A Worm/Star Wars Crossover
The Galaxy Far Far Away did not fall to the Entities quickly or easily. Yet for every Entity killed, a thousand worlds fell. With their galaxy doomed, the last Jedi and Sith planted a seed within one of the last Entities to ensure that what happened to their galaxy would never happen again.
Arc 1: The Murderer
Chapter One: Snowball
A loud bang brought Danny Hebert awake with a snort and a confused, "Wassat? Taylor? Is that you?"
With bleary eyes, Danny looked around the cluttered, filthy living room for any sign of his daughter. Nothing.
"God, Annette would kill me if she saw this place," he muttered as he slowly started to relax.
His heavy, gummy eyelids just closed again when the banging returned, accompanied by a bass voice yelling through his door.
"DANIEL HEBERT, THIS IS THE PARAHUMAN RESPONSE TEAM. WE HAVE A WARRANT TO SEARCH THIS PREMISES. IF YOU DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR, WE WILL OPEN IT FORCEFULLY."
Danny surged to his feet, only to trip over an empty bottle of Wild Turkey that went rolling loudly across the old wood slats of the floor. With a muttered curse, he stumbled through the living room with only the television and the bare bulb hanging in the stairs to light his way, until he reached the door. He opened it only to stare, dumbfounded, at the black visor of a heavily armed PRT agent and a search warrant shoved into his face.
"PRT. We have a warrant to search this premises. Your cooperation is requested but not necessary. Stand aside, please."
The man's black body armor and helmet obscured all but the faintest hint of his chin, making him look more mechanical than human. The other agents didn't wait for Danny's permission before they poured through his door and into his living room, roughly shoving him aside. He tried to look everywhere at once as the soldiers of the government agency dedicated to controlling parahumans began to methodically tear his home apart. They didn't just look, they were taking pictures as they searched. The empty bottles of whiskey? Flash. The pizza boxes and Chinese take-out cartons littering his kitchen table? Flash.
"What's going on here?" he demanded once he could find a voice.
The agents ignored him. But behind them came someone who did not.
"Mr. Hebert? I'm Miss Militia with the Protectorate."
He turned and found himself staring at a woman dressed like an anachronistic extra to a low-budget western. She wore a bandana tied around her face to hide her nose and mouth, but the bandana bore the colors of the American flag. She had a holster hanging low on her right hip, but instead of leather or denim like an actor in a western, she wore mottled gray and green fatigue T-shirt with a black tactical vest and similar tactical pants lined with pockets. Another American flag sash completed the costume around her waist.
Perhaps not a western—more like a model on the cover of the Guns and Ammo magazines his dad sometimes read in the bathroom when Danny was a kid. She was too athletic to be a supermodel, but was attractive even so. It wasn't her appearance that was most startling, however. A green mist hovered around her right hand, shifting even as he watched from an assault rifle to a pistol to a bowie knife in quick succession.
Even if he didn't recognize her from the news, or the fact she wore a mask like someone out of the comics he used to read, he would know the woman as a parahuman just from the sheer impossibility of the power she displayed. She was a living, breathing superhero, part of the national organization of superheroes sponsored by the federal government, the Protectorate.
"What is this about?" he asked. No, begged. "I saw the news about Winslow, but when I tried to go they wouldn't let me even get close. My friends say they haven't heard anything about their kids either. Why won't you people let me see my daughter? It's been two days!"
"Mr. Hebert, I think we should sit down," Miss Militia said. "There are some things we need to talk about.
At her insistence, Danny half-stumbled back into the kitchen as she flipped on the overhead light. All around the house, agents were turning on the hateful lights. Under the fluorescence, she stared at his eyes a moment before nodding. "Would you mind if I made some coffee?"
Danny collapsed in his chair—it creaked loudly. "What is this about?"
Instead of answering him, she took several scoops out of the coffee tin she found on the stained kitchen counter and started brewing a pot. "Your daughter Taylor is a student at Winslow High School, correct?"
"She's fifteen. Born June 12, 1995?"
"Yes. How'd you…?"
"School records," Miss Militia said. The coffee maker whined a little as it brewed. "A sophomore. You and your wife elected to have her start school a little earlier because of when her birthday fell. It appeared to be a good decision. Until high school she was an exemplary student."
Danny was simply too tired to try and figure out where she was going with this.
"I haven't slept in two days," he muttered. "I haven't seen my only living family in two days. My little girl. And now you're standing there in my kitchen talking about Taylor's school transcripts while your jack-booted thugs tear apart my house? What the fuck is GOING ON?"
His voice rose with each word, until by the end of it he was screaming, and brought both hands down on the table as he rose to his feet. The green mist by her hand suddenly shifted into a very large automatic pistol. She met his gaze without flinching as she holstered the weapon.
"Sit down, Mr. Hebert."
Where before she sounded at least…polite, now she sounded cool and collected. She sounded like someone who knew how to fight and kill. Danny sank back into his table, and only then realized that a pair of the PRT agents searching his home nearby had weapons trained on him.
Miss Militia finished brewing the coffee and then very deliberately poured two cups. "How do you take yours?"
"I don't fucking care."
She shrugged and took both cups to the table. She handed him his before sitting and cradling hers in her hands. She didn't drink, since doing so would require removing her bandana.
"As you know, there was an incident at Winslow High School." She began in that infuriatingly calm tone. "The public story is that an unidentified tinker used an unknown chemical to start a fire. This was the excuse for the quarantine. It was a lie. In fact, there was a psychometric event nearly on the scale of a Simurgh attack. Three students were killed, and every other student and all the staff in the school were incapacitated. The fire began after a telekinetic explosion exposed old wiring, which ignited exposed chemicals in the school paper's darkroom."
Danny stared, trying to understand what she was saying. Simurgh? Of course he knew what the Simurgh was. Like Leviathan and Behemoth, the Simurgh was an Endbringer, a creature of such power and destructive abilities that whole cities simply died when she came—and that was if they were lucky. The Simurgh was known to drive cities insane with her telepathic song.
He just didn't understand what his little girl had to do with the Simurgh, though. The woman's words just didn't sink in. She kept speaking anyway.
"The epicenter of the event was your daughter's locker. Investigators at the scene believe she might have been inside it for some reason. Were you aware of any bullying Taylor may have been subjected to?"
"What? No! I…"
Before Miss Militia could answer, a PRT agent came thumping down their stairs. He carried a leather-bound book in his hands.
"Ma'am." He interrupted Danny. "You'll want to see this."
"What is that?" Danny demanded.
Miss Militia ignored him and opened it up at a random page. Her eyes widened as she read. She quickly began flipping through the diary. After a few more long, heavy seconds of reading she sighed before turning the book around and shoving it toward him. Danny stared for a few moments at his daughter's familiar, crimped handwriting before pulling it the rest of the way.
…fucking hate them. I hate them. Gladly just stands there and lets them get away with it. Blackwell demands proof, and when I bring it to her she covers it up or throws it away. Sofia elbowed the back of my head into my locker, and Emma just laughed about how clumsy I was. Gladly was right there and saw my bloody nose, and the son of a bitch didn't do a damned thing! I hate them. God, I wish mom were here. I can't tell dad because he'd just shut down again….
He closed the book with a hard thump. "Please. Please! What is this about?"
"At just before lunch two days ago, your daughter experienced a Trigger Event—a traumatic experience which activated her potential to become a parahuman. In the course of that trigger, she killed three classmates, started a serious fire, and incapacitated every other person in the school. Five more students who were incapacitated by her psychic scream succumbed to smoke inhalation and died. Those that were rescued remained incapacitated for hours. Some were harmed seriously enough to require hospitalization. One of those students killed immediately was the daughter of an acquaintance of yours—Emma Barnes."
"My God. Alan!" Danny sat up. "Does…does Emma's dad know?"
"He does, yes."
Danny's mind tried to process what he was hearing, but it was hard. His mind latched onto the fact that Taylor was alive. His little girl was alive! But she…what, she killed a few of girls who were, if this diary was to be believed, tormenting her? But she was…
"She's a PRT headquarters. During her arrest, she displayed significant telekinetic abilities. More than a dozen agents and two members of the Protectorate were seriously wounded before Armsmaster was able to sedate her. She's been placed under Level 10 containment at PRT headquarters."
It was too much. Danny shoved himself back from the table and half stumbled to the window of the kitchen. Behind him, the two hovering PRT agents gripped their carbines, but he didn't care. The backyard was nothing but cold shadow, the cloud cover reflecting light from the city but hiding any sign of the moon.
In his mind, he saw his little girl throwing snowballs at Annette, laughing with delight any time she got a hit, and then running in circles when Annette chased after her until she fell into the snow, squealing with anticipation. She liked getting caught more than she liked being chased. He could almost smell the hot chocolate he'd have waiting for them when they came in.
He blinked, and realized abruptly he'd been crying.
"What…what happens now?" He wiped his eyes.
"The first step is for you to come to PRT Headquarters. The local Youth Guard office will provide you and Taylor an attorney at no cost so that we can discuss the legal ramifications of what happened."
"Will…will you take her away from me?"
The pistol swirled into a knife within her holster.
"Mr. Hebert…Danny. The day a parahuman triggers is, without a doubt, the worst day of our lives. The fact that Taylor triggered meant that something very bad was happening to her. We won't know for sure what until we read that entire journal, and hopefully speak with her. The law does take into account bad trigger events. But we also have to accept that she killed eight classmates. More importantly, there is the possibility we may be looking at a broken trigger."
He turned slowly, conscious of the sheer number of guns in his house, until he looked her in the eye. "What does that mean?"
"Triggers can be so traumatic that sometimes the cape never recovers. Given how violently she reacted when she woke the first time, we have to face the possibility that Taylor's experiences have caused long-term psychological harm. Again, we won't know for sure without extended observation. But please understand that the PRT and the Protectorate are not here to try and punish you for your relationship with her, nor her for something that happened beyond her control. The role of the Protectorate and the PRT is to protect parahumans from others and themselves, but also to protect the public from Parahumans."
"You're saying she might end up in an insane asylum for life?"
"Unfortunately, it does happen, more than the public knows."
She made a show of taking her untouched cup of coffee to his sink. The sink was filled with dirty dishes, so she simply placed it to one side.
"It's late, Mr. Hebert. I'll set an appointment with the Youth Guard appointed attorney tomorrow at nine at the PRT headquarters. The sedatives will have worn off by then and we'll have a better idea what we're dealing with. In the meantime, please try to get some sleep. For your daughter's sake, if for no other."
Miss Militia turned and left the house. Danny never turned away from the backyard as the PRT agents filed out, having ripped his home apart.
Daniel Hebert was fourteen years old when Scion appeared. Considering how deeply his appearance would end up changing the world, the first report of his appearance in 1982 came not with earth-shattering trumpets and applause, but as a small filler story Dan Rather did, smirking the whole time.
"In more out of out of this world news, passengers on board the ocean liner Meredith reported seeing a golden-skinned, bearded, naked man floating in the air over the water. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, floating, just like Captain Marvel of the comic books."
In the years preceding the ascendency of the digital age, there were not a plethora of cell phone cameras to prove the unbelievable story. So, though the story caught young Daniel Hebert's imagination, by the time he went to bed he'd already dismissed it.
Except, the next night, there was another story about the floating, golden man being seen over Rome, then Moscow. Soon pictures began to emerge, then video.
During Daniel's junior year in high school, the first superheroes appeared. The golden age of heroes lasted until his freshmen year at UNH Brockton Bay—the year the first superhero was killed by something as mundane as being clubbed in the head by a rioting basketball fan in Michigan. He never made the connection at the time that the first murdered hero, Vikare, was a passenger on board the liner that first spotted the Golden Man, now named Scion by the press.
The appearance of Superheroes was followed by the appearance of the Endbringers—city-destroying monsters that not all the heroes in the world could destroy. Everything escalated. The governments of the world tried to respond—America had its Parahuman Response Team led by mundane humans, with nominal oversight over the Protectorate, it's official hero organization. But that didn't seem to stop the Endbringers, or even the parahuman monsters like the Slaughterhouse Nine. The violence continued to escalate, while the whole world stuttered and stumbled and things just got worse.
Things just continued to get worse. First his Annette died, and now…and now…
Danny Hebert, age forty-three, stood in the middle of his filthy, cluttered house. Cursing to himself, he walked stiff-legged into the living room and started picking up the trash he'd let pile up since Dorothy at the office ran in to tell him about the fire at Winslow.
He stopped after a few minutes when his arms were full and a cheap plastic fork fell out of one of the cartons. Why hadn't he just grabbed a trash bag? Why hadn't he…?
He let it all fall to the floor, and a second later followed it as he collapsed to his knees. He didn't sob, he simply knelt there in the blaring, hateful light of his empty house and stared unfocused at the floor.
There, on the floor by the old coffee table that Annette insisted they buy at a garage sale right before Taylor was born, he saw a picture of Taylor and Emma Barnes. Each had their arms over the shoulders of the other. They were both mugging for the camera—Alan's perfect, red-headed little angel next to his darling little owl.
Emma just laughed about how clumsy I was.
Danny wasn't even sure what he was doing until he was out of the house without a coat in the frigid January evening, walking stiff-legged through the snow in his front yard to his old pick-up truck. The windshield was iced over, but he didn't care. He climbed in and started the defrost to full blast, not waiting for it to work before he pulled out and started heading southeast toward Alan Barnes' home.
He had no idea what he wanted to say. Would he punch the man? Hug him? Cry? He just didn't have the ability to process the emotions that were surging through his head as he ran the unseen red light onto the turnpike, right into the path of an on-coming eighteen-wheeler barreling along at sixty miles an hour.
Hannah Washington did not sleep. Her lack of sleep wasn't due to insomnia or other physiological damage that put her in a constant state of drowsiness that she could not resolve. Rather, she simply did not need sleep.
Oh, that's not to say she hadn't taken a nap here and there. Whenever she did, though, she did not dream. Instead, she relived. With the terrible, cruel clarity, she found herself back in her homeland, walking through a forest with nine other children from a village she knew, even then, was dead. Her parents, her aunt and uncle. Her cousins.
The Turkish soldiers used her and the other children as living minesweepers. She'd watched two of her friends murdered by the soldiers; watched as one of the monsters made a joke about Kovan's cries, as if he were a pet and not a suffering, hurt child. Until, that is, the man shot Kovan in the back of his head.
Her turn came to walk into the forest, and she knew her death approached.
The soldier was behind her, shoving her and ordering her to continue, but she knew the patch right in front of her was a trap set by the freedom fighters in their area. She knew if she stepped forward, she would die.
The soldier pushed her, shouting at her to walk, and she felt her muscles begin to obey even though her mind screamed because it would kill her. Abruptly, she saw something vast.
It wasn't big in the sense that the trees or even the mountains were big. It was big in the way that transcended what she could even see or feel. It was like seeing something bigger than the whole wide planet, except more – this thing that was too large to comprehend to start with, it extended. She didn't have a better word to describe what she was perceiving. It was as though there were mirror images of it, but each image existed in the same place, some moving differently, and sometimes, very rarely, one image came in contact with with something that the others didn't. Each of the images was as real and concrete as the others. And this made it big in a way that she couldn't describe if she were a hundred year old scholar or philosopher with access to the best libraries in the world.
And it was alive. A living thing.
She knew without having to think about it, each of those echoes or extensions of the entity was as much a part of a connected whole as her hand or nose was to her. Each was something this living entity was aware of, controlled and moved with intent and purpose. As though it existed and extended into those possible selves all at once.
It's dying, she thought. The outermost extensions of the creature were flaking off and breaking into fragments as it swam through an emptiness without air, not moving but sinuously adjusting its self through the existences that held the echoes, shrinking away here and swelling there, carrying itself away at a speed that outpaced light. In its wake, flakes and fragments sloughed off of the entity like seeds from an impossibly large karahindiba, or dandelion, in a steady wind. Seeds more numerous than all the specks of dirt across all the Earth.
One of those fragments seemed to grow, getting bigger, larger, looming in her consciousness until it was all she could perceive, as though the moon was falling, colliding with the earth. Falling directly on top of her.
A loud buzz broke her out of her memories. Frowning, Hannah Washington, known to the world as the parahuman hero Miss Militia, accepted the call on her phone. "Militia."
"Miss Militia, this is Terry Brockweiler. You scheduled an appointment with me this morning at nine with Mr. Daniel Hebert?"
She frowned. "He's a no show?"
"No, Miss Milita, he's dead. Mr. Hebert was involved in a fatal car crash last night just before midnight. His blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit."
Hanna closed her eyes, recalling just how broken the man was last night when he learned the truth of what happened. He wasn't a bad man, and he didn't deserve what happened to him any more than Taylor did.
"Thank you for telling me."
The line disconnected. Hannah stood from her desk and looked around the small room that served as her home. Unlike most of the other Protectorate members, Hannah didn't maintain a home off base. Almost her entire life in America was spent among Capes—outside of her official capacity she didn't even know how to communicate with civilians, much less feel at ease enough to live around them.
She took a quick shower and dressed in her PRT business suit. A pair of non-prescription glass frames and an ID badge transformed her from Miss Militia to Hannah Washington, PRT senior agent. She suspected many of the other agents saw through the disguise easily, but they, like her, found comfort in the fiction. In fact, sometimes it was only the fiction of it all which kept the PRT and Protectorate working.
Two floors down brought her to the high security area. She concentrated on making sure her sidearm stayed static. She had authorization to carry even in non-carry areas, but that was also a part of the fiction.
The hall beyond the security checkpoint was guarded by every Tinker-tech device Armsmaster and the other Protectorate Tinkers could think of. Force fields, containment form and even lasers were just some of the countermeasures in place to prevent anyone from escaping.
Within the long hall, off-set to prevent prisoners from seeing each other, were the cells themselves. Most were empty—the capes who needed cells like these rarely stayed long. At the end of the hall were their three special containment units. She turned to her left and was not surprised to see Armsmaster there. In his civilian identity, Colin Wallis stood an even six feet with a build made fit by constant exercise. Unlike many parahumans, Colin didn't possess enhanced strength or durability. As a Tinker, all his power came in the amazing, impossible technology he could build. The perfect example was the power-armor he wore when she spotted him, which brought his height much closer to seven feet.
Director Emily Piggot barely came up to his elbow while he was in his armor. The obese director of the Brockton Bay PRT East-Northeast stood with her hands behind her back, as if at military ease.
Hannah joined them and looked in through the heavily reinforced Tinker-made carbon sheathed glass at the figure within. Taylor Hebert appeared to be a tall, thin girl of fifteen years. She had fair skin and dark, curly hair that the medical techs had gathered in a skull cap. She wore a simple gown that just barely served for modesty. She was strapped down to her gurney at three points along each arm and leg, her waist and her chest, but it was the two automated injectors prepared to plunge powerful sedatives into her neck that served as their primary means of securing the prisoner.
Hannah couldn't help but look at the crack in the lower right corner of the left carbon sheath. The material was rated to handle a ballistic missile, but the girl had cracked it with her telekinesis in the brief moments she'd last been awake.
"How are Dauntless and Battery?" she asked when she arrived.
"Recovering," Armsmaster said. "Panacea responded quickly and was able heal them last night."
"And your arm?" she asked.
He didn't even shrug. "It's fine. How'd your meeting with the father go?"
The thought of the man she saw last night made her sigh. "The father was killed in a car wreck last night," Militia said.
"Shit," Piggot cursed.
Armsmaster merely clucked his tongue. "Cape?"
"Drunk, and emotionally unstable. I shouldn't have left him alone—I should have brought him in myself and let him sleep it off. He was a wreck."
"And he's left us in a pickle," Piggot said, having already dismissed the man's death. "If word gets out that Sophia Hess was one of our Wards—a teenaged cape we were sworn to train and protect—there could be serious repercussions. If the public finds out she was implicated in causing a bad trigger, it could be worse for all of us. Eight teenagers are dead, we have a destroyed high school and a city mayor screaming to hold somebody accountable. Not to mention the whole fiasco of calling a quarantine."
Hannah knew the last was a dig at Armsmaster. He and the director were not friends even on the best day. Nor would Armsmaster ignore a jibe. "Given the telepathic attack, it was the right call."
"Fortunately for you the Chief Director agreed," Piggot said.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the subject is starting to come out of it." The med tech spoke to them through the overhead speakers. The doctor was not in the same room as Hebert. If nothing else, the PRT tried to learn from their mistakes, and thirteen seriously wounded PRT agents and three seriously wounded capes was definitely a mistake. Instead, the tech was monitoring the patient remotely.
The girl slowly turned her head toward them, blinking her eyes tiredly, as if unable to focus. Hannah felt a moment's concern when the color of the girl's irises seemed to shift from black, to brown, to a disconcerting orange tone, one after the other without a discernible pattern, until settling back into a solid, corner-to-corner black.
Hebert tried to move her arms—her hands clawed up and she shook her head as much as the cradle allowed. Abruptly her whole body tensed, as if she were being shocked. She began screaming—a hoarse, painful sound made by a throat still raw from the last screaming fit. Unlike her first fit, Militia could hear what sounded like words in the screaming.
Abruptly the carbon sheathed glass cracked again and the far reinforced wall bulged out as if struck by a Brute 8. A second later both needles plunged into her long, exposed neck. Her scream turned into a pained cry. Hannah could see tears in the girl's eyes as the sedatives quickly pulled her under.
"She metabolized the sedative much faster this time," Armsmaster noted. "At this rate, they will cease to be effective within two days. We have until then to decide what to do with her."
"We found a journal," Militia began.
"Yes, I read it this morning," Piggot said. "The angry ramblings of a confused pubescent child. Though, knowing what we did about Hess, it wouldn't shock me if some bullying did occur. That doesn't change anything. If we can't establish some control, we're not going to have any choice but to ship Hebert to Asylum East."
"Director…" Hannah began.
"Miss Washington…" The director always followed protocol, and Hannah was not in costume. "She is our problem. With her father's death and the absence of any other immediate living family, she is now a Ward of the Protectorate. It's my call, and that call will be Asylum East if we can't get her power under control. The alternative is the Birdcage."
Hanna nodded, forcing her expression blank. "I understand, Director."
Piggot nodded, glared one more time at the girl, and then turned to walk away.
Preview Post. Regular posting will begin once Invincible is done.-DM