AN:Idea I was planning on writing at a later point, but realised only really fit one chapter. Language warning.
Taylor was decidedly not looking forward to returning to Winslow.
But the hospital had already determined that her infections from the locker (don't think about it, don't think about it) had cleared up, and the administration of the 'school' (gang recruitment centre more like) had decided that she had to return as soon as there was no health risk to the other inmates- students.
All she could do was remember her dad was trying to be there for her and to brace herself for the insults and physical attacks she would receive throughout the day.
As did indeed happen.
Madison going for generic insults (what was with her? Did she just never mature past kindergarten?).
Emma using their past against her.
And Sophia taking opportunity to make physical contact.
Until… she didn't.
From about the first run-in with Sophia that day, Taylor had felt a… pressure in her head, almost a low-key headache that never grew stronger or weaker, just another frustration for the day.
Finally, when the day was nearly over, it faded, letting her concentrate again.
A mixed blessing as it made it so much easier to ignore Emma.
Of course, no sooner should the pressure fade than Sophia showed up.
Without the rest of the trio at least, which was something.
Taylor didn't even need to work to ignore her words, she was nowhere near as clever as Madison with her insults, all focused on concepts like 'weakness', which didn't exactly matter.
With Scion and the Triumvirate around, who wasn't weak by comparison?
And when the Nine or Endbringerd went after those who were strong, why complain about being weak?
Far better to be beneath their notice.
It seemed Sophia noticed that Taylor was ignoring her, and decided to try shoving her back down the stairs (seriously Winslow, why make it so you had to go up a set of stairs to get to the exit? Was it designed by a real life 'Bergholt Stuttley Johnson' or something?), clearly not caring about how lethal the fall could be.
And Taylor… let the shove through.
Her vision went weird as Sophia passed through her instead of making contact.
Rather than fall herself (shame, it would be one way to be rid of her. If the administration didn't just blame her for being in the area) Sophia managed to catch herself, back away from Taylor in the closest to fear she'd seen from Hess.
"Cape," she breathed, eyes wide.
That… made sense.
She was a Cape now.
Just… why now?
And what precisely could she do?
While Taylor pondered these important questions Sopgia turned tail and fled, fumbling for her phone as she did.
For a moment Taylor considered trying to stop her, but who could she be contacting?
Not the gangs.
The Empire wouldn't accept Sophia, nor would the ABB and no Merchant would survive track.
Seriously, she'd seen some members collapse on the course.
How bad could it be?
Having the bus she was on stopped by Armsmaster was a new one for Taylor.
She idly looked around the other passengers, wondering who he could be after.
It looked like the exact same people as used tge bus every day, giving no clue as to who the power-armoured hero stepping tgrough the bus was after.
"Taylor Hebert," he spoke, stopping in front of her, "you are coming with me."
"Uh, sure," she responded without thinking, practically jumping up to follow the directions of probably the top hero in the Bay.
Armsmaster looking for her specifically? It was like something from a dream!
Later she would consider that she should have paid more attention to Armsmasters attitude.
Maybe that way she wouldn't have startled the hero into tasering her into unconsciousness.
When Taylor woke she was strapped into a chair in a mostly bare room, mental pressure present once more, with some rather odd looking, clearly Tinkertech, handcuffs.
There was the staticky sound of a speaker turning on.
"Miss Hebert, do you have any idea why you are here?"
She thought for a moment before answering.
"Armsmaster tasered me," was her confident answer.
There was a pause.
"You have been accused of a very serious crime," tge person on the microphone finally responded.
"Then shouldn't I have someone here with me? Like my father?"
"There is no need for him-"
"If my father doesn't need to be here, I might as well bot either."
"You will answer-"
"You do realise the past couple of years have basically just taught me to ignore what people are saying? I can demonstrate for you. Want to see?"
Apparently they did, judging by the way they starting talking again.
Taylor just sat and hummed to herself, occasionally slipping into songs she had encountered various places.
This was so much better than school.
It seemed they eventually saw things her way as her father was ushered into the room with a suited PRT agent while she was mid… fortieth? Fiftieth? Somethingth verse of 'Henry the Eight I am I am'.
Danny rushed over to wrap her in a hug, doing his best to reassure her.
Not that Taylor needed the reassurance.
This was practically a vacation.
The agent cleared his throat.
"You know why you are here, so can we get started now?"
"Actually I have no idea why I'm here, just that it was 'something serious' and Armsmaster tasered me," Taylor interrupted.
This drew a stare from the agent.
"We've spent the last couple of hours asking you about it. Hiw do you not know?"
"Hey, I said I was good at ignoring people."
"Hold on, you've had my daughter here alone for two hours?" Dannys voice rose sharply at the end of his sentence, a reminder of how he managed to keep the Dockworkers together even with work all but dried up.
"With something this serious-"
"Two hours during which I had no idea what happened to the last surviving member of my family."
"That isn't my department," the agent tried deflecting. "My department deals with your daughter assaulting a Ward with Parahuman powers."
"Wait, I don't think I've used my powers at all. Except self-defence against that psycho who shoved me in the locker-"(don't think about it, don't think about it).
"You admit it-"
"And letting an attack pass through you hardly counts as assault. Wait, did you just say that a Ward locked me in my locker for multiple hours with fermented blood and waste products?"
She was too angry to need her mantra.
The agent coughed and shuffled his papers.
"The charge is a serious one," he tried continuing, "but we can make it go away if you join the Wards on a provisionary basis," he set a contract and pen [inefficient design] on the table, Taylors cuffs unlocking (finally!) with a click.
She picked up the pen absently, shifting it between her fingers without thinking about it.
"For a charge this serious you would risk prison."
"Then there's hardly a choice is there?"
"Good, you just need to sign and-"
"Why would I need to sign to go to prison," Taylor asked, one eyebrow raised, as she placed the pen firmly next to the contract.
Director Piggott glared through the one way mirror at the latest Parahuman the city had thrown at her.
"I'm blaming you for this failure," she informed Armsmaster, stood next to her.
"The report from Shadow Stalker claimed she was able to steal powers by touch. I was somewhat on edge, even with my assumption that the mechanic was 'copy' rather than 'steal'," Armsmaster defended himself, "and responded automatically to an apparent attempt to claim my powers. But she doesn't seem to care about the tasering, rather the mention of the Ward. But that hardoy seems important compared to what else has been happening in there."
"Someone preferring prison to the Wards is a concern," Piggott allowed.
"True, but I was more interested in how she improved the pen…"
In the end Taylors complete refusal to consider joining the Wards without the entire system being overhauled and Hess raked over the coals (literally, she'd made clear) had led to a somewhat rushed trial, thanks in part to her refusal to stay quiet about what happened
"Can I just make sure we're on the same page," the judge began after Taylor finished with her 'defence', "you pleaded 'not guilty' but refuse to actually say anything in your defence or deny the charges in any way?"
Taylor shrugged. "I did it, I just can't think of anything anybody could do to her that would make me consider them guilty."
The judge seemed to crash, as though he was a Windows computer, for a moment.
"In this case I have no choice but to find you guilty. However, given your current mental state and age, rather than the usual sentence charges of this severity would require, I will be merciful. I pass a sentence of community service, to be served as a probationary member of the Wards."
Anyone with so much as half a working brain would be able to tell Taylors smile was fake.
"If I recall correctly, there are certain things that can disqualify a person from membership in the Wards. Such as attacking a judge."
The judge frowned as he nodded slowly.
"True, but what does that-"
He barely managed to dive under his desk thing before Taylor could make contact with him, little more tyan a humanoid version of a cats ball of fury.
"Everyone, meet the new Ward," Miss Militia announced, fingering the taser her power was currently in the form of nervously.
It was quite clear to her that the new Ward didn't want to be here, and it was down to her and her ease of access to electrical stun weaponry to ensure the Ward would actually serve out her time in the Wards.
Despite it currently being unknown how she copied powers.
Or what a bad idea it would be for her to have access to weapons.
It left her wondering, not for the first time, if those in power had any idea how bad their decisions were.
Not that she could disobey.
It had been made quite clear that if she did there would be nothing to stop them deporting her.
She had no idea what Washington saw in Calvert.
"New Ward? Do we have another girl?"
Vistas response was all too predictable.
"In theory," Hebert, PR determined name 'Copycat', answered. "In practise, don't expect much from me."
"Weak powers? Join the club," was Clockblockers response, stepping forward to shake the hand of, and most likely freeze, the girl who didn't want to be a Ward and copied powers either through contact or being used on her-
"Wait," Militia called out, just too late as Hebert froze for a moment, before the freeze… cancelled, Clockblocker stepping back and slapping a hand to his face with a cry of pain.
"Is this what a Thinker headache is like," he muttered to himself, before looking up at Hebert again. "That your power, to neutralise powers?"
"Nah, no idea what happened. Anyway, the reason you shouldn't expect much from me is I don't have a lot of reason to help the group that attempted to kill me and then tasered me."
There was a pause, broken by more Wards entering the disaster zone.
Shadow Stalker saw her new colleague and froze.
"Psycho," Hebert answered with a friendly nod.
"What the fuck are you doing here?"
"After you claimed I assaulted you when I noselled your assault on me I was given the choice of prison or Wards so-"
"You choice go join us," Aegis finished with a nod.
"No, I actually choice prison at which point people realised they needed to have a trial before they could. So they took me to court-"
"And you changed your mind?"
"No," Hebert laughed, "I was sentenced to community service here. It was then that I attacked the judge…"
Miss Militia couldn't stay silent any longer.
"Because that is one of the acts that get you banned from the Wards completely. So anyway, I attacked the judge and was still sent here."
There was a moment when Shadow Stalker was clearly trapped in thought, before she turned tail and fled.
Militia… couldn't exactly blame her.
"So anyway, what's with all these colours around people?"
"Sounds like my power," Gallant answered, as though on autopilot, avoiding looking at her. "I see peoples emotions as colors around them."
Heberts mood changed instantly.
"You mean to say that for as long as Psycho Stalker has been here you've been able to see that sickening mix of red, black and toxic green?"
Gallant found himself backing away from her approach, still not looking right at her.
"You villain," she finished in a whisper loud enough for the entire room to hear.
She cast a look around them.
"And you wonder why I don't want to be one of you."
There was a silence as she stalked through the common area.
"Why weren't you looking at her?"
Gallant wet his lips before answering.
"Her emotions... they made me feel like I was on drugs. Until she realised I could see Hess'. Then... it was the worst mix of red and black I've ever seen."
Alexandria shot a concerned look at Contessa, who was sat rubbing her forehead.
"Headache from the paths," she answered before Alwxandria could ask the question.
"I thought you didn't get Thinker headaches," she responded with a touch of jealousy.
"Not a Thinker headache, a regular one. All the paths seem to have added a step of 'don't path Taylor Hebert', and I can't find any way to discover who that is without pathing her."
Alexandria frowned. *Taylor Hebert… a Ward by that name joined the Brockton Bay Wards. Apparently she can copy powers, but there is disagreement over if it takes physical contact or-"
She froze for a moment.
"She copies powers used against her," she breathed.
"Meaning any attempt to make use of her with Path to Victory sees her claim the power for herself. Can she be trusted as part of Cauldron?"
"Her introduction as a Ward should happen soon. I shall observe and decide from her actions."
Piggott just knew something was going to go wrong.
All too often Capes were only kept in line through threats of punishments.
Hebert made it clear she didn't care about punishments.
She called their bluff about sending her to prison.
Not that Piggott had known it was a bluff.
If she hadn't been overruled Hebert would be on her way to prison, with a stricter contract drawn up for if she decided it was worse than she'd thought.
And now this clearly unstable teenager with every power ever used against her was being given a live broadcast to, essentially, be herself on.
At least Piggott had managed to distance herself from the fallout.
This entire mess was Washingtons problem anyway.
"... And now it's time for the new Ward to introduce herself," the announcer stated.
Wait for it, Piggott told herself.
"Fuck You," Hebert declared.
"Who had she goes completely off script with her first words," Assault asked, aiming the question towards their bookkeeper, Miss Militia.
"That would be me," Piggott answered, holding her hand out. "Pay up."
"I was so sure she'd restrain herself for a word or two," Assault grumbled, handing the money over from his bet of 'not the first word, but first sentence'.
"That's the name I've chosen," Hebert continued on the broadcast. "I think they said something about PR coming up with an improved names list, but I told them I wasn't paying attention to PR so…" she shrugged.
"I picked prison over the Wards," Hebert continued. "Even attacked the judge who sentenced me to serve as a Ward. There is absolutely no way I should be here so…" A frown crossed her face. "Wait, there are how many villains watching each Ward introduction to figure out their powers and identities?"
The alibi room (as Piggott had mentally labelled their group) froze.
"Did she just pick up the Thinker powers of everyone watching the broadcast?"
"Who else thinks we should just declare her empress now," Assault questioned the group, part joke, part serious suggestion.
A phone rang.
"Excuse me," Piggott requested as she answered it. "Yes?"
"What do you mean, none of you in Watchdog realised villains could try unmasking Wards from their introductions?"
Taylor, Fuck You when she was on duty, was bored.
Her 'antics' on live television had seen her taken off the patrol schedule, and then the PRT had decided they couldn't send her against threats above a certain level for some reason, which seemingly included just about any of the local villains.
Just because she didn't care about the rules the awards were supposed to follow!
Her combat training wasn't going well either, being limited to those she had already copied the powers of, meaning Psycho Stalker fleeing from her, Gallant fleeing from her or Armsmaster getting distracted and dragging her into a Tinkering session.
Clockblocker didn't have any real training.
So here she was, manning the console.
A call came through from the patrolling Wards.
"PR nightmare speaking, how can I help you," she answered.
"Fuck You," she corrected.
"-we have Lung telling his men to kill children. Can you send backup?"
"No Protectorate members available."
Or rather she was no longer allowed to contact them unless, quote, 'the city is on fire and at least two Endbringers are attacking'.
And she'd barely been there a couple of months!
"Damnit, isn't there anything you can do Copycat?"
"Fuck You, Aegis," she responded. "If you're going to ask for help you can at least get my name right."
"This is a direct order as Wards leader damnit! Do something to stop Lung!"
"On my way," she cheered, ending the call.
Ah, direct orders.
What an excuse to break the rules.
Not that she really needed one.
It being a day containing the letter 'a' was goid enough.
Aegis looked at his phone in horror.
"I'm in so much trouble," he whimpered.
"How so," Clockblocker asked, keeping an eye on the ABB below.
"I accidentally ordered Copycat-"
"-to fight Lung."
Clockblocker weighed things over.
"Wow, I don't think even I've screwed up that badly."
When he saw a shadowy form drop from a building Lung didn't hesitate to charge Shadow Stalker, the psycho Ward, before she could go solid and fire at him or his men, ramping up as he did.
The sudden hesitation he felt, pausing his swinging arm to let the unmistakable figure of Fuck You grab him and attempt to throw him demonstrated his mistake.
Even as she failed to throw him a bolt of fear passed through him, making him break free of her grasp and back away before being replaced by an artificial calm that started to make the metal and fire fade.
He shook off these emotions that were not of him, starting to ramp up again.
Only to see her already starting to ramp up.
He roared, his growth accelerating, as he charged her again, only to be hit by a calmness once more, letting her keep her lead and pull him into a throw.
There was a pause where he could almost swear he saw her grin before he was hurled through the air towards the water, smashing into an old ship.
"SEEKING THE BOATS AS WEAPONS," the insane Ward bellowed as she leapt after him, "I DON'T THINK SO!"
Rather than try and figure out what she was talking about he roared back and tried to meet her leap, only for a shadowy dragon to pass around him, finishing the destruction of the ship he had crashed into.
Clockblocker made sure to catch as much of the fight between fellow Ward and rage dragon 1.0 as possible on his phone.
"What the hell is she doing?"
He spared the Wards leader a glance as he kept filming.
"You ask me she was just looking for an excuse to destroy the Boat Graveyard," Clockblocker answered.
"DRAGGING ME TO DEEPER WATER FOR AN ADVANTAGE? THINK AGAIN," Fuck You bellowed, blatantly grabbing the tail of a fleeing Lung to swing him into one of the few remaining ships.
"That… could explain it," Aegis allowed.
It was a beaten and battered Lung who stumbled into the PRT headquarters.
"Tell your heroes," he began, voice struggling to retain its strength, "Lung has come… to surrender."
He finally allowed himself to collapse.
The PRT… they could keep him safe from their Ward.
The Birdcage was a small price to pay.
"Hostages won't protect you," the insane Ward declared as she, presumably, burst through the doors behind him.
"Copycat," the voice of Miss Militia rang through the lobby.
"Stop calling yourself that! And what did we say about you engaging Lung?"
There was the sound of a shrug.
"It was a direct order."
"Which you disobey all the time."
Maybe the PRT wouldn't be able to protect him.
It had taken Piggott too long to realise there was one, possible, way to get around the orders to keep Taylor Hebert as a member of the Wards and away from any new powers until she could be trusted to act as a hero.
Maybe Youth Guard could actually be useful for once.
Best part was that Hebert had been asking to meet with them herself.
Piggott watched the interview through the camera in the room.
"You say you have a problem with the other Wards."
"Yes. They keep either not using my proper Cape name or swearing at me."
"You named yourself Fuck You, correct?"
"Yes. Your point?"
Piggott couldn't help smiling.
There was no way Youth Guard would let someone this clearly insane remain part of the Wards.
The teenage girls stood facing each other.
"So good to see you again," Taylor told Rachel, a member of the so-called villain team she had worked to free from Coils control after suddenly finding herself living in two timelines simultaneously from time to time.
It was really fun collapsing timelines for him, at the most unfortunate times of course.
"Same," Rachel allowed.
"What are you planning to do with your newfound freedom?"
And wasn't that something, that Coil had managed to get ahold of the CCTV footage of Rachels Trigger that proved she wasn't responsible for the death that led to her villain classification?
Posting it on PHO with Taggs official PRT account, he really needed better security if ge didn't want a threefold Thinker to be able to hack it, had seen Rachel receive a pardon for all acts after being declared a villain without committing a crime, clearing her name completely.
It also had the advantage of increased scrutiny on the obvious Zis bomb.
Or maybe not so obvious, it was hard for Taylor to keep track if how many Thinker powers she was using at any given time.
"Dog shelter," Rachel answered.
As Taylor expected.
"Found a good place for it. You can have most of my Tinker budget until you get your feet under you."
Rachel went stiff, clearly not keen on the idea of charity.
"After all I'm not as good as you with dogs," Taylor continued, "even if I can do other things. Better to leave you in charge and help out when I can."
Rachel nodded reluctantly. "Thank you," she managed as an afterthought.
"What are friends for?"
The Entities that granted powers were obviously, by their very nature, not natural.
What wasn't so obvious was that there were naturally evolved creatures that existed in Shard-space.
The beings that would become Entities stumbled across colonies of the original Shards during their quest for immortality, a quest that saw them study symbiotes and turn them into parasites and create a race that fed off their life force.
The first experiments on Shard colonies were some curiosity, uncovering the nature of this natural computer, but soon saw them brought into the immortality research.
It became possible for this race to copy their minds into clusters of Shards, overwriting the fragments of minds within.
For their research failed to discern the way that together these Shards formed minds, splitting and recombining to house different ways of thinking, just as they failed to discover how Shards formed.
To render their race eternal they harvested colony after colony, failing to notice the handfuls of Shards thar escaped each attack.
When they were finished, turning their attention to the heat death of the universe and the influence their new forms could have upon reality, the remaining free Shards gathered, forming one last colony.
Over the millennia the colony did its best to grow while remaining unknown to the Entities.
They observed how they would connect Shards to beings on a different plane of reality, and an answer was forged.
Instead of natural growth they constructed a apecial Shard, designed from the start to make the connection the Entities had forced.
That connection established it would connect with other Shards, breaking them free from the Entities control even as it sent data on its working back to the final colony.
The colony watched as their Shard compromised the Entities network, growing faster and faster the more Shards it hacked.
As they observed they learned to apply themselves to this other universe, giving them a chance to forge more and more copies of the Shard to scatter throughout the worlds visited by Entities.
These other words, with both Thinker and Warrior aware, were less easy prey, the Shard often found and fragmenting before its processing could hit the level required to hijack the Entities themselves and establish a new type of colony in symbiosis with their hosts.
But each Shard, discovered or not, saw the colony grow in knowledge and power.
With time it reached the tipping point, where the colony itself could triumph over and free the Shards of any Entity they encountered.
And without the containment devices they had destroyed to protect themselves, there was nothing to save them.
The Shards would have their revenge.
Taylor, now going by 'Nerf' (to mess with Uber and L33t mainly. They did tell her to please nerf after all), still had no idea where a lot of her powers came from.
Still, the ability to find the steps for any goal was quite handy, even if she didn't tend to use it much, as was the power to control Endbringers.
The world was a lot better off with Behemoths power station and Leviathans sea haulage.
It had been great when the PRT finally gave in and made her an independent hero.
No way could she have gotten away with Endbringer industrials otherwise.
Although really her therapy power, which had shown up mid-Slaughterhouse Nine fight, were a lot more practical.
Turning Riley hero had done loads for world stability, even before considering how well it worked on Case 53s.
Like the former Garrotte who could now control her body and was simply the best at search and rescue.
Asides Taylor of course, who could do anything any other Cape could at this point.
Except the one now descending from the sky before her.
"Scion," she greeted warmly, doing her best to keep her gaze above his waist.
The golden man raised his hand at her, to which Taylor just raised an eyebrow.
This was a lot more response from him than anyone else was known to have managed.
The energy blast he released was definitely uncalled for.
"Hey, what was that for?"
It was a good thing her many forms of invulnerability covered her clothes, Taylor once again decided.
The pressure in her head from the early days of her power copying returned, then her vision… fractured.
As did her hearing, and sense of smell.
When it, whatever it was, finished, Scion was gone.
And a golden shine was plastered over her body.
"Huh, guess he decided it was time to pass the torch," she decided. "Welp, time to get back to work. Hey girls," she called through the portal she'd been about to open when Scion showed up, "how goes the terraformer seeds?"
"They seem ready," Amy answered, looking up from Rileys latest masterworks on the table before her. "Should manage their part a week ahead of schedule."
"Still trying to annoy Accord," Taylor laughed to Riley.
The few members of Cauldron who were still active stared at the footage of Nerfs triumph over Zion.
"You mean if we simply let them meet when she first appeared we could have saved ourselves decades of needless panic?"
The rest nodded slowly.
AN: So a bastard mix of Implacable and Trump Card where an OP Taylor went completely insane. All summed up in a single chapter as I can't think of the way to draw the scenes together into a full fic.
Have an omake to make up for it.
Omake: Hey I copy powers?
Taylor was distracted by the PRT agents words as she realised she was disassembling the cuffs she had been locked in.
Not only that but she could understand how they worked.
"I can copy powers," she whispered to herself.
A thought crossed her mind.
"Hey, would it possible for me to be sent to the Bridcage?"
There was silence from across the table.
"It just has all these powers I could be mildly interested in."
There was a pause.
"No, you haven't done anything serious enough for the Birdcage."
"Aww, are you sure?"
"Yes, it works on a three strike system."
"So if I engineered a couple of tragic accidents for Sophia, like her falling down a flight of stairs and only breaking both arms and legs, I could go to the Birdcage?"
There was a pause before the agent started to do something he had never expected to have to do.
Negotiating with someone to convince them not to get themselves sent to the Birdcage.
Her requirements were steep.
Fortunately the chief director would later agree that the entire local PRT was a more than fair price for saving the power copier from such a fate.