"So, these people are your friends?"
"Something like that."
"You're allowed to say that word you know. It won't hurt you."
"You said you didn't have any friends." Bitch muttered, "They're people I work with. Tattletale tries to manipulate me all the time, Regent is just annoying, and Grue made himself the boss cause' he's stronger than me."
"What's the issue with the first one?"
"He makes himself the boss but then he keeps running away from everything." she mutters, "Like, even when we can win. When we know we can win, we still run away. And then I challenge him, and he shoves me down again. It doesn't make sense."
"I'm just trying to think of a way to explain it to you."
Bitch frowned, looking away. She knew, by now, that when Taylor said something like that, she wasn't doing it because Bitch was stupid. Taylor had said it herself, over and over, really, that Bitch was different. Others couldn't understand her, and she didn't understand others, not without a lot of effort. And since there were may more 'others' than there were 'Bitch' it's up to the others to figure out a way.
That they haven't yet is just a sign of the world letting her down.
"Okay. So, when you and your coworkers go out and rob a place, and a superhero shows up, you want to fight them."
"Well, yeah." she said.
"Because you're protecting the stuff you took. And the only way the heroes and PRT and other villains are going to stop going after that stuff, is if you're stronger than they are, right? When two dogs want the same toy, the bigger dog is usually the one who gets it. And you know you're likely going to have the bigger dog."
Bitch nods along.
"Well, usually your opponents, they don't want the toy. They want you. You took the toy, and that's what got their attention, but they're not testing you to see who deserves the toy more, they see you, and they attack on sight. And usually, they're not alone, while the Undersiders are. They're just the first of many dogs." Bitch narrows her eyes, "Okay... so, the Undersiders are a dog. All of you, one dog. With me?"
"What, you're trying again?"
"Fine. Okay, we're one dog."
"The Undersiders are one dog. A big dog. A tough dog. And you decide you want a toy. So you go into another dog's territory because you want the toy. Now, that territory has one dog nearby, and he sees you grab the toy. Now, if that dog were alone, the Undersiders could fight, win, take the toy and nothing more would happen. But that dog who was guarding it has his own pack. The police have the Protectorate, and the Wards, and the PRT. That's four dogs, and two of those are just as big or bigger than the Undersiders."
"So, what does that dog do? It wants the toy, but it knows that if it hurts the dog who has it, it'll just call down the rest of the pack, but if the Undersiders grab the toy, and escape with it, then the rest of the dog's pack would just think, 'oh, the guard lost the toy'."
"But- the Empire are just one group, and so are the ABB, and he makes us run from them too."
"The ABB... they only have three Capes, right? But Lung is probably the toughest single Parahuman in the Bay right now. You're the only one in the Undersiders who can even maybe fight him, but it would probably hurt a lot. And Lung, he heals-"
"-like me. Even if you kill him, it won't stick. It's possible that no one can beat him on their own."
"Not even you?"
"Well..." Taylor says, "Maybe. But as for the Empire, it's simply a way, way bigger dog than the Undersiders. They have more Parahumans than the local Protectorate. That's why Grue doesn't fight them."
"But, of course, all that is different now that you have me." she said.
"Because you can heal us."
The two girls, and three dogs, came to a stop in front of an otherwise inconspicuous building. Bitch walked up the steps and opened the door, and Taylor followed afterwards.
"Oh, hey, Bitch, haven't seen you for a few days." the person who Taylor assumed was Regent said from his place on the couch, "And-" he stopped when he noticed Taylor, "You brought a friend."
"Yep." she said, a small grin on her face, her face utterly passive, "So, you're the Undersiders, huh? Are you Regent?"
At that, Regent began laughing, "Hah! Oh, Grue is going to be pissed. This is supposed to be a secret hideout, you know, Bitch?"
"Shut up. Where is he?"
"Grue? Not here at the moment." Regent turned his amused glance at Taylor, "Our leader doesn't actually live here with the rest of us, he has family members, or something."
"So, where's Tattletale?" Taylor asked, walking into the building, in front of the television, to Regent's annoyance, before stopping to look at the other doors.
"That one's hers."
"She is here, though, right Regent?"
"Yeah, yeah. Go have fun."
"He doesn't seem to mind that I might blow the whistle on their hideout." Taylor said.
Bitch shrugged, "Regent doesn't seem to actually care about anything."
"Interesting!" Taylor said happily, before knocking on Tattletale's door.
"I told you I'm bus-" Tattletale voice shouted from behind the door, before she stopped. Then there was a thud, and some scrambling to get up, and then the door opened and Tattletale was staring at her. "You! You're Goner! How did you find me, no, you didn't , you weren't even looking, Bitch found you and then, you made her trust you?" she looked between them, "Oh, wow. She really does. And you- you're looking for... outcasts?"
"Something like that." she said, "Regent might be one, but he's good at masking it. You could be as well, but you're doing pretty well for yourself, aren't you?"
"Look, I'm not sure if I'm what you want, but-" she considered it, "Damn it, I need to call Grue. Hey, you wouldn't by any chance be interested in joining the Undersiders, would you?"
"Oh? What a profound idea. I hadn't even considered that. How nice of you to offer. All I had to do was actually show up in your base with a person who asked me the same thing." she said in monotone, "Sure, I'll join. You're Bitch's friends, right?"
"No." Bitch said, "But they're okay, I guess. Dog food costs money, after all."
"Well that's... that's good." Tattletale said, "Well, I need to make a few phone calls. Welcome to the team, Goner."
"Wait, you said that earlier too. Goner?"
"It's what the PRT has been calling you." she said, "If you have a different name you'd like us to use then-"
"No, no, it's fine." Taylor said, smiling, "It fits."
"What do you mean she found you?"
"She found Bitch, more like." Tattletale said, "Bitch met her, didn't even know I was looking for her. Now, they're friends, and Bitch was the one to invite her to the team."
"Did she mess with her memory?"
"Not in any way I could tell." Tattletale said, "That doesn't mean that there's nothing- it might explain how she got Bitch to trust her over such a short time."
Coil considered the words, and opened a second Timeline.
"I'm going to send someone to fetch her. Inform her that she needs to be vetted by me before she can join."
"Very well. Observe her, I want you to give me a properly updated dossier of her abilities and personality before the end of the day."
Hanging up the phone, Coil moved on to contact specific members of his mercenaries. It was standard fare, when he was bringing in a new Parahuman. In one timeline, he investigated them with 'normal' means, and in the other, he brought them into the heart of his base and tortured them in order to verify the same information.
They would stop by the Undersider base, and pick her up. And in the other, Tattletale would keep her talking, and gather everything she could with her powers.
Soon enough, his men were on their way, and Coil laid back and considered what options he would put the girl through first. There was always the simple option to point a gun at her head, but Mr. Pitter had informed him the other day of a new cocktail of drugs that would suit his purposes. Things to make Goner pliable, things to make her tell the truth, and things to make her want more.
Smiling, he decided that this timeline was almost certainly expendable, and that if Goner was already friends with the least-stable member of the group, but was sane enough to put up a convincing facade of innocence throughout M/S protocols at the PRT building, then she would be well-suited to the Undersiders.
And, of course, if this Timeline was expendable, it meant he would be able to do a little stress relief without making any issues.
"So, these people work for our mysterious boss?" Regent asked.
"Why did she have to meet the boss, while none of us had to?" Bitch asked.
"Look, it's complicated. Goner here is already known to the PRT, and she's a powerful Stranger." Lisa said, "So of course she has to go through a little bit more vetting than most. You understand, right Goner?"
"Sure, I'd like to meet him." she said.
"Oh?" Alec asked, "You're a Stranger huh, what can you do?"
"She can mess with memories, and with electronic data." Lisa said before Goner could open her mouth, smirking, "Oh, and by the way, I've already worked out some tests for myself to make sure I can tell if my mind has been messed with. Not because of you, but just in principle. It's a weird world we live in, after all."
Bitch looked confused at that, something that Lisa filed away for later.
"Damn." Goner said, not sounding disappointed, simply speaking in a dull slightly pleased tone, "And here I thought I could be mysterious for a little bit longer. The PRT know about me?"
"Uh, yeah. Armsmaster's suit records what happens around it, whatever you did to their servers, it didn't affect his armor."
"Huh." Lisa grinned wide at the first bit of genuine surprise she managed to eke out of the girl.
"The Boss is waiting." the mercenary said.
"Don't worry, don't worry." Goner said with a dull grin, "Don't worry Bitch, I'll be fine. See you all soon- hopefully as a member of the group!"
"So, this is Goner, everyone." Lisa said, "The Boss already approved her joining the group."
"Hello." Goner said, "Nice to meet you all. My real name is Taylor Hebert, something that Tattletale and Bitch both already know. I don't have a costume, my name was picked out by the PRT, and Bitch is my best friend."
"Bitch has friends?" Alec said, only to get himself a punch in the arm from Brian, who had hurried over once Lisa called him.
"Welcome to the Undersiders, Tayler." Brian said, extending his hand, "My name is Grue, but you can call me Brian."
"Tattletale, but out of costume, I'm Lisa."
"His name's Alec out of costume." Brian supplied. "So, what can you do?"
"Yeah, Bitch can make dogs into giant monsters, Lisa's the ultimate know-it-all, Grue makes darkness, and I'm devastatingly handsome." Brian raised his fist again, "And I can also control other people's bodies, just a little bit. Enough to make them twitch or cramp or trip."
"She's a healer." Bitch said, "She healed all my dogs. Even really old scars."
"Wait, a healer?" Brian asked, whistling, "That's pretty rare, useful too."
"Wait, what?" Lisa asked, surprised, "No she isn't, she's a Stranger." she turned towards Goner, "You erased your electronic presence from PRT and city servers, and you manipulated people's memories."
Brian looked between Bitch and Tattletale, before finally looking at Goner, "So, which is it?"
Goner simply smiled a little wider, "Actually, I create screws." she held her hand open, and a large steel screw about a foot long and four inches across appeared in her hand.
Alec started laughing as Bitch and Tattletale both started talking at once, both claiming otherwise despite the physical evidence in her hand, while Brian looked on confused.
"So, who's this mysterious Boss?"
No answer was forthcoming from the four mercenaries sitting in the back of the truck with her, "You'll meet him soon enough." one said.
She looked between them, and at the wall separating her from the driver.
"Is he... Kaiser?"
"But all the Undersiders were white. It might be."
"Grue isn't white." one of the mercenaries said, before she caught herself.
"Oh. My bad." Taylor put a finger to her chin, "Oh! I know, the Boss is Uber."
"You think we'd work for Uber and fucking Leet?"
Taylor shrugged, "None of the Undersiders were Asian. Do we work for Faultline?"
"We don't work for-"
"Do we work for Coil?"
All of them carefully kept themselves from startling, and then one said "Fine. Fine, we work for Coil. You'll see him in a few minutes anyway. Now keep quiet."
The car rumbled on, until it reached an underground parking lot with a connection to Coil's base. the mercenaries put a bag over her head, and then lead her to a secret entrance, and lead her through a meandering path to Coil's base. It was only once they brought her to a specialized room that the bag was removed.
"Hello." Coil said.
"Hello." Taylor replied.
"Sorry, I'm teasing you all." she threw the screw, and it pierced Alec's TV, making the screen go black and shatter in an instant as it fell over.
"What the fuck!" Alec cried, angrily, and the others stepped back as well, Bitch just as surprised.
"See, my power is actually a pretty simple concept." she said, creating another screw, "I can make things that weren't real, such as this," she tossed it into the air and caught it, "and make it real. And I can make things that were real, like the 'fact' that I broke the TV, not real." all at once, the TV was back where it was before, no damage on it, "I made it so that the scars on Bitch's dogs weren't real." she said, gesturing to Bitch, "And I made it so that any information about myself that I could think of wouldn't exist."
"So, you're just a really powerful Shaker, rather than some kind of grab-bag." Lisa said, mentally adding it to the dossier she would make for Coil later.
"Something like that." she said, "Oh, I should put the offer on the table now. Anyone have any injuries or memories that are bothering them?"
"Wait- memories?" Alec asked.
Taylor smiled, "Sure. The way I see it, there's no real difference between mental wounds and physical wounds."
The Undersiders looked between each other, before Brian spoke up first, "I'm good."
"Me too." Lisa added.
"Yeah." Bitch said.
"..." Alec considered it. Lisa knew that he had gone through a lot, before they met. She could understand him thinking of erasing it. "Can you clear up this bruise Brian gave me?" or maybe he wasn't.
"Tell me about yourself. What your powers can do."
"Well, my life has been a pretty normal one." she said, "I've had my power for as long as I can remember, but until that fateful night, I never had reason to unleash it in full-" BZZZZZTT "-What was that?"
"Lie detector." he answered simply.
"Hmm. Can I begin again?"
"Please do. But I think you should know I'm not someone you can play with, miss Hebert."
"It's pronounced Her-bear actually-" BZZZT "Anyway, I think I first got my power when I was trapped by a group of ABB-" BZZZT "I-" BZZZZT "Ah, I didn't even get to do anything that time."
Coil smiled, "Well, it seems you are incapable of learning." he pressed a button, and Mister Pitter entered the room, a large syringe in hand, "Luckily, we have the means on hand to make you more willing to divulge information, and a little something extra to keep you honest."
"You'll need more than a little." she looked at the buzzer, smirking when it didn't go off. "Ha."
Pitter injected the cocktail, and Coil watched, irritated, as the girl showed no reaction. "So, tell me, what is the nature of your power? It is only memory manipulation, combined with a skill for hacking? Or is the data manipulation part of it as well."
"Well, actually, my Dad is just a really good actor, and I don't have powers at all. We're both playing the long con, eventually, he'll rule this city with me at his side." Coil glanced at the buzzer. That... that couldn't possibly be right.
"Pitter, are you sure that there's nothing in there that would dull her reactions?"
"No, sir. The cocktail is exactly as I described it."
"...Fine then, your father. He's the Parahuman? That would explain why you don't appear as a Parahuman on your MRI."
"No, he doesn't have powers either. He's just the one in charge."
"Then how did you have your information erased from every file but Armsmaster's own armor?"
"The real question you should ask is why Armsmaster forgot to erase the data in his own armor when he managed to get everything else." she waggled her eyebrows conspiratorially.
Coil narrowed his eyes, and then turned towards the lie detector, pulling the cover off and staring, perplexed, at the empty box. "...What?"
The girl was standing up. When did that happen? Where were her restraints. "Guards-" he began, only to choke as something hard jabbed into his neck, tearing through it. A sudden searing pain in his hands told him that he had just been crucified to the nearest wall. Turning his head told him that Pitter was the same. Giant-size screws were sticking from his arms, and blood was already spilling down the wall.
Coil gasped, and the Timeline shut down of its own regard.
Coil jolted in place, fumbling for the phone. Whatever she was, she wasn't a Stranger, he had to tell Tattletale-
All at once, a burning headache appeared, as the other timeline forcibly re-opened itself.
He was free, and alive, again.
Was it- was it an illusion? Her Stranger power? Had she made him simply think he had died? She- she was back in the chair. Pitter was on the floor, crying, but also unharmed. The syringe was empty. He quickly strode over to her, and ripped open the lie-detector, it was still empty, was this still an illusion?
He looked at her, staring, noticing once again that her hands were free. "You- what are you doing? How did you-" no, no need to bother. She wouldn't be a problem any longer. He closed down the Timeline.
Coil breathed a sigh of relief, and went to his computer, keeping his hand pressed to his head, he had heard, of course, of Thinker headaches, but never had he experienced one before.
It was irritating, to be sure. He almost felt a twinge of sympathy for Tattletale.
Well at least it wouldn't happen again as long as he stayed away from that girl-
"Interesting." the girl said, "You just committed suicide."
No he hadn't, he just- he had just tried to-
"Don't worry. I won't let you die on me. But I'd advise you stopped using your power."
Damn it! No. He closed. Down. The. Timeline!
"Fuck!" his pulse was pounding. This couldn't be happening- occam's razor said that the simplest answer was almost always the right one. His power was simple pre-cognition. His power predicted the future, and chose the best option for himself, and then simulated in real-time both simulations. In the end, the one that he was always going to choose was the 'real' world.
That had been what he thought was true, but if that was true, then this shouldn't be able to happen-
"Whoah there, Coil." she said, "Stop that, really. It's kind of gross to watch."
"W-watch? Why am I back here? What are you doing to my power?"
"It keeps killing you." she said, "So I brought you back."
So then he really was making a parallel universe every time he used his power. A chill ran down his spine as he imagined how many universes there existed where he apparently dropped dead without reason.
But he wouldn't let that stop him. He was Coil, he lived only his best life. Even if that mean killing himself off a thousand times, he would come up on top!
He shut it down.
He tried again.
He tried again!
"Stop bringing me back!"
"Why? If I can stop you from dying, and you kill yourself, won't I be assisting a suicide?"
"I'm not really dying!" he growled, "I'll be fine! This is how my power works, in one world, I had you kidnapped, in the other, I didn't. I decided that I want to live in the world where I didn't kidnap you, so I went back! If that kills my body in this universe, then so be it!"
"I'm not just going to stand by and let you-" he shot her. Her body slumped over. He counted. 1, 2, 3... 9, 10, she got back up. He shot her again.
"DAMN IT!" he ran for his desk, and vaulted over it, turning on his computer and quickly entering in the sequence for the self-destruct of his entire base.
She stood up, about ten seconds later, and he shot her again. He accelerated the timer on the self-destruct. When she got up, he shot her multiple more times. Then, he ended the timeline.
And as such, his body slumped over as well, his power burning up the unwanted alternate version of himself's brain.
Pitter began to panic as he ran for the entrance, only for the girl to get back up.
She walked around the desk, and frowned at the computer. "...You're that determined huh." she shook her head, "Fine. You win." she waved her hand, and the window for the self-destruct switch stopped counting down, vanishing.
She looked at Pitter, "Sorry about your Boss. If he's going to keep going like this, I'm going to get bored of reviving him before he gets bored of dying. Can you get someone to drive me back to the Undersider's hideout?"
Coil waited, with bated breath.
Tentatively, he opened a new timeline, only for a second.
Breathing out a sigh of relief, he sunk into his seat. From this moment on, he was staying the hell away from her. But still, that didn't mean he couldn't use her. If anything, it just meant he had found a very useful asset... as long as Tattletale can control her. Speaking of... she seemed to have finished her dossier.
Real name: Taylor Hebert
Powers: Powerful and abstract Shaker power, also qualifying as a Blaster and Stranger. Self-described as the ability to make things as if they haven't happened, as well as being able to create things from her imagination. Her powers are not Manton-limited, being able to freely affect organic and inorganic targets.
Her erasure ability has been implemented to erase injuries, even scars, erase (specific) memories, erase records both physical and digital, undo damage to inanimate objects, and to self-heal.
Her use of imagination-creation usually takes on the form of a large metal screw, which she is able to use as a weapon, usually thrown.
Personality: Enjoys using misdirection, refers to it as teasing, and falls back on it when caught off-guard. Her emotions seem to be muted, possibly as a result of her power altering her brain. She shows a degree of protectiveness over people she considers outcasts, such as herself, Bitch, and her father. Her erasing her father's memories of her seem to have been done in hope of protecting him from the emotional burden of her Trigger circumstances, and her outing of Shadow Stalker and interference with the PRT. Similarly, she seems to hate people who are successful without effort.
Notes: Her power seems to have a very broad range of effect, and she doesn't need physical proximity in order to erase things. However, it does seem to be mental-image based. If she doesn't have a good idea of where and what the thing she wants to erase is, she can't affect it.
He mentally added the ability to revive the dead to her list of capabilities, as well as self-revivification, and then went ahead and designed a message to be released in the case of his death to a number of potentially loyal subordinates that he would give them, and Goner, a significant amount of money if they convince her to revive him.
That done, he began to busy himself with other things, trying to push the terrifying time where his power had been turned against him from his head.