Taylor arrived in the dorm room and blinked. "Uh Hello?"
The young blond in the domino mask grinned at her "Missy, this is Lily. We're wards. Miss Militia made some kind of deal to put us through some intensive training with Flashbang, and since the facilities are here, well they moved us in for the summer. Kind of a camp I guess."
"Oh my god! Girls? Does Mark, erh Mr. Dallon, uh Flashbang know? Jeeze he has been working with us and we are all, well, you'll see. OK this will be fine. Amy and I are here and can take care of anything really crazy that happens. Hmmm. We need to check you two. She'll be up here in a minute and we can start. Taylor, Taylor Hebert." Taylor wound down.
Missy looked at Lily and then back at Taylor and crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot. "So, you have some ideas about women and training?"
Taylor frowned "Oh! Sorry. No, I expect you are fully capable. There are some physical differences and Mark doesn't quite get that. It won't matter in the testing phase but it will as you build up and the guys upper body comes on faster than yours. You will do better at core and lower body stuff. We have learned some techniques and stuff that are relevant to females. They will help. Meanwhile we will straighten out any issues with the plumbing before you start. Guys have it easy. Not so many things to have issues with. Though more to take care of in a fight if you know what I mean."
Lily nodded "They are still over with Parian freaking a bit. So Arcadia? I got Immaculata. Missy will be going to Arcadia in the fall. I'm registered at the University too and taking some classes there."
Taylor nodded "Crystal, you know her? She will be in here with us. Delphi, I think she goes to the Arcadia feeder grade school, Henderson, she will be in here too."
Missy blinked "Dinah Alcott? Cool. She is funny. Don't gamble with that chick though."
Taylor nodded "You do that space manipulation thing right. I need to show you some math."
Lily sighed "Oh no not another one."
Amy walked in "Another what?"
The group all met for dinner in the cafeteria and Dennis snorted "Arcadia cafeteria much?"
Lucy looked at Amanda and opened a notebook she had with her for some reason "Clockblocker. Observational skills poor." She actually wrote it down.
Dennis whined "Hey no fair, its afterhours, evaluation over." The others laughed. Lucy and Amanda high fived.
Amanda looked around "So we were spit balling at lunch. We have those portals and an invulnerable cape. So why don't we put a portal in front of Ash Beast and send him to Ellisberg, then Gary, then the rest of the quarantine zones?"
Carlos blinked "Uh. Would the portal live through it?"
Vicky nodded "Even if it didn't, if it would live once, we make them. We could make matched pairs of them for where we wanted him they wouldn't have to be in the network. It would probably be expensive but if it worked it would be worth it at twice the price."
Lisa nodded "A ring of them around ash beast all tuned to the one for Ellisberg and we don't even need the invulnerable cape."
Chris nodded "That gem needs to go up the chain. I'll get with L33t and write it up."
Carlos nodded "So Scion ran off with Leviathan or what you two left of him."
Amy snorted "We weren't alone. You all were even there. That was him. The rest was some kind of construct, biological only in the widest sense. What Scion did with him is the question."
Taylor shrugged "A couple years and someone is going to find out."
Dennis smiled "I don't think it will be here so I'm not water proofing my next phone. Otter cases are expensive." Everyone looked at him. "What? Wards salary here. Not Union scale."
Taylor had decided one Union meeting a week was enough until they got indicators of another crisis. The BBCU still gathered in their conference room after dinner, out of habit by now.
Carol nodded "Yes we need to look at that portal thing. If the Protectorate and PRT don't take it up it might be worth spending the money and time on to do it ourselves. That goblin is too close. So are some other threats." The younger people had explained what had cropped up at dinner.
Taylor nodded "You know I can't use living things on Behemoth. He would just burn them up. That little Ash Beast trick, if it works, would do the same to him as a sharknado. If we bought enough time we could get guns in place then and work him over. Sorry but I'm a bit of a one trick pony."
John, who was down to take care of Keith while Arthur worked on his projects in the area, nodded, "And maybe he could stop Scion from running off with Behemoth so we could put him on ice somewhere. Like in the orbit of Neptune. And not that we noticed, the one trick anyway."
Arthur smiled "You'll have to excuse John. He is still a bit angry about Leviathan being body snatched."
Lisa laughed "Aren't we all. We got the rockets ready now though so next time we won't be standing around trying to decide what the hell we are going to do. Taylor can master whoever it is still and we can strap him in and light the fuze."
L33t nodded "We got good measurements from the video. If they aren't to different its bye bye birdy."
John groaned "And the R&D section will have another reason to flip out. They want to get to that core thing with every sensor and measuring device on the planet. They are planning anti Scion defenses so they have a chance to play with the next one."
Lisa shrugged "They better wear pressure suits. Once we see Scion we are launching."
Aisha frowned "Won't he just chase it down? Maybe we launch a portal now. Then we could portal them both to orbit."
The Tinkers and thinkers all groaned and grabbed their heads. Amy sighed and stood up, moving around to relieve headaches. Danny looked at Arthur "From the mouths of babes."
"Mr. Hebert! Thanks! Sorry but you're a bit old for me." Aisha grinned and preened. Brian glared at her.
Dragon appeared in a monitor and looked at Colin who sighed and rubbed his temples "Yes the permutations of strategy involving portals and using the existing threats against each other is nearly endless. This is going to take a while."
Dragon smiled "I have an idea for a prison on Mars."
Colin closed his eyes "Ouch."
Agnes Court looked at Uppercrust "So, this organization, the Dock Workers Union, broke the code on parahuman business ownership and participation. They aren't the only ones."
Uppercrust nodded "They are the only ones with political pull to include having the Triumvirate, besides that fool Eidolon, and the PRT in their corner.
"We will stay away from them until they impinge our business. They are growing, a confrontation will likely occur. In the mean time we can study them and ways to hurt them.
"Their level of diversification is extreme. Defense, energy, metals, food, material of all kinds, medicine, machinery. Everything a modern society needs. Admittedly on a small scale, but growing.
"Fortunately, in markets where we don't have a presence. We also have no idea where they will go next. We will consolidate our hold on our current territories while we learn about these people."
Agnes nodded "Bastard Son won't like that."
"I don't like there are still villains interfering with our operations in our territory. He needs to shut that down before he tries to bite off what is reported to be multiple S class threats in the DWU. You will need to see to that and start establishing some dominance over him if you hope to lead upon my demise."
Agnes nodded. She wasn't callous. Uppercrust was both old and infirm.
Danny walked to the power house on his daily rounds. He hadn't been here in a while. He opened the door and found himself in a quiet cool room with not one but now two giant engines. Alfred, the powerhouse manager smiled at him "Different isn't it. Ms. Dallon fixed my hearing too. I'm not sure what to think. All the bright lights and all. Hardly break a sweat anymore."
"You don't look to troubled. Uh where did that come from?" Danny pointed to the new engine and generator it was hooked to.
Alfred laughed "Tinkers. They seem to operate on waste not want not plus they can't see a piece of machinery and not 'tink out' as the kids call it. That is the engine and generator gear off the supertanker. Its switch gear was used to build the switch house or rebuild it. Along with what we had. The engine has been tinked of course, as has the generator. Nearly double the output, a hundred and sixty megawatts is where it really likes to run, a hundred and two rpms.
"The other freighter engines are in the bays around and can be brought online if demand picks up. One of them is being used for compressed air and another for hydraulic pressure.
"With spares, of course. Between the other generator engines, they can replace ninety percent of the output of our two main engines or double our generation if the demand comes in. The BBLGW has control of them really. They provide the heat for the Docks, the new installations on the wall and the refinery. And burn number five and six fuel oil. The return lines on the steam keep the oil storage tanks at a hundred and twenty degrees and then the day tank here is kept at two hundred degrees with primary steam off the engines. We get through about a thousand tons of oil a day, just barely keeping up with the refineries lowest output of bunker oils, if we are running everything at full load. The Tinkers really like things being efficient. The surplus is sold to any vessels that need it at market rate. Otherwise we would need more tanks in the tank farm at the refinery.
"The tinkers got the system extracting sulfur down to the EPA requirement at the refinery and they sell that too. No idea who to.
"Profits about twenty-five thousand dollars a day." Alfred beamed at Danny.
Danny laughed "OK fine. So, when we fire up the slaughter house, tannery and refrigerated warehouses what's it going to do to you?"
Alfred shrugged "Make more money I guess. We have the extra capacity like I said. That's before steampunk puts in his steam turbine generator to use the steam during the summer. Closed system, if we don't use it for heating we got a problem and the EPA won't let us dump heat in the bay. Plus, the fishermen would cut our nuts out. The lobster and oysters would be the first to go and they are big profit from what the boys on the docks say. I remember the days when only us poor people ate lobster and oysters.
"Us stirring up the bay and sucking the oil out has a boom going on right now. Apparently, the cannery can hardly keep up. Got three shifts working seven days a week and are always hiring more." He led over to a computer screen "They're pulling eight megawatts. Never drops off. With the improvements, the tinkers made to the motors and us supplying air and hydraulic power that is a lot of power. We charge them cost rather than market so it isn't that high a bill, lets them keep production cost down and profit up."
"Which means more workers, more production, skippers paid good prices for good catch. Where are the fish coming from though? Its only been a couple weeks since Leviathan." Danny asked.
Alfred nodded "My oldest, Julie, the professor over at the University, marine biology, who knew that would actually pan out? Anyway, she says the fish follow the food and well the food right now is coming out of the bay. Of course, that food is plankton and baby fish, crabs, shrimp, all of that. She says it will be a couple of years before the better environment in the bay causes, get this, 'An explosion of life of the nature we prey on'. Vegetarian too nowadays. No idea what got into that girl." Alfred looked at Danny laughing and grumbled "Sure, laugh it up boss, yours is a meat eater, dragon slayer, Endbringer ass kicker and got the best healer in the world as a significant other. I got weedy long-haired freaks who wouldn't know a hod from a boathook at the table on Sundays."
Danny was bent over hands on knees. He held up a hand palm out and waved it helplessly "Sorry." Alfred waved him off.
Danny wandered over to the cannery through the busy, ever expanding dockyard along the bricked paths. He waited for the signals at street crossings. A lot of the vehicles were autonomous and while they supposedly wouldn't hit you and were going twenty-five miles an hour who wants a trip to the infirmary? Even though with Amy or Taylor you would be back at work in twenty minutes and fifteen of that would be ass chewing and pay docking.
He got to the cannery and reached for his ear pro as he opened the door. He stepped through and drifted to a halt looking at a stainless steel and tile wonderland. Marilyn the manager saw him through the glass front of her office and came out on the floor. "Different world."
Danny nodded "Is that machine gutting and cleaning?"
Marilyn smiled "And about five times as efficient as the top of the line commercial model it used to be. Tinked of course. Mostly we watch the machines and do clean up nowadays. Well except for the specialty species, Tuna, Swordfish, those go on a plane nearly as soon as they come on the dock. They are auctioned right there with the captains watching. Our guys pull the cores and put them in machines and it does the grading. Not subjective like it used to be. We finally got in on the systems the Japanese have been pushing every one toward for years. Helps they supply the machines, and their technicians check them once a week. We get ten percent, free money sort of. Two auctions a day. Squid we still do by hand but the day shift gets them in the morning. The fish markets got a portal, the big ones. We send carts through as the stuff is sold and they send empty carts and flats back.
"Smoking we still do by hand as well. That's where most of the employees are now. Over in the smoke houses. That's all tuned up and computer efficient too though. Compliance with FDA and EPA regs. Pain in the ass that they are. It does give a standardized repeatable product though. We did keep one manual smoke operation going. Got most of the older folks working there and they turn out super premium stuff that we can't afford to eat. New York, LA, Chicago too. All the big cities where people have to much money and time on their hands get that.
"I remember a stream of blood and guts going back in the bay a foot deep in a ditch." Danny marveled.
Marilyn leaned forward "You wouldn't believe what Asians eat. What they don't is blood meal, bone meal, or in the lowest grades, fish meal fertilizer.
Grind up the solids with seaweed we are clearing anyway, or the beach cleaners pick up when they run at dawn, cook it down to ten percent moisture, bag it and sell it for fertilizer. Or sell it in bulk. Supposedly great stuff. Golf courses buy it by the carload."
"So I think I know how this happed but why don't you tell me what you think?" Danny asked.
"Well it was Steampunk first. He fixed up the old machinery and got it running like well trained dogs. That of course upped production. Then we got some deals on state of the art stuff and brought it in and He worked that over. Production went through the roof. We made enough to pay captains well. Word got around. Now we pull boats from Canada all the way to the Delaware bay. Uber worked over our IT so we know the market worldwide. In some cases, we make the market. Fish stocks have recovered because European boats don't dare come this far with the Endbrigners around.
"Right place right time with the right people. All those years of believing and hard work finally paying off." Marilyn smiled.
Danny nodded "We were and are prepared for the opportunities."
Marilyn nodded "Doesn't hurt that the BBCU fucked up Lung and Leviathan. Idiots should have known not to start a fight with dock workers. Even those baby ones." She grinned at him. He laughed and waved on his way out.
Alexandria looked at Contessa "The path to victory now involves the BBCU so I am supposed to get friendly with them. What the fuck! Seriously, what the fuck?"
Contessa sighed "David is, well, broken. From what we can tell those shards that are the Endbringers have a purpose and after weeks of intense work we can say that that purpose is, or part of it is, harvesting shards right before the warrior begins destroying planets and harvesting them for their energy. It should be him and the thinker doing it but as we know that isn't going to happen. The BBCU have a method to keep the Endbringers and the other S class threats contained, increasing the number of natural triggers who survive. This will increase our odds of success against the warrior.
"Somehow David has something to do with the Endbringers. We are working on it. We will figure it out and get him back here, or get him back here and figure it out.
"You had an interaction with Kull and are happier than you have been in five years. Go have more interactions."
Doctor Mother nodded "Spit in this tube before you go. I want to check your levels."
Rebecca closed her eyes and counted to ten.
Alexandria strolled out onto the sand flipped her towel out, dropped her wrap and sat down. She turned to Kull who grinned at her "Pretty seriously hot. Thought you would have a better tan. Need us to oil you?" Alexandria rolled her eyes in the domino mask she was wearing. Kull shrugged "So, all that is issue? The Towel, the wrap, the bikini. I mean, just asking as it all has Protectorate logos. Our members buy their own bikini's. Well Parian makes them, and then decides what you are allowed to buy. Do not ask her for a one piece. You get two swatches and piece of dragline silk then. Just go with what she puts you in. That always works out better. Plus its cheap for members."
Alexandria finally smiled "As my branding people in LA found out. I could and can hear the screaming all the way in my office when she stomps on one of their ridiculous costume designs."
Kull chuckled "Yeah. The other side of those discussions are her people going to lunch early while she destroys something or her terrorizing squatters and heavy equipment operators riding around on a life sized stuffed Tyrannosaur."
Alexandra blinked then laughed. "Not to change the subject but changing the subject, what is up with your powers."
Kull huffed "I don't freaking know, I've had them a month! Well several now. But it's like riding a lightning bolt. It's all fine until you touch a ground then boom! Mark Dallon thinks some of us are not as limited as others. We think by that he mostly means mentally. On top of that he thinks you don't know the true extent of your powers until they are stressed to the breaking point. Unfortunately, that could get you killed. Bit of a limiter on most people. You know, those with survival instincts. So he stresses us to see what happens in a controlled way. It's exhausting. Last, but not least, he says the classification of powers and their rating has been done by, well enemies, looking for a way to plan and train to stop those with powers."
Alexandria leaned back on her arms and soaked up the sun for a minute. They all watched the harbor patrol chase a jet ski with a guy holding a camera with a long lens on the back of it, lights and sirens going and motors quickly winding up. "Flashbang is notoriously broken, no offense."
Amy nodded "He is better since Kull showed up. He suddenly became the power and training guru. Also, he is the one that sets up our teams. I think the results of that speak for themselves. As for being broken, we all triggered. If you believe the PHO boards tin foil hat crowd, some of us didn't but they drank some magic potion that had a high probability of turning them into case fifty three's. Good folks, at least the ones we associate with, but still." Amy shrugged leaning back on her arms. Heads went up and down and collected slaps then glares. "Hard to tell who is the most broken of us. Second generation capes less maybe. Feel good triggers maybe as well. Powerful combat capes? Horrendous things lead to those triggers."
"Then there is the weirdness. Tinkers are allegedly from long term stress but thinkers form the same kind of stress that builds and goes boom quickly?"
"I think we don't really know what we are talking about in the sense of truly having an understanding. Maybe because we are unwilling to discuss and document triggers in any kind of truly scientific way. Powers might as well be magic. Maybe if we have another hundred years of them we will come out of the dark ages and into the renaissance."
Glory Girl nodded "Until then Powers are bullshit and it's how you use them that counts. They're yours. Know them and use them as best you can. Dad's test and exercises help with that. And Kull is the most bullshit of all, ever.'
Kull sighed "Except for flying."
Alexandria frowned "Do birds really make you dizzy? But flying insects don't. What about bats?"
Lucy sighed "Oh fuck me." She got out her notebook.
Alexandria came back to the Union Hall and the girls' dorm for a shower when they left the beach. Afterwards they all sat in the cafeteria and Alexandria looked at the white boards full of projects and their status and the touch screen monitors where you could pull up detailed list down to cost estimates.
She saw the monitor with Dragons face on the articulated arm hanging from the track in the ceiling over a seat at the tinker table. It was split and Armsmaster was in it with her. "Does anyone even know what you all have fingers in?"
"Charmaine in accounting. I think she is thinker ten. Plus, she has an eidetic memory." Lisa supplied, then went on, "Danny Hebert as he walks around a couple of hours a day talking to everyone. Or gets Taylor to drive him as she needs practice for her permit. Arthur, as he has looked at everything building wise like Parian does work so she can do the clothes."
Vicky shrugged "Taylor as she has all the brains in the ocean to keep track."
Amanda smiled "On land within five hundred miles of here and Gloverton too."
Arthur, back from a shower and washing the sand off of Keith looked at Alexandria "You should come look at a condo. The one next to ours is empty and it appears you will be spending some time here."
Alexandria groaned "I will. Plus I was supposed to talk to you and then Danny Hebert about office space. The Protectorate has decided a permanent presence here is in order."
Legend sat "Did I miss a meeting?"
Danny asked "How big a presence? I'm sure we could lease you something, but you have the Rig?"
Alexandria nodded "Non-combat, thinkers, tinkers. R&D to get closer to your R&D. Some discussion of a secure data center. The PRT is going to expand their presence as well. Brockton Bay seems to be where the action is. We are only months behind the curve this time rather than years."
Lisa nodded "The weaponization of Ash Beast. They liked that one huh? You know that happened over lunch one day."
Alexandria nodded "Exactly why they want office and lab space and privileges for the cafeteria here."
Danny looked around and shrugged "It was built for a membership of three thousand. The highest we ever got was twelve hundred actual members. We may beat that but I doubt we would ever have a problem. The Chefs are happy to run three shifts a day. They run a training course too. Most of the chefs around town are union members. The family owned ethnic restaurants are the only ones where they aren't. They even have contracts for supplying baked goods to groceries and the like. Most of the kitchen, the commercial kitchen and bakery are under us here."
Arthur nodded "Hence the windows around the bottom of the building. A bit old school in equipment and layout but it all runs and everything served here is from fresh. Impressive."
Kull sighed "Another bunch of meetings. Can we go finish off, say, Nilbog instead?" That got nods from those under twenty and laughs from those older.
"The Slaughter house Nine have been definitively sighted in Boston." Emily Piggot told Danny Hebert. They were talking on their tablets.
Danny sighed. "How?"
"They apparently went to recruit a cape there. They ended up mixing it up with a group run by a cape named Accord and a group known as the teeth, I suspect you remember them? Eidolon, the PRT, Protectorate and civilian authorities have gotten involved. As you can imagine its fairly ugly." Emily said with a shrug. The monitors behind her showed some of it. "Legend and Alexandria are there. Casualties will be coming in to here, we are closer than New York. We wanted to use any buildings you had as temporary hospitals."
"Its Taylors Birthday." Danny pinched the bridge of his nose and looked out the window. "Ash Beast the bastards Emily."
"We are working on it right now Danny. If we can get them into a section of town we have already evacuated then we will. Your people in portal control are already on it and the Portal circle is ready to emplace around him. I know its Taylors birthday. I'm sorry."
"Send Othala out of the lockup. I'll get working on a building. Kayden can take custody of her. Emily, if they come this way it'll be guns. The guys in the CIC will already be putting in the information."
"I know Danny. If you think that's bad you may have to break in a new director. I sent Bakuda to Boston with a specific mission, target and Miss Militia.'
"Fuck Emily! What the fuck? Why wasn't she in the birdcage? Some prison anyway. You know what, we will talk about this later. I'll call you when I have a building ready."
In Taylors room Vicky looked at the other two. Taylor was lying with her eyes closed. She must have felt Vicky looking "Nope, its my birthday. I'm laying here sexing my girlfriend up until the first casualties the regular doctors cant handle arrive. Then I will bring her to you sweaty and sticky."
"I beg your pardon? I am having a shower before I treat patients thank you very much!" Amy replied.
Vicky rolled her eyes "I'm going to cook breakfast. Before you two make me sweaty and sticky." She got up and got a robe and slippers on and padded out.
Taylor sighed "Well it isn't us this time. What the fuck is wrong with the world?"
Amy nodded "I know. It's enough to make you think the tinfoil hat wearing crowd may have something after all."
Taylor nodded "Lisa and her crew can look at it between reports of death and destruction. I think we will be a bit busy. Uh Amy?"
Amy popped off a nipple "Busy now." She latched back on and maneuvered on top of Taylor.
A few minutes later Danny paused outside Taylors door listening then smiled "Happy birthday Taylor."
Vicky met him in the kitchen with waffles, bacon, and coffee. He eyed her "Where is Dean."
Vicky looked upstairs, blushed a nice pink and sighed "It isn't there yet."
Danny nodded "Take your time. You all are just getting to that age."
Vicky snorted "Damn media."
Danny laughed and ate. He headed out after "I'll call when we have the building, let you know which one. No need to come in until triage is up and running." He turned to the door then back "Can you move Amy's truck?"
Danny got to the dockyard as the sun rose and looked at the people and vehicles moving with a deliberate urgency. He parked his sedan and went in the Union Hall. Lisa met him in the hall before his office and started rattling off details. He nodded then said "Good, great work, now go get dressed and some breakfast. It is going to be a long day." He smiled. Lisa looked down at herself and her Mickey Mouse boxers. She blushed, nodded, and trotted off.
Danny brought his computer online and opened a conference call. He soon had the foremen and Director Piggot on. It was thirty-one minutes since Eidolon had attacked the Nine as they watched Bonesaw killing Blasto.
Twenty minutes later Kayden took Othala and blasted off to Boston. They would send packaged casualties that could not be handled there to a former fur storage facility that was being swiftly but thoroughly converted to a hospital by the Plumbing, Electrical, and Carpentry shop and several drones per shop.
The HVAC shop was working on the climate control for the building. A four story two hundred thousand square foot behemoth with brick walls three feet thick and few if any windows. The patients would be in wards not private rooms but it was temporary.
It also had a big apron in front of it that could take two or three VTOLs at a time. So, one landing, one unloading, and one leaving all the time. The warehouse had received semitrailers of furs from New York and Boston when it was operating. Storing the garments for customers of the furriers. Or the furriers themselves.
The materials section ran a temporary line for JP4, and brought in warehouse tugs that could tow aircraft.
Brockton General sent four surgical teams and one of their trauma shifts.
Danny nodded and went to the CIC run by the ex-navy guys who were working on the guns. He walked into a dark intense space with lit glass boards and people behind them writing or drawing backwards wearing headsets straight out of a war movie. Admiral Edward M Norton (retired) met him in front of the glass panel that had a map of the area of Boston drawn on it. "Good job. They fell right back into it. Like riding a bicycle. We don't have anything that will range, though some of the guns from Gloverton and our far northern most tower will with tinked munitions if they move south. Gloverton first of course. A hundred miles is the best we can do. We are linked into the PRT Brockton Bay CIC or whatever they call it. Through them to the Protectorate."
"Hell of a job clearing the area though. Bound to be collateral damage."
Danny nodded "The plan is to clear an area and run an Ash Beast attack on the Nine."
Ed smiled tightly "Given the time to clear an area probably the best plan. I talked to the boys in Gloverton about getting some anti air assets along the medivac routes. The Navy is going to let us have some Phalanx. They are flying in some from the surface warfare center and school. Price is us tinking them of course."
Danny nodded and grinned "Bye Bye Birdy. I hate to say it, but I hope we can get those in action. Well, no rest for the wicked. I'll stop back in later." Ed nodded and went back to the leather covered seat mounted on a pedestal in the center of the floor.
Danny ran into Taylor and Amy coming from the Union hall "Hey! Happy Birthday Taylor. Shouldn't you still be having it?"
Amy blushed and Taylor grinned and blushed "Break. Amy wanted to check her new domain."
Danny nodded "Don't get attached. It is going to lease to the PRT and Protectorate, two floors each."
Taylor smiled "Tax money coming back to us then. It is my birthday!"
Danny laughed and kissed her on the cheek then did the same to Amy with a 'thanks' in her ear. The two trotted off and Danny headed for the Union Hall and his office. He met New Wave minus Amy and Vicky on the way. Sarah looked at him "Fucking Nine, Way to fuck up a girls' sweet sixteen."
Danny shrugged "Not to be an ass but it could be worse."
Mark nodded "This is after all Brockton Bay. And the fight with Leviathan went way to damn easy. Only two dead? Its unheard of."
Danny frowned "Mark are you running training today?"
Mark nodded "For the wards. Taylors team will be around her and Amy. I already saw camera coons and brain queens out looking around on the way here. Sarah and the others are going to patrol in the absence of the protectorate capes who are all in Boston. I'll run the wards through some training then we will patrol with them. Boston's wards are coming in too. We can run some ward on ward games and then see how they integrate."
Everyone's phones suddenly spoke "Carnal deceased, Prophet deceased." In Dragons voice.
Carol blinked "Did this get classified as an Endbringer event?"
Danny shook his head "No idea, time to go look at the monitors and maybe talk to Dragon."
"We didn't have time to pass out the armbands. I stole a page from Taylors playbook and coopted the phones. Yes, they are treating it as a Endbringer. Even so far as a truce and bringing the volunteer Villains. The protectorate and PRT are going all out here." Dragon answered a few minutes later. The phones said, "Mouse Protector is down." Dragon continued "It works even better. The phones have much more processing capacity. I see why you like this Taylor. I also see why it's a problem until they synch up."
Taylor nodded "At least they aren't alive and fighting you until they do."
Amy looked at Mouse Protector and called "Taylor."
Taylor stepped over and swore "Bonesaw, the little fucking cunt."
Amy nodded "Well hopefully someone will put her down. Though they better have Shielder or a hazmat body bag. I bet she has some surprises in store. I told Director Piggot."
Taylor nodded "Some nice upgrades here. We should do a full job as we fix her."
Amy turned her head and a nurse held out the Endbringer release "Might as well, easier and quicker than taking her back to original. We can always undo it if she wants later. OK recording? Here we go them, Crushed pelvis-"
The hospital people had objected to the dogs until the infirmary staff set them straight. Rachel stood leaned on the wall. If a dog looked at someone twice they were on the floor spread eagle with a dog at each extremity and one at their throat before Vicky could get to them. Parian was off to the side with a giant lifelike bear and rhino measuring Hero's and her people were working up costumes before they went to the cafeteria for food and maybe a rest then caught a flight back. Smart dogs and brain Queens patrolled the patient wards with pairs of PRT troops.
Alec was in a tower with a rifle and Brian was patrolling with a Rottweiler that made him look small. Noelle was with Lisa and Dinah. Aisha was slipping around somewhere. Theo was with Danny.
Hatchet face deceased, Ravager deceased, Purity down. Kreig Deceased, Rune down, Velocity down, Battery down. Cherish deceased, Mannequin deceased."
It was the second day, early in the afternoon. It wasn't a good day.
Amy took Purity and Taylor took Rune. The surgical teams still had Velocity and Battery.
"Alexandria down, Othala down."
"Thirty seconds to Ash Beast deployment. Ten seconds, clear area victor. Ash Beast deployed. Clear area Uniform. Fall back to two-mile zone. Snipers you are weapons free."
Amy and Taylor heard but couldn't look up. Siberian had turned Othala and Alexandria to hamburger.
"Flechete down. Siberian has disappeared. Eidolon down."
"What the fuck? What is Flechete doing there?" Taylor asked.
Vicky handed her another bottle of juice. "Lisa and her crew have been working. The Master had to be taken out to get rid of Siberian. Flechete, Alec, all the strikers are there looking for him. Vista is evacuating casualties. I guess they found him or her. Siberian was chopping up everyone. That is what brought the Ash Beast deployment on. How are Alexandria and Othala?"
Amy sat back slumping in her chair "Back together, physically. I think we all need a vacation though."
Vicky eyed them and looked at Rachel "Come on you two. It will be a couple hours before these folks get here. Let's lay you down for a while."
Alexandria joined Legend flying over Boston's south side, or the ashes of it. "Christ what a mess. Who ordered the Ash Beast?"
"National Command Authority." Legend shrugged I'm glad we didn't make that call. Should you be up here?"
Alexandria sighed "Amy and Taylor want me back in twelve hours."
"Pay attention. Jack Slash can reach out to us. Don't stop moving either, not in the air. Bonesaw has made some improvements to herself and him. Crawler is Crawler. Apparently, a fist size piece and he can regenerate. He has done it twice that we have seen. All the parts crawl back together. Ash Beast is wearing them down but Jack still lashes out."
Alexandria nodded "Two of the rockets are here, on Lisa and Dinah's recommendation."
Legend smiled "Arthur said we had gone all New Wave."
Alexandria rolled her eyes "Tattletale and Delphi then. If we can get one disabled we will space them. Mark has worked out a team with Vista, Shielder, Laserdream, Uber, and L33T."
"Christ, the kids now?" Legend swore.
Alexandria smirked "Me and you too."
"How is David?"
"Doctor Mother has him at cauldron with about a hundred dog bites, and a broken jaw. He got snippy with Panacea, Kull stepped in. He turned on her, Bitch and Glory Girl took him down. I had Contessa come get him, before Kull chopped him up or Panacea killed him. He cannot be near those two, probably ever again." Alexandria relayed, then towed Legend along when he stopped in midair.
"What the fuck is wrong with him?" Legend shook his head.
Alexandria shook her head "I don't know but he isn't leaving Cauldron again until we figure it out."
Vista screamed "Light the goddam fuse!"
Taylor nodded "I haven't got much longer." Her swarm was wearing a bit thin and Crawler recovered nearly as fast as everything poisonous, or that bit, in the greater Boston area could sting or bite.
L33t punched a button, the rocket beeped and showed a green light and a five second timer. Vista let go at one snapping them all back a half mile. They watched as Crawler lifted screaming until he went out of hearing range. He nodded "Let's see you regenerate on the sun you fuck."
Four days into the fight, in full protective gear, and with Amy working nearly constantly to counter everything she did, Kull found Bonesaw. Jack Slash couldn't resist the fight with Ash Beast. He knew he was affecting him.
All of Bonesaw's spiders and whatever she had cobbled together in the pulverized, melted, burned rubble of the moonscape that had been south Boston were dead. Kull had been hunting for four hours, twice encountering Jack and making him decide Ash Beast was the better option. Kull moved so fast she appeared to be teleporting.
Kull found Bonesaw and popped the ash covered disheveled, exhausted, stumbling twelve-year-old into a titanium can and hit the button on the side. The can said "Auto launch sequence initiated. Five, four, three, gyro stabilization active," Kull sped away "Two, one. Ignition." The cylinder rose somewhat gracefully. As gracefully as a titanium fifty-five-gallon drum with a dome on top could really.
Kull got in the giant glove box. Amy put one bare hand inside. Vicky and Rachel airlocked organic matter into the box onto Kull and Amy touched Taylor. Taylor smiled "And then there was one."
Legend landed with Alexandria and looked at Amy anxiously. Amy smiled. They both relaxed.
Lisa trotted up "Jack is inside Ash Beasts area of effect. Time to affect our end game."
Dragon spoke from the phones "The circle is going up around him, the target portal is in place."
Legend asked "We are sure the wall will hold?"
Dragon replied "It's a monocrystal two hundred feet tall. He doesn't go up. The only way he can go is down and the wall is connected to the bedrock. That's the only thing he has never had effect on with his affects."
Lisa smiled "Good one."
Alexandria rolled her eyes "I think you all need a nap."
"Let me out of here." Taylor demanded.
"Hmmm. I think I like my Kull in a can. Where she can't run around coming up with crazy plans with little blond girls." Amy said firmly.
Lisa shrugged "Not so little." Everyone winced. Even the phones somehow gave that impression.
"Ellisburg portal opening in two minutes. Pathway portal is in place and operational. All personnel stand by for Ash Beast transit." The phones informed them.
Taylor shook her head lying on the floor of her glove box. "A nap sounds good. Are we sure those portal generators will live?"
Lisa shook her head. "No but it's worth trying. If they do we can go ahead with making them flight capable and linked. The test for that will be getting Ash Beast out of Ellsberg and to Mars. The Simurgh won't know what hit her."
Vista sighed "Poor Ash Beast will be so lonely."
Linda laughed "We'll give him an audio output hooked to a radio. You can talk to him every once in a while. Seriously? More lonely than he is now? He gets to see Mars! Plus, he helps us test the range on the teleportals. Theoretically infinite does not mean that in practice. Those capacitors are freaking amazing but they aren't generators."
Uber walked up beside her "He also helped us test the system that got the portal to Mars. Then we can improve it. We launched it on a bit of a lark and to get rid of an experiment that got a little high in the gamma emissions."
Vicky looked at him "So if a china syndrome is a little high, the sun is medium high? The big bang very high?"
Uber waved her off "Potato, Patato. Why do we have can o' Kull? We need to turn up the opacity on that too." Taylor was suddenly full Kull in the glovebox. Amy hit the control pad and the decontamination spray completely obscured the interior.
The Governor of the Common Wealth of Massachusetts looked at the plan with his staff and then picked up his pen and signed the contract on the back of it "Get the DWU and the BBCU in here and get them working today. Massachusetts has always had strong unions this is nothing we haven't had before and maybe a turn to the good. Make sure they get everything they need. They have managed to hold onto Brockton Bay with the gangs gone they can hopefully do the same here. One gang we can deal with."
Danny sat in the meeting in the cafeteria "I realize it's a big job. South Boston is a moonscape and the city infrastructure is, well, destroyed. What we are going to do is establish basic housing for winter as we build locals of the DWU divisions and the BBCU. So keep an eye out for good capable people and let's get them through the training courses here as quick as possible.
"Leviathan is down, so while we rebuild their harbor we will plan but not construct their sea wall. We will put the resources in place however. Make them bluffs overlooking the ocean and landscape them as parks.
"Apply the lessons we have learned here. Everything should work together and have redundancy if possible.
"While they are saying money is no object we know that isn't true so don't go nuts. The best materials fine. Custom made materials not so much."
Legend nodded "The Protectorate and PRT will provide all the assistance they can."
Danny nodded "A refinery, a recovery device for the harbor, a tank farm, power stations for electricity and steam, houses. The portals are up and running and the busses running between the Union Hall and Tents in the southside. Steampunk already has the heavy equipment on trains, so let's get cracking."
"Oh, one last thing. Overtime is not authorized. Work your eight, get back here and go to the beach or something. Safety first and it is Brockton Bay. Shit happens."
The summer of hard work and hard play got off to a shuffling, chuckling start. If you were alive the union found some kind of work for you, at a decent wage. If you were smart and a hard worker the union's made an offer. If you had a Corona Gemma, and quite a few people did, when Panacea checked you by shaking your hand when you were hired, you went to the BBCU. If not, even if you had a Corona Pollentia you went to the DWU. Minor powers were everywhere in places like Brockton Bay and Boston. Places where bad things happened and life was hard.
You got a job, then as your power was discovered your job changed so that the best use of your power could be made.
Those who did not want to be known as capes were listed as associates and their BBCU member number had an A in front of it. No one ever figured out how the decision as to which union you joined was made. After all who didn't want to go to the Union with the most girls. More females than males triggered.
Just because you triggered didn't mean you got a high level of ability with your power. Working with your power improved it, like exercise improved physical condition.
The BBCU did begin to pick up lots of high powered parahumans however. The protectorate began modifying their program to compete. It was a tough slog with both the Government and PRT being slow to change. If a young cape, or a cape period was set on being a hero though they were steered to the Wards and Protectorate. They did their protectorate training and duties then they helped rebuild Boston. The BBCU helped rebuild Boston first and did an hour or two a day on heroic cape business.
Taylor was on the beach reading a book on string theory surrounded by her crew doing the same kind of reading when a bleached blond flounced up and sat indian style "Taylor Hebert."
Taylor blinked "Yes?"
"Miranda Gossack, Seventeen magazine. Can we talk?"
Taylor sighed "Well I can and you apparently can. So, what does Seventeen want with me?"
Miranda tapped her chin "Hot as a blast furnace, President of the BBCU, rich as the US government, maybe the G7 and sixteen. What could we want, everything maybe, to be you, why yes, if not, to stand near you and know to what we can aspire?"
"OK so her power is bullshit." Lisa cracked.
Taylor sighed "Fine but if I don't answer don't push it. Or Bitch and Glory Girl will get upset."
Miranda looked around like she was just now realizing where she was. "OK. So, give us the details. What's it like being a triumvirate level goddess?"
Taylor flopped back and dropped her book on her stomach "Oh please no. Look I am just trying to find my place in the world. As for all that goddess stuff, hard work, good food from good raw ingredients and at least two hours of training a day. Look around, all these girls do the same thing and they are all just as hot. None of them are poor. They make good wages have good jobs and are great girls."
Miranda nodded "Oh we know, hopefully they will be glad to talk to us. Back to that good wages thing, the Union scale is public knowledge. Why is the least pay on it a hundred dollars an hour?"
Lisa answered "Base and fringe. The federal government gets thirty odd percent, depending on the state and any reciprocal tax agreements they have. A good round figure is forty percent in taxes, so that takes you to sixty dollars an hour. The Union gets fifteen. Medical, dental, meals, strike fund, legal. So we are down to fifty five. The retirement fund gets anywhere from five percent up. The worker decides. We recommend fifteen. So the worker is left with forty bucks an hour. You could live on that and your spouse not work so you could have children. We have day care but it isn't free so you can use that and both work. At the end of the day you will be lower middle class not rich. If you want more you have to study, practice, get experience, and test. Oh, and have a good work record."
Miranda nodded "Yes we did an analysis in last month's working girl section. I guess I asked that wrong, how do you get customers to pay it?"
Taylor spoke up "Quality of work. When the Union does a job its done to spec, in code compliance, and right the first time. That's what the training and supervision is about. Customers see the job speced out and estimated. One of the houses we are starting to build in Boston for example, All the materials and labor cost included are about forty dollars a square foot.
"The government has already paid to have the soil cleaned down to bedrock and we laid the utilities as we did that work. The City and State paid for us to lay light rail subway lines, streets, sidewalks drainage all the things needed. The lots people already owned. Now they pick a house, options for it, floors, central air, that kind of thing and color palette and we knock them out. every thousand houses get a power house down near bedrock that supplies electricity and steam. It's a trigeneration facility that dumps heat into the ground. Its more cost effective to do the building in the continuous process we have going." Gully a new addition, maybe three new additions, who had left the wards and joined the union that Taylor and Amy had optimized at her request, Spoke up. Gully was eight feet tall, more muscular than the Hulk and with her underbite and other issues corrected a nice smiling girl next door. Shaker ten plus, brute eight. She could move dirt in any way anyone could imagine up to and including being her own TBM with one of the vibration machines following her. Or in front of her even. All the new suburbs of Boston were hooked into its subway system now. The old ones were clamoring for it. All of the refinery and power plants were down at bedrock, including the tank farms. The tanks and facilities were all monocrystalline structures.
Miranda nodded "I toured the model neighborhood. It's amazing! And Taylor Hebert holdings or the BBCU REIT buying up every derelict property in Boston?"
Taylor smiled "Who doesn't want to live in a redevelopment designed by Arthur Simmons in Beantown?" Everyone chuckled. "Like Gully said, easier to do it in a process so the abandoned or vacant properties got bought and the houses built on speculation."
Vista snorted "All those people in California for one. To many clothes for them."
Aisha shook her head "Last time I show you a video of the beautiful people."
"They won't be so beautiful with pavement rash. Bikini's and blade skates, that is just stupid." Vista growled "Not like Parian can't make protective gear look good."
Amy smiled "Or bullet proof and in the catalog, online and mail order."
Miranda had an epiphany "That's why all of your wealth in Forbes is 'calculated'!"
Lucy shushed her "Shhhh. Us getting our pay checks and living on that is a secret. We plow all our money back into various projects. In thirty years, we may be able to buy and sell senators and congressmen. Right now, we are property and investment paupers." Miranda goggled at her. Everyone cracked up.
Miranda shook her head "The government paying the unions to clean down to bedrock and the unions keeping all the stuff that separated out, no member of the union is a pauper. The platinum from catalytic converters is estimated at a billion dollars."
Taylor shrugged "Which all goes back into the funds, recruiting, training, all of that. We get our wages at our graded rates."
Miranda eyed her "Profit sharing."
Lisa nodded "A little boost but it will be big in the out years. Say five years from now. Well for us charter members. Amy check her for powers, She has to be a thinker."
Toward the end of the day Miranda asked "OK, who is dating who and what is going on with Alexandria? Don't think I don't see all these delicious boys and girls hovering around." Taylor groaned. Miranda giggled "It is a magazine for teen girls. And Kull scares the crap out of our gossip columnist."
Rachel looked at Vicky "We have to work harder."
Vicky huffed "You would think taking down Eidolon would mean something." Rachel nodded and shrugged.
Eidolon's therapist asked "Why were you reading a magazine for teen girls David? Just curious you understand."
"Bored. It's ridiculous! I'm a hero! I should be out doing heroic things!" David petulantly replied.
His therapist nodded "What kind of heroic things?"
Rebecca landed on the balcony, walked into John and Arthurs apartment and flopped on the sofa. Arthur arched a brow. Rebecca huffed "I'm dating Danny Hebert."
Arthur chuckled "Staying for dinner in the cafeteria after meetings hardly constitutes dating Babe."
"I have feelings." Rebecca groaned.
Arthur blinked "Oh, my!"
Arthur smiled "If he had Taylor all on his own your kid will rule the universe. Especially after Amy and Taylor get through with him or her. Oh Lisa!" Rebecca groaned and threw her arm across her eyes.
John walked in from the balcony and arched a brow. Arthur shrugged "Sweet young Rebecca has feelings for Danny Hebert."
"Get the fuck out! Oh, holy fuck! Taylor is going to kill you!" John spun to look at Rebecca.
Rebecca dropped her arm "At least you get it." Arthur glared at them both.
Taylor looked at Dragon on her articulated arm "You're an AI. You want Amy to build you a body and the Union thinkers and Tinkers to help take down the Dragon Slayers. A super villain organization that has been persecuting you for years. Oh and you are in love with Colin, erh Armsmaster, which is what brought this particular bout of female logic on, which is why we are discussing it in a no boys zone."
Dragon smiled brightly "Your thinker is hot today. That was a very nice summation."
"Fuck me sideways."
"Let's get the normal ways done first sweetie. You might not like sideways."
"What Taylor? Girls have problems. Girls help girls fix their problems. We need mom though and a bunch of her female lawyers. We can fuck these dragon slayers right in the ass."
"Oh, that's so much better than sideways, Up the pooper."
"They don't have vagina's Taylor."
Amy ignored her "Dragon, this body needs to be fully functional? Child bearing and all?"
Parian tossed in "What ethnicity?
Lisa groaned and flopped down next to Taylor "Here we go."
Faultline looked at the other women "What?" Labyrinth nodded along with her. After it was explained again Faultline sighed "You know, there is something wrong with women as a species. Dragon you want one of these oozing, aching, high maintenance, shell's? Have we gotten her to counseling? You know, like they do people who are doing gender reassignment?" Dragon gave her a glare. She held her hands up. "Saint. Well we could no doubt find him, but we can be connected to Taylor so that's no good." She drummed her fingers. Murderer you say? OK let's bump him up the most wanted list, I mean, since we turned the Ash Beast loose in the world we are kind of out of S classes for the moment. Or they aren't really worried about us, let's say. Talk his case up, ask a few questions Taylor, that will put him on everyone's top ten. Next, we get your dad to use his contacts to put a million-dollar contract out on Saint. That will make him break cover or will point us right at him. Then we wait and when he pokes his head up we chop it off.
"He is going to have to go anyway, word is he is tinker zero by way of Teacher. You know what happens to those people eventually. They become bots for teacher. Let him give you power and your fate is sealed.
"Now Dragon, Colin? Colin Wallis? Judge Dredd himself? You know half the villains in the Northeast use 'Armsmaster is a dick' as a passphrase, right?" Dragon blushed a bit, while pouting. The girls were rolling laughing.
Later in the week no one was laughing. They were tiptoeing around Taylor who finally rolled her eyes and barked "Stop that! It's one date. Maybe getting laid will chill her out. Might relax Dad a bit too. She is hot enough, he deserves a break and some relaxation. They are grownups and I am sixteen. It's not like I am five and she is going to replace my mom or some after school special shit."
Lucy nodded rapidly "Good. Now Tyrone and Piggot?"
Taylor wrinkled her nose "That's just weird. Tyrone lost his mind."
"Incoming Ash Beast in three, two, one." The heroes all watched the explosion fall on top of Behemoth and went back to evacuating people from New Deli.
Taylor looked up from the casualty she was treating and grunted "There won't be any rebuilding this. It's all going to be radioactive."
Amy smiled at the child she was working on as it stopped crying and looked around "Yes they might have to just quarantine it. Did you read that thinker report? Ash Beast Hero classification. Supposedly he enjoys this stuff. When he is done he just stands until they put a portal down then he walks to it and fights whatever it is wherever it drops him."
Taylor nodded "And we thought Brockton Bay was strange. He does have a good record though. The Nine, Nilbog, The Sleeper, and he apparently made the three bitches wish they were dead.
"We should drop him on Baltimore."
Amy laughed "Cleaning up that did make Danny and Rebecca a couple. I thought you didn't mind."
Taylor shuddered "Parents should not have sex. Ever. Especially parents who are tuned up as far as they can be, and with flying bricks." Amy had to take her hand off the child she was treating. "It's not funny. I can't even sleep in my room with my girlfriend!"
Amy nodded "Or her sister. Vicky still can't look at either one of them."
Taylor eyed her "Didn't bother you."
Amy shrugged "I know how Rebecca feels. I want to scream too. You Hebert's' are dangerous."