I walked along the rooftops, hopping across the alleyway gaps when necessary, at a leisurely pace. Honestly, I wasn't too sure why I was doing this. I certainly wasn't that well prepared, not as much as I could be next week, or even tomorrow. Waiting a single day would render me two or three times as likely to get through a patrol in one piece.
Except… I knew that I had already wasted enough time waiting. In the beginning, while I was still stumbling around with my powers, I had wasted time on disbelief, panic, and even anger at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. But then I had calmed down, gotten my focus, and listened.
That had been two days ago. More precisely, that had been two nights ago, as my power seemed to activate in my sleep. In the time since then, I had fortified myself with armor I had carved from wood with my own two hands, arming myself with a similarly crafted sword. Were they the best I could do? Far from it. But if I waited another few days to eke out a small improvement in my equipment, I might never actually get out there to be a hero. The temptation to make my stuff 'just that little bit better!' might have never gone away.
So here I was, encased in wood, hoping that the reason that I was able to beat up gangsters wasn't because they were laughing too hard to fight back.
I stopped suddenly, tilting my head. I could hear… whimpers, muffled cursing, and muted thumps and thuds. That wasn't a good combination. I pinpointed the sound, and bounded over towards the supposedly abandoned warehouse I could hear the sounds coming from. I leapt onto the wall and clambered up, jumping around windows until I reached the massive hole near the roof. Wow, this building was in terrible shape. No wonder the shipping companies abandoned it.
Now on the upper banisters of the warehouse, I crept along until I could see what the people inside were up to.
I nearly threw up. Some Empire thugs, and it was obvious that that was what they were, were beating up a middle-aged black man. But even worse than that, they had a small child that looked like it might be the victim's child tied up and gagged. The child wasn't facing the group, thank god, but I could see him twitching and struggling with every strike they landed on the man.
I was disgusted. I pulled out a Featherfall Potion and chugged it. Then, I held out my hand, and a large wooden boomerang, nearly two feet across, materialized in it. Standing up, I let it fly at the group of thugs. The thug struck by the boomerang stumbled before crumpling, and I felt a brief flash of worry that I might have overdone it, but I quashed that feeling as I leapt down to the floor of the warehouse.
"Damnit, it's a cape!" One of the three thugs still standing hissed.
"What the hell are you monsters doing?" I snarled at them, before catching my boomerang as it returned to me. I didn't receive an answer, unless you count having three guns pulled on you as an answer, that is. I let my boomerang fly again, before leaping back into the air to dodge out of the way of their line of fire. This time, the thug in question ducked with a shout, and then kept shooting. I fell slowly, now grimacing at the thought that perhaps the Featherfall potion wasn't the best idea for high speed combat. I moved towards the thugs as I fell, positioning myself just so, in order to cause my boomerang to bowl over another of them on its return.
The two remaining skinheads apparently decided to cut their losses and book it. Fortunately for me, now that I was standing with my feet firmly on the floor once more, I was faster than they were. But…
I glanced over at the boy and his father, and then sighed. As much satisfaction as it would bring me to make sure that those jerks got what was coming to them, it was probably more important to make sure that the victims were okay. I ran to the child, who was closer to me, and untied his bonds and took off his gag. Immediately, he rolled to his feet and dashed over to his father.
"Daddy! Daddy, are you okay?" The little boy was trying to stop crying. I felt awful. If I had gotten here sooner, if I hadn't been taking my time on my patrol, I might have been able to put a stop to this earlier.
But my self-recriminations could wait. I walked briskly over to one of the downed thugs, and rifled through his pockets. Cellphone acquired, I walked back over to the injured man, who was sitting up now, groaning. I dialed 911, and waited a moment as it rang. After a few seconds, a voice answered.
"911, what is the nature of your emergency?" A crisp sounding woman stated over the line.
I floundered for a moment before getting a grip on myself. "Uh, hi. I'm a new independent hero, and I just stopped some Empire goons from killing a man and his son. Do you know what I should do from here?" I asked.
There was a brief pause on the other end of the line. "Well, sir, this is generally handled better by the police department, so for future instances, please use this number," She rattled off a number for me to use, "But we'll be sure to direct the PRT to your location so that a member of the Protectorate can meet you and debrief you about future such situations."
Oh! I was going to get to meet a member of the Protectorate? I hope it's Armsmaster, I'm a huge fan of his… I finished talking with the lady on the phone, including telling her the address of the warehouse, and tossed the cell back onto the thug I got it from. I walked over to the injured guy and his son. Crap, should I have called for an ambulance?
"Are… Are you alright, sir? Do you want me to get you an ambulance?" I would have wrung my hands, if I hadn't been wearing wooden paneled gauntlets. He had ugly bruises appearing all over his face, and he was holding one of his ribs tenderly. I hoped it wasn't broken...
He waved off my concern. "I'll be alright, thanks though." He paused, before speaking up again. "Also, thank you for saving us. If you hadn't come, who knows what would have happened to Anthony…" He hugged his son close to him.
"It's part of the job, sir. This sort of thing is why I became a hero." I said airily. Lies. I became a hero for the kick of it, something that I now felt was kicking me. I didn't want to set a bad example for this kid, though, or lower their opinion of real heroes in general.
We waited for a few more minutes, until I heard a vehicle pull up outside the warehouse.
"That must be the police." I said, relieved. I stood up and walked over to a window.
It wasn't the police. As a cape geek, I had put in a lot of time memorizing all the capes on every side of the conflict here in Brockton Bay, mostly for the purpose of accuracy on the PHO 'Cape vs. Cape' threads.
As such, even when it was from what I could see from across a street under a streetlight, I knew what Cricket and Stormtiger's masks looked like.
My mind flew into action. Let's see, Cricket has the ability to create sonic waves that can disrupt people, and she's also known to have superhuman reflexes and agility. Stormtiger's power was over air, he often shot pressurized blasts of air as a weapon.
Basically, as long as Stormtiger was here, my boomerang was useless, and Cricket would be much better at hand-to-hand combat than me, though she was better known for wielding two weird little scythe-things.
Which made me happy that I had more than just my boomerang. I dissolved my trusty projectile and formed my spear in my hands instead.
"If you can move, sir, you need to get yourself hidden somewhere in the back. Looks like the empire sent a few of their capes to rough me up."
The man appeared to want to argue for a moment, but after glancing down to his son, his shoulders slumped, and he nodded. from the corner of my eye, I watched his son help him hobble further into the warehouse. Once they were far enough away, I strode out the door and took a stance with my spear.
"Hello there. What can I do for you two this evening?" I asked them pleasantly. Under my wooden helmet, I was sweating profusely. Hopefully, I would be able to talk my way out of this.
They paused for a moment, before Stormtiger replied. "We heard that someone had assaulted a few of our members. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?" His tone belied the intent behind his polite words. This would turn into a fight, as soon as he tired of the verbal exchange.
I swallowed, before replying in kind. "I found four men beating up a fifth, in front of a child. Anyone would step in, don't you agree?" I was stalling at this point, and all three of us knew it.
He shrugged. "All the same, regardless of circumstances, the Empire cannot tolerate any attacks on our members. Especially," He cricked his neck, and popped his knuckles. "Within our territory. Which is why I'm going to have to make an example of you, Treeman."
I grimaced. Treeman? That was terrible. I seriously hope that that doesn't become my cape name. I'd just die of shame. Note to self, try to come up with a cool cape name that doesn't spoil everything about me.
I was distracted from my thoughts on names by Cricket lunging towards me. I immediately brought my spear to bear and aimed it at her when all of a sudden, a terribly painful noise screamed through my ears, disorienting me and causing my legs to wobble.
Judging by Cricket's expression, the fact that this didn't stop me from holding my ground and stabbing forward with my spear was unexpected. I took a stupidly large amount of pleasure out of the fact that I could just no-sell Cricket's disorienting soundwaves. I stopped grinning quite as wide when she simply bent far enough to get out of the way of my spear.
She backflipped away from me, and shouted something. I couldn't hear, of course, she had just deafened me. Didn't she realize that? How long was I going to be deaf, anyways? I checked my status.
Deafened - 26 seconds remaining.
Bah, a whole half-minute with no hearing? That'll suck, fights are fast-paced. Since I couldn't rely on being able to hear attacks coming for the moment I took a few steps back to widen my field of view, keeping both Stormtiger and Cricket in sight.
Cricket appeared to be angry at the fact that I wasn't answering her, so I spoke up. "Sorry, you kinda broke my eardrums. I'll be fine in a minute, if you want to repeat yourself then."
She was probably scowling under her mask, but she reined herself in and dove at me again. I prepared to counter her attack with my spear, while desperately trying to figure out what Stormtiger was going to do to me in the meantime, when suddenly a cloud of dirt burst into the air near Stormtiger's feet.
Stormtiger stumbled backwards while waving his arms in front of him, probably to ward off the cloud of soil from entering his eyes. Cricket lunged to the side and came to a rolling crouch, eyes examining the nearby rooftops for the mystery sniper. Apparently, she found him, as her gaze froze, and she said something.
Man, being deaf stinks. How much longer do I have to wait?
Deafened - 17 seconds remaining.
This was taking forever. Ugh. I risked a glance towards where Cricket had been staring. I saw a woman in military dress holding what appeared to be a glowing green sniper rifle. Miss Militia, I thought, my inner fanboy squealing in glee. Ah, who am I kidding? I am my inner fanboy. Outer fanboy? Whatever.
I paid for my distraction in the form of Cricket's weapon slicing my spear-arm clean off just behind the elbow. I glared at Cricket for a brief moment, before dissolving my spear, now lying on the ground and forming my sword instead, this time in my left hand. Good thing I was technically ambidextrous now.
Apparently content with her impromptu dismemberment of my arm, Cricket beat a hasty retreat towards Stormtiger, who was now trading shots with Miss Militia. Miss Militia was apparently using rubber bullets to great effect, as Stormtiger was sporting several ugly bruises, in addition to a potentially broken leg. Hadn't he been using his aerokinesis to shield himself?
Oh, he had, but Miss Militia was pretty close. Nearly point-blank, actually. Wow, painful. Looked like Miss Militia was trying pretty hard not to inflict permanent damage.
Unlike Cricket, what a psycho. I watched as Cricket scooped up Stormtiger in her wake as they booked it back to their vehicle, an unmarked grey van. Miss Militia looked like she wanted to give chase, but as the tires squealed and the duo booked it, she reluctantly halted her assault. I saw her weapon shift into a small knife, which she sheathed, before she began walking over to me.
I saw an expression of horror behind her scarf - an American Flag - before she spoke. "Oh my god, did Cricket cut off your arm? We need to get you medical attention!" She began to pull a radio out of her pocket, but I waved her off. After doing so, I realized I should do it with the arm that wasn't a stump, but eh, whatever.
"I'm fine, it'll grow back." I stated, unconcerned. "Lemme just speed up the process a bit. Would you mind looking away for a moment?" I unequipped my sword and helmet, materializing one of my Regeneration potions in their wake, which I downed. Smacking my lips, I re-equipped my helmet. "Alright, you can look again." She turned back around, the face I could see above the scarf still being unnaturally pale. Surely she had seen someone's arm get cut off before in her career?
I held up my arm and watched the stump crawling forward. Grinning, I watched the veins and arteries creeping ahead of the flesh, before being swallowed up in the encroaching limb. This always looked so cool! I shook my head to clear my mind of thoughts like that. It was the little things that made me remember that I wasn't quite right in the head anymore.
But how else am I supposed to be? I've died more times than I can count in the past few weeks, so I don't think I have much of a shot at normality anymore. I only have two modes, now. Greg, and Cape, neither of which make a strong impression of normality.
Miss Militia had found her voice again. "I see. Are you… used to having to regrow limbs?" I could hear the concern radiating from her voice. Was she hunting around for if I had an abusive home life? Well, that wouldn't get her anywhere.
I thought it might be amusing to be honest here. "Yeah, but it's no big deal. My training is pretty intense. This was actually my first night on the street." I smiled under my helmet. "How do you think I did?" My tone was bright and chipper, which she probably found disconcerting, given my lack of concern for the loss of limb.
Still, she was professional enough not to let it enter voice now that she had regained control of herself. "Very well, actually. Not many can hold off Cricket, even for a short time. I assume that your regeneration also fixed your eardrums?" I nodded. It was pretty much true, anyways. "Changing subjects slightly, here, I was curious… can you make your," She paused here, gesturing towards my hand. "Weapon, turn into anything?"
I hesitated, wondering how much I should reveal about this aspect of my powers, before settling on an explanation. "Not really, I have a pocket dimension full of stuff that I can swap things out for." Basically true.
Miss Militia was silent for a moment, probably considering what her next move should be. "...Do you have a cape name? I can't just keep calling you, "You."
My mind screeched to a halt. My name! Argh, I hadn't had any time to think. I really didn't want a wood-based name, so I said the next thing that popped into my head. "Oh, uh, Terrari-uh, Terrarian. Call me Terrarian." I stammered out.
It worked for me, I think. It was both more descriptive than anyone else could figure out, and didn't actually tell anyone anything about my powers. Perfect!
Her eyes crinkled into what was probably a smile under the scarf. "Well then, Terrarian, would you like to come back to the Rig with me? I could give you a tour, show you a few things about the way the Protectorate goes about it." The offer was tempting, but I couldn't accept, for multiple reasons. Not the least of which is that we had forgotten about the man with injuries in the back of the warehouse.
"Sorry, but I'll have to pass on that for now. The man that the thugs earlier were attacking is inside this warehouse, I had him hide when those two showed up. He has his son with him." I stated grimly, reminding her why we were even out here in the first place. She nodded in acceptance. After we had helped the man and his child get to the hospital, I begged off on the visit again, before scampering.
She gave me some parting words. "Just remember, Terrarian, if you ever need assistance, the Protectorate is here. Good work."
I made it home and quickly unequipped all my armor and weapons. I lay in my bed for about an hour before hearing the front door open and shut, pretty quietly. But not quietly enough that I couldn't pick up on the sound. The stairs creaked as a figure climbed them, and I could hear a voice muttering.
I glanced at my alarm clock. 2:30 AM.
She was home earlier than usual.
"Look, Brad, I'll be able to help more with the attack on Lung's shipments this weekend, but I need tomorrow to myself. I'm going to be spending the day with my son." There was a pause, before the voice continued. "Yes, yes, I understand. I'll take it under advisement, and factor it into my plans. New capes always change the scenery in small ways. Alright, good bye Brad, and thanks for telling Max for me." The voice went silent then, and I heard the footsteps continue down the hallway, hesitating in front of the other bedroom, before it crept up to mine.
The voice was quiet outside my door. "Good night Greg, sweet dreams. I love you."
Only after the footsteps retreated into the other bedroom once more, and the quiet snick of the door closing was heard, did I risk whispering into my pillow. "Night mom, love you too."
Author Note: Eventually, Worm will have crossovers with everything. I'm just doing my bit in making sure that day comes. Also, AAAAAAAAAH. Why do I keep starting new stories? I won't let any of them die for now, I swear, I'm just cycling around for now.