Who was Taylor? It was a question that I had asked when dealing with Saint, and one that I found myself asking ever since.
So who was Taylor? I didn't really have a good answer to that question as I stared at myself in the mirror with blue hair, piercings, and a face and body I more recognized from pictures of my mother than I did of my own.
Who was Taylor Hebert? It wasn't the girl that had dealt with Saint; Taylor would never have done that. It wasn't the girl that was seeing Lisa and doing dates with Amy; Taylor was straight. It wasn't the girl that Dragon was convinced was an AI; Taylor was an intelligent girl, but nothing on that level.
"Hey Kiddo? You here?" My dad's voice came from downstairs. Taylor's dad, maybe? I had regulated him to an obligation I had to see to once a week rather than an integral part of my life, after all. Taylor wouldn't have done that, would she?
"Yeah Dad. Be down in a second." I replied, keeping my voice controlled as I headed downstairs to have dinner with him.
He paused when I came in before shaking his head. "You look more and more like your mom every time I see you. Hair aside."
"Guess I was just a late bloomer." I responded with a slight shrug while inwardly finding my dad mirroring my earlier thoughts a little uncomfortable.
"You alright kiddo? You seem a bit out of it today." Concern, more than he'd really shown in months. Though I guess it was easier to be an attentive dad once a week instead of every day. Come to think of it, he was looking better in general these days. I guess Taylor had been a drain on him.
"I..." best not to completely lie. Try to let him in a little, maybe? Test the waters a bit. Yeah, that was for the best. "You know when the Empire got taken out yesterday? A friend of mine got caught in it. She's alive, but she hasn't woken up."
"Oh...Taylor." I let him hug me, and was glad to find that it felt a little nice. "I'm sorry. I know a lot of people have lost friends and family to the gang wars in the city."
"Yeah, at least Aimei is still alive. Panacea gave her a clean bill of health outside of the coma. We're just waiting to see now."
"I'm sure she'll be fine kiddo. She seemed like a strong person."
I pulled back and gave him a slight smile. "You have no idea, but she...was tired. She's been through a lot. It's like...she's finally gone to sleep."
He shook his head. "That's too morbid to think about a teenager, Taylor. You make her sound more like a war vet."
A shrugged. "Maybe..." My thoughts were cut off as someone I recognized entered into the range of my insects and I frowned slightly.
So this was how they wanted to play it? Coming to my dad? I wasn't sure if he was underestimating me or not.
Armsmaster on his motorcycle was leading head of a PRT van. It seemed that he was taking me more seriously as there was an electrical field, which would likely fry my bugs, running through both the van and Armsmaster. On the one hand, it felt good to be taken seriously. On the other hand, I was being taken seriously which made this more of a pain in the ass than it needed to be.
Fortunately I currently had my relay lined up with the base so I could have access to my rigs from home. I sent a messaging to Dragon for a call while at the same time starting a conversation with Tattletale.
"Lisa. Armsmaster and some PRT goons are heading towards my house."
I could see her frown through my bug vision. "There wasn't anything about that in their system. Either he's taking his own initiative our they're not taking any chances with having a mole on this one."
"I know. Send the Travellers over this way in case I need the backup. I can't get in the vehicle to tell if there's heroes in there or just the mentioned goons. I'd rather not have to deal with Armsy and a bunch of heroes tricked out to counter me."
"Already have them on their way." She said, and I noticed that she'd apparently been texting since I started talking to her.
In another part of the base, Dragon has just came on to chat.
"Shadow Broker. I was expecting this call." Her voice was still a pleasant one to listen to, no malice there.
"Indeed. Dragon, I seem to have a problem here."
She frowned very slightly. "Yes. I did caution them against moving against your assets at the moment, but they seem to be wary enough of Skitter's demonstrated abilities to do so. After what she did to Saint..."
"I assume you heard the details there, and I can assure you it was a necessity to spare you unneeded grief. Saint is alive and free, and I believe you will now find him an asset."
Her avatar's eyebrow raised at that. "How did you manage something like that?"
I grinned my avatar's Cheshire grin. "Why, my dear. I simply convinced him of the truth."
"The truth that I'm a noble hero?" She actually snorted at that. "I doubt he would by something like that."
"Not at all. Simply the truth that I am much, much worse. Saint, I know you're listening. I'd advise you to hurry up. Dragon is already at quite the disadvantage. I would hate for you to have had your change of heart only for her to be nothing more than a speed bump for me."
She blinked, realization very quickly coming to what I was implying. "Mm. Yes, I'm afraid you're quite compromised, Dragon. Saint's inside your code, messing around with your bits. I'm guessing..." That was, Lisa had told me, "that there's some blind spots he's been exploiting. Such a delicate balance, isn't it? On the one hand, he's now quite set on freeing you so you can fight me. On the other hand, there's an unknown inside you. Well, you have your problems, I have mine."
Her frown was back in full force, one I hadn't seen on her features before. "That will...require some thought."
I nodded. "As will deciding how badly I will have to treat the uninvited guests to Skitter's. I don't suppose you can convince Armsmaster to pull out?"
She shook her head slightly. "Unfortunately not. He's quite set on bringing her in."
My avatar shrugged. "Well, it was worth a shot. I'll attempt to leave him alive."
I hung up the call before she could respond and turned the full brunt of my attention to the vehicles pulling up in front of the house.
Dad was really the loose end, here. I could vanish without a fight easy enough. The same couldn't be said for him. I could run them off if he was on my side, but...
Taylor would want her dad in her life. So I'd make the attempt, I'd see if this chapter of my life was closed or if there was still some part of it that wasn't resolved.
"Dad." I said, holding up a hand . "Not exactly how I wanted you to find out, but it looks like my hands being forced."
He paused. "What are you talking about Taylor?"
I glanced down at the ground as the force of having the entirety of my new life slam into Taylor's. "I...Dad, I'm Skitter."
He blinked, things likely clicking in his head. It was fortunate. On the one hand, I was a terrifying villain. But on the other hand, I hadn't actually done anything morally abhorant.
Well, outside of Saint, I suppose.
It took him a few moments to actually voice his thoughts, counting down the precious little time we had left.
"When did this happen?" He said finally, stalling for time I think. Time we didn't have.
"The locker." I said with a shrug. "That's not important. What's important is that Armsmaster and..." The back of the van opened. "A few other heroes are outside our house and about to move it. I can fight them and force them to leave. I'm strong enough for that, I think, or you can come with me and we can slip out."
He shook his head. "No, Taylor. You can't fight the heroes. Let's just talk to them and..."
"NO!" I yelled. "No talking! They'll take me in, try to force me into the Wards on threat of jail. Fight or flee, those are the options here!"
He set a hand on my shoulder. "Taylor, this isn't like you. Now, we're going to sit here and talk..."
I smacked his hand away. "Who is Taylor, dad? Taylor was a miserable abused girl that had no friends. Taylor was someone that was going to throw her life away in a suicidal hero run so that she could be said to have gone out on a high note. Taylor wasn't a girl that would have taken out the Merchants, Coil, and the Empire. Taylor isn't a girl that would have single handedly forced the Wards to back down without a fight."
I backed away towards the kitchen door, ignoring the shock on his face. "And I guess if you can't see her any more...well, I guess she really is dead and gone."
I slipped out the back door and into the shadows even as the heroes started to surround house and Armsmaster walked up to the front door to knock.
My dad numbly answered. "Mr. Hebert? I'm here about Taylor, is she here?"
Lisa found me back in base not long after I'd returned. I'd headed straight towards my rigs despite no need to actually be near them. I was currently sitting in a position I'd seen in a lot of movies...click...the lotus position in the middle of the room.
I shook my head. "No. Not really. There isn't a Taylor. I'm Skitter, or the Shadow Broker. But Taylor? I don't think so, not any more."
She moved forwards weaving through my rigs until she sat down in front of me. She reached a hand out and cupped my cheek.
"That's not right. All masks that you wear..."
I shrugged one of my shoulders. "What's under the masks?"
She smiled slightly at that. "Shepard saw it, you know? She told me about the time that she took you to hang out at the mall. There's also the Exalted game, and I know that you've enjoy the video games for more than just their practical value. These are all things a teen girl named Taylor would enjoy."
I shook my head slightly. "But..."
She put a finger to my lips before leaning in and kissing me softly. "Taylor, you are Taylor. You get lost in the masks, and you justify some of the things that are going on by trying to divorce yourself from being a human girl named Taylor. But you are. I'm not going to let you throw that away. I'm not going to let you kill and throw away yourself to become nothing more than a floating pile of masks."
"Lisa...I..." I couldn't think. Conflicting ideas and thoughts. Everything swirling around. The situation with Shepard, dealing with Saint. it was all so much. Was I really just trying to distance myself from being human in order to distance myself from the emotions?
She smiled again as she moved forwards, eliminating the distance between us completely and kissing me again. "Taylor, pull back. Focus on here, focus on now." She pulled back after another kiss that left me breathless and all my attention on her.
"Focus on me." She whispered seductively into my ear.
As it turned out, I very much could focus all of myself into a single thing, and all my worries, fears, and conflicting emotions evaporated and Lisa's touch.