Progression 5.2

Taylor

"There's a lot more waiting around than I thought there'd be," Lisa commented idly, adjusting her tie and overcoat as she scanned they city's skyline while they waited.

Gamakichi snorted in agreement as he worked his way through his third cigarette of the night so far.

No, not Lisa Taylor reminded herself, shooting a glance towards the faceless, featureless expanse of flesh colored mask that took up her face. It was Noir while they were in costume.

"I know the Wards do patrols," Taylor said as an answer, "but for us, it's much more efficient to wait on the toads."

"I suppose they're faster than us," the thinker allowed.

"Stealthier too," Taylor agreed. "And actually," she paused, feeling a pulse of urgent warmth bloom across the connection she had to one of her toads, "it looks like we got something."

"Finally," Noir replied, stretching as she walked over to Gamakichi.

The massive amphibian hunched over obligingly as Taylor and Noir scrambled on top of the toad.

"Let's go see what sorta fish we caught," the toad rumbled with a grin as he stamped out his cigarette and launched himself in the direction Taylor indicated.

Noir sucked in a breath as they soared through the sky thanks to the assistance of a chakra powered toad.

"You handle this much better than the others do their first time," Taylor complimented honestly.

"You've never had to ride on one of Bitch's dogs," Noir replied.

Taylor supposed that was fair enough.

"We're close."

Noir nodded seriously, straightening her posture and checking her weapons. The taser in her coat pocket and the pistol in the shoulder holster under her trench coat.

Taylor had been sure to emphasize that as a very last resort which Lisa had readily agreed too. Apparently she'd primarily used it for intimidation purposes as a villain. To keep people compliant and shake their composure and help her shake loose a few more details for her power to work with.

Taylor still wasn't exactly comfortable with it but Lisa didn't have toads at call to keep her safe the way she did.

Gamakichi landed on the roof her toad was hiding at. Taylor gave a quick nod in greeting to the little toad who was frantically pointing over the side. Following its direction, they looked over the edge and saw two tanned women being cornered by three members of the ABB. Rather than scared, the women looked furious, shouting at them rapid-fire in a language that Taylor was unfamiliar with.

"Cambodian," Noir muttered distractedly before Taylor could ask as the thinker turned her full attention to the scene before her.

Taylor looked at her curiously, even though her mask had no eyes, she could practically feel the intensity of Noir's stare.

Attention was drawn back to the confrontation as one of the women shouted and pushed one of the approaching ABB members off of her. Rather than fear, the two women only seemed angrier.

Taylor motioned to Gamakichi, it was time to intervene before things got out of hand.

"Actually, mind if I take this one?"

Surprised, Taylor turned to regard the blank face of her companion who stood expectantly, hand on her hip.

"Are you sure?" Taylor did her best not to seem doubtful, not wanting to dissuade the former villain from any heroic impulse she might have had.

"Trust me," Noir replied. Again, Taylor could practically feel the grin that must've been curling beneath her mask.

"Let her have this," Gamakichi chimed in, "it's her debut. Might as well see what she's got."

Taylor made a snap decision. "Quickly then," she said.

Nodding sharply, Noir turned towards Gamakichi and tilted her head inquiringly.

Grinning, the toad gestured for her to hop on.

"Thanks big guy."

Taylor watched with mixed feelings as someone else leaped into a fight with Gamakichi. It was a weird thing to feel jealous of, especially when she'd given explicit permission for it but feelings didn't always make sense.

Frowning and hoping she hadn't made a mistake, Taylor let out a rough sigh as she ran her hand through her hair.

A judgmental croak interrupted any wallowing.

Turning to the little scout toad Taylor raised her brow, "What?" She did her best not to shift under the little toads accusing stare.

"I'm sure they'll be fine," she defended.

The toad let out another judgmental croak and raised an eye ridge in turn.

Agitated, she ran her hand through her hair again.

"They'll be fine," she said again.


Lisa / Noir

She did her best to ignore the feeling of her stomach trying to escape her throat as she plummeted toward the ground with the toad, landing with a crash in between the two women and the three ABB members.

All parties stumbled backwards in shock, the middle ABB member who'd drawn a knife flailing it in front of him instinctively to ward off a charge that wasn't coming. His two companions looked like they barely stopped themselves from fleeing, only a harsh glare from the senior gang member keeping them in place.

As she'd thought.

The two newbies couldn't have been older than high school students.

The two women looked shocked and wary, though relaxing slightly at the sight of the toad.

Interesting.

She glanced down at their shirts and saw a red hand print on their shirts over their stomachs, the red looking almost like blood in the bad lighting.

Also as she'd thought.

She patted one of the women reassuringly who flinched at the unexpected contact as she slipped her a piece of paper.

Ignoring their confused stares she put them out of mind as she focused her considerable attention on the ABB members in front of her. Or more specifically the leader, Wei Shen. A man that she was already intimately familiar with having researched him heavily as one of the men in charge of guarding Lily when she'd been a prisoner.

She let the details filter in. It helped that she was already familiar with him. A Chinese immigrant and one of the earliest ABB members, from back in the days before Lung. A career criminal who'd risen in the ranks during Lung's regime by having no conscience or scruples. However, from what she'd been able to figure out, he preferred to steer clear of capes in general.

She grinned at the white knuckled grip he had on his knife as he took in the faceless detective and the monster toad before him. Capes scared him. They tripped up some lingering superstitions he'd brought with him from rural China.

Lisa tipped her hat to him in greeting, grin stretching at his reaction. He was too hardened from a life of crime and exposure to Lung to flinch, but only just.

"Hello boys."

The two scrubs by his side however were not quite so composed.

"Who the hell are you?"

Clinically she noted how the anger in his tone to cover the uncertainty.

"I'm new in town," she replied. "You can call me Noir. A friend of mine pointed me towards a local disturbance and I couldn't help but intervene."

There was something pleasing in this, Lisa thought. The way her mere presence caused such hesitation in three men, all bigger than her. One of whom was a hardened criminal. The two flunkies couldn't decide where to look, like they couldn't decide what was scarier. The faceless person in front of them or the giant toad lounging in the background. She was starting to see why people might like this hero thing.

"Yeah well intervene somewhere else bitch," Wei snapped back, brandishing the knife threateningly. "We're just taking back what's ours."

There it was. Confirmation.

She couldn't help needling the man, glancing pointedly at the now silent women, making it obvious her attention was directed towards the red symbol over their stomachs.

"From the way I hear it, they belong with The Painted Lady." She shrugged, ignoring the now red-faced man. "Not my problem. How about you guys just give up."

"How about I gut you and take the bitches back to the boss," Wei snarled.

"Boss?" Lisa asked in genuine surprise. "You think Oni Lee can actually pull this off? That robot couldn't run a fast food restaurant let alone a gang," she said snickering as the two younger members exchanged unsure looks between each other. Her laughter suddenly cut off and she stared at the three men. "You don't think that after all do you?"

"What?" The gang member seemed confused, "what th-,"

"No no no," Lisa continued to herself. "Lee isn't a leader, he's a weapon. You've been around the block long enough to know that. So why are you sticking around I wonder?"

Lisa hummed thoughtfully as she took a few steps towards the gangsters.

That was the last straw for the two new prospective members who broke off and ran. Lisa ignored them as Wei cursed and threatened their retreating forms.

"You've been in the ABB long enough so it could be loyalty I suppose," she said thoughtfully, slowly walking a circle around the gangster.

Wei tightened his grip on the knife and shifted his stance. Hesitation from a lack of knowledge about her power allowing her to continue.

"That's not it either," Lisa muttered, feeling like she was on the verge of something without realizing it. "You're not the type for loyalty. So what is it? Why stick around? Fancy yourself a leader perhaps?" The detective cape shook her head. "No no, you know better than that. Too afraid of the capes to want to be in the spotlight like that. So what keeps you around?" She wondered aloud. "Power? Respect? Money?" She stopped, spotting the reaction. "Ahh, close. Money and something else, but what?"

Lisa hummed thoughtfully, barely paying attention to the gangster in front of her as she let her eyes wander across the alley, meeting the confused and frightened faces of the two women. Her eyes fell again to the symbol on their shirts. The bloody red hand print over their stomachs and she felt the pieces slot into place.

"Ah," she whispered to herself, triumph surging at the final connection. "Money and safety. I wonder, what would The Painted Lady do if she were to find out that not only were you one of the people in charge holding her sister hostage," she drawled, turning to stare down the gang member, "you were also the one that brought her to the attention of a second villain in Coil?"

She could already see it in her mind. Read his posture, the way he shifted his feet, rising slightly into a ready position. Desperation and fear overruling common sense. Caution over her possible power overruled by the specter of The Painted Lady.

A part of her marveled at the way her power read him. She'd always been better with information and data than people. She was growing.

Lisa filed it for later, focusing on the now. In a fight, she'd lose. That's just the truth of it, she could see that. Wei could take her on his own she was sure. Taylor's short lessons weren't enough to deal with someone like him.

Unfortunately for him, she thought as she reached into her jacket, the ABB member charging at her with the intent to kill, blade flashing as it reflected on the street light, he'd brought a knife to a gun fight.

Smooth as silk she drew the pistol from the shoulder holster, pointing it unerringly at the now white-faced gangster as he stumbled to a stop five feet in front of her.

Gesturing with the gun she motioned towards the knife. Wei grimaced but threw the blade away. Any hope he might have had seemed to drain as Gamakichi came hopping back with the two gang members who had fled slung over his shoulder.

"Not bad."

Lisa grinned and turned around giving a salute. "Glad you approve boss."

Taylor rolled her eyes as she made quick work of restraining Wei and binding his hands.

"So why'd those others run? I wasn't close enough to hear."

Lisa gave an innocent grin, well aware that it was pointless with her mask and shrugged. "Nothing much, we just had a little chat."

"You just talked?"

Lisa didn't need her powers to see the hero's doubt.

"She reminds me of an evil version of big bro," Gamakichi chimed in. "He was always good at talking to people too. Convincing them to do what he wanted. Though," he added, "he was usually a lot nicer than her."

Taylor nodded thoughtfully like that meant something to her and Lisa was left in the rare position of being the only one who didn't know what they were talking about. She assumed that the toad wasn't talking about that dopey yellow toad when he referred to his brother.

"And the gun? Was it really necessary?"

"No worries," Lisa lied easily, "it's completely empty. A useful paperweight for when a crazy man comes at you with a knife though," she joked, ignoring the knowing look from the toad as Taylor nodded in understanding. "By the way," she continued, "those two women ran off didn't they?" She was gratified by the surprise from the taller girl. "I can't say that I'm shocked."

"What do you mean?"

"Did you see that symbol on their shirt?"

"The red hand print?"

Lisa nodded. "The chosen mark for the group of women who've taken to calling themselves Hisako's Red Ladies."

Taylor sucked in a sharp breath. "The ABB's…"

"Sex slaves," Lisa confirmed. "Former sex slaves after what The Painted Lady did to them."

"What are they?"

"Vigilante I guess," Lisa said after a moment, understanding what the other girl meant. "Mostly whatever they have to be as long as it hurts the ABB."

Taylor frowned, raking her hand through her hair roughly as she took that in.

Nervous habit her power whispered, worried. Lisa squashed it.

"Why a red hand?" She asked.

Lisa grimaced, looking down at the immobile Wei that grimace became something decidedly uglier.

"Red for blood. And the hand for… well, the kind of work they were forced into is horrible. And the clients aren't always careful. Between the drugs and the pimps once they found out." Lisa sighed, absently scratching at the crook of her arm trying to satisfy the phantom itch. "It's so they never forget the lives they've lost, and the ones that were stolen before they could even begin."

The three stood there in reflection.

"Fuckers," Gamakichi grunted and Lisa nodded in agreement.

"I'm glad they're free now," Taylor declared after a moment. "I wish they'd chosen something safer to do after all they've gone through. But, anything is better than that," she said firmly. She shook her head, long hair waving like a banner, "anyway, we should call this in and make sure they get picked up."


A phone call and 10 minutes later the police were there and the three were wrapped up easy as that. The officers even seemed a mix of amused and flattered over her costume which she hadn't expected. Leaving Taylor to talk to the man in charge Lisa wandered over to the now handcuffed gang members.

"So Wei," she said, speaking casually as she stared up at the night sky. Lisa ignored the burning glare with casual ease as she continued, "being one of Coil's informants, you might get an offer sometimes soon. A way out of confinement. Maybe a jail break, who knows," Lisa shrugged. "You're mostly useless to him now that the sister is out of his reach I imagine," she continued, "but I doubt he wants you in prison where you can talk."

She waited to see if he had anything to say. When she was answered with nothing but the grinding of teeth she continued.

"It's a generous offer for sure," Lisa said idly. "I'd refuse it if I were you."

She grinned at the confused and defiant look on his face and decided to enlighten him.

"Wei Shen. Aged 42. Member of the ABB for more than 20 years. No known family or significant others. Last known address at 1642 Larkin Blvd and the man who exposed the sister of one Hisako aka The Painted Lady to the attention of the villain Coil. This is the information I slipped to one of those red girl's you were trying to 'take back'. Now, knowing this," she said, ignoring the horrified stare from the handcuffed man, "you might want to consider where exactly you're safest. Out here, breathing this beautiful fresh air. Or safe and sound in a cozy little cell with guards, bars, and concrete between you and a vengeful sister."

She patted him on the head.

"You have a nice day now."

Turning around, she started to whistle cheerfully as she began wandering back towards Taylor and Gamakichi.

Maybe this hero thing wouldn't be so bad after all.


AN - This was done really quickly so hopefully quality didn't suffer too terribly but I thought I'd just put something out there.