AN: Don't own Worm! Sorry this took so long I've been fighting with plot bunnies and laziness.
My phone vibrated distracting me from another pointless math class. Slipping it out of my pocket carefully I was surprised not to see any new text messages. That meant my other phone, my PRT phone. Slipping the regular phone back in and my cape phone out I was rewarded with a banner declaring a new message from my probation officer, Higgs.
New cape phoned 911 from Winslow. Mentioned you by NAME. Protectorate moving to detain. Do not engage. Risk of exposure to great. Be on guard until situation is resolved.
I had been riding high all day from the morning's prank. This was like a bucket of ice water down my back.
Hebert. It had to be her. Sure, there were plenty of people here I had pissed off but, no one I'd smacked down nearly as hard as her, or as recently. How the pathetic little shit had managed to get powers… Fuck that just… It's fucking wrong! The little bitch was pathetic! Not an ounce of fight in her!
I had to bite back a snarl. I did not need attention right now. I needed a plan.
Taylor would squeal. Hell, she probably already had. So then why did Higgs say the Protectorate was on their way? No something was off. If it was a lie it was poorly thought out. They wouldn't be able to drag me out of class without drawing attention…
My other phone vibrating broke my train of thought and I had to fight hard not to curse at the distraction. A quick glance told me it was from July. Which was weird on its own. The goody goody never used her phone in class.
The message just said 'cape!' but attached was a picture of a ball of light just hanging above and to the left of some classroom door.
That was… actually good news. If Hebert was stupid enough to use her power around civies, especially in a school of all places then no one was going to be asking any questions. They would just take her down and figure everything out later.
That was good, that was really good. It meant Higgs was on the level and the Protectorate would be coming to haul Hebert's ass off to a cell which bought me time. She would still squeal, probably already had which meant, what? Someone was covering for me? That Hebert had really lost it and was threatening to go Cary? That some numb nuts had heard new cape and my civ ID and just tuned out the rest? It didn't really matter why, unless it meant the PRT was going to side with me.
I started tapping my pencil against my desk. I had to think this through. A low-pitched whine and a blinking red light from above the blackboard distracted me before I could even start to plan.
The cape alarms.
The cape alarms were added to the normal set of drills after people realized that a locked door was so much tissue paper against most capes. The normal intruder protocol of turn off the lights lock the door and hide in a corner really wouldn't slow down an average cape. The nine proved that back in 06.
The cape alarms were installed in schools across the country along with protocols to evacuate the schools in 07.
Then the nine pulled the same stunt again in 08. Only this time they had half of their members waiting outside the school. Kids ran right to them and ended up trapped between two groups of psycho killers. It took even less time then they're attack in 06.
Now we still have the alarm system, but no one has been able to agree on cape attack protocols since then. Protocol could literally be whatever the hacks in charge of the local schools came up with. For Winslow under the current board of Ed. that meant falling back to the old intruder plan. Lock the doors, shut off the lights, pretend to be a fucking mouse until the heroes arrive to save your sorry ass. Worst. Fucking. Plan.
I hated being crowded in with all the useless shits sitting in the dark. Sniveling fucking cowards. Still it would give me time to think.
Right, what did I know? The PRT were coming to get Hebert, or potentially some other no name little shit, but most likely it was Hebert. I mean I suppose the locker was bad enough to make her trigger, though how she lucked into powers I would never know. It could have been some other shit for brains who lost it but no one else had any reason to call me out. It would be just like the little bitch to get powers and call the police rather than settling things herself. Pathetic, no good, fucking snitch.
Whatever, so they hadn't put two and two together, yet. Could they prove I was the one who pushed Hebert in there? Probably not, but if they actually investigated, which they would have to because powers had been used in a school, the truth would come out. Someone would squeal. Not Emma, and probably not Madison. But people had heard the shouting, people had smelled the crap that was stuffed in there with her. And people knew the three of us were the ones to go after her. Someone would break. The story would get out.
Piggy had made it very clear what would happen if I stepped out of line. I wasn't going to juvie over that little shit Hebert. I'd have to run.
Fifteen minutes later and the intercom came on. It wasn't Blackwell's voice which meant it must be the secretary. Part of me wondered if Hebert had snapped and killed the Blackwell.
"D-do to a parahuman incident the school will be closing early today. The threat has already been handled. All students are asked to collect their things and make an orderly exit from the building. Thank you, that is all."
I was the first one out the door and already pushing towards my locker. After this shit no one would be collecting homework tomorrow so hauling books around would be pointless. Hell, I wouldn't even be here tomorrow. But I had to at least put on a show of ditching this crap in my locker instead of a garbage can. I only made it about twenty steps before both my phones started to vibrate. Ignoring the regular one I fished out the PRT one to find another message from Higgs.
Report in at the normal time. Breaking from routine could further compromise civilian ID if anyone is looking for you when school has been cancelled.
Regular time, that meant I had until five to work something out. That meant just over six hours unless they started to piece things together sooner. I needed to move. Useful as I might be, the Pig wouldn't hesitate to throw me under the buss if she thought I was harassing civies, or doing something to fuck up her precious PR.
Fuck, I was going to make Hebert pay for this!
Corporal Jeremy Higgs (PRT)
Console duty is one of those jobs I both love and hate. It is safe, it is easy, it is important, and it's also about as interesting as watching paint dry. I loved not being one of the poor shits who got dragged out in full gear to take on capes. I loved having a cushy job babysitting Shadow Stalker and answering the phone. It just wasn't very interesting most of the time.
Normally I could bullshit with whatever other poor souls got stuck in here with me, but today Chuck was on duty across from me. Nice enough kid, but he's a kid. Takes everything seriously, like every moment could be the difference between life and death. It would almost be cute; if he was a girl and if it wasn't so damn annoying. Stupid, straight laced, wet behind the ears, punk. Didn't even have the decency to like football.
"This is the PRT. What is the nature of your emergency?" Chuck suddenly spoke up, grabbing my attention. Inwardly I groaned. This meant calls would be flooding in soon enough. Sure, enough I heard more people murmuring into headsets around the room. The buzz in my ear kicked me in gear and I slipped into my work mindset.
"This is the PRT. What is the nature of your emergency?"
"This is officer Simmons with the BBPD. Is this Corporal Jeremy Higgs?" Her voice was clipped and professional. That was, odd I usually only heard from the Winslow Principle, for monthly updates and track schedules. The PD had never given me specifically a call before.
"Yes, this is Higgs. How can I help you officer?"
"We got a call from Winslow high school principal's office, from a girl claiming to be a new cape. And by new, I mean brand new, past ten minutes new." I gave a low whistle. That really was new. Most capes managed to keep their heads down for at least a few weeks after they got powers. "Exactly, normally I'd just pass this up to whoever, but she was calling to report a crime, committed against her, and named three classmates as the perpetrators. One of the girl's name set off a red flag when I ran it through the computer, with a note attached to call you specifically."
"Sophia Hess." I felt a lead weight settling in my stomach even as I said it. This was bad. This was very very bad. What the hell had that stupid girl done?
"That's correct. Can I ask-"
"No, you cannot. There are at least a dozen reasons why she would be a red flag for the PRT and I'm not at liberty to disclose which applies to that specific individual." I said a bit harshly. Normally I wouldn't blame the woman for being a bit nosy especially when something like this was going on, but I was a bit too busy panicking to keep my tone in check.
"Right, right, forget I asked." She grumbled. "I'll be sending along a full recording of the original call shortly. Have a good day."
I bit my lip as she hung up. I'd helped keep Stalker out of trouble for a few pranks and some roughhousing in the past but I didn't think the girl was stupid enough to do anything that would see her facing charges… The director wouldn't see it that way either. Sure, I'd kept the girl out of a bit of trouble, Winslow got to have a Ward on campus so they got a little extra funding, and the director didn't have to bother disciplining Stalker over a schoolyard spat. But this wasn't going to blow over. The woman had absolutely no tolerance for breaking procedure. She'd see my hide tacked up on her office wall for this.
"Alright what have we got people?!" Paul shouted. Paul was in charge of dispatching response but with Parahumans you can't just send a squad car. That kind of stupidity gets people killed so it's his job to take in all the information and dispatch an appropriate response for things that don't call for the director's personal attention. Good guy, a bit stiff though.
"Cape presence at Winslow high school. So far, no violence or demands. Just some flying balls of light." Chuck shouted back
"Anyone got anything different? Any attacks?" A chorus of negatives answered him.
Then I had an idea, a crazy idea. If I was very lucky, I just might get out of this clean. One fight, even if no one got hurt. One fight against the Protectorate in the school and it wouldn't matter what the new cape said. No one would bother asking any questions they'd just draw their own conclusions. She was already using her powers in a school, whoever we sent would be expecting a fight, it was a powder keg, it just needed one little spark…
"PD got in touch." I called out. "New cape put in a call to them and mentioned Shadow Stalker's civilian ID by name. Apparently, she placed the call from the principal's office." No lies, just not the whole truth. I swallowed before glancing up at Paul trying to keep my face blank. Paul paled.
"Higgs, put in an order for a couple of squads to go to Winslow. I'm putting in a call to Velocity he's the only one in the area right now. Oh, and tell Stalker to stay put for now, we don't want to risk her civilian ID any more than we have to!" I nodded and started following my orders. And I kept my fingers crossed.
The buss rumbled lightly bouncing a bit now and then from pot holes. The city has lousy with the damn things. It was as much from cape fights as it was the fact that the city was just going to shit in general. I glanced down at the phone in my hand not quite believing what I was seeing. The video played out again this time with subtitles for the morons who couldn't spell
I had to hand it to the bitch. This took either serious balls or a serious lack of brains. I was leaning towards the later, but even then, it still took balls to call the fucking PRT and the Protectorate on their bullshit for an entire city to see. If nothing else she had gone big. I could respect that. It wouldn't stop me from getting even with the bitch though. She was going to regret making me go on the run like this. Powers or not she was still prey, and I'd be sure to put her in her fucking place.
With a snarl, I chucked my phones out of the bus's window. I still had some gear and a few burners stashed away around the city. I'd collect those first, and then I'd start planning.