The Opposite of Carnage

Director Piggot sighed. The City of Brockton Bay, the most wretched hive of scum and villainy in North America, had, in the last week, become an even more chaotic and violent place. It'd started the previous Sunday when what was best described as a strange light show and a handful of explosions had been reported throughout the city, with similar phenomena in other parts of the country. The following day, Rune and Victor of Empire Eighty-Eight had been found dead, Rune impaled on a street sign and Victor, identified by the bounty that the Empire had placed on the head of the killer, inside a crushed sedan. Two Days later, Skidmark had been found entirely exsanguinated, as had several homeless people over the last few days in an apparent spree-killing by an individual the PRT had dubbed "Nosferatu", based on a description from a witness who described the killer as resembling the vampiric antagonist of the film. And then there was Lung's new pet...

At the very least, Director Piggot wasn't the only one who had to deal with the sudden appearance of murderous new capes. The news had broken on Wednesday of an, exact quote, "really fat man," who had murdered two civilians while robbing a Wal-Mart in a suburb of Los Angelos and had managed to escape a fight with Alexandria herself by, quote, "being too fat to hurt with punches." Director Armstrong in Boston had contacted her and requested to borrow Armsmaster for a few weeks to help the Boston Team's local Tinkers create containment measures for a cape that had been designated "Muck," a breaker that could transform into and absorb mud and shape weapons from himself who had proven exceedingly difficult to defeat and contain. Most concerning, however, judging from the warning that had been sent to every PRT director, was that the Slaughterhouse Nine had picked up a new member: An amorphous, barely humanoid creature calling itself "Blood Bath." From what had been shown, the creature was a homicidal man-eating monster obsessed with chaos and, judging from the relative brutality of the appearance of the Nine where Bloodbath had debuted, it and Jack slash were feeding into each other's psychoses.

The director finished pondering the warning that had been sent to her and turned away from her computer monitor back to the paperwork that she needed to finish before she could go home for the evening when she received a call.

'This had better be important,' she thought to herself. "Yes?"

"Armsmaster reporting in," came the Local Protectorate leader's voice, "Director. I've got good news, what might be good news, and some bad news. I'll need you to meet me at the infirmary."

Director Piggot sighed. "Why? What's going on?"

"Lung has been defeated and captured," Armsmaster explained, "and we have two new prospective Wards who were both heavily involved in the capture, but JorĊgumo escaped into the city and one of our prospective Wards needed medical attention. The other refuses to leave her side."

"Of course," Director Piggot was more or less directly in charge of Wards ENE. She didn't strictly speak have to do everything involving them, of course, but everyone who she could delegate to had already gone home for the evening. "I'll be there in ten."

She quickly finished the topmost sheet of the stack of papers she was working on before getting up and making her way to the infirmary. After an uneventful walk, she found herself walking in on a tall, lanky girl in a solid black costume and mandibled mask with yellow eye lenses sitting on an infirmary bed while one of the doctors on staff was examining her left arm, which appeared to have been burned fighting Lung. Part of her skintight outfit appeared to have been melted off and an obvious chemical burn was visible on the portion of her chest that was so exposed.

"All that effort to make this costume," the teenager said, "and it gets ruined my first night out."

"Miss," said the doctor, "you have a third degree burn with burnt silk stuck to it and I'm honestly not sure if I have anything on hand to treat this with without making it worse." The doctor pondered for a moment. "Actually, we should probably have a dedicated burn ward on site here and on the Rig, for this exact situation."

"Duly noted," the Director said, stepping into the room. She then turned to see Armsmaster standing quite professionally up against the wall. "I take it that Miss..."

"Still working on a name," the burned girl supplied.

"Well, I take it that the young woman with the burns is one of the potential new Wards," the Director noted that the young woman flinched, "but where is the other one?"

Armsmaster gave an uncharacteristic smirk, then pointed to the ceiling. The director looked up just in time for a humanoid figure, gold with marbled veins of dark blue, to flip down from the ceiling and look at her. It was hard to tell from this angle, but the figure couldn't possibly be more than four and a half feet tall, and she was too thin. The odd coloration was matched by an odd, metallic sheen across the entire body. Long, unwashed hair hung from the top of the child's head, and solid white ovals served as eyes on an otherwise featureless gold mask.

"Hello there," the director greeted.

"Hi." There was an odd reverbation to her voice, as though someone else was quietly echoing her speech.

"Do you have a name?"

"...Snuggles."

The director blinked. Well, it wasn't the strangest name that Capes had given themselves. That had to go to Mime-King, a mover whose powers and costume had nothing to do wither either mimes nor kings. "Well, Snuggles, why are you standing on the ceiling?"

"Wouldn't you, if you could?" The director blinked in response.

"...You're not wrong... But why don't you come down?" The director looked to see if there was a chair or spare bed to sit on. She had the feeling that this would be a long conversation.

"Okay." The child said reluctantly before literally jumping from the ceiling to the floor, landing on all fours. The Director noted the child's apparent superhuman reflexes.

"Now... Do your parents know that you do this?" From the corner of her eye, Emily Piggot saw Armsmaster grimace.

"My parents are dead." The child's posture subtly changed, she seemed to deflate.

"I'm sorry."

"Bad Men came. They had guns. Mommy and Daddy got shot and the bad men took me." The chid's tone changed. Before she sounded normal, but now it was like she was reading a script in monotone. She didn't "I didn't see where, 'cause I had a blindfold, but when were got there, they took some of my blood. A long time later they put tubes into my arms and legs and had a machine take something out of my blood. Then I met Mister Snuggles, then we tried to escape. There were lots of people with powers fighting. Then there was a boom, then I was here."

There was a pause, while The Director noted that the girl, perhaps unknowingly, had explained her trigger event. This "Mister Snuggles" was odd, since that was the name she'd given herself, but perhaps there was some master component to her power and she'd disassociated it?

"Where is here?"

That... was the last question anyone had expected.

"You're in the Parahuman Response Team East-North-East's base," the director explained, "in the City of Brockton Bay."

"I don't know what any of that means."

Obviously, the kidnappers had taken her from her home city. "Where are you from?"

"New York, New York," the girl responded.

"Then you'll know about Legend," Director Piggot assumed, "The Leader of the Protectorate?"

"What's the Protectorate?"

The black-suited girl on the bed cocked her head. "You've never heard of the Protectorate? The biggest team of Superheroes on in the country, led by the World Famous Triumvirate?"

"Nope!" Well, at least the girl sounded less shell-shocked. "They sound like the Avengers though."

"Who are the Avengers?"

"Um, the biggest team of heroes in the World?" The girl sounded just as confused as Emily felt with the Child's own responses. "Next you're going to tell me you've never heard of Captain America."

"Who?" Asked the burned girl.

"Seriously?"

"Not to interrupt," the Doctor said doing just that, "but... Miss, are you not feeling any pain at all?"

"Oh, no. This hurts like He... Like Heck," the bug masked girl said, "but there's more important stuff to worry about right now."

"Okay," the Doctor said, "look I can either commit you to the Hospital or I can call New Wave and ask to borrow Panacea... I get the feeling that you're not going to like being committed..." the Doctor left the room, grumbling about the last time he got the Dallons out of bed in the middle of the night.

"How can anyone not know about Captain America?" Snuggles asked. "He's been around since World War Two."

"Snuggles," Armsmaster said in a tone that indicated that he felt silly for actually using that as a name, "what year is this?"

"2016, I think. Why?"

"Are you familiar with the terms 'Earth Bet' and 'Earth Aleph?' or alternate universes in general?"

"Sometimes there are different versions of the same person at the same time," Snuggles commented, "is it like that?"

"That... When did you get here," Armsmaster asked? He seemed to be onto something. "Today is Saturday, so you'd have gotten here..."

"Sunday!" She answered. "Why?"

"Becuase last Sunday there were reports of strange phenomena across the country," Armsmaster carefully explained, "and shortly after a large number of strange Capes came out of nowhere." He looked thoughtful for a moment, as though trying to explain a truth that Piggot herself was realizing. "You've made mention of people who don't exist and historical events that haven't happened, and of Capes being around for decades longer than they have been," he continued, "not to mention that you've apparently traveled back in time. You don't seem like you're lying or delusional, and that means that the simplest answer is that you, and if my suspicions are correct the other strange arrivals, are from another universe entirely."

The gold and blue girl turned to the Blue Armored Tinker, then cocked her head. She was silent for a minute, then said: "We don't know how to feel about that."

"We?"

"Me and Mister Snuggles," the girl replied. "Mister Snuggles, wave hi." And then a four-foot tentacle came out of the girl's back and waved. "Yes, I'm happy now," the girl said to no-one in particular.

"...Your costume is alive?" The Director asked? She was having uncomfortable thoughts about Wet-Tinkers and flesh manipulators.

"He's not a costume," Snuggles replied. "He's a symbiote. He eats the extra chemicals in my body, I get superpowers. That sounds fair, right?" The tentacle retracted, "besides, he tried to help me get away from the bad people and he's my friend and he's telling me to stop calling him a 'he' because he's an 'it' but calling him 'it' sounds rude."

"Okay," the director said, "we'll be getting back to that later. Why don't you, and... Mister Snuggles and your friend over there tell us, in your own words, what happened tonight."

"Well..."

*Flashback!*

Snuggles: "Hey, can I ask you where I am?"

Bug Girl: "I guess... Are you a Hero?"

Snuggles: "...Oh my Gosh, I get to be a hero! Wait, are you a Hero?"

Bug Girl: "Yeah."

Snuggles: "Ooh, can we be heroes together?"

Bug Girl: "Sure why not!?"

*Snuggles and Bug girl walk until they encounter a meany*

Meany: "Muhahaha I'mma kill all the kids and kick all the puppies!"

Bug Girl: "Not today you're not!" *Covers Meany in bugs.*

Fuzzy Blue Naked Lady with a bunch of extra arms and a scary face: *suddenly appears, spits on Bug Girl*

Snuggles: "Hey, spitting is rude." *suddenly grows a lizard-like tail with a scorpion-like tip.* "I didn't know I could do that."

FBNL: *gets kersmacked by tail*

Meany: *Turns into dragon and burns away all the bugs and roars really loud so it hurts Snuggle's ears, shoots fire at Bug Girl and Snuggles*

Bug Girl: *Gets burned*

Snuggles: *Gets scared. Kersmacks FBNL again then keeps kersmacking her and Meany because Bug Girl is hurt and even though it's scary because fire it's what Spider-Man would do.*

Bug Girl: *Keeps sending bugs after Meany and FBNL*

Meany and FBNL: *corner Snuggles, fire is everywhere and Mister Snuggles is freaking out*

Blue Guy: *Rides up on a Motorcycle and stabs Meany with a giant ax.*

Meany: *turns back to normal and falls asleep.*

FBNL: *Runs away*

*End Flash Back*

"And then he said something about food and wards and getting Bug Girl's burns looked at and then we came here and that's what happened," Snuggles said as the sockpuppets she'd been using to narrate the story reverted back to her "symbiote's" biomass.

"Not... Quite," the so-named Bug Girl explained, "Um..." She was cut off by the sound of loud gurgling coming from Snuggles' general area.

"Um, speaking of food," the gold and blue girl said, "I haven't eaten in two days."

"Perhaps then," Director Piggot said, "while we're waiting for Panacea and our doctor friend to get back, we should get you something to eat and then talk about the Wards program..."

Bug Girl flinched again.