The first bullet hit me from behind, where my mask offered no coverage, and I slowly toppled. The second hit me before I could fall, before there could be any pain.
Darkness. Stench. Things crawling all over me, in my head, squirming. So many horrible, slimy things, invading my head. I had nightmares about this, still - had had nightmares. Before I was Khepri. When I was still human. Was this Hell? Had Contessa killed me, and now I would spend the rest of eternity in that locker?
I screamed. I clawed at the door. I vomited. I gave up. I barely noticed when they opened the door, and light came.
Lung's claws ripped into my stomach. I still wasn't understanding what was going on. I'd followed my footsteps from last time - the first time - numbly, not comprehending. And now my blood was spilling out, and the last thing I saw was Lung's dragon mask.
Darkness. Stench. The locker. I was dead. This was Hell.
I didn't care anymore. I saved the world once, and ended up in Hell for it. When Leviathan came, I didn't get to safety. I drowned in the first wave.
Darkness. Stench. The locker.
Death was no escape. I was in Hell. Death would just send me back to the locker. I might as well try to live, avoid that torture that way.
Two years. I managed two years. Stayed out of the way of everything, never got involved with the capes. Then Scion went mad again.
Darkness. Stench. The locker.
Darkness. Stench. The locker.
Darkness. Stench. The locker.
That was new. No stench. No maggots crawling. No blood. More space.
A lot more space.
A whole lot more space. Literally space space, as in beyond the stars. I opened my eyes to the inside of a structure that resembled nothing more than a giant pulsing organ, stretching out in all directions. My mind was assaulted by countless others, more than I had ever imagined. Hunters. Predators. Killers. Warriors. Drones. Larva. Broods. Trillions of servile minds all linked to mine and stretching out across the gulf of space for distances unimaginable. The place I rested my massive insectoid body was composed of infinite lifeforms which responded to my will. As were the walls and floors and even the weapons of the living ship which carried me between the stars, and into other spaces less and somehow more real.
My spawn scurried back and forth, feeding the new members of the swarm or moving my newly birthed eggs to the nursery to be tended to as they awaited planetfall. From a growth before me seeped a viscous liquid — food my memories supplied me. Made up of the annihilated and liquified remains of the worlds which had been conquered and consumed; broken down into usable material which was then siphoned back into the Hive to be processed and the useful genes picked out and passed on to the Swarm. My mind stretched out in all directions, including ones I had no name for, as well as into the past; millions of years of evolution dictated by myself and my sister-queens. Conflict and agreement over every choice, every possible mutation of the genome which made up my species since time immemorial; each decision old and simultaneously fresh as it lived on forever in the Hive Mind.
On this planet I directed the swarm to finish converting the last of the biomass into genetic material, their swollen bodies following our orders as they plunged into the Reclamation Pools to be disassembled into slurry which was to be fed into one of our sister-queen's ships. On another planet we guided the spores which carried the seeds of conquest safely to ground, to begin the process of gathering and conversion. In the far distance of the void a beacon of light shone, directing ourself and our sisters inward. The sensory ship reaches out at our command, seeking out a path and compressing the distance for transit.
The species would live on.
Pain! Panic! Disunity! What was happening? One of the sisters was rebelling, fighting the collective. Why? No, wait... I was rebelling. That was me. I am me. Not the swarm, not the Hive.
The weight of trillions of minds pushed down on me at the direction of my sisters, no the others. Millions of years of evolution and racial memories threatened to buckle my mind. I reached out, seeking anchors as I had before.
There! The oldest, the one least under thrall. The lord of the swarm. Releasing control of all but the most essential of my swarm I reached out and forced my will upon the other mind. Lesser in every way to my own, and genetically designed by intention to be subservient, it obeyed and in an instant I cut it loose from my sisters' reach. The lord of the swarm was a separate and concurrent part of the Hive, able to appear at any place our Mind touched. Separately and simultaneously. Under my direction it manifested itself, over and over on countless ships throughout the cosmos and leading back to our ancient first sector; picked clean of everything useful from microbes to atmosphere.
With surgical precision I cut my sisters down; on every ship, on every planet for quadrillions of miles in a geometric spread backwards for as far as our race had advanced since its birth. The psychic scream of trillions of voices echoed outward in a mental light which temporarily blinded my swarm sense. At the exact same moment every ship our race possessed calved a new sister to replace those slain. They were fresh however, unprepared though they possessed all the knowledge of their forebears through the Hive Mind. Reaching out I pushed with my full might, backed by the entire force of the Hive Mind; uncontested by any other for this sole moment alone while all other voices had gone silent.
As one my sisters submitted to my will, my purpose replacing their own. Their ships became an extension of myself, their bodies nodes through which to extend my control. Trickling downward from there every member of my species snapped to attention under my direct control. Several quadrillion minds, all poised at my mental fingers to do my bidding.
As one voice; spread out over thousands of star-systems, hundreds of thousands of dead worlds; I screamed. I was in Hell... and I had become the Devil. My name is Legion, for we are many.
In the year 745 M41 mankind would make first contact with a new xenos race. In the years to come it would be noted frequently that several signs of their approach were reported by the Imperial Explorators, but that no following orders were ever issued. The Adeptus Mechanicus outpost on Tyrus Prime were thus left wholly unprepared for the events that followed.
The exact details are unknown, due largely to a phenomena which has come to be titled the Shadow in the Warp, but enough information exists to allow speculation on the Fall of Tyrus. The only unquestioned detail however is that for reasons and by methods unknown a psychic backlash echoed throughout the Warp of such intensity that it slew all current Chosen members of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica, rendering the Astronomicon silent for the first time since its creation. The Emperor's might alone allowed all Imperial ships still traveling the Warp to reach safe passage, but thereafter the race of Man was isolated from its worlds as it hadn't been since the Great Crusade.
By the time new Chosen were called from the trained Astronomica Acolytes by the Emperor's Will it was far too late to uncover the truth. Further investigation revealed the people of Tyran Prime, the closest Imperial world to the source of the disturbance, had been rendered braindead; their minds wiped by the fury of the Warp Scream, as it would be later named. After considerable examination, sensor recordings of several ships of unknown design were tracked leaving the area. They were named after the world from which contact was first reported, Tyranids.
Direct contact with the Tyranids on any Imperial world would not occur for the next two centuries, despite the Ordo Xenos given designation of Xenos Horrificus and numerous sightings. Instead the Tyranids fell within the sight of the Ork Warboss, eventually Warlord, Ironteef after interfering in a burgeoning WAAAGH! with the Kroot. Thereafter it became common to see Kroot mercenary ships fighting alongside the Tyranid ships as a massive campaign was waged against the Orks; one that nearly a century as more and more Orks fell under Ironteef's banner and joined in what became the Ork's Great WAAAGH!, the conflict that almost wiped the Ork race and all Ork worlds from the galaxy.
It was only in the year 919 M41, slightly less than thirty years after the Great WAAAGH! that had consumed two Xenos Horificus species for the better part of two hundred years and in the process allowed the Imperium the luxury of greatly uncontested growth, that direct contact with the Tyranids would take place.
'Like any newly-commissioned young commissar I faced my first assignment with an eagerness mixed with trepidation. I was, after all, the visible embodiment of the will of the Emperor Himself; and I could scarce suppress the tiny voice which bade me wonder if, when tested, I would comport myself in such a way to bring honor to his name. Never in a million years did I imagine I would be doing so as the representative to what would become the first Xenos Imperious Auctor.
— Ciaphas Cain, To Serve the Emperor:
''A Commissar's Life'' 104. M42
The Loops have taught me more than a few lessons over my dramatically extended service. First and foremost among those lessons is how to take almost any departure from what I thought I knew and what actually was with a smile and an easy step. I'm not ashamed however to admit my heart missed a beat as I reviewed my Loop memories in the back of the shuttle on the way to my first posting on Desolatia IV. I was going into a situation which almost guaranteed an invasion of Tyranid forces, and due to a fluke in the timeline the best Imperial intel had to offer regarding what to expect from that inevitable encounter was secondhand information from the Tyranid/Ork War which had lasted nearly the past two hundred years. The implications were not lost on me.
Even before I stepped out into the blazing heat of the landing field I was already working out a method that involved leaving the planet as quickly as possible. Preferably with Jurgen in tow I reminded myself as I caught whiff of my would be aide's unique odor. Friendship aside, his abilities as a Blank would be indispensable in an Imperium with no functional knowledge of the Tyranid Hive Mind. Turning with a smile that did nothing to hint at the thoughts underneath, I turned to face my escort.
"Commissar Cain," I introduced. 'And you are…?'
"Gunner Jurgen. Colonel sends his apologies, but he's busy." He had the state of mind to be apologetic, and I waved it off calmly. I watched as the ground crew started to unload the cargo, crates and mining machinery larger than I was. The mines were the reason we were here; to ensure the continued supply of whatever this desert planet provided the Imperium and to ward off the stragglers of the Ork tribes which might be tempted to land here to lick their wounds from their devastating losses barely more than two full decades past.
"No doubt," I replied. Mostrue was the same as ever at least, which meant that it would be painfully simple to set things up to my liking as I had the first time around. Just because I didn't intend to remain here overly long, didn't mean I wanted to be uncomfortable in the meantime after all. I followed Jurgen back to the Salamander, mentally tallying up any possible leverage I had this Loop that I could call in to get myself reassigned to a different station; preferably one as far from the path I recalled the Tyranids using to work their way into the Imperium. Perhaps Intelligence; Warp knew I had more information than anyone else alive on Tyranid behavior this Loop. Maybe I could write up some pamphlets.
Hm... That was something I'd never done actually. Hero of the Imperium by way of paperwork. Nice safe paperwork.
I hadn't intended to go to war. That had been the Orks' fault. All I had wanted to do was try and figure out what the hell was going on in Hell. Then one of my ships had run into a battle being fought between them and a much smaller force and I decided that even if I was in Hell that didn't mean I was going to let a bunch of bullies have their way. The end result was I had managed to piss off an entire race of space orcs straight out of one of those fantasy games from Earth Aleph. However I had also managed to gain the gratitude of the Kroot whom I'd saved.
Unfortunately, whatever I had become didn't have the ability to speak which made communication difficult. Not impossible by any stretch as I still had the ability to use the swarm's buzzing to talk, but since the smallest members of my Hives were nearly a foot long it tended to send the wrong message when hundreds of them gathered together. Instead I had the help of a race of my Swarm's former slaves, who had been frequently used to investigate new species for genetic viability in advance to my ships' arrival. It had taken the better part of the seventy years prior to encountering the Orks to undo the damage done to and build relations with the Zoat, but in the end I had managed to convince them that I was different than the previous incarnation of whatever I was; and they in turn helped iron out an agreement with the Kroot, once I had convinced them that the Hive Mind was entirely under my control and wouldn't re-enslave them.
The Kroot themselves agreed to partner with my ships in exchange for providing them with some of the organic weapons my swarm used, and a meeting with their Tau allies. The meeting with the Tau was an interesting event. Their Greater Good was a concept that I agreed with on a lot of levels, but they reminded me way too much of the Yàngbăn for my liking. In the end they agreed to leave my swarm be so long as I didn't attack them first, and wouldn't object to the Kroot fighting alongside my Hives. In exchange I merely had to avoid worlds they had claimed as part of their growing Empire. I had already intended to do that anyway, so the agreement had cost me nothing. I had no intention of slaughtering the galaxies for raw material.
Uninhabited worlds of course were still fair game however, and in between using the Lord of the Swarm to engage in peace talks with the Zoat I had focused on shoring up the obvious holes in my swarm. Of course there weren't enough worlds with usable material but no sentient species to foot the entire bill. As a result I ended up forcibly recycling well over forty percent of my swarm to get the needed materials. In the end however it allowed me to ensure that one in five members of any given Hive Ship was directly connected to the Hive Mind. I had learned from Amy's Relay Bugs just how useful having the ability to extend the control of my swarm was, and I wasn't taking any chances on losing them the way I had with Amy's short lived gifts.
It would have been really handy to be able to design my bugs from the genes up back when I wasn't stuck in Hell.
The next step was much more difficult; namely making it so that my swarm was capable of self-contained reproduction. No more stripping a planet of literally everything that wasn't rock; it tended to leave a bad impression on the locals. Unfortunately that project hit a dead end once the Orks began harassing my hives. At first I had tried reasoning with them, but I quickly realized that that was an exercise in futility. After that I just avoided them whenever I could. But they weren't willing to let me be.
Eventually I was forced to retaliate, and they escalated the fight until my swarm had overrun their ships; consuming everything in its path. I had just wanted a little peace, but instead I was forced into a fight where even when I won I still came out on the bottom. Pragmatism however won out, and my swarm feasted. In the process I discovered two things. One: even if I myself didn't ingest the genetic slurry being funneled back into my Hive Ships, the 'taste' was passed along anyway. As the only mind in control it was up to me to decide which genes would be incorporated into the swarm, so I couldn't block out any of it. And Two: the Orks were not a natural race; memories of billions of years of guided evolution made it blatantly obvious to my senses that the Orks had been designed. They were made for war, in the most literal of meanings. They needed it, the same way other races needed water.
In other words, they weren't going to stop. They were going to keep attacking me, over and over, until one or the other of us was dead or defeated.
And they did, for nearly a two centuries; to the point that I was forced to fall back on the ingrained instincts of the Swarms to protect my Hives. We were forced to continue long past the point any intelligent race would have retreated to recover, but eventually the remaining Orks did learn the lesson. I don't ever think I'll be able to sleep again without having nightmares about the worlds we ate; now nothing more than barren rocks in space. Assuming of course I ever regained the ability to sleep.
Again I cannibalized the excess, and repurposed the materials left over into a functional swarm capable of self-propagation; all of which were directly connected to the Hive Mind I controlled. No more gaps. In between I worked with the Zoat and Kroot to form a working alliance. In exchange for genetic material they could feed on to advance their species, the Kroot would help me find an empty system I could root my Hives and the Zoat would be the spokesmembers until I could work vocal cords into the rest of the swarm. So far the only member of the swarm I had given the ability to speak was the one I had previously called the Lord of the Swarm.
I admit I had grown fond of the one that had allowed me to take control of the Hive, it reminded me of Atlas. I had named the giant beetle after the strongest of the Greek legends, the Titan who held up the sky. Along the same lines, I had named the Lord of the Swarm after the Greek god able to travel anywhere at the speed of thought: Hermes. Whenever I needed to perform a single task personally, Hermes was the member of the swarm which I used to do it. Part of that was the fact that his size and appearance provided a useful edge which I had grown used to as Skitter; the rest of it was the idea that if I was going to be a Devil, it was best I looked the part.
After all, when in Hell...
"Gunner Erhlsen, out of uniform on sentry duty." Toren Divas reported, the nervous Erhlsen nearly wilting under his glare.
"Who isn't in this heat?" I replied by rote. To my infinite dismay I had utterly failed to properly find a route free from the mire I had Awoken in. There hadn't been any response to the Ping I had sent which meant that either Leman wasn't answering for some reason or there was a Stealth Anchor somewhere. I made a point of sending out another Ping every day anyway, on the off chance someone else would Awaken, but so far to no avail. By this point I had resigned myself to what was likely to be one of my shorter Loops. "Nevertheless, despite the obvious extenuating circumstances, we have to retain some standards. Five days' kitchen duty. And put some trousers on."
Erhlsen gave a relieved salute at that, and quickly retreated in case I decided to dole out the typical flogging he likely expected for the infraction.
"I must say, Cain, you're not quite what I'd expected." Divas noted as he began to getting his paperwork together now that the last of the defaulters had been dealt with. "When they told us we were getting a commissar…"
"Everyone panicked. Assumed I'd be one of the hard-arse killjoys, am I right?" I asked with an amiable chuckle, the persona I wore to put people at ease fitting just as easily now as it ever had in Baseline.
Divas merely shrugged noncommittally. "You know your job better than I do, of course." Divas hesitated. "But don't you think you might be a little… well…
"Possibly. But a little leniency is good for morale. Keep the spirits up under this heat." This had the benefit of even being somewhat true. My belief that commanders who didn't throw their weight around being preferred over unknown possible alternatives, and protected as such in times of trouble, was as secure now as it ever was; but at least a small part of it was the acknowledgement that I wanted to make what was likely to be the final month for many of these men as comfortable as possible. Unlike me, they didn't get another chance if things went bad.
The silence from the Earthshakers was telling as we stepped out into the murderous heat and I realized with an unpleasant twist that time was just about up. Looking to the distance I scanned the area I knew Jurgen would be coming from. And there he was. Running full tilt from the battery offices, he caught sight of us and adjusted his course accordingly.
"Sir! Commissar! Colonel wants to see you right away!" Jurgen shouted out as he made his way over.
"What's wrong?" I asked, hoping I was wrong but knowing I wasn't.
"Nothing sir." He said with a salute, a wide grin stretching across his face. "They're pulling us out!"
"Yes, it's true." Mostrue seemed as pleased at the news as everyone else. He pointed at the hololithic display."The higher ups finally decided that we'd be more useful in a more high contact area and are moving us to join up with the Keffia task force. We'll need to get the Earthshakers limbered up for transport.'
"I'll see to it." Divas spoke up and Mostrue nodded.
"Seems a bit excessive for a handful of rebels." One of the officers, even after all this time I still never remembered to look and see which one, muttered.
"Then it shouldn't be hard now. Astropaths place the fleet at a few days out from planetside, that'll give us plenty of time to rendezvous."
I didn't have anything to contribute this time around, and even if I had it wouldn't have been believed, so I simply listened in as Mostrue set about ordering the men to pack up and prepare to ship out. However the last sentence was running on repeat in my head as I made my way outside. If the Astropaths still had contact with the fleet, did that mean the Tyranids had chosen a different target? I began to hope that maybe the only thing I'd have to worry about after all was reclaiming an agriworld from rebels. I wasn't counting on it though.
It had started as a metaphorical itch in the back of my mind; but before long it had become an incessant screaming that forced my attention away from working on the evolution of my swarm. Despite the ability to cast my attention outward into the Hive Mind and follow through the eyes of any and every member of my hives I myself hadn't moved from where I was for over two hundred years. Not only was I going absolutely crazy with the need to move, but my body was failing me as well. As such I really couldn't be sparing the time from my attempt to copy Hermes' ability to live on in the Hive Mind. If I died, the swarm would likely descend back into the previous chaos I had dragged it out of. But more importantly I was horrified at the idea that I would wake up in the Locker again.
This may have been Hell, but it was an easier Hell than I was used to. The thought of going back to repeatedly living my life over and over, fixing things or failing completely; and either way ending up back in the Locker again was enough to send a wave of physical pain throughout the swarm, temporarily crippling my entire Hive. I wasn't ready to go back there, and until I was I would do whatever I had to to make sure I didn't.
Unfortunately, that did nothing to resolve the blaring klaxon thundering in my Mind. Reaching out I pushed my senses as far as they would go until I found the source; a planet back towards the brilliant beacon that shone constantly outward. I had decided to ignore that almost immediately after noticing it before, and nothing about that decision had ever made me think it was incorrect. This other noise though was too close, too similar to my own. It reminded me almost of what Panacea had done to my bugs during the bank robbery. Turning my own swarm against me.
However, my memories from before I remembered who I was told me exactly what this was. Part of the Swarm from before the war with the Orks had finally reached critical mass and their presence was signalling my former sisters for dinner.
Well crap. I couldn't just leave untended portions of my swarm to destroy another planet; I'd have to deal with this. Reaching out to the sensor ships I directed them back toward the worlds I had moved away from not that long ago.
Space pinched and we were somewhere else.
If I ever did go back, I'd have to see about replicating that ability with my normal swarms; teleportation was awesome. With another mental prod space pinched again.
Despite my earlier misgivings the battle at Keffia was surprisingly free of Tyranid invasions. It was plainly obvious to me that we were facing a genestealer cult; however as this was the Imperium's first contact with Tyranid tactics the inhuman appearance of the 'rebels' had been confused for Chaos taint. Reinforcements were being sent and the agriworld was likely to be subjected to Exterminatus; but for now the Bioship hadn't appeared and we were making steady progress against the 'traitors' with each day. Nevertheless, I still kept my ears to the ground for any sign of the Shadow in the Warp making an appearance, which was why approximately two weeks after the battle began I was the first to notice when it did.
Naturally my first action was to make an excuse to return to the nearest ship in preparation for the incoming fleet. I had even almost made it when my radio screamed to life. "Sir, we're detecting a Warp Portal."
My palms started tingling and I casually picked up my pace, grabbing Jurgen as I passed and making my way back to the transit ship.
"Commissar? Where are you going?"
Mostrue, damn. "Command just let me know they've detected a Warp Portal. The transport has scanners, I can use them to get an idea what we're dealing with. It might be the reinforcements, or..."
I shrugged. "You and I both know I'm not much use here, I'm the odd man out. Instead, I would be better put to use dealing with command while you and your men deal with the rebels."
Mostrue squinted suspiciously at me for a moment, but nodded. "Fine. Figure out what we're—"
Gunfire abruptly drowned out the clearing, coming from the frontlines before the radio sounded out again. "Sir... The rebels just shot each other. All enemy combatants are down."
I met Mostrue's confused gaze with one of my own. Okay, now I officially had no idea what was going on here. The tingling in my palms increased.
Upon getting near the planet from which the mental clarion was coming, I brought my swarm to a halt. Bitter experience had taught me never to be too careful, and so I splintered a small section of the hive and sent it ahead to scout the area. The moment it arrived I immediately seized control of the errant members of the swarm, and in return I was rewarded by blessed silence. Looking out through their eyes I was caught off guard however to see just what my swarm had been fighting. Humans. Slightly odd humans, but definitely humans.
Ewww... that meant the swarm expected to pump liquid people back up into the ships. No way was I eating that. Bad enough I had had to deal with Ork thorough second-hand exposure from the other queens. I couldn't exactly let them run free however. I picked at the small connection they shared between each other. It reminded me of some of the parasitic insects I had researched prior to my first night as a cape, albeit far more advanced and targeted towards humans rather than animals or other insects. Interestingly, not all the 'hosts' were mindless. Only a few of them had anything like actual sapience, but most of the 'hybrids' had enough mental understanding that I was able to gather the important details. Most important was figuring out the language, which was like nothing I'd ever heard. Hundreds of hosts' memories of growing up among the prey made that easy enough. Then came actually picking out details.
The humans were part of an Imperium that had spanned the past forty thousand years, and were engaged in a neverending war against everything. Including godlike monstrosities that sought to kill them, corrupt them or eat their souls every hour of every day. They worshiped their own godlike Emperor who protected them from the Warp gods' manipulations, and was the source of the blazing beacon — which I even now had to studiously ignore — through methods which I didn't have the full details of but were clearly not pleasant from what information I'd gathered. They had a literally fanatical hatred of anything alien which meant if I showed up using Hermes I'd have probably started the newest out of countless other genocidal wars already fought and 'won.'
As I thought. Hell.
That confirmation aside, I set about fixing this incident. Directing the most human looking adult female hybrid to retreat into the forest alongside the purestrain members of the miniature Hive, I gave the order for the rest to turn on one another. Even though none of them were truly intelligent, without a doubt this would be yet another thing that would haunt my nightmares for the rest of forever. A parting gift from my time as the devil.
Only once the last of the rogue swarm had been dealt with did I turn my 'sight' towards the humans. They were hard to pin down to any nationality I recognized, and all of the ones I could see were male with larger than normal musculature. Additionally they held weapons straight out of a sci-fi movie; lasers and blasters, and was that a chainsaw sword? Obviously this was an army of some kind. Which meant there was a commanding officer somewhere; hopefully one who wasn't likely to shoot first and ask questions never.
In the makeshift camp we stood in I reviewed what I knew. One: the Tyranids were stronger than I had ever seen them, not least because Hive Fleet Behemoth was still active. Two: no one in the Imperium had even a thousandth of an idea about what was about to happen; although the fact that no spores had yet begun raining down was both a positive, since I didn't like dying, and a negative, since I had no idea what the change in tactics meant. Three: If by some miracle I survived this I was taking the rest of the Loop off.
"Sir, we can't contact the Astropaths. There's no response at all." Divas, worried but doing his best to hide it.
"Fuck. What in the Emperor's name is going on?!" Mostrue, his head held in his hands and reports cluttering the table.
That was a good question actually. With the genestealer cult having shot each other down I was just as confused as they were, probably even more so. The tingling in my palms spiked and I was instantly alert. Something was off, something... it was too still. Where were the insects that had been flying about before?
A staccato burst of lasgun fire rang out, the trees around us making it hard to tell from which direction it had come from, and had us all on our feet in an instant; weapons in hand. Jurgen came running into sight moments later, sketching out a salute as he came to a stop directly in front of us breathing heavily. "Sirs, we have reports of a daemon approaching."
...Well. This just kept getting better, didn't it? And now they were looking at me. Shit.
"Keep any psykers we have as far away as possible. The last thing we need is them succumbing to the Ruinous Powers now. Mostrue, can you and your men secure the area? We don't want any surprises."
Mostrue nodded, actually appearing relieved at my having taken command instead of being his usual irritable self. Good, that meant he wouldn't question me. Now I just needed to find a way out of here. Not waiting to see what happened next, I walked calmly out from under the command tent and towards where I remembered the light shuttle was waiting. I didn't really think I would be able to avoid the Tyranid notice, but the planet's biomass should have been enough to make pursuit not worth the effort. Unfortunately, I had barely made it a hundred meters before it appeared.
Nearly thirty feet of scales and claws, four bone sabers capable of cutting through any defense in its way; escorted by a pair of Kroot and a single female genestealer cultist, the pinnacle of Tyranid evolution. The Swarmlord.
Any hope I had of leaving this planet alive died a whimpering death. Then, in defiance of every natural law of reality I thought I knew, it spoke.
=Weee ccomee innn peeacccee=
Nope. Nope. Nopenopenopenopenope. Nope!
I admit I may have gotten into the spirit of things a bit too much with the greeting, but Regent probably would have killed me if he ever found out I had the chance to use that line and hadn't. I had expected a bit more of a positive reaction though. Even a fear reaction would have made more sense. Instead the man I had identified as probably the highest authority figure around facepalmed. Then as if once wasn't enough he did it again, before glaring at me.
"Ha ha. Very funny. Why the hell didn't you Ping? No, nevermind. Just go hide in the forest before someone sees you, I'd really rather not end up being labeled a Heretic this early in the Loop."
What? Wait what? Loop? As in Time Loop?
Without thinking I closed the space between us using Hermes, bending down until I was face to face with him. He flinched despite his earlier bravado, and I realized what I had done; pulling back enough that I wasn't right in front of him. "You know about the time Loops?" I shouted out using the female hybrid I had brought to communicate properly. Hermes had been intended as a bit of a joke, but that had clearly backfired.
His eyes widened, before his face met his palms for a third time. "Of all the... of course you would be a new Looper." He looked up with a sympathetic gaze. "You must have even worse luck than I do to end up as a Tyranid your first time out. Alright, here's what's going to happen. You take the Hive Fleet away from this planet and leave this one," he pointed at the me I had spoken with, "behind until we've cleared out the 'rebels' and made sure this planet doesn't get written off as unsalvageable. Once we do that I'll have the chance to explain things. Lay low and try not to get this planet, and more importantly us, killed. In the meantime I'll try and see if I can pass off the Warp portal as your Kroot friends. We've hired them before in other sectors, so maybe I can get them filed as Sanctioned Xenos. Never had Kroot in the Valhallans before."
The last part was whispered to himself, and I therefore ignored it in favor of the important details. My swarm was apparently known as Tyranids; I had nearly gotten another planet destroyed, by accident this time instead of self-defense; and most important of all, I wasn't alone. I could finally get answers for why I was trapped in this hell. If any of my swarm had been capable of it, I might have cried.
Two weeks after the events on Keffia had settled into a calm blur of normality, I finally had a chance to sit down and talk with the new Looper; Taylor she identified herself as. The new Sanctioned Kroot guarded the door to my office as I sat down across from the genestealer cultist she was using to blend in. Getting the Kroot approved had been no simple task, but years of politics and my intimate understanding of Imperial law had made it possible, and I was greatly looking forward to seeing what changed as a result of it. More worryingly however was listening to what Taylor had done after Awakening and claiming control of the Hive Mind.
I wasn't sure if I should be relieved or terrified beyond words at the idea of Tyranids that could reproduce on their own. I was less uncertain about all of the Tyranids being Synapse Creatures. No weak points she says! That's a nightmare I'd be having for a while.
"Holy shit, I did it."
Drawn from my musings, I looked up to see Taylor's puppet body repeatedly vanishing and reappearing an apple into her newly perfected Pocket. "Good. That and the Ping are the two most important abilities you'll need for your time in the Loops. Pocket sizes vary between Loopers in the beginning, but it'll get bigger over time. Going by what you said your typical powers are, I'm assuming you'll be using it to store insects frequently. That's fine, but make sure you release them before they evolve sapience. Living things are a moral grey area, but intelligent things don't go in your Pocket unless you intend to take them back out soon after. Otherwise you run the risk of losing the ability to see them as anything other than property, and that way lies madness on a scale even Loopers should avoid."
Taylor nodded. "I can understand that. I'll probably spend some time breeding smaller versions of the Tyranids so I can keep their genetic template handy for later. If I can't take the whole Hive back with me, I'd at least like the ability to reverse engineer Hermes later."
I paled. Hermes was her name for the Swarmlord right? Holy Terra Mother of Man, this woman was going to be terrifying once she got a few years on her. I forced myself to smile weakly. "We can talk about that later. For now we should figure out what to do with the rest of this Loop. I'm thinking we pass the Tyranids off as a race contacted by humanity prior to the Age of Strife, only now rediscovering its old allies after taking to the stars."
Taylor raised an eyebrow at me and I shrugged. "Worst case scenario it fails, and you're no worse off than you already are. If it works though you might be able to lose your Xenos Horrificus label. I know where we can find a reasonably intact STC, you hand that off to the Adeptus Mechanicus and it should buy you some leeway. You can see out of the eyes of all of your drones right?"
"Good, if you offer to help the Imperium find more of them it'll probably earn you a lot of credit. We have nearly two hundred years to work with, lets see what happens." I lifted his glass. "If nothing else, I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever tried to make an alliance with the Tyranids. To new experiences."
Taylor lifted her own glass with a relieved grin. "To not being in hell."
I just laughed. They were definitely in hell, just not the one she thought. Still, new friends were always a good thing. Unless they were pink. Pink friends were terrifying.
It had taken a while after my return from the time as the Tyranid Queen to get the hang of the new abilities which had come back with me. The most important thing was that the power of the Hive Mind was still mine. I could use it to armor myself in a psychic shield or become effectively invisible, make myself faster and stronger, heal myself, create lances of psychic energy, a terrifying aura, ignite an enemies nerves with pain, even redesign my swarm genetically using the biomorphs I had created to mimic the Norn Queen's 'digestive' processes. I was even telekinetic now for crying out loud!
Additionally, thanks to my own powers I could spread the effects of the Hive Mind to my regular insects; creating a basically miniaturized Tyranid army with all the psychic force that implied. Getting enough biomass to grow my actual Tyranid army to full size would have to be a long term project, but all in all I had a lot more options to work with now.
I admit it had gone to my head a bit.
Sham down, CD-5. Acoustic deceased, CD-5. Harsh Mistress down, CD-5. Resolute deceased, CD-5. Woebegone down, CD-5…
I let loose with a dozen Psychic Shrieks from my swarm, the mental attack causing Leviathan to jerk back moments before Legend's lasers blindsided him. As a result the retaliatory water geyser was a half-second slower to form which meant that many more of the Protectorate Leader's attacks hit the hydrokinetic Endbringer. I added in my own attacks, sending a group of bugs to strike with bolts of psychic electricity. At the same time I spread out my remaining insects to search out anyone still alive.
The eagle masked cape with the mashed leg was the first one I found, but unlike usual I actually had a way to save him for once. A burst of psychic enhanced speed brought me to him, and after looking around for a reasonable safe area teleported us out of the way. I pushed down on the two buttons on my bracelet and spoke as clearly as possible for Dragon. "Need pickup at this location. I'm going back out."
There was a pause and then, "Understood."
Without waiting, I rushed back out into the onslaught. There was a crash as Leviathan whipped his tail toward Legend, a blade of water soaring through the air to strike the hero out of the air; only to come up short as I interfered using Hermes. I had used the cast-offs from Bitch's powers as raw material, but even still Hermes was only about seven feet tall. Seven feet of pure evolutionary primacy however was still nothing to scoff at, and his semi-autonomous nature meant he had the ability to act on the genetic memories in ways I hadn't yet managed to figure out manually.
While I split my concentration between having him intercept the brunt of Leviathan's waves so Legend could continue his laser barrage, searching for capes I could help and harassing Leviathan with Psychic Shrieks and Warp Blasts, Alexandria charged forward directly into Leviathan's water echo. Legend's lasers were still striking hard and fast, and Hermes' boneswords were cutting deeper than almost any other attack, but it was still Alexandria which really made the difference.
Leviathan swiped his arms forward, stopping short and letting the water echo do the work for him. Alexandria went through it like a hot knife through butter, but the rest of those in it's path weren't so lucky.
Chubster deceased, CD-5. Good Neighbor deceased, CD-5. Hallow deceased, CD-5, Strapping Lad down, CD-5. Intrepid down, CD-5.
Miss Militia stepped up, firing nonstop as her power replenished her ammunition. I added my own shots to the volley using my own armaments. Most of the biomorphs were mostly useless to me, being either parasitic or indiscriminate, but I had managed to equip a fully sized Ripper host with a miniaturized fleshborer hive to provide the additional biomass. The results were a short lived weapon that fired nearly a hundred fleshborer beetles in the span of about thirty seconds. So long as I pointed it in the right direction, and made sure to aim away from anything I didn't want getting hit, I could land every shot with reasonable accuracy.
The blind insects landed on Leviathans skin and immediately began burrowing, ripping through the first and second layers before losing the ability to move any further and exploding in a acidic spray which ate away at the surrounding tissues. Leviathan responded by lashing his arms forward, sending a massive wave that tore through our front lines.
Narwhal raised a dozen forcefields which diverted the worst of the attack however, and I quickly moved back with a burst of psychic enhanced speed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Narwhal send the formerly defensive barriers flying into Leviathan, cutting deeper where my own shots had landed and where Hermes occasionally landed his own; in between shielding Legend from the continuous barrage of water echoes.
Turning away for a moment I spotted the woman who's face had been torn apart, and with an uncomfortable grimace knelt down next to her; my hand glowing as I cauterized her wound. I'd seen worse in the four hundred years in the Warhammer Branch, but that didn't really make it any easier to burn a woman's face halfway to the bone. Once I had finished, I quickly called for a rescue for her as well and then jumped back into the fight. Leviathan had finally managed to knock Legend out of the air, his skin glowing white from the steady blitz of laser fire. Unfortunately that just meant that every one of his water echoes was literally boiling as he slung them across the field.
An alert from my armband told me what I knew was coming. The capes closest to Leviathan were quickly pulling back, a mad rush to get out of the way of the oncoming tidal wave being sent our way. This was where my ace came in. Well, not mine exactly.
"To me!" the voice of Shielder rang out, and I immediately broke for cover. Hermes on the other hand continued his attack against Leviathan, keeping him too occupied to direct the wave completely and allowing me enough time to get to Miss Militia. Her eyes widened as I approached, but I didn't give her any time to say anything; pressing a small object into her hands.
"Use it on the wave!"
To her credit, she didn't bother asking any questions; simply forming an rpg and attaching the bomb I had handed her. "Clear!"
The small device flew overhead as the wave came down, smacking into the center and erupting with a sound reminiscent of breaking glass. Instantly the wave halted, falling to the ground around our groups under it's own weight as it froze rapidly outward from the point of impact. One of Bakuda's bombs which I had liberated from her during her ambush.
Debaser down CD-5. Ascendant down, CD-5. Humble deceased, CD-5. Barker down, CD-5 . Pelter deceased, CD-5. Snowflake deceased, CD-5. Ballistic down, down CD-5. Oaf down CD-5.
I released a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding. Less than half of the usual, and Tattletale hadn't been one of them thanks to the donation of the single Harpy I had bred to full size as quickly as possible, at the cost of not having any ranged biomorphs. It allowed Tattletale to be our eye in the sky, constantly tracking Leviathan's movements and feeding us anything we could use against him. Which admittedly wasn't much; less still which I didn't already know.
Myrddin shot an orb into Leviathan's chest, sending the Endbringer reeling back into a nearby building. With a shrieking of metal and wood, Leviathan collapsed through the walls.
"Seal him off! Make him come back our way!" Chevalier shouted, forcefield erupting around the building as Vista warped it around Leviathan. Knowing what was coming I rushed forward, even as my armband sounded. Depart from the rooftops, buildings may come down imminently.
Leviathan charged the building front, only to be repulsed by the forcefields. Bastion stood defiantly holding back Leviathan's escape, turning to where Vista stood. "Do it!"
I closed the distance as fast as my enhanced abilities allowed me.
"Fucking do it!"
With the sound of creaking supports, the building collapsed under it's own distorted weight; slamming down atop Bastion moments before I could reach him. Too late to stop myself, I crashed into the rubble, my arm reduced to a gel of bone fragments and torn muscles. My scream was equal parts pain and anger.
Bastion deceased, CD-5. Brigandine deceased, CD-5.
Leviathan tore through the crumbled building with a roar of displaced concrete and metal, barely feet away from me. Mustering my will, I called Hermes to me. Moments later I was being carried across the area, a line of ichor flowing from the wounds on Leviathan as two of Hermes' bonesabers tore through him in passing.
Summoning my enhanced swarm I sent them after Leviathan, using them to Leech lifeforce from him. His abnormal existence made it less effective than against normal living creatures, but I still received enough power to begin regenerating my arm. That would take some time however, and in the meantime Leviathan would be continuing his rampage. With that in mind I had Hermes drop me on one of the rooftops before turning back. Unlike before I now had the mobility and stamina to make highground a viable option; if push came to shove I could just jump off and trust my shield and endurance to get me close enough to the ground that I could use my telepathy to land safely.
Vixen down, CD-5. Geomancer deceased, CD-5.
Directing Hermes to circle around Leviathan, I had him jump atop the Endbringer's back; using two of his boneswords as climbing picks to claw his way up and the other two to deal damage on the way. Drawing upon the miniature Warp created by the Hive Mind to protect him and empower his actions, I moved him up to Leviathan's head and had him drill all four of boneswords into his eyes. Leviathan reared back in response, before without ceremony Hermes popped like a bubble; all the water in his body exploding outward like an over-inflated waterballoon.
Even without his eyes, Leviathan continued his attack without pause; unhindered by his supposed blindness.
Doing my best to ignore the sinking feeling in my gut, I sent some of the stronger members of my swarm to fetch my miniaturized Rippers. Once Leviathan had moved inward towards us some more, I would have them recycle as much of Hermes as possible for the next version. In the meantime I continued my guerrilla tactics with the rest of my insect, their Hive Mind empowered forms allowing me to channel the Warp energies through them to strafe Leviathan with Psychic Lances and Warp Blasts.
Batting my swarm out of the sky with his water echoes, Leviathan turned around; lashing his tail behind him to cast three lashes of water our way, then crouched.
"He's running!" someone called out.
Leviathan dashed away from us, fast, only to skid to a stop and turn a corner for cover as Legend, Lady Photon, Laserdream and a half dozen other heroes opened fire from the skies above.
Others had picked themselves up, were moving into the side streets and alleys to follow, intent on cutting him off. I looked around, glancing over at the injured and wounded.
Eidolon was staying behind, raising his hands, and green sparks began rising from the ground, clustering around Eidolon and the fallen, obscuring them. Something in my gut twisted, and I bent over to vomit; barely moving my mask out of the way in time. My swarm however had risen, the mental order I gave them carried out without hesitation. A part of my mind clinically noted the names of the attacks which Ciaphas had mentioned to me over the years we had spoken with each other.
Paroxysm, every nerve ending in Eidolon's body ignited in pure unadulterated pain.
Psychic Screams from every direction, flooding his mind with fear and potentially driving him mad.
Hypnotic Gaze, suppressing his conscious mind and subverting his will.
Puppet Master and Gate of Infinity, forcing his destroyed mind to continue utilizing the last power he had called on, gathering every fallen cape in green lights before teleporting them all off the battlefield and into the makeshift hospital. Immediately after arriving I watched through my swarm's eyes as he collapsed, blood leaking from his eyes, ears and nostrils; his brain already dead, as his body lagged behind. All done in a fraction of a second, with no noticeable way of tracking it back to me.
Consciously I knew it had been for the greater good; that I had done worse before, both in Baseline and as the Tyranid Queen; that with Eidolon taken down the Endbringers would fall back, stop their attacks and leave more capes available for the fight against Scion if worse came to worst. Emotionally however, I felt the full impact of having just killed the greatest cape in the world.
I forced myself to watch as Panacea tried to help heal Eidolon, forced myself to recognize what I'd done. I wouldn't become a monster, every life mattered. I refused to let myself forget that, no matter how long these Loops lasted.
My bugs let me know that already Leviathan was winding down, pulling his punches just that slight bit more than usual. His main purpose had just been lost, and he was only going through the motions right now. I gave a hollow laugh. Armsmaster might finally get that solo kill he wanted.
Pulling my mask back down, I turned back to where Leviathan was still fighting; even if only just. I had thought my new abilities would be able to make a difference. I was right, just not the way I wanted to be. With the Endbringers effectively neutered for the time being, hopefully even the rest of the Loop, I would work on doing what I could to make this a cleaner run than Baseline.
Ciaphas had mentioned it would help to set a goal, something I could work towards in the long term. I could do that.
Eventually I would have a perfect run. One where no one I cared about had to die; where I could be a hero, but still keep being friends with the Undersiders. Where the S9, Endbringers and Scion were eliminated without massive death tolls.
Until then I'd keep trying, doing what I could to make each Loop suck a little less than the one before it. I teleported back into the fight.
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In: Boards ► Places ► America ► Brockton Bay Discussion (Public Board)
Miraclemic (Original Poster) (Brockton Bay Refugee)
Posted on June 11, 2011:
The reason arachnophobes don't want to live in Brockton Bay. Her discussion thread.
(Showing Page 78 of 79)
► Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy In The Know)
Replied on July 22, 2011:
Okay, arguing isn't getting us anywhere people. Let's look at the facts.
List of confirmed abilities:
Unknown energy beams (both with and without use of insects)
'Fear' Aura (those affected claim to have been terrified by an almost inhuman presence around her - area unknown)
Enhanced speed, strength, and durability
Momentary control of other capes (suspected, but unverified)
Biotinkering of her insects
As far as grab-bag capes go, she apparently hit the jackpot. Mid or high level Mover/Brute/Master/Blaster/Thinker with suspected Tinker/Breaker/Stranger.
Replied on July 22, 2011:
That is so fukcing broken. Seriously, wtf?
Replied on July 22, 2011:
'Fear' aura? Sorta like the opposite of what GG has then?
Replied on July 22, 2011:
Oh hell. She can be invisible? Skitter's in your house, watching you sleep.
► Phlem'glui R'lyeh
Replied on July 22, 2011:
Just imagine, you go to take a nap only to find a giant spider in your bed.
Replied on July 22, 2011:
That's cool, I didn't need to sleep tonight anyway.
► Bagrat (The Guy In The Know) (Veteran Member)
Replied on July 22, 2011:
Next up, team affiliations.
Undersiders - Xyloloup did an excellent write up over on the Endbringer thread here
Tyrants - a group of 'Case 53s' with an insectoid/humanoid mutation.
Only named member.
High level brute.
Size varies, first appearance during Leviathan attack placed him at about seven feet. Later reports indicate he's gotten bigger since then.
Four arms with extremely sharp swords. Reportedly capable of cutting through steel.
Regeneration. Supposedly killed during Endbringer fight, but reappeared later no worse for the wear.
Other members include a Mover/Blaster flying cape with handheld energy cannons, and a possible third member that presumably creates those maggot things that witnesses reported.
Skitter has been photoed riding on Hermes' shoulder, so it's probably pretty safe to assume she's close with these guys.
Coil's group - Extremely well funded group of paramilitary working for Coil. No idea what his power is. Seriously, help?
Skitter was allegedly seen working with Coil's mercs during the cleanup of her territory after helping the Protectorate take down the S9. Unverified.
► XxVoid_CowboyxX (At Ground Zero: Brockton Bay)
Replied on July 22, 2011:
She's not a bad person. She saved my uncle's life. Been working for her the past two weeks and she's been really reasonable.
Replied on July 22, 2011:
► White Fairy (Veteran Member) (At Ground Zero: Brockton Bay)
Replied on July 22, 2011:
Okay, no. This is the last straw. Either prove this or I'm calling in the mods.
End of Page. 1, 2, 3 ... 75, 76, 77, 78, 79
(Showing Page 79 of 79)
Replied on July 22, 2011:
Confirmed. I hired him.
► Morgan Sinister (Veteran Member) (At Ground Zero: Brockton Bay)
Replied on July 22, 2011:
No way! You're the actual Skitter?
Replied on July 22, 2011:
► Morgan Sinister (Veteran Member) (At Ground Zero: Brockton Bay)
Replied on July 22, 2011:
End of Page. 1, 2, 3 ... 76, 77, 78, 79
Private message from White Fairy:
White Fairy: Okay, my bad.
White Fairy: How the hell did you end up involved with Skitter?
XxVoid_CowboyxX: I accidentally figured out who she was. I knew her in school from before she triggered and I was going to talk to her about it, but she got to me first.
White Fairy: Whoa, so hold up? You were strong armed into joining her crew?
XxVoid_CowboyxX: What? No! I was friends with her before. I was going to talk to her at school, but she called me that morning. Like almost literally right when I figured it out.
White Fairy: So what, she's a precog now too?!
XxVoid_CowboyxX: Dunno. Seems like it sometimes.
"Hey Greg! I'm going out to get pizza, you want anything?"
Looking up from his computer, Greg quickly moved over to the door of his room. Stepping outside, it was chaos; the orphaned kids from Leviathan's attack running around playing. At the counter Charlotte was getting her mask ready, grabbing one of the small origami cubes Skitter had given them to call for help. "Anchovies if they have them."
Charlotte wrinkled her nose in distaste, which made her look rather cute in his opinion. 'Ew. I can't believe you like that."
Greg just shrugged. "Is Skitter back yet?"
Charlotte shook her head. "Not yet, she texted to say she'd be back later. She went to meet up with the rest of the Undersiders. Why, what's up?"
"Nothing really, just asking."
"Alright. Well, like I said I'm heading out. Try and keep the kids occupied, okay?"
Nodding, he waved as she left before turning back to face the music. Imp and Regent were evil, and anyone who ever said otherwise was lying. Who else would have taught a bunch of kids to dress a bunch of insect monsters in dresses and use them to play house? Skitter apparently thought it was amusing enough to go along with it though, so he kept his opinion to himself. Sometimes he wondered if he should have agreed to Taylor's offer to join up with her; but he had been planning on talking to her anyway, and when she had called him and asked him to meet he had decided school could wait one more day. She had seemed incredibly serious about it, even more so than he would have expected for the situation; though he didn't know why.
After all, what was the worst that could have happened?
1.5 (Harry Leferts)
Humming to myself, I suddenly noticed something through my swarm and turned in time to see both Vista and Clockblocker arrive. "Hey there, you two."
Both members of the Wards suddenly stiffened and I felt myself smile behind my mask before Clockblocker spoke up. "Skitter. We're going to tell you now that if you come quietly with us now-"
Vista suddenly spoke up and blinked. "What the heck are you wearing!?"
Now really amused, I tilted my head down to look at myself and then shrugged. "My uniform as a Girl Scouts troop leader, why?"
For several moments, I couldn't help but wish that I could see their expressions at that before Clockblocker raised a finger. "One... second." He then pointed at me in disbelief. "You... a supervillain is a Girl Scout troop leader..." I just nodded and rocked back and forth on my heels. "And they trust you..."
Once more, I just nodded. "They do."
Sharing a look with Vista, Clockblocker turned back to me and snorted. "Bullshit!"
Both of them jumped though as Imp, also in a Girl Scout's uniform, spoke up from beside them. "So are you going to buy some cookies, or what?"
Clockblocker just stared at her before he turned and did a double take at the sight of the rest of my troop. Each of them were masked and one of them, a giant of a little girl who towered over me and was a Case 53, also watched them as they held boxes of cookies. "... I... this... what?"
I just waved a hand at my troop and giggled. "We're selling Girl Scout cookies."
Her hand raising into the air, Vista boggled at us. "All of you are... parahumans?" Slowly, I nodded. "A troop of superpowered Girl Scouts... seriously?"
Now highly amused, I grinned and nodded. "That's right."
Just then, we heard something and turned to see Glory Girl floating there as she gave some money to one of the Girl Scouts. "What? They're Girl Scout cookies!"
There was a distant flash that I just knew was Lisa getting a photo of the Wards facepalming…
No, seriously, this guy was bullsh*t.
"Back to one punch again," the bald man said. "And I thought Leviathan would be more of a challenge, but it went down faster than the Sea King."
"So much for the Endbringer Truce," I muttered.
No, seriously, when guys who kill Endbringers with one punch, there's not much use for the Endbringer Truce other than "stall for time until THIS guy shows up."
"You can probably make some use out of it," a voice said, catching my attention. "Because if heroes don't hold the line, who will? Otherwise, Saitama's going to fall back on 'the others have weakened it, leaving me to strike the final blow.'"
And then there's this guy...I don't know what to call him other than "baldy's biggest fan." Then again, it's not often you see the antithesis of Saint's beliefs running around with...well...I never got their names.
"Excuse me," I said, "but who are you two?"
"Just someone who's a hero for fun," the bald guy replied. "And my disciple-turned-best-friend."
A hero for fun. Would that be even possible?
"Sensei," the cyborg said, nearly chuckling, "have I told you it's an honor to be called that?"
The bald man smiled. "Don't make such a big deal out of it, Genos." He then looked at me. "Either way, we never got your identity."
"They call me Skitter," I said. "But you'll probably meet up with me outside the Cape identity." With a head like that, you cannot miss this guy. That, and I thought it was best to default with the first name until I can trust them. "And your name?"
"It's Saitama." Straight to the point, although I'm thinking it's his real name instead of his Cape name. "And we'll probably see you around."
And those two walked out of the area. I'm pretty sure Tattletale would give me the details on this guy and his friend, but something tells me that the guy was holding back. A lot.
Either way, something tells me that others are bound to notice. Good thing I have a camera to show the looks on their faces when they find out this guy can take out certain bad guys in one punch.
"...so I was thinking we could go see that new Earth Aleph movie this weekend, sound good?"
I froze at the voice of the Queen Bitch herself, right next to me. I wasn't in the locker this time, which was good, but whatever was going on I didn't trust it.
"Taylor? Hello, earth to Taylor?"
I turned my head to see Emma walking along beside me, smiling happily, and couldn't suppress the flash of contempt that shot across my face.
"Taylor, are you okay? You just spaced out on me, dork!"
The insult was familiar, but there was no bite to it. It was almost... friendly? I couldn't handle this. I backed away from Emma, shooting glances around for the rest of the Trio, looking for exits. The smile on her face drained away, replaced with something that looked like it might be actual concern. I didn't care. She'd proved before that she was a good actor. Looper I may be, nearly a century old and a powerful cape perhaps, but I still had no desire to be on the receiving end of her latest prank. I turned, and ran.
"Taylor! God, Taylor, what's wrong?" She chased me, her brow furrowed, as I raced toward the school entrance - then stopped, abruptly, as my Loop Memories hit. Emma was still my friend. She'd never driven down that blind alley, never met Shadow Stalker. She... she was still my friend. And now she was catching up to me. What did I do now?
Taylor Hebert could only stare at the odd yet hilarious spectacle with the costumed girl sitting next to her. The first time she met the mysterious no-longer-stranger, Taylor was Awakened after being shoved against the wall in the school hallway. After scowling and picking herself off the floor, she faced the person who pushed her and was surprised to find that they were no one that she recognized. They had dark skin, black hair, and unnatural yellow eyes. After checking her Loop memories, she concluded that this girl was an Unawake Looper that had replaced Sophia. After that incident, Taylor decided to keep her distance and observe this new arrival for signs of Awakening. It only took two days after the encounter for Blake Belladonna to Awake.
Which is what led to the two of them sitting at the edge of a two story building in costume and baring witness to a peculiar sight. None of the Undersiders were Awake this Loop and Taylor wanted to get to know Blake better, so she invited her out for a patrol. They had already discovered things they had in common with each other; such as their preference for tea and their rather awkward social skills in their baselines. They got along with each other fairly well.
Raising a single eyebrow at the phenomenon she and Taylor stopped their patrol for, Blake glanced towards her crime fighting partner, pointed down below, and said, "So I know this is my first time in the Brockton Bay Branch, but is that normal?"
Taylor, going by her Weaver persona this Loop, simply continued to stare.
Down below the two costumed young women, Amy Dallon stood outside the hospital and was surrounded by her numerous female fans.
Her numerous, numerous female fans.
"KYAAA~, WE LOVE YOU PANACEA~!"
"You hussies better back the hell up!", roared Victoria Dallon, Amy's adoptive sister. "Amy belongs to me and only me because I'm obviously her favorite!"
Amy herself sauntered up to sister and wrapped her left arm around her.
"Now, now Victoria", she purred as she let her gaze sweep through the crowd, "Just because you're my favorite, that doesn't mean I can't have some fun!" She gave her fangirls and wink and a saucy smile, "Isn't that right, ladies?~"
"No", said Taylor as she try to stop herself from laughing out loud and attract too much attention, "no it isn't."
1.9 (Harry Leferts)
I was whistling as I counted the money that my girls had made this loop, strangely, it was a lot of fun. Of course, that was right when there was a throat clearing behind me and I turned to see Miss Militia there. "Skitter..."
Blinking, I just nodded a bit. "Miss Militia! It's actually pretty great to see you, we got in those Rah-Rah Raisins that you like."
For a moment, I could just see the conflict in her eyes before she shook it off and coughed into her fist. "... Perhaps later..." Straightening again, her eyes crinkled in a way that I knew was her giving me a frown and a disapproving stare. "There was a recent incident involving your... Girl Scout troop."
Just crossing my arms, I frowned behind my mask before looking at the girls. "Oh?"
Miss Militia meanwhile nodded as she looked over my troop. "We received a report that someone's child was teleported by one of your members-"
Holding up my hand, I frowned. "Is this about that woman's red-haired stepson? Because I can actually explain that one." I waited until she motioned for me to continue. "The little brat came over and started to pick on my girls. I've already talked to his uncle about it, and he apologized."
Even with her mask obscuring part of her face, I couldn't help but see the confusion on Miss Miltia's face and had to hold back the giggles and hope that Lisa got a picture. "He... apologized for you sending the kid somewhere..."
Shaking my head, I held up one finger. "Firstly, the guy is a teenager. Secondly, my girls only teleported him to the local retirement home. Thirdly, his uncle did apologize and bought ten boxes of each type of cookies." The image of Kaiser doing so would stay with me for a long time, especially the befuddled look as he couldn't figure out why he was apologizing or buying cookies. Hookwolf was just more amusing, who knew that he liked Tagalongs so much? "So no laws were broken and everything is okay."
The silence stretched on for a while before Miss Militia sighed and looked at each of us. "I see..." Then she straightened up a bit and looked at the wagon full of cookie boxes. "Now, about those cookies..."
1.10 (Ridiculously Average Guy)
It was Sunday night and Dennis was nursing a mug of coffee, staring at the book on his table like it was going to knife him.
He had no doubt that if somebody walked in they'd think he was going crazy, but after the hell that book had made of his past two weeks he didn't really want to take any chances. After all, the thing was single-handedly responsible for the biggest security craze in the Protectorate since before he'd joined.
To make things worse, it looked so innocent compared to what he had expected.
Granted, he might have demonized it a bit. But after a week of Master/Stranger protocols, then another week of constant testing and training exercises, Dennis had kind of expected an Endbringer in literary form. He was pretty sure he had heard somewhere it was whispering eldritch secrets at people whenever they got close-
or, wait, wasn't he the one who spread that rumor?
Dennis sighed and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his temples.
Four or five nights of interrupted sleep did odd things to a man.
Regardless, after the second or third night he had begun to think of the book as the devil. Instead, what he got was a hardcover barely bigger than the safety handouts the PR department kept trying to get him to push.
He'd really expected something more...menacing, which was pretty ironic considering he was one of the first people to see it. Him and the rest of the Wards.
They'd all thought it was a prank when they'd each woken up that Monday by application of book to head. At 5 AM.
It wasn't until they corroborated stories, and realized none of them was the culprit, that things began to get serious. And that is when master/stranger protocols were initiated.
Somebody knew their civilian identities, somebody knew where they lived, somebody from outside the protectorate. Things seemed even worse when it turned out it wasn't just the wards, the entire protectorate had woken up with a copy of the book. For a while everything was panic.
Things only began to calm down when the delivery method was figured out. It looked like a new cape had appeared in the city, some type of bug master. Somehow the master had figured out where everyone of them lived then dropped off the book in a cloud of flies and spiders, which might explain why the book itself was so light.
They probably would have spent another week in lock-up, narrowing down how things happened, if it wasn't for Armsmaster. Who had apparently been recording himself in his sleep.
It was only once the PRT had things figured out, and safety measures in place, that they actually took a look at the book.
Which lead to the last week. A hell of constant testing, of simulations, and of team training. More often than not with Shadow Stalker, of all people.
The worst part was how much it worked. He could honestly say he had learned to do more with his power in the past week then he had in the past year.
All because of this stupid book with a bug in a lab coat on the cover.
He didn't really want to read it. He was exhausted, and most of the blame for that rested on it's pages. Besides, considering how much of the last day was just practice, he figured they'd covered everything the book could offer.
Buuut, Armsmaster wanted the Wards to read it. To be more accurate, he'd ordered them to memorize it by Monday.
At that point the copies would be gathered for mass destruction, as the information therein was considered too dangerous to be allowed to spread. Armsy apparently wanted them to "learn how to think like the author", and since he could apparently read Dennis' mind, they'd be tested on it to check if they half-assed the assignment.
Sometimes- no wait, pretty much all the time, he hated that man.
Sighing, Dennis sat up and grabbed the book. He figured he'd dallied long enough. Time to actually read this thing.
Why You Suck At Using Your Powers, and How to Fix That, Brockton Bay Edition.
Instead of an author, the cover simply showed an image of a spider.
He smiled a little bitterly, the title didn't sound quite so snarky anymore.
1.11 (Slayer Anderson)
"...next time, I take on the Empire. The ABB is just getting too easy," I sighed, palm my face as I looked down on the silk-bound forms of thirty asian thugs, Oni Lee, Bakuda, and Lung. All of them were covered in various insect stings, bites, and other assorted nastiness. It had taken a very specific set of actions to get Bakuda to come out with the other two ABB capes, a scenario which had taken five loops to perfect.
I was still debating whether or not it was worth it.
"Holy Hell," I heard an utterance from behind me, not surprising me in the least. My swarm had picked up the standard 'Undersiders Entrance' on Bitch's dogs, the massive animals easy to track through my expanded sense.
"You can say that again," Brian, Grue, said lowly. "Uh, hey-"
"-she knows we're here," Lisa, Tattletale, spoke up. "It's the bugs. She can...oh, that's broken. She can sense through them. Yeah, all of them individually and collectively. Fuck, and she's got a big range."
I felt a smile tugging at the edge of my mouth as I shifted some bugs about, attracting their attention as a mass shifted to a humanoid form. Their 'bodies' mimicked my own slightly off-proportion form with fully articulated arms, legs, torsos, even a mimicry of faces. I even went
the extra mile and placed a few fireflies in their 'eyes' for full effect. I'd been practicing. There wasn't much else to do.
"I can also use them to speak," my swarm said.
"I think that's simultaneously the creepiest and most awesome thing I've ever seen," Regent commented.
"And she's a hero," Tattletale said suddenly, her eyes wide.
"Shit," Grue cursed as the tension racketed up again. "Listen we're-"
"The Undersiders," I spoke up, turning to show off my outfit. It looked more 'heroic' than my classic Skitter costume. I'd decided to go for the Wards again this loop, if only because being a 'villain' was getting stale. "I know."
"Been planning to hit us?" Tattletale asked, then shook her head. "No...she knows us, more than just talk around town. She's...some kind of thinker? Yes, but not like that, damn."
"Tattletale, I kind of need answers here, what's up?" Grue pressed.
"She's a new cape, came across the Lung and his friends, took them out, she's disappointed. It was...too easy!? Damn, and this is her first time out? No? Yes? Both? Okay, what the fuck?" Tattletale cried, her hand pressed to her temple.
My lips were twitching now. I had been worried the first time Lisa had reacted this way. Usually, nowadays at least, I managed enough self-control to cover the tells and hints a normal person gave off. Still, every now and then it was fun to let her try and figure me out.
"She knows how my power works," Tattletale groaned. "She's fucking with us."
Bitch was staring at the byplay apathetically. "Are we gonna' fight or not?"
"No," I stated, nearly laughing. "I think taking down the ABB is enough for one night. Besides, the Undersiders are strictly small-time, as far as I know-"
"That's a lie," Tattletale interjected. "Only you're telling the truth. Okay, seriously, how the hell does that fucking work?"
"Could we stop trying to piss off the cape that just took down Lung and his entire gang?" Regent asked idly, almost curiously.
I waggled my hand, "Lie, truth, it's complicated. You guys should really get going, Armsmaster's on his way."
"Yeah, we should," Grue nodded, then paused as he turned to leave. "We didn't get your name, by the way."
"Weaver," I stated firmly. While trying to be the creepiest hero in Brockton Bay wearing my Skitter costume was fun, I'd done that a few loops prior, right after that one where I went New Wave. That was unusual enough to be fun as well.
And that's what it boiled down to, wasn't it?
Fighting off the boredom.
The endless repetition.
"Thanks, then," Grue said eventually. "We owe you one. A big one, for this. Not enough to turn ourselves in, but...if you ever need any less-than-heroic help, give us a call."
I replied in the affirmative, going back to studying my captures for the night.
"...yeah, next time I'm taking out the Empire. Lung's actually getting boring. Maybe I should give him a head start and let him ramp up? That might help." It said something that I was actually considering the notion, something crazy.
Then again, could I really say I was sane anymore?
The quiet whine of a tinker-tech motorcycle approached.
...I wondered if I would have to deal with Armsmaster when I took down the E88? Come to think of it, why was I meeting Armsmaster again? It was weirdly specific that he showed up almost every time during my first outing. Maybe there was some patrol schedule the senior Protectorate capes used that I hadn't been privy to. Ah well, something to look into, especially if it got me extra variety.
The nightmarish swarm of bugs shaped into the form of a woman that was somehow wearing a red ball gown vibrated its thousand wings just so so that it almost sounded as if it had just gasped in horror. He hadn't seen when it had arrived.
"Clockblocker, how could you!?"
Dennis looked next to him to Taylor, the girl he had just rescued from a car crash by freezing the car. She was clutching at his arm, glaring at Skitter's avatar. Dennis rubbed at the bright red lipstick marks on the cheek of his mask. He'd never saved such a grateful girl before.
"Oh, and who's this pathetic little bug?" Taylor said cattily with a raised eyebrow.
"I really don't think you should insult a Parahuman, miss-" Dennis tried.
"What did you just call me!?" Skitter interrupted with a simulated screech of rage.
"You heard me, bitch!" Taylor let go of his arm and took a step towards Skitter. Skitter took another step towards Taylor in turn, until the two of them almost touching noses.
"Oh my god, there's two of them." Dennis realized. Two stalkers.
"How dare you!? He is mine, you little cow!" Skitter hissed.
They were making a scene. People were beginning to stare. Never before had Clockblocker felt embarrassed to be in the spotlight. He reached out, perhaps to calm them, perhaps to freeze them, but then... but then Skitter pulled Taylor's hair. Somehow. Taylor shrieked and clawed at Skitter's fake eyes, at which Skitter acted like she was hurt for some reason. Skitter tackled Taylor to the ground and Taylor pulled at Skitters ball gown, which snapped at one of the straps. As she was made of bugs, it wasn't really sexy.
Step 212 in my Clockblocker star-crossed lover plan: create a love triangle between Skitter, Clockblocker, and my civilian identity for additional drama by way of cat fight. Check
Step 213: Introduce a long lost brother into the equation for MORE drama. ALL THE DRAMA!
1.13 (Harry Leferts)
Checking my watch, I frowned behind my mask and let out a sigh of frustration. "Okay girls, just five more minutes and we'll be done with this."
Despite everything though, I did have to smile as the girls called out that they were okay with that. True enough, this was an odd loop, but it was rather enjoyable. Maybe I should consider taking up being the leader of Girl Scouts more often... And that was when I heard something skidding on the asphalt and turned. "Velocity..."
Glaring at me, he growled. "You're going down this time Skitter! We got the report of a crime in progress involving you and your troop and..." He trailed off and stared at the sight behind me. "... What the heck are they doing?"
Already knowing what he meant, I still made the show of looking over my shoulder and humming in amusement. "My girls are tickling someone's pet antelope."
The silence that met me as he tried to put those words together inside of his head was simply beautiful when all was said and done. "... They're tickling... someone's pet antelope..." Once more, there was silence as he tried to think that over. "Why would someone have a pet antelope?"
Just shrugging, I sighed. "Brockton Bay."
I knew, just like he did, that we both wished that didn't explain everything, and yet it did. "... Right... And why are they tickling an antelope?"
Hands behind my back, but in view of him, I looked at the girls and hummed. "The guy who owns it tried to screw us on what he owed us for the cookies he ordered. So we decided to tickle his antelope to teach him a lesson in regards to messing with the Girl Scouts... AIN'T THAT RIGHT, GIRLS?!"
Once more, Velocity just stared at my troop and then at me before looking back at the girls. "..."
Scratching my chin, I chuckled a bit. "So... I didn't know that tickling antelopes was against the law..."
The look he gave me was one that caused me to nearly bust my gut laughing before he turned and ran off.
1.2: Cain's pretty chill [Warhammer 40K]
1.3: Endbringers are hax
1.4: So is Taylor
1.5: Based on this excuse from Armsmaster's Random Excuse Generator: "I'm a concerned citizen. I'm here to report superpowered members of the Girl Scouts' cookie-selling brigade loitering at Fugly Bob's."
1.6 So is Saitama [One-Punch Man]
1.8 WE LOVE YOU PANACEA~3 [RWBY]
1.9 Based on this excuse from Armsmaster's Random Excuse Generator: "I'm a victim of crime. I'm here to complain that my red-headed stepchild has been teleported to the local retirement home by the Girl Scouts' cookie-selling brigade."
1.10 So is Taylor
1.11 Lisa isn't as hax as she thinks she is
1.12 Dear Penthouse, I think my date might be a black widow
1.13 Based on this excuse from Armsmaster's Random Excuse Generator: "I'm a victim of crime. I'm here to complain that my pet antelope has been tickled by the Girl Scouts' cookie-selling brigade."