Another one that started in my random ideas thread on Sufficient Velocity, I'm afraid. Some people seem to want it to continue as a real story, so I think if I put it here as its own thread, that will give me impetus to continue it. Nevertheless, I have other stories too that will probably take priority, so updates may well be sporadic and random...
So on with the story, in which Taylor finds herself facing her DOOM.
And is not even slightly happy about it.
There may be trouble ahead...
"What… the fuck?!"
Taylor rolled over, unmentionable things squelching under her as she moved, while gagging at the stench of old blood and even less salubrious substances that rose in a toxic miasma and made it hard to breath. Choking on the stench, furious beyond belief, and totally disorientated, she stared at the ceiling for some time before the thought entered her mind…
"Where the fuck am I?"
The last thing she could clearly remember was fucking Sophia Hess laughing in the irritating manner she was so used to these days, perfectly conveying the sadistic pleasure the bitch took in causing pain to anyone who got in her way. Doubly so if that person was Taylor Hebert. Taylor hadn't actually seen who had shoved her into her own god damned locker, but she knew beyond any doubt who had done it. That laugh, and a very familiar hand right in the middle of her back, left her completely certain who was behind this latest little attempt to break her.
She would not break. She'd made that decision more than eighteen months ago, shortly after her own personal hell began, and it had become abundantly clear that there would be no respite. Not from the bitch Sophia, not from the girl who she'd grown up with who was if anything even worse, not from the little sycophant Madison, and sure as fuck not from the school administration who were supposed to stop this sort of shit.
The same administration who had basically ignored her, when they weren't actively sabotaging her initial attempts to get justice. Or even someone to simply tell those fucking girls to knock it off.
All three of them had been there, she was certain. Madison's evil little giggle, and a sound of satisfaction that could only have come from the arch-betrayer Emma, proved that to her. They must have been setting up their latest 'prank' for weeks. The sight of the garbage and bloody waste in her locker, and the wave of rotting stinking almost visible stench that had rolled out when she'd opened the door, showed that the stuff had to have been in there probably over the entire Christmas break. And there was so much of it that it couldn't possibly have been only one day's worth, it was something they'd been collecting for quite a long time. More than long enough to show it was very definitely premeditated and not a spur of the moment thing.
All that had gone through her appalled mind the moment she'd laid eyes on the crap, and even as her rage rose to the forefront, overcoming the self-control she'd forced on herself for months and months of unwarranted attacks, she'd found herself violently shoved into the stuff. The door had slammed behind her and she'd distinctly heard a click as the lock was engaged, even over the disorientation of both the ghastly smell and smashing her head on the rear wall of the metal coffin.
It had taken her a few seconds to recover enough to kick backwards as far as she could with an inarticulate growl of fury, and by then it was too late. The door was, although not all that thick, not thin enough that a fifteen year old beanpole could kick it off its hinges, especially with so little leverage. Even in a killing rage, which by that point she was.
She got it from her father. He was calm and reasonable right up to the point when very abruptly he wasn't. People tended to remember those times, and go well out of their way to avoid a repeat. She took after him in more than her height, having far more self control than most people suspected. Partly that was down to not wanting to disappoint her mother, who had always said it was important to keep your temper under control and think, rather than just stomp around in a foul mood.
Remembering that advice had helped over the years since the elder Hebert had passed on, through the depression that both she and her father had suffered, and still suffered from, and then over the last close to two years of absolute hell caused by her former best friend and the two psychos who followed her around.
It would have been so easy to lose it, punch Emma in the eye, and get at least a little satisfaction from that. She'd been tempted over and over, but every time she found her hand curling into a fist, two things stopped her; the look of disappointment her mother would have given her, and the knowledge that Sophia would then have kicked her ass. The other girl had a lot more muscle than she did, after all.
Even so, it would almost have been worth it. And she knew that blind rage could cause a lot of damage. Fury had a power all its own. Not necessarily in a good way, but still…
Somehow, after all the shit she'd just taken without reacting, she hadn't snapped and burned the entire fucking school down. Even though in her darker moods at three AM she'd spent a lot of time working out where the best place to pour the gas would be, and how to arrange an ignition source and an alibi.
She gagged again as a fresh wave of stink rolled over her at a slight movement, and decided then and there that someone was going to die for this.
However, that particular thought was pushed to the side as she kept staring upwards. A number of things entered her mind, slightly reducing the overwhelming feelings of anger, disgust, and injustice that had been there.
There were a number of problems with what she was experiencing, outside the sheer ghastliness of the entire locker full of rotting waste.
One of the main ones being, how the hell could she possibly be lying flat on her back on what felt like a concrete floor, staring fifteen feet up at a similarly concrete ceiling with a number of odd looking lights in it, while still being in her locker?
And why did she feel so light?
And what was that noise?
After mulling all these things over somewhat dizzily, still disorientated from the blow to her forehead which was dully aching, the overwhelming smell which was like trying to breathe while immersed in a septic tank, and extremely confused by the whole 'where am I' bit of the entire situation, Taylor rolled her head to the right. She could make out in the rather dim and uneven lighting a wall about twenty feet away, made once more of the same stained and old-looking concrete.
Repeating the exercise in the other direction, while trying to ignore the awful squishing sound as the stuff that was trapped under her head gave way in a revolting manner, she saw the exact same thing.
Several seconds passed while she tried to work out what was going on. The smell was giving her a hard time and she wasn't getting used to it at all, if anything it was getting worse. Her head was also hurting like hell, which didn't help the clarity of her thoughts. And over all of that was a burning rage that made her breathe more rapidly than at the moment was entirely advisable, considering the conditions.
She closed her eyes and very slowly counted backwards from fifty, syncing it to her heartbeat which was thundering in her ears, as she tried to regain some semblance of control. It helped a bit, the feelings of anger damping down and her heart-rate slowing, which in turn caused her headache to subside enough that she no longer felt like she was going to pass out. When she was as calm as she could manage under the circumstances, she opened her eyes again and looked around once more.
The scene hadn't changed. Still concrete below, above and to the sides of her, still the same slightly flickering and subtly wrong lighting, and still that weird feeling of lightness. And the peculiar and somewhat disturbing sounds on the threshold of hearing, coming from somewhere in the distance.
Taylor raised a hand to her head, feeling things peel off her arm and drop to the floor, then felt her brow. There was a fairly large lump there, proof of how hard she'd hit the inside of her locker. Once again she vowed bloody vengeance.
Her mother would understand. Sophia needed to die. Preferably painfully.
Dropping her arm to the floor, she felt around, finding that it definitely was concrete or stone of some sort. Painfully sitting up, she looked down at herself, gagged at the sight of things that should never exist outside a medical waste bin, and raised her eyes again. She peered around.
"What the fuck is going on?" she mumbled under her breath. The inspection of her surroundings showed she was in the middle of a large room, entirely made of concrete, aside from directly in front of her where there was a big metal door that looked like something out of a movie. It was rusty and damp, with faded paint on the dark surface that was almost illegible due to what looked like age and neglect. In the dim lighting she had to squint and even then couldn't really see it properly.
Reaching up she adjusted her glasses, only then realizing that one lens was cracked. "Oh, you bitches are going to pay for this," she snarled. Not only had they pulled of that fucking locker thing, but then they'd taken her and dumped her inside some old warehouse or something after she passed out from the stench? That was so far past 'too far' she didn't have the words to describe it.
Dying was too good for them. Dying in pain was called for. Possibly on fire.
Looking around again, Taylor tried to work out where the bitches had taken her. Maybe some sort of old cold storage room or something? The place was obviously industrial, based on the pitted concrete, heavy duty lighting, and exposed power conduits and other infrastructure. She'd seen the same sort of thing many times at her dad's workplace, although the people there actually looked after their buildings. Whoever owned this place looked like they hadn't done any maintenance for decades.
There were piles of metal crates against the rear wall, at least half of them lying open and bent like someone had smashed their way in. They ranged in size from about the dimensions of a microwave oven to something large enough to get a small car inside, and again had faded and scarred painted labels across them She could see something that appeared to be a logo of sorts, which seemed to be present all over the place, including when she double checked, on the door.
All in all it gave the impression of somewhere that hadn't been visited for twenty or thirty years. She could hear dripping water somewhere in the dark to the side, and looking at the lights above her could tell that they were on their last legs. If this was one of the abandoned warehouses on the docks it was something of a miracle that they worked even this well. The power should have been cut years ago as far as she knew.
Finally feeling able to stand up, and finding that her anger had subsided more than she'd have expected due to the distraction of trying to work out her location, Taylor pushed herself to her feet, then nearly fell over again as she managed to do that far more easily than she'd expected.
"What…?" She looked down at her feet, then experimentally hopped into the air.
"Holy shit!" she squawked in shock as she went noticeably higher than she should have. The really strange thing was that she fell more slowly than was correct too. "That's… impossible?"
Trying again had the same result. "OK, what's going on?" she demanded of no one. Why was gravity playing silly buggers? Was she in some bizarre Tinker-made place? If so, how the hell had Emma and her co-conspirators managed to find it, and get her here in the first place?
Struck by that thought, she looked at the floor where she'd been lying which had a large mound of what she'd been lying in, something she was trying very hard not to think about. A disgusting liquid was seeping out of it, and spreading out across the concrete. She could also see dust, what looked like ash, random bits of detritus scattered about such as small fragments of metal and plastic… The one thing she couldn't see was the weird part.
Turning in a circle, she checked carefully, but could see no evidence at all that anyone but herself had been in here for years. There was no sign of how she could have been carried in, no footprints, drag marks, or anything else. The dust and other stuff underfoot was entirely undisturbed except in a small radius around her current position, which she'd done herself.
"This doesn't make any sense," she finally grumbled to herself. "How did I get here? And where is here anyway?"
Jumping again, just to double check, she wondered anew at the odd sensation of falling too slowly. It was extremely disconcerting, in more ways than one. The implications were that there was some Parahuman involvement to what was going in, which seemed to suggest that either those fucking girls had help of a nature she hadn't expected, or someone else was responsible for this part of her own personal hell.
Why that would happen, she didn't have a clue. But then, she still didn't know why Emma had turned on her either.
'Fuck it. I need to get out of here and get home,' she thought to herself. 'Figuring out who did what can wait until I can get a gallon of gas and a lighter.' She was in no mood to be sensible any more. It seemed to her that the time had most definitely come for a touch of the old ultraviolence, as that book her mother had taken away from her when she was eight had put it.
She was aware at the back of her mind that she should have been terrified, but she'd had so much shit flung at her over the last year and a half that she'd just run out of fucks to give as far as being scared went.
She was angry. And someone was going to pay for that.
And when she was done with them, she'd tell her dad. Then they'd really have something to be worried about.
Winslow was going to be lucky to still be there next week.
Taking her hoodie off she used the small number of almost clean parts of it to wipe the worst of the crap off her, then shook her head and dropped the now soiled past recovery garment onto the pile of waste and moved away from it. She stumbled a few times due to the unexpected bounciness of her steps, but managed to compensate fairly quickly. While not being in particularly good condition she'd always had better than average balance and didn't find it too hard. She was extremely puzzled about how such a thing could happen, though. It wasn't her imagination, when she'd dropped her hoodie it had fallen too slowly as well, so whatever was going on was real.
It definitely pointed at some sort of Parahuman involvement but that just made the entire thing that much stranger, and more worrying.
Deciding that she couldn't do anything about it right now and it was more important to get out and get home, she headed for the door. Reaching it she prodded the thing, finding it was very solid and rather damp metal, which didn't have any give in it at all when she thumped it with a fist. The thing was clearly pretty thick, more so that seemed reasonable.
Examining it she saw it seemed to split down the middle, and as far as she could tell probably retracted into the walls for some reason. There was a block of machinery above each half that clearly drove the mechanism and she could see where the doors would slide inside the thick walls. It looked more like something out of a movie the more she studied it.
Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be any way to persuade it to open. There was no handle, or obvious switch panel, or anything else of that nature. Hitting it again, then kicking it, she glared at the thing for a minute or so, trying to work out what to do. With no phone, not that it would work inside here in all probability, she couldn't even call her dad and get him to come and get her. She was on her own for now, and didn't particularly feel like sitting around waiting for either Emma and her cronies to come back, or whatever Tinker owned this place.
Or, for that matter, for some random Merchant or whatever.
After a few dark mutterings about the parentage of one Sophia Hess, Taylor had a thought and looked carefully at the motors or whatever they were that seemed to drive this annoying impediment to her escape. She saw there was what looked to be a power cable coming out of the mechanism and running across the wall to one side. Tracing it with her eyes, she followed it all the way to the side wall, along that, and down behind one stack of crates.
'Damn it,' she thought irritably. 'Who piles all this stuff in front of a door control? Assuming that's what's on the other end of the cable, of course.' Stopping in front of the pile she inspected it. Several of the smaller ones had fallen or been dropped, and were broken and dented on the floor, while the rest seemed to have been shoved into the corner without any concern for ease of access or any sane storage method. It was like some idiot had just tossed them there.
Bending down she picked up one of the smaller empty ones, finding it wasn't as heavy as she'd expected, and tilted it a little so she could see the faded label on the side in the inadequate lighting.
'U...' She rubbed the dirt off the paint. '...is that an A… C? UAC? I wonder what that is?' The 'A' seemed to be a weird graphic rather than a normal letter, in the style of a company logo, but she didn't recognize it. The same logo was on the door, the paint there so damaged that it was nearly unrecognizable.
Looking inside the crate she found it empty except for traces of some sort of foam lining which had elderly grease marks on it. After turning it over in her hands for a moment, wondering what all the other codes written on it along with a strange looking sort of barcode thing meant, she shrugged and tossed it to the side. It clanged across the floor making her wince with the racket, which echoed horribly in the concrete room.
When the sounds died down, she sighed and started moving the remaining crates, trying to make enough of a gap that she could squeeze in behind them and hopefully find some way to open the door. They were easier to move than she expected, until she remembered the odd gravitational effects this place seemed to be suffering from.
'Useful, I guess,' she mused as she heaved one of the larger ones to the side, dragging it across the floor with a scraping sound. It was clearly still full of something. 'I wonder what's in this thing?'
Moving a few more, she finally managed to stick her head into the gap behind the last one, the largest of the lot, and barely make out in the near-complete darkness back there a box on the wall which the cable terminated in. To her relief it seemed to have several small LEDs lit on it, which suggested it was active. Hopefully it would have a nice and simple button helpfully labeled 'Open' on the middle of it.
Pulling her head out, she braced her foot on the wall and heaved on the crate. Nothing at all happened. 'Fuck.' She tried again, pulling as hard as she could. 'FUCK!'
The damn crate was too heavy. She couldn't move it at all. After a couple more tries, she growled and kicked it, then hopped around swearing for a while. Her sneakers weren't up to the job of kicking a ton of metal box out of the way and she was no Brute either.
Sitting on one of the smaller boxes she glared at the big one standing between her and freedom. This would not stand. Somehow she was going to have to shift the fucking thing, but how? She didn't have any tools, she wasn't strong enough to move it as she'd found out just now, and it wasn't like there was any help around.
'Maybe I can empty it?' she thought, getting to her feet and walking around it while inspecting it. 'If I can get it open, that is...'
After a few minutes, she finally found what looked like some sort of latch mechanism on the side of the crate, disguised well enough that it was barely visible. Running a finger over it she tried to work out how it operated, but it took another five minutes to discover that she could press hard in the right place and a small handle-thing would pop out. That could then be turned a hundred and eighty degrees to open the latch.
Based on that one, she quickly found three more down the side, and another four on the other side. When she'd opened the last of them, she jumped out of the way as the entire front of the crate separated from the rest of it and crashed to the floor, barely missing her.
"That was close," she commented to no one, before turning to see what was inside the seven foot high crate.
Her eyes widened.
Following a considerable amount of staring, she finally reached out and gently touched the gleaming dull greenish-black surface of what appeared to be an honest to god suit of power armor that was standing upright in the crate, strapped in place. Clipped to the walls of the box were several other items straight out of a PRT brochure, including a very impressive sort of rifle-type weapon, the look of it making it abundantly obvious it wasn't even close to normal technology.
Apparently she'd found some Tinker's stash of toys, and whoever it was made stuff that would make Armsmaster himself envious.
Taylor gaped at the contents of the box for some time, before she finally noticed a thick manual in a pocket on the wall. Curiosity overriding everything else as her reading instincts kicked in, she reached for it. Moving to a position directly under one of the flickering lights, she raised her head as she heard something odd. The strange sounds she'd been intermittently hearing got louder momentarily, something making a sort of grunting noise like an animal. She couldn't work out where it was coming from but thought it was outside the room.
"Hello?" she called, in case it was help coming for her. "Is anyone there?"
There was no reply, and after a careful look around she decided it was probably a raccoon or something scuttling around in the air vents, assuming this place even had air vents.
"OSHA violations everywhere," she muttered. "Dad would freak out." Returning her attention to the manual she studied the front cover. "What the hell is the Union Aerospace Corporation?" She'd never heard of it.
The image on the cover was of the power armor in the crate, and gave it a long military-looking identity number. It seemed to be a UAC Mk. 9 Mod. 16 WC/04/2147-92B, whatever that was.
She looked at the armor again. "Yeah, I'm calling it power armor. Not a Mk.9 whatever."
Flipping the manual open, she started reading, her interest piqued despite her situation and the suppressed but still boiling under the surface anger deep down. It wasn't every day you found Tinker tech just lying around, after all.
Three hours and nineteen minutes later: