EDIT: Chapter's terrible. Sorry about that. I was running off of about one hour's sleep when I posted the thing, and tired me makes stupid decisions... like ignoring every bit of planning I actually had, and posting unedited first drafts I wrote months ago, containing plots I had discarded :/ I'll rewrite it.

"Don't you want to be loved?" The voice whispered to her.

"I do," She had insisted back. The voice had laughed, slowly moving away – and so, she'd followed after it.

Except the voice hadn't been anywhere nearby. She still had a solid idea of a direction; but how far away, she had no idea. She sighed. It didn't matter – she could fly, and it wasn't like she had anything else to do. It was the middle of the night – no one would notice she was missing.

She came to a sharp stop as a wall of purple appeared in front of her.

"Come on through," The voice cheerfully insisted. She hesitated. "It's alright, it won't hurt. Come help me, so I can help you!"

The voice was off. There was something horribly wrong with it. But… Veronica knew they weren't lying. She floated gently through the purple rectangle, and found herself somewhere else.

The voice was… still away. It wasn't coming from any of the bodies around the place. Bleeding people couldn't talk… or something like that. She wasn't sure how that worked yet. Usually when people started bleeding, they stopped talking, and moving, and doing much of anything really.

Oh hey! One of them was moving! No, that was a really weird… eight legged… creature. Her fragmented memories said it was a… spider? But not quite, it was a lot larger than it should've been. She dismissed it as the voice spoke once more.

"This way," It urged, but gently. It was… soothing, and nice. Ahead, in the direction it wanted her to go, she could hear a strange static, making noises like words. It was trying to talk to her too.

"Ignore that," the voice whispered, so she did. The voice led her through a door. But, it was locked, so she took it off at the hinges. Behind it was a scraggly man, distinctly not bleeding. He had a strange beard, and Veronica laughed slightly. It made him look funny.

The man flinched slightly. Oops, apparently, he'd noticed her laugh. Her eyes idly flickered to the knife in his hand.

"Hey… lady, we really don't need to do this," He said, shooting her a smile.

"He took away other's loves," the voice whispered to her.

Veronica felt something weird in her gut, and tilted her head to one side, trying to understand what it was.

"He'll take away yours, too."

She growled. The man's eyes flickered slightly, but that was the only outward sign of his panic.

"How about something else, to keep you entertained? I'm sure we can talk this out," He said with a light, charming chuckle.

That didn't sound too unreasonable, she had to admit.

"The sleeping people were kind, like Wally and Esteban."

Wally? He'd been really kind! And straightforward. He had explained things really well, and really detailed. And he hadn't used metaphors or anything. He'd been very… efficient. It was a shame she didn't know his actual name, something about an arm or something? And he was really good at it? She didn't love him though. Just thought he was kind.

Why was she so forgetful? It was like something was making her forget. The air did smell a bit weird.

The man in front of her was replaced by Wally.

"It's fake," The voice whispered. "The man's trying to trick you."

"That's rude," She whined.

Wally took a step forwards, and sighed in relief as Veronica sat down. He gently patter her on the head, and she felt a flush of warmth.

"Sorry about that, not very sportsmanlike of me, I know," he said with a charming chuckle.

"He's tricking you," The voice whispered.

"I know," She whined. Veronica gently reached up and touched Wally's face, absorbing his smile.

He was tricking her… but he was warm, and made her feel nice.

"He doesn't love you, he won't make you feel loved. Don't you want to be loved?"

Veronica nodded. Wally gave her a strange look.

"Are you okay, beautiful?" He asked, his eyes full of concern. Veronica's cheeks flushed, and she felt her mouth twitch upwards.

A stab of disappointment ran through her, and her body became less responsive, though her hand still rested against his face.

"If you kill him, I'll give you the real deal," The voice promised.

The man's eyes flickered, before his head vanished beneath her fist. Veronica felt cold as his body fell to the ground, turning back to normal. She sighed and let his body go. She could feel another parasite in his mind, letting out a lot of annoying static. She begrudgingly took it, just to shut it up. It was something about… talking? She dismissed it. She could deal with it later.

"Good work. But before that… there are a few more people I'd like you to meet. They were tricking you, too, and they're going to get in the way. If I guide them, would you be willing to take care of them?"

"What's in it for me?" She asked, curiously.

"They have parasites in them, for you to take."

Veronica considered I, before nodding. "… okay. What are their names?"

She didn't want to forget them. People shouldn't be forgotten, or something like that – The actual Wa- Armsmaster, had said that to her. People liked being remembered? No. That wasn't it. It was still so hard to think through the fog. It was something like… if she ever killed anyone, he wanted her to tell him their names? Something about paperwork?

"The man you just killed was called Jacob. The others are called Cherie, William, Mimi, and Bird. There are a few more, but I'll take care of them."

"Just one more," the voice whispered faintly.

It had disturbed her dreams… she had those now. She didn't remember them, but she remembered just enough to know they were happening.

"What is it this time?" She whispered back.

"Just one more thing to do, and I'll uphold my end of the promise. It's time to get you out of her again, okay?"

Another wall of purple appeared in front of her, and Veronica resignedly passed through it.

"It's okay," The voice reassured her. "This won't take as long as the last time. I just want you to have a look at something, okay?"

Veronica started down at the pulsing, incomprehensible mess beneath her. It called up to her… even dead, it was crawling with parasites, parasites that had been sliced into pieces, and moved, and shattered from a great impact.

"I don't want you to start taking them – I just want to know if you think you could."

"They are dead already," Veronica replied neutrally. "I do not want them. They feel like the ones Mimi and Bird had. They do not feel nice."

"I know, but do you think you could, if you were presented with something similar, but alive?" The voice insisted.

Veronica considered, tilting her head to one side. "It would take me a while, but yes."

The voice sighed lightly. "That is good to hear."

There was a very faint hissing noise, and the air began to smell strangely again.

"It is time for me to fulfil my part of the bargain, I suppose."

"Yes!" She said desperately. "Please. I… please."

"Sorry," The voice said with a chuckle. Except instead of a direction, this time, it was echoing around her. "I can't do that just yet."

That time, the voice came from right behind her.

Veronica felt a spark of rage flow through her, as she spun around and punched at the masked figure that flickered in her view. When her fist would've connected, it vanished.


The voice chuckled, and it echoed all around her. She gripped her head in pain.

The pressure began to build, and she screamed. The pain faded away, as she felt things all around her break.

"I'll give you what you want… in time."

Veronica let out a roar of anger, leaping at the voice as it appeared behind her. Her fist struck something, but it didn't feel like flesh. Whatever it was, it broke.

The voice howled in laughter. "Oh, that is adorable! This will be fun. Come, try to kill me! TO do that, you'll need to catch me first."

She swung, hitting something.

"I'm ovverrrr… heeeeeeereeeeeee…" The voice said, changing sharply. The figure reformed behind her again, but this time, it towered over her, and she felt a stab of fear, before her rage overrode it.

She charged, as a wall of purple portals surrounded both her and the figure. A wind blew against her, hard enough for her to shiver through her forcefield. The world around her changed, becoming cold, and misty. A thunderstorm whipped up in the background.

Veronica lost herself in a sea of terror, fear, and hate.

"So," Director Emily Piggot stated, resting her hands against her desk. "What do we have? What went down there? Start by filling everyone else in on the situation. I'm putting you in charge for now."

Armsmaster cleared his throat. "Very well. Any suggestions can be made by others once I finish, okay?" He asked, looking around the room and receiving nods from the assembled parahumans.

He'd come so far. She was proud of him.

"As we all know, the parahuman, trump-style clone of Glory Girl was taken peacefully to PRT holding, so as to be processed and questioned two and a half weeks ago. She came peacefully, of her own will, and cooperated entirely with investigations. We were all busy with Endbringer clean-up, so we didn't have the time to process her any further than that, and she was released from our care."

Around the room, another string of nods.

"At the time, we were inclined to think nothing more of it – while concerning that the clone had demonstrated Glastig Uaine style powers, we believed originally that the personality of Glory Girl would keep her in check. When it became apparent she didn't have that personality, we ran a string of psychiatric tests on her – all of which she tested negatively for. There was no reason to suspect she would become violent, so essentially, we had a new parahuman with slightly heroic tendencies to deal with at a later time, who seemed to hold a positive opinion of our agency."

"Yes, Armsmaster," Piggot added, slight frustration creeping into her voice. "I understand that nobody did anything wrong in the situation. You were all busy. That isn't the point of this mission; no disciplinary actions will be taken, and nobody was at fault. Please, cut to the chase."

Armsmaster paused for a moment, then nodded, pulling up a holographic computer from above his wrist.

When he'd gotten that installed, she had no idea.

"At the time, the only active parahuman groups in the Brockton area were the remnants of the Empire Eighty-Eight, the Merchants, a small gang known as the Undersiders, and us. The independent group New Wave suffered heavy casualties, and was taking time to mourn. The out of town villains and heroes who had stayed to help with reparations had just left, though their help was not unappreciated. Coil's organisation hadn't been seen since Leviathan, so we're under the assumption his base of operations was destroyed during the Endbringer battles, though we're keeping a tight eye out for him.

"Uber and Leet had vacated the area, Parian was staying neutral as always, and Renewal was indisposed of because of… personal reasons, though she was keeping a lot of the looting under control. Overall, all of the cape organisations except for the Merchants were heavily weakened, and none of us were combat ready. The city has been at relative peace, for the moment."

Armsmaster paused, and took a breath. "In terms of news on a wider basis, it has been confirmed that five members of the slaughterhouse nine are deceased. Crawler, Bonesaw, and Mannequin have gone missing. However, they are currently being hunted down by the Triumvirate before they can recover their numbers. The group is predicted to be wiped out within the week."

There were a few stifled gasps throughout the room at the confirmation, but she rolled her eyes. How any of that had been in doubt, she didn't know.

Piggot gestured for him to continue, as a few of the PRT troopers murmured questions of how they'd died. As if that hadn't been made obvious from the context of the conversation. Sometimes, she got sick of how stupid most people were.

"It is great news, indeed," Armsmaster said with a slight smile, gesturing for people to quieten. "However, this is not all positive news. The culprit for their deaths is the self-named 'Veronica', Glory Girl's clone. As you all know, she is a Glastig-Uaine style trump. She personally confirmed she was the direct cause of the fatalities, as such, it should be expected for her to hold the powers of all five deceased members. This was one and a half weeks ago. For a few days, Veronica further cooperated with us, and allowed herself to remain under maintenance."

Armsmaster took a baited breath. "Over the course of this period, it became apparent that, unlike we had assumed, Veronica does not hold the personality of Glory Girl. We were also able to get her to tell us why she left to go and kill them; she had been hearing a voice in her head. Other than that, she would not speak on the matter, and grew withdrawn from the conversation when the topic was mentioned.

"Three days later, Veronica, on camera, was seen entering a portal, which teleported her elsewhere. Days later, she reappeared, and began destroying buildings. When approached, she struck with no hesitation, and with lethal intent. Shortly after, she used Shatterbird's power, though to a lesser extent than Shatterbird normally would have. Thankfully, it was contained to a mere three blocks of broken silicon."

The computer above his wrist flashed a group of images, easily visible to all present.

She heard some of the soldiers around her almost throw up.

The images consisted of numerous massacres; entire buildings painted red, with the victims spread throughout the rooms and across the walls.

"The destroyed buildings have been a high school, which was thankfully still empty bar an unfortunate janitor, a supermarket, two different gas stations, the entire Medhall building, and a brothel. What believe what we're dealing with here to be a powerful master, and a second culprit to have access to portals of some kind."

She blinked. Armsmaster was… lying? That was a surprise. She understood why, of course. She just hadn't expected him to start thinking about PR.

Armsmaster took another baited breath.

"Due to the powers she has obtained, however, we have no choice but to act. Her initial violent outburst was yesterday morning, and attempts to contact her so far have been met with wanton destruction. Her erratic, violent behaviour cannot be ignored, and it is up to us to stop her. Due to her tendency to avoid killing unless directly interacted with, our superiors have decided we do not need reinforcements."

The room had gone absolutely silent.

"We are currently unaware of the locations and motives of the portal maker and master, but they are not the subjects of this mission. We will be taking steps to subdue the clone, however necessary. Normally, we would prioritise the master in this situation – and the moment we get any clue as to their location, our priority will switch. However, in light of the destructive capabilities the mastered clone has, we cannot afford to delay. The symptom has to be dealt with, as we cannot yet reach the cause."

With that, more images flickered up on Armsmaster's holographic computer. Specifically, multiple angles of different streets, flooded with water. Besides each image was another image of the same area, except filled with debris from the newly shattered buildings, and with the impromptu rivers containing floating bodies.

"As it currently stands, Veronica has caused multiple billions of dollars' worth of property damage, and taken the lives of dozens. Veronica has received a notional kill order, though her being subdued it far preferable where possible. This is a volunteer only mission. Those of you who do not volunteer will be in charge of trying to hunt down the master and portal maker."

Armsmaster finished with a grimace.

"Are there any questions?"

There was silence for a moment, before the room exploded into noise.

"Renewal," the familiar voice rung out on the other side of her earpiece.

"Yeah," she replied emotionlessly.

"Are you up to a fight?"

"Always." Fighting was one of the few things that got her emotions running, anymore. "Where and when do you want me?"

"The Glory Girl clone's been mastered and is destroying the city. We'd like your help in attempting to talk her down, and if that fails, subdue her."

"Why do you need me to talk?" She replied slowly, her voice trailing off half way.

"You're the best equipped person I know for talking to a brute."

"…Alright," Taylor said with a nod. She slowly stood up, he muscles barely responding. She drove her knife upwards of her chin, and a moment later, they were back to normal.

"Our teams are getting ready to leave now. How soon do you think you can get to us? Would you like a pickup?"

Taylor absently looked towards where she knew the PRT headquarters was. Only a few kilometres.

"I'll be there in a few minutes," She said, idly beginning to run at a sprint.

"Thank you very much for your continued assistance."

"No problem, Armsmaster," She said with a slight smile.

Internally, she felt a pulse of energy run through her like lightning, and her heart started beating faster – but not because of her run.

"I'll make sure you're compensated for your time. You've done a lot to help me personally, more than just your actions. If you ever need anything in return, please just let me know."

Taylor paused for a moment, missing a step and cracking her face against the pavement.

"Do you have any spare beds? I feel like sleeping. I don't need to, I just think it would be nice, I guess. That's more than enough."

There was a pause over the radio. "Oh course," Armsmaster said, his voice filled with something Taylor vaguely recognised, but hadn't heard in a long time. "You're welcome to stay at the PRT headquarters as long as you need to. I'll start filing the necessary paperwork the moment I get the chance. You're always welcome with us, Renewal."

That was nice to hear. Taylor stood up, and stabbed herself in the heart to fix the superficial damage her fall had given her. She continued running, but with a slight smile on her face.

"That… sounds nice," she admitted. "I'll be with you shortly," She said, returning back to their original topic, and reaching up hang up.

"Before you go," Armsmaster interrupted. "Out of curiosity, when is your birthday? Just a part of the paperwork I need to sign – I… have records of everything else required, but the computers were damaged."

Oh – right, he probably needed her personal details or something. And he already knew her name, so… it didn't matter. He probably could've checked.

Then again, the day before, Taylor remembered a bunch of nearby windows breaking and showering her with glass. She'd had to rush someone who'd had a glass eye to the hospital, hadn't she? The blonde girl's entire face had been mangled. If she hadn't been there, the girl probably would've bled to death.

Taylor still had no idea what had caused it. She'd been too busy to find out.

"It was two weeks ago, on Tuesday," Taylor answered Armsmaster's question.

There was a pause.

"Thank you. I'll see you momentarily."

Wait, didn't he need her year of birth? Uh… Taylor sighed, and decided to not care. She hadn't told him, he hadn't asked, whatever. She kept running.