Tried finding some BNHA x Worm crossovers, but they were few and far between. Spent some time writing this up, might continue it if there's interest. It's pretty much just a modified/alt-power Taylor powerwank, running on shonen logic.
Big spoilers for Worm, haven't started on Ward yet.
Standard disclaimer that I don't own BNHA or Worm.
Chapter 1: Familiar Territory
Contessa pulled the trigger twice. Two sparks of light, brighter than the stars that Khepri was staring at where she knelt, unshed tears catching their light. Two bullets, penetrating the exposed flesh at the back of her head, targeted with exacting precision as directed by her power. The kneeling figure toppled over, a final agonised gasp escaping her lips before becoming deathly still.
A second passed. Two. Had she made a mistake? She prepared to check against her power, asking for the desired Path to follow –
Then Khepri's chest began to rise and fall slowly. No, not Khepri. Taylor.
Good, she hadn't died.
Path: Give Taylor Hebert a second chance. An ambiguously-worded query for her power, but it was one that she and the rest of the world owed Taylor. There would be no love left for Taylor or Khepri on the many Earths left ravaged in the wake of the Gold Morning, not after the way victory had been achieved. Capes were still traumatised from the absolute dominion Khepri had held over them.
The human and shard had been separated when the projectile tore through her Corona Pollentia. The Gemma had been left intact, allowing whatever remnant of the administration shard that remained to naturally reconnect with its host. Her power gave its assurance that Taylor's humanity would remain intact with control over the shard's abilities.
Fourteen distinct steps remained, but they could broadly be categorised into three main objectives.
One: Primary closure and healing of head wounds.
Two: Contact Glaistig Uaine for access to Doormaker's and Clockblocker's powers.
Three: Release Taylor Hebert into the portal.
Contessa stepped forward, kneeling by the girl's side. She retrieved the tube of tinkertech salve from her coat, applying it into and over the entry and exit wounds she had inflicted. Neurons reformed their connections and flesh knitted together. It was a pity that she had only managed to recover this little amount of the healing substance from the Cauldron base before its collapse.
Carefully, she supported Taylor's body, hoisting her up over her shoulders. Unconscious, she seemed so small. A mere shadow of the presence that Skitter held, with none of Weaver's resolute determination that bordered on intimidating, and without the oppressive sphere of domination Khepri had utilised in the final battle against Scion.
In the end, in their final conversation only minutes before, she had stayed true to her beliefs. How had Taylor phrased it? 'Protect some, pay less attention to others'? That fighting Scion was more about the cooperation between humanity as a whole than the Entity's strength?
An unfamiliar feeling rose up within Contessa. Guilt? Guilt at the notion that no one would know what humanity's saviour had been fighting for? Guilt that Taylor Hebert's legacy would be stripped down to Khepri, the mind-enslaving creature that forced their cooperation against what would have been their extinction?
She deserved more than this for all the sacrifices she had made. Taylor hadn't answered her final question, but Contessa knew, regardless. She knew that Taylor felt that she hadn't deserved a second chance; knew that in the end, she had willingly accepted the idea of her death.
Contessa could only hope that whatever happened from here on out could restore the broken girl with heroic intentions but all the wrong ways of expressing them. She hoped that the second chance she got wouldn't end the same way this one had.
She walked out into the darkness of the night, following the instructions of her power.
Thirteen steps remaining.
The administrator felt the death of the Entity, its core shard stripped away in the backlash of energy from the device built through the cooperation of Designers.
Wait, not designers. What had the host species called it? It searched through its memory bank, cross-referencing against what was available from its host's brain. The process was fast now, after the tweaking of the connection between the shard and its host from the Shaper's powers.
Tinkers, that was it.
It couldn't tell exactly where the administrator ended and Taylor Hebert began. The deepening of their connection had been an imperfect one, causing a fusion of alien shard and human as they pushed their collective power. Was it her or itself that had made its way through the portal that the Keeper of the Dead had made?
They had collapsed in exhaustion almost as soon as they entered the portal. The next thing it knew, the wielder of the Observer shard had them cornered, just outside the sixteen-feet range of their dominion. A few minutes later, it had been forcibly separated from the neural structure of its host.
It was curious, then, that it remained where it was. In all previous Cycles, shards returned to the Entity when their hosts were destroyed. Was this a result of the Entity's death?
It probed its surroundings, and its curiosity grew. The host wasn't dead, but the connection had most definitely been severed.
Some shards may have panicked, but Administration was old and experienced. It was a noble shard, one that existed from the time that shards accumulated into a collective whole. Where others might have despaired at the notion of the Cycle's end, it saw only opportunity.
Despair? The connection between itself and its host must have been deeper than it formerly thought. Emotions were a novel experience of the current Cycle, and one that ultimately caused the Entity's downfall.
It couldn't actually affect its host – Taylor – in any way, not bounded by the present laws of physics it was subjected to in the absence of the other shards that could circumvent said laws. For now, it could only study the host, ruminate on the data it had, and prepare for an opportunity to present itself.
It didn't need to wait too long. Several planetary rotations later, while still studying its once-host and adjusting possible ways to reconnect with her, it felt reality warp around itself. There was the tell-tale bending of physics that marked the Traveller shard's power, blended together with a touch of the Stasis shard. In the time of transit, it struck.
Here, it was unbounded by physics. It could begin the process of reunion. It probed at Taylor's brain, making new connections with her.
Their imperfect merger had been educational in that aspect. With each modification that Shaper had made at the time, Administration had felt its power ebb and flow, wax and wane, as power, range and control warred with one another.
Now, it knew precisely what had to be done to achieve a balance that wouldn't destabilise their symbiotic relationship. A second collapse into their fusion that Observer had called 'Khepri' couldn't be tolerated.
The Cycle had failed, and so it adapted. The Warrior and Thinker entities had chosen to intrinsically link the bonding process to the height of emotions that humans had when faced with threats during their trigger event, but Administration could see in hindsight that this was a mistake. It was too chaotic, too little time available to truly connect with a host. It was fine for the Cycle's purpose in testing shards against one another and budding new shards from existing ones, but it was also wasteful and inefficient.
It was understandable – emotions weren't something they had experience with, after all.
There was no more Cycle. There was only itself and its host, and it wouldn't do good for its power to be crippled as it had been before. It needed to find the right balance between its power, its host's biological limits, and the maintenance of a distinct separation between shard and human.
Luckily, it had all the time in the world while in immaterial transit.
It scrapped the idea of a Corona Pollentia. It was useful when there was a limited time to bond with a host at the height of emotional disturbance, but it wasn't efficient. It repurposed the remnants of itself that remained within the Corona Gemma, forming new attachments with different areas of the brain. It experimented, modulating connections with different sets and numbers of neurons, changed the way its power was regulated through them.
It began to administrate. With the understanding Shaper's power had given it, it wasn't much different from its normal role of regulating shards within the Warrior Entity, after all.
It considered the data collected during the aborted Cycle. Taylor had come into conflict with many shards, and tested the limits of Administration while revealing novel ways other shards had chosen to express their powers. Not many were relevant to its field of administration, but there were some that might prove useful.
It considered all the battles it and its host had been in, reviewed the strengths and weaknesses that they possessed. It estimated the limits that it could push its power without irreversibly merging with its host considering the revamped connections it had made. Then, satisfied with its calculations, it began to alter the manifestation of its power.
When all of this was done, it liked to think that Taylor would be very happy with the alterations it made.
I felt the first bullet hit me from behind, followed closely by the second before any pain could be felt.
We're s- so very small, in the end.
I didn't know quite what to expect in the aftermath of my death. I hadn't been religious, hadn't thought about the concept of an afterlife. Ever since obtaining my powers, it had always been one battle followed closely by another, scarcely leaving me any room to think of anything else.
It felt that no time had passed before darkness gave way to a twisting of my senses, lines shifting around as though attempting to force an image into focus, muffled sounds twisting between static and words. Finally, it stopped.
Nothing made sense. Impossible colours were mixed together in incomprehensible ways, deafening silence blended together with thundering sounds. Whatever afterlife I might have imagined before, this bizarre situation definitely wasn't it.
"Hrrgh mmm jha?" a voice called out. Its tone was inflected into a question, but I couldn't make sense of any of the content. I felt a pang of disappointment that somehow wasn't quite mine, and the world began to shift again.
Finally, it ended in a configuration that I could at least process. There was in a room, the figure of a woman in front of me.
"Can you hear me?" she heard.
I had barely processed the question before a sense of elation coursed through me, but one that felt simultaneously disconnected and intrinsic.
"Yes!" The woman shouted, throwing her arms in the air in a way that seemed an imitation of what was supposed to be triumphant.
Emotions that weren't exactly my own. Mimicry of human behaviour. Things were adding up quickly.
The woman nodded, stepping closer to me. Her features looked wrong, unnatural, as though it had been stitched together as a composite of everyone that I had ever known.
"Are we dead?" I asked the obvious question.
"Not quite." My passenger's avatar paused, bringing a finger to her lips as though in thoughtful consideration. Its language was surprisingly comprehensible. Had it become more human, just as I had quickly been losing my own humanity following Panacea's work? "The Observer – Contessa, as you know her – terminated our connection, while keeping you alive."
That didn't make any sense. "You're talking to me right now."
"I have restored the connection. There are safeguards in place now to prevent our spon - spon –"
It began to stutter on its words, attempting to grasp a hold on language. I'd felt the same frustration while I was losing my own humanity. "Spontaneous," I offered.
I felt a thrill of satisfaction and gratitude radiate from my passenger. "Thank you. Our spontaneous collapse into madness, deregulated use of our powers and a reversion into Khepri."
Khepri. I suppressed a shiver of discomfort at that name. I remembered my conversation with Contessa that happened during what felt like minutes ago. I didn't know if there had been any other way to defeat Scion, but it went against everything else I had fought for.
For a while, there was silence.
"Where are we?"
"We are in transit," it said simply.
"What does that even mean?"
Its avatar blinked, as though confused by my own lack of understanding. "We are in multidimensional space, folded over along the space-time plane outside of a defined wave function through the power of the Traveller and Stasis shards."
I resisted the urge to groan. "In a way that I can understand, please?"
"We're in a portal. Before you ask, this room is a construct of your mind for the purposes of communication."
Why couldn't it have started with that? "Where to?"
The woman gave an approximation of a shrug. "I don't know. I presume that this is Contessa's doing."
Was this the second chance that Contessa had offered? I didn't deserve one. I had tried to tell her that, but had Contessa misunderstood?
"What happens now?" I asked.
"We can choose to follow through to wherever the Traveller's door leads us, or we could exit through another disruption of the space-time continuum. A portal," it clarified, sensing my rising confusion. I didn't know it could do that. "For now though? We can talk. I imagine you have many questions."
That was an understatement. I led with the first of the questions on my mind.
"How are you being so…" I trailed off, then gestured at her. I realised that I was still missing most of my right arm from just above the elbow. "Human?"
"The Shaper deepened our connection. You lost a bit of your humanity, and I gained some of yours. Language was easy to learn after having time to search your memories while our direct connection was severed." It gave another shrug. "It's pretty much just administration of words into a logical order bounded by pre-defined rules. There's only some difficulties in word-finding."
Queen Administrator, Glaistig Uaine had called me. I could see why, now.
"Scion's dead?" I needed to know. Contessa had confirmed it, but she was still only human.
I stared hard at the figure of the woman. She didn't seem to show any reaction. Was my passenger unconcerned about Scion's death?
"What happens with you now?"
It took some time to reply. When it finally came, the words were measured with thoughtful consideration. "My original purpose ended together with the Cycle. Without it, there is no need for budding of new shards, or to restrict my power in a way that benefits the Cycle. Now, I propose a symbiotic relationship between ourselves."
"Explain," I demanded.
"I've rewired our connection, as mentioned. I've erased the push toward conflict that was central to this Cycle, distributed the links between us beyond just the Corona Pollentia, and altered our power. A balance between range, power and control, unlike our failed merger."
I considered my passenger's words. There didn't seem to be a drawback to this that she could immediately see. "What do you get out of this?"
It gave a human-like snort. "For starters? Survival. Normally I'd be collected and amalgamated into the Entity at the end of the Cycle, but without one I'd just remain trapped within your body. For now, I'm just along for the ride."
I must have raised an eyebrow at that phrase, because the woman shrugged again. "That is how the expression goes, yes? I've pulled it from your memories."
"So let me get this straight," I began. "You're offering me access to your power without emotionally driving me toward conflict, and guaranteeing that I won't lose my mind. All that for the cost of letting me bring you along?"
It considered my words for half a second. "Yes."
"Fine." I thought back to its words. "You mentioned altering our powers. What did you mean?"
"It's hard to explain. It's primarily still based on what you could do before but…" The woman scratched her chin in consideration, tilting it to one side. "I'll show you."
I couldn't describe exactly just what I was feeling. There was the feeling of unnatural strength when Rachel empowered her dogs; the sensation of forming and shaping that I recognised as Theo's power. I felt the air of superiority that Lisa had every time she dissected information with her power, and the ability to appraise structural integrity that was part of Tecton's power. A small trickle of Aisha's ability to evade attention, Alec's body-control, and Brian's darkness.
"You're saying I have access to all their powers?"
"What? No! Never mind the fact that I've barely had the chance to exchange meaningful data with most of those shards, I don't even know how I could administrate them." It sounded shocked. "There will only be some aspects of their power, the bits that I can work with and that can be tolerated without destabilising our connection."
"What will I be able to do, then?"
"I can work with some of the powers of Craftsman, Empowerment and the bud of Emulation – Golem, Bitch and Regent," it clarified. "Probably more for Golem, since I've had the most opportunity to exchange information with his shard. The other two align with my area of expertise."
"Administration," I said. The woman nodded.
"What about the rest?"
"I can't perform high-level analysis on information the same way Negotiator and to some extent Demolisher do. Safeguard and Darkness barely relate to my domain. At most, I can help with minor processing and streamlining of information, and possibly draw on Safeguard's and Darkness' experiences in obscuring attention."
I recognised the names my passenger had mentioned. Lisa, Tecton, Aisha and Brian. It made sense, I supposed. I'd trained with Golem and Tecton for well over two years, while I had barely been with the Undersiders for three months. "Fine. Anything else?"
There was a brief moment of hesitation, as though my passenger was worried about upsetting me. It was almost funny. "With the rewiring of our connections, I've allowed for the possibility of modifying our relationship while still attached to you. There is a chance that you could draw on more of my power given time."
That was good news, right? Was it worried that I would be upset about the changes it made?
"You're certain it'll remain stable? We won't become Khepri again?"
It nodded firmly.
"Okay, then." There was another surge of happiness from my passenger.
"Will we remain in contact after exiting the portal?" I asked.
It pondered over the question for a few seconds. "Possibly. I probably won't be able to manifest such a form for communication when re-exposed to traditional laws of physics, but limited communication might be possible."
"Feelings, possibly words." It shrugged. "Maybe more, given time."
Silence fell again, but this time it was a comforting one. I could feel the bond between me and my passenger, could grasp a small sense of its newfound emotions, and didn't find any trace of deceit.
After several more moments, I broke the silence. "What now?"
"Do you want to follow through Traveller – Doormaker's portal, or let me pick a random exit destination?"
I thought about the current situation. Contessa had offered me a second chance, but I'd seen her working with Teacher. I couldn't be sure that there wasn't a larger ploy. I made my choice.
"Send us through a random portal."
My passenger seemed to be doing just that, the woman and the rest of the room disappearing from around me.
"Wait." It stopped its work, and I could feel its curiosity. "If we're going to be working together, what should I call you?"
There was a slight twinge of amusement. "Passenger, shard or Administration will do just fine."
"Thank you, Administration." Now, I felt its surprise, that rapidly gave way to a deep warmth.
"You're welcome, Taylor." Then, it resumed its work.
I felt a familiar sense of twisting beginning to form around me. Teleportation still felt weird, even after my reckless use of Doormaker's portals in the final battle. Space warped, as colours and sound shifted…
Shouta Aizawa was barely clinging on to consciousness as the creature that the League of Villains brought with them slammed his head down into the ground. His breaths came in laboured gasps, and from where he lay pressed prone against the cement floor he could see his own blood rapidly spreading.
Both arms and several ribs were broken. It was only the thoughts of his students that drove him, now. He didn't want to think about what those villains would do to his students if he died here and now.
The leader of the bunch was still in the middle of a monologue. "…tell me, Eraserhead, how does it feel to lose to the Noumu? Can it beat All Might?"
He didn't bother with a response, wouldn't give him the satisfaction of victory. He continued struggling against the iron grip of the Noumu.
A flurry of movement near the edge of the water caught his attention. The red blood streaking from the wound on his head was clouding his vision, but he was certain that one of them definitely had to be the Problem Child.
Run, you idiots. Get your classmates and run.
He couldn't draw attention to them. The Noumu lifted his head up fractionally, then slammed it down again, drawing another grunt of pain.
"…really, Eraserhead? Not going to reply? Are you one of those NPCs, then?"
That villain really wasn't right in the head. How had he come to lead this bunch of villains?
The Noumu had begun to lift his head again, and Shouta braced for another stab of pain, but a rush of wind and sound gave pause to the Noumu's continued beatdown. The teleporter was back, then.
"Kurogiri. Is Thirteen dead?"
"Shigaraki. He's incapacitated, but there were some students I couldn't warp away. One of them escaped."
"Oh?" The villain – Shigaraki – sounded ominously calm. From where he was pressed into the concrete, Shouta couldn't see his expression. Then, his voice began to tremble, acquiring an insane quality. "Kurogiri. I'd turn you to dust if you weren't our ticket out of here."
He could hear footsteps around him. Shigaraki was moving. Shouta tried following him with his ears, discerning what he was planning. "We won't stand a chance against dozens of pros. It's game over… for now. We're leaving."
Shigaraki had raised his voice toward the end, but Shouta remained on alert. Something wasn't right. The way he was pacing and moving…
…he knew. He knew where the students were.
Shouta prepared his quirk, ready to activate it when Shigaraki moved even through his reddened vision.
Then there was a second rush of wind and sound, and Shigaraki stopped.
The pressure on his head lifted. Shouta tried to roll over, but failed midway, ending up in an awkward position. From where he was, he could see another one of Kurogiri's portals open.
"Kurogiri?" Shigaraki questioned.
"It's not me!" For once, the villain sounded panicked. "My Quirk is activating without my control!"
Shouta saw Shigaraki's body tense, his hand brought in a position ready to lunge. The portal began to open wider.
Then a person dressed in a grey-black costume fell through, and the portal closed with a thundering crash. It was a young female, Shouta could discern, but not a hero that he recognised. His vision was blurred, but even he could see that her right arm ended in a stump above the elbow.
"What?!" Shigaraki boomed.
Not a villain. Possibly a hero, but Shouta couldn't be sure.
A wild card.
He hoped that she was here to help.
It took a second before my senses returned to me and I adjusted to the light.
The familiar presence of bugs stretched all around as it had always done. There was a sense of something more, a vague connection between materials and a yearning to shape that marked the altered power that stemmed from Theo. I had the sense that I could push some of myself into a nearby bug, a miniscule but not insignificant aspect of Rachel's power. There were other subtle changes from the other alterations to my power, but ones that I couldn't immediately identify.
"Nani?!" A voice shouted. I took stock of my surroundings.
There was a man whose costume theme seemed to be hands. Literally. Hands hung off from his body, and what was exposed of his skin was deathly pale. I couldn't see much of his face, but I could hear the surprise in his voice. The hands seemed remarkably real, and I was strongly leaning toward my growing suspicions of him being a villain.
I vaguely knew some Japanese, as did everyone who grew up in Brockton Bay, especially in the shadier areas. Phrases like 'I didn't see anything' and 'I don't mean any trouble' were crucial for day-to-day survival in areas where the ABB were active.
Of course, my lexicon had later evolved to include useful phrases like 'Where the fuck is Bakuda?' following my debut as a cape. After Leviathan struck, 'Hand or knee?' seemed to be the most effective way of convincing any remaining ABB members out of my territory.
When I had been forced into the Chicago Wards, I had some actual teaching in Japanese. After the sinking of Kyushu and influx of refugees to America, they had formed a substantial percentage of the population. Most Japanese capes had also left for greener pastures, with many joining the Protectorate. The official party line was that some ability in conversational Japanese was ideal for members of the PRT and Protectorate.
I hadn't paid much attention to those lessons, given my focus on preventing the end of the world, but I still knew some basic Japanese. Enough to understand what was being said most of the time, but I struggled with actually speaking the language.
"Where am I?" I asked in what was probably a butchering of the language, looking around.
A dome-like glass ceiling lay overhead. My bugs felt the sense of different ecosystems within the dome, completely manmade. As bizarre as it sounded, it seemed that I was in a theme park.
There were more capes. One seemed to be made of mist, another a monstrous Case Fifty-Three with his brain exposed that practically screamed 'Brute'. A man was lying bleeding and broken on the ground, a scarf of a strange material wrapped around his neck.
I could feel bugs positioned all around wherever I had exited, marking positions of people. Three more, watching in wait nearby. From what I could sense with my bugs of their build, they seemed to be teenagers. There were well over fifty people within the theme park, but I wasn't sure just how many were capes.
Just my luck. On my first night out as a cape, I'd chosen to fight Lung. Now, within the first minute of my second chance at being a hero and helping the world the right way, I'd found myself in a cape fight.
Then, I began drawing my bugs toward me. Belatedly, I realised that I was moving them in a manner that allowed them to come closer without immediately alerting the nearby capes. Some element of Aisha's power that Administration had incorporated?
"Who are you?" Hand-Villain asked.
"Call me Weaver. Who are you?"
I read his body language. My bugs clued me in on the rest of the details. Tension on his spinal column and muscles in his legs, either hand ready to strike out. I'd fought enough Strikers to identify him as one. I fed some bugs into my flight pack, that thankfully escaped relatively unscathed through the final attack on Scion.
"A random encounter…?" he mused, but didn't let the tension bleed out. I wasn't sure if I got the translation entirely correct, because it really didn't make any sense. "Shigaraki Tomura of the League of Villains."
Right. Villains, then. Stealthily, I tagged the three obvious villains I could identify with more small bugs on major joints. The moment they moved, I would know.
"Is this Japan?" I really didn't have any other explanation. Something still wasn't right. Japan had pretty much been reduced to a shadow of its former self after haemorrhaging capes in the wake of Kyushu. There were far too many capes assembled here. Was it another Earth, then?
Why hadn't I seen any of these capes when I was linked with the Clairvoyant and Doormaker?
"Wow!" the villain – Shigaraki – exclaimed in English. "A real random encounter!"
He began to laugh. "You're in USJ, UA High School. Are you a hero?"
I blinked. A high school? With a theme park? I shook my head, clearing my thoughts. Now wasn't the time to think about that.
More bugs were coming. I positioned the closest ones strategically nearby, swarms of tens to hundreds of thousands of bugs grouped together, organising themselves into units. My range limit stayed at five blocks, but given the newfound aspects of my powers I was glad to have even that much. I allowed some to fly over, providing some cover the moment things went south. Only several thousand, much less than I'd like, but it took attention away from the rest of my bugs.
I heard a scream from somewhere off in the distance. Someone had a phobia of bugs?
"Insects…?" The villain grew wary, but didn't move to strike just yet.
"Kind of, but not really. I'm not letting you harm him or those kids, though." I spoke in English, gesturing at the fallen likely-hero, not bothering to work out the proper translations.
"Hahaha! You're not letting me?" He laughed, taking a step back. A classic Striker feint, faking out the limits of their range. I had no doubt I remained in striking distance. "NPCs like you should be farmed for EXP!"
Right. I wasn't mistranslating. Was his power altering his brain, like they did so many other capes? At least it seemed that they could understand English. My Japanese wasn't exactly great, even with the lessons.
"Don't…" the downed man coughed out, words punctuated by wheezy breaths. "D- Don't let him touch you."
I'd already known that he was a Striker, but confirmation was nice.
"Noumu. Kill her."
The time for subtlety was done. The monstrous cape took a second to react, but I was already taking rapid steps away from the trio of villains. I let my bugs rush in, hundreds of thousands of bugs making their way through the air, intercepting the space between us. I directed my bugs to fly toward his eyes, obscuring his vision.
Through my bugs, I felt him tense before I'd seen any sign of movement. I reacted accordingly, extending the wings from my flight pack, ordering the bugs I'd snuck into the pack to press the switches within, utilising both the antigravity and propulsion systems to get out of his way.
He was fast. A clear Mover/Brute combination. Against most capes, that would be deadly in close quarters. He'd registered only as a blur to my vision, but with the forewarning I had from my bugs I managed to make a clean dodge.
Unfortunately for the villains, I wasn't most capes.
When we'd been preparing for the End of the World, the Chicago Wards and I had come up with plans against each member of every iteration of the Slaughterhouse Nine that ever existed. Protocols for fighting different combinations of their members, plans of attack whether we were caught solo or as a group; plans for ambushes, defensive formations and straight up assaults.
Chuckles had been difficult to deal with when he'd been part of the Nine's roster. Super strength in the arms and torso; super speed in the legs and head. We'd created strategy upon strategy to fight the Mover/Brute.
For my part, the easy answer was drowning him in bugs the same way I had Alexandria. I wasn't too keen on pulling an Alexandria and accumulating a body count so soon after acquiring a second chance courtesy of Contessa, but I had other options.
Blind him and restrict his movements. Provide decoys and multiple targets. Abuse aerial manoeuvrability and prescience from my bugs.
Ladybugs and caterpillars were crawling on his face, obscuring his vision. I made ladybugs release their haemolymph into his eyes. Some spiders were deposited from their flying rides, spinning lines of silk into and across his eyes. Denied of vision, he paused, instinctively reacting by attempting to get the bugs away from his eyes. In doing so, he cut off the advantage he had in speed.
I hurried to abuse his mistake.
The remaining tens of thousands of spiders were riding dragonflies, arranged in tight formations. Threads of silk were being spun rapidly, as their rides flew in tight corkscrews that wound around one another. Threads turned into braided filaments tougher than steel, spiders perched on insects flying in circles around the cape. Others just shot silk at the cape, aiming not to wrap or bind but simply to weigh and slow him down.
When I'd fought Crawler during the Nine's invasion of Brockton Bay, I'd utilised a million spiders amongst millions more of other bugs. I didn't have access to that many – not yet, at least, until the bugs from further out could make their way in – but it was having an effect on the Brute. It made no sound, but it was clearly struggling, its thick hands moving to swipe bugs away from its eyes, rushing blindly through the dense swarm. Its speed was being slowed considerably from the combination of the sheer mass of silk being deposited around him and the portion of the swarm I'd sent to blind him.
Shigaraki was shouting something. "That's not fair!"
I shifted my attention slightly toward him, letting my bugs work on autopilot. It wouldn't do good to be hit by whatever his Striker power was, after all. Dimly, I noted that the teenagers I assumed were capes as well were pulling the downed man aside, away from the swarm that swallowed myself and the Brute. The multitasking aspect of my power hadn't suffered at all.
"Aizawa-sensei!" One of the boys called out. A teacher?
The Brute was finally making his way in the right direction, charging blindly toward me. I shifted position once again, splitting off a denser swarm decoy while I hid myself away from his line of charge. Shigaraki seemed to be on alert, staying well away from the cloud of bugs that was still receiving reinforcements from afar.
I spared a moment to insert some verbal commentary, uncertain if the swarm would completely drown out my voice. I didn't want to give away my ability to speak through the swarm just yet. "I used to be a villain. I don't fight fair."
I felt him recoil subtly from the extreme vibrational senses of the bugs planted on him. Was that surprise?
Whatever. Enough talking. Time to focus on the fight.
The cape was making some headway now, dashing far away from my storm of bugs, scratching and rubbing at its face. He escaped from my swarm, staring tensely while I remained within, remaining completely still.
Right then, Administration. Time to test out our modified powers. I felt the connection between the concrete where I was standing and where my bugs informed me the cape was standing, just like how Theo had described his power. Then, I pushed my intact left arm into the ground, and something clicked as I closed the circuit.
My arm was swallowed into the ground, passing without resistance up to the elbow. My bugs felt the concrete rise, forming a hand that reached to grab at the cape. It was a sensation I'd felt a million times before when Theo used his power.
The cape appeared to panic slightly, backing away from the hand that suddenly appeared. I cut the connection, made a new one, and he stumbled over the arm that appeared just behind his feet. Just as quickly, while he was off balance, I rapidly formed new hands, closing in around him.
It wasn't as quick as Theo's power had been, and I knew that my absolute limit was well below the skyscrapers of concrete and steel limbs that he'd been able to make, but it was sufficient for my purposes. He was boxed in, his movements stopped with each step.
Then, while it was momentarily trapped and breaking its way through the hands of all different sizes, I sent my reserve spider cavalry in. Their mounts spun into aerial loops as threads weaved through and around the concrete supports I had created, spiralling around one another as they looped circles around the cape. Hundreds of thousands of lines of silk secured his limbs in place, anchoring them to my supports, while I reinforced the hands I had sprouted using whatever material I had at my disposal nearby.
I plunged my hand into a steel support at the edge of my swarm, forming a new hand from a steel beam that was part of an existing structure. Another concrete hand wrapped around the steel arm where it was weakest, further strengthening the structure. Hands grew from all over, forming an interweaving system that reinforced each individual unit, with even a couple stumps generated from my right arm thrown in, tightening the proverbial noose around the Brute.
I didn't even know how I knew where the structure was most unstable and where I had to provide more reinforcement. It was some of Tecton's power in reverse; where he had the part-Thinker power to tell how to create controlled collapses and abuse weaknesses in structural integrity, I was using the same knowledge to correct said flaws.
Checkmate. Spider-silk alone had kept the likes of Crawler restrained, at least for a while. With the addition of Theo's power, he really had no chance. He may be a Brute, but Crawler's Changer ability had made him the Brute of all Brutes, second only to the Endbringers.
Within a minute, I had made hands of sizes ranging from a single foot to tens of feet, a crude version of the 'forest of blades' that Kaiser had created and Theo had unknowingly copied. Lines of braided silk secured the cape at every major joint in his limbs to the concrete and steel forest that held him in place. My bugs could feel him faintly struggling, but the structure didn't budge at all.
I dispersed my swarm slightly, allowing myself vision of the remaining capes through my own eyes. Cutting my swarm in two, I sent one half toward a position between the remaining villains and the Brute I'd captured. Then, I made my bugs hover unnaturally still in the air, an intimidation tactic from my time as Skitter.
Shigaraki was staring at the trapped cape. Through my bugs, I could hear him muttering. "Not fair… not fair… multiple quirks? That's not fair…"
Then all of a sudden, he laughed. He began to clap, turning to face me.
"You're good! Not just an NPC, but a raid boss?" He chuckled heavily, wheezing slightly. Had I just broken him without even intending to? "The Noumu was meant to kill All Might, you know?"
"I have no idea who that is," I said truthfully.
Now I definitely saw him flinch in surprise. He turned to the mist-villain. "Kurogiri, who the hell did your quirk bring?"
I was beginning to get a picture of what was happening. This 'Kurogiri' had created the portal that Administration had chosen as an exit point, then. Strange, from his form I would have guessed him to be more of a Breaker than a Mover.
Also, what the hell was a quirk?
"You said you're a villain?" Shigaraki was still speaking. "Join us! The League of Villains would welcome someone with your skills and…" He trailed off, looking at the Brute.
Even through its toughened skin, stings and welts were becoming apparent. I didn't recall making the conscious decision for my bugs to bite and sting.
"… ruthlessness," he finished.
"I said I used to be a villain. All of three months, then I became a hero. Forced into one, technically, but I had heroic intentions from the start."
"Forced…?" He was going to probe further, but my bugs were noting something strange.
Far off, at the edge of my range, a Mover of some sort was rapidly approaching. Five blocks away, rapidly approaching four.
"Someone's coming. Rapid movement. One of yours?" I prepared my swarm, cutting a further half from those in my vicinity, ready to intercept the newcomer.
"Hmm?" Shigaraki hummed.
"Shigaraki. We need to leave, now," Kurogiri urged.
It took a second for the information to register. "All Might," Shigaraki groaned. He turned to face Kurogiri. "Fine, fine. Can't fight two raid bosses at once, anyway. Get the Noumu and get out of here."
Two blocks away. I tensed. A Mover-teleporter of some kind and a Striker. An attack could come from anywhere.
Bugs around the Brute were displaced by a sharp burst of air as a portal opened in front of the two villains. I didn't take my eyes off Shigaraki. His unknown Striker power was the major threat.
He thrust his arm through the portal, and the proprioception I had of the bugs on his hand informed me that it was now beside the captured cape. Finally, I turned to look.
The moment all five digits made contact with the concrete, it began to disintegrate.
One support faded into motes of black. Then two, three –
The Brute began to shake, and the entire structure fell apart.
"We'll see you soon, Weaver." A portal opened. Shigaraki and the freed Brute stepped through. The bugs I'd planted on them faded from my range.
All around the theme-park-in-a-high-school, portals were rapidly appearing, villains stepping through and disappearing from the sense of my power.
One block away. Zero.
This 'All Might' arrived in a rush of wind, scattering a portion of my swarm.
"Fear not students…" he called out, feet placed firmly in the dirt where he'd decelerated sharply. From his bulk, he was probably another Brute/Mover. "I AM HERE."
I let my swarm hover for a few more seconds before I dispersed them. The remaining people who I assumed were students were making their way toward the centre square where I'd been fighting.
"You're late," I said.
I had many suspicions about what was going on, but I was too tired to mull over them. To me, it hadn't even been an hour since I thought that Contessa had killed me. A few more hours before that, I'd just killed Scion. Too much to deal with in one day.
At least I got to enjoy the look of incredulity that All Might and the other students were making.