Sophia gripped her throat with both hands. The searing pain preventing her from making any noise. Well, other than the thick gargling sound. The prey had snapped and lashed out. Lashed out with some sort of round, thin, pointed, metal tool. Lashed out so fast it was a blur. Two strikes in each of her, Emma, and Madison's necks. Up here in the third-floor bathroom where they had trapped her alone.
Emma was flailing about spraying a thin stream of blood out of each side of her neck. Madison was sitting on her butt, back against the wall, in some kind of shock, with blood ebbing from between her fingers which were wrapped around her throat, and the prey was standing by the door laughing. The bitch would get hers. First, she had to get out of here. Sophia approached the door and gaped as she heard the thump at the bottom of the heavy wood door. She could see the tip of the wedge that had been kicked under it. She went shadow and slid through the door and found Hebert waiting on her, watching dispassionately. Understanding bloomed in Hebert's eyes and smirk crossed her face. Fucking cunt.
Sophia went back solid and gripped her throat again. "Did you know so many predators die from injuries inflicted by their prey that they are instinctively cautious? I mean you got the hunt in groups thing, but I think you missed that little tidbit." Hebert was looking at her with her head cocked to the side. "With that shadow thing, I would have thought you would be a solitary ambush hunter. Like a leopard. You've gotten confused somehow. Mixed your predator styles. It didn't work out.
"It might not be your fault. I mean since you triggered me in that locker I got some kind of partial stranger affect I think. It goes with the ability to manifest tools, like Miss Militia, and some other stuff. Too many to name even, all kind of minor so far. Three's I think. No mover, I still have to ride the bus, can you believe?" Taylor Hebert sighed. "Oh well."
"Maybe you just shouldn't have expected me to take it forever though right? I mean you cunts are what school shootings are made of. Good thing I still have some hope right? I'm just taking you three out. Thanks for coming up here to a part of the school that no one goes to at this time. Maybe there being no evidence or way this could be pinned on me gives it to me."
Sophia gargled again. Taylor giggled "Yeah that awl went all the way through. Got the artery and the vein on both sides. My tools are tricky like that. They follow my intent. Tinker maybe too? Survivable if you had gotten treatment quick but you have been bleeding out of the holes on the back sides this whole time. What you should have done was apply pinpoint pressure right over the hole, nearly to asphyxia and gone for help immediately. Hard to choke yourself to death though, isn't it? Ah well. OK I have class so, take care now." She turned and walked away.
Sophia sank to her knees leaning against the wall. This hallway of Winslow High was nearly usually at this time, that's why they had trapped Hebert there. In this female bathroom. Or rather that one over there with the blood spreading from under the door. Why were her ears ringing? Oh, people. Her vision narrowed to a tunnel and then greyed out. She never saw the holes disappear and the blood vanish. Taylor didn't know it either.
Taylor Hebert spent the rest of the day hauling her long, lanky, self from class to class and mostly ignoring the teachers as they had ignored her. Her pack was full of library books in big ziplock bags, so the inevitable soft drink or juice shower didn't ruin them, these gave her something to occupy her time as her classmates were not her peers before her trigger had given her thinker powers. Now, as she absorbed material as fast as her eyes scanned it, they were nowhere close.
Her thinker power collated and sorted the material too. Taylor was left with the best and most current information as she continually added to her base and her powers refined and collated it all across multiple disciplines. It had been a week since her trigger. Computer class was a godsend, the teacher, Mrs. Knight let them work at their own pace. Taylors pace was as fast as the servers could send pages to three separate windows on the monitor. She had gotten an IR mouse as the ball mouse couldn't keep up. No one knew about it, her trigger, or many other things, and Taylor wasn't telling.
Taylor made it out the doors of the school into the parking lot full of cop cars and news vans. Cop cars weren't odd at Winslow. The news vans were. The PRT vans and troops were unique. Taylor got on the bus and left. She had a small smile on her face, how did PRT vans and no villains not out someone as a cape? PRT doesn't care about regular crime.
Miss Militia, Hannah, had watched her go. Taylor Hebert by the description. Mentioned by several of the girls that hung out at the fringes of the popular girl clique Sophia Hess, the former Shadow Stalker, now suspect, had been running. Hannah frowned. Hebert would be svelte in twenty years. Now she was a gawky, slightly awkward, sophomore. Not a threat to Shadow Stalker alone, much less with her hangers on. A picture was emerging Hannah didn't like. A picture that was going to put the Wards, Protectorate, and PRT in a bad light. An image brought to light by the hysterical breakdown of three girls, and their transition from that breakdown into shock. The hypovolemic shock probably didn't help. One of the girls was a parahuman and ward of the Protectorate.
Sophia Hess was a bully. She had gathered a little clique and instead of the staff here stomping on it, or her handler dealing with it, Sophia had been enabled. And now they were here. This school was a hell hole as well. Whoever had done the evaluation of this place that had led to a ward attending here had dropped the ball.
All that was aside from the luminol showing a hallway and bathroom absolutely covered in blood evidence as they had been told it would be but no blood being found, no DNA, nothing. It was a bizarre case. Nothing she knew of would make all their testing methods fail so spectacularly.
Taylor sat in the library at the computer looking at the PHO boards as they spiraled into a, an, she didn't know what, some kind of electronic breakdown. She really had expected news of Shadow Stalkers demise to reach the boards quick. Obviously Capes identities weren't as unknown as they thought. As it turned out Shadow Stalker, Sophia, Emma, and Madison had survived, but had some kind of mental breakdown. It was a puzzle. As were these things she kept seeing, hallucinations, really. She might have to see a psychiatrist or something.
Danny Hebert, Taylors father, arrived home and sighed at the dark house. He went in and found the note on the table 'Library, for the internet. Home Late. Taylor.' He nodded and set about making dinner. He would leave hers in the stove. It wasn't like this was abnormal after all. Not anymore. He thought as he worked. He would find a way to reconnect with Taylor. Somehow.
Taylor left the main Library, in a shady part of downtown, when it closed. Her and the homeless people. She slipped up and onto the roofs admiring the way her body was performing. She was stronger since her trigger. Brute for sure. Getting higher in rating as the days went by too, four at least. She was hungry enough to eat the food at the school as well. Plus, whatever else she could get. Even Fugly Bobs fat bombs, three or four a day. The Challenger twice when she was out of money. It was a bit embarrassing really. If this kept up she would have to get a job just to keep feeding the gnawing hunger.
Taylor stripped on the roof, delved into her changer power and manifested the armor she had been working on. She examined it again. Her test had it as heat, radiation really, as far as she could tell, proof. Maybe bullet proof. She packed away her clothes and put her backpack in the cavity in the back plate of her armor. She crossed a few buildings while letting her Master out to play. She started receiving input from every living thing that wasn't human in the three block area. Her thinker built a picture.
Taylor wasn't really intending anything. She would have loved to be a hero. She didn't know how however. It should have been simple, join the wards. But then, although she didn't know it for certain until today, Sophia. Plus there was an undercurrent of discontent from the verified wards here in Brockton Bay. A certain sarcasm from wards everywhere on the PHO. Trading one centralized drama node, Winslow, for another, the Wards, didn't seem the best idea.
Plus, you know, government. Which meant fucked up and retarded. It wasn't the people in its fault, from what Dad said, it was in the nature of government and large organizations. Well most of the peoples fault. Dad also said ten percent of any population were criminals, liars, cheats, like that. Then another twenty percent were lazy. Large organizations equaled big populations so more of those kinds of scum. Nature of the beast. Dad should know, he had been dealing with them his whole life.
Taylor snorted "Brockton Bay seems to be a storage or training ground for them."
Taylor spun around so fast she nearly screwed herself into the ground. The figure in the white cape with the red cross giggled. Taylor huffed "Scared the crap out of me. What are you doing up here?"
Panacea, Amy Dallon, looked at the thin, though obviously female, cape in front of her in the matte black, close fitting armor. The round butt and the swell of the chest plate seemed to say female anyway. "Waiting on my sister, Glory Girl, to pick me up actually. What are you doing up here on the top of the parking garage for the hospital?"
Taylor looked around and blinked, how the fuck had she gotten here? She sighed and decided to go with the truth. "The library closed." She sat on the concrete wall behind her.
Amy took a step closer "Powered?"
Taylor shrugged "Yeah. All kinds of them."
Amy blinked "I meant the armor. Really though? And the library? Are you homeless?"
Taylor blushed, never so glad she had a full helmet "Oh, no, though now that you said that my tinker is going all out telling me how it could be. Powered armor I mean. For that to happen it would have to be real armor and not my changer state, or one of them."
Amy blinked, then chuckled "So you are naked right now. What happens if you lose consciousness?"
Taylor blushed some more "Damnit."
Amy laughed "I haven't seen or heard of you. I'm assuming you are a new trigger. What are you calling yourself?"
Taylor blinked "Uh, Taylor?"
Amy laughed again, it was a bright happy sound "Wow, you are new. We have a lot of talking to do."
Taylor nodded then shook her head then nodded again. Amy laughed and laughed. Taylor pouted and folded her arms across her chest. Yep, female. Amy laughed some more.
Victoria Dallon, Glory Girl, chose that moment to drop to the parking deck in the Iron Man pose. Amy looked at Taylor and rolled her eyes "My sister. She practiced that in the back yard until she killed all the grass." Taylor couldn't help it and snickered. When Vicky pouted it became a laugh.
Taylor was unsure how it happened but she ended up riding piggy back on Glory Girl who carried Panacea bridal style to their house and then calling her father to tell him where she was. Then she was wearing a domino mask and talking to both girls after a change in the bathroom. Wasn't she glad they hadn't seen her Armsmaster panties too. They were old and she had had school, no sense getting anything good stained. Fucking cranberry juice was a bitch to get out. She would never be able to say why everything just poured out of her.
"Mom!" Carol Dallon, Brandish of New Wave, winced. Her daughter having a moment again. She wondered if her sister Sarah's son had this much drama surrounding him.
Carol looked up as her daughter flew into the living room "No flying in the house Vicky."
"Mom, Kull is being bullied at school!"
Carol blinked as her other daughter Amy, Panacea, entered the room with a thin girl, six inches, at least, taller than herself. In a domino mask. Amy sighed "We didn't agree to Kull Vicky."
Vicky waved airily "It fits, that armor is so cool! And its Kull's change state. If we dress her right she doesn't even need a costume. Mom, you have to do something! Or, you know what, I can just go beat them up!"
Carol sighed "First introductions and then we can talk." She found herself and Mark Dallon, Flashbang, her husband, being introduced to Taylor Hebert and hearing the story of how her best friend betrayed her, and a ward abused her. Carol nodded at the end "Taylor, there is no question you have a case here. I would also be happy to take it on."
Vicky grinned "And Brandish swoops in to the rescue!"
Carol held a hand up "We'll see how long it takes. I think we should first get Taylor out of there, before she snaps and uses her power on one of these girls. The PRT and courts will take a very dim view of that. Not to pry Taylor but, what is your power?"
Amy looked at Taylor who nodded to her "Shaker because she can Master less than sentient beings for blocks around her. Thinker because she can use their senses somewhat and that is improving. Changer because she can become Kull. Tinker because sometimes, she gets plans for things in her head, but it seems organic, not technological."
Vicky nodded "Brute to, she is really strong."
Amy picked back up "As far as we can tell all powers except mover, breaker, blaster and trump."
Carol blinked and bought herself some time "Can we see this Kull change?"
Taylor nodded and Amy led her to her room to undress so she could change. While she was gone Mark looked at Vicky "How did you meet Taylor honey?"
Vicky shrugged "Amy found her wandering. She hasn't even had a debut yet. She was out walking around in her changed state. Taylor thinks she has some kind of stranger power too. Mainly because people ignore her. I think it's just because the people at Winslow are shit. She and her dad are having problems because her mom died a couple years ago. That school is a nightmare!"
Mark looked up as Taylor came back in the room and nodded "Or the stranger. Wow that armor is stranger one by itself, at least in the dark." The Dallon ladies looked at each other. Mark had been diagnosed as suffering from clinical depression and most of the time didn't input much to the family. Now he was up, walking around Taylor and examining her closely. "This is you Taylor? A result of your change? It's all organic to you?"
Taylor, normally quiet and still that way here, nodded "Yes sir."
"Mark, please, wow that's amazing."
Amy put her hand on Taylors forearm "Still alive. Different now though. Muscle attachments? Strange muscles, like insects."
Taylor nodded "Your fault. My tinker is making it an exoskeleton. I think that's all trying to make it powered."
Vicky smiled "Mom, Dad, Kull followed Amy home, can she keep her?" Amy rolled her eyes as she pulled Taylor down into the couch with her.
Carol sighed "Taylor called her father? Taylor can stay, at least for tonight. Tomorrow I will need these notes you have Taylor and we will see about transferring you to Arcadia. Then we will see what can be done about these people at Winslow. Hopefully before they abuse anyone else into triggering. I guarantee they will not stop with you gone, they will simply move on to someone else."
Mark nodded "Taylor, what is your orientation going to be?"
Taylor sighed "I wished for years that I could be a hero. I don't want to be a villain. I don't even know if I am going to come out, debut Amy called it Sir."
"Mark, Taylor. Well if you do come out I think you need a team, someone who could help you, advise you at least. Independent capes have a tough time with supervillains, hell regular villains as well. You have to sleep sometime after all. Rogue capes, depending on their power set can have a rough time too. I think New Wave could be that team for you. Obviously the unmasking thing hasn't worked out. I think if you wanted to stay masked we could do that. It would help protect your father, pull attention away from him as well."
The Dallon girls were a bit stunned. Carol finally nodded "We will have to talk to the others but I could see it working. Now you girls have school and I know you are going to talk for a while. Why don't you get settled and start working on sleep."
Amy and Vicky blinked and looked at each other, then quickly led Taylor away. They weren't sure what caused this, Carol could and would be aggressive and suspicious, but they were happy to take advantage. Carol turned to Mark "Kull in New Wave?"
Mark grinned "She can be our stealth mode."
"You're in a good mood suddenly." Carol arched a brow then squealed a bit as she got pulled into his chair, in his lap.
"No idea why but Kull opened a whole new world for me." Mark nodded.
Carol was willing to keep Taylor around just for that. She wasn't sure how long Taylor was going to be willing to walk around as Kull for her though. "It changes our whole thing as a team though, something we have shed blood over."
Mark nodded "Not everyone is a second generation though. Already we don't advertise who we are and keep separate lives. You are Carol Dallon, attorney at law, not Brandish, ninety percent of the time."
Upstairs in Amy's room the Dallon sisters looked at each other, then at Taylor who had just come back from changing in the bathroom, again. Taylor eyed them "What?"
Vicky grinned "We're keeping you!"
Taylor snorted "How exactly am I going to school, I don't have clothes. Plus where would I sleep?"
Amy blurted "With me tonight, sleep I mean."
Vicky grinned widely, then nodded "You are tall enough to wear my clothes, or you can just go as Kull. We could debut you at school!" Amy and Taylor spent enough time talking Vicky down from that idea that they were tired. That plus the change to sleepwear, Taylor in Vicky's things, second favorite of course. Vicky left to her room after Taylor drifted off to sleep. Amy didn think once of getting up and going to the hospital. She also didn't have the dreams haunted by people dying because she wasn't there.
Taylor came aware in the morning and wondered at how warm her bed was. Next she noticed it smelled of lavender. Just as she opened her eyes a flash went off and she jerked upright and her Kull armor flowed over her. She sat blinking, wondering when she had started accepting Vicky's crazy name for her changer state. Amy sat up growling then turned to Taylor following the hard, flat black, arm that was covering as much of her as it could. Vicky grinned at her crazily "Vicky!"
The flash on Vicky's phone camera went again and she blinked as Taylor somehow got Amy behind her and the phone out of her hands in less than the blink of an eye. "Wow Taylor. Striker or mover four or five right there. Holy Moly girl you can move!"
"Vicky!" Amy was getting really mad now. Though she was blushing a bit about Taylor being so obviously protective of her. She and Vicky had worked through her being gay, Amy had, however, not told Vicky she was attracted to her. It had come up last night as Vicky had a mouth that was hinged in the middle and flapping on both sides, but Taylor hadn't been bothered at all.
Amy chuckled at Kull in pink plaid boxers and a pink Patriots jersey. Vicky saw what she was looking at and giggled. Taylor looked down "What?"
Carol awoke listening to the girls thrashing around. She looked out the window and blinked at the dark. Next she looked at her clock. Five o'clock in the morning and both girls were up? Vicky normally took two or three tries to wake up. They might have to keep Taylor. Plus Mark had performed like he was twenty five again last night. That had been delightful! She didn't work as hard as she did maintaining this body for work, or the social circles she needed to move in after all, well, not only for that.
Later she watched out the window as the girls went outside to run, still amazed. Amy hated running and Vicky thought it was useless generally, she could fly after all. Carol decided she would have to watch this carefully. She waited until six thirty after the herd had stampeded back upstairs, how was it girls who barely weighed a hundred pounds sounded like buffalo going through the house? She called Danny Hebert and asked him about Taylor going to Arcadia for the day and set up a time to come to his house after school was let out to get Taylors notes and talk to him with Taylor.
She blinked when Mark was up, showered, shaved, dressed neatly, and at the table by the time the girls made it down. Taylor wearing some of Vicky's clothes. Skirt and blouse. She was also changing back and forth. The clothes stayed with her. That plaid kilt looked very cute on Kull. The extra room in the shirt got taken up by something, not breast, in the Kull state. It was loser on Taylor than it was on Vicky but Vicky wore hers to tight anyway. A source of constant friction. Anyway, it actually worked. Vicky should be a dresser. She would have to remember to work the fashion industry into a few conversations. Maybe talk to Parian.
"Girls, I talked to Mr Hebert. He is fine with you going to Arcadia today Taylor. In fact he said you should apply. I'll make some calls. Apparently he is not a fan of Winslow."
Taylor paled "Uh oh. Dad has a temper. If he is already mad at them he is going to get his bat out when we tell him the real deal."
Carol nodded "I'll take care of that. He has a reputation as a tough negotiator, we will frame it that way and see how much money we can squeeze from Winslow, the parents and the staff involved, or their insurance companies. The PRT and Protectorate as well. Which will make them all pay attention as the insurance companies will start talking about compliance and procedures if we can get a big enough chunk of money. That will give him something to get his teeth in. Meanwhile I am going to see if we can take this to criminal charges in a closed trial as you are a cape."
Taylor shrugged "No one knows I triggered. I'd like to keep it that way."
Carol looked thoughtful "OK, we will see where we can go."
Mark nodded "I'm going to talk to the rest of New Wave and we will get you inducted as soon as they say yes." The women all blinked. Mark looked around "It's good for you and your dad and will be good for us."
Taylor finished breakfast being quiet and watching the swirl around her. Things were suddenly going really fast. Her thinker was really enjoying it.
Vicky blinked at her boyfriend Dean after Dennis's mouth dropped open when Taylors story of why she was there came out at lunch. Amy narrowed her eyes. All the wards had tensed up when the name Sophia Hess came out. Vicky crossed her arms over her chest "What do you guys know."
It all leaped together in Taylors mind "Sophia is a ward. Shadow Stalker. They are all Wards too."
Vicky grinned as she got out her phone "Thinker Five at least."
Carlos looked at Taylor. Amy poked Vicky "Big mouth!"
Vicky winced and Taylor shook her head "Its fine. Like I said I may never use it. At least as a cape. I don't mind being out as a thinker. Plus it may be different here but at Winslow if you can tie your own shoes you are a thinker twelve plus.
"It really wasn't that much of a leap. Black female over twelve, so not Vista. The only way all you guys could know her is if she was the other female ward, she doesn't go to school here, you don't seem the type to hang with track stars, hence Shadow Stalker. Since you know her, Wards."
Carlos got his phone out "I am going to have to report this."
Amy shrugged "I wouldn't. Mom is going after her for bullying, along with her two minions and the school."
Dennis frowned "Minions? She has Master powers?"
Taylor blinked "Could that be how she turned the best friend I had since first grade on me? She's a Master?"
Dean blinked "Whoa, whoa, she was power tested. They would have found that wouldn't they?"
All of them were looking around making sure they weren't being listened too. After all they had just outed a cape by accident. Several capes, themselves included and Taylor. Carlos shook his head "We have to report this and stop talking about it before we do any more damage. Shadow Stalker didn't join New Wave after all."
Vicky got the last word in "Like we would offer a sociopath the chance."
At Winslow Sophia was just waiting, in the tinker handcuffs the police were supplied with nowadays, with Emma and Madison, both of who were in tears. Weaklings. The prisoner transport van showed up and they were taken too central booking. The principle of Winslow was arguing with Carol Dallon and the police detective involved. Sophia would use her one call to call in the PRT and this would all go away.
Carol looked at the text message from Vicky and turned to look at Sophia Hess. This just got really interesting. Not that it hadn't been already, they suspected already after all, but with all the emails Principle Blackwell had pulled up in Taylor, Sophia, Emma and Madison's accounts things were looking grim for the other side.
Armsmaster looked at the text on his phone and left headed for Winslow. He hadn't quite gotten there when he caught himself and headed to the PRT building. Another visit by the Protectorate would focus the students and staff on Shadow Stalker. Potentially.
Ten minutes later he was looking at a Director, Emily Piggot, who was furious. And becoming incandescent with rage as she talked to the detective on the case from the Brockton Bay Police Department. She didn't quite slam the phone down. "Get Miss Miltia, Find Shadow Stalker's case worker and get her in here. Brandish is on the warpath and this Hebert guy is no joke. He runs that damn Dock Workers Union and they are the only organization in this fucking cesspool that actually functions. And no one fucks with them and gets away unscathed. That little bitch is going to juvenile hall tonight, and we are going to have to pay millions of dollars in hush money. Goddamnit!" Armsmaster nodded and left silently. Emily Piggot leaned back in her chair and growled to herself. Shadow Stalker, the fucking little cunt, had harassed Hebert's daughter so hard she triggered. New Wave wasn't saying what her powers were but Aegis said at least a mid to high thinker. She had figured it out in milliseconds. Damn! A powerful thinker, ward aged, and they would never get her. New Wave already had the best Healer in the world, an Alexandria package, the next Legend, and now a high level thinker. All that in the new generation. Goddamnit! Chief Director Rebecca Costa Brown would be hip deep up her ass in an hour. Fuck!
Fine Emily, damage control, clean up behind the freaks. That was what the PRT was for after all. Some days she hated her job.
Taylor enjoyed a day at school for the first time in two years. She took the application packet she was given and followed Amy out. After Vicky said goodbye to Dean they did the one riding each arm flying to the Dallon's house thing. They had practiced this this morning. Taylor was still a bit uncomfortable with flying. Sitting nearly in Amy's lap on Vicky's arms wasn't helping.
Mark met them at the door and it became a blizzard of information and filling out forms for the transfer to Arcadia. Soon enough they were all in a SUV and headed for Taylors house. Amy looked at her "Are you all right?"
Taylor smiled nervously "Dad is going to flip."
Amy rubbed her arm. Vicky grinned lecherously at them. They both rolled their eyes. It broke the tension. Taylor wasn't necessarily grateful. Oh don't get her wrong, Amy was hot, talented, her age, and available, but she hadn't worked out what she was yet. If she had an orientation. Good looking boys made her interested, the muscular ones. Vicky made her the same level of interested. Taylor was going to blame modern mass media's objectification of young women. Plus if she ever got there and it was with Amy she was fairly certain the healer could either get her pregnant or make it where she could get Amy pregnant. In ten years or so. Wait, what? Stupid hormones.
Amy smiled as she sensed the tumult from where she still had a hand on Taylors arm. She just had to be touching her. What was that? It was like with Vicky, but on steroids.
Carol drove straight to the house. Obviously she had done quite a bit of research. Danny met his daughter at the door and folded her in a hug. "Taylor are you all right?" Taylor smiled and teared up melting into that. No recriminations, nothing. Straight to her welfare.
Taylor made the introductions and then went and got her file of evidence. Carol got out her folio and it was story time around the kitchen table. Amy had to heal Danny's hands three times after his trips to the back yard and some pretty serious tree abuse. Finally Danny sighed. "So to summarize, you have been bullied by Emma and her friends for the whole time you have been in Winslow. One of whom is a ward of the Protectorate and PRT. The teachers and staff have done nothing, aside from one teacher and the janitor, and they have been stepped on by the administration." He tapped the pile of papers "We have evidence of this ongoing campaign.
"I think five million dollars and all the teachers, staff's, minus the janitor and Mrs Knights, jobs, Piggots job, five million from the Protectorate, and half of the parents assets and we should be satisfied." Danny nodded surely.
Taylor blinked "Uh, really?"
Amy nodded having handed off her medical report to her mom with all of Taylors injuries she could find evidence of. She had been writing on a medical chart the entire time Danny had been listening to the story, when she wasn't healing him "I've never seen a worse trigger Taylor, well, one that didn't kill the parahuman. They might exist somewhere but they are probably insane case fifty threes. Poor things. Just that locker thing alone should have killed you. That waste was toxic, you had open wounds. You should have had toxic shock. I think you have a non Manton limited biokinesis as well as the rest. Or perhaps its Manton limited to affecting you, like Lungs healing does him. We will have to experiment. It might not be strong right now but I think we can train it up. We can use your insects and mammals."
Vicky nodded "You got a complete grab bag of powers, it must have pinged off most of the parahumans in a wide range. Which means your primary power was really strong. Something I have never seen or read about before either. Some kind of power overseer power. A system engineer power maybe? Thinker for certain." Everyone looked at her. She huffed "What? I actually read the PHO and all the material on parahumans I can get. I'm not just a pretty face attached to a smoking hot body flying around."
Mark smiled at her "Obviously not, but that was near thinker level of putting together some of the less wild, more mature, theories from the PHO."
Taylor shrugged "Birds too. I started getting some information from what had to be birds or bats today. It was during the day so I am thinking birds. It makes me dizzy though."
Amy put her hand on her arm. The others waited a minute and Amy finally sighed and sat, still holding Taylors arm "So interesting. Powers all over the place, and being used as needed. Vicky is right too, it seems to be a system of systems. I'm not sure you couldn't grow wings for your changer state."
Vicky leapt up and danced around the table "A week and still learning! And we got her first! Good job Ames!" Carol narrowed her eyes a bit when Taylor and Amy blushed slightly. Yes this would need watching very closely. Intra team romances were hard. She brought herself up short realizing what she had just thought. Amy was, or is, gay? Taylor as well? She watched the two girls. then sighed. Close observation indeed.
Danny sighed "So this isn't normal?"
Mark shook his head "Sometimes, under duress, parahumans can get a separate second trigger. Usually though, they get distinct powers or power sets and that's it. One power or set for each trigger. An improvement in that for a second trigger. The sets are usually somewhat linked and mutually supporting. Taylors are a bit spread. Its fascinating. This improving or changing is indicative of a series of triggers. Powers are normally full strength right away. The parahuman then learns to use them better."
Taylor got out the transfer to Arcadia paper work and looked at her father "Two things. Team support, we can have that with New Wave, and two, I am not going back to Winslow. If I never step foot in that hell hole again it will be to soon. I don't really care about the money or any of that but we should probably rip them to pieces to keep it from happening to someone else." Everyone nodded.
Taylor woke up in her bed, it was wonderful, warm, and smelled of lavender again. Amy giggled "Vicky will be arranging our wedding if she catches you holding my two members of the itty bitty titty committee."
Taylor snatched her hands back. then put them back on Amy's breast and both of them blushed furiously. Amy didn't stop her though. "Holy moly you are firm." Taylor said in a whisper. Amy rolled over and boldly put her hands on Taylors breast. They were making out like fiends when they heard the front door open. They leapt apart and Amy laughed as Taylor was full Kull. Full Kull in boy shorts and camisole. Vicky opened the bedroom door, without knocking, and laughed as well. "Come on you two. We can run toward school and when we get our miles in I'll fly us the rest of the way."
Taylor wrinkled her nose "Eww, no. I am not going to school smelling like a dock worker all day."
Danny laughed from the bottom of the stairs "Hey! Nothing wrong with honest sweat! Your breakfast will be ready for you when you get back from your run. Your lunch is packed. I signed the application. Carol and I are starting the campaign at one this afternoon. You can stay at Amy and Vicky's tonight if you all go on a familiarization patrol. I'll leave you twenty bucks."
He got a chorus of thanks back and smiled. Not there yet but better. Now some raping and pillaging amongst the school staff, parents and PRT and he could work on getting his relationship with his daughter back. He was such a fucking idiot for just falling apart on her.
He heard Vicky saying "They have showers at school you know."
Taylor's reply of "You won't say that after Dad's pancakes." made him smile. He had a flat of blueberries too.
Sophia Hess woke up in a cell in the PRT building. Yesterday, up until eleven last night had turned into a disaster. Miss Militia and Armsmaster were investigating every moment since she had joined the wards. Her phones had been taken. Her room disassembled to bare concrete and six lethal bolts for her crossbows found in the air duct.
Vista had gone off on her and called her a villain. Hero, Villain, she personally didn't care. It was about weak versus strong. That was all that mattered. When the youngest ward tagged her as a villain though, it was a problem. Vista had been a ward the longest and knew the system. The idiot boys didn't pay much attention to her but Miss Militia did.
Miss Militia looked over the evidence as Armsmaster broke into the phones they had found "Sociopath might not cover it. Psychopath is closer to the truth."
Armsmaster typed for a moment then watched the phone roll over and beg like a dog hoping for a treat. He smiled grimly as he watched the raw datastream.
Vicky ran with Amy and Taylor, smirking most of the way. They were very definitely a couple now. Some people were probably going to have to have a punch in the mouth. It was so cute! And Amy looked so happy! No matter what went on with Taylor otherwise, her sisters girlfriend was coming to Arcadia. Vicky wondered what happened last night and this morning and sighed moonily over how wonderful it must be to sleep with your girlfriend. Mom was going to fucking freak. That thought brought Vicky right down to earth. Just before the last long uphill to Taylors house. Vicky groaned and dug in. Doing this the normal way was complete bullshit.
Taylor watched as Vicky was, well, exuberant, maybe, all over the population of Arcadia. Amy was snarky and hilarious while taking her to the office to turn in her packet, and then snarky and sympathetic over placement testing all day. Lunch rolled around and Taylor flopped into a seat next to Vicky and leaned her head on Amy who smiled and nudged her off, but then put her hand on Taylors thigh under the table. Vicky quickly relayed that Shadow Stalker was under arrest an in a cell in the PRT building, she had pried the story from Dean, and they all contemplated that as the Wards kept their distance and two friends of Amy's filled out the table. Lucy and Amanda started gently prying for details and Taylor sat contently, letting them pry. No one said anything about her being a cape, several people assumed though.
Danny made it to the meeting five minutes early and sat smiling firmly as the others arrived and Principle Blackwell opened the meeting. He listened to a round of threats veiled as request, from Principle Blackwell, his ex friend Alan Barnes, the PRT lawyer, school board lawyer, and institutional and professional insurance company lawyer before he nodded and handed Blackwell a disk "That's the opening story on Channel five. They think it will go national."
Blackwell looked terrified as she plugged the disk in and started it. All the lawyers crowded behind her. Carol smiled while the others winced. Danny Hebert was magnificent. He must have worked all night, his contacts too. Once they were all seated again Danny said "We'll take twenty million dollars, and the girls on five years supervised probation and court ordered counseling. Everyone walks away after that. What you do with Shadow Stalker is your own deal, but she doesn't stay in Brockton Bay."
The lawyers across from him winced. Blackwell paled. A loss like that, even if the insurance paid out, would cost her her job. The insurance company would see to it.
The PRT lawyer made the opening move "Exposing a Cape is illegal."
Carol smiled a very shark like smile "Only for heroic capes and then that isn't law, its practice. In any case Shadow Stalker outed herself using her powers to steal homework from Ms. Hebert. Mr. Hebert is not a cape and Sophia Hess is not a hero. If you refuse our generous offer I am prepared to file criminal charges against Sophia Hess, Emma Barnes and Madison Clements for conspiracy to commit murder among a multitude of other things. We have the medical documentation and investigation into the locker incident. We can make it stick. I have the arrest warrants with me." Danny wasn't the only one with contacts who could play hardball.
Blackwell was soon out of her depth and being very quiet, as fish were around sharks. Alan Barnes looked at Danny and Danny smiled. "I know where the bodies are buried Alan, we were friends for twenty years. I also know all you fraternity brothers from college. I've already been on the phone this morning to mutual acquaintances of ours. You really should have treated some people better in all those divorce cases." Blackwell thought to herself, 'and what is more dangerous to a fish? A barracuda'.
After school Taylor met back up with Vicky and Amy. Amy growled "Because I need to go to the Hospital!" as she walked up. Vicky wanted to go buy Taylor clothes and debut Kull.
Taylor defused the building argument "Which one. We can go do that, and then debut Kull. I could use a burger. They would have called you if it was an emergency right?"
Amy and Vicky blinked, then blushed. Amy sighed "There are four hospitals in town."
Taylor looked at them both "Forest for the trees. You're too close to it. Come on. We will stop in them all and you can do the ones they can't fix or who would have bad outcomes. We'll give them your number and they can call you when they have one that needs your touch." She looked at the blushing Amy "You've been healing everyone haven't you? And the doctors are making money how? Oh, charging the patients for your work."
Amy nodded sheepishly then brightened "We can check you out on some non life threatening ones!"
Vicky laughed at the suddenly unsure Taylor "Healer one, Thinker zero." Amy handed Taylor a domino mask. Taylor huffed "This isn't over. You are getting paid for your efforts and those doctors are carrying their part of the load."
A couple hours later and every terminal case in Brockton Bay was healed while Amy tried to teach Taylor, successfully. Vicky was burning up the internet side of her phone as she followed them around. Taylor was talking to Chief Doctors and Hospital Administrators when she wasn't being taught.
Taylor sighed as a nurse led them to an on call room so she could change 'clothes'. Vicky was already revving up. Taylor looked at Amy "So it took you a while to get it."
Amy snorted "Shush you. We both know I never would have gotten it. Especially the nominal fee thing you were talking about. To have you negotiate me onto the staff of four hospitals at a combined half a million a year salary was crazy. And on top of that I get the medicare rates for healing people? Madness."
Taylor grinned as she stripped "They caved so quick because its nothing to what you could charge, phttt, that they would charge if they had your talent. Paying keeps them honest Dad would say."
Amy walked up and put her hand on Taylors arm as she changed. "So cool, your powers are wild, speaking of Danny, how do you feel about him skinning the School Board, Blackwell and most of the staff, PRT, and the girls parents for millions?"
Taylor grinned viciously, or that was the impression Amy got from Kull's face, it was a bit immobile "Blackwell won't last a day. Dad has a Principle in mind for her replacement too. Some guy who cleaned up a school the same size in Chicago or New York. I don't ever have to see Sophia again and make that illusion she got that gave her the breakdown come true."
Amy looked Taylor over as she stepped back, just for health reasons. That long, lean, sexy, form had nothing to do with it."Now PRT thinks you are some kind of Master nine or something though. I think you really ice picked them and then remote healed them. The healing was simple but that is either a striker or blaster affect to do it remotely."
Taylor nodded "And the PRT will never suspect I am a biokinetic two in training. I never had anything to do with that crazy bitch or her diseased mind. She and her sluts thought themselves into some kind of delusional state. Like people with stigmata."
Amy nodded and made a face like a surprised Vicky and imitated her voice "Hebert you are such Bullshit!" She dropped the impersonation laughing. "You will get better too. There is more there. Plus if you did that subconsciously its Master, yes."
Taylor sighed "I am going to have to study more anatomy. And hey! Your power is bullshit! You just know what's wrong and how to fix whatever it is." Amy led her out to Vicky and off to the parking garage. The staff looked at the flat black, armored, cape that came from nowhere, jaws agape.
Taylor, or Kull rather, dropped out of the night sky onto the boardwalk from about twenty feet up, just above the light form the streetlamps, a wide circle formed around her. Victoria, or Glory Girl, carrying Panacea landed next to her grinning. A crowd gathered at a respectful distance. The three female capes made their way to Fugly Bobs. Taylor sighed as the flashes just kept going off. "I don't know how you stand this."
Vicky nodded "Lots of attention to detail on hair, makeup, and costume."
Amy rolled her eyes "Or we don't come out on the boardwalk in costume." Taylor looked thoughtful and Amy giggled "You are naked in there remember?"
Taylor sighed. They sat and a waitress took their order. As soon as she walked away a line of autograph seekers formed and the Dallon sisters signed for a while as they explained Taylor being a new Cape and member of New Wave, and no she wasn't a case fifty three, that was her armor.
Emily Piggot nodded as she included the document the lawyers had signed in the report along with the signed order transferring Shadow Stalker to Biloxi Mississippi and Gulf Coast East PRT. Let her deal with those rednecks for a while. It would make or break her, probably break. That was the worst punishment she could manage since someone higher up the chain than her had decided Shadow Stalker could still be useful.
She read the settlement and Miss Militia's estimate of the parents of the two other girls assets again. Danny Hebert was an artist. He had taken them for half their net worth, got restraining orders, guilty pleas, and supervised probation for five years along with forcing those two little witches into mandatory counseling. The PRT and school boards insurance companies had split nine million dollars over ten years between them. It would have been fourteen million but as government entities they were relieved of the tax burden. A drop in the bucket for the PRT. It would force a review of the wards program, but that was probably a good thing in light of recent events. It could potentially be worked into ammunition against the fucking Youth Guard and let them tighten discipline as well. The school board would be looking down the barrel of a rate increase and would take it out on Blackwell and the staff of that shithole Winslow. They might even get in someone competent. A livable deal and Hebert walked away clean. Ten million dollars, after taxes, which Hebert had put on the other parties, richer. All in an afternoon.
Emily sighed and wondered if he, Danny Hebert, had triggered in the past, he had to be a thinker of some kind, and if there was anyway to get his thinker daughter away from New Wave. They needed a older female Ward now. She would have to look at the transfer request from other directorates. This Flechette girl was available she had heard on the grape vine. She had also heard she was competent and effective. And, amazingly, not a loose cannon.
Taylor looked in the shop window with Amy beside her as Vicky dove in another clothes store "You know one of those little go pro type cameras on a harness of some kind would save a lot of legal hassles."
As Amy started to reply the shop owner shook himself and waved the two girls in. Taylor left with a great top end phone for herself, a flip phone for her dad, and a body camera, supposedly armored against everything. The shop owner got to say Panacea and Kull shopped there and advertise that fact in his front windows. Vicky was thinking about it. Amy snickered and whispered to Taylor "Asking mom, because Collateral Damage Barbie." Vicky shot them a glare, a wrinkled nose, and a pink tongue.
It got a little later, and at the western end of the board walk Taylor suddenly darted in an alley and came out dragging a guy by his neck. Amy and Vicky looked in the alley and then ran to the woman who was huddled on the ground in the ripped dress. Amy took care of her while Vicky called nine one one and then helped Taylor get her body cam to play back the video on her phone slow enough for them to see the strike that knocked the guy out. It was a good thing it was a low light HD camera. Then she rolled the guy for his money while explaining it was normal practice and how capes made some money for their trouble. The law that supported it, and to leave weapons and drugs.
The cops took the guy, statements from everyone, and the three young women called it a day. One attempted rape broken up being enough for the evening and what was supposed to be a familiarization patrol. Oh and eighty seven bucks from the idiot.
As they settled in at the Dallons the PHO boards lit up about the weird new case fifty three in Brockton Bay. Taylor wasn't the only one with a camera. Amy and Vicky had a great time getting Taylor on the boards and verified. Then they got busy trolling VoidCowboy and getting him banned in seven post.
Vicky slipped in Amy's bedroom and closed the door. She sat on the edge of the bed and pouted a bit. Sure, they were snuggled up together, but Taylor and Amy didn't even have hands anywhere inappropriate. Very disappointing, and a waste of time. When mom figured out they were gay she would separate them. As she was contemplating how to move the relationship along she noticed Taylor's amused green eyes focused on her. She blushed a bit. Taylor eased herself up on her arms, eased her butt back and leaned back on the pillows against the head board "I heard you wake up."
Vicky blinked "How? I thought I was being quiet."
Taylor shrugged "Your breathing changed. I can hear your heartbeat from here."
Vicky groaned "Your power is weird."
Amy offered "Weird, twelve plus. That explains it all." She moved to lay a bit on Taylors lap and a lot on her chest. Vicky lowered herself down across Taylors legs until it was a pile of girl, sort of, in the middle of the bed. Taylor was a bit bemused being a Dallon sisters pillow. After a knock at the door and a pause, the door opened and Mark stuck his head in. "Come on. Exercise."
Carol stopped in the hall looking over his shoulder and smiled at the pile. Mark backed away and she took his place. As the girls sorted themselves she told Taylor "Your father is impressive. He had them over a barrel and left them thinking they got a good deal."
Taylor laughed "Yeah, apparently he does that, I hear."
"My sister called. She told me to look at the PHO boards. That was supposed to be a familiarization patrol. Sorry."
Taylor grinned as she waited on the bathroom "Someone forgot to get the memo out to the rapist I guess."
Carol nodded "Well thank you. I know both the police and that poor woman already said it, but all we can do to keep the city safer. Where did that video come from?"
Taylor showed her the camera and harness "I think I can incorporate it in my change state. The worst that would happen is it would drop off when I changed."
Carol nodded "Body camera. Like the police. These have pros and cons. Well, way to make a splash anyway."
Taylor blushed "I hadn't intended to, then well, Glory Girl."
Carol smiled and Amy arrived back in the room "Gods yes." Amy went on rapidly and Taylor let her rant a bit to her mom as she used the bathroom. Taking her running clothes with her. She had resupplied at her house. Her backpack now had enough to get her through two days.
Carol let the run clear her head and sorted her thoughts. It had been a big week and it was only Wednesday. It would be interesting how the rest of the week played out.
Carlos sat at the table with the New Wave capes at lunch "The Director asked me to inform you Shadow Stalker is enroute to her new station. PRT Gulf Coast East, Biloxi Mississippi." Taylor nodded "She also asked if you are going to register with the Protectorate and power test?"
Taylor drummed her hard, sharp, nails on the table top for a moment. "I don't see any advantage. At least right now. Maybe later."
Carlos was dying to ask her about her armor. It looked like a case fifty three on that video. He nodded. As soon as he did the rest of the wards swarmed the table. Dennis, tactless as always, looked at Taylor, looked around, then nodded "Good job on the rapist dirtbag Kull." Carlos stomped on his foot. Dennis fell out of his chair. The cafeteria froze for a minute then laughed. Chris helped Dennis up.
Amy glared at him "We aren't advertising who she is. We aren't hiding it, but we aren't advertising it. Taylor's dad is normal."
Dennis held his hands up and swallowed "Sorry! New Wave, you know."
Taylor settled into a routine of school, study, exercise, which equaled training with someone from New Wave every day, and alternating nights at her house or the Dallons. They also patrolled, normally with an older member of New Wave and often for an hour or so before training. They were catching a lot of low level thugs. It was nice having ready cash.
Vicky never stopped dragging them in stores and pushing them in changing booths after all. She did stop trying to dress them alike though. It wasn't cute. Neither were baggy jeans and flannel.
Every other day or they were at one hospital or another for a couple of hours. Amy bounced around like she was on a sugar rush when her first check hit her bank. Taylor was stunned when she got one too. The doctors following them around had signed off on her after Amy taught her how to annotate charts. Her healing was as good as Amy's on the normal cases. Amy was still who they called when they were stumped, or the case was 'circling the drain', as they called it.
Amy and Taylor were left alone when Vicky had dates with Dean. Somehow though, she always ended up at the house they were at. At the Hebert's she had a single bed in Taylor's room. The grilling began as soon as Vicky showed up. They had had to speak with her firmly about their relationship being theirs. It didn't stop her.
While this was going on they worked to understand what exactly was going on with Taylor's power set. They were beginning to think she was like Eidolon without the limitation of three to four at once. She could use any power she had used before, and the more she used it the better she got at it, very, very quickly. She still couldn't fly and didn't have Breaker abilities of any kind though she could do simple healing in an area around herself. Generally or down to a specific target.
The limit seemed to be her imagination, which was really no limit at all. Her consumption of reading material had reached epic proportions and she was giving the internet a run for its money with very high recall and the ability to meld all of that into cogent theories and explanations. The .EDU sites took a beating. She upgraded to a tablet.
Somehow, she seemed to be contagious too, even to the point of infecting Glory Girl. This was born out as the days and weeks passed and the three girls grades went up. Making them one, two, three in the sophomore year of high school.
Carol hadn't separated Taylor and Amy. They and she didn't know why. She knew what was going on. She didn't have the first clue why it didn't bother her. They were still negotiating what they were and hadn't gotten past heavy petting. Vicky was enormously frustrated and trying to maneuver them into 'hot encounters'. They had rolled on the ground laughing at that while she pouted at them.
January gave way to February. Taylor had her first Endbringer attack as Kull helping Panacea heal victims of Simurgh's attack on Canberra while Glory Girl worked search and rescue until her clock ran out and she couldn't go back in the zone anymore. The debriefing said Simurgh's efforts were not as effective as usual. No one understood why. The three girls saw Shadow Stalker there but didn't speak to her. Taylor thought it was all a bit self congratulatory but Amy told her the Simurgh was normally much worse. This time they had lost few people. Sure the city was quarantined but they got most of the people out before they were turned into walking crazy bombs. Some people said the quarantine was temporary as the Simurgh's constructs were falling apart or reverting to normal or something.
No one put together that Taylor showing up coincided with Simurgh's changing behavior and not hanging around long.
March followed February as normal and the girls patrolled, alone now mostly, continuing their crusade against street level crime and toward improving the lives of people on the street practicing healing. Amy and Taylor gave everyone they treated on the street allergies to drugs and alcohol. A drink, glass of wine or beer an hour and nothing. More than that and a system purge happened. Meth and Crack got immediate purges. Marijuana got the same as alcohol. A buzz fine, wasted and purge. The rest of New Wave and the Wards had gotten in on the street level crime prevention and the prosecutors for the city, state and county were seizing property and filling jails left and right.
Taylor and Amy had started playing with bugs and small mammals, and modified quite a few. It's amazing what squirrels and rats could see and hear. Amy had even made a breakthrough and made some that increased Taylors range. First bugs, then the small mammals. Taylor found she could use birds but it made her dizzy. Vicky decided she was prejudiced against flight.
The upshot of all this experimentation was a deeper understanding of Amy's truly terrifying power that the girls kept strictly to themselves, and hours of conversation and study into what she could do with brains. She had started looking at but not modifying the brains of everyone she healed. Hence the healing of random people on the street. The allergy to drugs was her working up to affecting brains.
They also modified a bunch of black widow spiders to produce silk of a strength never seen before and limpets to make the material their teeth were made of, modified for more strength, in plates, to order. All of New Wave got new armor. Carol liked hers even better as it was organic and didn't interfere with her powers at all. Her blades just formed above it if it was in skin contact with her. The greyish silk and teeth material plates wern't exactly what they hoped for color wise but it was warm, water, knife, and bullet proof. The teeth material plates could be spray painted on and they wore enough of them that they were nearly fully covered, except for the joints, so that ended the discussion. The Moms, Carol and Sarah, decided. Everyone wore the suits. Except Taylor, whose change to her armored form got more and more refined with cutting edges appearing along her arms and legs. If you didn't have a Taylor Amy suit you were in danger from her if she went full change. She could also pull it off in seconds now so normally walked around in her normal self. In clothes a size to large with stretch waist bands.
She was maturing as well and had turned a few heads, male and female. So did Amy. Vicky spent a lot of time guarding those two and running off suitors. The pair rolled their eyes a lot. They hadn't gotten any farther than some making out, well a lot of making out, and Vicky wasn't letting anyone in there before they decided what they were to each other. Amy and Taylor thought it was sweet, stupid and a bit domineering, but sweet. Vicky was both of their jealous girlfriend.
Carol and Danny, after some conversation, decided everything was fine with Amy and Taylor so left it alone. Maybe why the relationship trundled along on low but building heat. No pressure from parents or peers.
Kull's threat assessment was upgraded in PRT records to include level five biokinesis. Still no one put together her appearance and Simurgh's pattern break.
March passed in a blur of warming but wild weather, and Taylor texting the police as to where criminal activity was happening every few minutes, subconsciously, sort of on thinker auto pilot. Her range extender creatures she and Amy had worked on were spreading. Her thinker rating was steadily climbing. The criminal activity was steadily declining but the incidents becoming more serious as the general scum was literally policed up. The players left were smarter and harder. They improved about as fast as the new generation of New Wave did. They also carried more money.
The rest of the New Wave was busy too, as were the DWU. In the case of New Wave, Mark was still going strong training the youngest generation and Carol had taken Canary's case. Dragon, a Canadian cape, and ranking member of the Guild built Canary a mask that filtered her power. Carol built a case against her boyfriend. The one who had attempted to rob her and when she told him to go fuck himself cut off his cock and shoved it up his ass. It was horrible. The girls giggled about it for hours and felt guilty for seconds when they found out.
Taylor was getting more and more information on the gangs in the city. The girls plotted all the information out. Amy snorted "Can the PRT not do analysis. This isn't even complicated work. It's as plain as can be something bad is building, probably a turf war and now Lung has this bizarre woman, Bakuda, in addition to Oni Li."
Vicky nodded "And he was bad enough. I think the Merchants would get crushed, never count a man out that is so high he doesn't know he is dead though."
Taylor snorted and fist bumped Vicky "I'll just keep wearing my thumbs out texting. Maybe we can get with the older folks and start preplanning some operations just in case. I'll talk to Dad too. The Merchants are right on top of the DWU. Empire Eighty Eight are just happy Nazi's? That doesn't seem reasonable."
Taylor, as was now normal, led the patrol as she was the center of the running planning while her creatures fed her information. Vicky flew cover, Amy trailed Taylor by a few feet and tried to keep watch on their rear and flanks. Something was going on downton and the New Wave patrol was headed in that direction. This time Taylor was running and jumping roof to roof while Vicky flew with Amy.
They all met on a roof that was in the middle of the disturbance that was bothering the creatures and waited, looking around and listening alertly.
Three floors below them Lung was gathering ABB members and issuing orders to hunt down the 'kids'. Taylor arched a brow at Vicky and Amy and they decided to nip this in the bud. Amy fired off a text to the PRT. Lung walked away around the corner. Vicky and Taylor dropped to the street and ran through the ABB thugs in seconds. They were standing there taking stock when Lung came back around the corner of the building and roared at them incoherently. Vicky held up a hand "Wait! You can't just kill kids!"
Lung roared some more and charged. Taylor danced out of the way and her armor began changing to the full, deadly, Kull. Vicky hit Lung with three good punches, which, while slowing him, didn't stop him and started him changing. Taylor yelled at Vicky "We can't let him fully change!" She darted in and drove him back with brutal, high powered slashing attacks of arms and legs. He healed in front of their eyes.
Things ramped up from there and they fought down the street getting nearly as good as they got and destroying derelict store fronts. Taylor, furious and afraid for herself and Vicky, exercised her power and swarms of insects and rodents rose up and attacked Lung. In the breathing space this allowed she looked at Vicky "We are going to have to go lethal and now. He fought an Endbringer to a standstill. He will kill us."
Vicky nodded "How?"
Taylor watched as Lung started using fire on her swarms. She noticed that there were zones where, as he grew, his scales didn't cover, or didn't cover as thickly. "You get his attention. I am going in from behind and will work on those areas where he is growing. If that doesn't work we will disengage. You pick up Amy and get the hell out of here. I'll run."
Amy meanwhile had dropped to the street and put the ABB thugs to sleep and rolled them. She stayed back keeping an eye on their rear.
Vicky nodded and steeled herself, then took off gaining speed and altitude. Taylor was directing every bug and rodent she could influence at Lung. Lung by now was a twelve-foot-tall dragon thing flinging fire in all directions.
Vicky hit in the midst of a dense wave with a noise like a train wreck. Taylor shot in and launched a series of kicks aimed at legs and arms. She also used her bladed forearms on the largest area of thinned scales on Lungs torso. She was shocked when her bladed left leg took Lungs right leg off at the thigh and her rigt forearm swept through Lungs torso buried nearly to her elbow.
There was a great scream and Lung went down in a splash of blood. Vicky and Taylor froze looking at each other and Oni Lee teleported in with a knife. Before he could slash at either girl Amy landed on his shoulders with both feet and gripped his face sending him into unconsciousness.
The girls were still looking at each other when Armsmaster rolled up on his tinker tech motorcycle and Miss Militia lead a PRT squad up from the other direction. They immediately foamed Oni Lee and Lung.
Armsmaster looked at Taylor "Are you going to fight me?"
Taylor held up a finger "Give me a minute, then if you want me to kick your ass I will." Vicky and Amy snorted while Armsmaster bristled. Taylor glared at him "Don't be a dick then. Vicky can you get our gear? I want to look at the recordings. I can't figure out why Lung just hulked out on us."
Armsmaster's lips thinned down under his mask "Maybe because you took out his minions in his territory?"
Taylor rolled her eyes "Did you not get our text? He was talking about killing kids, you guys were fucking off somewhere, and we just knocked them out."
Amy walked over to Taylor after returning with Vicky and handed her her phone which was running the video wirelessly. Miss Militia looked over the girls shoulders. She watched the video through and then watched Vicky and Amys body camera video. "That is strange. He was already, well, primed, I think."
Armsmaster asked "Can you send me those videos?"
Vicky took the three phones and worked on that. Taylor turned to Amy "Can we check those ABB bangers we knocked out and maybe wake one up?"
Amy nodded and they walked back down the street a hundred yards with Miss Militia. Taylor asked Amy "So is Armsmaster always a dick?"
Amy looked at her "Kull, be nice. I think he has Asperger's, at least to some degree. He is very technically competent but his people skills are dismal."
Taylor nodded "Another one of those power effects we are studying?"
Miss Militia asked "Power effects?"
Taylor nodded "Parahumans change when they get powers. Generally, they become more biased toward conflict. Some of them wildly so. At least that's what our data says, so far. We don't really have a lot of objective data, mostly anecdotal evidence."
Amy woke up a ABB banger who took one look at Kull and froze. Miss Miltia smiled a bit and got on with questioning him. Taylor and Amy checked the other gang members but left them unconscious. The BBPD arrived and started securing the gang members.
Miss Militia finished her questioning and the three women walked back toward where the PRT was loading a still foamed Lung and Oni Lee into secure transport. Miss Militia told them "You caught Lung at the wrong time. Someone, probably the Undersiders, had just robbed his gambling operation. He was going out hunting them intending to kill them. A violation of the unwritten rules."
Amy snarked "Which are written down in the PHO forum FAQ section." Taylor and Miss Militia chuckled.
Armsmaster looked at them and Miss Miltia relayed what she had learned. Armsmaster nodded. "Lung and Oni Lee will get the Bird Cage for this. They clearly intended to kill the Undersiders, or at least some group of parahumans. They both attacked Glory Girl and Kull with lethal force. Glory Girl and Kull had no choice but to ramp up to lethal force to try to break contact."
Taylor nodded for a moment and then shrugged "We will have to take down the Merchants."
Everyone blinked aside from Miss Militia who nodded "They will try to move on the ABB in the absence of Lung and Oni Lee. The ABB will fight back. Someone is going to have to tell Kaiser to keep his organization under control as well."
Amy sighed "We couldn't just let Lung kill people though."
Armsmaster nodded "No you couldn't. Plus you are a registered Heroic group associated with the Protectorate and have arrest powers. He should have stood down. Kull stopped her attacks once he was disabled, that those attacks disabled him is interesting. Those edges on your armor must be very sharp. That armor tougher than it appears as well. Changer nine I think. Your striker rating will be ten plus as well."
Miss Militia nodded "Panacea gets a Striker rating of five to seven as well, taking Oni Lee like that. Glory Girl, I think we will have to add Striker seven to you as well. Those attacks were more than flying brick work and were hurting Lung."
Vicky moaned "Mom is going to freak. We are so grounded, fucking Lung."
Miss Miltia smiled, her eyes crinkling above her bandana. Armsmaster nodded "The video has been added to the arrest report and evidence. We will take these to holding pretrial."
Amy looked at Taylor and asked "What kind of bugs were in that swarm?"
Taylor snorted "Every bug in Brockton Bay. Most of the rats as well. The ones that5 could get here anyway. I was a bit panicked. Lung is going to need antivenom treatments for Black Widow and Brown Recluse as well as rabies shots."
Armsmaster nodded "Noted. Medical then holding."
The three watched as the PRT cleared off and then began climbing back to the roof level. Or Taylor climbed while Vicky carried Amy. They arrived on the roof and found themselves looking at a blond girl wearing a purple and black body suit with an eye on the chest, approximately their age, on a huge lizard dog thing. She grinned at them and introduced herself "Tattletale-"
Vicky finished "Of the Undersiders."
Tattletale nodded "Just wanted to say thanks. Lung would have had us, you bought us some breathing room."
Vicky nodded "ABB will come after you though."
Tattle tale nodded again and shrugged "We know. Thanks again. See you around."
The New Wave girls looked at each other then groaned as their phones all went off at the same time.