"How did I let you convince me to come here?" I ask.
Lisa turns that knowing smile on me for a moment before turning away, adjusting her sunglasses, and sipping the overly priced caffeine drink she had bought to blend in.
"Think of this as reconnaissance."
I look at the PRT spokesperson talking to the crowd, the Wards assembled behind them.
"I think you just wanted to have overpriced coffee," I muttered as I sipped on my own bitter drink and tired not to grimace at the taste.
"And can't a girl just have her overpriced coffee with her best friend while also spying on the cops?" Lisa asked before pointing "see Vista there?"
I did. I had bugs on her. I had bugs on everyone in my range, even Lisa.
I nodded and she continued "She hates these, she doesn't want to be there. She's actually hoping someone starts something."
I looked at the smallest ward with a more evaluating gaze. Now that Lisa had pointed it out I could see it. She was regularly looking around, barely sitting still and the smile on her face looked extremely forced.
"It looks awful and I'm sitting here having to watch it," I muttered.
Lisa tutted before turning that smirk on me "at least admit your enjoying your first day of summer break."
I idly stir the ice cubes in my coffee "I suppose… but..." I sighed. It was stupid. I was a villain, I had fought Lung, infiltrated a villain group, ended up as the boss of the villain group, fought the Protectorate, PRT and Wards. And yet three girls had me terrified.
Lisa looked at me and tilted her head "I could always help you get your GED, I mean… we all have a lot of free time, nowadays anyway."
I considered the idea. Not having to go back to Winslow would be the dream, never having to interact with anyone there ever again. But my Dad might not approve… and what would my Mom think?
"I'll think that over," I finally say.
Lisa nodded and then looked away with a smirk "could always pay them a visit, reckon Emma is scared of dogs?"
I snort "Normal ones, no. Massive mutated ones? Probably." I pointed a finger at her with narrowed eyes "don't even think about it."
Lisa held her hands up with a smug grin "I'm a Thinker, it's in the name Tay" she sipped her drink "helps that Rachel would do it if you asked," she sang.
"No, I'm better than them, I don't need to resort to that."
Lisa snorted and shot me a faux questioning look "how the hell did you become the leader of a villain group again?"
"I distinctly remember that you basically made me the leader," I smirked back "you weren't complaining then, were you?"
"Maybe you can control more than bugs," Lisa wriggled her fingers.
"Aw Lisa, don't sell yourself short like that, I think your smarter than a bug."
A brief flash of emotion passed the girl's face, indignation and anger that passed as quick as it came as she shook her head "gee, thanks," she replied in a monotone.
Me a few months ago would have winced at my fuck up there. Present me had had to deal with all the Undersiders shit for four months now. I knew how to manage them.
"What have you got from this whole thing then?" I ask idly, trying to disguise my true meaning – even knowing it's pointless as Lisa shoots me an amused look and brushes a lock of her blonde hair out of her face. I still hate Lisa's natural beauty. In fact, every female cape in the bay was better looking than me, the only one worse was Squealer, and that was because she was a drug addict.
"Well, our friends at the PRT are intent on enforcing what the 'PR' means. Nothing too special about this event, usual ask the Wards questions that they have been grilled on how to answer for weeks. Shadow Stalker is currently boiling alive in her black costume."
I found my sympathy for Shadow Stalker non-existent when I remembered the many times she'd tried to kill Brian.
"Actually… Browbeat is as well. Y'know for a literal mountain of muscles he is really good at blending in," Lisa commented. I saw her exaggeratedly lower her sunglasses down her nose and run her eyes over the Ward. I rolled my eyes and shook my head, going to take a sip of my drink.
"Lots of rich people here."
I barely managed to stop spilling my drink as I turned to glare at a smug looking Aisha. Lisa didn't survive the same fate, some of her coffee spilling onto her jeans. I handed her some tissue paper as Lisa glared at Aisha as well.
"You don't just do that," Lisa hissed.
"I didn't mean to."
I didn't need Lisa's power to understand the smug look on the girls face to tell me that she definitely meant to do that.
She pointed "doesn't it feel weird that you held a knife to her throat."
I whipped my head around and saw who she was talking about. Amy and Victoria Dallon of New Wave were looking at the crowd as well, Victoria in curiosity and Amy in boredom.
"Shit," I muttered, trying to make myself as small as possible.
Lisa waved her hand and dumped several now stained tissues on the table "Relax, they won't recognise us." Lisa sighed through her nose, stirring what was left in her coffee cup, the ice cubes clunking in the plastic container. Her head snapped up as she turned to Aisha "wait, what do you mean there's a lot of- oh of course."
Aisha had a shit eating grin, and a shit ton of dollar bills.
"Please say you didn't steal those," I ask, not looking at her but able to feel her fingers counting through the money in her hands.
"I didn't steal these."
A silence hung over the table for several long seconds.
"You just said that because I asked you to."
Lisa groaned and rubbed the bridge of her nose "why?" she asked in a defeated tone. We were used to this with Aisha at this point.
"Because I'm booooooooored," Aisha complained, flopping onto the table and huffing.
"You asked to come along," I point out, thankful that my memories of Aisha supplied me with that information.
"What! Taylor! You're supposed to be supporting me in boredom! You were just complaining!"
"I was more complaining on not doing something productive." I drawl.
"Of course, that's what your complaining about," Aisha grumbled before whining "come on, its summer! We should be doing summer things like stealing and beating people!"
"Just say that louder why don't you," hissed Lisa, looking around quickly. With no sign of trouble, she sighed and looked at Aisha "okay, so what do you suggest we do?"
"Buy summer clothes, go to a beach, get ice cream, look at cute boys, watch movies, get laid."
"Some excellent ideas, however, two problems," I hold up my finger "we live in Brockton Bay."
"Fuck," Aisha cursed.
"Two, you're fourteen, you are definitely not getting laid."
"What are you? My mom?" the girl muttered with a huff.
"No, but we have Lisa who is physic and then we have your brother who would kill the first boy to touch you." I spoke, finishing my coffee while Lisa smirked.
"Wow, you are truly evil, you deserve your leadership position," Aisha groused.
The table lulled into a comfortable silence as they watched the Wards continue to perform like monkeys for the crowd.
"Are we going to beat people up soon?" Aisha asked in a small hopeful voice.
I tilt my head, turn to glance at Lisa. She hums "things have been tight since… then… and we could use more money."
I nod my head before turning to fully face Aisha "okay then any suggestions?"
I looked down at the warehouse, feeling as my bugs explored its insides unnoticed by its occupants. I felt the large crates of various narcotic substances, some of my bugs currently having the times of their lives.
"I'm coming up the fire escape."
The Undersiders tensed before our memories reminded us that yes, Imp did exist. A moment later and the girl climbed onto the roof. Her dark armour helped her blend in, had a horned mask with a white painted on sharp toothed grin that her dark curly hair spilled out the back of but hid the obvious purple streak, the spider silk bodysuit underneath the armour adding extra protection and concealment with its black dye. She did a twirl and I could just hear the smugness in her voice "and unharmed, unseen she returns. The stealthiest bitch in the city."
"Are you sure?" Brian asked, concern echoing through his voice as darkness bled off him. His skull helmet tilted to the side. Underneath his protective motorcycle leathers, he too wore a spider silk bodysuit. All the Undersiders did.
Imp's head lulled back and she let out a long groan "yes I'm fiiiine."
"I'm counting twenty-three combatants, fourteen with guns, six unarmed and seven with various melee weapons," I said, hoping to cut off the siblings from bickering "an additional eight are asleep or very high."
"Same, though I didn't keep track of the weapons," Imp said.
"We going?" Bitch grunted. She wore a large fur lined coat, her dog mask affixed to her face as she looked to me. Around her legs her three dogs Judas, Angelica and Brutus were all sitting patiently waiting, already beginning to grow with muscle and bone armour.
"Before we do," Tattletale spoke, standing from the prone position she had been in next to me "the plan, one more time." She'd forgone the leather cat suit and instead wore a similar looking black spider silk body suit. A belt around her waist, black leather leggings leading to combat boots and a dark purple jacket. Instead of a domino mask she now wore a masquerade one, still with black makeup around her blue eyes.
She had changed her costume the most after Coil's death.
"Do we have to? We've already been over it once," Regent groused, idly swinging his sceptre. He hadn't changed anything about his costume apart form the addition of spider silk "we go in, break some bones and leave with money."
Tattletale shot me a look before replying "Regent, I've been over it twice, shut up. Imp will go and turn off the lights. When they cut, Bitch will make an opening in the wall with the dogs and Grue will cover the place in darkness as we enter. We take the guards out. Grue and Bitch will move them outside and zip tie them. Skitter keeps a lookout and I will open the safe and grab the cash. Grue, Bitch, feel free to take whatever they have on them. When cash is taken Imp can set fire to the drugs and we bounce with no one aware we were here," Tattletale spoke.
"That's just what I said but with too many words," Regent pointed out.
"Yeah Tats," joined in Imp "too many words, Regent only knows like, ten."
Regent put a hand to his heart "Imp, you wound me, I know at least thirteen."
I still found it concerning how well they got along. I stood and turned to look at the group properly with my actual human eyes.
"We do this quick. This storehouse is one of the bigger ones the Merchants have, we'll be destroying a large amount of their drugs that won't go on the street," I said, then I remembered that Alec was in the group and that we were 'villains' "also a lot of money."
"Woo!" Imp cheered.
Her eagerness was appreciated, her noise level was not.
"Get into position," I ordered, and everyone moved. We descend into the alley and wait as Rachel amped up her dogs. I couldn't remember why we waited but I knew we had too, watching the warehouse as we climbed onto the dog's backs.
Then the lights to the warehouse cut and Imp spoke over the radio "get your asses in here"
"Go." I ordered and like that Bitch gave a cry, the fogs lurching into motion and bounding across the street.
I braced, holding onto Bitch tight as Brutus charged through the garage door, no sooner had it happened then Grue doused the occupants of the warehouse into his familiar darkness. I quickly climbed down from Brutus's back and used my bugs to navigate my way from the cloud. I sensed Tattletale in the cloud, still on Angelica's back with Regent behind her.
I landed a moth onto her hand and had it flap its left wing five times. Tattletale turned the dog and bound, emerging from the cloud with a familiar grin.
"Knew that system would come in handy," she said smugly as she and Regent.
"Let's go to the safe, Regent, make sure we're not followed."
"Sure thing boss, totally not suspicious that the closest girls on our team are going to a secluded room together," he snarked back, even as he turned to face the cloud.
"You wish Regent, try not to get too distracted tonight," Tattletale shot back before looking at me "c'mon babe, let's go crack this 'safe'."
I rolled my eyes as Tattletale sauntered on ahead but quickly caught up, taking point with my baton out, tracking everyone's movements. Grue was currently bashing a Merchants face in with the eagerness of a starving man confronted with a particularly juicy hot dog, I'm was attacking two other Merchants with a similar eagerness, using her powers to become invisible and strike them 'from the shadows' while being in front of them.
Bitch was keeping her dogs controlled, having one grab a Merchant in its jaws throw the man into a wall, knocking him out. Regent wasn't doing much, just standing looking at the cloud. Not that he could do much through the cloud, but still.
"Let's have a lookise at what we have then," Tattletale spoke, cracking her fingers as I opened the door to the office with the safe.
There were two Merchants present, in a rather compromising position.
Tattletale cackled behind me and I stepped into the room, the two Merchants frozen in place and staring wide eyed.
"Well, well, well, isn't this rather… awkward for you?" Tattletale said, sauntering in with a large cheshire grin.
"Who the fuck are you?" The man asked, scowling.
"We're the Undersiders," Tattletale raised her gun and I made the swarming cloud of insects behind me buzz and hiss louder "and this is a robbery."
"Oh fuck-" The guy went for the nearby gun only to pull his hand away like it had been burnt as insects smothered the gun.
"Quite," Tattletale gestured with the gun "now, if you and you… lady friend would like to go into the corner there."
The lady Merchant did so, gathering her clothes as she did so to cover herself better. The male Merchant looked between Lisa's gun and his own insect covered on before muttering and following the lady, gathering his own clothes along the way.
"Good, good, now, what are we dealing with here?" Tattletale asked, looking toward the safe "ah, the old TXKU-twenty by six safe," Tattletale looked the box over before her grin widened "and with some modifications, likely made by a certain tinker rhyming with tequila."
"Can you open it?" I asked, in the same moment making my swarm move to surround the two Merchants, the woman having gotten cocky and attempting to move to a pocket with a phone inside. She gasped, her hand quickly pulling away and in the same movement the phone dropping to the floor.
"I can," Tattletale grinned at the Merchant couple "with some help."
"Kill yourself you inbred cunt bitch." thee man snarled.
Tattletale didn't respond, instead humming as she narrowed her eyes "he's cheating on you, y'know?" she said, her eyes flicking to the girl "you may have been engaged in… activities, but he wasn't thinking of you while you were doing them."
"You're lying," the woman said, the man nodding hastily.
"Of course, I'm the mean cape who's here to steal your money… but I have principles. You've known for a while now haven't you? He comes back with different smelling perfume and he doesn't take you anywhere does he?"
"Your friends all know as well, don't they, they're all in on it."
"Shut the fuck up!"
"I can tell you who it is, all I want is the code."
It was always incredible to watch Tattletale work, incredible and scary. Knowing that at any moment she could turn to you and dismantle you in a matter of seconds, if she tried hard enough she could spin you to her will. I'd seen her use it subtly on shopping clerks and the like, getting discounts on jeans and jackets. I'd seen her use it on other capes as well, making them turn on each other. It made me glad we were friends, because I feared what she could do if she turned that power on me.
The female Merchant bit her lip, glancing at her partner.
"Eight two six seven."
"Jasmine! You bitch!" the male Merchant shouted.
"Thank you," Tattletale smiled, turning and working the safe.
"Who is it, you'd said you'd tell me!"
Tattletale paused and then turned, that smirk in place "I said I could tell you, not that I would."
"You whore!" Jasmine launched forward but I intercepted her, the two Merchants having apparently forgotten about me as I smashed my baton into her chin.
"Serves her right," the male Merchant sneered.
"Shut up," I spoke, hearing the insects echo me.
The Merchant promptly shut up.
"Oh yes, this is good." Tattletale said, gathering the stacks of dollar bills and depositing them into the duffel bag.
I watched the Merchant, knowing I was unnerving him with the way he kept glancing at me repeatedly. When Tattletale was down I grabbed the half dressed woman and began to drag her, Tattletale leading the man by gunpoint.
"I wasn't even cheating on her." The man muttered as he glanced at Jasmine.
"Oh, I know, but she didn't, I just used her insecurities against her," Tattletale said with a grin "so keep moving little boy, or I can do the same to you."
The man ducked his head.
That was the scariest part, Lisa could probably make you believe anything if she tried hard enough. Every insecurity on display like a book that she could take and edit into an essay.
"Damn girls, what were you two up too?" Regent asked, I was able to here the mocking grin in his voice as we emerged into the main floor of the warehouse.
"Oh, just some lovers who had a little quarrel," Tattletale answered "truly a tragic tale."
"Skitter, Tattletale. You got the money?" Grue asked, emerging from the hole in the wall.
"We do," I spoke "everyone dealt with?"
"All twenty three accounted for," he nodded.
"Make it twenty five," Tattletale said as she gestured the Merchant forward.
"Oh, was this a 'only two or three Wards' situation-"
"Shut up Regent."
I looked over everything before nodding "We're done here, burn it," I spoke.
"Fuck yeah!" Imp cheered, appearing suddenly as she rushed off outside.
I followed out the whole as did Tattletale and Regent to see the Merchants, beaten or unconscious and lined up on the opposite sidewalk. Bitch's dogs were sat around them, keeping them in line, Bitch herself staring them down with crossed arms.
Imp was rifling through another bag, emerging with several glass bottles.
"I feel like I should be concerned that you know how to make Molotov cocktails," Grue spoke.
"I get bored easily," Imp shot back as she lit one of the bottles and walked toward the warehouse, throwing the bottle into the hole.
"We best skedaddle," Tattletale said "fire department will be called within minutes, and because it's the docks the PRT will be called as well for possible Lung involvement. Don't want to be nearby."
I nod "Let's get out of here."
"Now to more local news, last night a warehouse in the docks, believed to be associated with the Archer's Bridge Merchants was burned down. The Merchants found outside bound and ready to be arrested. Eyewitness reports claim that the Undersiders, a group of parahuman thieves are responsible. The PRT has released a statement saying that they are investigating possible perpetrators. Remains of drugs with a street value estimated of one million dollars were found inside, raising questions as to how much a threat the Merchants are. In other news-"
"Typical, these days it seems like the gangs keep each other in check more then the Protectorate and PRT do," her father muttered.
"The Undersiders aren't a gang though."
He waved his hand absently "semantics, they break the law."
I chose not to reply to that, simply because I was true, we did break the law. But we didn't hurt the everyman, that was something I made sure of, we went after the gangs.
"Have a good day sweetie," my dad spoke, kissing my hair.
"You too dad," I watched him leave and then retrieved my phone form my pocket. While Dad may have warmed up to them, he still wasn't too comfortable with them.
I called Lisa, waiting barely a few seconds before the girl picked up "we were mentioned on the news."
"Mm, I just saw," Lisa replied, barley sounding awake "PRT know it's us, but they're beginning to think of labelling us as vigilantes, considering we've only been hitting the gangs and not any legal businesses."
"That's better than being villains."
"That's very true. Now, do you want to come over to my apartment and look over some GED stuff followed by binge watching something, I'm feeling Poirot. Aisha will be there as well."
"Depends, will you spoil the ending of every episode five minutes in?" I ask, already getting up to go get ready.
"No promises." I could practically hear the grin in her voice.
The call dropped and I smiled.
Life was good right now.