Twok. The last member of the Merchants crossed his eyes at the hard, raton wood that had hit his forehead. He staggered back two steps and tripped over a small force field from the only boy on New Wave's side; Shielder. With a cry, the thug landed on his ass.

Panacea spun her staff back to her her standard defense position. She really needed to get a better helmet, but the padded boxing helmet would work for now.

"You could just surrender, you know," Glory Girl said as she floating into the air in front of him.

"God damn it. Just not fucking fair. Why don't you go pick on someone with powers?" the snaggle-toothed vagrant demanded.

"Sorry, we are not going to let you rob people just because we happen to have powers," Weaver said as she walked over.

Laserdream landed on the ground even as she kept an eye out for reinforcements. "We have power to act responsibly, parahumans or not," she said in a well practiced voice.

"Laserdream," Shielder said in an aggravated tone. "We're doing this because we don't want Mom hovering over us."

"Er, sorry Shielder," his older sister said.

Weaver snorted and then giggled. "You want me to call it in, guys?"

Glory Girl gave her a thumbs up as they other two nodded.

She pulled out her cell phone and then called 911, giving the information for the regular police. The bug controller did have the whole area filled (lightly) with bugs just in case. So she was the first to notice that someone crept to the edge and was watching them from the rooftop above. Bugs lined up on the wall. "Shielder? Can I get a bit of light over there? I think one of their weapons went flying and hit the wall.

The light on the wall showed her bugs forming the words 'SOMEONE ON THE ROOF'. And a big arrow pointing up and at an angle.

"Thanks," Weaver said as she walked over to 'look' for the weapon.

Glory Girl stretched and yawned. With her one hand hidden from the roof, counted down from three. She and Laserdream burst into action. Laserdream blasted out with both hand in a one two combination. The woman in white on the roof shielded her eyes. The blast missed, but the glowing forcefield from her and Shielder encased the stalker from neck to toe.

The brute of the group put her hand by her shoulder and pulled back her right hand in a fist, still in the air. "So, who are you? And what sort of cape doesn't wear a mask?" Glory Girl asked, the threat of knocking her head off very palpable.

"I normally don't need a mask. Shit. All I was doing was watching. How did you spot me?" the older woman asked.

"Name first. Hero name, I mean. I don't care about your civvie name," Glory Girl said, her fist still pulled back.

The brown-haired woman looked upset and almost refused, but finally relented. "Purity."

"You're that villain that's been trying to be a hero, right?" The flying girl looked down. "You can let her go. She says she's Purity."

Laserdream and Shielder shared a look, then with a shrug let the glowing force fade away.

Purity immediately took a step back. "All I was doing was seeing what you were doing. Kid stuff, just beating up some druggies."

"Give us a lift, Shielder?" Weaver asked as she walked to the edge.

"Um, I'm not a good flyer," the younger boy said.

"Your forcefields are top notch though, right?" the bug controller asked. "Have you tried lifting with them?"

"Oh, right. I hadn't thought of that." He created disk for them to stand on.

Panacea had a grin on her face. "You'll get used to it, but she does this all the time to figure out more uses of powers. If you think of something for her bugs to do, shoot it right back at her."

Shielder gave her a grin. "Sure. I just wish I could get better at flying, but even with all the practice I put in, it's just not improving."

Weaver was looking over the edge as they rose up like an elevator. "Might want to split the time doing things like this or figuring the best way to get the most out of your power you are good at?"

"Hmm." Shielder seemed to be considering that seriously.

"Weaver, you have that spare mask in your pack?" Glory Girl asked.

Purity raised her eyebrow at that. "Actually, I was wondering why she wore a mask if everyone knows who she is?"

"I wanted to. I'm kind of hoping that most people forget what I look like. And Glory Girl mentioned we might need it for one of the Wards or Protectorates. Unlike those two ego-maniacs who love to get their faces in the news," Weaver said, jerking her thumb at Glory Girl and Laserdream.

"Weaver, master of bugs and understatement," Panacea said in a deadpan voice in a perfectly serious manner.

"Ouch. Shot through the heart," Laserdream said as she fake-swooned by holding her hands over her heart.

That got a snort out of Purity as she pulled on the basic gray half-mask. "Were you a girl scout?"

Weaver just shook her head. "It just seemed common sense once it was mentioned. I asked for Panacea's advice on other things." Like a wallet, a knife and her baton.

Purity raised her eyebrows again. "I thought you were a pacifist?"

"Pacifism nearly got all my ribs broken and my face flattened," the girl replied as she looked at the ground. "Besides, the faster I can get to someone, the better I can heal them. This is just basically for self defense."

"Isn't it pretty hard to go solo?" Weaver asked as she dredged up the information on the reclusive (and normally glowing) superheroine.

"I parted on semi-friendly terms with the Empire Eighty-Eight, but my old team isn't willing to try." Purity sighed in frustration. "And it doesn't help that the reporters keep trumpeting up that I won't attack the Eighty-Eight, so I must be racist, too."

"Well, you could take on the Merchants or that secretive group, the Unsiders," Laserdream noted.

"Undersiders? They're a teen group, I've heard. Or at least mostly teens," Purity explained. "Kind of like you guys."

"So, should we team up to clean up the Merchants? I mean, they aren't racially biased and half of them are white? We've already done the misunderstanding fight so we might as well go whole hog and do an actual team up? Unless you want to join too?" Glory Girl asked with a grin on her face.

"Sorry, I like my secret ID. I've got family and friends," Purity replied in a cold, hard tone.

"You can keep your mask and ID. Everyone knows that the New Wave movement is pretty much dead, so masks are okay. I mean, look at Weaver, she's got the goggle-whole-face thing going," Glory Girl said, while still grinning.

"You mean... you don't even want to know my real name?" Purity looked a bit stunned at that pronouncement.

"Trust is earned, not demanded," Shielder said in a tone of voice that showed his belief in that even as a young teen.

Purity blinked as she looked at the five teens. She responded after a long minute of thought. "I'm not going to say yes. But I am going to say maybe. Don't you guys usually have one of the adults along?" she said, changing the subject.

"We're going to be a new New Wave team. Our parents are going to be the original," Panacea said in a soft voice.

"Really? Huh." Purity did look pretty surprised at the pronouncement. "So, what do you know about the Merchants?"

"They get pushed around a lot, as they are the weakest gang in the area, but they are mostly down by the docks," Laserdream said. "Weaver here thinks she has a good idea to find them."

"Bugs?"

"They know what the different drugs 'taste' like to stay away. So if we find a fairly large stash down there," Weaver explained.

"-it's going to be them. Think you guys are ready to take them down?" Purity asked with a happy smile on her face.

The answering grins were all she needed to get their response.


Sophia Hess finished her curls, breathing evenly and strong as she let the rubber coated dumbbell.

"Hess! You have a visitor!" one of the guards called out. She was a sturdy looking woman that eyed her warily.

"My lawyer again?" she asked in a dismissive tone.

"Yeah, probably some news on your new trial. Move it 'villain'. We've got normal criminals to deal with today, too," the guard said in a harsh, condescending manner.

"Fuck you right back," Sophia said with a bit of anger. She'd be prey if she wasn't wearing her electric cuffs. Damn fucking pigs.

She was cuffed and led through several checkpoints and into the glass partitioned room. "Yo, Doug."

"Miss Hess. I would love to say that just get these ludicrous charge dropped, but Mrs. Dallon is being quite the thorn. You friend's father hasn't helped much. His slander campaign blew up rather spectacularly in his face," Douglas Janson explained as he flipped open his briefcase and started to pull out papers.

"So there's nothing we can do?" the angry teen asked.

"Oh, we are doing quite a bit. More than I thought would be possible. The problem is that to 'defend' his daughter against charges of being in your gang, he's raised the possibility that you have some sort of sub-power that messes with people. Totally hogwash, but I don't want you saying yes to anyone suggesting you have more to your powers than you thought. Okay?"

Typical lawyer advice, Sophia thought. She frowned. "How the hell do they verify crap like that?"

"Thinkers, for the most part. Psychologists. Really, it's a bunch of hokey bullshit. No way they could use that," Douglas explained confidently.

Sophia was staring past her lawyer blankly. "What if they are right?" She had a cold pit in her stomach. Emma had been that bitches' best friend for years. "What if I didn't know that I could cause someone to change that much because of a Stranger power or some bullshit to do that, uh, Stockholm syndrome?"

Douglas blinked. "Why do you think that?"

"Because Emma was her best friend since before grade school. And getting Emma to become my best friend instead was easy. Yeah. It might be possible." Huh, he could actually get more pale, Sophia realized.

"Well, we're going to fight it until they have proof," he replied as he frowned. "Don't breathe a word of this."

The next five minutes was tense, but the bully's face was flat as she considered matters. She hardly even responded to the guards as she was led back to her cell. She stared blankly at the wall across from her bed.

Her beliefs that had changed people around her were probably...

...not real.

And that made her take a long, hard look at herself.


Squealer pulled out a caliper to measure the exact distance she needed on her engine adjustment. She waved her hand to knock some bugs away, not even thinking twice about them.

The crunch on the gritty debris on the floor of her 'garage' warned her that someone was walking up. Squealer had her hammer out and starting to pound a dent out of the panel she was working and her caliper disappeared back into the tool box.

She had a reputation to defend as a 'rough-tumble' Tinker, not an egghead. Her hand was shaking just a little bit once her guard wandered off.

That was when the bugs that had been gathering on the ceiling dropped on her like a liquid wave. Glory Girl smashed in the wood door to the office area of the abandoned warehouse, followed in by Laserdream and Shielder how started to stun the unprepared thugs. Panacea and Weaver were behind them, keeping a watch for people sneaking up behind them.

Purity just entered by blasting the main doors (and most of the walls that had been attached to it) to small chunks. Her glowing white eyes blinked as she looked on as Squealer tried wading through the piles of insect.

"Not fuckin' fair! Let me get into my trash-tank and I'll give you a real damn fight," Squealer was shouting for anyone to hear. The glow above her made her pause on trying to remove the insects in the cockpit. "Oh."

Purity held out her hand, ready to blast. "Surrender? Or you are in for a lot of pain."

All Squealer said for about thirty seconds would make an old time sailor blush. The increased glowing coming from Purity chopped that off.

"Drop all your tools," Purity said.

"Sure. Fine. Whatever. Bitch. What's the Empire doing starting a turf war?" the Tinker said as she divested herself of items.

"I'm not with the Empire Eighty-Eight anymore," Purity said angrily.

"She's still got three devices on her," Weaver called out as she came into the workshop area. She was pulling out cop-issue style zip-ties.

"Shit. Damn bugs. You've been watching us for hours," the Tinker said as she realized what was going on. "Why did you hit here?" She dropped her last three devices onto the pile.

"The sacks of drugs hidden under that tank, of course," Purity said with a smile in her voice.

"Skidmark is going to be pissed," Squealer said to herself.

"We've got the rest tied up," Glory Girl called out. "PRT and the regular police are on their way. You going to wait a bit for them?" She started zip-tying Sqealer's arms behind her.

"They still have a warrant out for my arrest," Purity reminded them.

"There is hole in the ceiling to fly out of," Weaver said as she thought things through. Squealer was an idiot, she realized. All she had to do was think of visualizing her solution in vehicle form. Like advanced drug labs in the back of trucks or emergency medical help like a super-ambulance.

"I'll hurt you guys with the backblast of my power. That's why I jump off buildings," Purity explained. Her thoughts were distracted from that first jump before she had the power of flight.

"Forcefield on the ground?" Shielder asked. "That should cover that problem, I think."

Purity blinked, then landed and let her power drop. "I guess I can do that. Why are you doing this for me?" She would have to keep using the loaner mask temporarily.

"It'd be kind of silly to let them arrest our next prospective member," Laserdream said, then giggled.

"Can we recruit another guy? We're like the opposite of the Wards team. They have too many guys," Shielder complained.

That got a laugh out of them all.