Spiderbringer 1

Air raid?

An air raid would be bad, especially since we're above an airport. What rotten luck!

Faultline merely clenches her jaw and flicks an overhead switch. The small plane rolls slightly as she levels out and brings us up to our cruising altitude.

Gregor shifts his eyes briefly in her direction. "Are you certain?" he asks simply. Always simply. Always even-toned. Yet, this time there is a noticeable undercurrent of tension in his voice.

"We can't help," the mercenary leader grits out. "Even if we were still ground-bound I'd be thinking long and hard before jumping into that fight."

What fight? What's happening? Where's a window? Wait, this is a tiny plane. There are windows everywhere.

The airport below is a riot of activity. I've never flown before, so my experiences are rather limited, but I don't think planes shooting down the various runways barely seconds apart are normal operating procedures. Even as I watch, disaster strikes as a small single-prop glider takes off into the path of a twin-jet. The jet seems to crash mostly in one piece, but from this distance I can't make out what happened to the smaller aircraft beyond a not-quite fireball.

Downtown Brockton is a riot of flashing lights as emergency vehicles attempt to navigate bottlenecked streets and sudden traffic jams. A sudden blur of moment catches my attention and I see several large, bulky aircraft far below us screaming towards the bay itself, grey contrails marking their passage.

The bay, which is now covered in a thick, heavy fog that visibly moves as it rapidly approaches the shoreline.

{what is that}

Even as I type it out, everything comes together in my head. The loud sirens, panicked take-off orders for every grounded aircraft capable of carrying passengers away from the city, a city-wide traffic jam outside of rush hour…

The last piece falls into place as the coastline erupts into a fusillade of glowing tracery, all directed at a single point at the leading edge of the fog bank. Faultline merely confirms it.



Leviathan. Second of the Endbringers, the unkillable monsters that have plagued the world for decades.

Nobody ever won against an Endbringer. In fact, the best humanity had been able to offer was just enough resistance that they considered whatever city they were assaulting too much trouble and withdrew early. Scion, the strongest parahuman in the world, was the sole individual who could offer them a challenge, enough that they'd rather retreat immediately than continue the fight, but even he'd never managed to kill one. Also, unfortunately, the man had the attention span of a hyperactive butterfly and could not always be counted on to even notice an ongoing incursion in time to arrive.

Newter had no memories of his life prior to becoming what he was, but that was fine. He couldn't imagine it being that much better than what he had now. He was fit, he was eye-catching, and the ladies loved him. Whatever his old likes and dislikes had been, the current Newter loved thrills, he loved attention.

He had thrills in the missions Faultline's Crew took part in: heists, spy games, plus the adrenaline rush that was a fight against other capes. He had the adulation that came with having a reputation: a man straddling the lines of the law, an appearance that the fairer sex seemed to find more exotic than repulsive, and he could literally make bank off of his sweat.

No, he didn't know what his life had been like before, but he rather liked his life as it was now. He appreciated the fact that Faultline knew her own limits as a leader and never tried to force anyone to do anything they weren't comfortable with.

And he, personally, was comfortable with living.

"We can't help, Tee," she was saying from the cockpit. As if a second repetition would make the knowledge of their inaction any more palatable.

Newter glanced at the spider now hanging just above the window at an angle that let her see the ground below them. Tee seemed determined to ignore Faultline, but that didn't seem to deter the woman.

"We're too far and it's a needless risk to everyone here. Besides which, not all of us have the ability to affect something like that."

Newter stared down at his hands. He was agile enough that he'd often thought about racing an Endbringer across a city, but he'd be no help against something that could wash away his toxins faster than he could probably apply them. The same thing prevented him from helping with search and rescue, since any lives he'd probably save would—at the same time—be completely removed from the battle as they swam in delirium for precious minutes to hours, depending on how much skin contact they kept with him.

He glanced across the aisle towards Emily, who was also staring down into her lap, shame-faced. Yeah, he didn't see a little bit of fire helping out against a hydrokinetic of the Endbringer's strength either.

As for Elle, nobody felt right about bringing her into danger in the first place. Plus a fight where the very best defense was being as mobile as possible… was not a situation that suited their overpowered Shaker.

Tee remained as still as a statue, continuing to stare out the window. She didn't make any moves to acknowledge Faultline's words or towards the mobile she'd dropped onto the nearby seat. She was apparently uninterested in conversation.

They couldn't go. Simple as that, it was simply too dangerous. The logic was sound, the case for their uninvolvement made long ago the first time the topic of Endbringers had come up in an organisational meeting. And the timing of their mission may have been blind luck, but they were already in a position to ensure their safety and it would be foolish—not to mention suicidal—to put that at risk.

So why did sitting this out leave a bad taste in his mouth? And Newter was… unfortunately… rather familiar with a wide range of bad tastes.

"I'm not going to tell you not to fight," Faultline continued. "It's a decision all of us have grappled with—individually and without any outside influence—but now is simply not the right opportunity."

Tee continued refusing to look at them. Even without moving, her posture was rigid with indignation, her judgement felt palpable.

His face flushed at the implied chastisement, but a rush of indignation followed. Yeah, she could feel good about herself by wanting to fight the good fight, but how much had that attitude actually helped her?

Tee had constantly accused them of being villains, just like the PRT did, just because they didn't use their powers to aid charity cases. The world wasn't so binary—just because they chose not to label themselves as heroes did not make them as bad as the other gangs. She'd even spit in the face of their own outreached hand and left on her own to do 'heroing', only to make the city a tense powder keg that had the major powers spiraling into ever-escalating levels of violence in an attempt to save face amongst their peers.

"What you decide to do is between yourself and your own conscience. All I'm saying is that, at least for today, the city will be without our support."

Faultline had even accepted her after that betrayal, which was a lot more leeway than Newter would have expected from his leader who'd normally be raging to balance the scales and address slight with slight. The damned spider was taking them for granted! And for what?!

She might be a lot stronger than he was now, but she'd needed sheltering to get to that point. Besides which, what good was that strength now? If she really felt so strongly about saving the city, she wouldn't be simply glued to the window watching it get inevitably destroyed. Like the moronic heroes she idolised, she'd probably be flinging herself outside a flying plane, heedless of common sense, and she'd—

"Please think carefully about this."


Newter looked out the window, then blinked and glanced back at the motionless spider against the wall.

Then back outside… where a faint speck was falling through the sky.

"Uh, Boss? I don't think she's listening to your lecture…"


Is this what flight is like?

The rush of air, the wind in my face (noIhaveNOTforgottenhowmuchIhateyou, wind!), the… well, it's actually rather hard to breathe.

To be perfectly honest, it would be a lie to say it was everything I'd dreamed of.

Really hard to breathe…

This may have not been the brightest of ideas.


Oh… okay, that takes care of the rushing wind. Still a bit light-headed though.

So, fun fact: my Blinking has a range limit. I'm not quite sure what that range is, but apparently I can't simply reach the ground from an airborne plane.

That's… rather unfortunate, to be frank.

I mean, I'm a lot larger now. Spider-terminal velocity is a lot scarier than spiderling terminal velocity. I might not come out of this in one piece. I may have to face a possible future where I don't have a future.

I need to look to the past, take a long look at my failures, and find out where I went wrong.

I need to swallow my pride, promise myself to keep an open mind, and forgive what needs to be forgiven.

I need to consider things I'd never—not in a million years—ever consider.




I'm going to have to put my faith into Operation: Parachute, one last time.

I mean, I can survive the fall without it, right? It's just an experiment with no consequences.

I'm… I'm rather durable.

This should be cake! Hah hah!



C'mon… let's do this…



Fuck you, Operation: Parachute. I swear, this is the absolute last time you've failed me.

[Oh for crying out loud… ]

[BLINK! BLINK! BLINK! BLINK! BLINK! BLINK! BLINK! BLINK! BLINK! BLINK! BLINK! BLINK!BLINK!BLINK!BLINK!BLINK!BLINK!BLINK!Blinkblinkblinkblinkblinkblinkblinkʙʟɪɴᴋʙʟɪɴᴋʙʟɪɴᴋʙʟɪɴᴋʙʟɪɴᴋʙʟɪɴᴋʙʟɪɴᴋ…]

Swarm-in-Charge! You beautiful, beautiful… mind… power—ow, headache—thingy, you!

[Grappling Threads! Spread it out! C'mon ladies, circle up! Formation now! Alright, more threads! More threads!]


I see, I see! Yep yep. This could work. Bigger surface area, actual framework, all we need to do is fill in the gaps…


「「「ᴀʏᴇ, ᴍᴀ'ᴀᴍ!」」」

Wait, what?


Heavy casualties, CD-5. Stand by.

Vista gasped for breath as the building came down. Rubble and dust filled the air, though probably not as badly as it might have had the water not swallowed up a significant portion of the debris.

I did that, she thought. She tried to force herself to stare at the devastation she had wrought, but ended up squeezing her eyes shut and slumping against a convenient wall.

A tidal wave had forced many groundbound capes to seek safety through elevation in the nearby structures, only for Leviathan to smash through each building in turn and send numerous people falling to their deaths.

Seeing that, the Protectorate head of Philadelphia had managed to organise a trap for the Endbringer, baiting him towards one particular building that the San Jose team had been reinforcing, with the Chicago leader finally managing to force it inside.

And Vista had brought it down.

She'd been ordered to do it. She'd assisted in destabilising the structure enough so that it would fall cleanly and warped the space around it so as to direct most of the damage and debris to those trapped within…

She'd done her part well. What had been asked of her. Demanded of her. She was finally taking part in the real fights, the ones that actually mattered.

Leviathan had still been inside when she demolished the skyscraper.

But so had the head of the San Jose Protectorate.

I killed him.

Her armband began listing off the casualties, both from the recent collapse and the tidal wave barely a minute past, but she hardly paid it any attention. She was finally stirred into motion when a large hand grabbed her by the arm and hauled her to her feet.

"Get up," Armsmaster ordered her. "If you're injured, get out of the area. If you're fit to fight, get ready."

It's not over…?

He suddenly twisted his head, staring at the pile of rubble that was her magnum opus. "Be ready!" he roared.

Concrete and rebar erupted from the ground as the Endbringer emerged. It spun in place, using its tail like an extra limb to sweep debris at the assembled capes in a more directed manner.

Capes all across the field struggled to find shelter, some dropping flat to the ankle-deep water receding from the roads to avoid projectiles aimed for their heads.

Armsmaster swung and spun his halberd in a complicated-looking arc, destroying or deflecting several missiles from himself and his charge. The motion ended with the shaft tucked beneath his arm and he lowered his stance and charged through the water, leaving Vista still standing numbly in his wake.

She reflexively bent space around her, deflecting a rather large cinder block headed her way as she stared at the renewed melee.

Leviathan was a flurry of limbs; the tall, gangly creature rending and tearing at the air with its arms and tail. Spears of water stabbed out at those closest to it, whilst razor-sharp arcs of water were flung towards those trying to keep their distance.

Throughout it all, water continuously shed off its figure like a second skin. An afterimage that closely followed its movements and ablating against powerful blasts of energy, blunting weaponry, and sanding the flesh off of anyone unfortunate enough to be standing in its vicinity for too long.

Vista raised her hand towards the ongoing furball, ready to… to do what?

She could warp space. She could send bullets curving away from her, even back to her opponents if she compressed it enough. She could lengthen or shorten the area around anything she could see, with the only limitation being that people in the area would affect the speed with which she could manipulate the space.

With capes and Endbringer scattered all around in such close proximity, that speed was unfortunately 'very slowly'.

She could still try to lengthen the relative distance between the Endbringer and its next target, but that required knowing where that target would be in advance. Leviathan was far too fast for her to do it as a response.

In terms of years served, she was the most senior Ward. She'd handled gangbangers and even a few capes completely on her own, or with minimal support from the other heroes. She'd always dreamed of proving her reliability to her superiors in age and the best way to do that was live combat.

She'd wanted a fight. A real fight… but now that one had broken out she realised just how little she'd truly experience of the world. She'd never truly been scared of someone like Rune. Oni Lee couldn't touch her. Hookwolf could sit and spin in a perpetual treadmill whilst she enjoyed a nice cup of warm milk coffee!

But… what could she do against an Endbringer?

The answer was to bring down buildings and kill her own allies, but little else, it seemed.

She almost envied Armsmaster. He was an asshole. He was socially retarded. He cared far too much about his reputation and inconsequential rules.

But he was always first in line when the call to muster for an Endbringer fight was announced. He had charged headlong into a hopeless melee where participants emerged missing limbs, if they emerged at all. He didn't seem to care if his orders resulted in injuries or fatalities, so long as it made the Endbringer hurt.

He was focused on the results. Everything else was secondary.

And that—right here, right now—was the sort of mindset she needed.

Vista squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.

Yes, she had killed a hero. It hadn't been an accident. He'd literally gone to his death knowing the results of the coin flip, and had ordered it anyhow.

But she had hurt the Endbringer, or at least harmed its chances of getting what it wanted. She had stalled it enough for reinforcements to arrive. Some of them were dying even now, but she had improved everyone's odds, even if just a tiny bit.

She could live with those results. She could do that again.

She might not do it single-handedly, but she would save Brockton Bay.

After all, it's not like the day could've gotten any worse.

As she prepared to march through the water and towards the oncoming fight, a shadow fell across the street and she flicked her gaze upwards.

Her eyes widened.



She hated stairs. They were so… stair-y.

God, if she'd known joining this outfit meant that she'd have to climb stairs then she would have had second—no, third thoughts about the whole thing.

Still, there was a lot to be said for sanctioned field tests. Like, really, not just being allowed but encouraged to go as wild as she liked?

This was great.

She kicked the door open, not caring if the rusted hinges shrieked with the sound of tortured metal, and stomped towards the far end of the room.

She was not the first person there. A figure sat at a desk situated beneath the window, a filthy pillow cushioning the barrel of a fairly large anti-material rifle as it poked out over the skyline.

Her boots crunched through bits of fallen apartment as she swung her duffel bag through the air and onto a nearby bunk bed. Her ass hit the cushions seconds later as she leaned over and opened the bag, revealing a haphazard pile of metal and plastics.

The sniper ignored her entrance in favour of leaning to the side slightly, then squeezing the trigger of her rifle to release a loud boom. Without moving, the form of the gun wavered like a heat mirage and re-solidified in the exact same position—boom—flicker—boom.

"Triple tap with a sniper rifle, niiiice," the intruder drawled. She reached into her bag and pulled out an oblong shell with a firing pin hastily welded to one end. "So, the lizard lady suggested through my glorified wrist-watch that you and I have 'synergy.'" She held up her hands and twitched her fingers, the ones on her right hand barely visible around the large explosive. "Can you do mortars?"

The sniper glanced back at her and sat up as the rifle melted into a large bowie knife, only to flicker again as she raised her hands and ended up holding a long, cylindrical tube over her shoulder. "I've got one better. If you can make it fly straight."

"Bitch, please," came the reply. "I am not just a one-trick pony. I do high-quality work, even if that means the boring shit that comes with making it worth my while."

Despite having made her boast, the woman was in the process of high-quality working (read: hastily super-gluing) a trio of fins to one end of the improvised Tinker explosive. After a few moments she held it at arm's length and eyeballed the result, only to curse and use a pair of pliers to bend one of the fins ever so slightly.

The shooter's bazooka simply flickered in her hands to adjust for the new structure of the projectile and slid it into the breech once the Tinker had finally released it to her custody. "Range?" she asked.

"Big," came the reply with a smile full of teeth.

The shooter pressed one hand to her wrist. "Advisory: Tinker explosives. Wide area of effect."

"Acknowledged," came the tinny reply. "Stand by."

The Tinker walked over to the window and propped her hip against the desk, staring outside at the ongoing battle, whistling tunelessly.

A few moments later the armband crackled to life once more. "Authorisation granted. You are clear to fire."

The shooter peered into the sight and shifted her aim slightly. "Fire in the hole!" She pressed the trigger and the grenade rocketed into the distance.

After a bare few seconds, there was a silent flare of light and the air shimmered within a globe that covered nearly one-quarter of a block around a particular intersection. A split second later the globe contracted and a bright column of released energy stretched to the sky and simultaneously carved a hole into the ground.

Bakuda raised her arms in glee, "Ta-ma-yaaaaaa!" She sighed and draped herself across the windowsill. "Aah, listen to those sounds of distress. I know you white hats don't appreciate it, but it's music to my ears."

Miss Militia adjusted her scope and leaned forward slightly. "I'd hate to rain on your parade, but I don't think that's because of you…"


Shielder reflexively covered his eyes even as his shield snapped to life. He was bowled back by the impact as Leviathan took offense to the miniature black hole someone had shot at him and replied by throwing an arc of water at the building several streets away.

He hadn't even been the target, just unfortunate enough to be in the path of the tail as it sliced through the air.

His ballistic flight was arrested as his shield bumped into another's and he used the recoil from the impact to bring himself under control. He nodded thanks to his sister as the two squared off against the Endbringer scrambling along the walls of the buildings in front of them.

Laserdream opened up with streams of coherent ruby light that created small puffs of steam against the deluge of water pouring off from Leviathan's skin. She cut off her attack and retreated behind him as a flick of the beast's tail arced another blade of water at them, only to be intercepted by his sturdier azure shields.

Meanwhile a cloud of debris marked where initial barrage of waterblades had impacted the sniper's nest, but as the smoke cleared Shielder noticed that several of the waterblades had somehow frozen in midair, blocking the followup shots for a critical moment before a massive pile of ice fell to the ground short of the structure, their collective momentum spent.

The Endbringer dug its claws into the building and pivoted, suddenly speeding towards the two siblings. Their reflexive responses were as varied as their appearance, which was unfortunate for the pair.

Had the two of them simply retreated at their best speed, they could have avoided the attack completely. Had they stuck together and reinforced the other's shield, they may have been able to tank the attack head-on for a brief moment. Instead, Laserdream flew backwards evasively as Shielder brought his namesake to life and stood his ground.

Leviathan's tail struck the shield and wrapped around it, the tip whipping around the obstacle and slicing through the back of Laserdream's leg as she fled, turning her pivot into an uncontrolled spin as the pain made her momentarily lose control over her flight. As such, she was unable to help her brother as the Endbringer's limb held tight and began to squeeze.

The shield flared into near-opacity as Shielder struggled to keep it from shattering, the feedback bringing him to his knees… or would have, had he not been floating. The pain was too much, the stress too great, and Shielder's mind whited out as his only protection was crushed like an egg, the tail contracting to slice him through as he fell.

Except in the brief moment between the shield's failure and the tightening of Leviathan's tail, a huge mass fell from the sky upon the Endbringer, the coils slipping free harmlessly as it was driven into the ground.

Meanwhile, several bundles of elastic threads struck Laserdream and slowed her tumble, then bungied her back into the air before her uncontrolled fall could land her on top of a very angry Endbringer.

The surrounding capes stared at the temporarily fallen monster, then—almost as one—glanced at the empty sky.

Then they looked back down at the ground, where thousands of ginormous spiders now littered the streets and buildings. Many appeared to be dead, either from the force of their impact against the ground, crushed by their brethren, or slashed to pieces from the Endbringer even now flaring it's aquatic after-image and washing itself free from the spider-piling.

But many more were rising to their feet, skittering back and forth in a living tide of white as they turned to face the monster in their midst.

Then the screaming started.


[FUCK Operation: Parachute. Never again! Never. A. Gain.]

I know, right?!

Ahem. Miracle Magical Master Me has arrived to save the day!

Just listen to those cheers! I'm feeling so loved right about now.