It had taken a while, especially after the incident with Lung (and her PHO conversation with Uber and L33t to organise an appearance on their channel, which the PRT seemed to have something against for some reason, even after all their talk about how important it was for a hero to interact with their fans), but Taylor was finally allowed out on patrol!
… even if they still insisted her name was 'Copycat' rather than 'Fuck You'.
Granted, she hadn't exactly been keeping to the 'no wandering the city in costume' rule, but it was so much more effective when the backlash came from their direct orders.
"And remember, we do not engage with hostiles without authorisation from whoevers manning the console," came the reminder from the worst aspect of this 'return' to duty.
The villain Ward.
After all, Psycho Stalker had to be considered the monster Ward, unlike the guy who refused to even look in her direction.
"Get console to authorise engagement, got it."
Glares lost a lot of their effectiveness when the person didn't look at you.
"For PR's sake, avoid that sort of wording."
She could only hope his expression was as good as she imagined.
She ran her gaze over the streets they were flying over (one of the best parts of running into Glory Girl in the base).
"Seriously, I have no idea how you keep getting away with-"
She was distracted from whatever fake heroic bullshit he was spouting by someone she just had to examine more closely.
Those abs, those biceps, all those muscles… they were perfect!
Or at least nearly.
But she could overlook one or two details.
Not paying any attention to the enabler of Psycho Stalker she dropped towards the ground.
It had been a pretty normal 'show the flag' patrol until the appearance of the new Ward.
The insane 'I'll just take on Lung while benched and demolish the Boat Graveyard' Ward Kaiser had specifically ordered every member of the Empire not to engage.
But all that normality went out the window the moment the Ward landed in front of Cricket.
She almost (almost) started her ultrasound to disorient the newcomer, but recognized the 'flee on sight if not before, and certainly don't expose to new powers' parahuman in time.
"You're so muscly," the Ward declared in a less than entirely reassuring tone. "Would you go out with me?"
Cricket stared at the clearly completely insane girl, she had to be to proposition a female Empire member, in shock.
"I mean, I've never been attracted to girls before," she continued, "but for those muscles I'll make an exception. It must feel so safe and comforted to be wrapped in arms like those…"
For a moment Cricket considered if that would provide an opportunity to remove this 'hero', before thinking about what people would say.
Damnit, why did none of the Empires Cape training seminars cover what to do when propositioned by a same gender Cape while in costume? Oh right, nobody would be that crazy.
Clearly this Ward was Nobody.
She was saved by Gallant landing in the alley with them.
"What the hell were you thinking, pulling a stunt like that?"
Cricket grabbed the opportunity his distraction provided to flee.
This was a problem above her paygrade.
Hopefully it would stay that way after the trauma bonus she was going to demand.
Kaiser, Max, considered what Cricket had just told him.
"Run that by me one more time."
"I was on my patrol as normal, not causing any trouble to attract the Protectorate, just making it clear that some Ward leaving Lung to demand the safety of the Birdcage doesn't intimidate us, when said Ward dropped from the sky."
"And she was definitely human, not dragon."
"No. I prepared to escape as ordered, rather than engage."
"There was nobody to see?"
"No, I was between streets."
"Rather than attack as expected she propositioned me!"
Max coughed quietly.
"Yes, she asked me on a date!"
"What reasons did she give?"
"My muscles. She even said that she wasn't usually into girls, but could ignore that for my muscles! That they would make her feel safe!"
"We can never let this get out."
"I quite agree. People hearing about a girl chasing after me-"
"I mean that she wasn't interested in girls before seeing you. Can you imagine the scandal if it came out- poor choice of words. No, I see you can't. Take some time off, I'll work something out."
This was not something he thought he'd have to deal with after taking control of his fathers empire, and pretending to support the ridiculous ideology.
Right, why did nazis hate gay people again?
No, why did nazis claim to hate gays?
It was to do with the claims of Catholicism wasn't it. And didn't that video some anonymous person had forwarded him claim something about that line..?
He activated the intercom.
"I need an expert on the exact wording of the bible. As soon as possible."
He sat back, pouring himself a large glass of his favourite bourbon, hoping that something would cause the PRT as big a headache as he was getting.
Piggott wanted to strangle Hebert.
"Are you seriously telling me that she asked a known member of the Empire 88 out on a date? While they were both in costume?"
"I wasn't close enough to confirm it really happened, but that is what she maintains."
"Carlson, are you sure Kaiser hasn't declared war on the PRT yet?"
"There have been no reports of any such action so far," the agent reported.
"Uh, ma'am, how are we going to deal with this?"
"I would be putting the brat in lockdown until the Empire has been kicked out of the city, but that isn't an option."
"Orders from above?"
"No, she checked out while still in costume. And since her session with the therapists we finally got access to when the replacement strike force commander arrived Miss Militia has refused all orders to contain her anyway!"
At least everything had been running better since Calverts 'tragic' accident, even if it was annoying sending heroes to therapy.
There was nothing wrong with Hannah wanting to follow orders, or Armsmaster Tinkering to relax!
"So, what are we doing instead?"
"Couldn't you realise she was about to do something so stupid?"
"When I look at her I feel like I'm on drugs, and I am not about to risk going against Armsmasters operating instructions."
"Why didn't you protest being paired with her before?"
"I did! As did she."
Ah, she might have assumed all the messages were from Hebert and ignored them.
"Why does she hate us so much?"
"She called me a villain for not noticing Stalker was a psychopath and blames you for not stopping her."
The director fixed Gallant with a glare.
"What sort of drug does she make you feel you've taken?"
Best to confirm if pairing them up further would be punishment or reward for Gallant.
"Why do you want to join us? You do realise we're trying to go hero."
Cricket was among the last members of the Empire Purity had expected to join her in abandoning her ex.
"He ordered me to date one of the Wards, to distract them from acting against him."
"Who is he? The Ward," she added for clarity.
"She," Cricket corrected.
"Sorry, I think I misheard you."
"No, a female Ward asked me out, and Kaiser ordered me to try dating her to distract her from acting against the Empire."
"Sorry, I think I must be hallucinating. Did you just say that Kaiser, leader of the biggest 'kill all gay people' gang in America, ordered you, a girl, unless there's something you haven't been telling us, to date another girl?"
"You trying to say I look like a guy?"
Purity looked at the excessively muscled Cape.
Cricket took a deep breath. "Yes, everything else you said is exactly right."
"Clearly my ex-husband has gone completely insane. Look, if you join us you can't just kill people, or target them for being different. We're trying to be heroes, we have to go after people who actually commit crimes."
"Are you going to order me to date a girl?"
"Best offer I got. Lead on."
"Right, what do you need me for?"
Taylor did her best to ignore the minor impacts bouncing off her.
Sure it was rude, but it was felt like a kid shooting spitballs at her, and as a hero she was above such things.
The Boston Wards stared at her.
"Um, Butcher? And the Teeth?"
"What about them?"
Taylor frowned. "You really should have called me to the attack. Where are they attacking?"
Taylor turned her attention to the roars of a gun and its operator behind her.
Yep, that did match a Brute 'way lower than her' using a homing minigun to bounce bullets off her.
"I thought the impacts were a bit strong for spitballs," she commented, before turning her back on the Wards to face Butcher.
"Stand down Disagreement, before I have to take you in!"
There was a pause.
"The fuck do you mean, Disagreement?"
Taylor frowned. "Sorry, did I get your name wrong? Lets see… Argument? Squabble?"
"Quarrel! After our- my bow!"
"You named your bow after a type of argument?"
The minigun shattered over her head.
"Hey, what was that for?"
Butchers response was an incoherent scream of rage as she (presumably) used her powers against Taylor, as best she could.
Taylor tapped her on the shoulder (disrupt bloodflow here, even a Brute will pass out from knock on effects), and turned to the Teeth as their leader collapsed.
"Same offer, stand down or I have to take you in, and none of us want the PRT to get that win."
A particularly bestial looking gamgmember leapt towards her and released a scream into her face.
"Well," she repeated the scream back, watching him return to human in shock, "to you too."
"Grab Butcher and run," a voice called out, and Taylor turned back to the Wards while the Teeth skedaddled.
"So, going back to what we where talking about before Butcher interrupted, why did you call me here? And where are the Protectorate anyway?"
The lead Ward looked past her, at the barely moving bodies the Teeth had been standing over.
"Oh, those are the Protectorate. Right, let me just fix them up and maybe they can tell me why you called me in."
Panaceas power had so much synergy with other powers, she could practically decide who lived and who died.
Even if that probably wasn't what the PRT had thought about when they called Panacea in to give her a medical checkup.
And not that she would do such a thing.
She wasn't a god after all.
Strangely, after the disappearance of Scion, the conflict between heroes and villains seemed to calm down significantly.
It was as though a voice had been constantly screaming in the ears of all parahumans going 'fight, fight, fight', and had gone silent.
As things had calmed down Piggott had finally accepted retirement, settling in a nice martian house for that extra sense of security from Nilbog.
But when the first reports of movement within the lost city of Ellisburg came in, she found she was unable to stay put, instead strapping on her new armour, made to fit after the miraculous leaps forward in technology once Tinkers stopped hogging all the funding had allowed genuine medicine to heal her organ damage.
If it was time to stand against Nilbog once more, she would be there.
Her old PRT clearance got her a fast flight, one she could pretend didn't rely on Tinkertech, and into command of a group of the troopers standing ready to deal with whatever forces tried escaping the city.
Somehow, despite the travel time, she still made it to the containment zone before anything could escape.
And then the unmistakable glowing form of Taylor fucking Hebert approached from within the city.
"Um, why are you here?"
"Movement was detected, we're not taking chances with Nilbog."
"Nilbog? Did I forget to mention that I dealt with him… years ago? I think it was years?"
The most powerful being in the solar system started muttering to herself, trying to work out how long ago she had dealt with the cause of all of Piggotts nightmares since she reached adulthood.
"You killed Nilbog years ago and never mentioned it?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, I wasn't about to leave his dead mans switch active when he was in such bad health was I? I've been using this as my summer home."
"Sorry, did you just say Nilbog had a dead mans switch?"
"Yeah, should he die it would release a wave of hostile creatures across the continent. He had spores to convert living things set to release."
"And you never thought to mention this?"
The Thinker 'yes' shrugged.
"I thought it was obvious."
"Fine, you killed Nilbog and didn't mention it, meaning we wasted how many resources and man-hours here?"
She shrugged again.
"What part of 'killed an S-class threat' screams don't tell anyone?"
"You mean I should have mentioned what happened to Sleeper, the machine army, the Three Blasphemies, the…"
Piggott could only stare in disbelief as her most hated former Ward listed all the known S-class threats and other containment zones as being under her 'dealt with' list.
She turned to her temporary second in command.
"Our orders were to shoot anything that tries leaving Ellisburg. She's trying to leave. Shoot her."
"But… that's Nerf! The living miracle!"
"Yes. Shoot her."
"The hero immune to every known weapon."
"Yes. Shoot her, it'll make me feel better."
How had Hebert dealt with everything without anyone noticing?
"... Cricket- wait, wrong conquest list."
Especially when she was still such an idiot?
AN: Apparently Hellsing Ultimate Abridged was made earlier here...