AN: Here we are, back again at the Worm fandom! Wyvern and the Warhawk bringing to you our newest plot bunny! As always we hope you enjoy this little snippet, featuring an all too different Emma and all too familiar Sophia.

AtW: I kind of figured Sophia would have a full blown psychotic break in this kind of situation, seeing as how it was strongly implied she killed and tortured a few people. That and she wasn't exactly stable to begin with. But, hey, hope you guys like it! (Also, Miss Militia is Best Girl!)

Wyvern: That was never up for debate!


Emma Barnes was many things.

She was a daughter.

She was a sister.

She was a friend.

But above all else, she had once been a victim. An innocent tossed about by the cruel winds of an uncaring world. Forced to live through a nightmare which to this very day still had her wake, drenched in sweat and silently screaming in the middle of the night. It scared her to think what sort of person she might have become if things had not happened as they had.

You see, there is a certain phenomena known to the world. One widely known about since the appearance of a golden man over 30 years about.

Super powers.

The ability to do what would normally be impossible.

Emma had always known about them. Growing up watching cape fights on television, reading about them on websites. She had even been to a press conference or two to meet with the local heroes. They'd always been a constant presence in her world, a reassurance that no matter how bad things turned out there would be still those willing to stand up for others.

But then the Alley came and with it the death of such naive and innocent concepts.

They'd dragged her family out of the car. Beat up her father. Threatened to do unspeakable things to her and her sister.

All the while holding a knife to her neck.

She'd cried and whimpered, begging to avoid the inevitable. She'd turned inward and shut the world out. Until she felt the knife slide somewhere she'd never thought she'd feel a weapon.

Her father had tried to fight. But he was a lawyer. Wealthy enough but more importantly soft.

The ABB thugs had slammed a crowbar across his face and laughed. Laughed about how they were going to enjoy a taste of white girl pussy and how Emma and her sister would never look at a shrimp dicked Nazi again. She hadn't even had her first kiss, and when she felt the thug's calloused hand in her pants, his hot, fetid breath in her ear stinking of cheap booze, she fought back.

Screaming, she started clawing at his eyes. The knife dug into her thigh, cutting a deep gash into her leg but Emma didn't care. Instead, she managed to turn around and get his nose with her teeth. Grinding her incisors, cartilage and skin broke and tore and she shook her head like a dog. That had probably saved her life, in the end. Freaking out, the thugs began to beat her. Again and again and again they hit her.

Emma's entire world was a song. A symphony of thuds and grunts and screams. She'd felt her ribs break, saw her arm snap and twist. And then it was all gone. There was a crumpled pile of men in front of her, she wasn't broken anymore, and she was crying.

They'd all lived, her family that was. The ABB… none of them were alive by the time they got to the hospital. Her family had called the police, her mother cradling her father's bleeding head while her sister just rubbed her back. It took a few days, but, eventually, it was the PRT and not the police that came to check up on them.

In exchange for Panacea looking them over, Emma had gotten a CAT scan. It turns out that you got super powers from things going really wrong. Who knew all it took was one bad day?

Days blurred into weeks.

Weeks into months.

The PRT hadn't been too keen on letting a traumatized girl with super powers walk around without having guarantees that she wouldn't just snap one day and go on a killing spree. Thankfully, her abilities were pretty straightforward. She could turn into a seven foot tall amazon made of something that looked like diamond. In that state she could flip a truck, was basically immune to anything short of an AT gun, and had a form of combat precognition. Or, at least, that's what the Protectorate decided after a week long battery of tests.

Breaker 7, Brute 6, Thinker 3.

Provisionally, at least. The Brute weight machine was down for repairs and when the AT guns started leaving scratches they stopped. In her human form she was, roughly, a Brute 2 and a Thinker 1. She could get vague impulses that she needed to transform and her skin took a lot more force to damage. But, ultimately, it took transforming to get her powers to strut their stuff. Of course, it wasn't perfect.

When she was transformed it was… hard to stay in control.

Everything just seemed so much more. And everything seemed dangerous. It was a struggle not to start screaming. Apparently, she wasn't unique. Powers always comes with baggage.

Gallant had picked up on this, being an empath and all, so the PRT "politely suggested" she see a therapist. Their shortlist had even mostly been independent doctors. A month on she'd even been able to use her powers without having to crush the gut wrenching fear that had defined her life ever since she'd killed half a dozen men because they'd gotten high and drunk and decided they wanted to stick their dick in something.

She still sometimes flinched when any man but her father moved too quickly.

She still sometimes flinched when he hugged her.

Basically, it was all… a work in progress.

Life had moved on, as it inevitably did. Emma had changed a great deal, witnessed too much to remain the same blissfully unaware waif of a girl she had been. It hadn't been easy. But it was an oddly easy first step. She had super powers, she'd always wanted to be a hero, and when the soft, kind eyes of Miss Militia had approached her about joining, she'd leapt at the chance to say yes. Her father had actually had to get her mother to convince her to at least read over the contract first.

It had been signed and sealed inside of a week.

There had been a lot to it. The offer of training, of therapy with someone who understood, the simple fact that she'd get to be a Hero. But, in the end, it had been Shadow Stalker who'd convinced her.

During a walk through of the Ward's area of the Rig they'd bumped into one another, literally, outside of the restroom. Now, Shadow Stalker was a bitch. An utter, total bitch. But after she'd finished snapping at her to watch where she was going, Stalker had realized who Emma was. And then she'd freaking gushed. It had only been for about thirty seconds, but Emma had a fan. Weirdly, Sophia, Shadow Stalker's civilian name, was more impressed by how she'd bitten a guy's nose off than anything else.

These days she felt surer of herself, her powers going a long way to help her feel safe in a world where monsters walked the earth. And it was all thanks to Vista and Shadow Stalker and Miss Militia and even Glory Girl, of all people, that she could sleep most nights.

Life was… good.

Enjoyable even and awesome at times!

Yet, sometimes Emma felt like she was missing something. A piece of the puzzle that made up "Emma Barnes" left long forgotten, a void that just didn't seem to be filled no matter how many hours she agonized over it.

There was just something… someone?

"Emms! What are you doing over there!?" A cheerful holler broke her reverie, food tray nearly slipping through her fingers as she stumbled.

She leveled an annoyed stare at the smiling blonde.

"What the hell, Vicki. Don't scream like that out of nowhere."

"Aww, but you were all busy in la-la-land. You get boring like that." The other girl pouted.

She wasn't convinced, however.

"Uhuh. And that wouldn't have anything to do with Dennis and his friend over there? I thought Amy already scolded you about trying to set up double dates. Didn't you get caught making out last time?"

That got a blush from the, for now, taller girl.

"Shhh!" She hissed. "Do you want the whole school to know?!"

Emma giggled.

"It is an absolute secret. So, of course, everyone already knows Vicki"

The two slipped through the hustle and bustle of the canteen, playfully needling one another as they walked to their usual table. Arcadia wasn't known as the best school of Brockton Bay for nothing after all! The food was top notch, the floors were always clean, and there was a relaxed, though studious atmosphere.

It was calming in a way, dulling the stiff sensation emanating from below Emma's skin. The need to just flex her "muscles" and give in to the feeling of safety. The surety of being incapable of being harmed.

And for the first time in over a year, Emma felt like nothing could ruin her mood.

BEEP!

BEEP!

BEEP!

Emma nearly jumped when her pocket started blaring an emergency alarm, akin to a siren if much, much quieter. A clarion call that was still just as terrifying. She fumbled for a second, pulling out her cellphone to see its screen had turned bright red, yellow warnings flickering in and out as a map of Brockton Bay appeared on screen.

"Crap. What's going on?" Vicki looked over her shoulder.

Emma stood up in a hurry, running to the exit. Instead of answering she just flashed Victoria the decal on the back of the phone. They both knew what that meant.

She had to meet with the others. Quickly.

The map in her hand had zoomed and shifted, a single red dot marking the location of the distress signal.

Winslow High School.

'Sophia is in trouble!'

By the time Emma had arrived, changing into her costume and then hitching a ride with Chris on his hoverboard, the school had been evacuated. Unfortunately, the older Heroes hadn't made it yet. A combination of being on patrol, being out of town, and just plain bad traffic meant that the Wards, who had responded immediately and cohesively, were assembled out in front of Winslow High School while a nervous, overweight school cop was ushering students towards the designated evacuation points with a remarkably commanding voice.

The situation was clearly bad, but experience bore fruit and Gallant needed no time to plan.

"Vista, Kid Win keep the kids moving. Browbeat, Diamond Dust, Aegis with me! Clockblocker, stay behind the formation but stay ready."

There was no time to think, not when their comrade was under attack, or even gather information, really. They could hear the sounds of metal tearing and panicking students. It was time to act.

The children split like a tide, Vista using her powers to herd them and Kid Win grabbing their attention from above. Pushing ahead, the rest of their team fell into a rough semicircular formation and moved forward.

With each step, Emma let her control slip a little bit more.

It was a sensation akin to feeling one's muscles clamp up and spasm at the same time. The world became softer, breakable under her feet. Her bones felt leaden and stiff, as if moving around too much would cause them to groan in protest. The transition from her normal self to her breaker state was not particularly pleasant, but training had taught her how to ignore it up to a certain point.

From one step to the next everything came into focus. More real, somehow.

And then, she was strong. Clear and shining, like the gemstones she took her name from, she was now easily seven feet tall and looked more like a bodybuilder than a semi professional model. Though, to be fair, she wasn't the only Ward that could do this.

As the group of Wards double timed it down the hallway the sounds of combat grew louder and louder, and then they suddenly grew silent. Holding his fist up, Gallant halted the team.

"I've got two signals. One feels like Stalker. Or, at least, it's pissed off like she usually is. The other one… I can't actually sense its emotions. More, I can feel its presence because it's a hole where I know I can't feel it. We're dealing with a Trump."

The whole team winced. Gallant suddenly cursed and started running.

"I can't feel Sophia anymore!"

Emma cursed too.

"Which way?"

Pointing at a wall vaguely to the left of the group, Emma crossed her arms in front of her and charged. The tiled floor shattered under her steps, the metal lockers popped like balloons as they were suddenly smashed aside, and reinforced cement blocks shattered into so much grey dust as she charged through the wall; her white and blue costume showing only the most minute damage.

What she saw, however, stopped her cold.

A pink mass, looking like a giant hunk of moving, writhing bubblegum was slowly engulfing her friend. Long, thin tendrils were wrapped around Sophia's neck and the black girl was turning blue while the damn thing slowly pulled itself up her body. Not wasting anytime, Emma looked around and snatched up a broken length of pipe off the ground as the rest of the Wards cleared the corner.

"Fucking Christ."

She thought that was Dennis.

Gallant and Browbeat didn't hesitate. As she rushed forward, makeshift baton in hand, a volley of emotional blasts lanced out at the goo and Browbeat fell in behind her. Swinging the pipe like a bat, the metal shattered when it hit the pink mass but the tumescent abomination was splattered across the wall.

Everyone but Sophia, who was still unconscious, froze. It took a moment for them to realize the mass was reforming, but the second they did Dennis reached out and tapped it; only for nothing to happen. Cussing up a storm, the boy began to beat a hasty retreat while Gallant once more unleashed volley after volley of concussive blasts. The raw kinetic force seemed to keep the goo dispersed, but it was actually speeding up. Thicker, ropier tendrils now sliding up Sophia's pants leg and crawling into her clothes.

Catching Browbeat's eyes, Emma gave him a look. The brute turned away and, seeing that the slime was on and inside Sophia's clothes, Emma grabbed her pants hem and literally tore the garment off of her unconscious friend. Using the clothes to avoid touching the slime, she managed to get the stuff off Stalker. Balling up the now ruined pair of jeans, Emma scooped Sophia into her arms and ran, the mass of gooey tendrils already lashing out at her; diamond turning to skin where they struck.

Seeing this, Browbeat reached out and pulled the thing off her, trusting in his adapted biology to hold firm, and bought Emma enough time to beat a hasty retreat. Forty five seconds later, she had a gym locker torn open and Sophia decent again.

It was at that moment that Emma realized something.

The fighting had stopped.

Sticking her head around the corner, she didn't see anything.

"Shit." She also realized something else just as important. "No coms. Crap."

Not really a huge issue, seeing as how she could just start knocking down walls, but she also didn't want to walk into an ambush. This was a totally unknown situation and she had no idea what kind of cape, if it even was a cape, that they were fighting. A situation they were explicitly ordered to avoid. In fact, there was a whole three chapters in the handbook, complete with graphic descriptions of what went wrong, on how and why to avoid this kind of fight.

It was quiet.

Way too quiet.

And her battle instincts were going haywire. They weren't pinging off of any one thing, they couldn't lock onto the Trump, but they were trying to predict around it. That meant she was getting at least half a dozen different impulses on what she should do. In the end, she made a choice.

Emma rushed back down the way she came, once more scooping up her downed teammate, as her skin began hardening back into diamond. She needed to evacuate Sophia before checking back on the others. Browbeat, in particular, could go hours without breathing and Aegis could fly. There was time to double back but Shadow Stalker was still out cold and there were dark, ugly bruises around her neck and legs.

Skidding around a corner, Emma almost slammed head first into Clock.

"Jesus Dennis, you almost gave me a heart attack."

"Sorry, sorry! Can you blame me? Anyways, Kid Win and Vista are going to provide back up. The cavalry is on the way. Here, give me Stalker. I'll get her to the paramedics and you can go make sure they haven't been drowned in evil bubblegum."

For the first time in her life, Emma actually laughed at one of the boy's stupid jokes.

"Hah! Ok. Be… careful. She's pretty banged up. Good luck."

"Don't worry about me, you're the one who's gonna need it. Don't, uh, don't die."

Shrugging, Emma prevericated.

"I'll try not to."

They didn't have any more time to waste. Neither of them wanted to go forward, neither wanted to go back. Frankly, both of them wanted to get the Hell out of there. But Clockblocker had to do something and Emma could fight; he couldn't. Their choices were made for them. And after transferring Sophia to his shoulders, a fireman's carry, they turned opposite ways and raced off.

Five minutes later, what she found caused her heart to stop cold.

What might have been Aegis, though the mass was a bit too big to fit his frame, and Browbeat were glued to the walls by the slimy substance, Clockblocker was outside coordinating with the police and waiting on reinforcements, and that meant the only ones not currently swimming in goo were Vista and Kid Win. The first because her powers prevented the pink thing from reaching them, and the other who had the long range options needed to avoid getting closer.

A large pink, beach ball looking mass had formed on the wall, Browbeat half sealed by a net of tendrils even then crawling across his torso while a vaguely human shaped lump on the ground would have been a dead ringer for Gallant. Looking around for another makeshift weapon, Emma snatched up a chunk of destroyed locker, a piece with a sharp edge, and rushed over to her blue clad comrade and tried to scrape as much of the goop off as she could.

"Where's Aegis?"

Her voice came out in a hiss but the boy just grunted. Reaching up, he pulled his mask up and she noticed a pink mass trying to crawl into his throat. Gritting her teeth, Emma tore off a chunk of locker and slid it between his lips and the goop.

"Sorry!"

And she really was, Browbeat's lips were torn and bloody, but the boy just spat.

"It's fine Diamond. I'll heal. And Aegis got punted by the thing when he tried to free Gallant. After that, he went to go and find the rest of you. Watch out for any signs it's tensing up. It did that and then shot out a dozen tentacles with large balls on the end."

Loud and wet, a sudden squelching noise was all she needed to hear to move.

Dropping to the floor, she rolled as several pink tentacles slammed into the lockers. At least two full yards past where she'd been standing. With another squelch, they began to slowly retract, the metal lockers now smashed to bits.

'That… that would have killed me!'

If the attack disabled her power first, those tentacles would punch straight through her body!

Emma hesitated before grabbing her makeshift knife. She was panicking a bit, all of her progress had been reversed, and Browbeat was even more covered than before. He was trying to tear free, but with zero leverage and how much give in the pink goo there was nothing he could do. It was then that the other two Wards, who had been trying to free Gallant, suddenly increased the furor of their activity.

Vista was faring much better, having warped herself out of the way of the attack. Emma shuddered to think about what one good hit from those tendrils would do to the smaller girl. Fortunately, she wasn't the most experienced Ward for show. With that said, the pink mass was now actively clawing across the ground towards her and nothing Vista did seemed to slow it down. Thankfully, she was still fully capable of running away.

A well placed blaster shot was all the confirmation she needed that Kid Win was still in the game.

The energy blast rippled through the pink mass. Then another. Then another. Kid Win's dual pistols were lancing out with pinpoint accuracy and burning neat holes right through the stuff, even starting small fires when it punched through the hostile and into something flammable. What really scared Emma was the fact those guns were humming a way she knew meant they were set to "kill". It was a small mercy they weren't set to "fuck your car". Yet.

Moving quickly, Emma snatched her makeshift knife off the ground and went back to scraping the evil bubble gum off Browbeat. Kid Win's cover fire proving more than sufficient as the enemy tried and failed to move away from the blasts. Though, to be fair, it was something like a horrifically twitchy shuddering jump.

Thank the big golden naked guy he was such a good shot.

Very suddenly, Aegis and Clockblocker slid through the hole Emma had punched in the wall earlier.

"Guys! Stalker's up and moving! She phased out of there and started screaming!"

'Fuck.'

Emma liked Sophia, even enjoyed her company to a degree. And the rest of the Wards had profusely thanked her for cooling the black girl's temper, even if only somewhat. But that didn't change something very, very important.

Sophia Hess was a raging, psychotic bitch.

When a black mass dropped from the ceiling and shoved a large, broken hunk of metal into the tumescent center of the pink goo she knew this was going to end badly. Sophia phased back into reality when the metal was about six inches inside the mass, meaning momentum had the attack push about a quarter of the way through the thing before it was fully solidified. Emma stopped watching, grabbed her shard of locker with both hands, and slashed at the tendrils holding Browbeat with all the strength she could. Two wet squelches announced her success and, grabbing BB as he fell, she began to drag him away even as her powers started to flicker in and out.

Looking up, she just managed to catch sight of the whole mass shuddering and splitting open into various tendrils. Sophia was repeatedly driving what looked like a shiv into the thing. All the while frothing at the mouth and screaming in rage.

When the thing's tendrils suddenly wrapped around Sophia, Emma knew something horrible was about to happen. With barely any time to scream a warning to Aegis, who stood the closest to them, the pinkish mass pulled Sophia off and slammed her against the wall.

More specifically, the very solid metal lockers lining the walls.

This time, Emma screamed in horror.

But perhaps not as loudly as Sophia, whose body had left a dent on the jagged metal.

"Sophia!"

Answering her payers, Aegis came out of nowhere and slammed into the thing like a torpedo. Trump or not, there was no way to negate momentum, and as such it threw the thing off the floor and down the hallway.

Unfortunately, Aegis went with it.

The diamond-skinned cape wracked her brains for a solution.

Kid Win couldn't shoot it or else he'd risk hitting Aegis too. Turning back to Browbeat, Emma made to grab him until she noticed that his body was now fully covered in a thin layer of the stuff. Smothering a scream, she watched as the now cocooned hero was dragged? Carried? Whatever the Hell that counted as, but the pink stuff's tendrils were moving BB in the general direction of the central mass.

Even worse, she noticed Gallant and Aegis were now being bound together and then even worse the pink mass began to shudder again.

"Fuck you!"

Stalker's scream of fury split the air again. Utterly and totally enraged, she made to charge again even as she half floated off the ground, flickering in and out of solidity, before being suddenly stopped when CB grabbed her arm.

"What the Hell do you think you're doing!"

"Get the fuck off me!"

She was spitting, snarling, and utterly berserk. So he let Stalker go. And as she turned to charge back at the pink mass, Clockblocker reared back and smacked the ever loving shit out of her. Sophia Hess was now frozen in a time stopped lock of shock, surprise, and rage that left her looking constipated. Frankly, Emma knew it was the best thing for Sophia right now.

It was… clear. The girl's back was a ruin. Her flesh was torn, what looked like a chunk of metal was lodged in her back, and her shoulders drooped unnaturally. Even frozen in time, wisps of shadow frozen in the aether, it was a wonder, a horror how the girl had continued to rage. Emma feared and was in awe of Sophia in that moment. Rank, naked hatred and an unflinching, nearly suicidal will to kill her foe were all Sophia offered to her enemy.

Impressive, in a twisted way.

As the moment of drama passed, the three captured Wards were secured and the evil bubblegum finished shuddering. And, instead of the expected attack, it let out a burst of air and a… girl fell out.

Utterly featureless, bubblegum pink like the rest of the stuff, and vaguely reminiscent of a human female; no one blinked. Kid Win bored two holes right into the thing's head and Vista warped the space between Emma and the rest of the squad. Even as those smoking holes, each about an inch and a half wide, were slowly closing as burnt, smoking chunks of material was pulled inwards and consumed, repurposed as efficiently as possible. The sight was disturbing and proof that they weren't going to win this fight.

She looked at her squad and Vista pulsed the warp, reminding her of the opening the shaker had created, one the diamond skinned girl desperately took. Two steps later they were falling back into the hallway leading out of the god forsaken school.

A terrifying, bone chilling scream was all the warning they had before the… girl thing burst through the wall they had just passed through. The group paused their retreat and spread out. The blob was moving fast enough they weren't eager to give it their back and that meant they needed to try and slow it down.

Not abandoning their teammates was a plus, too.

"What do we do guys? Do you think you can trap it in some time locked debris? Or a locker?" Emma reached out and grabbed Clockblocker's shoulder. "Do you think you're you can stop it?"

A shuffling noise came from where the monster stood. Turning around, she felt her stomach twist into knots at the sheer wrongness of the whole situation. Kid Win's pistols hummed as they charged, the rest of their team simply… taking in what they saw.

It stepped towards them slowly, movements leaden and stiff. More like a mannequin than a real person. Unnaturally long fingers, shuddering, jerking movements, and slowly forming eyes that seemed… dead.

It was an abomination.

"What the hell is that thing!?" Kid Win hissed next to her.

"..."

There was a wet, gurgling noise that no one could make out.

"...ma."

Lips, crude and looking more like a slash through her face, had formed and the words finally grew clear enough to understand.

"Emma."

It was unnatural, like the voice of some blind, colorless monstrosity from the deep. Wet and slimy and filled with so much fleshiness. But when the thing started walking again, it started wailing.

"EmmaEmmaEmmaEmmaEmma!"

She was frozen in place, incapable of moving. Thankfully the rest of the team reacted. Kid Win lit it the fuck up Vista once more warped space so they were outside of the school in three steps, and Clockblocker dragged her away. She couldn't help it. Turning back, she stared in horror as the thing shambled and tripped and fell over its own limbs as it clambered across the debris littered ground. Emma wanted to scream and yell and weep all at once.

'No, no, no. Please it can't… please don't be her!'

Her throat was thick but she almost managed to whimper the prayer out. Shutting her eyes, she hardened her heart and thought of her comrades. Of how they'd been beaten and battered.

Emma still stumbled when she heard the thing's final cry.

"Emma! hElp mE! PlEasE!"

The diamond-skinned girl felt her entire body crawl with dread and recognition. She knew that voice.

She knew that voice and she couldn't lie to herself any longer!

It was warped and garbled and held an unnatural echo that couldn't have belonged to a human being. The wail of agony pierced straight through her, a chain of realization coiling around her chest, constricting her breathing with an iron vice.

She stumbled back, eyes blown wide apart by the terror.

By the familiarity.

Her skin crawled, the vile taste of her lunch coming back to greet her tongue went forgotten as she...

Yes, she crawled out of a hole in the wall. Long fingers punched through the intervening metal and cement to force itself through the holes it had created. First it reformed into the same puddle they'd fought in the beginning, but soon enough the girl was forming again. Just as the Wards were about to throw themselves at it once more a loud bang split the air and two massive tongs embedded themselves into the thing's chest. The sudden discharge of electricity very clearly informed everyone in a twenty meter radius that this was a brute grade taser; everyone flinched from the static wash they felt. And, as the now liquified mass began to bubble and sputter a trio of whomps announced the arrival of containment foam grenades; their payload smothering the goo and ending the fight with a hilarious finality.

"Miss Militia!" Missy was the first one to react. "Shadow Stalker is frozen and Aegis, Browbeat, and Gallant were captured! Back and to the left."

The camo clad woman nodded.

"Understood. Fall back to the perimeter but stay ready. Armsmaster is fifteen seconds out, further reinforcements inside of a minute."

Miss Militia's weapon shifted from a grenade launcher back to a brute taser. Ten seconds later she had it loaded with standard, non power supplied ammunition. Shouldering her weapon, she swiftly entered the building and moved ahead. Soon enough, a blonde streak slammed into the roof of the school and seemed to punch through the walls like so much wet tissue paper.

Repeated, violent crashes echoed through the battered school and the whole structure groaned in stress. Echoes of weapons fire, the crashing of collapsing cement pillars, and even a chunk of the roof collapsing painted a picture of just how much force was being brought to bear. It was… appropriate, in the Ward's opinion.

And it hadn't even been a minute.

In that little space of time, between the extreme tension and the mind numbing emotional exhaustion from their skirmish, Emma actually laughed.

"Hey. Bet you guys five bucks Vicky gets her ass kicked trying to save her boyfriend."

Looking at her like she was insane, the rest of the Wards eventually agreed. Clockblocker even snorted, Kid Win chuckled, and Vista just gave her an amused stare.

"You guys can laugh later. Ok."

She was blathering now, something she'd done after she triggered. Instead of continuing, she clamped her mouth shut and pulled out her phone. Watching the seconds tick by would be easier than having to remember that last cry.

Sixty seconds later and it wasn't just Armsmaster, but Dauntless, Assault and Battery, half of New Wave, Velocity, and Triumph had all arrived too. Hilariously, the plan had consisted of a handful of short, barked orders from the Tinker head of the local Protectorate, mostly consisting of "Wards captured" and "look for hostages" and "power nullifier" and "lethal force authorized", had the group literally smashing the school apart to recover the captured Wards. As for the sprayed down mass of pink goo, well, that had the members of New Wave sitting a couple hundred feet in the air and ready to rain hell on it.

Seeing almost the entirety of the Bay's superhuman force arrayed in front of them hammered home just how bad the situation had gotten. Not even the gangs got this kind of a response. Of course, not even the gangs were dumb enough to let their capes get within a hundred yards of a school. Even being seen as maybe, possibly threatening kids was a bad look. The kind that got kill orders handed out.

Not even Lung risked that kind of bad press. And he already had a Cage order hanging over his head if he ever got too out of hand.

Another ten minutes later and the heroes pulled out of the building. Glory Girl was slung over Miss Militia's shoulder, Armsmaster had a big ball of containment foam stuck to the end of his halberd, and Velocity seemed to have a few new bruises. All in all, that just proved what overwhelming force would do, even against a powerful cape. Or piece of tinker tech, Emma supposed. There was no telling what that thing had been. That's what she told herself. The thought of it having been….

But, before she could muse on it further, Miss Militia marched over to them. Thankfully, she seemed uninjured but was very clearly angry. Angry in a way that Emma didn't think she'd ever seen.

"Your teammates have been recovered. They're unconscious, but alive and in… acceptable health. Panacea will be meeting us at the Rig in an hour. For now, you're with me. We'll be debriefing upon arrival. I…."

The middle eastern cape worried her lip for a moment.

"I'm utterly and totally enraged you attacked an unknown cape without a plan or preparation or waiting for backup. But I'm proud of you. You did your duty and defended Shadow Stalker to the best of your ability. Speaking of, I assume you'll have an excellent explanation of why you froze her, Clockblocker."

Audibly gulping, the young Ward nodded.

"Yes mam. I, uh, well…."

She held up her hand.

"It can wait for the debriefing. As for Stalker herself, she seems fine. If frozen. I'll remain here until she's unstuck. All of you, report to the Rig within the hour. Until then, dismissed."

"Yes mam!"

They snapped out a crisp answer before relaxing. Vista was the first one of them to move after Miss Militia had walked off.

"Come on, let's go see if we can bum a ride off of some of those troopers."

Milling about, the group eventually agreed with their youngest member's suggestion. For her part, Emma was just hoping everyone made it out of this ok. That fight had been brutal and Winslow was definitely worse for wear. The building itself had a half dozen holes punched in its outside walls and it was definitely gutted in places inside.

"At least the students made it out."

Shaking her head, she stopped wasting time. Jogging, Emma caught up with her comrades, all of whom had started walking over to the line of troopers that had formed around the school. It was always best to make double sure when a tinkertech weapon got loose like this!

"Hey guys, wait up!"