"God dammit," Armsmaster said in soft fury. He hit the off switch on the Armsbike and kicked out the stand. He then swung his leg off of the bike to stand ready in front of his not very favorite heroes right now. He tapped a button on his helmet. "Armsmaster to Console, Vista and I will be delayed. The PRT truck can depart for return to base. Over." He nodded a second later, then turned back to Lady Photon.
"Should we go someplace more private?" she asked him.
A streak of green warped around the garage in a curve as Vista walked through her tube of compressed space.
"I'm taking control of your coms and blocking all cell phone signals," he told the young girl who nodded. "Let's go to the lowest level, just to be safe." He started walking to the stairs.
Lady Photon, Panacea and Vista followed him down to the lowest level of the parking garage. The rest of new wave followed behind a bit slower.
"Should I put up a forcefield?" Lady Photon asked.
"It's not exactly subtle," Vista said. "Let me just pinch off the area a little bit so that no one can see us easily in the corner."
"Good thinking," Armsmaster said. "Now tell me about Lt. Cooper?"
"I went over to heal him like Lady Photon decided. And I complained about what made him think it was a good idea to point a gun at heroes. And he said that he didn't even think about it and meant no harm at all. And I could tell he lied about everythinghe just said because I had full access to his biology."
"Cooper has been in the PRT for five years. To think that he could be turned," the leader of the local Protectorate muttered to himself.
"This sounds like you know there is a problem," Lady Photon said as she glared up at the other adult.
Vista made a frustrated face that you could mostly see through her visor. The transparent material warped her face outside of her eyes and made a more effective disguise than you would suspect.
"One or more of the gangs has moles in the PRT. This isn't a total surprise, but we had thought we had identified all of them. We obviously haven't. This one is probably Coil's man," Armsmaster explained.
Weaver looked over. "That guy you think tried to track the moving truck to our new home? And had a team of mercenaries ready to attack us?"
Lady Photon shared a look at her sister and their husbands. At their grim looks, she turned to Armsmaster. "He's breaking the unwritten rules. Hard."
Armsmaster stared at her as Vista looked a bit confused. "You can't retaliate excessively."
"He's attacking us in our homes. We are going to take apart his gang appropriately ." Lady Photon glared at him in response.
"Oh, shit," Vista muttered.
"I will take that under advisement," Armsmaster said. "Good luck. And good hunting ."
"Ain't it a little early for you?" the bartender asked as he took in the figure at the door.
Bright light spilled in, but only barely cut through the gloom of the dinky dive bar. The woman in a winter coat closed the door behind her. "It is early, Will. But I needed to get your ear to the ground."
Will blinked then narrowed his eye at the 'brunette' at the door. "In gumshoe mode today, Carol?"
Carol removed her large, celebrity sunglasses even as she patted to make sure her wig stayed on tight. "Coil's broken the unwritten rules."
"And what do you want me to do about it?" he asked after a long moment as he ran his hand through his almost bald top of hair.
"Well, I would love it if you happened to know where his mercs hung out. Or that you happened to drop a word to your... whiteclients." Carol's lips curled in disdain. "But I'll accept a drink. Whiskey, neat."
"There's no mistake?" Will asked with a blank face.
"Coil tried to track down Weaver's home address and had his mercenaries close to send in if needed. What does that tell you?" the superhero asked.
Will pursed his lips as he poured the drink in a large, iced shot glass. " He won't like that. You don't go after family."
"We don't know enough about Coil, just that he has money and mercenaries that he knows how to use very well. He could be a Thinker or Master and we just don't know." Carol took a swallow of the whiskey. "And that needs to change."
"I'm sure someone will hear about it. If he's willing to do it to a small player, he might be willing to go after bigger targets at the best time for himself." Will looked towards the front windows for a long moment. "I hear that a few military guys use the Low Tide once every couple of weeks."
"Thanks, Will. I might drop by later," she said. She finished her drink, made a face and then waved to him as she walked out.
"Okay, team meeting time," Sarah said to the group that had taken over her dining room. "We'll start with the critical matter. Coil has broken the unwritten rules."
Taylor raised her hand from where she sat between Amy and Vicky. "The rule stating you don't attack people at their homes or their family?"
"Exactly right. Trying to track you to your new home was bad news. And he might know where you live from other sources in the PRT." Sara pulled out four small boxes. "These are on loan from Armsmaster and he will deny that he made them or gave them to us. They are tuned to the PRT and police channels and has a smart program on there to alert the holder if key phrases connected to Coil come up," the leader explained.
Danny raised an eyebrow from his corner. His impression of Armsmaster did not fit 'bending rules' into it.
"So we're going to go in and bust heads? Yeah!" Vicky exclaimed.
Mark rubbed his forehead at his daughter's antics.
"Vicky! And no, Coil's advantage right now is that he knows all about us and we know almost nothing about him except he can afford to hire mercenaries with tinkertech weapons," Carol said. She held back a sigh with pure willpower.
"So we're going to try and spy on him? Because our powers kind of stink for that," the blue-haired Eric noted.
"All except our newest member. I'm thinking if we can get close enough to one of Coil's fights against the Empire Eighty-Eight, we can 'bug' his mercenaries and find out where his base is located," Sarah explained.
Neil and Mark both frowned at that. The bigger man spoke up first.
"We have a problem. If we are seen breaking the rules, the other gangs will come after us," the near-giant said.
"At least the appearance thereof. I'm not going to let him hide behind the rules he doesn't follow. But when we move in, we'll go in hard. But only once we have enough information. Do you think you can do your part, Taylor?"
The raven haired girl nodded. "And I think Amy can help make unique bugs that I can notice with my powers and then use Crystal or Vicky to deliver them to the fights before they break up. Then all I have to do is keep within several blocks and we'll have their hideout."
Danny had questions, but upon reflection realized that asking them in front of everyone could come across badly to the team.
"What about the other gangs?" Crystal asked.
"We're trying to drop them a word," Sarah explained. "We don't really have any good contacts for the ABB and Lung is... a wild card. He only sort of plays by the rules."
"Rules we don't even like," Carol muttered to the approval and nods of Mark and Neil.
"Realpolitik, Carol. We won't ignore them if we run into them on accident, but hunting them in their civilian IDs would start a gang war and put a national target on our heads. At least according to the PRT Thinkers."
"That sounds so wrong," Taylor muttered.
Any nodded at her side.
"How did he put it?" Carol said as she thought back. "Oh, right. 'We don't want to see if Kaiser could turn down town into a razorblade trap and kill thousands.'"
"Oh." Taylor looked stunned.
Amy's eyes blinked rapidly.
"So it sucks and it's counter to the whole New Wave idea, but we are heroes and we are not going to be the trigger of a gang war or bloodbath," Carol explained.
Any stared at her mother in open shock.
"Amy, work with Taylor so that we can find Coil. We'll see if you Thinker powers beats his whatever power. Anything else?" Sarah asked everyone.
"Normal patrols?" Neil asked.
"Very much so. I doubt that we can keep this from Coil, but the more we act normal from his perspective, the harder it will be to counter Weaver and Panacea's work," Sarah said. "We are doing at least pairs for patrols and we'll stick mostly to our normal areas, even if it is just downtown. The only major change is that Laserdream, Glory Girl or myself will not be patrolling together and will be on short call notice to see if we can bug some of Coil's mercenaries."
Eric pouted at that. "I wish I could figure out how to fly correctly. This sucks."
"You would probably have more luck if you weren't using up all your free time with going on dates," his sister noted with a smirk.
Taylor flopped down on Amy's bed after their trip from the Pelham residence. "I'm sorry for bringing down this huge mess on people."
"No way! This is in no way your fault. We are probably lucky that you caught him breaking the rules before he went after someone else. No skin off my nose if the Empire got outed, but what about the heroes?" Vicky said she sat in the air casually.
"Vicky, quit hovering please," Amy said as she sat next to Taylor. "And she's right, Taylor. This is not your fault."
"I thought being a superhero was supposed to be more straightforward? Punch badguys, heal people and earn the adoration of people everywhere," Taylor said with only a bit of sarcasm.
"Oh, no way. I get people complaining all the time about when I break stuff. PHO got all bent out of shape when I tried to move that one guy's car and accidently broke off his bumper. Uncle Neil made me practice picking up cars properly for two weeks . So lame." Vicky landed on the ground softly.
Amy nodded absently even as she thought back over the meeting.
Taylor bumped her shoulder into Amy's shoulder. "Penny for your thought?"
"It's nothing," she replied too quickly.
"That doesn't sound like a nothing," Vicky noted from her seat on the ground.
Amy shot her a betrayed look, then sighed. "It's just, I didn't think New Wave would bend on our principles like that."
Taylor focused on that. "Because you guys don't expect to 'hide' your secrets, it's not fair that the other heroes and villains get to hide behind a secret identity?"
The brunette nodded as she hunched her shoulders.
"I think it's like MAD. Like that old Cold War mutually assured destruction thing. The Protectorate is the largest group of parahumans, but they have to be everywhere. But they won't concentrate themselves to deal with a problem unless it becomes too bad," Taylor said as she thought back to her world history class.
Vicky thought for a second. "So it's weird social stuff? Villains won't all get together to fight the Protectorate and PRT as long as they aren't going after everyone in their secret IDs? Because that really, really sucks." She tilted her head in thought. "So we need to concentrate our forces smartly to take out the badguys one at a time. But without triggering the villains to all gang up on us."
"Sounds like something to think on. So Amy, do you have any idea?" Taylor asked.
"Huh?" she asked in confusion.
"About bugs," the other girl qualified her response with.
"Oh, right. So how do you identify your bugs at distance? And could you bring up some ants or something?"
Vicky held back a sigh. Playing with bugs. She pulled out her phone to start texting to Dean about what she should wear (or not wear) for their next date.
Bugs gathered in between the two girls on the bed. "I just control them based on what they can do. So all the ones that just crawl, I control where they crawl. The ones that can fly, I just control their flight. Same for biting, injecting venoms and all that," the Master explained.
"So you have the ability to understand everything about your bugs automatically. So I could make some bugs that have stingers that only inject irritants and you'd know that? Or that see slightly better?"
Taylor stilled as her brown eyes widened at at Amy. "You can make bugs that see?"
Amy scooped a handful of bugs and started to make a dragonfly with larger eyes. She started to play with its brain to allow it to actually 'see' in color and ultraviolet.
It shot into the air as Taylor squeed in delight. "I can see!" It zoomed back to Amy. "But it's doing that headache buzzing thing to my power again."
"Oh, sorry." Amy scrunched her forehead in deeper thought as she touched it again. "That should be better."
"I'm going to send it out as far as I can go while you make some flying ants, okay?"
Amy nodded as she got to work and studiously ignored her sister's giggling over her phone.
The slightly dented Greyhound bus screeched and huffed to a halt at the dive of a stop in Brockton Bay, only ten miles from New Hampshire. The young man stood up and looked around. His dark skin stood out dramatically to, well, everyone else in the station. The next darkest person might have some Native American blood in them.
The washed out noon sun barely warmed his shaved head as he took his suitcase and backpack and stepped out onto the street.
"Hey, you fucking nigga! Why don't you go back to your plantation, shit head?" the leader of a quartet of skinheads called out leaning against the wall of the bus station.
"Ain't no plantations in Philly, you inbred moron," he called back with a smile that did not reach his eyes.
"What did you just say, you little black monkey?"
"Wow, deaf too. The inbreeding is fierce with you," he shot back.
"Who the hell are you?" he asked as he slipped his hand into his jacket pocket for a knife.
The new arrival to Brockton Bay just smiled an unpleasant looking expression. "Name's Charles. Charles Brown. But you can call me Ice Cold like they did back on the streets of Philly."
The four of them looked confused for a second before they pulled out knives or brass knuckles.
"Man, I thought nobody used names like capes do anymore. You must be a really dumb nigger," the leader said as he twirled his butterfly knife open. "Capes kill names, you know."
"Who said I wasn't a cape?" Charles asked very rhetorically as he dropped the air temperature down to below zero fahrenheit for just a moment within ten feet of himself. Invisible water vapor swirled into their sight. "Boo."
With a yell of fear, they took off down the street. Charles looked around to see scared faces. He gave them a small wave.
"Nothing to worry about folks. I'm a hero," he called out in a forced cheerfully tone. "Just moved to Brockton Bay!"
They all started to move off at a nervous shuffle to begin with.
"Man, tough crowd." Charles just shook his head. He picked up his luggage and started to walk down the street.
Cricket ran from her cover behind a newer car to duck behind a heavier truck while dodging bursts of gunfire and one laser beam that sizzled the asphalt behind her. After checking out the opposition on the other side of the street, she pressed her artificial voicebox to her throat. "Eight mercz. Can shootz lazerz," she called out in a buzzy voice.
"Back me up," Hookwolf ordered his other follower. The mass of hooked, pointed and serrated metal in a very vague form of a wolf leaped up and onto the car he used for cover. He charged towards the nearest car on the other side of the room and then leaped sideways to dodge most of the lasers.
One of Coil's mercenaries screamed in pain as his bulletproof vest failed to fully stop Stormtiger's air burst.
"Pull back!" the squad leader called out. "Sierra-Sierra!"
Two of the mercs pulled out grenades and tossed them low and fast to deny their enemies the ability swat them back. Deafening bangs and strobing light hit the Empire Eighty-Eight capes senses hard. A second later, off white smoke from two other grenades started to fill the area.
Stormtiger staggered back to cover and started to use his aerokinesis to push the smoke away. By the time his senses cleared up enough, the white van the troops used had disappeared. "Dammit!" he shouted.
Cricket gave him two middle fingers as she tried to walk over to him.
So the blast of energy from the dark sky took her totally by surprise and caused her to slam against the truck in front of her.
Laserdream shot out two blasts are Stormtiger to keep him moving even as she dodged in a swerve sideways as she raced along.
"Bitch! Race traitor!" Stormtiger called out as he sent out two cutting wind bursts at the New Wave member that missed by several feet.
"We're leaving!" Hookwolf snapped as he took off in a random direction.
The aerokinetic grumbled under his breath as he ran over and picked up the near insensate Cricket from the ground and put her over his shoulders and took off at his best wind-assisted speed down an alley.
Laserdream shot up and dropped her forcefield. She shivered at the chilling wind as she tapped her bluetooth earbud. "Got them?"
"I've got them, but they are quite a ways already," Weaver said over her bluetooth headset. She pointed her unlocked phone towards the flyer in the air as the wind whipped her filmy silk poncho of splotchy, gray tones.
Said flyer landed next to her and quickly pulled on her own poncho of mottled grays. "I am so glad we got someone like you on the team," Laserdream said as she picked up the younger and thinner girl with a small grunt. "I may have to get Amy tune me up a little bit."
"Like me?" Weaver asked as she put her hands around Leaserdream's neck.
"A master and thinker. Probably a tinker rating, too. New Wave is too combat focused and I think that's made us less effective and dependent on the PRT and Protectorate for intel," she explained. "Which way?"
"South and then to your left a little bit," she directed them. "A little more left." Now they paralleled the white van that drove casually on a major street.
Ten minutes later, the white van pulled into a nondescript garage for a four story building.
They stopped about a thousand feet away on the rooftop of another, taller building.
Weaver narrowed her eyes behind her new visor on her head. She flew her insects out of the back bumper of the van by the muffler and up above the hanging halogen lights.
The mercenaries piled out of the van and started to spray the van down with professional, industrial grade insecticides from two gallon hand pump sprayers.
"They are spraying for bugs," Weaver explained to Laserdream as they waited. "So they are worried about being followed. And their squad leader informed them they were off rotation for three days."
"Damn. I guess we will have to do a longer stakeout. Let me call and tell my mom, okay?" the older girl asked.
Weaver nodded as she continued to watch them. She pulled out a little notebook and started to scribble information down. Security codes, gun locker numbers and what went where.
"Glory Girl is going to bring us stuff to make watching them a bit better in the cold," Laserdream said a few minutes later.
"Good. It's only going to get colder."
After school the next day, Taylor sat in the Pelham's dining room and sipped a cup of tea. Earl Grey was the best!
"Okay, let's get started. Carol, will you fill in Vicky later?" their leader Sarah asked her sister.
Carol just nodded.
Her husband put down his cup of coffee. "Any other leads than the stakeout?"
Everyone shook their head.
Amy looked over at Crystal. She shot a quick glance over to her adoptive mother. "Um, how is your back and shoulders doing, Crystal?"
"Better. And it's helped with carrying Taylor around when I have to. I'm not sure on the shoulder's width, but eh? What can a hero do?" she said with a shrug.
Sarah looked over to Amy. "Oh? You helped Crystal with lugging around our thinker? Should Eric and I do that, too?"
"If you want. I'm just speeding up the body's building of strong muscles without getting gross or something," Amy replied.
"Sorry for being heavy," Taylor said with a small frown.
"You are not doing anything wrong, Taylor," Sarah said with emphasis. "We can't all be Manpowers like Neal."
"Of which I am grateful," the giant man said with a grin.
The doorbell rang in the background.
"I'll get that," Mark said as he stood up and walked out of the room to check the doorbell camera.
"Hey Sis, I think you made an archenemy of Cricket. PHO is awash with people saying that you 'dishonorable' attack on her back," Eric said in his best 'annoying brother' tone.
"Yeah, I should just challenge Hookwolf and his two murder-toadies right up front," the older sibling shot back.
"Can I quote you on that?" he asked.
"No," their mother said to cut the verbal spat from getting worse.
"Ahem," Mark said. "We have a visitor."
Everyone turned to look at the new man at the entrance to the dining room.
"Hello, all! My names is Charles Brown. Not Charlie or Chuck, please. And I am here to solve a New Wave problem," he said as he calmly looked around at all of them.
"And what problem is that? " Carol asked with narrowed eyes.
"Your color problems, brothers and sisters. I'm here to join New Wave and cut those rumors about white superiority down," he said with a big smile.
Everyone stared at him for a long time.
"So I take it you are a parahuman then?" the leader of New Wave asked as she looked at him intently.
"Ice Cold!" Crystal and Taylor blurted out.
"That's right. An independent hero from Philly and no secret identity so to speak. Figured that coming here to Brockton Bay was the right thing to do. New Wave needs me and the heroes here need diversity."