where they were working late. I'm just glad we have any kind of video at all. After all, nothing official has come out at all other than the offending cape's name. We don't even know for sure what was going on with her vomiting up those people.

► Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Posted on April 24, 2011:

While true, I think the speculation that Hydra was able to clone anyone she ingested was spot on. That would account for the messed up capes that helped her in the fight. I mean, there is no way there is that many Case 53's out there. Especially, violent, sociopathic ones that are both willing to kill and to die for someone else.

► XxVoid_CowboyxX (Cape Geek)
Posted on April 24, 2011:

I'm just glad that Carnelian was there to save the day. And we got to see her naked! I mean, I- Welcome to the first day of your thirty day suspension. There is enough evidence that Carnelian is underage that making sexual references to her will not be tolerated. Also, speculation as to a cape's identity is prohibited.

► WhedonRipperFan
Posted on April 24, 2011:

And the banhammer falls. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Still, I don't see how anyone could think that what happened with Carnelian and Hydra was anyone's doing except Eidolon's. I mean, he's only the second most powerful cape in the world behind Scion. Clearly, he cured her. I mean, look at the enhancement done on the video here.

► Chrome
Posted on April 24, 2011:

Come on! You tinhats know better than that! You can't enhance video that crappy without changing the data itself, putting in what you want to see!

Anyway, a lot of people want to believe that because the alternative isn't particularly palatable. I hope that this is the case, but I am prepared for it not being so.

I notice no one's addressed the other elephant in the room. If Carnelian did somehow 'fix' Hydra, did she do it be removing her powers? Or by fixing them? I mean, what do we even know about how Carnelian's powers work? Or what her limits are?

► Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Posted on April 24, 2011:

~Chrome Thanks, man. I was wondering how long it would be before someone brought that crap to this site. Now we are going to have a couple of hundred pages of people arguing and speculating about this without a single fact involved. Way to go.

► Chrome
Posted on April 24, 2011:

~Bagrat You know it had to happen sometime. Best to just get it over with, like ripping off a band aid.

That said, I live in this city unlike some others. The last thing I want is a major cape war taking place here. Villains can put two and two together just as easily as we can. How long do you think it's going to be before someone makes a play for Carnelian?

End of Page. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5947, 948, 949, 950

Topic: Carnelian
In: Boards ► Places ► America ►Brockton Bay

► Aprils_Fool
Posted on April 24, 2011:

Come on, guys. Clearly, Carnelian not only negated Eidolon's attack, but turned Hydra human. She's like the scariest thing that has ever existed. I'm just glad I don't live in Brockton Bay.

► MessiahOfTheLord
Posted on April 24, 2011

This is the time to repent! All of you blasphemers and infidels will pay now! Carnelian's the messenger of God, come forth to rid us of the blasphemous Parahumans! Verily I say, repent! Repent! Rep- Welcome to the first day of your ban. Additionally, your IP has been logged and banned. Avoid the inflammatory language, people, or else. We're serious here.

► Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Posted on April 24, 2011:

~facepalms~ Well this discussion has gone to hell. Thanks again, Chrome.

Calm down, people. I can tell you that there's no city-wide manhunt going on for Carnelian, something I am confident would be happening if she had managed to remove another Parahuman's power. Let's be rational and stick to the facts.

► Harden (Veteran Member)
Posted on April 24, 2011:

~Bagrat Dude, you know it's only going to get worse. The problem is that you can't really tell what is happening in the video posted here. This is one time that it might have been better if the person who took it actually thought before posting it on TubeView. Unfortunately, because of how grainy it is, you can't really tell who did what to who. All you know if that you've got 2 naked girls at the end, one of whom is almost certainly Carnelian, but the other could be anyone, including one of the civilians that were ingested.

► Legolas (Cape Groupie)
Posted on April 24, 2011:

I still say it's definitely Hydra who is the other girl. I mean, if you look at the earlier part of the video, where she's still a monster with a human topper, her hair's the same. It's grainy, but you can see that much.

Plus, those sparkles were clearly Eidolon's attempt to kill Hydra. He turned her to stone for Christ's sake! You can see how everyone thinks the fight's over. Then, when that stone starts shaking and falling apart, they start getting ready to go back to fighting. Then out of the rubble emerges Carnelian with most of her uniform eaten away and a naked girl. To me that spells her last ditch countering of Eidolon's power, as well as curing Hydra of hers. The girl is damn powerful. No amount of naysaying is going to cut it after what I saw.

► Counter_Gravity
Posted on April 24, 2011:

Legolas You're so wrong. Clearly, Eidolon's real effect was just time delayed. He saved both Carnelian and Hydra. If Hydra totally lost her powers, and wasn't just cured of the monstrous parts of them, he did it. He's the second most powerful cape in the world for a reason!

► Harsh_Reality (Veteran Member)
Posted on April 24, 2011:

All I keep hearing is the same old crap. I tell you it was it that group that's behind it. They may mostly stay in the shadows, but this time they came out. In spades. Did anyone see a woman in a suit there? Because- User received an infraction for this post: Push your conspiracies on your own threads. This one is to discuss Carnelian, not your pet theories.

End of Page. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5948, 949, 950, 951

Motherfucker, Lisa thought viciously as she finished reading the last post of the thread. It was worse that she'd thought. And coming right on the heels of her figuring out Coil's identity.

Lisa was almost certain that Coil was one Thomas Scott Calvert, formerly of the PRT's Special Operations, who now worked as a consultant to the PRT on a regular basis. It certainly explained how easily he got information from within the monolithic organization. Not that it didn't preclude him from having moles inside as well.

Although not moles he was still paying, she thought viciously. After the way she'd raped his accounts, Coil would be down to whatever funds he had available through his civilian identity, as well as any cash that he might have physically sequestered around the city. Well, other than that twenty-five thousand that he'd had in a rented apartment behind a false wall, she thought, grinning as she remembered scoring that money the other night.

Lisa's grin faded as she considered the problem of just how to take down Thomas Calvert. If Coil did have some form of power that allowed him an automatic win, there was no chance that they could defeat him. Not she she really believed that.

Because if Coil actually did have a power that strong, he would have already been in charge of things. That he wasn't was a strong indication he was lying.

However, lying or not, it wasn't going to be easy to attack the man in his civilian identity. Plus, there was still the girl, the precog, who he was probably using as well to help decide what strategies to use against her.

That was one of the few regrets Lisa had from her days as a villain. It was also something that she didn't want Taylor finding out about, that the Undersiders had served as a distraction so that an eleven-year-old girl could be kidnapped from her home and forced to work for a murderous villain after being forcibly addicted to drugs.

That it could so easily have happened to her was something that also preyed upon Lisa's mind. How did that quote go? There but by the grace of God go I?

So she would make amends by getting Dinah Alcott back to her family. If in the process she managed to kill Coil in order to ensure her safety, that was of the good.

Or rather, if Taylor managed to kill him. She'd replaced the gear that she'd lost last night, while Lisa had watched, both fascinated and mystified by the process. This time, she'd ended up with a silver helmet that matched her boots, while the rest of her gear had been that same neutral gray.

Unfortunately, Lisa had been unable to make heads or tails of how it was all being created and only Taylor's judicious use of her healing rings had kept a crippling migraine at bay. It had been damn frustrating to not know what was going on. Ultimately, even the new helm's power, whatever it might be, stayed a secret.

As had whatever exactly had happened to Taylor while she'd been doing a Jonah. Oh, the mostly sweet girl that she had met at the mall just days before was still mostly there, but she wasn't sure what remained, if anything, of the costumed avenger. Lisa was starting to worry that Taylor might not even be willing to eliminate Coil when she figured out a way to get to him.

Lisa decided to take a moment to check the local news to take her mind off of both Coil and her potential new teammate. Staring at the different televisions that she had on, each tuned to a different station, she listened with only the tiniest part of her attention. After all, her power would do the rest.

Then one news story out of the myriad ones being told caught her attention. With a sinking heart, she recognized the house on the television screen surrounded by dozens of vehicles topped with flashing lights.


AN: Next chapter: Endgame