Reality Bites Worm

Taylor Hebert watched the tree's and green lawns slide by the bus window. She sighed watching the cemetery go past. Six months since her mother had died in a traffic accident in a late march rainstorm. Shouldn't the world still be gray? Shouldn't the summer not have been warm and beautiful as her world fell apart and her dad retreated into a shell of himself?

She had visited her mother's grave regularly. Watched the earth settle, the sod be laid over it, like a green blanket, and the summer go by so beautifully. So alone.

Well since the start of the summer. She had gone to a two-week nature camp they had had booked for a year. She might as well right? Dad was a shell; the house was achingly quiet. It had been fun actually, the camp, it had helped her.

When she had come back, Emma, Emma Barnes, her BFF wasn't. They had met in first grade and alternated living at each other's house's. Gone to middle school together, done everything together. Then, just like a snap of the fingers, Taylor was alone. Emma had a new friend in two weeks. A friend who obviously didn't want Taylor around. Sophia Hess.

Taylor shook her head. It had made the school decision easy. She had taken the test for the scholarship to Arcadia, the best high school in town, because mom would have wanted her too. Not like they couldn't afford it. Mom had been a tenured professor of English literature at Brockton Bay University. Where did people think those tuitions went? Certainly not into the buildings. That's what the endowments were for. Just ask the Anders, all of them had a building on campus named after them. As did the Stanford's the Christner's. All of the families that lived over in the snooty parts of town.

So, they had moms savings and her life insurance payout and the accidental death rider bumped that. On that alone they wouldn't be poor. Not rich, but not poor. Plus she would get free tuition to BBU.

Dad was the second in charge of the Dock Workers Union and, since the president of the Union was in Florida, and had been for a year, he was really in charge of it. They both made good money and mom had been insured to the hilt. Dad had been a ball of rage and had gone after the other driver, the one that T-boned mom in the rain, like Leviathan went after Newfoundland back in '05. With about the same result, he sank the drunk bastard, snooty name and all. Mom being on the phone was apparently no reason to quibble. Just reason enough for dad to hate cell phones with a burning passion. They were comfortably middle class. Grandpa paying the house off hadn't hurt anything either. Plus dad had old Abe screaming. They werbnt shopping at whole foods or any of that other rich people crap and dad drove a paid off pickup.

She had to use her allowance from the trust fund that settlement went into to buy a pay as you go smart phone. Got cash? We don't got no questions, here you go miss. Hook your debit card to this account and there you are.

So now she was a loose end in Arcadia. At least she could throw herself into school. And she didn't have to see Emma and Sophia unless she wanted to. Emma wasn't smart enough to get a place in Arcadia and Sophia? Please. Every other word out of thuggette's mouth was an F bomb.

Taylor sighed looking out the window as the houses turned over to older houses rather than McMansions. So first day of the rest of her life, or the next four years, down. Fourteen hundred and fifty-nine days to figure out how to go on from here. It was criminal the sky was a bright cloudless blue and the birds happily singing their hearts out like a fucking Disney movie when she was dead inside and her life ruined.

Taylor stepped down from the bus and started toward her house. Sophia Hess stepped from behind an ancient sugar maple street tree. "You need to leave Emma alone."

Taylor looked at her and snorted "I haven't talked to her in more than a month."

"Give me your phone." Sophia demanded.

Taylor pulled it out of her pocket, pushed the panic button, and said "I'd like to report a robbery. Corner of Elm and Ocean."

Sophia gaped at her a moment then stepped into her and tried to take the phone. Taylor would never know why but at that moment everything boiled up, then over and the exercise and self-defense she had been doing to keep herself busy kicked in. She dropped the phone, stepped into Sophia, gave her three body shots and an elbow to the side of the head as she stepped past her. Taylor gritted her teeth at the pain in the elbow and turned her forward momentum into a turn and lifted knee catching Sophia in the face as she bent over. Sophia flipped backward onto the sidewalk and Taylor put the boot in, wondering who was screaming and cursing.

Suddenly she was disoriented, having a hallucination, and staggered away trying to stay upright. She picked up her phone and looked down at Sophia. Unconscious on the pavement. She leaned over and checked the girl's airway, turned her onto her side, and sat on the knee high, cracked and lifted low brick wall in front of the yard behind her.

Unrealized by Taylor, her phone was still connected to the emergency services and the operator had been listening and recording. A police car screeched to a halt and the officer leapt out like it was an action movie. It was pretty cool. He was also pretty buff, and handsome. Black but obviously not like Sophia, not a hood. He ran to Taylor, cuffed Sophia and searched her on the way by and was trying to get Taylor to respond. A second police car skidded to a halt, a white officer did the leap out thing and people stepped from houses.

It was a slow news day and early in the afternoon so three different mobile news teams, one from each major network arrived. Brockton Bay being what it was, a hotbed of parahuman activity, two cable network news vans pulled up and camera and sound men got kitted up and working nearly as fast as the police. Reporters and producers started trying to figure out what was going on.

The cops, not liking this, called for an ambulance for Sophia and to check Taylor and a police sergeant showed up.

Taylor, still pretty out of it from whatever that weird hallucination was, was laid out on the grass behind the wall and treated for shock. The mom from the house she was in front of took her over and went a bit momma bear. There was some haranguing of the police about the neighborhood filling with these hoodlums and now a poor girl walking home from her school bus being attacked. The news people had their angle.

The cops searched Sophia as part of their normal procedure and recovered two phones. A detective showed up and took charge of that and everything else they found on her. The ambulance crew packaged Sophia and left with her to the hospital after some photos and a chalk outline had been drawn around her, as another crew that had arrived checked Taylor and decided she should go in for observation. The girl wasn't very responsive and the homeowner said she was just a normal neighborhood girl and she had never noticed anything different about her.

The police, after some nearly incoherent conversation with Taylor, decided she had defended herself from a bold, broad, daylight robbery attempt. Her father was called, and after some discussion about her being physically unharmed, he authorized her transport to the hospital for a check.

The system perked along as it was designed to. Make the victim safe, arrest the perpetrator, and gather evidence. The media had what it wanted, a gangly young teenager bravely fighting off a hood rat. The world spun on in its normal eccentric, off axis way. None of which mattered to Taylor as she was desperately trying to understand what the hell the buzzing in her ears was.


In a couple of different offices in the city lawyers got calls, Alan Barnes, as he was the attorney of record for Sophia Hess, and Thy Bui, the lawyer Danny had found to sue the crap out of everyone from the driver of the other car to the city for improper maintenance and street design. Thy had been fresh off her bar exam and aggressive as a baby shark in the womb. The most aggressive lawyer Alan Barnes, a friend of the Hebert's, knew.

You would never know it to look at her. She was a petite, smiling, seemingly happy, young woman. Plus, she lit up Alan, being hot as a fresh fucked fox in a forest fire. Absolutely gorgeous, perfectly proportioned. Danny hadn't really cared about that, being recently widowed, he just wanted the aggression. He got it in spades. Thy had gotten wealthy as had the Hebert's, or Taylor rather, as she poured it on trying to build her reputation in a case that had a lot of possibility, rich, drunk, asshole, with a record of DUI's, kills respected college professor with a teenage daughter and a Union man husband. The system ate that up with a spoon too.

Thy, for her part, liked Taylor and Danny. Where she fed her rage at the system and used it from the inside Danny was a towering inferno. Taylor was gangly, awkward, goofy, adorable really when she wasn't crushed by grief. Thy had kept in touch. Taylor had an estate to be managed after all. Danny put all the money they had gotten from insurance and companies desperate to avoid court into a trust for Taylor. A year out was plenty for a man with a good job and a great daughter to get through the grieving process, or most of it, and that was coming up.

Thy got to the hospital about the same time as Danny. She blinked as he hugged her. Then they both found Taylor looking lost and a bit out of it on a bed in the emergency department. A female detective was there and after Thy had greeted Taylor and given her a hug she took Thy aside "We thought this was just a robbery but it's looking more and more like some kind of parahuman master event. Taylor has apparently been bullied by this girl Sophia Hess, she apparently has a former friend of Taylors, Emma Barnes, in her thrall."

Thy frowned looking at the detective. She was of the right age to have been just in the force when Lustrum was around, probably why she went there. Parahumans were a fact of life and the issues with them were difficult "Anything to back this up?"

The detective shrugged "The perps name tripped a PRT alert. An older one but it was still in the system. Hess was apparently suspected of being a parahuman vigilante a few months back. We took a PRT phone into evidence."

"So, what? She went from vigilante to master, to bully then to thief, and is working for the PRT?" Thy arched a perfect brow.

The detective shrugged "And she couldn't master your client counselor. Taylor kicked the crap out of Hess, a hood rat if nothing else. Not the normal course of events when skinny young female teens are attacked by hoods."

"My client is not a parahuman." Thy responded quickly.

The detective nodded "Or she wasn't. She is the right age and sex. Had a significant long term emotional event then this shock. She fits the profile. I'd keep an eye on her. We already have Hess under parahuman confinement protocols. The PRT is coming to talk to us about her."

Thy nodded and mentally added the PRT and Protectorate to list of people and organizations on her menu for this go around.

"Taylor!" Thy turned around and saw Panacea holding Taylor "What happened?" Thy stepped closer, as did the police detective, at Panacea's question.

Taylor smiled wanly "Sophia Hess, again Amy."

Panacea took Taylors hand "Again?"

"I told you about, well, everything, remember? Sophia and Emma bullying me, all of that? The reason I was so glad to get to Arcadia to get away from them? Everywhere I went over the summer they were there and couldn't leave me alone." The detective looked at Thy and arched a brow. Taylor continued "Well after school I rode home on the bus. I was a little blue and not paying enough attention. Sergeant Henley is going to be pissed. Anyway, Sophia just came out of the blue and started telling me to stop talking to Emma and then tried to take my phone. I kind of snapped when she tried to grab it and got physical." Taylor blushed a bit. "I kind of beat her up a little."

Amy, Amy Dallon, Panacea of new Wave smiled "So you went all Glory Girl then."

Taylor rolled her eyes "Vicky isn't that bad."

Amy snorted "For a linebacker. OK you are fine." Amy thought 'besides being a brand-new trigger but I need all these folks gone to talk to you about that' "Did she get your phone?"

Taylor held it up "Nope!"

Danny Hebert scowled "Another instance of those things causing problems."

Taylor sighed. This was an old argument. Amy cut in "So do I need to go see Hess?"

The detective shook her head "Concussion, mild one. Elbow to the temple. Taylor did good, now we know why. Leslie Henley is no joke, former Marine LINE system instructor and mixed martial arts fighter. She will be happy to see another example of her training working."

Thy smiled "I didn't know you had gotten so far Taylor. We will have to spar."

Taylor smiled brightly "It really helped. It was good for my focus and discipline too. Thanks for recommending it." Amy arched a brow. Taylor shrugged "Thy recommended martial arts. I was a little depressed after, well, you know, then Emma turned into a see you next Tuesday and well, I got pretty into it. I spent most of the summer in the gym. Or it seemed like it."

Danny nodded "Glad that paid off, you are still too skinny though."


Amy chuckled "See your dad agrees with me. We will get you fed up yet."

Taylor poked her tongue out at her "And you too. Hey you should come to the gym with me!"

Amy backpedaled as the adults chuckled. Thy tossed in "It helps. Gets you focused and your mind off what is bothering you."

The detective added "Yeah, you either concentrate or get a face full of mat. Probably a good idea for you to get some training Panacea. Not the best people in the city and not their best day when they end up here."

Amy went for the distraction "Enough about me. Taylor, you are healthy as a horse. If someone wants to find a doctor we can get you home." The adults stepped back looking around and Amy leaned in close "You triggered Taylor. We will talk about it tomorrow."

Taylor blinked "Is that what this buzzing in my head is?"

Amy shrugged "Might be related. Just watch out for anything unusual and call me if there is a problem."

While Danny and Thy looked for a doctor the detective stepped away to where the uniforms were standing around a trauma bay. Just as she got there Armsmaster walked up. She rolled her eyes "So, that's as subtle as a brick through the windshield."

Armsmaster grimaced and put a set of tinker made restraints on Sophia Hess "Detective Thorpe, what happened?"

"Your girl tried to assault, perhaps rob the wrong individual, got her ass handed to her. Assault and battery, attempted robbery for now. I assume she is going to disappear into the PRT?" Kendra Thorpe arched a brow.

Thy had walked up "I believe that depends on the prosecutor releasing jurisdiction to the PRT and Protectorate."

Armsmaster's mouth turned down. In his armor and helmet with its mirrored faceplate that was all you could see "Normally jurisdiction is released to the PRT."

Thy smiled "In cases of Parahumans using their abilities against normal humans yes. Is that what you are saying happened here?"

Armsmaster replied "Or in cases where the parahuman requires special measures for confinement."

Kendra nodded "I thought so. Those cuffs will hold her?"

Armsmaster nodded "What is her condition?"

"She'll be going to the secure wing here for observation. Mild concussion, some bruises and abrasions. The person she attacked took her down with an elbow and knee strike. Guess she got overconfident." Kendra replied.

Armsmaster decided to cut his losses. "The cuffs will hold her and not interfere with medical devices. I'll send this through channels." He turned around and walked off.

Thy snorted "Dick. That's my cue Kendra. Got to make some calls. Be safe out there."

Kendra smiled and nodded "You too."

Thy met up with Danny, Taylor, and Amy on the way out "Fugly Bob's!" Taylor supplied.

Thy laughed "Well there goes that skinny problem. I'll come meet you there if you don't mind. I need to talk to your dad about where we go from here."