TW: Panic Attacks/Depression

Evelyn tossed uncomfortably in her new bed, wishing she could quiet her mind instantly. She'd come back in through the window after running away with the The near brush with a legendary villain had reminded her of how mortal she was. She was far out of her comfort zone. Her body was beginning to rock with subtle tremors, the tell-tale signs of a panic attack. She was out of her depth in this town.

Half a week of strange happenings with evil capes who could hurt her really badly. She had moved most of a state away from her only friend, and had powers she didn't fully understand. The Butler had escaped her control for the most part even if it hadn't done anything about that. What little control of the entire situation began to slip away from her. Evelyn was too young and too inexperienced to begin to handle being a cape alone. She wished the powers she had hadn't come to her. She wanted to read a good book, curl up by the fire, and relax. Mobsters, criminals, and god forbid Endbringers were threats best left to people who actually wanted to make a difference and not just read about it the next day.

She couldn't even appreciate a story without her powers. When her first book had burned, and the stories came to life, the part of her imagination that had so vividly drawn up the lines from the pages for her to experience had also been burnt out. Now the only way for her to experience the story was to let her minions dance. Without her power, they were nothing more than words on a page.

Evelyn's breathing started to pick up, and her throat felt like acid was burning it. Her stomach was churning uncomfortably and her chest was pounding. She shakily stood up, powered by pure desperation, and dashed to the window. She yanked it back open from where she'd climbed back in, and let the cold wind blow on her face. The unfamiliar scents of the dingy city did very little to calm her nerves. She could hear the distant whoops of sirens and was reminded again of meeting Armsmaster and the Bug girl. A moment of clarity burnt through the feelings of anxiety, and directed her gaze to the slip of orange that she had stowed under the bed.

She knelt down and reached under the bed, fishing out the orange jacket that served as the top of her costume. Inside the hoodie's pocket was the folded up slip of paper given by Armsmaster on how to join the Wards. They weren't supposed to fight as much, and were given training and space to grow. It would also be a good place to make friends, which she wasn't sure she could do at school. She started to unfold it.

"Wow. 15 pages, small print. They're not holding back on the information," she muttered to herself.

The eyes of a Ward in a mostly red skin tight suit, floating off the ground, seemed to be focused on her. She liked the way his costume had turned out. The neat trimmings, the shield emblem. Much better than her stupid homemade one…

It was hard to keep motivated when everything about her was less than the official heroes. Especially considering the kind of work her biological mother did. She gave a brief glance to the rest of the wards, examining the kind of people they put into the promotions.

There was a boy in high tech armor, wearing only a visor over his eyes. He looked well protected, and he had what looked to be a gun in his hands. If the Protectorate allowed that, maybe she could get some sort of weapon training? It would help her be less useless without her minions, another point of weakness.

Behind the pair of red clad Wards stood another pair of what was most likely more boys. One was in full white armor, with a creepy featureless face mask. He was covered in clocks, and Evelyn wasn't really sure how he could see out of that thing. The other Hero was all suited up in knight's armor, covered with glowing neon lights. That was her favorite costume of all. Maybe if she joined she could get something like that? She loved fantasy novels, and she could dress like a Samurai to compliment it! Maybe as a roguish pirate even. She wanted to look cool and dramatic like that.

Her breathing was starting to even out as she planned for what her future could be, but her body still felt achy and she had so little energy. She hadn't yet figured out how to get around the fact that she had been adopted 12 hours ago, and needed parental permission to join up.

There were two girls on the Wards team, from what she could tell of the costumes. One was a smirking shorter girl, a little younger than Evelyn by her guess. Evelyn loved the green colors, she liked the brightness and the happy energy it gave off. The skirt was a nice touch, but seemed a bit impractical. It seemed like the "men writing women" trope had hit her costume. Evelyn bet she had some wicked power to make up for it, most of these Wards had no weapons on them. That boded well for her plan to not fight very much.

The other girl was not to Evelyn's liking at all. Black combat boots, what looked like armor plating, and a glaring visage of a woman for a mask. The hood and cloak pulled over it brought the ensemble together into one grim image. She held a crossbow in her hands, and looked like she was ready to use it. Evelyn felt a twinge of nervousness at the thought of interacting with a cape like that, the antithesis of her as far as cape persona went. Maybe joining was a bad idea…

No. Evelyn needed this. She flipped the page to begin reading about joining the Wards. All those years of reading had paid off, she was skimming through the pages as fast as possible. Things about the training opportunity of the Wards, leadership experiences, growing and developing as a child. A lot of fluffy words, just to fill the page, from what she could tell. She kept skimming, reading on to what Wards did.

"The Ward program teaches young Parahumans to use their powers for the greater good of society, huh?" She chuckled to herself, the hysteric laugh of someone who's on the verge of another panic attack. "At least it's color coded, I wonder what they'll admit to on the dangers page. Hospitalization, possible loss of limbs, immolation… certain death? Not the best selling point…"

Evelyn couldn't let herself be deterred. She was going to meet up with that Bug girl tomorrow night to talk about it. She took on too big of a fish, and couldn't stay Independent for much longer. If Armsmaster was right about those statistics, she didn't have a lot of time before her luck ran out. She wondered if the less experienced cape would stay her 'apprentice' if Evelyn went into the Wards and the Bug Girl did not.

Speaking of the Bug Girl, how stupid was she to invite the new cape to learn from her? Evelyn was only going to ruin the other girl, who clearly had a lot of potential.

In the back of her mind, she registered the front door opening and closing, and the thump of footsteps headed to the kitchen.

She read about power classifications, getting very little extra information that wasn't already in her brain from her previous readings. The benefits of the Wards were outlined over several pages, then she skipped the biographies and words from Heroes who were once Wards. The fine print was written in a lot of legalese, and Evelyn was smart enough to recognize she wasn't at that point in her education yet. She saved that to read later, with a computer or a dictionary open.

Evelyn's brain finally finished syncing and her heart jumped. Someone had come inside. She refolded the papers quickly and bundled them up in the orange jacket, stuffing it all back under the bed. She checked to see if the room was in order, that it looked like she'd been here the whole time.

An empty shelf hanging on the wall, with a single potted plant resting on it. Her suitcase lay discarded underneath it, she had been too energized when she got in to do much more than move that in and open it. The bedside table was lit up by her lamp, showing that she hadn't even touched that manilla folder yet. She was getting around to it. The clothes she had arrived here in were rolled into a ball and lying in a heap by her backpack near the bed, and she was wearing her pajamas. She tossed herself into the bed, and turned out the light. Her plain white covers were pulled up to her chin and she curled up on her side with her eyes almost fully closed.

The footsteps got closer to her door, and she could hear the floorboards creaking. The door swung open, and there stood Mr Wallis backlit by the hallway lights. He looked haggard and worn, his button down shirt loose and wrinkled. The lighting wasn't kind on him. He simply stood silent for several long moments, then he turned his head to the window. He seemed to register it being open, and slowly and haltingly made his way over and closed it. The light from the street briefly lit up his face where he had a few bruises, and his beard was disheveled. He went back to the door, shut it behind him slowly, and Evelyn listened to him walk back down the hallway into another part of the house.

She quickly rose, and turned her lamp back on. She pulled the papers back out, and flipped to the last page, the paperwork. She had to work quickly, so she didn't spend too much time reading it. She signed her name, wrote down what she knew of her medical history, and filled out the rest of the basic information. She agreed to the monthly therapy, and then got to the interesting bit.

"Describe your powers?" she read to herself, thoughtfully.

Evelyn wrote down 'can summon small fiery minions' and left it at that. She'd explain the rest when she went to officially join up. She continued to dot the i's and cross her t's, and got to the final hurdle. Place Parent/Guardian signature here.

She'd done some thinking on the way home, and she didn't think she could tell Mr Wallis. He wanted a normal daughter, not some girl with weak superpowers. She'd handle it herself. Now all she had to do was find something with his signature on it, and copy it down. She'd wait for him to go to bed, and then sneak out into the kitchen and find a receipt, or a letter, or something. She'd figure that out then.

For now, bed. She climbed in, and put the papers into a drawer of her bedside table. Her body wasn't resisting, with all the excitement, she was ready to lie down for a little bit. Her eyes closed pretty quickly, and she was out like a light.

Evelyn jolted awake. The moon shone in through the window, right into her eyes. It was the early morning, and she couldn't hear anything from the rest of the house. Feeling a bit like a thief, she crept to the door quietly and opened it up. A quick glance up and down the hallway showed no signs of Mr Wallis, so she snuck on forwards. She'd gotten to the archway just before the kitchen when she heard the voices. It sounded like Mr Wallis' deeper voice, and a higher female voice. Maybe he had company… It wasn't her business. She got to the kitchen and checked the marble counter of the island in the center of the room for spare papers. Unopened letters were on the table, but she didn't feel comfortable opening that. She looked on the floor, and then by the sink trying to figure out where Mr Wallis would discard the paper. She heard the voices begin to get closer, so she ducked down behind the island and pressed herself close against it.

"I'm telling you, it will aid me in researching how the rest of the teenagers interact. If I understand Evelyn, I can make sure what happened with Missy does not happen again."

Mister Wallis was walking into the kitchen on the other side of the island, and he was talking on some sort of headset with that female voice.

"Colin. Missy had an accident, and she's working on getting better. There's nothing else you could've done. Are you doing what's best for Evelyn, as well? Can you truly give her a better life," asked the female voice, slightly accented.

Mister Wallis opened the fridge and pulled out an energy drink, popped the tab and began to walk back down the hallway towards the garage. I heard the rasp of paper as he placed something down on the edge of the counter.

"I'm just following your advice. She's a good kid, and based on my tests, she does not require as much attention as the average child of her age. She fits my ability to parent well. The best option in the nearest city. Honestly-" He got far enough away that Evelyn could no longer hear him, and she had no idea how to feel about the conversation she'd overheard. She guessed that it was a good thing, that he was defending wanting her to the concerned friend? It felt kind of good to have someone stand up for her, but the comments about testing her were kind of weird… At least he wouldn't be paying close attention so she could get the best of both worlds, both becoming a Ward and getting a new family.

Evelyn rose up and checked the paper he'd put down. A receipt for… a strangely large amount of wiring and steel. Maybe that's what he was working on, as a hobby. Some sort of welding project… she checked the clock on the oven… at 3 am. She'd consider that when she wasn't so tired.

All that mattered was the neat little signature at the bottom, with a fancy looping C. She palmed the paper and scurried back to her room, confident in the fact that the man was in the garage. Evelyn copied down the signature onto a notebook a few times, first, to test. When she felt she had it down to a science, she drew it out slowly onto her official Wards sign-up paper. She signed her name underneath it, and was done! In the morning, she would go to the PRT building and drop it off. Once the receipt was back on the counter around where she had picked it up, she ran back into her room and stowed the sign-up sheet in her bedside drawer. She curled back up in bed, and turned off her lamp. She was going to join the Wards!

So begins section two of the story! The wards will be slightly different than canon, as the deviation from the universe begins to show itself more clearly. Evelyn's plan will go smoothly, obviously. What's the worst that could happen? Thank you for reading, please let me know your thoughts on the happenings! The promotional flier of the wards has this image from reddit on the front