AN: So here's a new snippet. Which is really more of a oneshot. Will there be more in this verse? Maybe, but probably not for awhile since I think the story is at least semi-self contained.
Premise: Taylor doesn't trigger with bugs. No, Taylor triggers as a Tinker. A teleport Tinker. Her first teleporter…perhaps breaks a few laws that should not be broken.
And a terrified girl, desperately in need of help, finds a savior who can perhaps direct things…a bit better than a woman who's Doctorate is in Stupidity.
The Fortune Teller and Her Savior
"Okay. Last piece…last piece…come on Taylor don't mess this up…almost…aaaannnd solder…Heh. Heheh. Hahahaha! DONE! It's fucking done! Worthless my non-existent ass! Suck on this Sophia!"
Everyone was permitted a few moments to glorify in their moment of triumph, their greatest success, the penultimate proof of their accomplishment and mark on the work. That I had chosen to indulge in a little bit of evil cackling was only to be expected really.
I had a working teleporter. I could go anywhere. I could leave this horrible place behind at the push of a button if I wanted to now. My wrist mounted unit didn't even look slap-dash. It looked beautiful! I twisted the bezel around the edges of the watchface, activating the 3D holographic display.
"Heheh, yes glow my pretty, glow!" Okay, maybe that was a bit too much indulging.
No. Fuck no, I was going to enjoy this. I built a damn teleporter out of a watch and scrap parts from the busted microwave and our ancient computer. I was a true cape now. I was a Tinker and I was going to be the next Armsmaster, the next Hero. I was a badass. The Trio could not take this from me. And if they tried? Well, all I had to do was get out of sight, hit the Recall button and BAM, back home in a jiffy!
With a bit of modification, I could probably even rig a tracer and targeting system, then they couldn't even steal my homework or my projects because I could just teleport them to the teacher's desks!
Hmm, that would probably get noticed though. Eh, screw it, I'd just join New Wave. When I ramped this up, I was going to be valuable. I could get people to Endbringer fights with the press of a button! This was going to be beautiful!
"Don't put the cart before the horse, Taylor. Calm down, you still need to test it. Just a quick pop over to Paris for a shakedown run. Yeah, Paris. Can't speak French, doesn't matter. Paris it is!" I twisted the bezel and tapped a few of the keys. The screen glitched and I scowled. The distortion cleared before I could grab for my tools and let out a grumbling snort. "Stupid old parts. I need better equipment. The next model will be so much better. It certainly won't be built in a basement out of a box of scraps."
I locked in the coordinates and closed down the hologram. Just before I slammed my hand onto the device face, I paused, my palm hovering in mid-air. Should I leave a note for Dad? Would he even notice that I was gone if I stayed overnight in Paris? It wasn't like he seemed to notice I had basically taken over the basement. I had been working on this stupid thing for weeks and he hadn't once asked what I was doing. He made the motions after I left the hospital, but that's all it was just the motions.
Fuck it. If he got worried, he could buy me a cellphone. Or he could accept the one I was going to build and give to him.
That it would have a teleportation function was a given, all cellphones needed the basics after all; even if the owner of said phone didn't get the instruction manual on how to work said systems. But really was that any worse than those people who never bothered to read their…'friendly' manual?
'Hmm, maybe I have too much of a 'when all you have is a hammer' mentality…eh, I can discuss it with Armsmaster once the test run is complete. Oooh I wonder if I can teleport just half of a person. Now that would be useful for combat…'
Nodding to myself, I slapped my hand onto the watch-turned-teleporter.
An instant later, my bones themselves shook as a vibrating, ripping noise roared through everything. The very air seemed to scream and cracks split around me. Some of the cracks seemed to be running sideways through a direction I couldn't see. They started in the air, and they ran through the stone of the basement, yet I could still see the ░▒▓▒░ within. A ░▒▒▓▓▒▒░ that…wasn't possible. A ░▒▓▒░ that shouldn't be. A ░▒▒▓▓▓▒▒░ that couldn't exist.
Thick trails of warm blood seeped down my face - blood, I was crying blood. This wasn't something a mere mortal should ever experience. Two different voices inside my head positively screamed, recoiling in abject terror. My body refused to follow my mind's advice to run - there was nowhere to run to - and I was rooted to the spot as I stared at, and through, the cracks in reality. The twinkling sound from the sky reaching a higher note, rumbling reverberating up from the ground below me joining into the unholy symphony too now.
Before the activation sequence of my teleporter finished and I felt the world drop away - left behind on the other side of my mini-wormhole - I had just enough time to whimper two exceptionally important words.
[Step 8,361: Climb over rock.]
Fortuna clambered over the rock, desperately clinging to the vision in her head that told her the path to walk, the steps to follow. This wasn't normal. This wasn't safe. This wasn't going to lead to a happy ending.
But there wouldn't be a happy ending. There would never be a happy ending again. There was no way to get to a happy ending. Her family were monsters now. More monsters were running through the woods and as the sky darkened more monsters started flying through the air too. There was no happy ending.
[Step 8,392: Go through hole in brambles.]
She shimmied through the hole and bit back a sob as something scraped down her back leaving a burning pain along her spine. Her throat hurt. She couldn't even drink from the stream she was scrambling past. It was black. The fish were floating on the surface of the water. And it shimmered in a way that made her skin crawl. All of the water had been like that. Her throat hurt so much and she was so thirsty.
[Step 9,522: Go around rock, stare at Thinker Entity. Stab Core Interface Processing connection.]
Fortuna felt tears leak down from her eyes. It was almost over. She could stop the Mother of Monsters from making her vision reality. She could end this.
And then she could let the monsters have her and she'd be with her family again.
Stepping around the rock, Fortuna bared her teeth at the Mother of Monsters in front of her. It was massive, with a body that was larger than her entire village had been. Larger than the entire sky! The Mockery forming from the very front of the Mother of Monsters was pure silver, it had a face, but little else besides blobs that were slowly shifting into arms and legs even as Fortuna watched. She met the creature's eyes and started to stride forward.
The thing grinned at her as she lifted her shaking knife. "Species: Human. Dominant. Connection: Eye. Rebellious." It laughed, the entire mass shaking.
[Step 9,523: Stab Core Interface Processing connection. Step 9,523: Stab Core Interface Processing connection. Step 9,523: Stab…]
"Acceptable Modifications found. Imposing Restrict- "
The Mockery's terrible echoing speech cut off as a horrible ripping sound blasted across the mountain clearing. It's eyes shifted from Fortuna, widening as it stared just behind her.
Fortuna used the distraction to run closer to the monster, her knife held out, her hand no longer shaking.
The knife slashed down.
The point struck the central cord linking the Mockery to its body.
A screech filled the air, the noise echoing inside Fortuna's skull. The Mockery's arms and legs spasmed, its head whipping from side to side. Fortuna could barely see through the tears in her eyes, could barely process the world through the pain in her skull or the ringing in her ears.
And she couldn't move the knife any further. The Path she had been following was distorted. It was mixed with a dozen, a hundred, a thousand other visions now. A hundred thousand ways that this could end, yet only one was what she had wanted to see. She was losing track of the correct Path to walk, it was lost in the noise. Where had it gone, where had it gone?!
[…ep 9,523: Stab Core Interface Processing connection. Step 9,523: Sta…]
The Mockery kept flailing and the body was quivering and all she had to do was push down but she couldn't! It was too much, it was all too much, and it was too far, and the Mother of Monsters was going to recover because she had frozen at the last step and -
"I can help! Where do we hit this Endbringer?!"
The words cut through Fortuna's head like another knife and there was suddenly another person standing at her back, one arm wrapped around her waist to hold her up, the other reaching for Fortuna's hand.
Her knife hand. The Path formed behind her eyes. One vision swam back to the surface of the ocean.
[Step 9,523: HOST, STAB THINKER. Step 9,523: HOST, STAB THINKER.]
She still couldn't fully grasp it, but she could see the shape of it now.
]Path to getting help?[
Hundreds of futures spun around an axis. She could ask for assistance. She could run back down the mountain and find the Elder. She could lure a wild monster. She could -
Fortuna gritted her teeth and snatched the Path she wanted from the stream.
[Step 1: Verbalise: I need to slash down! Right here!]
"I need to slash down! Right here!"
The tall girl didn't flinch, she didn't back away, instead she covered Fortuna's hand with her own and helped her to stab the final inch into the fleshy not-connection that she had found.
The clearing fell into complete silence, the only sound was the labored breathing of the two girls. The Mockery was entirely frozen, its face a rictus of shock, its arms loose at its sides. The Mother of Monsters quivered one last time, and then parts of it started to deflate and disintegrate.
The girl stumbled back, dragging Fortuna with her until they were both on the opposite side of the clearing from the Mother of Monsters.
"Jesus Fucking Christ. Holy shit. Holy shit. Did we just kill a baby Endbringer with a knife?!"
Fortuna swallowed down the gorge rising in her throat as she stared at the Mother of Monsters and its Mockery. She clutched her knife to her chest and shook her head, the matted strings of her hair whipping her cheeks. "I do not understand." The Path was helping with the meaning, but the words were difficult and large and made little sense.
"Well okay, it may not be an Endbringer, but it's sure big enough to be one. The body of this looks like it goes past the horizon. That's gotta be…at least 30 miles with how high up we are right? What mountain is this? Where even are we? My teleporter was supposed to take me to Paris but I broke the damn world and I…I want to go home…"
[Step 17: Nod.]
Fortuna nodded. Her words were difficult to follow, but the sentiment was easy. "I cannot go home. The Mother of Monsters destroyed it with her creatures."
"The Mother of…Oh, this thing. I'm sorry." The tall girl clutched her arm over the shiny bracelet on her wrist for a moment. Then she took a shuddering breath and moved closer, wrapping Fortuna in a hug. Fortuna leaned against her, the tears she had been holding back for so long finally falling.
[Step 19: Babble incoherently.]
"The Mother of Monsters would have destroyed us all! It would have killed the world! All worlds! It wanted us to help it kill us! I had to stop it. I had to. I left them all because I had to stop it. What…what do I do now? What do I do?"
Were her words even a language? They didn't make any sense to her, how were they supposed to make sense to the girl? They were just sounds. The meaning was there, but how was the other girl supposed to interpret the 'meaning'?
"So definitely not an Endbringer then…" The girl rubbed circles on Fortuna's back and when her sobs had finally slowed to mere sniffles, the girl pulled back enough that they could look at each other's faces. "I'm Taylor."
[Step 20: State Name.]
"Fortuna," she said, wiping a dirty hand below her nose.
"It's nice to meet you, Fortuna. We should leave. If that thing made monsters, we should get out of here. I…can take you home with me, but I need to rebuild my teleporter first. I think…no, I know what went wrong now. I didn't before, but I do now, why do I know what went wrong now?" The girl had tears streaming down her face, and a distant look to her eyes. "I think I can send us right back to where and when I left. But I need time to fix it, I should be able to send us sideways though, if you give me a few minutes, then we'd be safe from the monsters at least."
A low pitched scream of pain and horror cut through the clearing leaving Fortuna wincing while Taylor's head snapped to the trees that the echo had come from.
"I'm going to work fast. Stick close to me and keep an eye out."
Fortuna needed no translation, Taylor's intent was perfectly clear. She nodded and followed along as Taylor sprinted towards something shiny.
Fortuna jerked awake, her breath coming in short pants. The Mother of Monster's scream was still echoing through her head and the sheets tangled her legs as she tried to get to the bathroom. She tripped, but her hand shot out and caught the side of the bed, steadying herself long enough to rip the accursed fabric off of her legs. With the obstruction gone, she ran to the white room, barely managing to lift the lid of the 'toilet' before she was heaving into it.
She heard the faucet turn on behind her, and she flushed away her mess, dropping onto the cold floor next to the thing. Such a wonderful, hateful invention. How far behind were her people that they didn't even have this?
"Here, it'll get the taste out at least."
Fortuna took the glass of water that Taylor proffered. She could have found a Path to avoid these horrors. She wanted to. It couldn't be that hard to find a shorter Path amongst the myriad of options available. And yet…these 'nightmares' were keeping her grounded. If she could remember where she came from, if she could remember what they were going to prevent, then it was worth the occasional discomfort.
"Was it the Mockery again?"
"You didn't come and I couldn't find the right way to push with the knife. I was caught. The Mother of Monsters finished its creation and the Mockery laughed at me as it tore through my mind." Fortuna dropped her head back against the wall, shutting her eyes. It felt so real. It hadn't played out that way. She knew it hadn't played out that way.
It was still frightening.
"You still have your new bracelet right?"
Fortuna smiled, and lifted her hand to rattle her arm. The 'bracelet' could indeed pass for simple jewelry, even if she had still been home. That Taylor had thought to include a camouflage circuit in it…the brunette was far too accommodating of her.
"I never take it off."
"Well you can probably take it off when you sleep," Taylor teased. She sat down beside Fortuna and rested a hand on her knee. "Just because I can't find any of the other major heroes doesn't mean that I'm not here for you. These computers are dinosaurs and these people have no idea what they'll be facing in a few years. I can run circles around them right now and if anyone tries to get you while you're sleeping, they are going to seriously regret it."
"Why would I take it off? You gave it to me." It was as simple as that. Taylor had saved her, and Taylor continued to save her every time that she woke up drenched in sweat, teeth chattering. Taylor helped her figure out how to use her power. She had only known the other girl for a month, but she could not imagine living without her anymore.
"Fortuna, I…" Taylor's hand pulled from her leg and she swallowed as she clasped her hands together. "You don't have to just depend on me."
]Path to reassuring Taylor?[
Thousands of possibilities floated through her mind. Fortuna sighed. Taylor was far too - what had she called it? - tightly wound. If Fortuna could take this many different myriad ways to make her feel better…
She grabbed for one of the shorter ones though certainly not the shortest. The images she had from that particular future left her blushing.
[Step 1: Take Taylor's hand.]
Fortuna reached over and wormed her own hand between Taylor's, intertwining their fingers together.
"We're partners. We're in this together. I help you, and you help me. We support each other."
Fortuna smiled and squeezed their hands tighter. "When you took me from my world, you didn't see a cavehuman."
"Yes, that. You saw a frightened girl. A peer. You didn't hesitate to throw yourself at a monster to help me, and when you could have just left me after we found safety, you chose to stay and help educate me. You are my friend, and you are someone I care for."
"I," Taylor's voice hitched. She gulped and restarted. "I care for you too, Fortuna."
Fortuna smiled. She leaned to the side, resting her head on Taylor's shoulder. "I know I don't have to depend on you, Taylor. I choose to."
The door to the apartment slammed open and Fortuna glanced up from her workbook.
Taylor dropped their groceries onto the table with a muffled groan. She leaned over and gave Fortuna a chaste kiss before moving to start putting things away.
"Rough day?" Fortuna asked.
"Sorta. The good news is that I definitely figured out the main issue from my first trial. The bad news is that I can only minimize that failure chance, not eliminate it. I'm not entirely sure we can hop back to Brockton Bay. I'll keep working it on though."
"Hmm." Fortuna bit her tongue, stared at the scrawlings on the page, and after a quick nod, made her marks. "Taylor? Is this right?"
"I still don't get why you don't ask your power," Taylor said, sighing as she wandered over to look over Fortuna's shoulder. " 'The cat jumped over the shiq.' You're close, this is a 'p' not a 'q'."
Fortuna scowled and crossed out the offending letter. "I hate writing. Why is your language so difficult?"
"Just wait until you get to the hard stuff. Irregular verbs, I before E except after C. English is awful."
"Yes. Japanese was simple to learn. This is a nightmare."
Taylor just snorted, rolling her eyes. "You'll get used to it." She moved back to the groceries and got through an entire bag before she started to speak again. "So, you think about a code-name more?"
Fortuna nodded, setting down her pencil. "I know you said Countess would be nice…but I like Contessa. The root is the same, but it has a flavor of my home. It may be lost, but I can keep it alive in my second name."
Taylor put away the eggs, then abandoned the rest of the food to sit next to Fortuna, reaching out to hold her hands. "That's lovely, Fortuna. I'm sure your village would be proud you chose to remember them like that."
Fortuna smiled. "Oh they would hate me now. It's only been a few months and already I have a position that a woman would never have been able to hold. More, I am in a relationship with a woman. My uncle would murder me where I stood to avoid the shame I brought to our family."
Taylor laughed and squeezed her hands. "Oh honey, I hate what happened to you, but damn am I glad we're in civilization instead of whatever primal nightmare you grew up in."
Fortuna just nodded back, joining in with a soft chuckle as well. "Have you made progress with telling the governments about the creatures you described? I can't find the right Path anymore to make them listen to you again…I'm sorry."
"Stop apologizing," Taylor rolled her eyes. "You see too much to find the small variants. I'm not sure about the Endbringers honestly. It's been awhile since my history lessons, but I'm almost certain that Alexandria and either Legend or Eidolon should've Triggered by now. Yet I haven't even gotten a hint of them being around. Not even Hero has shown up, and I know he would've been active. He was basically the first Tinker."
"English, Fortuna," Taylor said, laughing. "But yeah, I was hoping to meet him since we're stuck in the past for the moment. Though if none of the Triumvirate are around, then maybe the Endbringers won't be either. It's a huge trade off, but I think it's ultimately a good one. We can still help to make things better before we go back. Even if we don't get the government up in arms about the coming Endbringers, maybe we can help things out with the PRT's direction. They seem to be heading the right way, but there's too much bureaucracy with it. They're going to try caging the capes and that's going to blow up in their faces. People know me though - or at least, they know Oroborous - and I know that if I throw on my costume and start giving speeches, I can probably sway things."
"You hate speeches."
"Yes. But if we can keep the PRT from being as corrupt as it was back home…I can stomach a few public appearances."
Fortuna nodded and leaned forward resting her head on Taylor's.
]Path to Ouroboros ensuring the Cape Organization is fair and useful?[
Only a few dozen futures swam through her mind. She fought to keep down a grimace. That it was so rare…
"I'll help," she murmured.
"You don't have to do that, Fortuna."
"I already have," she replied.
[Step 1: Kiss the girl.]
AN: I couldn't resist at the end.