Every child likes to imagine what it would be like to have superpowers. To be able to do marvelous feats like shooting bolts of lightning, or flying, or healing wounds as if they were nothing. They imagine themselves as the next Legend, the next Alexandria or Hero. They think that they'd be willing to pay the price to get these amazing abilities. I know that I did. If only I could demand a refund.
Daughter of Sunlight: 1.1
August 14th, 2009 - Friday
I had just returned from a two-week long summer camp. It had gone about as well as I had expected it to honestly. I found out that while I was decent at arts and crafts I was decidedly NOT decent at soccer. You can only take so many high-speed balls to the face before things start to get annoying.
...And that's where Emma would have chimed in with a "That's what she said." comment. God, I miss her. She had been there for me for years. She had been friends with the geeky, awkward person that was Taylor Hebert. When Mom died in the car crash last year she stepped in and was the sister I never got the chance to have.
Two knocks on my bedroom door caught my attention. "Taylor, honey, are you okay in there?" my dad's voice sounded from outside my bedroom door. I tried my best to give him an answer but all that came out was a strangled sob.
No, Dad, I'm not okay. I haven't been okay since Mom passed away. I thought I was getting better. Then some bitch and her friends went out looking to make some quick cash and get "initiated properly" into the 'Azn Bad Boys'. They held down my best friend and slit her throat for fun. I should have known something was wrong when she had hung up so suddenly on me...
"Taylor? I'm coming in." The door opened, Danny moving into the room before suddenly stopping. I couldn't see his face through the tears in my eyes but I knew why he had stopped.
"What… What is that? Taylor? Did you?"
I don't blame him for being confused, I know I was at first. One second I'm curled up on my bed, crying my eyes out while clenching my fists so hard that my nails pierced the skin. The next thing I know I'm staring at the blood on my hands, the only thought going through my mind was about how easy it would be to fix that. Then I'm holding the solution.
It was obvious what had caused Dad to stop so suddenly. Floating in front of where I was sitting on my bed, still practically curled into a ball, was an orb, no larger than a softball. If it wasn't for the definitive glow around it's outside it would have been almost transparent. The faint motes of light flowing from it to surround my form were practically white, if not for the faintest tints of a goldish amber.
"Y-yes…" I managed to choke out. God, I sounded pathetic. The dried blood on my hands was the only traces left from my injuries, the rest having been healed by the light enveloping me. Their warmth had healed the physical wounds, but one thing was horribly clear to me.
No matter how much my body was healed, these powers could not heal my broken heart.
Then his arms were around me, the motes flowing around him also. As his tears began to fall also I knew the reason. I knew that my father knew a decent amount about parahumans seeing as Mom had been involved in Lustrum's movements. Dad knew what a trigger event was. To him, it was proof to him that his only daughter had been broken, and that he had been able to do nothing to protect her from it.
As we sat there, him holding me as we both cried, the dark part of my mind couldn't help but throw out a thought that chilled me.
What would I do if I lost him too?
August 15th - Saturday
The next morning came too early for my liking. While nothing else had been said last night, I knew that meant that breakfast was the likely time for his questions. As I made my way down the staircase I could smell that Dad was already awake and probably making breakfast. Turning towards the kitchen however I could see him already at the table eating.
"There are still some scrambled eggs in the pan." he said from where he was seated, sounding just as tired as I felt. "I left the bread next to the toaster also."
I quickly grabbed a couple slices of bread to pop into the toaster before grabbing a jar of jelly from the fridge. Taking a plate, cup and a fork from the cabinet next to the sink I scooped the rest of the eggs onto the plate and filled the cup with water before sitting across from my father.
We sat there in silence for a few minutes as I ate, the bland food helping wake me up. Finally, after the plate was empty, I decided it was time to get to the inevitable.
"She's really gone… Isn't she?" I muttered quietly, my voice cracking towards the end.
Dad hesitated for a few moments before answering. "Yeah, she is. It surprised me when Alan called me about it on Wednesday. His family was devastated when it happened and he knew you wouldn't take it well. We agreed to not tell you until you came back..."
"I knew something was wrong the day it happened, Dad." I cut in. My voice was a bit louder now, but it still refused to keep level. "I had called her on the payphone at camp and she hung up on me mid sentence. She would never have done that without a reason. I used the last two quarters I had trying to call back, but... she never picked up..."
Oh, the tears are back again. There goes any chance of me being able to hold any meaningful conversations for awhile. Thankfully, Dad seem to understand as he moved to the chair next to me and wrapped an arm across my shoulders.
"I know it's hard, Taylor. I've lost my share of friends to the gang violence of Brockton Bay. It's never easy, but we learn how to push through it." The small, wistful smile on his face as his gaze lost focus let me know that he was thinking back on some of the friends he had lost throughout the years.
Then just as suddenly as he had started reminiscing about the past his focus was back on me.
"Now then, what happened last night?" his questioning began. " I know I sprung the news on you suddenly right after we got home, then you ran upstairs crying. When I went upstairs to check on you not even two hours later I found you with bloody palms and some sort of orb floating in front of you. Was this something you have been able to do for awhile, or is it because of what happened?"
After sniffling for a bit I was able to respond. "New… Not sure how I did it… I just… wanted to feel better…" and then once again I couldn't form words.
As my head laid on the table, trying and failing to calm down, I heard the phone ring. I tried my best to focus on what was being said after Dad answered it, but the only word I heard was 'Emma'.
I don't know how long my father was on the phone for, but I was startled back awake when he put his hand on my back. I managed to glance up, which served to remind me just how tired he looked too.
"That was Alan. The funeral is set for tomorrow, but he wants me to come over to talk about some things. Did you want to come with me?" he asked.
I wanted to say no. I should have said no, but some part of me thought that maybe talking with Emma's family might help. With my decision made I tried to answer, but my voice refused to cooperate. All I could do was give him a small nod.
"Okay. Get yourself cleaned up a bit and then we'll leave. I'll handle the dishes."
"We're here, kiddo." my dad said from next to me. The modest, two-story house we had parked in front of had so many good memories tied to it, each one feeling as if another knife was being stabbed into my heart.
I'm not sure how I managed to get out of the car and walk with him up to the front door without bursting out into tears again. Dad knocked on the door, and within moments we were being ushered into the house by Emma's mother, Zoe.
"Thank you for coming by on such short notice, Danny." Alan said from where he sat at the table. "Please, take a seat."
Looking around the house was painful. Not even a month ago this house had felt almost as much like home as my own house did. Now it felt like everything had changed. All the happiness that had been here was gone.
Alan had taken the seat at the head of the table, looking much older than he had two weeks ago. A large mug of coffee was in front of him. I recognized that mug as one that I had gotten for him for his birthday a few years back. Emma had helped me pick it out.
His wife Zoe was seated next to him on his right, resting her head on her arms. It was obvious just how tired they both were. As my father sat into the seat across from Zoe I heard a noise from the nearby sofa. It was Anne, their oldest… only… daughter. She was half-curled up on the nearby sofa, clutching onto one of the decorative pillows. From what I could see of her face it was clear that she was barely awake and barely paying attention to anything. I took the seat next to my father as Alan began talking.
"First of all," he started, turning towards me. "I'm sorry that you had to find out the way you did Taylor. I know that Emma had been on her phone with you just before it happened and that you tried to call her back. We would have told you sooner, but we wanted you to enjoy the last of your time at camp."
All I could do in response was stare at the table and nod slightly. Alan's face looked a little more relieved after this, likely having been guilty about things.
"As I was telling you earlier, Danny, the funeral is going to be tomorrow afternoon." Alan said. The fact he was able to keep his composure was surprising. "We got a plot close to where Annette was buried. We thought that she would have liked that."
"Yeah… They both would have liked that." Dad responded from next to me. "Annette loved that girl like a daughter, and we both know how Emma was."
It was then that Zoe lifted her head and joined in the conversation. "I'm just glad that Shadow Stalker showed up when she did. I don't know what I would have done if I had lost both of you.
That stopped me cold. Somebody had shown up and saved Alan, but hadn't been able to save Emma?
"Who… Who is Shadow Stalker?" I heard a voice say. It took me a moment to realize that I had asked the question. Surprisingly, it was my dad who answered the question first.
"She is a local independent hero from what I remember, though she has only been around for a few months, maybe a year top." Dad stated from next to me. "Pretty sure she's the one in the black bodysuit and cloak, and really likes crossbows if I'm remembering correctly."
"Yeah, that's her." Alan said. "The thing is… I'm pretty sure she was there when we got pulled from the car. I'm almost certain I saw her on one of the fire escapes as they dragged me out." His voice cracked at this point, shattering the calm, if tired, front that he had been displaying.
"Are you sure that she was there from the beginning?" my father asked Alan. "With how hectic things must have been you could have imagined seeing her before she was actually there."
"I'm positive she was there. She must have been there at least thirty seconds before she dropped down onto my car." Alan paused with a sigh, taking a short sip of his coffee.
"I'm not sure if she just didn't have a good angle to shoot from where she had been or if it was something else. One of the ABB members saw her the moment she dropped down and alerted the rest. By the time she managed to get a shot off with her crossbow bolt it was too late."
Alan's voice was starting to raise, waking up Anne from where she was on the sofa. "The paramedics said that Emma was already gone by the time they got there. Even Panacea couldn't have saved her at that point. I couldn't do anything to help even if I had wanted to"
As Anne burst out crying another dark thought crossed my mind, similar to what I had thought last night…
With my powers, if I had been there… I could have saved her...
"Come on, load faster already." I muttered as I sat in front of my computer. Even though it was only a few years old it could only do so much with the dial-up internet our house had.
I was not trying to watch videos or anything like that thankfully. I was doing a search on Parahumans Online, or PHO for short, trying to find a post that I thought I had seen recently.
A couple minutes later my patience was rewarded, and then some.
"Bingo." I said as I read through the posts that had turned up when I had searched for 'Shadow Stalker'. The more I read however, the more angry I became.
Vigilante. Seems to enjoy using more force than necessary. Uses broad-tipped crossbow bolts that can easily cause fatal wounds if not used carefully.
And then I found the one I had been looking for…
Replied on June 5th, 2009
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one she's done this to. She WATCHED as that Empire scum beat the shit out of me and my boyfriend. Only when my boyfriend tried to fight back near the end did she actually step in. If those nazi assholes had pulled a knife and stabbed us to death I'm sure she would have just let it happen. She's not a hero, she's a fucking opportunist at best.
User has received an infraction for this post: we understand your frustration, but please try to watch your language.
I found a couple more posts like this one, and the more I read them the more furious I got.
That bitch LET Emma die! She probably could have stepped in at any time to save her! Instead, she just let her die… let her be murdered right in front of her for no reason.
With my anger mounting came some familiar motes of light surrounding my arm. I don't need healing damnit! Shadow Stalker let Emma die and has probably let other people die! That post was right! She's no hero, she's a violent vigilante who needs to be put behind bars!
I didn't noticed that the light hadn't been trying to heal me at all. The more anger I let flow through me the more lights formed. I didn't notice the small arcs of lightning forming along my forearm, the familiar amber-white light slowly overtaking the light coming from the computer monitor.
"That bitch!" and finally, as my anger peaked I swung my arm as I turned away from my computer.
It was only when the light shot from my hand in the form of a small shard of lightning did I notice the difference. Thankfully the lightning only blew a small hole in the wall when it hit just above the headboard on my bed, but the noise definitely caught Dad's attention. It didn't take him long to reach my door.
"Taylor! Are you okay? What was that noi..." He shouted as he opened the door, stopping suddenly as he saw the last lingering arcs of energy fading from my arm. Then he saw the hole in the wal. "Wh-what did you do!?"
Staring at my hand a thought came across my mind. If I was going to take down Shadow Stalker, I would need help. And who better to help take down a violent vigilante than…
"Dad." I said, my voice more firm than it had ever been. Clenching my fist caused another few brief sparks. "Tomorrow, after Emma's funeral, we need to go visit the PRT building. I want to join the Wards."
If I'm going to become a hero by taking her down, it will be easiest to do so with the backing of the professional heroes.
I just hoped I wasn't making a huge mistake.