Hideaway 2.5

Thursday, January 13th 2011. Phaerakh's Lair



"I did not think it was possible for human skin to turn that shade of color."


"Everyday, humans surprise me."

I scowled, "Trazyn, first of all you've already made that joke. Second of all, you're not helping the situation."

We both looked back down at the blonde sprawled backwards on the stairs, her eyes mirror sized and unblinking. She was slowly inching up the stairs until we turned our attention back to her. Somehow, Tattletale's face managed to turn even paler when we did. Poor girl looked on the edge of a panic attack

"Tattletale, please don't make this more difficult than it has to be." I pleaded with her, my voice dripping with exasperation. I was in fact, more than a little annoyed. She had defied my orders to come downstairs in the first place to obviously spy on us, but I wasn't going to hurt her. Yet.

Tattletale laughed nervously, "Don't mind me. I'll just head back upstairs and let you and your… imaginary friend continue your conversation."

Trazyn snorted, "Please, I'm too good to come from her imagination."

I shot him a glare that he ignored. When this situation was settled, he and I were going to have a long conversation about this. But we had to deal with Tattletale first.

Who was trying to inch her way back up the stairs again. I folded my arms and she frozed, putting on an innocent smile. I tried not to sigh, failed, and said, "If you want to make your situation worse Tattletale, please continue to try and run up the stairs. Surely this will only end well for you."

"Hey, you live your life how you want and I'll live mine how I want." she replied, but remained frozen in place. Good.

I leaned on the nearby railing, never taking my eyes off of her, and said, "Well, you seem to have the sense to stay put. Now, if you'll let me, you have some catching up to do, since Trazyn obviously wants you brought into the fold."

If he picked up on the venom in my tone, he ignored it. Instead he tapped his non-existent staff on the metal stairway in concurrence with my statement, somehow eliciting a hollow metal clang from it. I glared at the scarabs sitting under the stairs beneath him, and then focused on Tattletale.

"Let's start from the beginning…"

I gave Tattletale the cliff notes version of events, skipping on personal details whenever I could. She at least seemed to settle down as we talked, and looked like she wasn't going to immediately bolt up the stairs. That said, she also grew increasingly more skeptical with every word that left my mouth. By the time I finished my explanation, her eyes had narrowed into skeptical slits of suspicion.

"So let me get this straight." she said and pointed at me. "You're a random nobody with no actual powers of your own."

Then she pointed at Trazyn, "He's a 65 million year old alien robot from an alternate dimension that's here on vacation."

Then she pointed at the both of us, her voice going jittery, "And now you're working together to clean up the streets of Brockton Bay while helping him collect nicknacks?!"

Trazyn and I exchanged a look, "That's… exactly what I just said, yes?" I asked.

He nodded, "Oh yes, completely accurate, if simplistic. Quite the observant one, isn't she?"

"Frustratingly so." I agreed.

"Oh my god I've lost my mind." breathed Tattletale.

I turned my gaze back to her and she flinched, "That is the least of your worries right now. Whether you believe me or not is irrelevant. What you need to understand is that if you tell anybody about this, I will turn you over to the Protectorate. I have no interest in this secret being made public."

Truthfully I could probably just give her to Coil if I really wanted to punish her. But the way she talked about the man told me that would be a step too far. The Protectorate would arrest Tattletale. I was willing to bet Coil would execute her.

She laughed nervously, "I've seen what you can do. I'm not going to get on your bad side… wherever that is. Whoever that is. Do I need to talk to both of you, one of you or… how does the split personality thing work?"

"Oh for the love of…" Trazyn and I said at the same time.

We tried not to glare at each other, focusing our wrath on the thinker in front of us instead. She smiled innocently and shrank, a smile that caused a headache to form behind my eyes. This went against the plan, this went against everything I had been preparing. I never intended for anyone to know about Trazyn. Evidently he thought differently.

"I have done nothing you would not have done." Trazyns voice echoed in my mind.

I sneered behind my mask and thought, "Don't act like you know what I would do."

"Taylor." he drew my name out with the subtle indignation of a parent catching their child in a lie, "I live in your mind. I feel what you feel, know what you know. My mind is guarded by ancient codes and protocols that the mightiest human minds could not crack. Yours is an open book to me. With enough time you would have told her. After all, while we may be partners, you are clearly in desperate need of a friend. Or an acquaintance at least. A confidante, perhaps? Maybe a concubine."

His hologram tapped his chin at the thought and I scowled at him. He seemed to enjoy peering into my mind and taking whatever he wanted from it for his own gain. I should have been more horrified at the invasion of privacy, but living with him in my head commenting on everything in my life had gotten me used to it. It still didn't answer the question on what to do with Tattletale.

She didn't seem to believe me, and she looked tense, ready to flee at a moment's notice. Not that I blamed her of course. It would be very easy to play into that, to use her innate wariness of me to terrify her into submission. I had recruited her for her abilities after all. Intel was what I needed from her; anything else was a distraction.

But no, I couldn't bully her into submission, I was better than that. She had joined me because I had presented myself as a better alternative to Coil. A man she at least claimed had threatened her life for her service. A man who had sent a dozen armed men and women after us to try and take her back. If I wasn't careful, it would be all too easy to follow his example when dealing with her.

So even though it was tempting to embrace my Phaerakh persona, to read her the riot act and instill the fear of god in her, I didn't. I steeled myself, calmed my nerves, and went in the opposite direction instead.

Slowly, I sat down against the railing in front of her. I reached up and took my mask off, feeling the cool air on my face. Then I looked up at Tattletale and offered my hand to her. Her glassy-green eyes were huge behind her domino mask at what I had done. I found it hard to disagree with her, it was pretty stupid; but I always had the scarabs if things didn't turn out right.

"Call me Taylor. Even if you think I'm crazy, if you don't tell anyone about me or Trazyn, then you have my word that I will never hurt you. You work for me; as long as you do, your safety is always my priority. I promise."

She looked at my face (I think, everything was fuzzy without my glasses) and my hand, and slowly reached out to shake it. As she did, she took her mask off and smiled at me, "Call me Lisa. Your secret is safe with me."

"I get what you were trying to do now." I thought to Trazyn. My mask had been replaced and Lisa and I were back in the kitchen, silently watching the map of Brockton Bay. My remaining minions were due back soon, and my scarabs had not yet lost track of Coil's strike squad...kill squad? Minion murder mob.

The naked morons, I had not lost track of the naked morons. They were still retreating away from the docks, but I imagined they didn't have much farther to go.

Trazyn materialized alongside me again, his fingers rubbing his chin once more, "Really? Do tell."

"Trust is a two way street. Ta-Lisa is my subordinate, but she took a big risk deciding to work for me. I needed to show her that she could trust me. If you can't prove yourself a trustworthy leader, you don't deserve to be a leader, right?"

Trazyn laughed at me, "Oh no. I liked her interactions with you, and was getting bored of how secretive you've been. Trust is something shared between family at best; subordinates should know their place. They are tools; a leader should take care of their tools, for they are very useful, but trust is not a factor."

I narrowed my eyes at him, "Every time I think I've figured you out, you remind me how… alien you are."

"Good. It makes things interesting. Which, at my age, is a godsend, pardon the expression."

I rolled my eyes and turned my attention back to the map. Trazyn had a lot of good advice, and a lot of advice that was even more indicative of his alien nature - or maybe just the results of his insanity. Lisa may work for me, but she was a person too and deserved to be treated as such. Whether or not I would extend this gesture to Uber and Leet… I wasn't sure yet.

"Next time you think about doing something like that though, just talk to me. If we're going to work together, we need to talk. You might be able to read my mind, but I can't read yours. And you're not infallible, Mister-'I'm-stuck-in-a-fifteen-year-old-girl's-head'."

"So when you're standing there barely moving, are you thinking or are you arguing with Skeletor?" Lisa interrupted before Trazyn could fire back a response. He looked annoyed at that.

I smiled under my mask and said, "That, is for me to know and you to find out, isn't it?"

"Is that a challenge?" she asked, a slow smile inching across her face.

I turned my attention back to the map, "No, and if you make it one I'll give you the Naked Idiot Treatment."

"Is that what we're calling it now?"

"Keep talking and find out." I said dryly.

"Aw, and here I thought we were connecting." she pouted, though the edges of her lips failed to turn down.

"Just because I'm willing to extend my trust to you, does not mean I like you."

"Oh really?" she drawled, leaning on the edge of the table and smiling at me.

I looked at the map harder.

Thankfully, any further harassment from the blonde was interrupted by the return of Cryptek and Montu. The door hadn't even finished opening before Cryptek started speaking.

"You know, it's weird seeing Armsmaster and not getting arrested. I'm not complaining, but it's weird." he noted. He and Montu were already heading for the fridge.

I turned to them before they could reach it, smiling behind my mask, "Well done, gentlemen. However, I regret to inform you that we have no time for breaks."

My hand flew over the map, centering on a warehouse on the edge of the Docks and only a few blocks away from my house. I did not mention this even as a full 3-D rendering of the building sprang to life, dominating the table. Cryptek whined quietly to himself, before Montu nudged him and he stopped.

"My scarabs have followed Coil's men here." I explained, "Consultation with Tattletale has revealed that this warehouse was normally used for storage by Coil. They likely retreated here to avoid leading us to more vital infrastructure."

Montu folded his arms and nodded. Of those in my dyn- in my team, he was the most straight-laced, a trait I was already learning to appreciate after dealing with Lisa and Trazyn. He scratched his chin and said, "So are we going to wait and stake it out? See who comes and goes?"

I nodded, "In a manner of speaking, yes. I'm stationing scarabs around the warehouse. This will give us a full picture of anyone that enters or leaves. Once the generators are fully operational, we can expand the network and begin tracking down the rest of Coil's resources."

"Are we worried about Coil learning about your tech?" Cryptek asked.

The answer to that initially had been yes, and it still was. The more Coil knew about what I and my cou- my team could do, the more he could plan around it. That was a real risk and not one I was going to idly ignore. But with that said…

"We have to move carefully." I explained, "I am concerned about Coil preparing for us yes. But if we move recklessly, the consequences could be just as severe."

The Emma incident was a good example of how things could go when I acted without careful thought. That entire plan had hinged on Sophia being too much of a headstrong idiot to wait before going after Emma. Hell, if she had just looked at me a minute sooner she probably could've rearranged my guts or something. The only reason I made it out of that encounter with a win was sheer luck. I didn't intend on making that a regular occurrence.

"Our newest associate is a gold mine of information, and I am running several programs as we speak that are scouring the networks in Brockton Bay for anything related to Coil."

Cryptek tilted his head to the side and raised a finger in question, but I cut him off, "Yes, all the networks. Don't worry, it's just a little worm, no one will notice it."

"You're… hacking every network in the city?" came the strangled reply.

"Quite easily, yes." I dismissed the render and brought up the map again. Brilliant emerald lines raced through the city across a thousand houses. If I had wanted, the collection of programs I was using would have broken through every firewall and network in the country in a few hours. According to Trazyn though, that would also have alerted everyone that something was up, and possibly fried every computer in the Continental United States. Thus, I settled for the slower but subtler option. By the end of the week I'd at least have a pretty concrete map of Coil's resources and hideouts.

Montu whistled, and Cryptek leaned heavily on the table. He was probably a few shades paler behind his mask, "You just… the entire city… just like that?"

I shrugged while pulling up an emerald lined blueprint, "It was easy enough, I'll explain the specifics at some point if you're really interested. Anyway, until then we all need to keep a low profile. Let Coil believe that our response was the extent of our capabilities."

"I like it, a little trickery to make him underestimate us, then we sucker punch him." Tattletale grinned at that.

"So hypothetically speaking, is there any chance I get to be there when you take him down?" she added.

I looked at her dryly, "You don't have any physical powers do you? I'd rather keep you here where you're not at risk of being captured or hurt."

"Do you have any physical powers?" she shot back, gesturing at me, "Take away that suit and what are you, hm?"

"Your boss."

"She's not wrong." Montu said.

Lisa glared at him, "Quiet, you."

Then she turned back to me, hands on her hips, "Look, if you don't want me in the field, I get it. But when someone holds a gun to your head, you typically wanna see them get what's coming to them. You're telling me you can't make me a fancy suit of armor like what you and your cronies have?"

"I thought we were minions?" Cryptek whispered to Montu.

"Subordinates fits better; we're not technically villains."

I sighed, ignored them, and focused on Lisa, "I suppose that's a fair point. Scarabs!"

With a snap of my fingers, a swarm of two dozen scarabs skittered up from the lower floors and surrounded Lisa. She took a step back, her eyes widening behind her mask. A nervous laugh bubbled up from her lips, "Eh heh. Um… I can wait, you know…"

"We've got time to kill. Montu, Cryptek, give the lady a moment of privacy, please." I made sure not to snicker at the expression of mortified horror on Lisa's face.

With a snap of my fingers, my scarabs descended on her and she let out a shriek.

"No wait! I can wait, you don't-gah that pinches! Stop!"

I looked skyward while my scarabs worked and Lisa yelled in protest. Flashes of eldritch green light lit up the room as my scarabs built the costume I'd prepared for her over her body. After two or three minutes, a ping flashed in my HUD and we all looked back at Lisa in her new suit of necron-brand armor.

Like the rest of our costumes, it started with an appreciatively skin-tight necrodermis body suit. Silvery armor plating covered her body, with a glowing green gem set at the base of her sternum. A golden glyph, styled after Trazyns own dynastic glyphs surrounded the gem and were emblazoned on her shoulders. A necrodermis cloak of deep green and gold trim hung from her shoulders, framing her face with a high collar. A skeletal mask covered her face , casting a shimmering field over her blonde hair that darkened it to an empty black. Green glowing lines ran along the seams of the armor and the optics of the mask blazed with eldritch fire.

She looked down at herself, twisting her head around to get a good look at her new costume. I gestured at her with a flick of my wrist and said, "Montu, Cryptek, I present the newest member of our court. Please welcome Lady Seshat to the Dynasty."

A/N: I am beginning to find that alternating between stories makes writing a lot easier, how funny.

Anyway, this was mostly a dialogue heavy chapter. I rewrote this chapter a few times because I wound up either spending too much or not enough time on the Taylor/Lisa interaction at the beginning. I am fairly happy with that part now so I hope the rest of the chapter is as good. I'm not sure which story I'll be working on next but I don't think it'll be this one. I could change my mind on that though.

Otherwise, I hope this chapter was enjoyable, please leave comments and constructive criticism down below. See you next time!