"Reputation, huh?" Tattletale asked, "...How about Brockton Bay Central Bank. And since it's obviously not a money issue, I think the others would appreciate it if you gave them a nice bonus on top of whatever we steal."
Coil considered it. These talks went so much easier when he could have Tattletale here with him to torture information out of in one Timeline, while he dealt with her on the phone in the other. But after yet anotherclose call with Goner... well, he was more-or-less hands free with the Undersiders now, no matter the Timeline. Goner kept him trapped for six hours, filled with Thinker Headaches, and more and more creative methods of suicide, not to mention all the times she killed him, and then brought him back again, forcing the closed Timeline open again and again...
It took a long time before he convinced her he'd never torture any of the Undersiders ever again.
He had even meant it. Taking them under suspicious circumstances led to Goner investigating, which led to Goner forcing her way into his base, which led to Goner fucking with his power. And then there was that onetimeline when she somehow found Noelle-
That could never be allowed to happen in any Timeline he was going to keep. Not under any circumstances.
"Hm?" oh yes, Tattletale. The Undersiders would make for a good diversion, especially if Goner wiped out the bank like she did the Casino safe. "Apologies, I had to check on a message. You wanted a bonus, you'll get a bonus. Just make sure it grabs attention. The Protectorate and New Wave should be out of town, which means at most all you'll have to deal with are the Wards." The PRT and police would have a lot more to do than look into a random little girl who happened to not come home after school.
Soon, he would have his pre-cog, and his plan would become that much more secure.
"That should be fine." Tattletale replied.
Twelve Oni Lee had been captured by the PRT, six had been killed- five by each other, and one by Triumph when his sonic scream accidently triggered one of the Oni Lee's grenades.
The remaining eight, however, had come to a consensus, in a way. It was a rather simple decision, but one that had been hard to make all the same. They were all Oni Lee.
Bakuda hadn't been pleased, when she heard about what happened to him. She had a look-over, but couldn't find anything with her gear that could help her identify if any of them were the original, or whether there was anything wrong with them. And then, whe she told him about how Lung had been captured, Oni Lee wasn't pleased either.
The Undersiders had to pay, for what had happened, and then the Protectorate would feel the wrath of the ABB.
Oni Lee was, by nature, a follower. He did as Lung said, because Lung was the one with ambition, the one with power. Bakuda, similarly, had ambition. In another time and place, if he still was only one, a single demon, he would have followed her lead. But it was... strange, having the other seven around. They understood him. He didn't speak much, as few people understood the way he though, but his fellow clones- they had long since lost track of who came before or after -were people he could speak with. Open up to. Oni Lee knew that Oni Lee would understand, no matter what they were discussing.
As they discussed, they also sparred, and moved, and found that they were far more dangerous together than Oni Lee alone had ever been. They were more confident, with more direction, surprisingly. Alone with his thoughts, Oni Lee could barely muster anything even coming close to a goal- he was a knife in the dark, where Lung wanted him to be. But bouncing his throughts against himself, over and over, they realized as a group that they... wanted things... that they did have passion, deep down. And that together, they could muster the ambition to lead the ABB.
They needed to free Lung, as well as the other Oni Lee, from Protectorate containment. They needed to re-assert to the city that the ABB was not to be trifled with. And the Undersiders had to die.
Oni Lee was a follower, but the will he followed now was his own, as determined by all eight of him. Together, they were Orochi. The eight-headed dragon. The ABB needed a dragon to control it, but Bakuda was no dragon. A single Oni Lee was no dragon. But Orochi, together, could be that dragon.
"...What's with the new masks?" Bakuda asked, entering the room only to hesitate when she saw the eight of them standing in a circle in the room, with a single point open for her, "Are those Lung's extras?" Lung... well, he tended to destroy whatever he had on him every time he used his powers. Everything he owned, he owned in bulk out of necessity.
Lung would not miss eight of them.
"Bakuda." Ichi began, "We've come to an epiphany. From now on we are not the Oni. We are Orochi." he said, "We have been making plans, to retrieve Lung, to take revenge. We would appreciate your input."
"...You're renaming yourselves? Fine, whatever, I guess you can't all be Oni Lee." she looked at the helmets, and saw the characters for 1 through 8 in Japanese.
"We are Orochi now." Nana said.
"We want revenge first, to prove the ABB remains strong despite the chaos." Go said.
"The Undersiders must die." Roku said, "And their deaths should be spectacular. You will make this happen personally."
"Hey, I don't take orders from yo-" eight hands drew eight grenades, with eight sets of fingers alighting on eight pins. Bakuda stopped in her tracks, looking at them, "-okay. No need to get... to get violent here. We both just want what's best for the ABB, right?"
"Correct. And the best thing for the ABB is to be led by someone with the strength of a dragon." San, said, "We have become that dragon. The eight-headed dragon, Orochi."
"So, the Undersiders. I can get them, sure." she said, "Any requests?"
"We want them to be visible. Do not simply blow them to bits. Make them statues, or freeze them in time, or encase them. So long as our foes can look to the entire team and see what has become of them. Make them a reminder of the ABB's power." Ni.
"And be careful." Hachi said, "The Undersiders have a new member, the one who is responsible for this happening to us."
"That Goner chick? The one who knocked out Lung for Armsmaster?"
"Yes." Shi said, "Be wary of her."
For a few seconds, everything seemed business as usual, and then, suddenly, Grue's darkness flooded the building. Amy stumbled as she suddenly went blind and dizzy, and she dropped to her knees so as to not fall. She was considering what to do, when the darkness shifted position, now simply floating around their generator. When the people inside the lobby turned their heads, they found the security guard groaning on the ground, and saw Tattletale, Grue, and Regent standing in front of them. Tattletale had her gun, and Regent his scepter, both pointed at them. Grue turned to go back behind the desk, presumably to the safe.
"Everyone stay down." Tattletale said, "We're just going to be in and out, and no one has to get hurt."
"Of course, if anyone wants to play hero, that's fun too." Regent said, swiping his scepter menacingly.
Amy didn't move from where she was. She was out of costume, and more than that, her powers weren't meant for combat. But then, she was a superhero, wasn't she? She had a responsibility to try something... but not while Tattletale and Regent were watching.
Minutes passed, and Tattletale swore under her breath, "Go get the others. Tell them to finish up. We- we take it all." she ordered Regent, and Amy realized that this might be her chance as Tattletale was left alone... she began to move slowly towards Tattletale, only to stop when the girl met her eyes. Amy stared into brilliant green, and Tattletale's expression changed as she realized who she was looking at.
"...Well, well." she said, "Miss Dallon. Sort of."
"Look, you obviously didn't know I would be in here. But you should know that if you mess with me, both New Wave and the Protectorate will smash through those walls to get at me, right?"
Regent returned with Grue and Hellhound, along with her monster dogs as well as a girl that Amy didn't recognize. A new member? She was staring at Amy intently. Her expression was harmless enough, but her gaze made her feel nervous. "What's going on?" Grue asked.
"The Wards are gathering." she said, "They're in front of the bank, because they have the other exits covered by now. The van's probably already been found, so we'll have to get out on the dogs." she then pointed at Amy, who backed away on instinct, "Second, Panacea is here."
"Oh? The second-best healer in the city?" Regent asked. Despite his mask, it was impossible to think he wasn't smirking because of his smug tone.
Amy frowned. Second best? Oh sure, she might be a crappy superhero- she'd never be able to go out like Vicky or the Wards and punch people out in a moment or fly or blast things apart, but she knew she was the best healer on the planet. It was what she did.
"Regent." Grue growled.
"Can we take her with us?" the new girl asked.
"What- no!" Grue said, "What would you even want to do, hold her hostage? The Undersiders don't do that."
"I think she could be a good friend." Amy felt a chill down her spine as her eyes locked onto the girls. They were a deep brown, almost black. It made her look like she didn't have pupils, and hid whatever emotions she would have normally shown.
"Not right now." Grue said, "Come on, Tattletale, strategy."
She turned towards the hostages, "All of you, stand up. You're getting out of here." she said pleasantly, "Were going to open the doors, and then you're all going to run, as far as you can, until Grue's darkness hits you. When that happens, lie down so you don't trip. Nobody gets hurt, okay?" she turns to the others, "We'll have to fight."
"No." Grue said, "If we get into a drawn-out fight-"
"We don't have a choice. We have to go out past the front, and that means-"
"ATTENTION UNDERSIDERS. LET THE HOSTAGES AND PANACEA GO, AND SURRENDER."
"-a fight. That'd be them." Lisa said, moving closer to the window and looking out, "Bitch, you'll want to go for the one in Clockblocker's armor. Aegis and Clockblocker switched places."
"Fine." he looked to Regent and the new girl, "Regent you're with me, Goner-" Amy followed his look, and then jumped when she realized the new girl, Goner was behind her.
"You're like me, aren't you? Everyone treats you like trash, using your powers for their own benefit, to the point where you can't even think of not helping them. If you were doing it because you loved it- I'd hate you, but that's just..." she smiled, "Miserable. Want to come with us?"
"Come with- you're villains!"
"You wouldn't have to heal anyone any more." she said, creating a screw, and then putting it through her own skull in a burst of gore. Brain damage- I can't- Amy reached out to touch the girl, then pulled back before she made contact. She... she couldn't do anything anyway- if she- she couldn't just let someone die in front of her!
One of the other hostages started screaming.
"God damn it Goner." Grue moaned, "It's like having two of him, except she just does it-"
Then she realized that Goner was still standing. She pulled the screw free, and then squatted in front of Amy, before waving a hand over her face, making the wound vanish. "I'm the team healer. You'll get to do anything you want." she looked up, "As long as Grue doesn't whine about it. Your powers make you miserable, so why not just use them the way you want?"
"I'm-" she had to admit, the idea was... tempting. In a really strange way. She knew she could do more than heal, and- and if they didn't need her to heal them, then... "No."
"Aw." Goner pulled away, standing up. "Lost again, then. Sorry Grue, where do you want me?"
"...Support us from behind. Don't hit any of the Wards directly, but you're fine to get rid of Kid Win's weapons and hoverboard."
Lisa helped Amy up, and then started doing the same for other hostages, "Everyone! Remember, run as far as you can, then stop running when the darkness hits, or you'll likely trip. Lie down so you don't get hit in the crossfire."
Amy watched as Grue and Regent shoved the doors open. "Go, go, go!"
People ran through, and she looked back at Goner. Her powers, they didn't make her miserable, she made herself miserable. Because, because she wasn't good enough. Because she wasn't everywhere. Because Vicky lived and breathed hero, while she had to force herself to do the right thing.
The hostages fled, and Amy almost ran with them, but at the last moment, she turned and tagged Regent's bare neck. The moment her finger touched, she immediately became aware of his entire biology, and started telling his body to sleep. He crumpled immediately, and she turned to run anyway, joining the other hostages before any of the Undersiders can react.
She might not be a good hero, but she still was one. She began running, just like all the other hostages.
"Bitch!" she turned at the shout, only to see the massive form of Hellhound's dinosaur-dog hybrid charging towards her. She thought she was going to die, up until the moment a familiar golden flash knocked the dog to the side. She smiled as Vicky shoved the dog across the street. The other Wards began to advance on them as well, to help.
"Damn it!" Grue shouted, before sending out a wave of darkness.
Amy once again went blind and felt the sudden dizziness, she dropped to the ground. She wasn't sure how long it had lasted. She felt the ground shake a few times. Then, finally, the darkness clears away and she can see again. In front of her, stabbed into the ground with a screw, was a post-it note with a telephone number scribbled on it. Under the number...
Wanna hurt something for a change?
Ripping it away, she blinked as the screw just- vanished. Standing up, she stared at the note, before crumpling it into a ball. She moved to throw it, before deciding to stick it into her pocket instead. She'd... she'd throw it away at home. No need to litter.
Walking over to the Wards, she told Vicky that she was fine, trying to calm her down, and assure her she was fine, and then of course she had to heal the Wards.
Only when she finished with Gallant, the last, did she realize that she had technically fought a supervillain, and won.
She hadn't... hurt him, exactly, but...
She knocked him out with a touch. Maybe... maybe she could go out, with the others. Be a real hero, not just the healer who doesn't heal enough. Maybe Mom would appreciate her, then.
Brian was scared.
He just couldn't wrap his head around her. She barely ever changed expression, he couldn't predict what she was going to do before she did it. She had a mentality similar to Alec's, but where with Alec he could give him a punch and that would usually be the end of it, with Taylor, it just wouldn't. She was the most powerful Cape in the group, easily. If he hit her, there was a non-zero chance he'd end up with a screw though his chest. And even if she didn't kill him, the bruise wouldn't be there in a moment either way. Like Regent said, she had won the superpower lottery.
Today had helped prove that as well. She didn't have a problem with following his orders usually, but when she got in a mood to do something, there was a good chance she would do it no matter what he told her to do. Asking Panacea to join them? Stabbing herself in the head in front of a bunch of civilians, like that wouldn'tescalate the situation.
Worse yet, Bitch would have her back in everything. Alec too, nowadays. He had been grateful for her influence on Bitch at first, as she was calmer, more understanding, less willing to fight him on any decision. He had been glad the girl found a friend. Alec too, seemed to get along with her. She joined him in playing video games and watching TV, utterly engrossed where Brian thought when she wasn't with Bitch taking care of the dogs.
And whatever Taylor saw in Bitch and Alec, she saw in Panacea too. For a second there, Brian almost thought that Panacea would agree to join them. And where would they go from there? They'd have the entire Protectorate on their ass, plus New Wave, for Mastering her. Because why the hell would Panacea agree to join a bunch of thieves? In a world that made sense, the answer was that they Mastered her.
Lisa, at least, still had his back.
As they went out to the storage container that Lisa said their mysterious boss left their bonuses in, he was about to get her attention, to ask her if there was a time they could talk privately about the others, when a series of explosions around them caught him off guard.
"Everyone, on the dogs!" he shouted.
"You're not going anywhere, Undersiders!" a filtered voice shouted, and Grue turned towards the source of it turning the corner, Bakuda, sitting in a jeep. More ABB members with guns were with her, piling out of the car. "You messed with the wrong gang! You think you can fuck with us and live?" she turned a rocket launcher at them.
Grue put down a ring of darkness around them, obscuring the enemy's aim. Bitch was already ramping up the dogs, when he heard the sound of her launcher firing and barked "Get down!"
Everyone dropped as a grenade suddenly shot itself through the darkness, over them, and back through the darkness on the other side. With a terrible noise, the ground shook and Brian stared at the spot of his darkness that had been caught in the strange field. Where the rest of his darkness moved like gas, what had been caught in the center of it seemed to have flash-frozen.
It collapsed, shattering, along with a few dozen storage crates and whatever was inside it.
"Run!" he shouted.
Bakuda laughed cruelly, "Well, that was lucky it didn't hit any of you." she changed her aim, while whispering orders into her radio.
The men with the guns began to open fire, and Brian was about to do as what he knew Bakuda wanted- to have them charge down the relatively open path, where Bakuda would have a clear shot, but where'd they be safe from the bullets.
He glanced at Goner, who was looking just as passive as always, clinging to Bitch as they rode, and then back at the pile of frozen shards.
"What?" Lisa asked, shocked, "We can't go towards them!"
"We'll-" he bit back a hiss of pain as the bullet slammed into him. The dogs were made of tougher stuff, he knew, and they kept going even under fire. More impacts spread across his body, and it was all he could do to keep his grip on the dog. "Just- keep going!" he shouted. He threw back his hands, spreading darkness in their wake and in front of him. Massive amounts of it spilled in every direction, the shooters calming down now that they couldn't see where they were shooting.
Then, another explosion rattled out, a huge burst of wind nearly flinging him from his ride, and blowing away his darkness along with anything that weighed less than ten pounds in every direction. Coughing, he realized that Goner had finally fixed him. His suit didn't even have any holes.
Sighing with relief as they left the area, and the ABB, behind, he focused on the road in front of him, putting out more darkness. "Follow my lead!" he shouted to Bitch. The dogs were used to his darkness. He knew that scent didn't change through it, and they would follow on instinct.
Leading them away, he turned his head at the sound of an engine roaring. Bakuda, on her jeep, had made chase. Another ABB was in the driver seat, and Bakuda was standing in the passenger seat, bracing herself against the speed with a hand on the windshield, and using the other to aim her rocket launcher.
She fired, and he prayed, hoping that the darkness would obstruct them enough to mess with her aim.
He winced as he heard the sound of the impact behind them, and he urged Brutus forward, to move faster-
He heard a whump sound as the field expanded in a moment. Looking behind him, his heart began to beat a mile a minute as he saw the field cover Lisa and Judas, and they just- stopped. Trapped in a time bubble. A bubble that was still growing. Goner and Bitch, on Angelica, were gone next. It was just him and Regent on Brutus, now, and the field was still growing. It had only been three seconds and already-!
Bakuda ordered the man to slow her jeep, watching as the darkness cleared away. She stared at the pitch-black bubble, and cursed to herself. Goddamn Grue had made it so that Oni Lee- or Orochi, whatever the hell they wanted to call themselves, wouldn't get their example.
The car came to a stop in front of the field, and she looked at it, feeling proud all the same. The sheer size of it was perfect, big enough to catch the entire group at once.
Well, mission accomplished. She knew that she didn't have to hire Uber and Leet for this kind of thing. Dismounting and walking around the semi-spherical field, she looked closely at the edges, wondering if there was some other kind of exotic effect, or if it truly was a time-stop field.
Then, it flickered, and popped.
Abruptly, the darkness kept on expanding, swamping over her.
She never saw it coming as Brutus bowled her over, stepping on her in the process.
The Undersiders kept going, and Bakuda was left on the ground, feeling half-dead. "How the fuck?" she rasped.
That had been interesting.