Authors Note: Warning: Inappropriate language and views will be present to a small degree in this story. Nothing that these characters say is intended to represent my own views or feelings. Racism is BAD. Considering the current situation in America, there's…honestly probably never going to be a good time to post this idea for months or years, so please just regard the warning and don't take these views as my own.
"Taylor…I think you went a bit too far…"
"Bitch tried to murder me. Steal my friend and then try to kill me? Fuck her, she deserves this."
Being gay in Brockton Bay, Nazi Capital of the US was hard.
Being gay and going to Winslow, School Gang Capital of Brockton Bay was harder.
Being gay at Winslow, in Brockton Bay, while living with your soon-to-be-Stepmother aka Purity was hardest.
Kayden liked to say how Purity was reformed and separate from the Empire Eighty Eight, but she was biased - because of course she would defend her alter ego. And I lived with her. I saw the casual racism she espoused. I would give her credit for at least trying, but she still believed in the Empire's message. Even when she went out for her cape patrol she only ever targeted minorities. I didn't even think she realized it. Which just made it all worse - I think.
I constantly had to watch what I said about her so that she didn't realize my preference for the finer sex. My dad may accidentally mention it, but I sure as hell wasn't going to bring it up.
Because against my better judgement, I actually liked Kayden. She was sweet, and she tried to look out for me, and she supported me and Dad. She was just nice. And that sucked. I wanted to hate her. I wanted to not care what she thought about me. But…I couldn't, and I did care.
The one good thing about being gay in Winslow, with a Nazi-sympathizer for an almost stepmom…I knew where to look for the Empire members.
I'd had a good idea of who they were beforehand, self-preservation and all that. But now I was sure. I had managed to subtly grill her enough that I could pick out the hangers-on and the ringleaders. I knew who got things done in Winslow, who had the pull to make things happen.
I knew who I had to talk to.
I gritted my teeth as I sighted in on my chosen target. This was my last chance to back out, and I already knew I wasn't going to take it. The gum on my pants and the juice in my hair had started to wash away whatever doubts I'd had when I had walked into school. Sophia's gloating over how the next thing she did was going to be even worse than the locker had taken a baseball bat to the remaining glimmer of resistance. No. I wasn't going to stop. If no one was going to do anything, then I was going to have to do it myself. The police weren't touching her, the school wasn't touching her, the lawyers wouldn't take the case.
I wasn't going to let her try and actually kill me for real the next time. She wasn't going to get to do that and walk away without a scratch. Something had to give and I couldn't huddle at home and hope that she decided to leave me alone and move onto someone else to torment instead.
She isn't untouchable. I had to stop in my walk and suppress the shudder that ran through me as I repeated that phrase over and over in my head. I had to believe that. And if Sophia could get it through her psychotic skull that someone could hurt her despite Alan's protection, then...maybe she'd back off. Maybe she wouldn't think it was safe to escalate. This had to work. There was no other option. I couldn't even go after her myself; I knew myself well enough to know that I wouldn't make it through the attempt without having another attack and no amount of pills would stop that.
My dad probably would've been upset if he knew my plan. He would've yelled, then he would've pleaded, then he would've tried to make me feel guilty. Well fuck him. He started dating an openly racist and homophobic woman while knowing I was a lesbian. He no longer had any right to make me feel guilty about talking to the fucking Empire assholes.
Not that I couldn't guilt myself over this in his place. I was turning to the fucking Empire? The same people who would happily hurt me if they knew about me? For help? My hands shook. I needed to reach for a minion, but instead I took a deep breath and pushed the urge down. No, I was going to do this. I had to. The enemy of my enemy wasn't my friend, but they could do what I couldn't. They could break through Sophia's protection and...I shook my head, setting a scowl on my face.
I was going to survive this bitch. She wasn't going to get to kill me and walk away. I was going to survive. Whether or not I could live with myself afterwards was an entirely separate matter that I could deal with later. I forced myself to keep walking. I had hated and despised myself before. I could deal with adding one more weight onto the pile. One gigantic fucking weight that was going to shatter my back if I stopped to think about it, but that's why I couldn't stop to think. I just needed to do this and get it over with. Sophia was bragging about her plans. I didn't have a choice. No choice. Kill or be killed.
I could make sure they didn't go too far. Probably. I bit my lip and pushed down the need for my minion yet again.
What would Kayden say if she knew? That thought almost froze me again, until I really considered it. If I told her everything, she would probably go to Kaiser and get it fixed for me. And then he would use that as leverage to pull her back into his fold. I didn't want that. She may despise my sexuality, but she liked me and I liked her. So no, I wasn't going to throw her back to wolves. Not when I could do this myself with the same results. She apparently hated herself anyway. I knew Dad hated himself. Might as well make all three of us in the house follow suit right? Didn't everyone despise their own actions to a degree?
The lunch bell had just rang as I leaned against the wall beside the local leader of the Empire recruiters. I pulled out my phone and started thumbing through pictures. "I have information for you," I murmured out of the corner of my mouth. Fuck, fuck, fuck, too late now. I was committed.
The brute - Eric? let's go with Eric - nodded slightly and pulled out his own phone. "I'm listening."
"Did you hear about the thing with the locker from about three weeks back?"
He snorted, swiping up on his device to cover the amusement. "Girl, you're fucking famous. Of course I know about the thing. Heard some people laughing about the school brushing it under the rug earlier today even. Why, what of it?"
"What if I told you that a black girl had been the one to shove me in there?"
"I'd say that's a dangerous thing for a black girl to do in this school, abusing a white girl and all."
"And what if I told you that it wasn't the first time she did something like that? That she's been the ringleader of a small gang set against me for almost a year and a half now. That she turned a proper white girl from my best friend into her bosom buddy and my arch-nemesis; all through her manipulations." My stomach did cartwheels and I could feel bile rise in the back of my throat. This was too much. They'd go too far if I said this. But I'd already said it then hadn't I? I'd already said it and I was still talking.
Eric frowned, the movements of his fingers slowing. "That is an impressive claim. Aren't you Jewish? How do I know you don't just have a grudge against this cunt? Maybe she said something wrong or tripped you."
I chuckled. Jewish. Of course they'd center on that, because of my name. Not that it was why my family had history there, no, just because my name is close to a slur. Still, at least we weren't really any religion now. Better that they ask about that then the very true rumors Sophia had started about me being gay. The Empire would never help a gay girl. They might help someone who wasn't any religion at all. Eric was supposed to be one of the better ones here anyway. He was supposed to be doing this to 'protect' people. "Oh she's tripped me before. And shoulder checked me. And pushed me down the stairs. Lots of other things too. And my grandmother was Jewish yes, but my family doesn't practice it. We stopped believing in God a long time ago. Never really done anything remotely religious."
I should've lied. Why didn't I lie? Why was this so hard? Why couldn't I breathe?
The Nazi actually looked at me at that, his eyes narrowed. "Fair enough. But if this was that widespread, we'd have heard about it. The school would've done something. You're not in a gang; I'm assuming neither is the black girl since we don't have many Merchants here. The school would've done something visible against her at some point."
"My ex-friend's dad is a lawyer. I think Sophia is using her connection to him to get the school and the police to leave her alone."
"Divorce lawyer. Funny, she always forgets to mention that part."
He chewed his tongue and turned back to his phone. "Why do you care now if she's been doing it for so long?"
"Fucking bitch tried to murder me by leaving me in that locker. And no one cares. The school didn't even suspend her, let alone expel her. The police aren't doing shit either. Now she's laughing in my face about how she could literally kill me tomorrow and no one would do anything to her. I'm...done with sitting down and taking this. I can't fight back myself. It's not really an option after the past few weeks. Even if by some miracle I was able to take her down for a few moments, I would freak out and she would get the upper hand and then she would definitely follow through with her threat. And she'd get to walk away while I was dying in a ditch. I want this fixed and I want her to pay. No one is willing to act, and I'm done taking the high road. I'm done being afraid. I want to be able to sleep again."
Eric nodded. "Revenge then with a smattering a terror. Sure, yeah I get that. This is a big deal though if things are as bad as you say for as long as you say."
"I have proof."
His foot slipped down the wall at that and I heard his knuckles crack as his fist clenched. "Proof? And the pigs still wouldn't do shit about it?"
"Yeah. What's your number? I'll send you photos."
He shook his head and leaned over to pluck my phone out of my hands. "No paper trail, girl. Rule 1. In this folder?"
"Yes." I scowled at how he just assumed he had permission to handle my phone. He could've at least asked. Now I didn't even have anything to pretend to be busy with. Now I didn't have anything to distract my thought from running in circles. Now I had to confront that I was literally talking to a fucking Nazi and actively asking for their help. I bit my tongue hard enough to taste blood. Sleep? I was never going to be able to sleep after this. I didn't deserve to be able to sleep after this.
I barely even noticed as he passed the phone back to me a few seconds later.
"You said Sophia. Sophia Hess? The track star?"
"Yes. That might be another reason that Blackwell doesn't want to do shit."
He snorted and shook his head. "Blackwell is a money-grubbing bitch. Pay her enough and she'll ignore anything that happens. I could shank someone in the secretary's office and unless someone else is directly watching me, she'd whistle and stroll right past. We'll take of this."
A weight lifted off my shoulders and a smile graced my features. She wasn't going to get away free again. Someone was going to show her that she wasn't untouchable. She wouldn't try to kill me now. One way or another, I might just be free. "Thank you."
"I'm supposed to ask for a favor in return, but we should've been aware of this earlier. I've heard enough rumors about you before, but I brushed them off. This is partly on us for not stepping up to protect the right folks when we should've. Empire'll probably want something later on, if it's big I'll deal with it. If it's small like making a drop off though, that's going to be on you. You mostly get a freebie here Hebert; it won't happen again."
She wasn't going to get away free. She wasn't going to get away free. She wasn't going to get away free. I swallowed the bile rising in my throat as I nodded. "I understand."
There was something I needed to do. Something I was supposed to say, to ask. What was it? I was...oh, right. Not going too far. I opened my mouth to start to talk again when Sophia lifted her head from her talk with Emma at their table and met my eyes. She leered at me and rapped the table with her fist while sliding closer to Emma.
No. Fuck it. The Empire could do whatever they wanted. That psychopath was not going to get to try again with me without something happening to her. She did not get to walk away. She did not get to make me curl up in fear of whatever horror she was going to bring down on me next time. I could deal with my own disgust later. Right now, I needed to stay strong. I needed to survive.
"Go. Get out of here, Hebert. I need to make some calls."
Nodding, I slipped my phone back into my pocket and pushed away from the wall. As I walked past the doors to the cafeteria, my eyes met Sophia's and I couldn't help the victorious smile that crossed my lips even as she frowned in confusion.
Steal my best friend then try to actively kill me for giggles? Let's see how you liked having the entire Empire come down on your ass.
I was not going to be a victim anymore. I was done.
Maybe if I kept thinking like that, I'd actually believe it instead of wanting to throw up.
My costume left quite a lot to be desired, but I was still hoarding my allowance for enough to buy something worthwhile. A white trench coat coupled with pale yellow gloves and an opera mask were going to have to be enough for now. I had managed to find a pair of white jeans roughly in my size too. The yellow pair I had been hoping for was just…far too small. Maybe if I had been a year or two younger, before I had hit my growth spurt. But definitely not now.
I grimaced as I passed a particularly reflective bit of scrap in the Boat Graveyard; I looked like Purity would if she had gone for knockoff costume pieces. Ugh. That wasn't what I had been aiming for. I should've tried this out back home. But the only full-length mirror was in the bathroom and I couldn't justify bringing my costume into the bathroom. Kayden already was suspicious enough of my evening 'runs'.
Dad was clueless like usual, but she probably suspected something. I'd tried to time my practice sessions for when she was gone on her own patrols, but they weren't regular enough so I kept messing it up.
Ah well, if she hadn't told us about her alter ego yet, then I certainly wasn't going to be discussing my own with her. Not until she came right out and asked.
Nobody was going to confuse me for her anyway. Not once my little minions got moving. Just because my minions were made of light, didn't mean that people would assume I was Purity. Right?
I shook my head and set off. Enough practice. It was time to do some good. After what I had just done, I needed to help someone. I needed to be out here and making up for this morning. The scales probably couldn't be balanced, but I needed to try. And I would not be going into ABB territory. I didn't want there being any chance of someone deciding that I was aligned with the Empire. It was bad enough that I had given into my fear and revenge and spoken with Eric. I needed to make up for that. If I could find some E88 goons that would be perfect. Or at least the Merchants. The drugs they peddled were destroying the city as much as the other two gangs.
It would be safer with the Merchants too. They couldn't call in backup like Hookwolf if things went sour. What the heck was Skidmark supposed to do? Throw shit at me? My minions would protect me from that easy enough. I had nothing to stop the heavy hitters with the Empire. I could probably take on Victor and Krieg without too many issues. But the giantesses and most of the others would likely straight up murder me if I annoyed them.
Well maybe not the Valkyrie twins. Amazingly enough, they seemed to have a pretty good track record with holding back. Massive property damage, but few actual injuries or deaths where they were concerned.
I'd love to pit myself against Rune, but I doubted my minions could get to her. I hadn't figured out how to make my guys fly yet…Project for another time.
"Aww, looky here, boys! We got a newbie wandering around." I suppressed my groan at the voice coming from the alley on my right. I had gotten so consumed with my own thoughts, I had forgotten to actually pay attention during my patrol. They were right, I was a newbie.
"So cape girl, you looking to score anything? We could help you out there." The speaker was disgusting. The smell wafting off of his clothes was making my eyes water and he was missing more teeth than he had in his mouth. And he was leering at me. So much fun. I should've gone to Empire territory after all…
"What part of my costume implies that I'd want to buy drugs off of you?" I asked. "I am legitimately curious, because I obviously need to change it."
The leader of their group of four barked out a laugh. "Girlie, nobody bothers with this area. Not with Squealer hanging around the warehouse. You either must be stupid or you're looking for a hit. Not the first time we've sold to capes."
Scowling I held up my hand. "I'm not here for your drugs. Well I am here for your drugs, but I'm here to arrest you and confiscate your drugs for the police."
All four of them laughed this time. "Oh you poor kid. You are so out of your depth. Tell you what girlie, walk away and we'll forget this ever happened."
"Fuck it, I'm done letting assholes walk over me," I growled. I swiped my hand down and four vaguely humanoid minions burst into existence in front of me. They were about three feet tall, slightly portly, with a vague impression of curly hair on their head, and a pair of stubby wings sprouting from their backs. I'd tried to get cherubim but I couldn't really make their faces well. Still, the mini-wings had really done the trick with giving them an overall cute impression - as long as I squinted a bit and was feeling very generous. Each minion was made solely of bright white light which made them hurt to look at directly, for anyone who wasn't me at least. Despite being pure light, they were each very solid and had no issues with surging forward to grab for the men. One managed to avoid the grasp of my minions for a few seconds, yet I didn't even have to dive into the thing's mind and control it directly before it was able to catch the gang member.
All told, it took me about seven seconds to subdue them all. Smirking, I walked up to the leader. He was laid out on the ground with his arms wrenched behind his back by my construct. I tapped his head with my glove. "So, how do I measure up now? Don't underestimate a cape."
He just started to laugh, leaving me to push back to my feet and glance nervously around. "You seriously think we wouldn't take precautions you little cocksucker? Have fun dealing with the Boss Lady!"
"What?" I flipped my phone into my hand already starting to call the BBPD. The line rang once before I heard the motor from the next building. It sounded like a damn jet engine ramping up. My eyes widened and I stepped back off of the sidewalk. I could take Mush and Skidmark. Squealer though…would my minions be able to do anything to her? Her vehicles were fucking tanks!
Someone asked for my information over the phone, and Squealer's vehicle tore through the flimsy metal covering the warehouse.
"Help," I squeaked into my phone. Thrusting it back into my pocket, I summoned more minions, nearly coating the street as I leaped backwards. The truck monster roared and spit as it twisted on its six ridiculously oversized tires turning to follow me. One of my minions jumped up to block the flamethrower and a second surged forward to try and attack the turret itself. That one was not successful and the minion that had blocked the fire exploded into sparkles as I dived out of the way. Another minion took its place covering me as more surged onto Squealer's tank. I scrambled to my feet, more and more sparkles surrounding me as I started to run. The tank followed, crunching minions underfoot.
How was she even able to see through all of the light being thrown in her face as my minions died?! I made it three blocks before my breathing became a problem. The air was too hot thanks to the damn flames and I was gasping. I needed more cardio. Now I really wished some of my 'jogs' had been actual jogs.
There was another dull roar, that I just barely managed to dive out of the way of against a building's wall as a bike surged past me. I looked back and saw Armsmaster's motorcycle cut along the side of Squealer's tank, his halberd extended and sweeping two of the four tires on that side.
Wait, four tires on one side? The thing only had six total before! Fucking tinkers and their bullshit transforming mecha monsters!
The flame turret finally fell quiescent as the tank popped out yet more wheels, the ones that Armsmaster had slashed falling off. The roar from the tank increased even further, and I had to clap my hands over my ears as it surged ahead, gaining speed at a truly ludicrous rate. It was gone from my sight almost before I had realized that Squealer had fled.
Groaning at my aching head and the pain in my chest, I let most of the remaining minions vanish into sparkles, though I did grab one to squeeze to my chest for comfort as I turned to look for my savior. Maybe I hadn't been ready to go out. Ugh. God, I was never going to get over this. Goodbye confidence. Hello inferiority issues. Again. Fucking hell, my first patrol and I had to call for help!
Armsmaster was off his bike, his halberd aimed at me, and his legs set wide. "You're trying to be better. Don't turn this into a fight."
Wait. What? "Um, hi?" Could he hear me? I could barely hear me. The noise of the damn tank was still ringing in my ears. Was I talking loud enough? Was I shouting? Fucking tinkers.
"You are on shaky ground as it is! Stop building your attack and we can both leave to pursue Squealer!"
"What? What attack?" I turned my head both ways, but I didn't see anyone else. "I'm not - "
"You had your chance." Armsmaster twisted his halberd and the head shot forward towards me on tiny rockets. I gasped and tried to stumble backwards but the head smashed through my minion, leaving sparkles surrounding me. The halberd bounced back from the impact, yet the rocket kept pushing it forward and the thing slammed into my chest, throwing me back into the wall of the nearby building. I had thought my chest was hurting before, now I could barely breathe through the pain. The halberd retracted and Armsmaster started walking towards me again, his halberd lowered and pointing straight at me.
My eyes widened and I summoned more minions between him and me. I arrayed them all into a line. One could stop almost anything I'd tried so far but if I had to stop a damn rocket halberd, I'd need a shit ton of minions between it and me. 20 of them probably wouldn't be enough but it might help give me time to summon more. "Wait!" I shouted. Or tried to. My chest was hurting too much to scream and I wound up devolving into a coughing fit before I had gotten much of anything out.
Armsmaster took aim again, his halberd centered on my minion line. "I don't know how you've been able to stop your blasts, but I'm not going to give you the chance to attack me. Not after tonight's events!" He roared and the rocket surged forward again. I yelped and tried to dive to the side. My minion line died again and the halberd head embedded itself into the brick just above me. Thank god for blinding minion deaths. That would've caved in my chest!
I tried to shout again and wound up just coughing again. Armsmaster's halberd retracted and he sighted in on me. I didn't even have time to summon more minions before he fired.
And the halberd head vanished in a blaze of glory as a beam of pure light slammed into it from above. I goggled, only vaguely realizing that that blast might well have saved my life. Turning my eyes up, I groaned as I saw Purity hovering in the air, one hand pointed at the ground where the halberd had exploded and the other directed at Armsmaster.
"You stupid fucking idiot! I'M PURITY! She's a KID!" she screamed. Armsmaster looked between me and Purity as she shouted. He sucked in a breath, his mouth nearly disappearing as his lips thinned.
Tilting his head up at Purity he lowered the remains of his halberd to his side. "This doesn't make…sense. She had light based abilities and a beam of light was slowly forming…"
"SO WHAT?! Don't they teach you to check your targets?! You nearly killed her!"
He scowled. "She should not have been roaming the streets. There was a brutal attack on one of the Wards earlier. The entire Protectorate has been dispatched. This is not the night to be going on a patrol if you are unaffiliated."
I finally managed to get enough air into my lungs to shout as I pulled myself back to my feet. "Fuck you! How am I supposed to know one of the Wards was hurt? I was trying to call in that I caught some Merchants before Squealer nearly set me on fire, and then you shot me!"
"I warned you to stop building up your attack," he snapped.
"I wasn't attacking! I summon hardlight constructs! I was holding it because my chest hurt and it feels good to hold the things! Look." I gestured to my side and brought out one of my minions. It waved a pudgy hand in the air towards Armsmaster before I dismissed it in a flash of sparkles.
Purity dropped to the ground, walking over to me and laying her hand on my chest. "Let me deal with this," she murmured. I scowled, but nodded. "How bad is it?"
"Hurts like hell, but I can breath again."
"Do you need Panacea?"
"No, I've - " I cut off and shut my eyes. No. I was not a victim anymore. "I've been hurt worse."
Purity's hand clenched into a fist for a moment before she turned back to Armsmaster. "She's alright no thanks to you. Don't you have a villain to catch?"
He stared at Purity for several seconds before snapping his wrist to the side. The remains of his halberd closed into a small baton and he started walking towards us. Stopping just within arms reach of us, he sighed. "I am sorry. We are all on edge tonight. My reactions should only serve to prove that you should not be out on the streets alone. It is - dangerous."
"The Wards pitch? Now? After you nearly kill her? Suddenly I see why you people always send Miss Militia to talk with me."
Armsmaster scowled. "As I just stated: the streets are dangerous. She wouldn't even be working with me. I have very little to do with the Wards." He looked over Purity's shoulder to fix his gaze on me. "At least consider it. Call the PRT, or the Protectorate if you decide you want to hear more. The people you talk to will do a far better job of this than I have." A business card - an actual business card - shot from his gauntlet into his fingers.
Purity snatched it away, still scowling. "I rather doubt she'll be interested any more."
"All the same." He stepped back. "I recommend you go home. It's…safer."
I didn't dignify that with a response. I was going to have to burn the panties with his face on now.
Armsmaster just turned on his heel and stalked back to his bike. Once the sounds of the motorcycle had vanished, Purity turned to me.
"You and I need to have a long talk."
Groaning, my head dropped to my chest and I cuddled a new minion. "Fuck."