Taylor awoke slowly, her heartrate increasing from resting rate to normal levels, blood pumping faster to support conscious action even as her breathing increased to provide the oxygen she needed...
This awareness of her bodies autonomous functions was not normal.
Why was she so aware of her body..?
Her eyes opened as her upper body jerked upright with a gasp.
The Bitch Trio had locked her in her locker with what had felt like toxic waste.
She had panicked, certainly. Had ended up passing out. And now...
She looked around for the first time.
There wasn't much light, it was clearly nighttime, but as far as she could tell she was in some kind of hospital room, a glass of water soon drawing her attention and being emptied in short order while she considered her situation.
So... she had been rescued by... someone... and been given medical treatment.
A wave of panic ran through her.
Her dad wouldn't be able to afford the hospital bills, not with the state the union was in, and knowing the 'school' (more like torture facility and gang recruitment centre, a part of her brain supplied) they wouldn't put so much as a nickel towards her treatment.
A catalogue of contaminants passed through her mind, her power listing exactly what she'd been exposed to, and she banished the panic, and a sense of wrongness with it. Without the treatment she was willing to bet she wouldn't have woken up in time to direct her power to save her.
A quick bit of experimentation revealed that not only did she have near total awareness of what her body was doing (fortunately with her able to block certain details), but she had greater control over it as well, even to the level needed to simply slip through solid objects.
Like the hospital monitoring equipment, as she discovered when an alarm sounded, soon bringing a nurse running in to check on her.
She took one look at the way the monitor device had clearly fallen through Taylor, and just sighed.
"I guess that's why they insisted I sign an NDA," she muttered to herself as she approached Taylors bed. "I'm sorry, but even if you are a new Trigger, you need to keep this on. Just in case there's a complication Panacea missed."
"Do... do you know who else knows," Taylor found herself asking.
Even if she intended on being a hero she didn't want people to know she had powers.
"Probably whoever called the ambulance," the nurse answered, checking the monitor was back in place. "And Panacea, definitely. You were in such poor condition you jumped to the top of her treatment list! The PRT too, probably. At first I thought they were here because of parahuman involvement in your case, but if you Triggered..."
Taylor nodded along, wincing slightly with each person and twice for the PRT. Chances were she would join the Wards at some point, but she would have preferred to make a name for herself first, prove that she was capable as a hero on her own terms.
"Oh, and your father," the nurse continued. "From how the PRT was talking with him earlier they must have read him into things."
Taylor felt her heart fall, blanking out on everything else the nurse was saying.
For more than a year her relationship with her father had been... virtually nonexistent, ever since her mum died.
He had withdrawn to the point that she hadn't even told him about the bullying, wanting to protect him as much as possible and deal with things herself.
If he knew she had powers, that was going to change. If she was lucky it could help to bring back her real dad, rather than the shell he'd become, but after the past couple of years she'd become estranged from the concept of good fortune.
She barely even noticed when the nurse left, stewing in her thoughts until sleep finally reclaimed her.
Danny Hebert wasn't finding it easy to sleep himself.
He'd received a call from the hospital while at work, trying to find jobs for members of the dockworkers union, informing him that his daughter, the only family he had left, had been the victim of a horrific assault.
When he reached the hospital it was to discover a PRT presence, who quietly informed him that his daughter had gone through the "Trigger Event" needed to develop powers, a fact that fortunately seemed to be known only to the PRT and Emma Barnes, his daughters friend practically since birth, who had seen Taylor fall through her lockers door and called in both ambulance and PRT.
Before he even had a chance to process what had happened they were trying to pressure him into signing Taylor up for the Wards.
It was only experience earned working for the union and keeping the gangs out of the docks that left him able to keep his cool long enough to get past them and see where his daughter was being treated by Panacea, the worlds foremost parahuman healer despite being the same age as his own daughter.
It was only then that he truly realized what he had let happen to his daughter, his grief from his wifes death all but shutting him down, and he'd made a vow to himself to do whatever it took to protect her.
The problem was trying to figure out what the best way to do that was...
By the time Taylor had woken up again, her dad was already there, in a chair next to her bed.
Somehow she knew he was there even before she opened her eyes.
"How are you," were the first words out of his mouth.
"I'm... not sure," she replied, slowly.
Not entirely truthfully, as her power was telling her that her body was at one hundred percent.
Of course, her mind and emotions were another matter.
"I... heard what happened," he admitted. "What your locker was filled with. Taylor... I'm sorry, if I had known-"
"Wouldn't have helped," she told him. "The school... they just covered it up. Everything."
"Not anymore," he told her. "The PRTs involved now, investigating properly. They even covered the medical bill," he tried a joking tone, but it fell flat. To Taylor there was only one reason for them to cover her bills...
"The PRT..." She wasn't about to admit to her powers.
"You were seen falling through your locker," he told her. "It wasn't hard to work out you Triggered, as they called it."
"What now," she had to ask.
"You're getting a transfer," he told her. "There's no way I'm letting you go back there, even if they have people there to protect you."
"And in exchange I have to join the Wards," Taylor finished for him.
"They want you in the Wards, yes," he responded, "but none of this is conditional on you joining."
For the first time in ages a spark of hope ignited within her.
"I had always dreamed of joining the Wards," Taylor admitted quietly.
And if their help with the Winslow mess wasn't conditional with doing so, what was wrong with letting that dream come true?
Mere days after being released from hospital she got her answer.
Her dream had become a nightmare.
Two of the girls that had made her time at Winslow an unending torment were already there.
Sophia Hess, aka Shadow Stalker, who had locked her in the locker and caused her Trigger Event most directly, standing there smugly and expecting her thanks!
And Emma Barnes, once her best friend, acting as though Taylor should be happy to see her there, unmasking as soon as she had entered the Wards common area.
There had been no way Taylor was staying there, with those two present.
Using her power instinctively to 'harmonise' with the door that had shut behind her she fled, passing through the door as though it was air.
It hadn't taken long for her escort, Battery, to find her.
She had been focused on getting away before she collapsed after all.
Rather than shout at her as she'd expected, the heroine sat down next to her, asking what was wrong, and it all spilled out, how two of the Wards had been tormenting her for over a year and caused her to Trigger.
Once she had started to calm down Battery helped her up, and led her away.
Taylor followed passively, not even wondering where they were going.
Director Emily Piggott wasn't happy.
A prospective Ward had been brought in, only to flee as soon as they met the current Wards.
Quite apart from reminding her uncomfortably of Ellisburg, where the capes intended to serve as backup for the PRT had run away instead, that sort of behaviour screamed 'infiltrator' to her military instincts, which left her intending to take this 'Taylor Hebert', cape name as yet to be assigned, firmly to task.
"Enter," she called as soon as Battery knocked.
The speed with which she had tracked the girl down did seem to speak against her being some kind of spy, but that didn't mean much.
Battery opened the door, letting the would-be Ward in, but hesitated before leaving.
"Just tell her what you told me," she told the girl, a final piece of advice before leaving her alone with the director and Armsmaster, the leader of the local Protectorate and therefore technically the Wards even if Piggott served that role in practise.
"Why did you use your powers to exit the Ward common area," Armsmaster began without preamble.
"I recognised two of them," she responded quietly, setting alarm bells ringing in Piggotts head. For merely recognising someone to elicit such a response...
"They caused my Trigger."
Piggott had had the concept of a Trigger Event explained to her at great length multiple times, but the explanation that had stuck with her best had been the statement that Ellisburg proved that she was unable to Trigger, as if that wasn't enough nothing was.
For the actions of two Wards to be equivalent to that...
"Who," she asked, voice barely above a growl.
"Sophia Hess and," she hesitated for a moment, "Emma Barnes."
Clearly some history there.
"Shadow Stalker and Shadowmancer," Piggott responded, using their cape names to ensure the girl was not mistaken.
Hess she could believe, the former vigilante had a history of violence that some villains would envy, but Barnes was another matter.
The similarities in powers had led to the conclusion that Barnes, whose cape identity had appeared after Shadow Stalker was already active, had Triggered while Hess was nearby, a conclusion born out when Mr Barnes had acted as spokesperson on Hess' behalf when she was inducted into the Wards, despite injuries to his arm keeping him out of formal lawyer work.
With Hebert Triggering with powers with a similar use to Hess the realisation that Hess was nearby for the Trigger Event should have been obvious, but was clearly overlooked given that they attended the same school.
"What previous connection do you have to Sophia Hess and Emma Barnes," Armsmaster demanded, his usual lack of tact and social ability clearly present.
Despite his approach the story came out slowly, and Piggott found her anger growing.
That two capes felt they were able to get away with doing this (not to mention being proven right, at least until now) to an unpowered civilian made her hackles raise.
The options for how she could deal with this ran through her head.
Both Hess and Barnes needed to understand that they couldn't get away with something like this. The obvious move would be to transfer them to another branch, preferably that of Alexandria, for their punishment, but it was discouraged to transfer more than one Ward at a time, particularly to the same branch.
And it would leave her with even less cape support to deal with the gangs, not to mention her distrust of any cape disciplining them properly.
On the other hand there was no way she was going to keep Hebert on a team with them.
It would be like Ringke, aka Nilbog Goblin King of Ellisburg, being transferred to Brockton Bay as well as Calvert, the other survivor from Ellisburg.
A thought crossed her mind.
They were already set to transfer Hebert to Arcadia (if she could demonstrate an ability to do the work needed), it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to transfer her to another branch instead, one where the good guys weren't so badly outnumbered and put in danger every time they costumed up.
She could be a Ward, as she'd volunteered to, safely and without dealing with her bullies, while Piggott would get to shape them into proper members of the Protectorate, and finally start to make a real difference in the city.
As soon as Hebert finished her explanation she was dismissed, and Piggott explained her idea to Armsmaster.
He wasn't entirely on board with the idea at first, but with the pros clearly outweighing the cons he soon agreed.
With him onboard, she sent him to explain the situation to the girls father as she determined which branch to approach about the transfer.
Boston, she finally decided. Close enough for her to stay in contact with her father, who wasn't likely to move with all the work he put into the dockworkers, and not outside the possibility for her to stay for non-parahuman related reasons.
She never even considered who would get the job of explaining things to the girl...
When Danny heard from Armsmaster who was responsible for what had happened to his daughter, he was speechless.
To hear that the hero had a prototype lie detector in his helmet that backed up Taylors words deepened the sense of disbelief.
It had been a struggle to stop himself from going over to Alan Barnes house and giving him a piece of his mind.
When he started ranting, unable to restrain himself, Armsmaster had let slip that Emma had Triggered herself, and that was likely why she was so different.
Traumatic events affected people in different ways, and just because someone Triggered didn't mean they didn't face the other effects of that trauma.
When Danny finally started to calm down Armsmaster explained the directors idea; to transfer Taylor to another, safer, PRT branch so she could still be a Ward but without dealing with those responsible for her Trigger, while they in turn would face suitable punishment.
He even had the contracts Danny would need to sign, granting the PRT the responsibility to keep Taylor safe in their care while leaving him with the rights as her guardian.
It was clear that this was the best they could do for Taylor.
He signed without hesitation, assuming they had already convinced Taylor.
Armsmaster never even considered that she would have a separate opinion to her dad.
Director Armstrong, head of Bostons PRT, answered director Piggotts call preparing to deny her the troops and capes she was going to ask for, as she always did.
To some degree he understood where she was coming from in asking for reinforcements, but given her refusal to transfer, or promise to transfer when the bay calmed down, the capes under her command it was little wonder to him that none of the other directors suggested to their Wards or Protectorate that they should transfer to Brockton Bay.
"What can I do for you, director Piggott?"
"I have a prospective Ward who would do better in Boston."
Armstrong was halfway to his customary refusal when he realised what she was saying.
"You aren't calling me to request a transfer, but have a Ward you want to transfer out?"
He saw her frown at the obvious disbelief in his voice. "They have... previous interactions with other members of the Wards that preclude the possibility of them working together. As there are multiple instigating Wards I feel it is better to keep them here to discipline them and move the volunteer Ward they victimised to a safer place."
"It must be serious if you're going so far," he said in a joking tone.
"They caused her Trigger Event."
That... was serious.
"I am willing to accept her, as long as her parents agree."
From what Armstrong had heard about Trigger Events he couldn't imagine any hero, whether Ward, Protectorate or even Triumvirate, who would be willing to work with someone who caused that Trigger.
"I'll see if any of my capes want to transfer," he added, willing to throw Piggott a bone given her willingness to facilitate the transfer of a cape under her command.
It never even crossed his mind that the new Ward hadn't asked for the transfer, or the idea that Piggott might not have talked with them beforehand.
"I sent Armsmaster to talk with her father, and he contacted me to say he was signing the forms already." She paused. "I am surprised you're so willing to part with one of your capes now when you have been so resistant to the idea before."
"It's a matter of give and take Emily," he told her. "You've been all take so far."
She soon cut the connection, leaving him to start organising for the arrival of a new Ward.
The first Taylor knew about the transfer was days later, when the transport vehicle was all but ready to leave, just waiting for her and her luggage.
Luckily she didn't exactly have much to pack.
She had spent the days since her disastrous meeting with the Wards 'off-duty', as they had put it, alternating between schoolwork, going through the Ward manuals and questioning if she even wanted to be part of the Wards any more.
With two of her bullies being members of the Wards how could she trust the others? The PRT?
Not that she hadn't made discoveries about her powers, how they gave her a vague sense of what was around her, enough to potentially let her avoid attacks without looking in that direction.
Upon hearing that the transport to take her to a different PRT branch she remembered the anger director Piggott had demonstrated when she told her about what exactly her Wards had done to her and the way the Winslow administration had responded to her attempts to report the bullying, of how they'd shredded her application to Arcadia in front of her when she'd given up on them actually doing anything and just wanted to get free.
The way Piggotts response seemed to match theirs killed the last trust she had in the PRT and authority figures in general.
When her dad tried to hug her goodbye she avoided his arms and walked to the transport ignoring him.
His betrayal hurt almost as much as Emmas.
It was only after his daughter stepped through his embrace, heading to the transport with minimal luggage, that Danny realised nobody had talked to her about the transfer.
He had failed her, in his efforts to avoid doing just that.
"We have a new Ward joining us."
That was how Bastion announced Taylor to the team.
The Wards all turned to look towards her.
One, a girl with half her hair styled differently to the other frowned. "Are you sure? I would have expected to get at last a glimpse of a new teammate."
"I told you we'd be getting a replacement for Spotlight transferring out," a hunchbacked Ward wearing a deerstalker responded, only to frown at her in turn. "But… what are your powers?"
"What, you don't even have a hunch," the only Ward that looked to be in full costume, wearing a fox themed mask, joked.
"Knock it off, is this any way to welcome a new colleague?" Weld was the easiest to recognise, the Case 53's metal skin leaving him as distinctive as Case 53's tended to be. "Forgive them, you know how precogs are. Weld," he introduced himself, unnecessarily, stepping forward with a hand outstretched. "You are..?"
Taylor couldn't help flinching back from his offer of a handshake, too many memories of the Trio springing to mind. "I-"
"She hasn't been through power testing yet," Bastion interrupted. "Given the… circumstances of her Trigger we're using the provisional name 'Phase'."
"Rather cold, saying that like Phase isn't even here," the fully costumed Ward commented. "I'm Reynard, as you probably guessed."
"Not really," Taylor responded, causing his exaggerated grin to vanish as he acted wounded by her words.
"Hunch," the hunchback introduced himself, "and that's Roulette," the two hair-style girl.
The other Wards introduced themselves, but Taylor was already starting to blank out, too unused to social interactions to take a role in the conversation.
Something Roulette seemingly realised first.
"Guys, she's not listening," the girl announced, startling Taylor back awake. "I mean, would you? She's just got here, travelled who knows how far. So uh, where is Phase staying?"
"Right, Phase will be staying on base, at least for now," Bastion informed the group, including Taylor.
It made sense, she supposed, having someone show up out of nowhere to stay with a PRT employee when they're planning on announcing a new Ward soon would be somewhat suspicious.
"The rooms already assigned, right? I'll show her where they are," Roulette responded, already reaching out to grab her arm and pull her with her, only to grab air as Taylor automatically used her powers to avoid the contact.
"Come on, this way," Roulette told her, acting as though everything was just as she'd expected.
Right, precog, she could've known exactly what was about to happen.
Taylor followed her anyway, better her than Bastion or whoever he picked out. His attitude of acting like she wasn't there and listening was too much the same as what had seen her sent here in the first place, everyone ignoring that she had her own opinions on the situation.
Roulette waited until they were alone in the corridor before speaking.
"Sorry about trying to grab your arm, I should've realised you were uncomfortable with physical contact," she told her.
Taking Taylors silence as an invitation to continue she explained.
"I'm a precog, as Weld mentioned, but rather than seeing one future like people think precogs do I see a bunch of wildly different futures that have only similarities to what actually happens. Peoples capabilities and attitudes are usually spot on."
"Where are you going with this?"
"I saw you losing interest and used my power. Nearly every future showed you… responding poorly to everyone overwhelming you, so I did the only thing I could think of to get you clear. I should have realised trying to grab your arm would be a problem, between that and how you responded to Weld."
Taylor winced. "I'll have to apologise to him, won't I?"
"Let me," Roulette told her. "Not that he probably needs it. He isn't completely unobservant. Ah, here we are," she announced, before a secure door labelled 'Phase'.
"The securities set up so nobody else can get in without your permission, given the whole 'not going to wear a mask to bed' thing most Capes have, and the PRT are always good about transferring your belongings in before you meet the other Wards," she assured Taylor. "And now, if you'll excuse me, I'll head back to see if there are any other announcements."
Roulette stepped away with a wave, clearly marking Taylors room as her space, for which Taylor was grateful.
She still hadn't decided what she was going to do about her place in the Wards…
"What'd I miss," Roulette asked as she re-entered the common area.
"Mostly the wall complaining that he had more to tell Phase," Reynard answered, motioning towards Bastion.
"Which he could have mentioned on the way here, rather than in the middle of her having a meltdown," Roulette pointed out, rolling her eyes.
"So that's why I thought we'd need the infirmary," Hunch mused aloud.
"So the new Ward almost lashed out at us. Any idea why," Reynard asked the Protectorate Cape.
Bastion shifted his footing slightly. "Phase is a recent Trigger," he began, ignoring Reynards inevitable "we know that", "and at first volunteered for her local Wards."
"A so new she doesn't have a formal name Ward transferred already? This already doesn't sound good," Hunch interjected.
"She named a pair of active Wards as being behind her Trigger."
There was a moment of horrified silence.
"An ongoing campaign rather than one-off," Weld suggested. "That's why she didn't want to make contact."
"She wanted to apologise for that by the way."
He waved it away. "No need. After seeing her reaction to you trying to lead her away it was clear she doesn't have anything against Case 53's. You aren't planning on forcing her into active service before she's ready?"
"As I said before, Phase volunteered to join the Wards-"
"Before she learned her bullies were Wards though," Roulette interrupted. "And then the transfer… did she say she wanted to stay in the Wards? And what's happening with the bullies?"
"Director Armstrong told me she asked for the transfer and that director Piggott is taking responsibility for her Wards discipline personally," Bastion stated.
It was only the day after being moved in that Taylor got around to checking the contents of the wardrobe in her room.
Alongside her (meager) assortment of clothes there was a number of masks (as expected for a Ward room) and a school uniform, an unpleasant reminder that she would soon be expected to attend a new school.
The first full day was set aside for 'settling in' on the PRT schedule, which she took as an opportunity to look through the rules applying to Wards for a way to avoid having to actually do anything as s Ward, at least until (more if) they regained her lost trust.
As it turned out, once she had a costume and name they only needed her guardians consent to send her on any Wards activity, and with her dad signing her over…
Remembering how Bastion described 'Phase' as a provisional name she flicked through the book for what the PRT required before they could assign a Ward a name or costume.
It was there she found her answer.
All heroes employed through the PRT were required to go through power testing before a costume could be assigned to them.
For the Protectorate this meant they could in theory avoid power testing if they were willing to provide their own costume, but the PRT had control over the public image of the Wards and so they were only allowed to use costumes provided by the PRT.
And the PRT wasn't allowed to put too much pressure on Wards to go through power testing, on the basis of how dangerous power testing could, in theory, be, if there was malfunctioning equipment or one of the officers involved had a grudge.
So, by simply avoiding power testing, she could stay off Wards duty.
And they hadn't even asked her to go in for testing yet.
School was… better than she'd expected.
Unlike Winslow there were no obvious signs of gangs, no teachers sitting back and paying no attention to what the students were doing.
It was clear the principal at least knew she was there through the Wards, however, which was a major downside.
On the other hand, she made it clear she didn't expect to need any of the Wards 'in costume', so she had that going for her at least.
The other problem was her locker.
It wasn't big enough for her to fit in (and even if it was she couldn't be kept in, not with her powers), but nevertheless that fear was there.
Rather than force herself to use the locker, she decided there and then to find some way to carry her things at all times so she didn't have to.
It wasn't something she'd done in Winslow, but then any backpack she took would barely be in a usable state by the end of the day, and she hardly had a lot of money to spare.
That morning, as she'd been shown the secure route from the PRT building to the school they'd constructed to avoid outing the Wards, she'd been reminded that the PRT provided her a stipend for clothing, food and other necessities.
At first she wasn't intending to make use of it, given her whole 'not intending to be a real Ward' thing, but then she remembered that it was a couple of Wards that had traumatised her to the point of Triggering and she concluded it was the least the PRT owed her.
As such after school finished, with her avoiding everyone that looked like they'd try to befriend her as Winslow had taught her, she made a detour to do some shopping.
She had never been too interested in fashion, that was much more Emmas thing, so what clothes she bought were chosen for their comfort.
As well as clothes she bought a couple of large backpacks, just in case.
It was when she was leaving the shop disaster struck.
A creature, that looked something like a gorilla with cricket legs, landed in the road, slamming the Teeth-uniformed man it was holding into the ground.
An identical man charged screaming at the thing from out of an alleyway, identifying him, thanks to the PRT villain list in the Ward handbook, as Spree, while she was left to conclude that the creature was one of Blastos creations.
She didn't stick around to watch the villain fight, instead following the lead of the civilians around her and getting to safety.
It was a reminder that the Wards and Protectorate weren't enough.
She got through the Wards common area without any hassle, her shopping making it clear she needed to get to her room.
There, once she'd sorted her new things out to her satisfaction, she settled on the bed to think.
Even with the Wards and Protectorate there were still villains active and people in danger because of them. Could she really sit back and do nothing, just to spite the PRT who had let Emma and Hess do whatever they wanted to her?
Her mind rebelled against the idea of giving in and working with the PRT.
But what other option was there? The only options for a teenaget to be a hero was joining the Wards or going independent, aside from the rare team like New Wave.
And the rules she had been signed up for, covering the Wards, prohibited them from going out using their Ward identity except for sanctioned events, and they weren't allowed a second Cape identity.
She wasn't allowed a second Cape identity, but she didn't have a Wards identity yet, and wouldn't until she went through power testing.
She could still be a hero.
It took another few days before she was ready to go out, between gathering a costume without making it obvious to the PRT accountants and finding an excuse for going out at night.
In the end the PRT actually helped her with the excuse.
She had taken up jogging while at Winslow, mostly as an excuse to avoid paying for the bus or having her dad drive her.
Her dad had found out what she was doing, although she claimed it was just a fitness thing, and got her pepper spray in case she needed to defend herself.
As it turned out he had remembered about it and contacted the Boston PRT to be sure she was safe on her jogs.
This had led to Bastion approaching her and telling her that, obviously, jogging to school in the mornings wasn't possible, and heading out from the PRT building to jog in the afternoon would be noticed.
On the other hand, come evening and she'd be far less likely to be spotted and linked to the PRT. And as an added benefit, exercise in the evening would help her sleep well (which, he explained, was the reason the treadmills in the PRT buildings gym tended to be in use at that time of day).
And so the PRT had given her the perfect excuse for going out as an independent hero.
All she needed was to go out and find some simple crimes to deal with, to prove she could be a hero.
What could go wrong?
She should have seen this coming.
The fight she'd seen days before, before Spree and one of Blastos creations, had apparently pissed off the current Butcher, who was now rampaging through the city in what she had to assume was the direction of Blastos lab.
How did she know this?
Butcher XIV was rampaging through the part of the city she was patrolling.
It was only luck that she saw the Butcher, Quarrel if the PRT reports could be trusted, before the Butcher saw her.
As it was, only instinctively using her powers, in the same way that she had during her Trigger Event, let her survive one of the villains titular quarrels.
It had to be the first time Quarrel had failed to hit what she was aiming for since she'd Triggered, which of course meant she was now fixated on killing Taylor.
With a garbled scream of rage the Butcher teleported straight for Taylor, who had thankfully not yet resumed phase with the rest of the world, the resultant explosion passing straight through Taylor.
If it wasn't for her power Taylor would have been killed multiple times over from Quarrels melee. Even with her powers active she could feel the power of the Butchers blows passing through her body, even as she felt her mind start to strain to keep her powers going.
Taylor desperately swung at Quarrel, unable to think clearly enough to use her pepper spray.
In response to her punch, which was hardly going to do anything given just how many Brute powers the Butcher possessed by this point, Quarrel threw another punch of her own, seeing Taylor go to phase to survive it.
As a consequence, instead of hitting and simply bouncing off, her fist passed through Quarrels chest.
It was then that one of the Teeth appeared.
The cry of "Boss!" while she was already struggling to keep her powers going was enough to disrupt Taylors control.
She went solid.
While her hand was inside Quarrels chest.
Or, to put it another way, her hand was inside Butchers heart.
Butcher, the villain whose mind jumped to that of whoever killed them.
Without thinking about it she tugged her hand back.
Surprisingly it came free without too much effort.
Taking the Butchers heart with it.
In front of one or more members of their gang.
"You just tore her heart out? Damn, this new Butchers my kinda gal," a voice said in her mind.
This… wasn't how she planned her first night out as a hero.
Taylor had no idea how she managed to get clear of the scene and back to the PRT building, nor why she hadn't heard the voices of any of her predecessors as Butcher (and wasn't that something she never thought she'd be thinking).
Of course the increased pressure in her head from whatever it was hardly helped her think straight.
In any case, she was back, safe, in her room and ready to sleep.
Any moment now.
The Butcher was a Noctis Cape wasn't she.
This was going to be a long night.
Taylor was hardly surprised that the Wards were called in to a meeting the next morning.
"There are a few important things I need to go over with you all," Bastion began. "First, the conflict between Blasto and the Teeth has gone hot again, so watch out for that. Second, Quarrel, Butcher XIV, has been killed."
"Who'd be stupid enough to kill Butcher," the Ward next to Taylor asked.
"A new Cape, we don't know much about them. All we do know is they tore Quarrels heart out of her chest."
"They just tore her heart out? What sort of monster are they," the Ward directly behind Taylor demanded.
"We don't know. All we do know is that they were already capable of and willing to remove someones heart by hand even before becoming Butcher. So I must make it clear to all of you, especially you Phase, stay away from this new Butcher," he finished, looking directly at Butcher XV.
"Hah! That's nearly worth our last fight," the voice of a Butcher said inside her head before pausing. "Please don't mute me again."
AN: For everyone wondering why it's so long since my last update, and why I'm starting a new story instead of updating one of my others, it's simple. I went through a period of being too busy to write, followed by attending a christening and then had no internet. This rather got in the way of working on my other stories. Instead you get this idea I came up with from reading a malicious compliance fic and a Butcher fic too close together. The comedy potential of the concept required the presence of Butcher, which is why you might not feel the story is too funny yet. Hopefully that will change.
You may notice that there a number of Boston Wards with no details about them except that they exist. This is because it is noted that Boston has more Wards than Brockton Bay but only four are mentioned on the wiki.
As for the powers shown... it seemed to me that the explanation of how Trigger events determined powers didn't entirely fit the powers Taylor exhibits in canon. Hence a hopefully logical seeming approach to 'Queen Administrator' granting phase powers.
And a final note, how everyone is trying to do the right thing for Taylor, but keep making things worse... you know what they say about the road to hell. And all it would have taken for her to be a happy member of the Wards was for them to talk to her.
Expect the next chapter to be somewhat distant. As I said, it was written due to the lack of internet, which is clearly not currently an issue.