disclaimer: EVERY TIME I CLOSE MY EYES, I WAKE UP FEELING SO HORNY
The Endless Pursuit of Perfection
A Worm / Jojo's Bizarre Adventure fanfic
Chapter Five: Practical Magic and Weird Science
Using a powerful Ripple distorts one's sense of time, or so I thought before the meeting with the Foundation. Turns out, I gain power as an Ultimate Being based on what I need at the moment. If I need calmness to make proper judgments in the heat of battle, my senses are enhanced to the point where I can string together thoughts and implement upgrades to my body at unbelievable speed.
Right now, I am engaged in a melee fight with the parahuman known as Purity, and she's meeting me blow for blow.
I never really bought into the 'fighters communicate through their fists' nonsense Uber was on, but it seems like with Purity, it works: I can feel her desperation.
You're not the parahuman she wanted to draw out.
Based on her switching from firing lasers to throwing punches with her power massively increasing their impact, I think she was gunning for Glory Girl.
And Glory Girl almost never shows up without...
She's causing a scene in the Boardwalk because she wants Panacea to show up, and the Boardwalk is normally in New Wave's patrol route.
However, it is not at this time that the hero group is patrolling this location.
I can only think of one good reason why someone wants Panacea to appear, and immediately. Add to that the desperation in her strikes...
Someone close to her is in danger.
I catch her punch, the bottom part of my mask slides up, and I shout.
"How urgent is it that you need Panacea?"
The light wavers for a moment.
She still doesn't respond.
"I can't help you if I don't know what's going on!" I yell at her, and the light around Purity's head subsides somewhat, revealing her masked face.
"Theo's getting worse, I need Panacea now, he could perish at any moment...!" Purity shouts in a panic.
My eyes widen to dinner plates as I hear the fear in her voice, and I quickly delegate to Acacia, telling her to call New Wave and bring Amy to the appointed location immediately.
"I've called her, now tell me what happened," I reply, and Purity pries herself off me, throwing another blow.
The suddenness of the attack prompts me to use the Ripple to ward off the attack, and immediately, she stops.
"That power... I refused to believe it until I saw it firsthand... you'll do!" she said. "Come on, you might be able to help Theo!"
"What about Parian's shop?" I ask.
"Tell her I'll pay for the damages, I just needed to grab New Wave's attention in a hurry!" she replies as she retreats, heading over into the residential district like a shooting star, with me following suit.
The former Empire supervillain uses her power to hide from the visual spectrum halfway through the flight, and I do the same with my own chameleon-related powers, using her parahuman abilities as a beacon so I can follow her without much fuss.
A minute of flying later, and I sense her in an apartment building in the affluent part of the district. Tracking her, I take the same route she does, knock on the apartment door, and when a blonde man and woman open it itching for a fight...
"Dorothy, Geoff, stand down," I hear Purity's voice from within the apartment. "She's here to help."
I quickly remove my armor to reveal my guise as Katherine, step over the threshold... and nearly collapse, as an immense amount of power is being brought to bear in one of the bedrooms.
Upon my entry into the room with Purity and the anomaly, I am quite surprised at the sight: a frazzled woman is placing cold compresses onto the forehead of a shivering boy lying in bed.
That wasn't the surprise.
A gigantic Stand is beginning to take form at the head of the boy's bed, and I can see it sucking the life force out of him in outrageous amounts.
"It's manifesting," I observe. "Panacea's ability won't work against something like this."
"Can you at least do something for Theo?" the frazzled woman asks, turning to me.
I walk up and hold Theo by his cold and clammy hand, and realize what needs to be done.
"He needs a huge infusion of energy to survive manifesting this," I say. "But an infusion this large can permanently seal away his parahuman abilities. Are you sure about this?"
The woman's face turns resolute.
It's after Theo's fever breaks and Kayden – the frazzled woman moonlighting as Purity – gives her son a teary-eyed hug of relief before giving me one out of gratitude when the four of us are assembled in the living room of the apartment.
"I never believed it would strike this close to home," Kayden began, shaking her head. "I always thought the stories Mom said about great-uncle Rudol were too fantastic to be true... given what we've become, he'd probably be rolling in his grave right now... wherever he is."
She gestures towards the couple.
"Dorothy and Geoff here were one of the first parahuman experiments made... and judging by the look of your face, you don't exactly approve."
"I can give your personalities back somewhat," I tell the couple, "but with the damage and degree to which your powers have consumed your brains..."
They nod at me.
"Thank you for the offer," Geoff says, "but we must decline. This is all Dorothy and I have known for so long... changing it would be... unwelcome."
Dorothy clasps her husband's hand.
"Do not think of this as rejecting your offer... someone offering to help us with no strings attached... is new."
"This doesn't come without strings, Mrs. Anders…"
"von Stroheim," Kayden interrupts me. "My maiden name is Kayden Russel von Stroheim."
"…but the amount of energy needed for Theo has removed his parahuman potential," I continue.
She looks completely unsurprised by the remark as she nods to me.
"That's fair," she says. "I do not want Theo to be mixed up in the Empire business. Does it intrigue you, the fact that Theo is not my son in blood, but I care for him as a mother does? Because that is how he is seen in the Empire – a tool."
"Is that why you took Dorothy and Geoff with you when you left?"
"That is so," she replies. "I presume you have other business to attend to, so I shall not burden you any further."
"Give this to Parian, with my apologies," she says, after withdrawing a checkbook from her purse and signing an amount before handing the check over to me. "I need to contact the Speedwagon Foundation as well."
I see Dorothy and Geoff hovering over a crib in another room before turning back at Kayden.
"Thanks," I say. "Do you know what caused this to happen to your son?"
"No," Kayden replies, "I suppose we will find out when he finally wakes up."
It is only after the weekend that Kayden leaves me a message, telling me that her son was shot with an arrow by a cloaked assailant. An APB was put out for what appeared to be Shadow Stalker, with no results so far.
Could this be another lead to figuring out what happened to the Trio?
I run into Kayden – with Dorothy and Geoff hovering a distance behind her – at the Boardwalk after Monday classes. From there, we head over to where Parian's shop is being reconstructed, and where Kayden offers her apology in person and in costume – the husband and wife duo are that good at diverting attention so no one can see a mousy, unassuming and slightly harried housewife transform into a former supervillain.
Parian, understanding the kind of strain a mother would be under during those circumstances, acknowledges the apology and thanks Purity for "being straight" with her about the matter, and it was enough to put a smile to my face.
When that was done and Purity returned to being Kayden, we had a meal in one of the many restaurants on the Boardwalk, talking shop while Geoff and Dorothy were having their own meal several tables away.
"I've done my homework on you, Katherine," she says, while we wait for the main course. "You like to make a lot of new friends, and do favors for them, too… the kind of favors that have a large price tag slapped on them."
"That is so," I reply, "however, it is not the kind of favor that you are accustomed to, in your previous line of employment. If I plan on cashing in on any favors owed me, know that I have already begun doing so with the people I have helped these past few weeks. Besides, my requirement is not that I be paid back; it is that they pay it forward."
She digests my statement in silence while she and I await today's special, and I find myself deep in thought.
They don't smell like the Travelers or that other PRT cape; the woman in black and yellow, I tell the voice in my head.
It means that the Nazis are not responsible for these artificial parahumans, the voice replies, thoughtful. How goes our modification project, by the way?
Transformation time has gone down to 0.1 seconds, I reply. We are not getting any faster. Maybe a mutation encouraging faster nerve velocity would help?
That would require modifying your base neurotransmitters from the ground up, he answers. And it would decommission you for some time; Acacia is good at playing 'Taylor Hebert', but not perfectly.
It's another thing that bothers me. Acacia can't hear this guy, but I can.
Still… those arrows…
…They are relics from before I slumbered for the last time, he replies. What was known as the Arrow is a device meant to test the capabilities of the human spirit, slaying those it deems unworthy.
But that boy...
It is true. You may have saved Theodore Anders with that infusion of ripple energy, but his spirit is still unworthy.
What happens to those who do become worthy?
Their spirit manifests. I believe the Foundation calls them Stands. You know of several here in Brockton Bay already: Alice, Dinah, Lisa. A word of warning, though. Based on my research, just like parahumans, Stand users are driven into conflict with one another; as the mechanisms by which Stands manifest require a person's drive for discord and ambition to work.
So Theodore has no power or a useless Stand?
If there is one lesson you need to learn without paying the price like I did, it is that you must never underestimate the power of the human spirit.
Why am I able to perceive Stands?
I sense the voice hesitating.
It is… because of my acquired mastery of what you call the Ripple. It energizes one's body and spirit, allowing a skilled practitioner to perceive Stands, as Stands are manifestations of their user's spirit.
Anything else I need to know that the Foundation didn't tell me?
Only that Stands are just as varied as their users, and that knowing a user may not necessarily correlate with knowing their Stand.
When I am brought back into the fold, I see that lunch has already finished, Kayden has picked up the check, and is about to thank me for the company.
With the revelations given to me by this mysterious voice, I dully shake her hand before we go our separate ways.
As soon as they do, the force of revelation strikes me with enough force that it stops my heart for a few moments and makes me take a step back.
Disregarding everyone and everything around me, I take off running to the Brockton Bay Library.
So... that's how...
The voice in my head laughs.
It seems you have melded my genius with your intuition, my child, he says. But the question is, what will you do with the knowledge you have gained? You cannot blindly tell the PRT about this, given the holes in their security.
All the trust in the world? For all their claims to be the best in this country, the PRT still couldn't spot two bad apples in their barrel. I wouldn't trust them to find their tallywhacker with a 20-man scouting party.
Even then, you need to be ready.
That's why we're working on this now. Ultimate life form or not, I can still grow stronger, faster, smarter.
It is an inevitability that someone with our power will clash with the group called the Slaughterhouse Nine, he says sagely. Now that you know this…
…I have friends.
It's not enough.
I have a team.
It won't be enough.
What would I need?
A pocket full of aces, the voice answers before it trails off, laughing all the way.
I hurriedly turn off the library computer, wiping my digital trail as best I can before heading home.
And waiting for me upon my arrival is a young man with a black shirt and white jacket.
"Heya, Taylor," he says, smiling sadly at me.
"Hey yourself, Cody," I reply. "What brings you here?"
"…what I'm saying is that you're here right now and stronger for it, thanks to Noelle," I conclude as I finish off the cup of tea I set up for Cody as we speak in the back yard of my home. "If you want to pursue your vengeance, that is entirely your prerogative; I can only try to talk you out of it."
I pay no attention to his shaking hands and look him in the eyes.
"I mean, if you're going to do it, then go right ahead; I'm not going to stop you. But remember: Noelle pulled a lot of strings to get you back here and back with the Travelers. Even someone like her would be heartbroken if you just went off and wasted your second chance like this. So what's it going to be?"
His power was beginning to ebb and flow.
"Here's a word of advice," I said. "You're free to take it or not. But if I were you, I'd keep my eyes and ears open for a chance at revenge. It can be as simple as brushing shoulders or a conversation."
I heard myself talk and I laughed mirthlessly within.
Not too long ago I was an emotional wreck and at the mercy of my high school bullies. Now, I'm still around, they're not, and I'm dispensing advice to someone who got fucked over worse than I did.
Irony, you work quickly, Taylor thought as his power was beginning to subside.
"Also, Noelle hasn't quite forgiven herself for what happened yet. Neither do your friends. Gaining powers didn't help. Being where the Simurgh was didn't help, too. I mean... that breathing trick I taught all of you... it's supposed to help in mastering the self, so I heard."
Cody finally calmed down enough to take a sip of his tea and look up towards me.
"You think everything's going back to the way it was?" he asked quietly.
"No," I shake my head before continuing, "but all of you can at least try to rebuild again. You guys just need enough time to hold what just happened at arm's length. Can Noelle and I get at least that from you?"
A small smile finally appeared on his lips.
"Yeah," he said. "You can."
It was at this time that Dad returned home, and after some awkward ribbing, dad jokes, obligatory vague threats and posturing from my Dad (which Cody took with good humor, romance was never on my menu, and he still had some things to work out with himself and his friends), the recently-rescued Traveler finally left.
"Do you think I did a good enough job of straightening him out, Dad?" I asked. "He was the odd one out among his friends, and apparently they got into a huge fight whose fallout they're still dealing with."
"You've done what you can, kiddo," Dad replied. "It's up to them to continue what you've started."
"I hope so," I say, and I really mean it.
Acacia can keep an eye on them while I study at home.
Another week passes by uneventfully.
At this point, Uncle Alan and Emma's family have long since lost hope that they'll find their daughter.
I'm supposed to feel some sort of joy from the Trio's comeuppance, but not really. The empty looks on Aunt Zoe and Anne's faces – their ghastly, empty stares – tell me everything: it's a stark mirror image reflecting mine, back when they buried my mother.
Why do you trouble yourself with them?
Sometimes I forget that you don't quite understand humanity or human beings, whoever you are.
It would be enlightening to me if you could answer my question.
Do you know that phrase? "I will not harm, but will only help if an opportunity to help appears"? That's what I'm planning. I never liked them, but their families deserve closure. It doesn't mean I'm going to go out of my way to try and find them, but if they run into my path, I will help.
Again, why go through all the trouble?
It's not about me. It's about giving their families the peace of mind they deserve.
I do not understand.
You'll do... eventually.
Way back when, I found the Boat Graveyard to be a great area to start training my abilities. Even now, that hasn't changed, even when everything around me has.
It is during the time I spend away from my responsibilities as Taylor that I am able to "cut loose" as Obelisk and see the full extent of my capabilities using the Ripple: using it in tandem with my stated abilities as Obelisk and the restrictions on Acacia's Knight Blazer form reveal many of its strengths and its few weaknesses.
One of those is the need to breathe. The voice in my head gave me some tips, but ultimately let me take the lead in creating several redundant respiratory systems to allow me to breathe both underwater and when my human respiratory system is otherwise occupied.
I nearly caused a panic topside when I successfully moved one of the wrecks of a passenger ship out of the shallow shelf, sending it down into the deeper waters with a Ripple-powered punch.
But I found that it worked, and before long, I found two familiar presences close by whenever I trained: the Joestar and the Zeppelli. JJ liked imbuing objects with the Ripple, using his Stand with sleight-of-hand to maximize its effectiveness. Tiberius, on the other hand, used his Stand more offensively.
Thus, over the last several days, I trained with them, learning that Tiberius' Stand had the rather embarrassing name of "Candy Pop", but JJ's Stand took the cake: his Stand was called "Whip It", and took the form of a purple vine whip.
Today was their last day at Brockton Bay, seeing that their business was already concluded, which was to establish a Foundation office here. To no one's surprise, it was Alice who ended up given that responsibility.
I was with Alice when she broke the news to her boss.
"What I need of you is your intellect," he said as he signed the papers promoting her to an independent consultant. "Just be on standby should I have need of it, I have no need to interfere in your work with the Foundation."
A befuddled Alice nodded while I just grinned. Wherever possible, I would be the man in the middle, and make sure that Alice wouldn't be in over her head – that's probably what Kenta implied to me.
But all that aside, after today's training session, JJ and Tiberius marveled at the sheer versatility of my power set: I had done more with it in less time than the "ultimate being" they faced before.
After the requisite "see you later" and "until we meet again", Tiberius handed me a black folder.
"The scale of your power will only bring you trouble in the future, Taylor," he said as I opened it to see a complete Speedwagon Foundation dossier on the Slaughterhouse Nine. "And as you often like to say, 'knowledge is power'. Best you be prepared."
I shook their hands solemnly before they waved goodbye.
I'm going to have to hope that I see them again.
Which means you have to prepare for what may happen if you don't.
It wasn't very long after that when I placed the very important dossier in the safest place I could find – after making a few copies of it, of course.
One moment, I was securing the container into the hole I dug, and the next, I was a sobbing wreck on the ground, clutching my mother's defiled flute, filled with sadness and a wish to go back to better times.
I don't know how long I was lying there. Only that it was still dark when I just fell to pieces, and already morning when I finally caught myself – the voice only spoke when my crying fit had finally ended.
Are you done?
Sniff... I am.
You seem to have held in all the turmoil within yourself over these past weeks.
Guess so... I don't know, I don't want Noelle and the others to see. Or my family. Or my friends.
Of course. My daughter would be a very insightful young woman. I expect no less.
Thank you, I guess.
I rubbed the last of my tears away and stood back up, the broken flute clutched in my hand.
You could use your power to restore that instrument to its previous condition. As a way of honoring your deceased female parent.
Thank you… whoever you are.
Call me Kars. It's been ages since I made my name known.
Okay... Kars. Let's do it.
The yellow energy from my hand wraps around the flute, removing the imperfections, making the material remember its purpose and reverting it to its pristine state.
It took more effort than I previously thought, and the sobbing fit I had depleted my energy to the point I thought I could not finish it, but this was my mother's flute – I persevered.
And when I was done, it was once again whole.
This time happy tears coursed down my face as I saw my handiwork.
I replaced it in the container and thought that the day wouldn't get any crappier.
Unfortunately, by the time I was finished burying the container, the ominous sound of sirens echoed across the city.
Chapter 5 – END
Author's Note: In this fic, the Gesselschaft split off from Stroheim's group shortly after the emergence of parahumans. Their "shaping" is less "working on the brain" and more "encouraging the shard to work on the brain" – I already established a precedent for this with Bakuda and Alice being different people due to shard-brain interference.
Also, anyone who says that "Candy Pop" is a TWICE reference instead of a Heartsdales reference deserves to get the Steely Dan treatment.
And yes, Sarah Livsey / Lisa Wilbourn looking like a blonde Imai Lisa from Bang Dream? Totally canon in this fic.