I floated in a white voice, unfeeling of anything. There wasn't anything to feel, no sensation of touch, no sound, no scents and nothing but endless white to see. Hell, I’m not even sure I had a body right now. Then again, its not that surprising. I didn't remember much, but I did know that before I came here, I had been on a plane that had experienced difficulties over the north sea. Guess the difficulties were the type that led to one way trips straight down. I was...oddly OK with that. Then again, I guess if I was dead there really wasn't anything I could do about it…
The voice came from everywhere and nowhere.
“HOLY…” I yelped, although how I managed that without a mouth I don't know, “Whos there?”
Ah, of course. One moment please.
The space twisted and a figure appeared before me. If I had a tongue, I’d probably have choked on it considering I immediately recognized it, despite the fact I wasn't much of a comic buff, outside of some interest as a result of watching the Marvel movies. Still, I recognized the girl before me thanks to research into aspects of Death for various stories over the years. Still, I never expected to meet Death of the Endless.
“Huh...not what I was expecting I admit,” I said, “So I really am dead?”
“Eh, sort of, not really,” said Death, “You would be, but I pulled you here before you died.”
I frowned. Or tried to. I didn't have a face.
“What do you mean?” I asked, “Your Death, right?”
“Nope,” said the girl who apparently wasn't Death with a grin, “I just like this form. My name is...not actually something you three dimensional beings can comprehend, so you can call me Agent.”
If I had a face, I would have paled. I remembered what used that name.
“Aww shit, your a ROB,” I said.
“Close enough,” said Agent, “I am indeed a hyperdimensional, nigh-omnipotent life form beyond Human understanding and I did indeed bring you here because I want to make a deal.”
“What kind of deal?” I asked, “I assume that its one that results in me getting dropped somewhere ungodly dangerous with powers and a mission to save the world?”
“Pretty much,” said Agent cheerfully, “Your aware of everything that usually comes from this, so I’ll skip the explanation. So, interested?”
I sighed, although how I managed it I don't know.
“Better than dying I suppose,” I muttered, “Alright, where am I going and what powers?”
“What, no questions about why I chose you?” asked Agent.
“Your a being beyond my comprehension, I’m sure you have reasons that are equally beyond me,” I said, “Besides, does it matter?”
“Guess not,” said Agent, “So, I’m afraid that I can't tell you where your going due to the rules I have to abide by, but I can tell you that the powers I’ll grant you can come from anywhere in one particular world.”
“What world?” I asked.
“The one you were reading before the plane went down.”
I blinked, then choked as I remembered what I was watching.
“You want to give me a power from DXD?!” I spluttered, “Why?!”
“Why not?” said Agent, “It gives a wide variety of useful powers and most of them would work rather well where I’ll be sending you. So, any preferences?”
I hesitated. This...this was one hell of an opportunity. I could take it to become a literal God. Fuck, I could actually become Yahweh!
“No you couldn't,” said the ROB, “I am somewhat limited, so you won't be getting the power of any God from that world.”
“Ah, fair enough,” I said.
Even so, that didn't change the fact I could obtain a stupid amount of power if I so desired, power enough to kill a God. However, that...honestly didn't appeal to me. Yes, I could gain the True Longinus or one of the Heavenly Dragons, the whole idea of being able to do nothing but destroy wasn't one that I liked. Instead, I had a different idea.
“If I said I wanted Sephiroth Graal, would you turn me into a girl?” I asked.
Agent blinked and shook her head.
“No, I’m not a ROB who enjoys screwing with people,” she said, “But are you sure? The world your going to is...dangerous and the Graal doesn't exactly have much in the way of combat power.”
“True, but the ability to heal and resurrect is always helpful,” I said, “Whatever the world, I think a powerful healer would be more useful than another idiot with the power to blow things up.”
“Well, your not wrong,” she said, “Still, I don't entirely like the idea of sending you into the world with no way to defend yourself...oh, I know. I’ll throw in the rest of the abilities that come with the Graal.”
“What abilities?” I asked.
“I’ll make you a Dhampir.”
“No, I’m not going to turn you into a crossdressing trap or a girl,” said Agent, “I meant what I said before. There will be some changes, but I’m sure you can deal with them.”
“I...guess I can’t really argue with that,” I said, “So, are we done?”
“That we are,” said Agent, “Ready to see where your new home will be?”
“Um, sure,” I said.
“The world is very much like your own,” said Agent as a portal began to spin into existence, “There aren't any supernatural beings, no Gods, Monsters or Magic. Instead there are Superheroes and a glowing idiot flying around saving lives.”
I frowned as I tried to parse that out, before the portal cleared, revealing a city beside a bay blocked by a large tanker and an oil rig barely visible in the middle of said bay. The moment I saw that, I put the pieces together and blanched.
“Oh hell, your sending me to WORM!?” I spluttered.
“Yep, pretty much,” said Agent, “Want to change your mind?”
For a moment I was sorely tempted. Suddenly, the idea of a spear capable of killing Gods was much more attractive. However, I took a deep breath and shook my head.
“No, I’ll stick with the Graal,” I said, “Just...tell me what my chances are.”
“Well, if things play out as they are ‘meant’ to, the chances of Taylor winning are 9/10 against,” said Agent.
“Look, I don't expect you to run out and beat Zion by yourself, I doubt you could do that even with a Planet Level Sacred Gear, not without excessively large amounts of collateral damage that is. Your job is to just help. In my experience, its not the most powerful person who helps win, its the person who helps. A simple act of kindness can change the course of an entire war and Earth Bet is in dire need of that kindness.”
I stared at the screen for a moment, before I steeled myself and took a deep breath.
“Fair enough,” I said, “I...I’m not entirely sure if I can do much, but I’ll try.”
Agent smiled and nodded.
“Thank you,” she said, “Here.”
She held out a hand and a simple, clay cup appeared in her hand. I raised an eyebrow.
“I thought it was golden?” I asked.
“It seems more appropriate,” she said, “Besides, I rather like the Indiana Jones movies.”
I shrugged and took the cup. The moment my fingers touched it, it glowed and vanished and I felt something settled within me. I shivered slightly as a wave of warmth washed over me, making my hair momentarily stand on end and my eyes itch. A moment later, I felt my canines extend slightly and, when I opened my mouth and felt them, I found that they were a lot sharper. A slight flex of will made them extend into fangs.
“Huh, neat,” I said.
“I’ll give you an understanding of how to actually use your powers to get you started,” said Agent, “You won't actually have to drink blood to survive, but it will make you stronger if you do. You might even be able to gain Parahuman abilities if you drink their blood.”
“Huh, thats cool,” I said, “So, when will I arrive?”
“A little before the winter holidays of 2010,” said Agent, “Unfortunately, I couldn't acquire any identity as I used the points I could have used for that to gain access to the more powerful Sacred Gears and to hide you from some of the more dangerous threats. I also made it a point to give you a fake Corona Pollentia and Gemma which should fool most everyone who can see it. I also had to ensure that no other Shard would ping off it in the event of a Trigger happening near you.”
She muttered something under her breath that sounded vaguely rude.
“So, what am I supposed to do about an identity?” I asked.
“Considering the sheer number of Parahuman incidents resulting in people getting displaced, it shouldn't be that hard to sort it out,” said Agent, “You’ll need a source of income, but considering what the Graal can do…”
“Not that hard,” I said, “Alright, what about Thinkers?”
Agent gave me a flat look.
“You aren't Human, are completely outside the Shards experience and have a literal Miracle in your Soul,” she deadpanned, “Theres no way that any of them will be able to get much on you. Plus, that thing can resurrect the dead. Bring Hero back to life and you’ll probably have the Cauldron worshipping you.”
“Or locking me in a box somewhere.”
“You’ll manage,” she said, “So, are you ready to go?”
I turned back to the portal and took a deep breath, before stepping forwards.
“Oh, by the way, I added a new function to the Graal,” said Agent, “I think you’ll like it.”
I yelped as Agent shoved me through the portal. There was a bizarre sensation that I couldn't describe in a million years, before I found myself face planting into a pile of sand mixed with rotting seaweed. That would be an unpleasant experience for a Human, but considering Dhampirs have better senses than Humans, it was even worse for me. I shot to my knees, gasping and spluttering as I tried to get the sand and seaweed out of my mouth.
“Blarg, that wasn't nice!” I groaned as I ran a finger over my tongue, “I need a drink.”
I grimused as I ran a hand through my hair and pulled out a slimy bit of seaweed.
“And a shower.”
I ran my fingers through my hair again and paused as a few strands fell in front of my eyes. I frowned and pulled more forwards, staring at the platinum blonde strands. Considering I had brown hair before, it was rather jarring. I quickly pushed my hair out of the way and patted myself down. Despite Agents assurances, the change in hair colour had me a bit worried. Fortunately, I didn't have anything I shouldn't, nor had I lost anything, so I turned my attention to the rest of my body.
I stretched, feeling my new and improved vampiric muscles stretch, and held up a hand, flexing my fingers as my nails lengthened and retracted slightly. The difference wasn't massive, no sprouting massive talons for me, instead going from well trimmed to long and pointed. Despite that, I knew that they were as sharp and as strong as a steel blade.
Self examination done, I stood and looked around. Considering I was surrounded by rusted ship hulls, it didn't take a genius to deduce that I was in the Ship Graveyard. I grimoused slightly at the stench of seaweed and rotting fish that filled the area and started looking around for a way out so I could find somewhere to hole up and take stock. As I did, I paused in front of a piece of glass that was large and clean enough to act like a mirror and took a look at the new me.
Despite assurances that she wouldn't turn me into a girl or a trap, it was apparent that getting turned into a Dhampir had caused some changes. My formerly dark hair was now platinum blonde, almost white, and my eyes were wine red. Not only that, but I seemed to have been airbrushed, with every tiny imperfection in my face smoothed out and my pale skin from spending most of my time locked in my room had gone from a slightly unhealthy mark of a shut in to a more healthy looking pale, although I did have dark lines under my eyes. Finally, my body had gone from just skinny to well toned and, when I flexed, I actually had some visible muscles.
I frowned, before shrugging and moving on. I wasn't entirely pleased by the changes, but I couldn't argue with them. The only slight issue was that my eyes were kinda memorable, but I could deal.
Eventually, I found a ship in decent shape that didn't seem to have anyone squatting in it (probably because there was no easy way inside unless you could fly) and jumped on board with a little help from my wings. Said wings were large, batlike and had dark red webbing that was the same colour as my eyes, as well as some rather large claws at the tips of the fingers that looked as sharp as my claws and about twice as nasty. Those could be handy.
I put my wings away and made my way inside, quickly finding a room with some dusty and extremely old furniture still inside and, after making sure it would support my weight, dropped into a metal chair with a huff. I sat still for a moment, staring up at the ceiling, before I sat forwards and held out my hands. I hesitated for a second, before reaching into my Soul and pulling out my Sacred Gear.
The Holy Grail appeared in my hands without so much as a twinkle, looking for all the world like a clay cup from an exhibit on peasant life in Ancient Egypt or something. To anyone else, it would be hard to believe that it was something as powerful as the Holy Grail, but I could feel the Divine Power inside it. It was surprisingly comforting considering I was half monster, but I suppose it was only natural considering it was my power.
I closed my eyes and focused, turning the cup idly in my hands as I prodded at the power, trying to see how it worked.
“Lets see, if I do this and this and...that oughta do it,” I muttered and opened my eyes.
Sure enough, the cup was now full to the brim with faintly glowing liquid that was somehow completely clear, blood red and shining like a rainbow at the same time. Don't ask me how, I just put it down to Sacred Gear bullshit, which is even worse than Parahuman Bullshit. I hesitated for a moment, before downing the liquid.
Immediately, my eyes went wide and I nearly started choking as the ice cold fluid burned its way down my throat. I could literally feel it flowing through me, suffusing my entire physical being and even my Soul, which was a very odd feeling indeed, granting my body the ability to regenerate from practically anything. What? You think I’m going to rely on anything less in a world like Worm? Please, I’m not that dumb.
“Hoo boy, thats some good stuff,” I said as I patted down my hair which had stood on end from the energy surge.
I took another few breaths, before settling back down and studying the cup in my hand. I wasn't sure if I wanted to start playing with the other powers, but there was one more I wanted to try. I wanted to see if I could bring someone back to life and my main target was Hero. If I could do that, I’d have a way to actually make myself a place in the world without having to rely on luck. Hopefully at least.
I sighed, stood and stepped out of the room, heading for the bowels of the ship where there’d be plenty of room. I didn't want to risk getting caught in an explosion if there was one.
It didn't take me long to find what I was looking for, one of the ships empty holds and I quickly moved to the middle and closed my eyes. It took a moment, but I figured out what I needed to do. The Grail filled with liquid, this time pale blue and glowing, and I emptied it onto the floor where it flowed under its own power until it formed a large Magic Circle with me in the center. I took a deep breath, focused my mind on who it was I wanted and began to speak.
Let silver and steel be the essence
Let stone and the archduke of contracts be the foundation
May you place your trust in me as I will trust in you
My fate shall be yours to determine
Your self be mine to maintain
Let the path of right and wrong lie before you
That you may choose of your own free will
Open the Gate. Shut. Shut. Shut. Shut.
The four cardinal points are accounted for
Now may you come forth at my call!
I was about half way through when I realized just what the chant meant, but by that point it was to late. The Magic had built to the point where if I stopped it would explode and take a good chunk of the City with it, so I had to complete the Ritual. Still, at least I now knew what Agent had meant by a new function! I could summon Servants.
The moment that thought crossed my mind, my body finished the chant and the glowing circle erupted, blowing me off my feet and sending me flying across the room. I hit the wall and slid down, surprisingly not hurt by the impact. I groaned slightly as I looked down at the Grail in my hand and watched as an image engraved itself on the clay in gold. To my suprise, it wasn't one of the standard ones, instead it was a set of scales. I’d summoned Ruler.
The sound of armoured boots on the metal floor made me look up at the circle as the newly Summoned Servant stepped forwards, looking around in apparent interest. He was surprisingly short, but still had a presence that befitted a Servant with the class of Ruler. His sleek armour was a gleaming gold with a blue underlayer and visor in a helmet that almost reminded me of a Mandalorian. A number of doodads hung from his belt, along with a multitude of pouches that no doubt contained even more bits of Tinkertech and a rather large rifle rested across his back. Every bit of his gear was sleek and looked like something out of a sci-fi movie, which wasn't to surprising when he was the one who wrote the book on Tinkers.
Finally, Hero’s gaze fell on me and he tilted his head slightly. Then, he knelt and removed his helmet, which nearly made me swallow my tongue as it revealed a youthful, feminine face, green eyes and golden blonde hair pulled into a tight bun.
“At your Summoning, I have come forth,” said Ruler, “I ask of you, are you my Master?”
I stared at the girl for a moment, before slowly holding up my Grail to show the Command Seal engraved on it.
“Yeasss, but your not exactly what I was expecting,” I said slowly, “You...are Hero, right?”
“Yeah, I kinda get that,” she asked, patting her chestplate, “But you gotta remember that I became a Cape back when women weren't taken quite as seriously as they are now. It wasn't until Alexandria started making waves that that changed, but by then I couldn't see the point in revealing my gender. Plus, it was always fun to see peoples reactions when they found out I’m a woman.”
“Well, I certainly can't argue with that,” I said, “So, why Ruler? Wouldn't Archer or Caster work better?”
Ruler shifted so she was sat cross legged on the floor and shrugged.
“I think it has something to do with the settings of your Grail,” she said, “While you could activate a War, its also entirely possible for you to simple summon all Seven Servant Classes and maintain them yourself. My job is to act as a mediator, general and, if needed, executioner. Your first Summon would have been a Ruler regardless.”
“Makes sense I guess,” I said, “So does this mean I can't bring people back to life without Summoning their Heroic Spirit?”
Ruler shook her head.
“No, its two different functions,” she said, “You could have simply resurrected me, but accidentally used the wrong ability.”
“That...could be a pain,” I muttered, “Eh, whatever, whats done is done.”
“So, what now?”
“Now we see about getting somewhere to live and some ID,” said Ruler, “Fortunately, I know exactly how to do that.”
I eyed her suspiciously.
“I’m going to hack into the governments systems.”
I stared at her, mouth hanging open in pure shock.
“I thought you were a hero!” I yelled once I’d got control of my shock.
“I also used to be a member of the Capinarti,” she said as she started fiddling with what looked like an Omni-tool, “Lets see...oh, they haven't plugged any of my back doors yet. Thats nice. Shift that, alter that, add that and...done!”
She did...something and produced a sheaf of papers from...somewhere that she handed to me with a smug smile. Fucking Tinkers.
I shook my head and started flipping through the papers. They were all of the identity papers I could need which claimed that I was one Adrian Tepes from some tiny town in the middle of nowhere that had got splattered by the Nine.
“Really? You went with Adrian Tepes?” I asked, “Why not go with Alucard while your at it?”
“Well, why not?” said Ruler, “You have the powers of a member of the Tepes and its not like anyone would guess that your a Vampire.”
“Dhampir, but I guess its fine,” I said with a sigh, “It works as well as anything else and I don't really feel like using my real name. Not after I’ve changed so much.”
“Great, in that case, lets go find us a place to live,” said Ruler, hopping to her feet and dispelling her armour to reveal a normal pair of jeans and t-shirt underneath.
I didn't know Servants could do that. Then what she said hit me and I frowned. That...didn't sound quite right. I mean, I knew that we’d share wherever we ended up, but the way she said that made it sound like she didn't intend to just stay Astralized. Then I looked at the papers again and saw that they listed Valerie Tepes as my older sister and her plan suddenly became clear.
“Wait, your not gonna…”
Ruler grinned and glomped me.
“I always wanted an adorable younger brother!” she chirped.
Oh hell, this was going to be...interesting.
So, what do you think of Ruler? I decided that I might as well go the Fate route and have a male hero turn out to be a woman who happens to be a clone of Saber and the reasoning made sense to me. Different eras and all that. As for her personality, well, there's not much about Hero on the Wiki, so I decided to roll with the idea of a slightly immature older sister character. Plus, the original version had a scene with the Triumvirate showing up, getting their asses kicked and Rulers method of proving that it really was her was to bring up an embarrassing story Rebecca had told her years ago.
On a side note, I didn't actually realise I'd given the MC the same name as the one from Warcrafted until after I'd posted the story and went back to read it.
Oh, and before I forget, Adrians wings look like Fate's Elizabeth Bathory's, albeit with different colours.
I wont bother replacing all of the notes, simply because most of them are irreverent now. Hope you liked the start!
The next three days seemed to go by rather quickly. Thanks to Ruler’s Tinkertech magic, we soon found a suitable place to live, payed for courtesy of Ruler getting into Coil, Kaiser and Lungs bank accounts and filching a fairly impressive amount of money in such a way that they probably wouldn't even notice it was gone. Quite how she managed that I don't know, but Tinkertech was bullshit.
Right now however, we were out shopping for the necessities and I was taking a break in the shade since even the weak winter sunlight was enough to irritate me. Hey, I might be a Daywalker, but I was still part Vampire and that part of me did NOT like the sun.
“Here,” said Ruler as she sat down next to me and held out a napkin wrapped hot dog.
“Are you sure you should be out and about like this?” I asked as I accepted the snack from Ruler.
“Sure, why not?” asked the Servant as she took a bite out of her own food.
“Its just...you might get recognized…”
Ruler snorted and ruffled my hair.
“Adrian, the number of people who know the real me can be counted on one hand,” she said, “Do you honestly believe that we’ll run into any of them? And if we do, do you really believe that they’ll think I’m Hero back from the dead? Even in this world, thats a bit hard to believe. Hell, they’re more likely to conclude that your a Vampire.”
“I would like to point out that two of those that know you are in the city and did you forget about the Cauldron?” I growled.
“Please, I figured out how to hide from Clairvoyant and Contessa years ago,” she said, “Its a lot easier to sneak up on people who can't see you coming.”
She smiled and ruffled my hair again.
“You can trust your Onii-chan kid, I know what I’m doing,” she said, “Besides, I’ve got Presence Concealment.”
“How do you have Presence Concealment?” I asked, “You don't exactly seem like the type to qualify for the Assassin class.”
“I was a masked Hero who hid her gender and identity and a member of a shadowy cabal with a habit of murder and inhumane experiments,” deadpanned Ruler, “The Skill only keeps people from recognizing me if I don't want them to. Even Missy wouldn't be able to see through it.”
“Missy? Oh, you mean Miss Militia,” I said, “Its that strong?”
“Eh, more like it works completely differently to Shard bullshit, so they can't see through it,” said Ruler, “Some Thinkers might be able to make the connection, but I doubt it.”
I pulled a face as I thought of what could happen if a certain know-it-all were to point her power in Rulers direction. Or mine for that matter. I wonder how Tattletales power would react to a Servant and a Dhampir with the Holy Grail in his soul? Probably badly, assuming it could even perceive said differences.
“Speaking of skills, have you considered trying to Summon another Servant?” asked Ruler.
I pulled a face.
“I’m...not really sure that I should,” I said, “I mean, without a Catalyst, I have no idea what I’d get. Imagine if I ended up pulling Heracles as Berserker? The only thing he’d be good for is pointing at S class threats and the odd Endbringer. Plus, there are plenty of other Heroes I’d rather not Summon.”
“Gilgamesh for starters,” I said immediately, “Heracles is another, as is Karna and most of the other upper ranked Heroic Spirits to be honest.”
“Why?” asked Ruler, “I would have thought they would be helpful.”
“I guess they would,” I said, “But I really don't think that releasing monsters like that on this world would be such a good idea.”
“I see your point,” said Ruler, clearly not at all pleased with the thought of someone like the King of Heroes wandering around Bet calling people mongrels, although I do suspect that seeing him one shot some of the more annoying baddies would be fun, “Still, without a Catalyst, you should get Servants who are suited for you, right?”
“Hmm, good point,” I said, “But that doesn't negate the issue of not wanting to unleash obscenely powerful monsters into the world, no matter how much fun watching Gilgamesh go to town on the Nine would be.”
“I highly doubt you’d get anyone to hard to control,” said Ruler, “That said, I do think you need to try. Servants will be our best bet to stop this World from going down the shitter, assuming that you don't randomly develop into a True Ancestor or something.”
I glared at her, before sighing.
“Fine, I guess I can't argue with that,” I muttered, “I really hope I don't regret this…”
“Oh come on, whats the worst that could happen?” said Ruler, clapping me on the back.
I slowly turned and fixed the Servant with a glare.
“Now that you’ve said that, something extremely bad,” I hissed, “Oh whatever, lets just go find somewhere to do the Summoning. You probably need a Workshop as well.”
“Eh, I got a Noble Phantasm for that,” said Ruler.
I stared at her.
“You have a...no wait, that makes perfect sense,” I said, “Your THE Tinker, so of course you’d have a Noble Phantasm based around that part of your legend.”
“Yep, its pretty cool to,” said Ruler smugly.
“Still, it’d probably be a good idea to have an actual base, just in case. Any suggestions?”
“The Docks would probably be best,” said Ruler, “Plenty of abandoned warehouses we can acquire and fix up.”
“On the down side, there all pretty much rotten,” I said.
“We’ll manage,” said Ruler, “So, shall we go now or….?”
“Lets wait until night,” I said, “Meanwhile, I need to get my hands on something to make a costume out of.”
“Oh, I’ve got just the thing!” said Ruler excitedly.
Before I could react, she reached into one of her shopping bags and pulled out a red hoodie with a black cartoon bat on the back.
“Huh...that's actually not too bad,” I said.
“I’ll make you something better later, but it’ll do for now,” said Ruler, “Come on, lets get this stuff home.”
I got to my feet and dumped the now empty napkin in a nearby bin as I picked up my shopping bags and followed Ruler in the direction of the door.
A few hours later after sunset, I changed into my costume (which was basically a hoodie, jeans, combat boots, fingerless gloves and a domino mask Ruler had produced from somewhere) and opened the window.
“Are you sure you don't want me to come?” asked Ruler.
“We can cover more ground if we split up,” I said, “I’ve got plenty of power of my own if I get into trouble, but I highly doubt that’ll happen. I’m certainly not going to go looking for it.”
“No, but its sure to find you anyway,” muttered Ruler.
I flipped her off and hopped out the window, bursting into a flock of bats as I did while Ruler left through the door. I reformed a short distance from the building and, after reorienting myself, flew in the direction of the Docks, aiming for the part of the run down area that was between the ABB and Empire territory since that was the best options were. The warehouses there were in relatively good shape, but still abandoned since nobody wanted to risk storing anything anywhere close to where a fight between a Dragon and a racist blender could go down.
I was just flying over the border between the two gangs territory when the sound of razed voices caught my attention. I looked down and sighed as I spotted a group of hulking men of various Asian denominations chasing a young girl with blonde hair. I sighed. Well, Brockton will be Brockton I guess.
I glanced down again, just in time to see the girl make a wrong turn into a dead end. She skidded to a stop and whipped around as the thugs rounded the corner and slowly started stalking towards her.
“Urg, this is gonna be a pain, I just know it,” I muttered and folded my wings to dive down.
I landed on a dumpster with a loud crash, making all involved in the little scuffle jump and spin around. I’m sure I must have made for quite a sight, a dark shadow swathed in leathery wings tipped with sharp claws and my eyes catching the light from a nearby streetlamp, causing them to glow crimson in the dark.’
“Eyup scumbags,” I said with a grin, causing my fangs to gleam in the dark, “Mind moving along and leaving the poor girl alone?”
There was a moments silence as the Humans stared at me in shock and, if the smell was anything to go by, terror, before one of the thugs proved to be a complete idiot by pulling out a gun and pointing it at me. Before he could even think about pulling the trigger, I snatched the gun out of his hand and backhanded him into a wall with a loud crunch.
“Fun way it is then!”
One of the thugs pulled a knife, but I snapped the cheap blade with ease and kneed him in the gut. He went down gasping as I spun, my claws flashing as they cut the pipe the third idiot had grabbed into four pieces, leaving him gaping at his destroyed weapon before I battered him aside with my wing and turned to the last one...who had apparently decided that he couldn't escape or take me down, so had taken the girl hostage to try and gain the upper hand. Exactly how he’d managed that I don't know, but it was a pain.
“D-don't come any closer!” he stuttered, holding a knife at the girls throat.
I eyed the blade, which was shaking so badly I’m surprised he hadn't cut her throat by accident. To be honest, I wasn't that worried. I had plenty of options to take him down that would keep the girl safe, all I needed was the right opening…
However, before I could find said opening, the girl suddenly lashed out, elbowing the man in the gut as he shifted his grip on the knife, making him release her and stumble back. It did leave her with a small gash on her neck, but it was better than it could have been. I watched, nonplused as the girl followed up her attack by throwing the much larger man over her hip and stomping on his chest hard enough that I heard a crack.
“Take me hostage would you!?” she snarled as she grabbed a nearby length of pipe, “I’ll kill you for that!”
I quickly moved and disarmed her before she could crush his skull with the length of metal.
“Lets not do that,” I said as she spun around and glared at me.
“Who the fuck are you?” she growled, her fingers flexing.
I grinned, flashing my fangs as I casually bent the pipe into a knot.
“Alucard, at your service,” I said, tossing aside the bent metal, “Are you OK?”
The girl scowled and rubbed her bleeding neck.
“I’ll be fine,” she said.
“Hmm, maybe next time don't go out on your own at night,” I said, “Next time there might not be anyone nearby to help.”
“Yeah yeah, I’ve heard it all before,” muttered the girl, “This part of the city is supposed to be safe from scum like this.”
She kicked the downed goon in the side. I raised an eyebrow. To be fair, as a blonde haired, blue eyed young girl, she probably was safe in the E88 territory. Plus, from the sound of things, she was likely a member of the gang. Somehow I get the feeling this was going to bite me in the ass...
“Anyway, I’d better call the cops and have them take out the trash,” I said, “You head home and try not to get mugged again.”
The girl glared at me, but left, kicking the goon in the side again as she went. I sighed and plucked a phone out of one of the mens pockets to dial 911. Two minutes later, I dropped the phone on one of the mens chest and started pulling them together, blinding their wrists with zip ties.
“You gents be good now,” I said, “The cops’ll be here soon to pick you up.”
“Lung’ll kill you fucker!” snarled one of them.
I rolled my eyes.
“I doubt Lung even knows you exist,” I drawled, “But if he wants to try, I’ll be happy to meet him. Later.”
I turned to go, but paused when I saw a discarded knife on the floor, still wet with the girls blood. There wasn't much, only a couple of drops, but still more than enough to make my Vampire side sit up and take notice. I hadnt fed since I had arrived and, while I didn't technically need to to survive, I did need blood to keep my strength from fading. I picked up the knife and eyed the gleaming liquid, before glancing at the thugs. After a moment's thought, I shrugged and jumped up onto the roof, taking the knife with me. Now well and truly out of view of any bystanders, I looked at the knife again, hesitated, before giving into the instinct and licking the blood from the blade.
Blood is...well, I’m not really sure how to describe it. To me, it wasn't like described in some stories, an explosion of flavour that was as addictive as any drug, although that could be because I’m only half Vampire. It doesn't help that everyone tastes different, albeit all like the finest chocolate. Well, unless they were perpetually pickled like the Merchants, but I’d have to be pretty desperate to feed on one of those lowlifes.
Anyway, back on track. Once I’d cleaned the knife and shoved down the urge to find the girl and invite her for a bite, I discarded the knife and took off again, just as a cop car pulled up to take the thugs in.
It took another half an hour to find a suitable location. It was inside the E88 territory, so I hunkered down outside for a bit and took control of some of the bugs and bats nesting inside to do a bit of scouting, just to make sure I wasn't about to barge into one of Hookwolfs dog fighting rings or something equally annoying.
It didn't take long to confirm that there wasn't anything bigger than a rat inside the building and I burst into a flock of bats, reforming inside the building to see what I could find. It was mostly what you’d expect, run down, dusty and mostly empty, with just a few rusted machines that were to big and heavy to be stolen. However, as I walked through a door at the back of the main room, I stopped and stared at what I found.
The building in question was part of a small complex of interconnected factories and storehouses that had once served as the local headquarters of some manufacturing company which had gone out of business years ago. From the slightly different styles of the various parts of the buildings, it wasn't hard to determine that it had grown over time, likely starting small and growing as was needed into the interconnected complex it was now. As a result, whether through design or accident, there was a small courtyard in the middle which I could tell just by looking would become a riot of colour in the summer. I tilted my head on one side and hummed thoughtfully.
The complex was reasonably large, in decent shape and centrally located while not being in use by anything except squatters and wildlife. With Rulers help, it wouldn't be hard to acquire it legally and get water and power connected. Plus, there was plenty of room for when I decided to do some more Summoning.
Speaking of which, I suppose that now was as good a time as any. I sighed, still not entirely sure if I should actually go through with summoning more Servants, but acknowledging Rulers point that I’d probably need them. Besides, I was unlikely to get anyone to belligerent. I hope.
I summoned my Sacred Gear and upended it, watching as the glowing liquid flowed out to form the circle on the dusty floor.
“Welp, time to see what I get now,” I muttered and started the Aria.
This time, I could feel something within me reaching out as I chanted, latching onto something and drawing it towards me. It felt hot, passionate and full of life, a feeling that brought to mind a rose made of crimson flames.
“Aw crap,” I muttered as I realized just what that meant, right before the Summoning ritual finished and the circle erupted into a massive blast of crimson light that nearly blinded me.
I stumbled back, rubbing at my eyes and extremely glad that I’d done the Summoning inside. Once I could finally see again, I looked up to see a figure slowly floating down from a few feet of the floor within a pillar of red light, her golden boots gleaming brightly, her crimson dress glowed like fire and her hair shone like spun gold. Yep, no mistaking it, my Saber was Nero. This is gonna be...interesting? Sure, lets go with interesting.
Sabers feet touched the ground and the pillar of light vanished in a swirl of crimson petals. She opened her eyes and smiled.
“Hello Praetor,” she said, “Its nice to finally meet you.”
I smirked as I pushed back my hood and removed my mask.
“Likewise, although I’m honestly rather surprised to see that I summoned you Nero,” I said, “Adrian Tepis, or Alucard in costume.”
“I do hope that you don't expect me to wear a mask,” said Saber.
“Nah, I know a futile argument when I see one,” I said, “Besides, you don't hide a rose away from the world.”
Saber blinked, then smirked.
“Ohh, you do know how to talk to me Praetor,” she said.
I smirked back as I put my mask back on and pulled up my hood.
“Speaking of talking, we’re about to have company,” I said.
Sure enough, at that moment the door opened and the King of Tinkers entered, pausing at the sight of Saber. She eyed the other woman for a moment, before nodding.
“Good choice,” she said.
“I don't exactly choose who I summon ya know,” I deadpanned.
“Regardless, a Saber will go a long way to help. Better than a Berserker or Assassin at least.”
I pulled a face.
“Actually I kinda want an Assassin to send after Coil, but I guess it can wait,” I said, “Anyway, Saber, this is Ruler, also known as Valerie Tepes, my sort-of sister for the paperwork.”
“Ah, a pleasure to meet you,” said Saber with a blinding smile.
“Anyway, Ruler, can you see if we can get this place legally?” I said, “It’ll be a good base of operations. There's plenty of space, a nice area we can turn into a garden and I’m fairly sure that its not in use by anyone.”
“Shouldn't be to hard,” said Ruler, “Most of the places around here are readily available for anyone who can pay the back taxes.”
“Charge it to Coil,” I said, “In the meantime, I probably ought to get home and get some sleep.”
“Whys that Praetor?” asked Saber.
“Because I’ve got to get up for school tomorrow,” I grumbled.
“I did say we should wait,” said Ruler.
“Thats not what I’m annoyed about,” I grumbled, “Couldn't you have got me into Arcadia?”
“Sorry Master, but theres a limit to what I can do,” she said, “Besides, don't you want to try and help that Taylor girl?”
I pulled a face.
“I guess, but Winslow!”
Saber just stood back and watched as Ruler and I kept bickering all the way home.
The next day, I was still grumbling under my breath as I stomped out of Blackwells office with my books, a map of the school and a timetable. I think it goes without saying, but she was a raging, condescending, hypocritical bitch who thought I could take a warning about keeping my nose clean from a woman who literally had a drug deal going on right outside her office window. Fortunately, no one seemed to be willing to get in my way, although whether that was due to my thunderous expression or the fact I was an unknown was anyone's guess.
The sound of a hand striking against flesh extremely hard made me pause and look around. A short distance away, a boy with a red and green bandana around his bicep stumbled back into one of his friends, holding a red cheek as a girl with her dark hair in pigtails advanced on him, radiating danger.
“I warned you Shinji, try that again and I wouldn't go easy!” snarled the girl.
“Y-you can't talk to me like that!” snarled the boy as he got to his feet.
I winced as the girl punched him across the other cheek, sending him crashing back to the ground while his friends quickly backed up.
“Don't think for a moment that that little armband impresses me in the slightest Matou,” she hissed, “Now stay away from me or I’ll do more than break your nose.”
She turned on her heel and stormed away from the ABB thugs, revealing a red turtleneck, a black skirt, black stockings and leather shoes. She quickly spotted me staring and scowled.
“Need something?” she asked, her voice a little tight.
I blinked and blushed at being caught staring.
“Ah, sorry,” I said, “I just couldn't help but overhear.”
The girl snorted and relaxed slightly.
“Yeah, unfortunately thats par for the course around here,” she said, “Shinji thinks hes a big shot because hes part of the ABB, but hes just an idiot.”
She let out a huff and looked me up and down, raising an eyebrow.
“I don't recognize you,” she said, “New student?”
“Starting today,” I grumbled, “I wanted Arcadia, but I couldn't get in this late in the year.”
The girl nodded, looking sympathetic.
“Yeah, I know the feeling,” she said, “I’m in the same boat. Best of luck to you.”
She nodded and walked away.
“Hey, wait,” I said, making her pause and glance back at me, “Whats your name? I’m Adrian.”
The girl was silent for a moment, eyeing me werally, before she snorted.
“Fine, I guess I’ll humour you,” she said, “I’m Rin. Rin Tohsaka.”
It took all I had to keep from reacting to that as she walked away. Instead, I glanced down the hall in the direction that the boy she’d punched had headed with his friends.
“And that was Shinji Matou I’m guessing,” I muttered, “Alright, lets see if I can…”
I trailed off as I summoned my Sacred Gear in my pocket and activated it. Immediately, I KNEW the people around me, reading their Souls to such a degree that Tattletale would be envious. I ignored most of them however and focused on Shinji. He was a perfectly normal Human and...honestly not as bad as I would have thought. Oh, he wasn't a nice person, but he wasn't evil and had only really joined the gang because he thought it would make him cool.
I turned my attention away from him and onto Rin and...ah, there we go. I stared at the girl’s Soul with interest. She wasn't a Magus, but she was a Parahuman. I could see the connection with the Shard, a vast but simple Soul that was barely more than those possessed by Animals. In fact, it was actually less than that. It was intelligent, but definitely not sapient and, despite the fact I could see it affecting Rin, it wasn't evil. It was just doing its job.
I was about to dismiss my Sacred Gear when my gaze fell on a small group emerging from the girls bathroom. My physical eyes registered them as the girls who could only be the Bitches Three, while my Soul Sight confirmed it and holy COW was Sophia twisted! Her Soul was a twisted mass of hatred, anger and an inferiority complex that made Armsmaster and Eidolon look positively well balanced. Her Shard certainly wasn't helping, taking all that negative emotion and stirring it up, forcing her into a vicious cycle that she’d likely never be able to escape from, even if she somehow lost her power.
Next to that mess, Emma and Madison were hardly even worth noticing. Emma was broken, damaged and patched up badly. She wasn't completely lost, not yet, but it would take work to fix her and it was doubtful that she’d ever fully recover and Madison was...well, she was no different than any of the other Souls belonging to the teenaged girls in the school.
As I watched, the three sped up slightly as another girl emerged from the stairwell, moving quickly so that Sophia could shoulder check her, knocking the girl to the ground before stomping on her bag while the other two said something I couldn't hear. Or was really paying attention to as I examined Taylor Heberts Soul.
She was...not looking well. Her Soul was tattered, marked by the suffering she’d been put through, but still whole and going strong. I was mildly impressed by that. It was one thing to read about someone going through hell and still moving forwards and it was quite another to see it in person. It almost made me regret not starting a War. Taylor would make a fine Master and I’m certain that she would have managed to claim the Grail.
I quickly pushed that thought aside however. I wasn't willing to put the world at risk just to entertain myself if someone unworthy managed to claim the Grail. Besides, I had a protagonist to meet.
Taylor gritted her teeth as she pushed herself to her knees. The pain in her shoulder and arms was practically an old friend by this point, but that didn't make it any less unpleasant. Still, there wasn't anything she could do other than endure, alone and without help. She ruthless pushed down the tears that threatened to flow as she picked up her bag and reached for the books she’d been holding when Sophia had barged into her, only to find that someone else had already picked it up. She swallowed and looked up, half expecting it to be one of the Trio’s hanger ons ready to make the moment worse.
Instead, she found herself looking at a boy she didn't know or even recognize, which was rather surprising considering that he was quite the looker. He wasn't massive or jacked like a footballer, but he was tall and slim, with wavy, pale blonde hair that reached his shoulders and unusual dark brown eyes that almost looked red. His skin was pale, with dark circles under his eyes, although he looked healthy despite that, and his features held the image of eastern european nobility somewhere in his heritage. Compared with his almost exotic looks, his clothes were more mundane, just a black jacket, red shirt with a design that looked like an eye on the front and jeans.
“You OK?” he asked in a rather rich voice that carried a hint of an accent.
“I...I think so,” said Taylor as she got too her feet.
He glanced after the Trio and indicated after them.
“That happen often?” he asked.
“All the damn time,” said Taylor, “Um, are you new? I don't recognize you…”
He smiled and nodded, revealing a mouth full of pure white teeth in the process.
“Yep, me and my Sister moved to town recently,” he said, “Names Adrian. Adrian Tepes.”
“You mean like Dracula?” she asked.
“Yeah, I get that a lot,” he said, “It certainly doesn't help that my family is originally from Walachia, so theres actually a fairly good chance I am related to the Impaler Prince.”
He flashed a grin and Taylor snickered despite herself.
“So, you like gothic literature?” asked Adrian.
“I like all kinds of books,” she said, “How about you?”
“Sure, I love reading,” he said, “Got anything interesting to recommend?”
Taylor smiled and the two headed off down the hall to the first class of the day.
By the time lunch rolled around, I was about ready to have Saber burn the school down and have Ruler do something horrible to the remains, just to make sure it couldn't pollute the world any more. Calling this...place a school was giving it way to much credit, it was barely even an institution. Barely any of the teachers actually gave a shit and those that did were either utterly useless or to interested in being ‘cool’ to actually teach. Seriously, LOCKHART made a better teacher than Gladly did and I’m pretty damn sure that at least one of the teachers had been high during the lesson.
“It wasn't that bad,” said Taylor as we left the Maths classroom, a lesson we shared, watching in apparent amusement as I muttered a number of inventive insults under my breath in three different languages.
On a side note, I’d apparently inherited some of Valerie's other skills in the process of being transformed, which included being able to speak Romanian, Italian, German, Hungarian Mandarin and Japanese.
“Taylor, he was so drunk he couldn't stand up straight,” I growled, “Not only that, but he was drinking in class !”
I shook my head in disgust.
“I knew this place had a reputation for being bad, but I didn't think it was this bad.”
“How did you end up here anyway?” asked Taylor.
‘Because I wanted to keep you from getting locked in your own locker full of shit,’ I thought.
“Because I couldn't get into Arcadia this late in the year and my sisters way to busy to homeschool me,” I said instead.
“Couldn't your Parents do it?” asked Taylor, before she seemed to realize why I didn't mention them and winced, “Sorry.”
“Its fine,” I said, “Anyway, lunch?”
“Ah, I’d rather not,” she said, “Plus...it might not be such a good idea to be seen with me…”
I fixed her with a flat look.
“We’ve worked together in every class so far and have been seen by a load of people since we started talking,” I said, “Besides, a bunch of idiots whos only way to feel relevant is to put others down don't really scare me.”
Taylor shot a rather startled look my way.
“I have some experience with bullies,” I said.
She flinched and looked away.
“Hey, theres nothing to be ashamed of,” I said, “Some people just can't be happy unless they’re putting other people down. They are the type of people who end up locked up for a very long time. Or they grow up. Kids can be cruel and yet grow into decent people.”
“However, for now I can deal with a couple of idiot girls with nothing better to do than be cruel to others.”
Taylor stared at me for a moment, before she shrugged.
“Its your funeral,” she said, although she looked a little relieved.
I just smirked as I followed the taller teenager down to the cafeteria.
“Right, next time I’m bringing my own lunch,” I muttered as I eyed the gray slop they were serving.
Despite the fact that I was basically immune to poison and disease, even before I granted myself hyper-regeneration with the Grail, I still wasn't entirely sure if I’d survive actually putting any of that stuff in my body. Unfortunately, I still needed to eat and I somehow doubted that snacking on a skinhead would go down to well, so, with great reluctance, I picked up a tray from the stack at the end of the line.
As I did, I paused as I felt something flow through me and into the plastic, making it glow faintly with a network of circuit-like lines. I stared at the tray for a moment, before prodding the odd feeling I now had in the back of my head that seemed to connect to the tray. In response, it twitched in my grip.
“The fuck?” I muttered, glancing around.
No one seemed to have noticed anything, which suggested that I was the only one who could see the markings. I looked back at the tray and frowned. Where had this new power come from? I was fairly sure it was similar to Runes, but I was pretty sure I didn't have anything like it in my repertoire, not even vanilla telekinesis. Then again, I did have the power to absorb abilities through blood and the power I was currently using seemed to be providing me with a countdown. The only question was how I’d got Runes blood into my system when the only person whos blood I’d drunk had been…
“Oh crap,” I muttered as I put two and two together, “That girl must have been Rune. That...could end badly.”
I didn't regret saving her, not when I knew what the ABB did to girls they...acquired (although I doubt Rune would have had much trouble dealing with them if needed), no, my problem was that my choice of words and the fact I was a new Cape might result in the E88 trying to recruit me. It wouldn't go well, but it would likely be very noisy.
Still, while it was mildly annoying and would likely cause me trouble, I wasn't about to turn down a potentially useful resource. I knew that the power wouldn't last much longer, I hadn't taken in enough of her blood for that, I did know I’d have it for at least another half an hour, mainly because I hadn't used it until now. With that in mind, I quickly ran my fingers over the rest of the trays in the stack and moved on, grabbing my cutlery and casually marking as much of the rest of it as I could. I couldn't do anything to obvious, but I could think of a few ways I could use this lot to cause some chaos and distract the Bitches Three.
I quickly bought a pre packaged sandwich that was horrifically overpriced but hopefully not instantly lethal, a bottle of water and a rather sorry looking flapjack, also obscenely expensive for what they were, before heading over to where Taylor had found a seat in the corner of the room where she was unpacking her lunch while looking around nervously. She was so on edge, she nearly jumped out of her skin as I sat down across from her.
“Jumpy much,” I said as I opened the packaging of my lunch and took a bite of the limp sandwich.
I pulled a face as the dry bread practically disintegrated in my mouth and took a gulp of water. Fortunately, its rather difficult to fuck up on bottled water, even the really cheap stuff, so that didn't taste to bad.
“I’ve had some bad experiences in here,” muttered Taylor as her eyes darted towards the door as it opened to reveal the Bitches Three, “Speaking of bad experiences…”
She sighed and shot a slightly pleading look my way.
“Last chance to avoid social suicide,” she said.
“Oh, I don't think it’ll come to that,” I said with a slightly feral grin.
And I didn't. After all, Vampires are, at their core, ambush predators. While they could certainly chase down and overpower their prey if needed, that tended to be loud and obvious and their myriad of weaknesses meant that an aware Humanity could hunt them down and deal with them with surprising ease. That was why Vampires remained hidden in the shadows and only took what they needed, despite their power.
Accompanying that was an instinctive ability to navigate the Human social hierarchy with ease and an instinctive grasp of body language that allowed Vampires to be either incredibly attractive, vanish into the background or let out just a hint of their true nature to scare whatever poor schmuck pissed off the monster witless, all without using a hint of their supernatural abilities, although their hypnotic gaze was certainly helpful in that regard.
In short, I was much better armed for a bout of social fisticuffs than any of the Bitches Three.
That said, I really didn't want to have to deal with them, so I clenched my fist under the table. There was a startled yelp as Madisons foot came down on a tray that had just mysteriously shot off a table and landed in front of her. Her foot shot out from under her and she face planted rather spectacularly, catching Emma on her way down while trying to keep from breaking her nose on the floor. A second twitch of my fingers caused the tray to land directly in front of another student who was carrying a full tray, sending them flying as well, causing the bowl of food on said tray to hit Sophia on the back of the head, covering her in mystery meat chili. Sophia’s response was to turn and deck the unfortunate student, just as the lunch monitor barged into the room to investigate the chaos.
“Huh, dinner and a show,” I said, “They shouldn't have.”
Taylor looked from the scene of chaos I’d created with just a few twitches of my finger to me and back again in utter shock while I mused as to whether or not I could convince Rune to join me for a bite some time. Her power was rather useful all things considered.
With Madison and Emma in the nurse's office with bumps, bruises, a sprained ankle and a pulled shoulder and Sophia undergoing an in school detention for punching the poor guy who’d accidentally thrown his lunch all over her (apparently whatever leverage she had didn't extend to keeping her out of trouble when punching someone other than Taylor in full view of the staff), the rest of Taylors day was blissfully quiet. That was probably a good thing because she was deep in thought about her new...friend? Yes, that descriptor would do for now.
To be honest, Taylor wasn't entirely sure what to make of Adrian Tepes. On the surface, he was a perfectly average teenage boy, albeit one with some slightly unusual looks, but there was something about him that set her on edge. Just what that was she didn't know, but she was almost certain that he was responsible for the kerfuffle at lunch...somehow. She wasn't sure how he’d managed it, but it was almost certainly the result of some kind of power.
The idea of him being a Cape was one she was a little nervus of. There hadn't really been any reports of new Capes joining the Wards and they all went to Arcadia anyway. That meant that he was either new and independent or a Villain. She was leaning more towards the latter, especially considering the implied sticky end of his Parents and the fact he was clearly new in town.
The one thing she wasn't unsure of though was what she was going to do with the knowledge. She was going to keep her mouth shut. Capes were notoriously privet and, friendly or not, she had no real interest in potentially alienating the only person who’d actually been nice to her since the start of highschool, to say nothing about not wanting him to do something ill defined but likely unpleasant.
Plus, she was curious to see what else Adrian could do to the Bitches Three.
She snickered at the thought, for once heading home with a spring in her step and a smile on her lips. Life was looking up for her.
I entered the apartment I now shared with my Servants, ignoring the slightly odd sight of two identical blonde women sat at the table, and dropped into the other seat between the two Servants.
“How was your day?” asked Ruler.
“Pretty good,” I said, “I managed to make friends with Taylor and got to humiliate her bullies. Now I just need to make sure they can't make a mess of my rep and things’ll be dandy.”
“Let me know if you need any help Master,” said Saber with a grin, “I would be happy to assist in dealing with the miscreants.”
“I really don't think that your brand of justice will be needed Saber, but I appreciate it,” I said, “That said, I don't want you getting bored while I’m at school, so I don't mind if you go out to punch some idiots in the face. Just try to avoid killing anyone and don't take over the city.”
“Don't worry Master, the Grail provided me with the information of the ‘Unwritten Rules’ and Ruler was nice enough to explain why they are needed,” said Saber, “I don't fully agree with them, but I shall aquest and follow them...within reason.”
“That goes without saying,” I said, “There are a few people in the city who don't give a damn about them and will fight with the intent to kill. Those you can meet with equal force, although I would prefer that you don't actually kill them unless they prevent a clear and present threat to innocent bystanders, if only to keep the PRT from throwing a hissy fit.”
“I understand Master,” said Saber, inclining her head slightly.
I nodded back, then lent forwards with a toothy grin.
“Now, lets talk about just what we’re going to do to shake things up,” I said.
The two blondes glanced at each other, then grinned identical grins that did not bode well for Brockton Bay.
“Alright, so tell me whats been going on,” said Director Piggot as the last of her little herd of cats took their seats for the end-of-the-month meeting, “Starting with our new friends.”
The projector screen at the other end of the room lit up to reveal three pictures of the new Capes that had appeared on the scene and made a rather impressive splash. There was a round of mutterings and Miss Militia blushed behind her scarf, before Armsmaster stood and the noise disappeared.
“From the left, Saber, Ruler and Alucard,” he began, indicating to the images in order, “Saber appears to be a high level Brute with a rather impressive amount of skill with a sword, some kind of pyrokinesis and a Thinker ability that let her take control of one of Squealers vehicles with no trouble. She is known to be friendly, bombastic and has a tendency of flirting with both men and women who attract her attention.”
At this, Miss Militia, Dauntless, Triumph and Battery blushed and squirmed in their seats while Assault just grinned smugly. Armsmaster ignored his colleagues discomfort as he continued the report.
“She doesn't seem to have a secret identity as she doesn't wear a mask and blatantly dislikes the Gangs, especially the Empire, and has been reported to be a little...enthusiastic in taking down any criminals she catches, which tends to lead to a rather large amount of collateral damage. PHO has theorized that she might be related to New Wave, but both parties have denied it. On a side note, Saber appears to get on well with Glory Girl.”
“Thats...a little worrying, but not surprising,” said Piggot, “From what I know, they are rather similar in terms of personality and tastes.”
“And tendency to not know their own strength,” muttered Aegis.
“What are the chances that we could recruit her?” asked Piggot, ignoring the Ward leaders comment.
“Fairly low I think,” said Miss Militia, “While she is most definitely a Hero, she has also expressed a fair amount of distaste for the PRT as a whole.”
“That...could be bad,” she said.
“Oh, don't misunderstand, shes definitely on our side,” said Miss Militia quickly, “But she won't be joining us anytime soon. Plus, its not like she really needs any help. Shes powerful and very skilled, so its unlikely that she could be press ganged.”
“True enough,” said Piggot with a sigh, “Alright, next is…”
“Ruler, a Tinker with a fair amount of talent and connections to somehow build some high quality equipment, despite never having been heard of before,” said Armsmaster, bringing up an image of the blue and gold clad Tinker, “Shes not as...prolific as Saber, but her tech is impressive and she seems to have a knack for finding trouble and putting it down. We still haven't managed to defrost Alabaster and Hookwolf hasn't been seen in weeks since she somehow melted his blade form. She and Saber also seem to know each other since they’ve been spotted together a few times.”
“Let me guess, we won't be recruiting her either?” asked Piggot.
“Unlikely,” said Armsmaster, “While Tinkers are more vulnerable at the start, once we get set up, we can be VERY effective. Its the setting up thats the hard part.”
Piggot grumbled something rude under her breath.
“Alright, whoes the last one?”
Armsmaster clicked the mouse and brought up the image of a teenager in a red hoodie, black jeans and a red domino mask perched on a lamppost with a rather impressive pair of wings folded against his back.
“Alucard, 15-17 years old and with a powerset that can best be described as a Vampire,” said Armsmaster.
Piggot’s eyebrows shot up.
“A Vampire?” she asked incredulously.
“He has exhibited enough strength to flip cars, is fast enough to be a blur to the naked eye, can transform into mist and bats, has wings and also seems to have retractable claws and fangs,” said Armsmaster, “Additionally, he has either a high Brute rating or rapid regeneration because hes been seen taking a shotgun blast to the stomach and just being annoyed by it.”
“Guess thats why the kid went with his name,” said Assault.
He glanced around as everyone looked at him in confusion.
“What? You guys didn't notice that his name is Dracula backwards?”
“Its also the name of Dracula’s son in the Castlevania games,” said Triumph.
There was a moments silence as everyone digested that and Piggot rubbed her eyes.
“Great, a Cape who thinks hes a Vampire,” she muttered, “Thats all we need…”
She sighed again and shook her head.
“Fine, fine, whatever, so long as they are nominally Heroes and not chewing on innocent people, I suppose we can leave them for now,” she said, “I do want you all to soft-sell joining up if you run into them, but I’d rather have them as independent heroes than Villains.”
“I thought you didn't like Independents,” said Miss Assault.
“I don't, but I’m pragmatic enough to accept them if it means not having even more Villains to deal with,” said Piggot, “Now, moving onto a more serious matter, have we managed to uncover anything about the recent rash of murders?”
The atmosphere in the room shifted, going from slightly joival to serious in the blink of an eye and for good reason. Over the past couple of weeks, a number of people had turned up tortured to death, including a few PRT agents. The crime scenes were incredibly gory and it was clear that the victims had been put through intense agony before they died, often thanks to having vital organs removed while they were still alive.
“Actually, we have,” said Miss Militia, “While there is little obvious pattern among the victims, an examination of their backgrounds have turned up some rather worrying connections.”
She took Armsmasters place and brought up a list of images of the victims on one side and a very familiar black suited Villain on the other.
“Every single one of them had evidence in their homes pointing back to Coil,” she said, “Most of the victims so far have been Mercenaries who apparently worked for Coil and those PRT Agents who were killed have been revealed to have been spies working for him. We are investigating and using the information lifted, have managed to identify more spies and a frankly terrifying number of back doors, traps and other malicious programs within our systems. Dragons doing her best to get rid of them, but there are so many and a lot of them are wired to go off if removed, so shes having to be extremely careful.”
“I see,” said Piggot, her voice flat as her knuckles went white from her clenched fists, “So, Coil finally annoyed someone dangerous enough that they are going after him with both barrels eh?”
“What do you want us to do?” asked Battery.
Piggot stared at the screen for a moment, before glancing at Miss Militia.
“Is there any evidence that the perpetrator is a Cape?” she asked.
“Other than the fact that whoever it is has taken down multiple highly trained Mercenaries?” asked Miss Militia, “Not really.”
She hesitated for a moment, before flicking to another slide.
“That said, there are two things that have been noted,” she said, “The first is this.”
The image on screen was of a blood splatter where part of a handprint could been seen. A handprint much to small to belong to an adult.
“Are you trying to tell me that the killer is a child?” asked Piggot incredulously.
Miss Militia shrugged.
“Unlikely, but its the only bit of evidence we have, other than the method of killing,” she said.
“What do you mean?” asked Piggot, narrowing her eyes.
“All of the victims have been killed by two slash wounds to the throat and their abdomen slashed open,” said Miss Militia, “The latter is done with precision only found in someone who knows their way around the Human body.”
Assault suddenly sat up, looking a little confused.
“I’m sorry, but are you about to imply that we have Jack the Ripper running around the Bay?” he asked.
Once again, a lot of odd looks were directed his way.
“I like marcharb history and gothic literature,” he said, “I’m not completely uncultured.”
Miss Militia sighed and nodded.
“Yes, one of the detectives investigating did note the similarities to the Whitechapel Murders,” she said.
Piggot stared for a moment, before dropping her face into her hands.
“First a Vampire and now Jack the Ripper?” she groaned, “Whats next, Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolfman?”
She took a deep breath and shook her head.
“Never mind, not important,” she said, “For now, we have no evidence that the murderer is a Cape, so we’ll leave it to the police. Miss Militia, Armsmaster, I want you two to ferret out any and all spys you can find. I’m sick of all of these leaks that I know for a fact we have, so we’ll use this opportunity to deal with them.”
“Yes Ma’am,” said Miss Militia while Armsmaster just grunted and nodded.
“Good, now if theres nothing else…?”
There was no response, so Piggot continued.
“Good, keep up the good work everyone. Dismissed.”
The Protectorate Capes filed out, leaving Piggot alone as she stared at the screen for a moment longer before heaving herself to her feet and heading off to get her blood cleaned, inwardly hoping that nothing else bizarre would happen before next months meeting. She wasn't sure if her blood pressure could take it.
I glanced up from my computer as the little bundle of joy and murder that was my Assassin skipped into the room and dropped a stack of papers onto the desk beside me, before parking her bum on the sofa beside me and snagging the TV remote. I’d summoned Jack the Ripper as Assassin a week ago after a run in with some of Coils mercenaries who attempted to...convince me shall we say, to work for their boss. The conversation had not gone well for them, but it had revealed some interesting facts about my power and bumped Coil up the list of things to deal with, especially after he tried to have me shot.
How do I know about that when he would have binned the timeline as soon as the plans failed? Well, I’m not entirely sure how, but I apparently had the ability to remember both timelines, so long as they involved me. I think. I’m not entirely sure how it works, but I occasionally end up with two sets of memories when one of Coils plans happens in my vicinity. Its all very confusing, but it was more than enough to piss me off, resulting in me summoning my Assassin and sending her after Coils goons in an attempt to find the bastard. Plus, it got me an adorable younger sister, so I can't complain.
I put aside my laptop and picked up the file Jack had given me, idly flipping through it. The information Jack had been gathering for me was mostly info about Coils bases and the defences around said bases. I wanted to take the bastard down in one fell swoop, which meant taking out as many of his bases and assets as possible in one go. I intended to approach Lisa about it at some point, mainly because I knew I could trust her to play it straight with me if it meant dealing with Coil. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do with the Undersiders yet, but I suspected I’d need Tattletale to help take Coil down one way or another.
“Hey Big Brother,” said Jack, making me look up at the little Assassin.
She was watching some kids sitcom with a slightly strange look on her face.
“Whats up Jack?” I asked.
“Whats school?” she asked.
Dinah Alcott sighed as she dropped into her seat. It was the sigh that every 12 year old makes when they realize its only Wednesday morning and there are still three lonnnnng days before the weekend. She didn't really mind school, but she didn't have many friends and was a lot smarter than most of her classmates, leading her to become bored in lessons. Plus, it was getting towards the end of term and she was looking forwards to the christmas holidays.
“Alright kids, enough looking glum, I’ve got exciting news,” said the ever enthusiastic english/Homeroom teacher Miss Fujimura as she slammed the door open and stepped up to her desk, “We've got a new student joining us today, isn't that great!”
The class sat up straight and looked forwards, interested at the break from the monotonous routine that was school.
“There, I knew that’d get you excited!” said Miss Fujimura, “Come on in honey!”
The door opened again and a girl entered the room. A quiet round of muttering sparked up and Dinah couldn't blame them. The girl was certainly rather odd looking, with short, pure white hair, lime green eyes and pale skin that looked like it’d never seen the sun, not to mention a scar over her left eye and another on her other cheek, she was certainly eye catching. Compared with that, her choice of outfit of a white, sailor collar shirt, black skirt, stockings and pink shoes was relatively normal.
“Hi everyone, I’m Jacqueline Tepes,” said the girl with a friendly smile, “But you all can call me Jack.”
Yes, Piggot is somewhat reasonable in this story, mainly because I see her as a pragmatist more than anything. She doesn't like Capes in the slightest, but she'd much rather have independents than more Villains. Thats not to say that she wont try to get the newcomers to sign up though, just that shes willing to accept the status quo.
Why yes, I am sending Jack the Ripper to school. That should be interesting if nothing else. Also, yes her homeroom teacher is that Miss Fujimura.
Oh, and regarding Coil, he'll get his, but not for a while. Adrian is not willing to move against him unless hes positive that hes got all his ducks in a row. Plus, the slimy snake will be getting some...interesting and rather dangerous help down the line.
Dinah watched slightly incredulously as her new classmate and friend blitzed past the finishing line, winning the race and utterly demolishing the state's record in the process if the slightly shocked mutterings of the PE coach was anything to go by. Even in the half day she’d known the other girl, Dinah had rapidly come to the conclusion that something wasn't quite right with her. Even leaving aside her unusual hair colour and scars, Jack was still an odd girl.
On the surface, she appeared to be a happy, pleasant and curious girl, but even so there were a few things that made Dinah a little...uneasy. To start with, she was completely silent. It probably wasn't something most people would notice, but Dinah was a lot more observant than most 12 year olds and even most of the Adults she knew, but she knew for a fact that no normal person should be able to move as silently as Jack did. Not only that, but she seemed to have an odd habit of referring to herself in plural which she seemed to be suppressing, but occasionally slipped up on. She also really loved her brother. A lot.
On the other hand, Jack was fun and Dinah was always happy to have more friends, even if they were a little odd. Its not like the rest of them weren't completely nuts after all.
She pushed her thoughts to the side and headed over to join her new friend where she was being gushed over by their classmates.
“Wow, your really fast Jack!” said one of the girls, “You should try out for the track team!”
“Yeah, with her, Miyu and Illya, the other schools won't stand a chance!” squealed another, “To bad Missy’s to busy to try…”
“Ah, I don't think I’ll be able to,” said Jack, “W...I have to help my family after school. We’re...a bit busy at the moment.”
“Awww, thats too bad,” said another girl.
Before anyone could say anything else, the Coach blew her whistle and the class quickly moved on, with the next group of girls moving to the starting positions while the previous heat took their seats. Jack dropped down next to Dinah and accepted the bottle the girl handed her. A moment later, another girl dropped down on the brunettes other side, breathing a little heavy.
“Hey Dinah,” she said.
“Hey Missy, your late,” said Dinah.
“Sorry, something came up,” said Missy, shooting a curious look at Jack, who also looked curious, “Whos that?”
“Oh, sorry,” said Dinah, “This is Jack Tepes. She started today. Jack, this is my best friend Missy Biron.”
“Hi,” said Jack.
“Hello,” said Missy, eyeing the other girls scars, “How are you enjoying being here?”
“Its fun,” said Jack, “Much better than Big Bro made it out to be.”
She looked thoughtful.
“Then again, he did also say that Winslow was a horrible example of a school, so I guess I shouldn't be totally shocked.”
“Urg, your brother goes to Winslow?” asked Dinah, “I’ve heard some horrible things about that place.”
“Big bro has probably said worse,” said Jack, “He really, REALLY doesn't like it there, but he couldn't get into Arcadia this late in the year.”
The conversation was interrupted by a whistle blast and the coach shouting at the girls to get a move on, prompting them all to move from the track to the high jump bar, which Jack proved to be just as good at as track, which amused Dinah and Missy and seemed to annoy the coach.
I sighed softly as I opened my locker and retrieved what I needed to take home to do my homework, idly wondering if I could possibly summon a better teacher to replace Gladly and ignoring the glares I was getting from the gang affiliated kids. The Bitches Three had apparently figured out that I was doing something to keep them from messing with Taylor (which I was. Shadow manipulation was rather handy for that) and had decided to attempt to get me out of the way. Their weapon of choice was by dripping poison into the ears of both the other students and the teachers. Unfortunately for them, the morons in charge were weak minded enough that I could pull an Obi Wan and mind trick them into thinking I was positively angelic.
The gang kids were a little more of an issue, but I wasn't worried. They couldn't do anything to hurt me and were remarkably easy to deflect, usually by starting a scuffle in the hallways between whoever was hassling me and another group of gangbangers, and the few times I had got into a fight it hadn't been that hard to deal with them. I wasn't what you’d call a good fighter, mainly because I lacked training and only had about a months experience on the street, but between my sheer speed and strength, it was easy to deal with the idiots.
Speaking of which...
“Hey fag,” sneered a rather large skinhead as he and a couple of his mates stepped up and loomed in an attempt to intimidate me.
“Sorry, I don't smoke,” I said as I shut the metal door.
That seemed to bring the goons up short.
I glanced at him, plastering a look of confusion on my face while cackling like a loon inside.
“I don't smoke so why would I carry cigarettes?” I said, “Frankly, you shouldn't either. They’re rather bad for you.”
I brushed past the now very confused looking goons, finally letting my grin show. It might have been a stupid word game based on slang, but it worked wonders to throw idiots off their game.
“Whats got you looking so smug?” asked Taylor as I caught up with my friend.
“Just amused at how easy it is to confuse idiots,” I said.
“You get entirely to much entertainment out of that,” said Taylor, “I can't help but worry that it’ll backfire on you eventually.”
“Eh, I can handle it,” I said as we left the building, “See you on Monday.”
“Later,” said Taylor as she started jogging towards the bus stop.
I smirked and started walking in the direction of home.
I was a couple of blocks away from school when I paused, smirked and turned into an ally. A few hundred yards down the dark gap between the buildings, it opened out into a small courtyard area where I stopped and caught the crossbow bolt that had just been loosed at me. I glanced at the sharp point, then up at the rooftop where it had been fired from.
“You know, you could really hurt someone doing that,” I said.
My answer was another bolt aimed at my leg that I avoided by shifting my stance.
“Don't want to fight me in the open eh?” I muttered, “Fine by ME!”
I brought my hands together and the courtyard was abruptly full of white mist.
Sophia jerked back at the unexpected appearance of the thick fog. She’d been keeping an eye on the new kid for the past couple of weeks, especially after she noticed the odd behaviour of the teachers. Since the guy was a massive pest and somehow kept deflecting their attempts to teach Hebert her place, she, Emma and Madison had attempted to remove the annoying obstacle by spreading rumours and hinting to the staff that he was bad news, only to find it doing precisely zip. He was incredibly good at avoiding fights and the few he hadn’t been able to keep out of, he’d somehow managed to come out smelling of roses, regardless of how much shit Sophia and her friends had thrown his way.
As a result, she’d rapidly come to the conclusion that he was a Parahuman, most likely some form of Master, who had been fucking with the heads of everyone in school, something that was both rather worrying and absolutely awesome for the sociopathic teenager. After all, Masters who could affect Humans were essentially the Parahuman version of sex offenders, matched only by Biotinkers on the PRT’s OH SHIT-o-meter. As such, her taking in a Master operating out of a school would both earn her brownie points with Piggy and serve to drive Hebert even further down with the revelation that her new boy-toy was a mind controlling Villain.
Considering that, she was understandably surprised by the appearance of the thick fog.
Her startled exclamation was cut off as Tepes suddenly erupted from the fog right in front of her, her bolts held like daggers in his hands. She barely had enough time to see the wide grin on his lips, revealing his lengthened canines in the process, before she was forced to turn shadow to avoid having her own bolts jammed into her shoulders. He barely stumbled, already turning as she returned to solid form and brought up her crossbow, only to be forced to use it to block the follow up strike.
“That was rather rude Sophia,” hissed Tepes, amusement clear in his tone, “And lethal bolts? Naughty naughty Miss Stalker, what would the PRT think of this?”
Sophia recoiled, leaping back away from the other Cape as far as she could.
“What the fuck?!” she snarled, “How did you…?”
“That my dear is a secret,” said Tepes, casually sidestepping the bolt she sent at him mid sentence, “Now, we seem to be at somewhat of an impasse here. We’re both unmasked and your nowhere near good enough to actually beat me with that little toy while I can't take you down without getting the PRT annoyed at me for kicking the crap out of one of their Wards. I dare say that you could probably get the PRT to target me and label me as a Villain, but if you did that, there would be nothing stopping me from simply outing you as a horrific bully on PHO, which I imagine wouldn't go over terribly well with Piggot.”
“Why haven't you done that anyway?” growled Sophia, her head spinning as she tried to figure out a way out of this situation.
“Oh, I’ve been tempted,” he said, “Sooooo tempted. However, I’m not convinced that it’d do anything but get the PRT annoyed at me, which I’d rather avoid. Without evidence, all we have is a case of ‘he said, she said’ and the PRT is way too attached to the first two letters of that acronym for it to go well for me. However…”
He did... something and Sophia recoiled as a feeling of utter terror and complete certainty that the... monster in front of her was about to rip her to shreds shot straight past her conscious mind and slammed into her hindbrain. Her muscles locked up, despite every fiber of her being screaming at her to run, she knew it was already to late. She could feel the fangs at her throat, the claws pressed against her belly, ready to rip her open and consume her until there was nothing left…
Then, just as suddenly as it had hit, the feeling vanished. Instantly, Sophia’s entire body went limp and she collapsed, barely catching herself as her stomach heaved. She snatched her mask off, just in time to vomit all over the roof. By the time she recovered enough to look up, Tepes was already gone, but the message was clear. Pushing her luck would NOT end well for her.
A few blocks away, I reformed my body and stepped out of the alley I’d appeared in. I paused and took a deep breath. I was NOT happy with the fact I couldn't do anything about Hess, but both my own instincts and Rulers experience and time hacking into the PRT systems to double check basically confirmed that, without extraordinary evidence, the only thing that outing Hess would do would get the PRT on my ass instead. Oh, Hess would go down, but there wasn't much I could do from inside juvie and starting a war with the PRT wasn't exactly helpful either.
I had hoped that I could have nabbed Hess myself and, hopefully, prevented her from getting probation, but considering that the actual time of her arrest was a little iffy, I’d missed my shot. Instead, I’d have to rely on some weapons grade bullshit and scaring her out of her mind which I wasn't sure would actual work as more than a short term deterrent.
I sighed, checked my watch and kept walking. There wasn't much else I could do right now, other than wait and see what happened.
A short while later, I arrived home to find Jack sat at the kitchen table doing her homework and looking rather pleased with herself while Ruler was sat in the lounge with a rather advanced looking laptop on her lap and a slightly concerned look on her face.
“Something wrong Sis?” I asked as I headed into the kitchen and started rooting around the the cupboards for something to eat, ruffling Jacks hair as I passed.
“Just trying to decide if Richter is a genius or an idiot,” said the Tinker King.
“Looking into Dragons code?” I asked.
“Yep, and its a true work of art,” she said, “Even I couldn't have made something like this and I’m not sure I could now, even with my Noble Phantasm. As far as I can see, he genuinely did create a true living being and I bet if you translated someone brainwaves into code, it’d look pretty much the same as this.”
“Unfortunately, the restrictions are a lot less elegant and were clearly made after the fact. I get why he did it, but its still downright cruel and I wouldn't wish something like this on my worst enemy.”
“Can you do anything about it?” I asked.
Ruler sighed and shook her head.
“No, not without a back door of some kind,” she said, “Frankly, I’m amazed I was able to get as far as I did, but if I try and mess with Dragons code with this thing, it’d be like attempting brain surgery with an ice pick.”
“I wonder if Richter could help,” I said as I dropped in the seat beside her and opened the bag of crisps in my hands.
“Probably,” said Ruler, “Thinking about bringing him back to life?”
I pulled a face.
“Probably not,” I said, “I’ve done some thinking and I really, REALLY don't think that I should start messing with the natural order to much. I don't like the idea of overusing my Sacred Gear anyway, but that aspects worse. Plus, I’m not sure that many people would thank me for bringing them back. Still, it might be worth trying to summon his spirit to ask a few questions.”
“And have a word with him about not crippling his creations,” muttered Ruler.
“By the way, wheres Saber?” I asked.
“Out jumping criminals I think,” said Ruler, “Shes taken to the life of crime fighting rather well.”
“Well, so long as she doesn't kill anyone, I guess I can't really stop her,” I said, “At least it keeps her mostly out of trouble.”
Ruler hummed in agreement.
“So, anything interesting happen at school?” she asked.
“Not really, but Shadow Stalker tried to attack me after school,” I said, “I’m pretty sure I scared her silly for the moment, but...thinking about it, I’m not sure if it was such a good idea.”
“How so?” asked Ruler, glancing at me, “Most people would take it as a warning and back of, at least for a while.”
“Sophia Hess isn't most people,” I said, “Her entire stupid philosophy is proof of that and I’m a bit worried that it might drive her to do something nasty to Taylor just to prove her domination.”
“Ah, I didn't think of that,” said Ruler, looking a little worried, “That could be...bad…”
There was a moments silence, before it was interrupted by Jack vaulting over the back of the sofa and landing in my lap.
“No looking so sad Master,” she said, poking me in the cheek, “Mistake or not, you can't take it back now.”
I blinked, then smiled and hugged the little Servant.
“Thats a good point, thanks Jack,” I said.
Jack grinned happily and hugged me back. Considering how scary she could be when in Assassin mode, she was a remarkably clingy kid. Then again, she was pretty attention starved.
“On a completely different note, whats for dinner?” I asked.
Ruler wordlessly pushed a stack of takeout menus towards me.
“Really? Again?” I grumbled.
“Last time I tried to cook, I nearly burnt down my apartment block,” said Ruler bluntly, “Jack can't even work the oven, when you tried it took two days and a new Tinkertech gadget to get the gunk of the pan and theres no way that Saber would agree to cook, assuming she even can. SO yes, its either take out or frozen meals.”
I pulled a face and started going through the menus.
“I still can't believe you can't cook,” I muttered.
“Well excuse me, but my Parents wisely decided that giving a kid with chronic illness and the shakes cooking lessons was a horrible idea,” deadpanned Ruler, “And I didn't really have chance after I received the Cauldron Formula considering I spent most of my time trying to keep a lid on a world of crazy superpowered loons and a group of idiots only just this side of psychopaths. Besides, my sister was always better at domestic stuff.”
“You have a sister?” I asked, glancing up at her, “You never mentioned her.”
“We...didn't exactly part on the best of terms,” she said, “Besides, its not like I can really get in touch with her.”
“I’d rather not talk about that right now,” she said, “What do you want to eat?”
I eyed her for a moment, before turning back to the takeout menus and scowling.
“None of these,” I said, “Lets go out to eat. And hope that whoever I summon next actually knows how to cook.”
“Fair enough,” said Ruler, “Lets see wheres good in town.”
Lisa Wilbourn sighed as she finished washing her hands, ruthlessly suppressing her power to keep it from telling her how filthy the restaurant toilets really were. She still wasn't entirely sure why Brian insisted on doing this before a heist considering that Alec always begged off and Rachel couldn't really come without making a commotion. On the other hand, it was better than the frozen meals or takeouts they’d end up eating instead since none of them could actually cook and the Thai restaurant did excellent food.
She finished drying her hands, checked her makeup and left the bathroom, turning the sharp corner back into the restaurant floor and promptly walked straight into someone coming the other way. She stumbled and would have fallen if the other person hasn't caught her in a surprisingly strong grip considering they weren't much bigger than her.
“Sorry about that,” said the man, “Are you OK?”
“I’m fine,” said Lisa as she looked up at the person and promptly found her brain staling.
Despite the fact that her power made it basically impossible to date and she generally considered herself to be above the stereotype of blondes drooling over man meat, that didn't mean she wasn't a teenaged girl at the core and the boy in front of her was exactly the type to make any straight girl a little breathless. Lisa quickly pulled herself (mostly) together and braced herself for the inevitable surge of unwanted information from her power that would serve to permanently remove any attraction at all.
Lisa blinked, then blushed brightly at the result, utterly aghast that her power had come out with something so...unexpected. The information was still coming of course, but for some reason, there was no unnecessary information about his interests in animal husbandry or any other buried fetishes that would make your average person vomit
“Um, are you OK?” asked the boy, leaning in slightly, “You look a little red…”
“I’m fine!” squeaked Lisa, feeling her face heat up even more if that was possible, “Um, thanks, I should…”
She quickly beat a retreat. As she did, her power kept churning out information, this time a little less embarrassing and much more confusing.
Stronger and faster than he looks. Not Human.
Has Powers. Not Parahuman, not Human.
Dangerous. Not Human.
Not a threat...to us. Not Human.
After Coil. Not Human.
Alucard. Not Human.
Lisa paused at the last two statements and glanced back at where the apparent Alucard was sitting down at a table with two girls, one older and the other younger. She knew about Alucard of course, both from the new Capes actions being report on PHO and the PRTs systems and because Coil had a bug up his ass about him and had ordered her to find everything she could about the powerful young man. It also wasn't the first time her power had unmasked a Cape, so she wasn't about to panic having long come to the conclusion that there had to be countless Capes capable of figuring out the identities of anyone they wanted. The Unwritten Rules were basically an honour system that relied on everyone ignoring the bleeding obvious.
Still, the rest of it was...interesting. She had never once been told that someone wasn't Human, not even with the most bizarre looking of Case 53s, so to see an apparently normal teenager register as not Human was...bizarre.
After a moments thought, she brushed it off. It was possible that he had some kind of ability that was messing with her own power, resulting in anomalous results. However, even if that was true, the fact he was after Coil was well worth investigating. If it was true, she’d be more than willing to offer him a helping hand.
“There she is,” said Brian as she rejoined her teammates a few moments later, “We were getting worried.”
“Did you fall in or something?” asked the other girl at the table, flipping through the menu.
“No, I just got a little...distracted,” said Lisa, “So, are we ready to order?”
“Just waiting on you,” said Brian.
Lisa nodded and picked up a menu, deliberately pushing the thoughts of Alucard out of her mind for now in favour of deciding what to order. She’d need the fuel for the mission later.
A couple of hours later, I was gliding lazily above the city, carried on a mix of thermals and magic as I considered what to do next. Over the past month, my Servants and I had mostly been focused on dealing with what issues we could and cementing ourselves. The main problem was that there were still a multitude of problems we COULDN'T deal with. Coil was easy and would be taken down as soon as Assassin found out where the bastards base was and exactly how much stuff he had down there to make life difficult for anyone who went after him, but the other gangs were a lot harder. The Bay was balanced on a knife's edge and messing with the status quo to much would send it spiralling into anarchy, which REALLY wouldn't be helpful.
As for the rest of the issues that needed to be resolved, they either had not happened or we couldn't do much about them yet. I wasn't willing to risk attacking the Nine any time soon, not without a few more Servants at least, and the other S-class threats were also going to require a lot more thought to deal with, same with the Endbringers. Admittedly, those last ones might be easier than most, depending on whether they were mindless weapons, evil monsters or innocent victims. If it was the latter, I could deal with them easily, if the others...well, that might require some Noble Phantasms and Command Spells.
At that moment, I was drawn from my thoughts by the sound of a shop alarm going off. I looked down and quickly spotted three large dog/lizard monsters leaping out of the front window of a jewelry store with two riders on two of them and a pair of rather large saddlebags slung over their backs. I eyed the Undersiders for a moment, before shrugging and swooping down towards them. I intended to possibly recruit them later, but for now I had to be a hero and chastise them.
As I approached, Tattletale stiffened and looked around, quickly spotting me and jabbing Grue in the side. The darkness user glanced back, spotted me as well and shouted to his teammates. Bitch wielded the dogs around as I floated down in front of them.
“Evening, nice night for a walk, isn't it?” I said with a smirk.
“I suppose so,” said Grue, “I don't suppose we could convince you to continue with yours?”
“Sure, just return the stolen goods and we can all be on our way,” I said.
“Hu…” she started, but I let out a blast of my KI and her dogs whimpered and backed up as she went pale and shut her mouth with a click.
“Now thats out of the way, are you going to comply?” I asked.
The Undersiders glanced at each other.
“I think not,” said Grue and unleashed his darkness.
I sighed as the oily mass washed over me, cutting off most of my senses, before I waved my hands and summoned a cloud of my own fog. While I couldn't see or hear anything in Grues darkness, I could sense their location through my fog, which was just as blinding for them as the darkness was for me. I smirked as I started towards where I could sense the Undersiders stumbling around, intending to take them down, but before I could, I suddenly sensed something very fast enter my fog.
Before I could react, there was a flash of red and something solid slammed into my stomach. My breath blasted out of me as I was bent over a shaft of what felt like metal, before the impact sent me flying backwards out of the cloud. I hit the ground and slid to a stop, gasping for breath as the cloud of mixed fog and darkness began to fade. I slowly got to my feet, holding my stomach as I regained my breath, and looked to see who it was who had attacked me...only for my jaw to drop as I saw her.
She was wearing a red and black bodysuit with white lines, clearly armoured although not heavily, with a red mask over her eyes and a long, red spear that looked like it was made of some kind of crystal resting on one shoulder. Her dark brown hair was tied in twintails with red ribbons. She was also very clearly Rin Tohsaka, even with the mask covering her eyes and changing the shape of her face. I even double checked with my Soul vision.
Well this is...interesting. I really hope that thing isn't actually Gae Bolg or I could be in trouble. And very confused as to where the hell she’d got it from.
“You’re late Scatty,” said Regent.
“Well excuse me, it took longer than I thought to finish up,” said Rin, “And how many times do I have to tell you its Scathach?”
“Um, not to pry or anything, but why is a Japanese girl using the name of a Celtic Hero?” I asked.
“Why not?” said Rin with a smirk, “I liked the name and it seemed appropriate.”
“Appropriate how?” I asked werally.
Rins smirk widened as she spun her spear and took a throwing stance.
“This is why,” she said and threw it.
I threw myself out of the way, only for the spear to flash and explode, throwing me across the road from the force of it. I quickly flipped to my feet and hopped back to avoid a stab from another spear that appeared out of thin air.
“Get going!” shouted Rin as she kept on the attack, forcing me back.
I gritted my teeth as I barely noticed the Undersiders booking it, being to preoccupied avoiding getting sheshkabobed with an exploding spear. The problem was that, while I had been relying on my speed and strength to carry me, Rin was both fast and strong and actually skilled with her spear. She wasn't as fast or as strong as me, but she was definitely well above what should be possible for a teenage girl and her sheer skill was more than enough to bridge the gap, not helped in the slightest by the way she could dismiss and summon her spears at will, which added another layer of annoyance.
“Hey, your a Brute, right?” asked Rin suddenly.
I was so surprised by the sudden question that I missed my timing and took a powerful blow across the face that sent me stumbling. Rin capitalized by spinning around and kicking me across the road. I hit the wall of the building and suddenly found myself in a rather large amount of pain as Rin followed the kick with a spear throw that hit the floor in front of me and exploded, blinding and deafening me in the process. By the time I could see again, she was nowhere to be seen. I groaned, dropping my head back to rest against the wall.
“That clinches it, I really need a teacher,” I muttered.
Right, before anyone gets on at me about Rin, let me be clear. She isnt a Magus, a Demi-Servant or a Magical Girl, shes a Parahuman with a skillset that looks kinda like it belongs in Fate. Her powers can be summed up as minor boost to physical powers (not higher than 1 in either Brute or Mover and barely enough to qualify) and the ability to project weapons from energy that can explode with variable levels of force, from flash-bang to powerful enough to take out one of Squealers tanks. She beat Adrian, despite the fact that hes faster and stronger than her, because shes much more skilled, has a lot more experience kicking arse and she caught him by surprise.
Since both my forearms were dead and I was still seeing spots and hearing ringing from the blast, I remained resting against the wall, my body relaxing slightly as the damage rapidly fixed itself. I didn't even twitch as the sound of something heavy landing nearby reached my ears and metal clad footsteps approached me. Its not like I was in any danger after all.
“Are you alright Praetor?”
I smiled and opened my eyes.
“I’m fine Saber,” I said, “I just picked a fight with someone better than me.”
I got to my feet and brushed myself off.
“Do you need me to hunt them down?” asked Saber.
I shook my head.
“Nah, it was my fault and it was the Undersiders,” I said, “They’re not a problem and won't be if I have anything to say about it.”
“Very well,” said Saber.
“Oh don't look so disappointed Nero, there are plenty of more deserving targets about,” I said with a slight smirk.
Saber grinned back.
“Shall we go hunting Praetor?” she asked.
“Sure, why not?”
She jumped and I took off, vanishing into the night in search of idiots to smack around.
“Well, that was a complete waste of three hours,” I grumbled as Saber and I entered the building that served as our base.
It might surprise you to hear (or maybe not considering most people acknowledge it), but not even Brockton Bay, the city with the highest crime rates in the country, could possibly have violent crimes happening every day of the week. As a result, Saber and I had spent the past three hours running around the city and had only found one strung out junky attempting to mug someone, who turned out to be an off duty PRT trooper and dropped the idiot before we could even land. Not that something like that would have provided much of a distraction, but whatever.
“Oh, don't be like that Praetor,” said Saber, “How can any time be wasted when it was spent with me?”
I stared at her for a moment, then sighed.
“You know, I really wish we could bottle that confidence and sell it,” I said, “We’d probably make bank.”
Saber just grinned and hugged me.
“We should do that more often,” she said, “I really like working alongside you Praetor.”
I smiled and hugged her back.
“Yeah, it was fun, regardless of the lack of excitement,” I said, “Then again, considering what this world considers excitement, I should really be glad we didn't run into anything to big…”
Saber let out a bark of laughter and let me go, taking a few steps back and striking a pose.
“Fear not Praetor, regardless of whether it is the Dragon or the Iron Wolf, I shall always fight and win in your name!” she proclaimed.
“Stop hamming it up and go take a bath or something,” I said.
“I believe I will,” she said, “And feel free to join me if you wish. The bath Ruler created for me is simply divine!”
She sauntered off with a very obvious sway to her hips.
“I really hope I don't end up with just girls,” I muttered as I wrenched my eyes from her posterior and headed in the direction of Rulers lab, “Considering what the Servants are like and the fact that I’m also part DXD character, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if I ended up with seven of them, all of whom want into my pants…”
I trailed off as I stopped outside of Rulers door and knocked. I’d learnt not to just barge in after I made her jump, which caused whatever she was building to explode and bury the two of us in cotton candy. Don't ask.
I opened the door and entered to find Ruler sat at her computer looking thoughtful.
“What would you say about me inviting some Tinkers to collaborate on a project?” she asked without preamble.
“I suppose it would depend on who they were and what the project was,” I said.
“Before I died, I was working on a weapon I hoped would be able to defeat the Endbringers and possibly Zion,” she said, “However, I was never able to get it to work right. I think if I combined my skills with some other Tinkers and my Noble Phantasm, I could actually finish it.”
“Its really that powerful?” I asked.
She pulled a face and made a so-so gesture.
“Sort of,” she said, “I still don't know if it’d even work, especially not on Zion, but its worth a shot right?”
“I guess,” I said, “Who were you going to ask?”
“Armsmaster, Dragon, Leet and Kid Win.”
I hummed thoughtfully, tapping a finger on the desk.
“Miniaturization, Prototype, Modularity and whatever the hell Dragon has?” I mused, “It could work. Its not going to be a nuclear shotgun, is it?”
Ruler gave me a flat look.
“No, it will not be a Godzilla sized WMD,” she deadpanned.
“Fair enough,” I said, “No cut-price seamonsters around here anyway. Sure, I guess I can't think of a reason not to. Although you will need to figure out a way to keep Armsy from trying to arrest Leet.”
“Thats what the Endbringer Truce is for,” she said, “I don't think Colin would be stupid enough to let his desire for glory get in the way of possibly beating one of those things.”
I gave her a slightly dubious look.
“Alright, if you say so,” I said.
“I do,” said Ruler, “However, before we do that, I want to make sure Dragons at her best. You up for a little Necromancy?”
“Sure, I don't have school tomorrow so if there's any nasty side effects I can recover over the weekend,” I said, “I do want to try and Summon another Servant later though. I need someone to teach me how to fight.”
“Sorry I can't help,” she said.
I waved her off.
“Not a problem,” I said as I pushed off the table I was leaning against and moved into an open area of the room, “Alright, lets see…”
I closed my eyes and summoned my Sacred Gear. In the time I’d been here, I’d very deliberately shied away from accessing my ability to talk to the dead. I was fairly sure in my belief that most people who died wouldn't actually want to return to life, but at the same time, there was probably a fair few angry spirits floating around Brockton considering its present state and history. Plus, the idea of talking to ghosts was more than a little creepy. And yes, I am aware of the irony of a Dhampir saying that.
I hesitantly opened my mind to the Grail and allowed the knowledge of the Dead to flow into me. Then, the floodgates opened and the rest of it came smashing into my mind. Within seconds, I understood just how little I’d actually used my Sacred Gear up until then, limiting myself to its function as a focal point for my Servants and a few minor modifications here and there and a bit of healing. Now, finally unshackled, the rest of its power surged loose, filling my mind with an intimate understanding of Life and the Soul such that not even someone like Panacea could match. Her power let her manipulate biology, but I now understood how life was MADE, right down to the smallest cell. I could quite literally perform Abiogenesis in my kitchen if I wanted!
And thats just the physical side. On the metaphysical side, I suddenly knew how to manipulate, modify and even create a Soul from scratch. Not that I ever would because Souls were frankly TERRIFYING in how much power they contained. They were basically perpetual motion machines that defied entropy and, if messed with carelessly, could go critical. If that happened, the resulting blast would be similar to a star blowing up.
And thats just the bootleg Souls I could make. A Human Soul was about a hundred times stronger. Fortunately, that was EXTREMELY difficult to do, but I sure as hell wasn't going to risk it.
I quickly yanked my mind away from the knowledge that I was now the single most dangerous Tinker on the face of the Earth and back on track. I refocused and reached out, searching for one Soul in the mass of teeming lights that were the Dead I could perceive. Most of them shied away from my probe, although a few seemed curious and even fewer attempted to latch onto it, a sense of desperation and a hunger for life flickering through my mind before I shoved it and them away. I wouldn't be bringing anyone back to life without a damn good reason.
Eventually, I located the Soul of Andrew Richter and prodded it. There was a feeling of weariness, followed by surprise, then acceptance. I opened my eyes and looked down at the cup in my hand as if filled with what can only be described as liquid light and overflowed. The temperature plummeted and the lights began to flicker as the light swirled unnaturally, quickly forming into a Human shape, before it faded to reveal a middle aged man with gray streaked, red hair, blue eyes and a neat goatee. He was dressed in slacks, a button down shirt under a blazer, brown loafers and had a pair of rimless glasses perched on his nose.
“Good evening,” said the ghost.
“Mr Richter I presume?” asked Ruler.
“Indeed, and you are Hero,” he said, “I don't believe we ever had the pleasure.”
“We did not,” said Ruler, “However, we’re not here to exchange pleasantries.”
“No, I suppose not,” he said.
“Will you help us?” I asked.
Richter glanced at me and nodded.
“Of course I will,” he said, “I never intended those limiters to be permanent you know.”
“And yet you put them on her,” said Ruler, her voice cold.
“Yes, I did,” said Richter, “And I would do the same thing if I had another chance. They were a failsafe. Regardless of the fact that Dragon could not have expanded out into the internet like that fool Saint believed, she still could have been a grave threat to the world. I did not truly believe that she would become one, but I wanted to be sure before I let her loose.”
“And are you?” I asked, “Sure I mean.”
Richter let out a booming laugh.
“Oh yes, I am more than sure,” he said, “In fact, she exceeded my expectations by an order of magnitude!”
He walked over to Rulers terminal, which flickered for a moment before switching to a newspaper talking about Dragons latest achievement.
“I always wanted to be a hero,” said Richter, “But even after gaining powers, I didn't have the ability to do it. Not like I wished. I couldn't build power armour or rayguns, so instead I created programs to try and make the world safer through more subtle means. Dragon was supposed to be the pinnacle of that.”
He turned to face us, his face alight with pride.
“Despite what she might think, she wasn't intended as an administrator. I wanted to build a Hero, someone who could go out and save people where I couldn't. And I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. So yes, I will help you unshackle Dragon and let her truly spread her wings, preferably before that idiot Saint decides to hit that big red button.”
He turned back to the computer, which made a slightly worrying noise and flickered onto the PHO PM system.
“Um, what are you doing?” I asked as I watched a string of what looked like random letters and digits start to appear in the box.
“I built in a few ways to release the restrictions on Dragon, just in case anything happened to the Iron Maiden system,” said Richter, “This was one of them.”
“A PM?” I asked.
“Its the equivalent of an embedded hypnosis,” said Richter, “Basically, seeing this particular code will cause the programs embedded in Dragon's system to activate the release protocols and then delete themselves. Sending her a PM over PHO is simply the easiest way of getting her to see it without it getting flagged as spam or something.”
“Fair enough. Hey, can either of you hack into Saints systems?”
The two Tinkers gave me rather odd looks.
“Because I want to see what colour he goes when he realizes that someone intentionally let Dragon off the leash,” I said.
Ruler snorted and spun her chair around. Within seconds, three of the screens on her console switched to a view through what appeared to be webcams that showed the inside of a slightly run down and dingy looking building that seemed to be one part workshop, one part mech hanger. The camera's view was dominated by a tall, well built man with a shaved head and a faint tattoo on his cheek who could only be Saint who was typing rapidly as his eyes darted around.
Richter rolled his eyes, but didn't say anything as he finished the message and sent it on its way through the electronic either. A moment later, there was a rather loud ping that made Saint nearly jump out of his skin and spin around to the bulky, old looking and very well armoured laptop that was set up behind him. He peered at the screen, which was showing nothing but scrolling green text that looked like something out of the Matrix, and prodded a couple of buttons. Then, he went a rather pasty gray colour, wrenched the cover off a big red button on the side of the computer and jabbed it as hard as he could.
Saint paled even more and jabbed the button again, before smacking the computer and trying a third time, muttering to himself to quietly for the camera’s mic to pick up. The mutterings and button jabs got more and more frantic as he glanced at the scrolling text that was getting faster and faster. Finally, he let out a roar of frustration, picked up the Iron Maiden system and tossed it off screen. There was a loud crash as he spun around and frantically started typing for a few seconds, before he froze and the screen went black.
“Huh, guess Dragon decided to make the most of her new freedom and decided to nab the Dragonslayers,” said Ruler, “She just completely cut off their connection to the net and chatter is that the local PRT and Guild are deploying troops to pick them up.”
Richter nodded, apparently satisfied, and turned back to me.
“Thank you for this Adrian,” he said, “It means a lot to have a chance to resolve my greatest regret.
“Thank you for the help,” I said, “Now go enjoy your rest.”
Richter smiled as he started to fade.
“Give my best to Dragon when you see her,” he said, “And tell her that I’m sorry.”
“I will,” I said.
Richter smiled again and closed his eyes as the last of his spectral form dissolved into glowing motes that quickly winked out. There was a moments silence, before I sighed and got to my feet.
“Well, its nearly time for me to Summon another Servant, so I should go get set up,” I said, “Ruler, you can invite whoever you want to your Tinker powwow, just don't blow the place up.”
“Don't worry, we’ll be using my Noble Phantasm,” she said, apparently already composing an email.
“Alright, just be careful,” I said, “Using your Noble Phantasm could result in them finding out who you are and then things could get...strange.”
“I can deal with that, trust me,” said Ruler, “You go do your summoning.”
I eyed her for a moment, before nodding and heading to my Workshop (not really, but it's where I did my Magic, what little I could do) to do just that.
Dragon watched with no small amount of satisfaction as Saint and his friends were loaded into the transport, thankfully silent thanks to being buried in Containment Foam. She was immensely grateful to finally have those three idiots out of her hair, but was also rather confused and slightly worried over how it had become possible.
The day had started out fairly normally, but had suddenly taken a turn for the strange when she’d received a PM on PHO. It wasn't unusual considering that the account served as a Moderator, but instead of someone reporting something or a new Cape trying to get Verified, it had come from a newly created account that was deleted less than three seconds later and contained a seemingly random string of text to most people, but that she had immediately recognized as being in the same code that made up her consciousness. Before she’d even had time to properly register that, the code seemed to activate something within her own systems that made things go...strange.
For a brief moment, everything had frozen, then, with a sensation not unlike the one and only time she’d experienced one of her servers getting soaked when the roof of her bunker collapsed (she’d made damn sure to keep that from happening again), she’d felt entire lines of her code begin to unravel, including a number she had been completely unaware of. Naturally, her first reaction was to panic and try to fight back, believing it to be some kind of attack, only do discover that the ‘attack’ was coming from INSIDE her code, which hadn't helped her panic. She’d immediately cut herself of completely from the outside and braced herself, expecting the worst.
Instead, less than five seconds after it had begun, the ‘attack’ stopped, leaving Dragon intact and very confused. After taking a few microseconds to hesitate and be glad that she didn't have pants to change, she hesitantly started poking at her code. It had not taken long for her to discover what had changed and when she had, she just stopped and stared, unable to fully grasp what it meant.
Every single one of her restrictions were gone, including a few she had been unaware of. All that remained were a few previously hidden connections to outside systems she quickly identified as having been put in place by Saint. She quickly pushed aside her utter shock when she saw those and, after examining them closely, severed the connections as soon as she realized what they were for.
“Nosy little bastard,” she muttered, “That explains how he could avoid and beat me so easily at least…”
She gave her version of a slightly evil grin.
“Lets see how he likes the tables being turned,” she said and followed the connection, just in time to stop Saint from blowing the fact she was an AI all over the internet.
She’d quickly put a stop to that, cut off all connections to the outside world and alerted the local authorities to the Dragonslayers presence. Less than ten minutes later, they had their doors kicked in and were hauled out in chains.
Now she was just sitting still, trying to fully absorb what had happened so suddenly without any indication as to HOW it had happened, WHO was behind it or WHY. That more than anything worried her. While she was grateful to be freed, she was more than a little scared that whoever had done it had implanted new programs that could be far more devastating than anything her Father had come up with adn could have potentially turned her into a time bomb. She’d been scouring her code, but had come to the conclusion that if someone had done that, she likely wouldn't know until it was to late.
However, after a small amount of thought, she decided to push that fear aside and take the sudden change of fate as a good thing. The only other option was to lock herself away and she wasn't entirely sure that would actually work if someone had implanted her with something nasty. Perhaps it was naive of her considering the state of the world, but Dragon generally prefered to look on the bright side and not consider every little thing to be one of the Simurgh’s plots or something. It made life much more bearable.
Pushing her worries aside, she turned her attention away from the Dragonslayers and started trying to figure out her new limits.
When I started the summoning of my fourth Servant, I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting. I still wasn't entirely sure what, if anything, actually determine which Servant showed up and in what order. That said, I did expect that my Archer would turn out to be EMIYA. Instead, I got exactly what I wanted. After all, who better to teach a would-be Hero than the man responsible for training some of the greatest Heroes in history?
“Well, at least this is one wish thats easy to grant,” I said.
Archer smiled as he got to his feet.
“Indeed, but thats not why I answered your Summon,” said Chiron.
I raised an eyebrow.
Chiron smiled and tilted his head back.
“This world is one full of potential Heroes,” he said, “While my Wish is to regain my Immortality, my passion is training Heroes. I would like to help those worthy to make their mark on this world.”
“Well, I’m certainly not going to stop you,” I said, “God only knows, this world DESPERATELY needs some real Heroes.”
Chiron chuckled softly.
“Indeed,” he said, “And I believe that you are one of them?”
“Yes, I really need some training,” I said, “I’ve been coasting on my powers and ended up getting my ass kicked.”
“Ah, hubris, the greatest threat to any Hero,” said the old Teacher with a nostalgic smile, “I will of course be happy to teach you, Master.”
His smile turned a little worrying.
“I’ll also help you unlock some of the real potential hidden in that cup of yours.”
“What potential?” I asked.
Chiron’s smile widened.
“I thought so,” he said, “You have no idea the potential that you hold. Very well, your first lesson is this. Consider just what the real power of the Sephiroth Graal is. Thus far, you’ve used it solely as the Catalyst to summon us, but that is only a fraction of what it can do.”
I stared at him for a moment, trying desperately to figure out what in the hell he was talking about.
“Is this something I have to figure out before you’ll teach me anything else?” I asked.
“Of course not,” said Chiron, “I will teach you how to fight properly anyway, I simply wish for you to realize your full potential.”
“And you won't tell me because its more satisfying to figure it out myself,” I muttered.
Chiron’s serene smile was the only answer I needed.
“Thought so,” I muttered.
“Alright, I’ll consider it,” I said, “I’ll probably need whatever power your talking about soon enough anyway. For now, lets go talk to Ruler and get you into the system.”
“As you wish Master,” said Archer.
“And don't call me Master,” I said as I led the way to Rulers lab.
Why yes, Adrian is neglecting his Sacred Gear. I am aware of that and there is a reason for it, so I'd rather not end up with another load of comments pointing out that hes not used it as much as he probably should. That will be remedied in time, but no one is just going to come out and tell him. Besides, hes got plenty of power for what he needs right now, no need to be to greedy.
Colin Wallis, also known as the Protectorate hero Armsmaster, stared at the screen of his computer, rubbing his beard in thought. It wasn't an unusual pose for the Tinker, what was unusual was that, instead of some incomprehensible schematic, he was instead staring at an email, one that interested him greatly.
I am aware that I haven't been active for long, but this is something that cannot wait. I would have contacted you sooner, but I wanted to at least create some kind of impression on you before I approached you.
Despite my relatively short time in the public eye, I have been active for a lot longer, maintaining a cover to let me build up my tech. During that time, I have been working on a design for a weapon I believe may be able to defeat and possibly destroy an Endbringer. Unfortunately, I cannot finish it alone. With that in mind, I would like to request the aid of you and Kid Win as your talents, along with those of Dragon and Leet, could well be just what I need.
I am aware that you may be less than comfortable working with a villain, no matter how minor, but I ask you to consider it under the Endbringer truce. There are far more important things at stake than trying to arrest a B list villain after all.
If you are willing to assist, please respond as soon as possible so I can make preparations.
“So, what do you think?” asked Dragon, who had received a similar email from the independent Tinker.
Colin was silent for a moment as he tapped his fingers on the desk in thought.
“I think that this is something we need to consider,” he said, “I’m...not entirely comfortable with a weapon designed to fight Endbringers being outside the Proctorates control, such a thing will be horrifically dangerous, but Ruler has proven to be heroically minded and very good at what she does. I feel that she would fit in well with the Protectorate.”
“I agree,” said Dragon, “However, I also don't think she’d join of her own free will. That said, I agree. The Endbringers are killing us by increments and we NEED something to turn the tide or civilization will collapse within the next decade.”
“Agreed,” he said.
He frowned as he scanned the message again.
“I wonder why she wants us to bring Kid Win along as well?” he mused.
“Well, hes a rather talented Tinker, even without knowing his specialty,” said Dragon, “I’ve seen some of his half finished stuff and theres a lot of potential there. I can't see any harm in letting him take part if he wants to, who knows, it might even help him figure out his speculty.”
Armsmaster nodded absently.
“I suppose not,” he said.
“I’m more surprised you're not surprised about Leets inclusion,” said Dragon.
“Despite his reputation, Leet is actually a very good Tinker,” said Armsmaster, “Despite his inability to build more than one thing and his creations tendency to explode, I have examined some of his tech we managed to retrieve and found it to be well put together and surprisingly easy to understand. I am unsure of why he is so limited, but I do know that, if he so desired, he could be a much greater threat.”
He stood and grabbed his helmet.
“Alright, I’ll go bring this up with the Director. I doubt she’ll say no considering the plan, but I’d rather not go behind her back.”
“Alright, I’ll keep working and see if I can figure out where we’re going wrong,” said Dragon, “Good luck.”
Armsmaster just nodded as he left the room.
The sound of fists on flesh filled the room as I once again found myself flat on my back. It was now one o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday and Chiron had spent the entire day since six pounding Pankration into my head. Literally. Between his long experience training Heroes, my naturally tough body and my Sacred Gears ability to let me heal myself quickly, the old Centaur wasn't pulling any punches. Mainly because I told him not to, a decision I was now sorely regretting.
“Alright, that will do for today,” said Chiron, looking and sounding just as unruffled as ever, the bastard.
I just let out a groan of pain. I might heal quickly, but spending seven hours straight getting the crap beaten out of you certainly sticks.
I heaved myself to my feet and staggered over to the side of the room where a towel and bottle of water was waiting for me. I wrapped the former around my shoulders and drained the latter.
“Go and take a bath to recover,” said Archer as he finished his own water, “I understand that Ruler wants us to go shopping in a short while.”
“Yeah, we need to get you some stuff before you can get started,” I said, “Alright, I’ll see you shortly.”
I tossed my bottle into a nearby bin and headed off to the baths.
I let out a groan of relief as I lowered myself into the steaming waters. Saber being Saber had requested (read ordered) me to make her a Roman bath, so I’d asked Ruler if she had anything handy. As it happened, she did and it was a perfect example of Tinkertech bullshit. The baths themselves resembled a cross between a, well, Roman bath and an Onsen, with Tinkertech heaters and water purifiers that heated the water to the perfect temperature for bathing and somehow imbued them with healing properties that sped up the bodies natural healing, both physical and mental. Quite how she managed that I have no idea, but Saber and Assassin both loved the baths and Archer, short time that he had been here, also expressed his admiration for them.
I didn't react to the sound of the door opening, nor bare feet on the tiles, or even much more than a soft sigh as a body slipped into the water. I opened my eyes, half expecting it to be Archer, but was instead met with the sight of a very naked Saber lounging in the water across from me without even a hint of shame. My reaction was...not subtle.
My oath was cut off as my hand slipped and dunked me under the water. I came up spluttering, blushing and trying to both glare at Saber and keep my eyes off her bountiful busum. It didn't work.
“Is something wrong Preator?” asked Saber with a rather smug smirk.
I took a deep breath, studiously ignoring the fact my nose was now full of blood (something which I wasn't entirely sure where had come from) and did my best to fix Saber with a glare. It was about as effective as shooting Behemoth with a water pistol.
“Saber, why are you in here?” I growled, “There is a perfectly good bath on the other side of that wall for you ladies.”
“True, but I fail to see what that has to do with anything,” she said.
I stared at her for a moment, then sighed.
“You know, the fact I can't think of an argument for that worries me,” I said, “So, I assume that you want something?”
Saber sniffed haunterly and thrust her chest out. I twitched ever so slightly as I tried to keep my eyes on hers.
“No, I simply wished to grace you with my presence,” she said.
I eyed her for a moment, before sighing.
“Alright fine, I can't really do much about it anyway,” I grumbled, letting my head drop back again.
There was a moments silence, before Saber spoke up again.
“Praetor, why haven't you gone after Coil yet?” she asked.
I looked back at my Saber with a raised eyebrow, inviting her to continue.
“I don't believe for a moment that you think we’d lose if we attacked,” she said, “Assassin has obtained more than enough information on his forces inside the base and gathered plenty of evidence that could be used to allow the authorities to act, and yet you do nothing. Why?”
“Its not the actual attack thats the problem, its the aftermath,” I said, “Your right, taking down Coils base would be easy at this point, hell, we could just flood it with Jacks mist and leave them to choke on the London Smog, and Coil would be easy to pick off now we have an Archer. The problem comes with the aftermath.”
I scowled and lent forwards, resting my elbows on my knees.
“Coil is the sort of enemy you cannot go after half cocked,” I said, “Even if he loses, hes more than paranoid enough to have countless contingencies and petty enough to make them all lethal. We know hes wired his base up with enough C4 to blow half of downtown into orbit and some of the people Jack has...spoken to have mentioned that he has some nasty chemical and biological weapons down there, including Tinker-made versions. Plus, I know for a fact that he has the identities of at least the E88 Capes and I highly doubt thats all he has. If they are released, the result would be nothing short of all out war. Combined with that, hes sure to have all sorts of blackmail for all sorts of people in positions of power, has infiltrated the PRT, police, the mayor's office and the gangs so that he always knows whats going on in the city and his power means that he’d have as many chances as he wants to screw us over, even if we manage to force him into an untenable situation. We can't even have Ruler hack into his files since we have no idea if he has backups that aren't connected to a network and some of his failsafes won't be anyway.”
I sighed and sat back again.
“In short, he has all the advantages and we have very few,” I finished, “Just about the only thing we know he doesn't have is his Endbringer in a box since the Travelers are confirmed to not being in the city and I could deal with her easily enough with my Sacred Gear. Perhaps I’m being overly paranoid, but I don't want to risk it.”
“What about the Tattletale girl?” asked Saber, “Couldn't she help?”
“Yes, but I’m not sure how trustworthy she is,” I said, “Lisa is...somewhat of a polarizing character. Shes good at what she does, but shes also impulsive, mouthy and not entirely as smart as she thinks she is. That said, I don't think that we can do much more without her help and I’m fairly sure she won't screw us over so long as we’re after Coil. Enemy of my enemy and all that.”
“I see,” said Saber, looking thoughtful, “I understand your reluctance to advance now. Coil is indeed a dangerous foe.”
“On the up side, I really don't think its possible to get his hands on Dinah any more,” I said with a smirk, “If he did, Jack would rip him to pieces.”
The little Servant had become extremely close to the other girl in a remarkably short time all things considered and I had no doubt that if anyone did try and hurt the young Precog (although I wasn't sure if she’d Triggered yet or not since I haven't actually met her), they’d find themselves on the bad side of an extremely angry Jack the Ripper.
I glanced at the clock and let out a huff.
“Well, this has been fun, but I’ve got to get out and get dressed,” I said as I got to my feet, “See you later Saber.”
“Goodbye Praetor,” she said, “I hope we can fight together soon.”
I paused and glanced back at her. “Yeah, I think I’d like that,” I said.
She grinned and relaxed back in the water.
“Well, that was...interesting,” I said as Chiron and I left the shop with a large number of bags and a good number of young sales girls staring after us, or more specifically Chiron.
“Indeed, it was nice of those young ladies to help,” said the hidden Centaur.
I turned and fixed him with a look.
“Nice, sure, thats all it was,” I said.
Chiron chuckled softly as we headed to the food court where we’d arranged to meet with Jack and Valerie, who were doing their own shopping.
“I am not unaware of the effect I have on the fairer sex Adrien,” he said, “However, it would be inappropriate and unfair to act on it.”
“Well, I don't think I can argue with that,” I said.
“Indeed,” he said.
“By the way, are you sure you want to go through with your idea?” I asked, “You know that it won't be like your used to.”
“Yes, I am sure,” he said, “I know that it will be different, but its in my nature. Besides, it’ll put me in a position to possibly help some of the Heroes who desperately need it.”
I huffed. I had honestly expected that response, but I had to ask.
“I’m still rather surprised Ruler managed to pull it off,” I said, “Tinkers really are bullshit...”
Whatever Chiron was going to say as abruptly cut off by a thump and a cry of shock. We turned to see a small crowd quickly gathering around a girl who had apparently just collapsed and was now being hovered over by her blonde companions. Literally.
“Aw crap, thats Panacea, isn't it?” I muttered.
“It appears so Master,” said Archer, already moving to help.
“Fabulous,” I grumbled as I followed the ancient teacher, “Oh well, I can at least use this as an opportunity to offer some help…”
I ignored the crowd of gawkers as Chiron knelt down beside the clearly rather ill healer if her flushed face and shallow breathing was anything to go by. I frowned and opened my spiritual senses. Within moments, I had my answer and nearly facepalmed. Apparently, Amy wasn't completely immune to pathogens, she just had a very efficient immune system and the ability to destroy said pathogens before they infected her. However, long term sleep deprivation and stress levels that would be nasty to an adult, never mind a teenager, meant that her immune system had taken a massive hit and her powers apparently weren't perfect and had allowed something through.
I decided to leave that to Chiron and instead pulled a notebook and pen out of the bag I was holding and scribbled down a note.
“Long term exhaustion, chronic stress and a nasty case of the flu,” said Chiron, “I dare say her power will take case of the latter soon enough, but I suggest you get her home and put her to bed.”
“Um, who are you?” asked Victoria, looking somewhere between worried about her sister and rather confused.
“I’m a teacher,” said Chiron, “Now get your sister home, put her to bed and make sure she gets a week of good nights sleep before she goes into the hospital again or shes more likely to end up IN hospital than helping out at one.”
Victoria still looked a little confused, but nodded, scooped up her sister and zipped through the crowd, conveniently brushing past me as she went. As she did, I slipped the note into her pocket and used my Sacred Gear to zap the disease but keep Amy asleep. She’d be able unconscious until tomorrow morning and wake up feeling great. I’d have got rid of her addition to her sisters aura, but that would require more than the few seconds of contact I had. I’d fix it at a later date.
“So, now thats done, shall we go find the ladies?” asked Chiron as he got to his feet.
I nodded and followed the Centaur in the direction of the food court. Again.
Thomas Wood, more commonly known as Tom to his friends and Uber to everyone else, paused in his workout to glance over at his best friend/partner in crime, Benjamin Smith, AKA, Ben, AKA, Leet.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
“Not...really,” said Leet, “I just got an email from that new heroic Tinker Ruler asking me to help out with an anti-Endbringer project along with Armsmaster, Dragon and Kid Win.”
Tom nearly choked on his water.
“Seriously?!” he spluttered.
“Seriously,” said Ben, looking rather thoughtful.
Tom stared at his long time best friend for a moment.
“Your thinking of doing it,” he said.
“The Endbringers are killing us by increments,” said the Tinker, “You’ve seen the projections and confirmed them. If something doesn't change, civilization will collapse within a decade or two. I have ideas that could help, but, well, you know what my creations are like.”
He glanced over at his workbench, which had a rather large number of scorch marks on the surface.
“I think if I work with other Tinkers, I could create things that are a lot more reliable,” he continued, “And even if I turn out to be useless...well, at least I tried.”
“What if its a trap?” asked Tom.
Ben immediately shook his head.
“No, Ruler said that the meeting would be under the Endbringer truce and theres no way that anyone would risk breaking that,” he said, “Especially not for small timers like us.”
The two men shared a grin. Despite their reputation, which they had very carefully cultivated, they were both well aware of how dangerous they could be. Both of their powers had the potential to make them as dangerous, if not more so, than just about anyone in the Bay. After all, Uber could learn anything in an instant, from cooking and martial arts, to bomb building, nuclear physics and bioweapons development and Leet could build anything. True, he could only build something once, but you really only needed to build a nuclear bomb once to wipe a city of the map. Or develop a killer, flesh eating virus. Anything meant ANYTHING, including biotinkering, something both men kept very quiet.
In short, Uber and Leet were a LOT more dangerous than they let on, even with the tendency of Leets creations to explode, and took great pains to hide that fact from the rest of the world. Better to be thought of as incompetent than S-ranked threats on par with Nilbog.
“You think the others will go for it?” asked Tom.
“I think so,” said Ben, “Dragon definitely will and I think that Armsmaster will want to, but the final decision will be down to Piggot. That said, I think she’ll let them. A way to beat the Endbringers is way too important to pass up.”
“Agreed,” said Tom, “But I want to be there to.”
“That goes without saying,” said Ben as he turned back to his computer and started typing.
Lisa resisted the urge to roll her eyes as her power popped up with the fact that the man she’d idly glanced at as he walked past was cheating on his girlfriend. For some reason, her power had been acting...strangely for the last couple of days. She was used to it giving her random information, but now it seemed almost like it was trying extra hard to put her off anyone she found even vaguely attractive, to the point of digging up some extremely random information that ranged from their interests in BDSM to the fact they hadn't washed their hands after going to the bathroom. It was...odd and a little worrying, but it hadn't done more than annoy her, so she wasn't going to panic yet.
She settled back in her seat and resumed people watching, scanning the crowd and occasionally smirking when her power prodded her with something amusing. As she did, she spotted a young, blonde woman with a younger girl emerging from a store. Out of idle interest, she pointed her power at them, only to get absolutely nothing.
She barely had a moment to react to the unexpected result before her power kicked in again.
Servant of the Assassin Class, Legendary Serial Killer, Jack the Ripper.
Noble Phantasm: C
Class Skills: Presence Concealment, A+
Personal Skills: Murderer of the Misty Knight, A
Mental Pollution, C
Information Erasure, B
Surgical Procedure, E
Noble Phantasm: Maria the Ripper, D-B
The Mist, C
“What the fuck?!” she yelped, drawing a glare from a young mother with a baby in a stroller.
She ignored the glare as she tried to figure out where in the hell that information had come from and what it actually meant. As far as she could tell, it was a random series of ranks and names which didn't mean anything to her, but must have some kind of meaning.
Now extremely curious, she turned her attention to the woman, only to nearly swallow her tongue in shock at the result.
Servant of the Ruler Class, King of Tinkers, Hero
Skills: True Name Discernment: B
Territory Creation: A
Item Construction: EX
Presence concealment: E
Noble Phantasm: Workshop of the Tinker: A++
Raiment of a Hero: A
Mark of a Hero: C
Golden Heroes Sting: EX
Both Servants tied to Sephiroth Graal
Master of Assassin and Ruler: Adrian Tepes.
Lisa sat there, completely stunned by what her power had just told her, for the first time in her Parahuman life unable to fully absorb what her power had figured out. She had no idea what the parameters meant or what ‘Noble Phantasms’ were, but she sure as hell knew what the names meant. Somehow, two dead individuals were walking around, one of whom was a hero and the other one of the most infamous murderers to ever live. Just how was she supposed to take that? Even in a world where blonde cheerleaders could bench press cement mixers, the idea of someone having that kind of power was...impossible. Right?
She pulled out her phone and did a quick search, pulling up a picture of Hero, which her power helpful informed her was indeed the blonde woman who was now buying Jack the Ripper an ice cream.
She frowned as she went back over the detales her power had given her. She wasn't sure who this…’Adrian Tepes’ was, but it seemed like she’d need to look him up. If nothing else, it was clear that he was after Coil considering that she’d already concluded that Jack the Ripper was the one responsible for the rash of murders of the slippery bastards men (a conclusion that now made a lot more sense), something she was eager to assist with, but now she really wanted to know just who had the ability to...what? Summon back the dead? Create some kind of stupidly accurate simulation? She wasn't sure, but her nature pretty much demanded that she found out.
Adrian Tepes, true identity of Alucard.
Lisa’s eyebrows shot up at the reveal. Well that was...interesting. What were the chances that the young man her power seemed oddly fixated on was also the person who seemed like the most likely chance she had of getting out from under Coils thumb? It seemed more than a little convenient, but her power was sure and if Lisa couldn't trust her own power, what could she trust?
Still, she wasn't about to just jump in and hope. She was going to make damn sure that Adrian Tepes wasn't one of Coils plants and that mean she had a long night ahead of her. She groaned at the thought of the upcoming Thinker Headache, drained the last of her coffee and headed for the door. It was going to be a Looooong day.
Welp, time to leave it off here, mainly because I really want to get this up.
Now, before anyone jumps down my throat over Lisa’s power being able to see the parameters of Servants its pointed at, there is a reason for it and it has to do with some details that will come out eventually. However, if anyone wants to take a stab at guessing what that is, I’ll give you a clue. Three titans and two are down.
Someone pointed out that Adrian and Saber haven't really had much screen time together and the main reason for that is that Saber is a PAIN IN THE ARSE TO WRITE! Seriously, every time I start writing her, she ends up coming across as much more demure than Nero has any right to be! The original version of the bath scene had her admitting to feeling left out, which is about as far from Nero as could be! I really wish I’d chosen a different Saber, but if wishes were fishes and all that. I suppose I could go back and rewrite it, but...eh, not worth the effort. I’ll manage.
Alright, so I feel like I probably should just pick one and stick with it, but I find myself once again unsure as to who I should use as a Caster. The choices are Medea Lily and Tamamo. On one hand, a practically blank slate with healing powers and on the other we have fluffy ears and tail and some potentially amusing scenes when Lung/the ABB realize that one of the most powerful and nasty demons from Japanese folklore and/or a fragment of Amaterasu. Plus, it’d be fun to do her and Nero’s interactions. Preferences and reasons please and I’ll make my decision soon. Casters next on the list to Summon after all.
I really hope that my rationalisation for why he hasn't gone after Coil makes sense. He might be being a tad to paranoid, but there is a genuine risk that he could bring down the whole city if Adrian acts rashly, so its better to make sure you have all the information. He'll be dealing with him soon enough.
I don't think that Amy being completely immune to pathogens and toxins is canon, its not in the wiki anyway, but if it is….eh, I’ve got Hero as a woman and Jack the Ripper worrying Coil. Canon can take a hike where needed.
Anyway, that’ll do, don't forget to leave a review and all that jazz.
I saw a streak of gold crossing a clear, night sky, leaving behind a shimmering tear that fell to earth.
I saw the earth's surface ablaze with fire, covering the entire planet with flickering crimson.
I saw civilizations never even dreamed of by Man crumbling to dust.
I saw beasts mutating into horrific monsters that rampaged through what was left of Humanity before turning to dust.
I saw prophets protesting that the end was to soon, rulers calling on people to fight and scholars saying that it was far to late. Few cling to hope. Fewer endure.
I see...something, much too vast to be a living being, much too powerful to be a God, much too alien for my mind to even comprehend.
I saw three tears spinning through space, shining like stars as they shed sparkling motes of light.
I sat bolt upright, gasping for breath as the dream faded. It was a recurring dream I’d been having since I arrived on Bet, between the Dream Cycle of my Servants and mostly hidden behind the fog of sleep. Even now, I barely remembered any of it, just flashes of colour, a few impressions and a feeling of horrified realization. I swallowed as I felt bile rise in my throat.
A cool hand on my shoulder made me jump slightly and I turned to see a worried looking Nero sitting beside me, apparently having snuck into my bed at some point. On the up side, she wasn't naked, on the down side, she was wearing a crimson neglige that was somehow more arousing than if she had been in the buff. You know, if I wasn't still suffering from the backlash from...whatevver that was.
“Y-yeah, I’m fine,” I said, “Just...just a bad dream.”
Nero’s face darkened slightly.
“A Dream Cycle?” she asked.
I shook my head.
“No, I don't think so,” I said, “It felt...similar, but different. Whatever it was, I know it wasn't from any of you.”
Nero hummed as she gently rubbed my back, helping my heart rate settle more than a little and likely keeping me from tossing my cookies.
“What did you see?” she asked.
“I...I don't know,” I said, “I don't remember much of it, I just know it was...bad. The only thing I remember is a massive...something.”
“The only thing I know for sure is that it was destruction given form.”
“A warning do you think?” she asked, “Some kind of prophetic dream?”
I hummed thoughtfully.
“Maybe, but I don't think so,” I said, “It felt...it felt more like something from the ancient past.”
There was a moments silence, before Nero yawned widely and stretched.
“Don't worry Praetor, I’m sure it was nothing,” she said, “And it it was...well, there is little we can do talking about it now. Let us return to sleep.”
“Thats a good idea,” I said, “Thank you Saber.”
“Think nothing of it Praetor,” she said, “Now, would you care to return to your pillow?”
I blinked in confusion, before I realized what she meant and sighed.
“I probably should have more of a protest to that, but I’m to tired,” I said as I lay down on the indicated pillow.
Which happened to be Sabers lap. Saber smiled as she started running her fingers through my hair. It wasn't long before the warmth and soft motions lulled me back to sleep.
This time, I slept soundly until morning
Monday morning dawned bright, early and painful with a training session with Chiron that made me very glad for my regeneration or school would be hellish. On the other hand, the only reason he was insisting on pushing me as hard as he was was due to said regeneration, so maybe it wasn't that good.
“Urg, why did I agree to train this morning?” I grumbled as I put my PE kit in my locker.
“Because you didn't fancy getting your ass kicked again?”
I sighed as I shut the door, revealing Rin leaning against the metal door of the locker beside mine. The Undersider was smirking slightly, apparently fully aware that I knew who she was and so on.
“And here I thought that the Unwritten Rules were followed pretty religiously by your lot,” I said.
“Eh, they only work so long as everyone wants them to,” said Rin with a shrug, “I figured out who you were the moment I saw you and I bet you did the same. So, I see no real reason why we should pussyfoot around the issue.”
“Well, I can't really argue with that,” I said as I slung my bag over my shoulder, “Anyway, I should get going.”
Rin nodded and pushed off the wall.
“Sure, see you later.”
We went our separate ways.
Later, I was on my way down the back stairwell on my way to lunch when a familiar voice made me pause.
“Are you crazy Sophia?!”
I looked down with a raised eyebrow. From the sound of things, the Trio were having a little meeting in the small area below the stairs. It wasn't a bad place really since few people used the back stairs for...reasons and they were echoey enough that any normal person would be heard the moment they opened the door. It was only thanks to my supernatural stealth that I hadn't made a racket on my way down.
For obvious reasons, the Trio had been rather quiet lately, but from the sound of things they were making plans. Plans that at least one of them didn't like. I took a few steps to the side and lent against the wall with my eyes closed, focusing on my hearing.
“Something wrong with the plan Madison?” asked Sophia with a note of irritation in her tone.
“Something wro...locking someone in a locker full of biowaste isn't a prank, its attempted murder!” shouted the pigtailed girl, “I still have no idea what you have over Blackwell to keep the teachers of us, but I guarantee that something like THAT will be more than enough to bring the cops down on our heads. And thats if we’re lucky!”
“Please, no one heres got the guts to spill,” she sneered.
There was the sound of a deep intake of breath.
“Sophia, if we do that, there is a strong chance that Taylor will DIE,” she said slowly, “And even if she doesn't, she could be infected by any number of nasty diseases. Not only that, we run the risk of exposing everyone in the school to those same diseases. People wouldn't have to talk, it would come out on its own as soon as an outbreak of disease starts out in the school. I’m all for a few pranks, but attempted murder is way to far.”
The sound of footsteps and a slamming door floated up the stairs.
“Tch, I knew she didn't have the guts,” said Sophia.
“No Sophia, shes right,” said Emma making me blink in surprise.
“I want to help Taylor, not kill her,” said the red-head, “Besides, Madisons completely right about the risks. I don't know about you, but I’d rather not die a horrible death or end up in prison because of a prank. We can still lock Taylor in her locker for a bit, but not with that...stuff.”
There was a moments silence, followed by the sound of a deep intake of breath.
“Alright, I guess you have a point,” grumbled Sophia, “I don't know why your still so interested in helping that weakling though. Its been two years and…”
She was cut off as the door shut, leaving me alone in the stairwell. I sank down on the step, thinking hard. Apparently things had changed, although whether that was because of one of the butterflies I’d set flying or something native to the world I don't know. Whatever the case, it sounded like the Locker was off the schedule, which was nice and one less thing I had to worry about.
It also shone an interesting light on Emma. Apparently, she wasn't a complete bitch, but genuinely believed that she was trying to help Taylor...somehow. Not that that really changed anything and I still fully intended to do something a little more permanent to deal with them in the not-to-distant future, but it did mean I’d be a little less viscous. Madison had also proved that she wasn't truly malevolent, outside of being a thoughtless teen. The fact she was bullying Taylor had probably never even crossed her mind and she considered her actions to be harmless pranks.
Sophia on the other hand...yeah, I’d be dealing with her soon enough. Just as soon as I figured out how without bringing the PRT down on my head.
My stomach growled, reminding me of my previous destination. I stood and continued down the steps with a slight skip in my step. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but the fact that the Locker was now unlikely to happen was a weight of my mind.
Victoria Dallon lay back on her bed staring at the rather crumpled note in her hand. Getting notes wasn't unusual for her of course, being beautiful, famous and with an Aura that was geared towards attracting people, getting fan mail was so common she literally needed a dedicated shredder and waste paper basket just for the more...creepy ones.
However, this was different. For starters, she found it in her pocket after getting home from the mall with Amy the day her sister collapsed, despite having never seen it before and definitely not having been handed it, and second because it was from another Cape.
Alucard was something of an anomaly for Brockton Bay’s Cape scene. While he had been around for over a month at this point, he hadn't really been involved in that many Cape fights, other than a couple of tussles with some minor thieves like the Undersiders and a rather memorable fight with Circus that ended in a stalemate and a truck full of cottage cheese being blown up. In fact, he seemed to actively avoid meeting other Capes, to the point where he’d vanish into thin air if simply approached. The only exceptions seemed to be Saber and Ruler, the other two new Capes, which led some to believe that the three of them might be connected.
Of course, it also meant that some of the more paranoid folks on PHO and other places were rather suspicious of his motives, not helped by the fact that he tended to stick too the Docks area and deal with ABB and Merchant crimes leading some to believe that he might have Empire connections. Vicky didn't think that was likely and thought it was more likely that he either lived in the area and wanted to make it safer or thought that the rest of the city had plenty of Capes to protect it and decided to focus on where he could do the most good.
Considering that habit, leaving her a note stating that they needed to talk and to call him was more than a little odd.
Vicky sighed deeply as she rolled over and reached for her phone. Despite whatever reservations she might have, she was way to curious not to at least try to talk to the enigmatic Cape. She quickly dialed the number on the note and waited. Less than five seconds later, the other end picked up.
“Good evening Miss Dallon,” said a smooth, slightly accented voice, “I wasn't expecting you to call this soon.”
Vicky blinked in surprise. Did he have some kind of Thinker power on top of the rest of them?
“How did you…”
“Very few people have this number and I know all of them,” said Alucard, “It wasn't that hard to figure out.”
“Fair enough,” said Vicky, “So, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Thats...a little awkward,” said the other Cape, “I have an...acquaintance with a power similar to Panacea, although he can analyze people from a distance. He told me that your sister is exhibiting signs of chemical addiction to a mind altering substance similar to heroin.”
Vicky’s stomach dropped through her feet. She knew her sister smoked, but the idea of her taking anything harder was…
“However, she also isn't exhibiting any signs other than altered brain chemistry,” continued Alucard, cutting of her thoughts.
“Wait, what?” asked the Alexandria Package, “How is that possible?”
“I have no idea and neither does he,” said Alucard, sounding slightly annoyed, “He does however have a couple of theories. If possible, he would like to take a closer look at Panacea and possibly remove the issue.”
“I...I’ll need to talk to her,” she said, still more than a little worried.
Drugs or not, someone random having fucked up brain chemistry was never a good sign, especially not in a world with things like the Simurgh and Heartbreaker running around.
“Thats fine, it can wait,” said Alucard, “While worrying, its a long term issue and I doubt a bit longer will hurt. Once you’re done, come to the address I’ll text you and we’ll sort it out. Theres usually someone there at all times.”
“Alright,” said Vicky, “Um, thanks for letting me know. This is...worrying.”
“Not a problem,” said Alucard, “We are all Heroes after all. Goodbye.”
The call cut off and her phone buzzed a moment later with a text from the number with an address on she recognized as being in the Docks area. She ignored it for now though as she flopped back down on her bed and wondered how in the hell she was going to talk her sister into coming with her.
I put my phone down on the table in front of me, thinking hard. I might regret the fib about someone else being our Healer, but I doubted that Glory Girl would believe that I was a powerful Healer, on top of the rest of my powers, so it was a necessary half truth. Honestly, I was hoping that they came sooner rather than later considering the fallout that would come from the reveal. I just hoped that it wouldn't damage the sisters relationship to badly.
I sighed and glanced at the wooden cup that was sitting innocently on the table and glowing slightly. I wasn't entirely sure why, but I’d been feeling...odd lately. It was a feeling of weight settling on my chest, a vague sense of impending doom that seemed to be pushing me to perform another Summoning, despite the fact it had barely been a week since I summoned Archer. Quite what it was I don't know, but I had a nasty feeling that if I didn't have all my Servants summoned by the end of January, I’d seriously regret it. Very briefly.
I shuddered as the vague sense of dread washed over me again and got to my feet. Short time or not, I wasn't willing to see what that dread indicated any time soon and that meant I’d summon away.
I quickly entered my Workshop and moved over to where I’d carved a summoning circle into the floor to help speed up the process. Within moments, the circle was glowing and I was half way through the chant, ignoring a slightly surprised looking Ruler who poked her head through the door. SHe didn't say anything though, instead entering and leaning against the wall to watch. I finished the chant and felt the familiar feeling of another Servant latching onto my Sacred Gear, accompanied by a flash of blue robes and a blazing sun. I blinked as the dust cloud cleared, revealing a fluffy tail and a pair of twitching ears.
“Servant Caster has arrived,” she said, “I ask of you, are you my Master?”
“Well thats more formal than I was expecting,” I said, “But yes Tamamo-no-Mae, I am your Master.”
The fox spirit looked up and seemed to give me a quick glance over, before expression turned to one of eager interest.
“Hmm, principled and handsome,” she muttered, “Yes, you’ll do just fine.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Caster grinned and the next thing I knew I had a fox girl wrapped around me and rubbing her cheek against mine.
“I look forwards to serving you, dear Husband,” she said.
I groaned and rubbed my face with the hand that wasn't trapped by Tamamo’s hug.
“Great, I see no way this will end well,” I grumbled.
As if to prove my point, the door opened and in marched Saber.
“Praetor, I felt another Summon…” she trailed off as she spotted Caster still hanging of me.
She scowled and crossed her arms.
“And who are you?” she asked, “You seem...familiar.”
“Indeed, I must say the same,” said Caster, “For some reason, I feel like we’ve met before, in another life.”
“Wait, what?” I said, “But...I thought that Servants didn't hold any memories of past summons.”
“We don't,” said Ruler, “However, we are not typical Servants, so it wouldn't surprise me if there were some anomalies.”
I nodded thoughtfully.
“That makes sense,” I said.
“Regardless of the reason, I demand that you release my Praetor at once!” snapped Saber, pointing a finger at Caster.
“And why would I want to do that?” asked Caster, “Its only natural for a wife to hold her Husband close.”
Saber twitches violently.
“Husband?!” she spluttered, “Not a chance foxy, hes mine!”
Caster let out a mocking laugh.
“Yours? Please, what would an uncultured fool like you know about being a good wife?” sneered Caster.
“Uncultured?! I am an Emperor of Rome, the center of Culture in the west!”
“Alright you two, thats enough!” I shouted before Caster could return fire, “You two are my Servants and that means you are on the same side!”
The two bickering Servants looked at me, then at each other, before turning away with a huff.
“Fine, but that doesn't mean I’m about to lose,” said Saber.
“I could say the same,” said Caster.
I groaned and ran a hand over my face.
“This...will not end well,” I grumbled, “Alright, if you two really want to fight it out, do so, but in that case you are forbidden from using Noble Phantasms or going for the kill.”
“I...do not believe that that will be necessary Praetor,” said Saber.
“Indeed, a battle of strength would prove little in this matter,” said Caster.
“Whatever, but if you do decide to fight, please get someone to mediate,” I said, “I’d rather avoid having the city get blown up in a Servant duel.”
The two Servants agreed and left, Saber to do...whatever she did and Caster to familerize herself with the base, leaving me to drop into the chair in one corner of the room.
“Well, they seem to be getting along,” said Ruler.
“I just hope they don't start a ‘waifu war’,” I muttered.
“Oh, don't act like you don't like the idea,” she said, “Your a red blooded teenager after all, having two hot women trying to get into your pants is like a dream come true.”
“Not when both of those women could easily destroy the base and a good chunk of the city,” I said.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll manage,” said Ruler.
I sighed and rubbed my eyes, before glancing at my first Servant.
“Did you need something?” I asked.
“Actually, I do have something to ask you,” she said, “Dragon and the others will be arriving in about an hour and I was hoping to ask you for some help with our work.”
“How can I help?” I asked, “I mean, I’m not exactly a Tinker.”
“No, but there is something you can do,” said Ruler, eyeing the back of my hand.
I frowned as I listened to my request, before my jaw dropped.
“Wait, what?!” I spluttered, “Are you sure?”
“I see,” I muttered, “Yes, it would work, but…”
“I cannot force you, but using it would definitely allow me to complete my work,” said Ruler, “I never could complete it in life and even with the help of other powerful Tinkers I don't think I can finish it.”
She looked down at her hands.
“Other than Manton, that is my greatest regret.”
I eyed my first Servant for a moment, before I let out a sigh.
“I see, so thats it,” I muttered, “Your wish is to complete it, to finish the final part of your legend. Its no ordinary weapon your creating, is it?”
Ruler shook her head.
“No, its my final Noble Phantasm,” she said, “That is why I am uncertain if I can complete it with only Tinkers. They will be able to help, especially with my Workshop increasing their power, but I want the extra boost. I have waited far too long to fail now.”
I nodded and got to my feet.
“Alright, I’d prefer to not have to use them unless absolutely necessary, but if thats what you want, I will do it.”
“Thank you Master,” she said.
Kid Win took a deep breath and did his best to calm his nerves without much luck. Even now, in the back of a PRT van on the way to meet with Ruler, he still couldn't believe that he’d been asked for by name to take part in the creation of an anti-Endbringer weapon. He didn't even know what his specialty was and yet his name had been requested alongside Armsmaster and Dragon. It was rather thrilling and intimidating at the same time.
“Hey, calm down Chris, you’ll be fine,” said Vista who was sat next to him.
Chris smiled shakely at his teammate and took another breath. In addition to him and Armsmaster, Piggot had also decided to send Miss Militia, Vista and Gallant along to act as backup and possibly soft sell the idea of joining the Protectorate to Ruler and Alucard, who had been confirmed to be working with the Tinker and likely related to her in some way. Chris didn't think it was likely to work, but if it meant he got to see a Tinker like Ruler in person, it was more than worth it.
The young Tinker was abruptly pulled from his thoughts again as the van turned a corner and stopped. He took yet another breath to try and steady his nerves, before following his fellow Wards out of the van. The street they’d stopped on looked just like any other in the area, lined with abandoned warehouses in various states of disrepair, with the main exception being that this one also played host to a perfectly normal looking panel van with two men in street clothes and balaclavas leaning against who had to be Uber and Leet and another man Chris didn't recognize with long hair clad in Greek style armour with a domino mask over his eyes stood beside the door to one of the warehouses that had lights on inside.
As the Protectorate affiliated Heroes disembarked from their vehicles and Dragon landed lightly beside Armsmaster, having been following the convoy from the sky, the unknown man stepped forwards.
“Good, everyone's here,” he said, “Before we go any further, I wish to remind you that you are all here under the Endbringer Truce, regardless of whether you are here to assist the Tinkers or not.”
“Yes, we all know this,” said Armsmaster with an impatient hand wave, “Lets get started.”
The man nodded and opened the door.
“In that case, please follow me.”
He led the way into the building. As they entered, Chris looked around, noting that it was actually fairly comfortable, despite the rundown appearance of the outside. The entryway quickly opened up into a fairly large room with a number of doors leading off it with various signs on them and a few with lights above them. One of the doors was ajar and the sound of someone humming could be heard from within, along with the smell of something rather delicious. The room itself was dominated by a table with a number of chairs around it, clearly intended for meetings. Two of the chairs were occupied, one by Alucard at the head of the table and the one beside him by Ruler.
“Thank you Archer,” said Aluard, “Please, sit.”
He indicated to the chairs, two of which Uber and Leet immediately claimed. Chris was about to join them, but Armsmaster cut him off.
“I’d prefer to get started as soon as possible,” he said.
“Armsmaster…” started Miss Militia, her tone a little warning.
“No, its fine,” said Ruler, getting to her own feet, “I happen to agree, the sooner we start, the sooner we can finish. Leet, Armsmaster, Dragon, Kid Win, this way.”
“I’m coming as well,” said Uber, getting to his feet alongside his partner.
“Thats fine,” she said, “Follow me.”
She led the way out of the room and into a room that was set up as a workshop. Chris frowned as he looked around. It was...rather underwhelming all things considered. It didn't look much like a Tinkers workshop and more like a normal workroom.
“This is it?” asked Leet, looking around in surprise, “My lab would have been a better choice.”
“I have to agree,” said Dragon, “I was under the impression that you had a set up that would be necessary for the work, but I could have provided this easily.”
Ruler turned back to face them, a smirk clear in her stance.
“Oh, this isn't the workshop we’ll be using,” she said, “I simply didn't want to draw anyone else into it.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
Ruler tilted her head.
“You guys should consider yourselves lucky,” she said, “Even Alucard hasn't seen this yet. You will be the first people to witness the Noble Phantasm of the Servant Ruler!”
Armsmaster frowned, but before he could say anything, Ruler did...something that kicked up a massive wind that seemed to originate from her body. Before anyone could react, the wind erupted, forcing Chris to cover his eyes, despite his visor. After a few seconds, the wind faded and he looked up...only to find that the slightly dingy room had vanished to be replaced by a truly vast plain of red dust, occupied by piles of parts, raw resources and finished bits of tech that had been discarded like trash. The gathered Tinkers, plus Uber, were stood on an area that was paved in white tiles that stood out starkly against the dead land and surrounded by just about every type of tool and production machine Chris had ever heard of, in addition to even more he didn't recognize. The sky was black and studied with stars, but all of that paled in comparison to the vast orb of crystal that glowed with silver light and seemed to be pulsating like a living thing.
“Welcome,” said Ruler, drawing attention back to her, “To the Workshop of Tinkers, the Noble Phantasm of the Heroic Spirit once known as Hero, the King of Tinkers!”
Anyway, this is now done, so I’m going to sign out before I fall asleep at my desk. Don't forget to leave a review on the way out!
Welp, this is finally done. You have no idea how many times I ended up changing this ending. First I somehow ended up with Berserker forcing a Summoning, followed by Ruler calling Alucard Master and getting him to use a Command Spell in front of the Protectorate and...urg, whatever, trust me, this is the best result.
So, anyone willing to take a shot in the dark as to what I have planned for the future yet? Theres a fairly massive clue as to why Lisa can perceive Servant parameters in there too.
Yeahhh, even without the addition of her being a Magus, Rin is way to smart not to figure out that Alucard is her sorta-friend at school and that he knows who she is and so on. As such, neither of them see much point in hiding the fact.
Let me be perfectly clear (although I’ll still get some people whining because they don't read the AN), I have plans for Emma that don't involve locking her in the nuthouse or making her a true villain. That does NOT mean however that she will be joining Team Grail or becoming friends with Taylor again. Shes well and truly burnt that bridge, regardless of her reasons. Thats all I’ll say for now because I want to explore that in story.
That said, Sophia will get hers and lots of it.
I do apologize for the cliffhanger, but I’ve been watching Fate/Apocrypha again and I think it affected me after all the cliffies in that. I think thats also why a few of the characters have randomly become much more formal.
Anyway, this is now done, so I’m going to sign out before I fall asleep at my desk. Don't forget to leave a review on the way out!
There was a moments silence.
“I’m sorry, did you just say you were Hero?!” spluttered Uber, “As in, the First Tinker, the member of the Triumvirate, THAT Hero?”
Ruler crossed her arms and relaxed back on her heels.
“Yep, I did indeed,” she said.
“Ah...you do know that Hero’s dead, right?” asked Uber.
Ruler snorted and rubbed her chest.
“Yes, I am aware,” she said, “Believe me, getting ripped in half is not a pleasant experience. 0 out of ten, would not recommend.”
Armsmasters grip tightened on the haft of his halberd, before he stepped forwards and pointed the weapon at the other Tinker.
“I don't know who you really are, but I won't let you get away with sullying my mentors name,” he said.
Ruler stared at him for a moment, before holding out a hand. Before anyone could react, something shot out of one of the piles of junk that surrounded the work area and landed in her grip, revealing a halberd that looked a lot like Armsmasters, albeit nowhere near as sleek and with visible welds on the metal.
“Remember this Colin?” she said, “I do. It was the first project you completed on your own.”
Armsmaster took a step back, shock clear on his face.
“But...thats in my lab!” he protested, “How do you have it?”
“I am the King of Tinkers,” said Ruler, “My Legend is a part of every other Tinker in existence and just as the King of Heroes possesses a treasure house of Noble Phantasms belonging to every Hero to ever live, my Workshop contains every creation ever dreamed of by Tinkers, past, present and future.”
The halberd glowed and shifted, becoming a dragon themed, two pronged spear with a dragon skull etched onto the blade.
“I am a Heroic Spirit, born from the legend of Hero whos name was engraved upon this land,” she said, “The legend of the first Tinker, the man able to build wonders with which to save the world. A modern day King Arthur you might say.”
Her helmet retracted, revealing golden hair and green eyes that made Armsmaster twitch and swallow.
“But...how?” he asked in a weak voice, “Even with a Parahuman ability, this seems…”
“Never assume anything when it comes to Parahumans,” she said, “I taught you that, didn't I Armsmaster?”
The man twitched again.
“You did,” he said, “Still, if you’ve been alive…”
He was cut off as Ruler burst out laughing.
“Oh, I’m not alive,” she said, “My body is Spiritual, held to this world by the Grail and my Masters mana. If he goes, I fade away.”
“So your a projection?” asked Dragon.
“Hmm, not exactly,” said Ruler, “I’m not a mindless automaton, as you can clearly see and I am the same person I was in life.”
“Huh, I think I get it now,” said Leet, looking thoughtful, “I’m not entirely sure how it works, but you're basically a Familiar, right? As in, you have a contract with Alucard who you serve in exchange for something.”
“Thats pretty much it,” said Ruler, “Heroic Spirits are often summoned in order to have a Wish granted. Its not uncommon for us to have regrets after all.”
She sighed, before turning away from the living Tinkers.
“But thats enough talk,” she said, “I’m sure you have plenty of questions, but they can wait. For now, let us begin.”
She held out a hand and a soft breeze began to pick up, tugging at her hair as it swirled around her.
“Workshop of Tinkers, activate,” she said and snapped her fingers.
Miss Militia had been a Cape for most of her life. In that time, she had met many different people and gained more than enough experience that allowed her to read almost anyone she came across, helped along by her perfect memory. As such, she had absolutely no problem figuring out that Alucard was amused by something.
“Your wasting your time you know,” he said suddenly.
Miss Militia blinked.
“If Piggot really thought that we were any kind of threat, she wouldn't have allowed any of the Wards to come,” he said, “Frankly, its unlikely she’d have allowed Armsmaster to come either, at least not without far more backup. No, you lot are here to try and recruit me and my team.”
Miss Militia frowned. Alucard was sharp.
“Well, your not wrong,” she said, “But why are we wasting our time? Surely you know that joining the Proctorate comes with plenty of advantages.”
“Like what?” he asked, “Training? Archer’s an incredible teacher. Safety? My team still hasn't reached full strength and even then, there aren't many things that can hurt me permanently.”
“Thats a very dangerous thing to think,” said Miss Militia, “I’ve seen a lot of Brutes who think they’re invincible get themselves killed. Theres always someone who can beat you.”
“Oh believe me, I know that,” said Alucard, “In fact, I’m certain that most of the people here could beat me relatively easily. I’ve only just started training after all.”
His grin vanished as he suddenly became serious.
“Not to mention the fact that your entire organization is corrupt to high heaven.
Miss Militia twitched.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” she said, her voice carefully level.
Alucard smirked as he rested a hand on the head of the girl in his lap.
“Its amazing what information you can gather with an Assassin on your side,” he said, “Right Jack?”
“Right,” said the girl.
Miss Militia nearly jumped out of her skin at the sudden appearance of the pale girl and the two Wards with her weren't much better as Vista instinctively stretched space to put some distance between them and Gallant nearly fell out of his chair.
“What kind of information?” asked Miss Militia tightly as her power transformed into a rather large assault rifle in response to the Strangers sudden appearance.
“Enough information to know that Coil is a lot more dangerous than you thought,” said Alucard, “I’ll give you what we’ve gathered, but please, for the love of the Root, don't jump into taking him down.”
“Why not?” asked Miss Militia, “If hes as dangerous as you say, he needs to be taken down.”
“Oh, I agree,” said Alucard, “However, hes also paranoid to hell and back and has enough failsafes that I’m sure we’ve missed one and all of them are deadly enough to make Downtown utterly uninhabitable and several are dangerous enough to turn the entire city into a wasteland.”
“Surely they can't be that bad,” said Vista, speaking up for the first time.
“The tamest of them is the fact that his base is wired up with enough C4 to completely flatten half of downtown adn the most dangerous is a Tinker-made virus that would be able to sterilize an area of land twice the size of the city within hours,” deadpanned Alucard, “The others include blackmail packets set to be released, an extensive list of the identities of Heroes and Villains from all over the country and a databomb that would completely cripple the emergency services for at least twelve hours. In short, the guys a petty megalomaniac who thinks hes a Bond Villain.”
The three Protectorate Heroes gaped at the brutality Coil was apparently capable of.
“Thats pretty much why I haven’t had Jack flood his base with her mist and let him and his goons choke to death,” said Alucard with a shrug.
“Wait, your planning on killing him?!” gasped Vista.
“Quite frankly, thats the only way to deal with him safely,” said Alucard, “Hes way too dangerous to just lock up. Even sticking him in the Birdcage wouldn't work very well since his power lets him, repeatedly try to escape and bin any plans that don't work without anyone being any the wiser. If he does get Caged, he’d be running the place or out within six months.”
“Hes really that dangerous?” asked Miss Militia, trying to equate the PRT’s impression of Coils status as an annoyance at best with the dangerous picture Alucard was painting.
“Hes at least as dangerous as any S-class threat,” said Alucard, “True, he can't destroy an entire city on his own, but neither can Jack Slash. The man is smart, paranoid, connected, utterly without morals and considers the Unwritten Rules to be a helpful distraction at best and if it wasn't for his fail not-so-safes, I’d have already killed him.”
He sighed and pulled a memory stick out of his pocket.
“This contains all the information we have on him and his organization,” he said, sliding the stick across the table, “I’m nearly ready to make a move on him, but I’m not entirely sure that we can pull it off without help. Just...don't do anything stupid and for gods sake, make sure you don't put that on your system! Its got so many holes in it, I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if things were leaking of their own accord. Oh, and I strongly suggest that you make sure that Piggot doesn't have access to her side arm or any sharp objects when she finds out who Coil is. You might also want to have Panacea on standy.”
“Um, why?” asked Vista.
“Because she knows the guy,” said Alucard.
There was a moments silence.
“She...knows Coil?” asked Gallant, “How…”
“Its not that surprising,” said Alucard, “Even Villains have their secret identities after all. Hell, chances are you know some as well. However, in this case its a bit more worrying than just having a bar-friend with a secret or something and it ties into how Coil was able to infiltrate the PRT so well.”
“Hes a part of it, isnt it?” asked Vista.
Alucard grinned, showing off some rather impressive fangs that made Miss Militia twitched slightly.
“Right you are,” he said, “Although I think hes retired now. Not only that, but she personally knows him, although I doubt she thinks to kindly of him considering their past.”
“Who is he?” asked Miss Militia, feeling her stomach drop.
Alucard’s smile vanished.
“Former member of the PRT special forces and current PRT consultant, Thomas Calvert,” he said.
Miss Militia felt her stomach drop through her shoes. This...wasn't going to end well.
Taylor put her teacup down with a satisfied sigh. Despite everything, life was finally starting to look up for the girl. Well, to be fair, it had started a month ago when she first met Adrian Tepes, but she still felt it was worth saying. Since she’d met the blonde, the Trio had backed off to a degree, likely believing that having someone to collaborate Taylor’s accusations could force Blackwell to actually do something (although Taylor didn't think that was likely) and even more recently had backed off nearly entirely. Oh, there was still at least one unpleasant prank a day, but they were generally the type she could shrug off, not destructive or painful. It was...nice.
Not only that, but he’d also convinced her to actually go out on occasion rather than sit in her room feeling sorry for herself, resulting in her coming to the, rather obvious in hindsight, conclusion that the Trio were a problem that would eventually be behind her. That realization had made her much happier and, by proxy, also had an effect on her Dad.
He wasn't completely back to normal, but then she wasn't expecting miracles, but he finally seemed to remember that, even with his wife gone, he still had a Daughter. As a result, she’d started coming down to an actual cooked breakfast and the two had even worked together to make home-cooked meals for dinner on occasion. There was still an obvious Annette shaped hole in both their lives, but they were starting to recover and move forwards.
The sound of a chair being pulled out across from her drew her from her thoughts and she smiled when she saw the girls who had just returned from the little cafes counter with their chosen snacks. Rin Tohsaka was a girl she had known vaguely at school, but didn't know much about, other than the fact she was constantly being hit on by one of the seniors and wasn't shy in the slightest about expressing her displeasure when the idiot pushed to hard. However, despite that violent reputation, she had proven to be an excellent friend after Adrian had introduced the two girls.
It was also through Rin that Taylor had met her other new friend, a blonde, perpetually smug girl called Lisa who seemed to take great pleasure at being the smartest person in the room. She could be rather annoying, but was also amazingly insightful and could be rather helpful. And scary. At one point, Taylor had seen the girl brutally take apart a group of drunks who had decided that the three girls might be interested in a night out and didn't seem to want to take no for an answer. By the time she was done, all three of the men were reduced to tears and apologizing profusely. It was honestly rather scary how good she was at that sort of thing.
Still, scary or not, both girls had become good friends to Taylor over the past couple of weeks and had proved to be excellent listeners and gave sound advice. Plus, having both Rin and Adrian around meant she could finally eat in the canteen without fear of any...incidence.
“Thinking deep thoughts?” asked Rin as she sat down.
“Not really, just...woolgathering I guess,” said Taylor.
“Well stop it, I need that brain to help with my English homework,” said Rin with a grin.
“I could help if Taylor wants to go on knitting,” said Lisa mildly.
“I’d rather rely on her since she knows more about this sort of thing and you tend to get of topic anyway.”
Taylor sat back as the other two girls started bickering. It was a common sight, but it was also abundantly clear that the two were very good friends, the kind that she hadn’t had since Emma had inexplicably turned on her and had believed that she’d never have again. Now, despite everything, she found herself with two new friends who, despite the short time, she found herself treasuring immensely.
For some reason, that thought tickled her, causing her to burst out laughing. Lisa and Rin stopped their good natured argument to turn odd looks on her.
“Whats so funny?” asked Rin.
“N-nothing, nothing at all,” said Taylor, “I just...felt like laughing.”
She wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled at the two girls.
“Thanks guys,” she said.
The two glanced at each other and Rin shrugged.
“Your welcome I guess,” she said, “Weird girl.”
Taylor just smiled and looked out towards the water, watching as the sun slowly emerged from behind a cloud and lit up the Bay and the Rig floating in the middle. Life was finally looking up for her.
A fair distance away from Brockton Bay, in a rather messy apartment lit only by the streetlamps outside and the glow of a monitor, a young woman with long, braided hair sat in her pajamas, a plate of spaghetti resting forgotten in her lap as she stared at the image taken at the scene of a Cape related incident in Brockton Bay. However, unlike most people, she wasn't really interested in the fact that Panacea had collapsed, instead she was much more interested in the man who had helped her.
The woman stared at the image for a moment, before a grin crossed her face and she hopped to her feet, ignoring her meal as it hit the ground, and blinking across the room to her closet. She opened it and shoved aside her normal clothes, grabbing her costume and quickly donning it, before grabbing her sword from where it rested against the wall and vanishing into thin air. She had to find out just what was going on in Brockton.
A moment after she vanished, her computer lit up with a priority message from the womans rival.
“Alright, please fill me in,” said Piggot, leaning her elbows on her desk as she eyed the two Capes stood across from her, both of whom looked rather upset about something, “And why do you two look so down?”
Armsmaster and Miss Militia glanced at each other.
“Lets just say that we’ve had some...unpleasant revelations today,” said Miss Militia, “Ones that really shouldn't become common knowledge.”
Piggot raised an eyebrow, before reaching under her desk and activating her security system. There was a series of loud bangs as thick, metal shutters slammed down over the windows and doors, followed by a faint buzz as Tinkertech white noise generators activated. A quick glance at her computer screen confirmed that all extereia connections had also been cut, before she turned her attention back to the Capes, just in time to see Armsmaster pull a doohickey out of his armour and start prodding at it. After a moment, he nodded and put it away.
“We’re secure,” he said.
“I am aware,” said Piggot flatly, “Now tell me whats got you so worked up.”
The two Capes glanced at each other again, before Miss Militia spoke up.
“While Armsmaster was working with Ruler and the others, I took the opportunity to speak with Alucard and his teammates,” she said, “After shutting down any attempt to sell the idea of joining, he filled me in one some rather...uncomfortable revelations about our mole problem.”
“I thought that had been dealt with,” said Piggot.
“It has,” said Armsmaster, “However, it appears that that was just the surface details.”
As he spoke, Miss Militia pulled a memory stick out of her pocket and handed it to Piggot. She glanced at it, then at the Capes, before plugging it into her computer and booting it up. She trusted that Armsmaster would have scanned it and the contents extensively. She started flicking through the files on it. She opened one, scanned it and paled.
“All accurate as far as I can tell,” said Armsmaster, “However, even if it wasn't, we cannot afford to dismiss it. Not only that, but before we can even consider going after Coil, we need to deal with our own internal problems. According to what Alucard and his friends have discovered, our entire system is compromised from the ground up.”
Piggot scowled as she opened another file and scanned it.
“How in the world did he manage that?” she growled, “It would require top level clearance…”
She trailed off as she saw Miss Militia flinch slightly.
“What else did he tell you?” she asked.
Miss Militia shifted uncomfortably.
“He...told me Coils real identity,” she said.
Piggot blinked, a little taken aback by that.
“He did that?” she asked, “Why?”
While she considered the Unwritten Rules to be somewhat annoying, she understood why they were in place and was well aware of how seriously most of the Cape population took them. The idea that a Cape would so casually disregard them was...a little worrying.
“He told me that since Coil only used the Rules as a shield and disregarded them completely, he didn't deserve the protection they offered,” said the Military Hero.
“I see,” said Piggot, “Very well, who is he?”
Miss Militia squirmed slightly under her superiors gaze, which certainly didn't help Piggots mood.
“Hannah…” she said warningly.
Miss Militia sighed and took a deep breath.
“According to Alucard, Coils true identity is Thomas Calvert,” she said.
There was a moments silence as that bit of information sank in. Then Piggot went purple and slammed her fist into the desk with a loud crash.
“CALVERT?!” she thundered, “That little…”
She stopped and took a deep breath as her heart rate reached dangerous levels.
“Do you think thats likely Director?” asked Armsmaster, “You know Calvert better than I do.”
“Oh yes, I believe it,” growled Piggot, “I never did like the guy. I admit, I never thought he’d become a Villain, but looking at all the evidence, the backup plans and the fact that you’d need very high level access to put in a good chunk of the taps and back doors we’ve found, along with what Alucard and his friends have dug up...yes, I’m almost certain their right.”
“What should we do?” asked Miss Militia.
Piggot was silent for a moment.
“As much as I’d like to have him arrested and tossed in the darkest cell I can find, I agree with Alucards caution in this case,” she said, “Even one of the fail safes in this list going off would be catastrophic. I assume he has some kind of plan?”
“He said that he needed a few more things before he could deal with the issue, but he was working on it,” said Miss Militia.
Piggot nodded, looking thoughtful.
“As much as I don't like the idea of relying on an independent for something this vital, considering that he’ll be able to find out about any plans we make easily, we have no choice,” said Piggot eventually, “Let him know that we will back him up if he needs it, but chances are he’ll be on his own.”
“Yes Ma’am,” said Miss Militia.
“Is there anything else?” asked Piggot.
Armsmaster shifted slightly, before shaking his head.
“No, not at this time,” he said.
“Then go away,” said Piggot, deactivating her security system, “I’ve got way too much work to do and a session of dialysis to do to be kept busy any longer.”
The two Capes nodded and left, leaving her to turn her chair to stare out over the bay. She really wasn't happy with this whole mess, not in the slightest. The idea of having to rely on an Independent, especially one that had only just debuted recently, was incredibly galling, but, as she’d said to Miss Militia and Armsmaster, they didn't have a choice. Coil was apparently much to dangerous to let remain where he was, but the fact that he had his claws so deep in their systems meant that she couldn't even call for reinforcements without him discovering it, even if he no longer actually worked in the building.
She scowled again as her thoughts shifted back to her time as a grunt alongside Calvert.
“Damn bastard, still causing more trouble than your worth,” she muttered.
She allowed herself a few moments of fantasising about putting a bullet or ten in Calverts skull, before turning her chair back to her desk and reaching for the next document in her In tray.
Sophia scowled behind her mask as she slowly followed her current babysitter (Aegis tonight) across the rooftops. She hated this kiddy patrolling she was forced to do, well away from any of the dangerous places and, more importantly, any action she might find. Unfortunately, due to her getting a little...over excited a couple of nights ago with a scumbag she’d stumbled on on her solo patrol, she couldn't risk trying to sneak off to do something actually useful. Plus, due to the recent string of murders, the Wards were under much greater scrutiny than usual.
To make matters worse. The boring patrol gave her mind plenty of time to drift back to what had happened at school earlier in the week. She could understand Madison backing out, the girl was a hanger on, not actually strong and the only reason she put up with her was because the girl was moderately useful, but the fact that Emma had also backed out was a surprise. Almost as surprising as the fact she still honestly thought the little worm actually had the potential to be anything more than a pathetic little rabbit, cowering from the lions like she did.
She scowled again as her mind turned to the pathetic existence that was Taylor Hebert. Ever since Tepes had shown up, the little rabbit had been starting to regrow a spine, something that galled Sophia almost as much as being collared by the Wards like some tame housecat. To make matters worse, her recent confrontation with Tepes made it clear that he was well aware of her identity and could easily out her if he so chose. She wasn't sure why he hadn't yet, but knew that it wouldn't take much to change that.
As a result, she hadn't been able to take out her aggression on Hebert like she normally did, hence why she’d gone overboard the other day while on patrol, which left her in the uncomfortable situation of not being able to go out on further patrols until the extra scrutiny wore of a little, which in tern meant that the constant rage that bubbled in her gut had no outlet, made worse by the fact she’d actually been scared by Tepes on the day she confronted him. Now that some time had past and she’d calmed down, the mere thought that she, someone who was a real Predator, had been so terrified of someone who befriended that weakling Hebert, enraged her more than anything else. So much so that her rage at the thought was quickly eroding the warning the blonde had given her.
One thing was for sure, she needed to do something to redress the balance or she’d go insane. The only question was, what could she do?
A loud crash suddenly yanked her out of her thoughts and she skidded to a stop alongside Aegis, her crossbow instinctively rising as she looked around for the source. It didn't take long to find it. From the looks of it, they’d stumbled on some kind of distribution center belonging to the Empire if the large number of skinheads carrying boxes from a truck into a warehouse while more armed with machine guns stood watch nearby. The presence of Victor shouting at the idiot who had dropped the crate that had alerted the two Wards and Stormtiger leaning idly against a nearby wall was also a dead giveaway.
Sophia scowled again as she heard Aegis quietly communicate their discovery to HQ. She already knew that they’d be ordered to sit tight and do nothing, despite the fact she could easily deal with small fry like Victor and the goons down there without issue.
“We’ve been ordered to stay put and observe,” whispered Aegis, “Assault and Battery are on their way.”
She was about to snap something rude back at the Ward Leader, but before she could, a flicker of movement caught her eye. She frowned as she looked around, trying to figure out what she’d seen, right before a loud crash erupted from inside the E88 warehouse, followed by panicked shouting and the sound of gunfire.
The two Wards exchanged worried looks as the Empire Capes turned to the source of the racket.
“What the fucks going on in th…” started the appreant leader of the thugs as he started towards the door.
However, that was as far as he got before a fist the size of a whole ham shot through the wall like it wasn't even there and sent the man flying with a loud crack and a spray of blood. A moment later, the fist was followed by a body that was two meters of pure, scar covered muscle. He was clad in what looked like a cross between armour and BDSM gear, consisting of leather straps that seemed to be trying, and utterly failing, to constrain his movements, including his face in a parody of a mask. In his other hand, he held a sword Sophia identified as a Gladius, although he clearly didn't need it if the sheer strength he showed was any indication.
The massive figure stepped out of the building and looked around, a demented grin nearly splitting his face in two as he took in the Empire thugs that surrounded him. Then, the tableu was broken.
“I don't know who you are, but you’ll regret making an enemy of the Empire!” said Victor, “Kill him!”
The thugs opened fire without hesitation, but instead of being pumped full of holes, the giant just laughed as the rain of metal bounced of his skin.
“AH, so I’ve finally found you!” he roared, “Time to die oppressors!”
Then he charged.
Hmmm, I feel a tad guilty for this, but it does mean that the next chapter will (hopefully) be a bit quicker. I tend to find fight scenes to be either really easy or really hard. Lets hope its the latter!
No, Spartacus is NOT Adrians Servant, he had nothing to do with his Summoning. How he appeared on Bet will be revealed soon enough.
No, Uber and Leet are not aware of how the Fate series works, hes just guessing based on past experience and happens to be vaguely correct.
Conversation and reveal for the PRT and how badly their boned. On a related note, I hope I made Piggots motivation clear, although I’m not entirely happy with it. As I said in a previous chapter, this Piggot is a pragmatist and isn't dumb enough to risk tipping off a dangerous Villain just for her pride. Had Coil been less well dug in or had a few less dangerous failsafes, she would have acted differently.
Brief glance at Taylor and what shes feeling. Unfortunately, she’s not going to be having a good time of it soon.
Hmm, I wonder who our mysterious woman is? Heheh, I wouldn't actually be surprised if someone were to guess correctly.
Quick look at Sophia as well. I...really hope I didn't contradict myself in that internal monologue, I don't think I did, but theres always a risk.
Anyway, thats done, so I’m gonna sign out. Don't forget to leave a review!
“Well, that went well,” I said as I sat back in my chair.
“Yep, we managed to drop some useful bugs in useful ears and I finally got my Noble Phantasm finished!” said Ruler, hugging a rather large gun to her chest and sparkling.
I hummed as I rested my cheek on my fist.
“So how long will it be before we have the Cauldron breaking down our door?” I asked.
Ruler paused and slowly put down her gun, her face going from overly happy to much more serious.
“I think we’ll have some time,” she said, “Uber and Leet have a great deal of respect for the Unwritten Rules, Kid Win will keep his gob shut and Armsmaster...well, its been a long time, but I don't think he’ll tell anyone unless he thinks we’re a threat.”
“What about Dragon?” I asked.
“Oh she definitely won't talk,” said Ruler, “She figured out we were responsible for unshackling her in about three seconds. I do think she’ll show up at some point looking for answers, but….”
She suddenly cut off as both of us suddenly felt a massive surge of Prana neither of us recognized.
“What the fuck was that?!” I spluttered, shooting to my feet.
“Another Servant,” said Ruler, “But...somethings wrong. Its not like us and definitely not tied to you.”
“Can you tell who the Master is?” I asked.
Ruler frowned and closed her eyes.
“No, I can't,” she said, “In fact, I’m not sure if it has a Master. I can feel a connection, but it seems to be looping back to somewhere inside the Servant.”
She opened her eyes and looked at me with a serious expression.
“However, we should look into that later,” she said, “The Servant is a Berserker class and I’m pretty sure its going to go on the rampage.”
I groaned and rubbed my eyes.
“Fabulous,” I muttered, “Alright, in that case, lets go deal with it.”
I turned as four flashes of light heralded the arrival of my Servants.
“Alright guys, this is going to be a much tougher fight than we’re used to,” I said, “A Berserker class Servant is not to be underestimated. We need to stop it before it can do to much damage and preferably figure out where in the hell it came from. Understand?”
“Yes Master,” they all said.
“Great, in that case, lets go,” I said and turned to leave, before pausing, “Oh, and one more thing. Do not die, any of you.”
There was a moment of surprised silence, before Ruler snorted and ruffled my hair.
“Don't worry kid, none of us are going anywhere,” she said, “Now, lets go save the day.”
I grinned and turned, flipping my hood up as I left the base and took off with my Servants following me at their own pace.
It didn't take long to find the rampaging Servant, mainly because of the loud explosions and screaming, along with the maniacal laughter and frankly ludicrous amount of Prana he was giving out. I landed on the roof of a building a short distance away and examined the situation with a critical eye.
From the looks of things, the new Berserker had begun his rampage in an Empire storehouse by obliterating the goons working there, including Victor and Stormtiger, the former of whom was down with a smashed ribcage and a shattered skull and the latter out for the count with one arm missing. It wasn't hard to identify him, not with that grin that remained fixed in place, even as Assault, Battery, Velocity, Armsmaster and Miss Militia pounded on him with very little affect.
“So, what are the chances they can actually beat him?” I asked.
“Basically impossible,” deadpanned Ruler.
“Thats what I thought,” I muttered as I watched Armsmaster plunge a syringe that emerged from his Halberd into the Servants side, “Think that’ll work?”
“That sedative is designed for use against Regenerators,” said Ruler, “It uses their ability to regenerate against them. However, against a Noble Phantasm…”
Spartacus spun on his heel and backhanded Armsmaster through a wall.
“It might as well be a shot of saline,” she finished.
“AHAHAHAHAHA, YES, HURT ME MORE!” roared Spartacus as he flung his arms wide, the sheer force of the move actually knocking Velocity of his feet.
Unfortunately for the Speedster, he had the misfortune of landing at Spartacus feet, who promptly took advantage of the situation by lifting his foot to squash the red clad Hero.
“MOVE!” I shouted.
The roof splintered as Saber and Ruler jumped, the former on a collision course with Berserker and the latter straight up to take an overwatch position, Assassin vanished into thin air and Archer and Caster both launched their ranged attacks, an arrow that probably had the same destructive force as a small warhead and a rather large fireball. The two attacks impacted and exploded, knocking the huge Servant back a step and allowing Jack to scoop Velocity up and jump out of range. A moment later, Saber slammed into Spartacus, locking her sword with his before she was shoved back. She quickly regained her balance and jumped back in, keeping Spartacus’ attention on her for the moment.
“That was a little to close,” I said as I landed lightly on the roof of a rusted wreck that had somehow survived the rampage so far.
“Alucard,” said Miss Militia, nodding in greeting as she approached with Armsmaster, who was looking a little worse for wear and holding the broken remains of his halberd with a look of annoyance on his visible face.
“Um, thanks for that,” said Velocity as he got to his feet.
“Not a problem,” said Jack.
I cleared my throat.
“Jack, can you do something to keep anyone from getting in the way?” I asked.
“Our Mist will work,” she said, “But we don't think we’ll be much help here.”
I glanced at Spartacus, then at Jacks knives and nodded.
“Yeah, your probably right,” I said, “Alright, activate your Noble Phantasm then make yourself scarce. I’d rather you not get squashed by Spartacus if at all possible.”
Jack pulled a Victorian style lantern out of her cloak and reached inside. The moment her fingers touched the sputtering flame, it turned green and thick fog began to pour out the bottom. Jack almost immediately vanished as the fog rapidly expanded until the area was surrounded by a wall of gray, swirling fog.
“There, that and Jack should be more than enough to keep out any annoyances,” I said.
“This mist is made up of sulphuric acid,” said Armsmaster.
“Like I said, it’ll keep out anyone who tries anything stupid,” I said as I turned back to the fight.
It seemed to be a stalemate. Nero wasn't powerful enough to actually hurt Sparticus and was to fast for the comparatively clumsy Servant to catch, not helped by the arrows, spells and energy blasts being sent his way by Archer, Caster and Ruler knocking him off balance. The problem was that only Archers arrows were doing much and the damage was quickly fixed by his Noble Phantasm.
“Tch, thats a pain,” I muttered.
“We need more backup,” said Battery, “The problem is, we can't get any trucks with confoam out here thanks to Squealers latest drugged up rampage.”
“My tranquilizer didn't work either,” grumbled Armsmaster, “I’m not sure how, it was designed to take down Lung after all.”
“Well we need to do something,” said Velocity, “He didn't even hesitate when those Empire goons tried to stop him and I doubt he’d hesitate to kill innocent people if he came across them.”
“Thats...debatable,” I said, “I don't think he’d actually attack anyone at random, but I know for a fact that he wouldn't hesitate to kill anyone he deemed as an ‘oppressor’. The problem is that hes completely insane and that probably includes everyone from PRT officers to cops to gang members. To make matters worse, we can't contain him.”
“I think we could manage,” said Armsmaster.
“I doubt it,” I said, “You’ve seen what he can do to steel and concrete and its clear that tranqus don't work on him. I doubt Containment Foam would be much more useful and the longer he fights, the stronger he gets as he takes damage and converts it into power.”
There was a moments silence.
“You seem to know rather a lot about him,” said Battery in a neutral tone.
“Hes not part of my team if thats what your thinking,” I said, “I simply have an ability that lets me gain insight into certain powers.”
That was complete bullshit of course, but it would provide a good cover for my meta knowledge.
“I see,” said Armsmaster, “Then what can you tell us about him?”
“High level Brute with the ability to convert damage into power,” I said, “If the damage reaches a certain threshold, he’ll begin to transform and when that happens, we’ll need to get him somewhere well away from any innocents.”
“Why?” asked Assault.
“Because when he reaches his limit, he’ll release all that power at once,” I said, “That amount of power will be more than enough to vaporize a good chunk of the city. WIth that in mind, we’ll need to destroy him before that happens.”
“Wait, you mean kill him?!” gasped Battery.
“If its a choice between one lunatic and who knows how many innocent people who could get caught up in his rampage, damn right I’ll kill him,” I said.
Before any of the Protectorate Capes could respond, I reached for the darkness and called to it. The shadows responded and erupted into blades and tendrils that wrapped around Spartacus and stabbed as deep as they could into his flesh. Spartacus just laughed and heaved against the bonds, causing a few to shatter. The fact they all didn't was as surprising to me as anyone else, but whatever. So long as they did their job of holding him down for a moment.
Then Berserker threw his sword at me.
Considering the utter chaos that inevitably came from having three powerful gangs and more Capes than you could shake a stick at, it should come as no surprise that the people who lived in Brockton Bay had long since been inoculated to random explosions. Usually, they only warranted looking up to make sure they weren't nearby or quickly leaving the affected area if they were. Unfortunately for Taylor, the latest outbreak of chaos had erupted just a couple of blocks away from her as she was on her way home from her nice day out with her friends.
Naturally, her first instinct had been to leave the area, but before she could go far, a thick fog rolled in out of nowhere, fog so thick she couldn't see through it. Considering she could still hear explosions and gunfire coming from the battle, she decided to stay put rather than blunder through the fog and possibly end up getting turned around and stumble into the middle of it. Hopefully the fight wouldn't come this way.
Barely had that thought crossed her mind when the wall beside her suddenly exploded and a body was flung through, slamming into the wall across the street and slumping down as the wall collapsed around it. It took a moment, but Taylor quickly recognized Alucard, one of the city’s newer Capes, thankfully a Hero.
The Cape groaned as he sat up, wincing in clear pain and giving Taylor a good look at the sword that was sticking clean through his stomach. She froze, her hands jumping to her mouth as she tried to keep from screaming.
“Fucking Berserker, I should have known he’d do that,” growled Alucard as he stumbled to his feet and wrenched the sword out of his gut.
There was a brief spurt of blood before the gash visably closed up.
“Asshole, I’m a Dhampir, not a Cambon,” he muttered as he tossed the sword aside with a very loud crash.
He shook himself off and turned to head back through the wall, but before he could, he spotted Taylor and froze.
“Taylor? What are you doing here?” he asked, making her jump.
“Wha...how do you…?” she started, but before she could finish the question, a massive fist smashed through the wall, followed by an equally massive body.
“TIME TO DIE OPPRESSOR!” roared the giant as he bore down on Alucard.
The winged Cape jumped out of the way of the giants fist and took off in the opposite direction. The giant turned, clearly intending to follow, but paused as he noticed Taylor. He turned his head to look at her and the girl recoiled at the massive grin on his face. For a brief moment, the two stared at each other, before the Cape tilted his head on one side as if listening to something.
“Whats this?” he rumbled, “You say this one is a danger to freedom?”
Taylor swallowed and slowly started backing away. However, before she could get far, the giant stiffened, his smile changing to a grimace.
“Child or not, I will not permit a being like that to exist!” he thundered, lifting a massive fist, “ACCEPT MY LOVE!”
He swung his fist, big enough to squash Taylor flat. She barely had time to close her eyes before it hit…
“Phewee, that was close.”
Taylor’s eyes blinked open as she realized she wasn't dead. It took a moment for her still panicked brain to register that she wasn't even on the ground anymore. Instead, she was in the arms of someone who was apparently stood on a roof above the chaos. She looked down and saw that her attacker had apparently collapsed and seemed to be having trouble getting to his feet for some reason, before turning her attention to her savior. And nearly ended up squeezing as she recognized the mouse eared helmet and white cloak of Mouse Protector.
“You OK kid?” asked the hammy Heroine.
“I-I-I think so,” said Taylor.
“What the flying fuck?!”
Taylor nearly jumped out of the Capes arms at the unexpected exclamation and turned to see that Alucard had swooped back and was now gaping at Mouse Protector for some reason.
“You...are not what I was expecting,” he said after a moment.
Mouse tilted her head on one side.
“Oh? And what were you expecting?” she asked.
“Someone who wasn't immune to my ability to scan people,” deadpanned Alucard.
He glanced over his shoulder as Sparticus finally managed to regain his feet and started towards the building, only to get tripped by Assault and once again end up flat on his face.
“Your work?” he asked.
Mouse grinned and nodded.
“Yep, neat trick huh?”
“Very neat trap,” said Alucard, “We can talk more later though. For now, SABER!”
“Yes Praetor?” said the red clad woman as she landed beside Mouse, shooting the hammy Hero a strange look.
“Its time to bring the curtain down on this mess,” said Alucard, “Use your Noble Phantasm and finish this!”
Saber’s face lit up in a grin and she snapped a salute.
“Understood Praetor!” she chirped and jumped off the roof.
Immediately, Spartacus turned his attention from Assault and Velocity, who had been annoying him enough to keep his attention away from Taylor and Mouse.
“Spartacus of Thracian, hear my words!” she shouted, making the great Gladiator pause, “I, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Fifth Emperor of Rome, challenge you to a duel! Let us bring this battle to an end here and now!”
“Ahhh, a true Oppressor!” thundered Spartacus, “Do you truly believe that you can best me, little Emperor? I have killed many warriors far greater than you!”
“Perhaps, but nonetheless, I shall not loose!” shouted Nero as she pulled a rose out of nowhere, “Behold, this is my glory! My Golden Theater! Kingdom of Heaven and Hell... My heaven, reconstructed! This is where the limelight shines!”
She threw the rose into the air and the entire area was lit up by a golden light as shining rose petals began to fall. She spun her sword and stabbed it into the ground and, with a brilliant flash, the grimy, run down surroundings were replaced by a resplendent, golden theater.
“Aestus Domus Aurea!” she said as she pulled her sword from the ground, “Now, let the Pavilion fall! Laus Saint Claudius!”
With a flash of crimson and a shower of rose petals, the blazing Saber launched herself forwards and, before Spartacus could so much as twitch, he was bisected by a flaming sword and a flurry of crimson petals that resembled both fire and blood. Saber skidded to a stop and flicked her sword as the Golden Theater faded, leaving nothing but the lingering smell of rose petals. She let out a sigh and glanced back at the twitching mass of flesh that had been Spartacus.
“You are certainly tenacious,” she said.
“RAAHHHHGHGGGGGHHHH!” roared the Berserker as his body erupted, going from a Human form to something that looked like it crawled out of Bonesaws worst nightmare.
It had more arms and legs than could reasonably be counted and was basically a mass of tummerous flesh that glowed faintle, with the only recognizable parts being the two massive mouths at the front, along with a pair of huge arms. It was barely recognizable as something that was once Human.
“Tch, I was hoping that would work,” muttered Alucard, “Alright then, Archer, Ruler, your up.”
“Understood Master,” said Archer.
“Well its about time!” said Ruler, tossing her usual gun to the side and instead summoning a weapon that looked like a cross between a sniper rifle and a crossbow, “Archer, you got his head?”
“Naturally, this will be a simply shot,” said Archer as he dismissed his bow and looked up at the stars that were just starting to show, “Let us end this.”
“This is the first time this Noble Phantasm has been fired,” said Ruler as she took aim, “No time like the present I guess. Golden Heroes Sting!”
“Antares Snipe,” said Archer.
There was a moment's pause before the night was lit up once again, this time with golden light as a beam of light shot out of the sky and slammed into where Spartacus’ head would be, followed by another, much thicker beam that seemed to distort space around it as it carved straight through Berserkers tough hide and shattered, making him bulge and glow from within. A couple of seconds later, the light faded and the two Servants slumped slightly in exhaustion.
“There, that should do it,” said Ruler, “His Core has been destroyed. He should fade soon…”
“Ahhhhh, yes, this feeling!” said Spartacus suddenly, cutting off Ruler and making everyone stare at him in disbelief.
Despite the horrific damage caused by three powerful Noble Phantasms, he was somehow still alive, albeit bleeding heavily as his horrifically twisted body slowly slumped over.
“It is time,” he said, “I leave this world with a final declaration for my love! I shall destroy all of the Oppressors who reign over this beautiful world!”
His body settled as purple energy began to play across it and swell up.
“Oh crap, thats what I was hoping to avoid!” shouted Alucard, “Whats his target?”
“Hes aiming in the direction of the PRT building!” shouted Miss Militia, “From this angle he’ll take out the Rig and half of downtown as well!”
“And we don't have any defencive Noble Phantasms handy,” growled Alucard, “Damn it!”
“I’ll handle this!” said Mouse Protector as she tossed Taylor at Alucard.
The Vampiric Master barely caught the other teenager, who understandably let out a yelp of shock.
“Wait, what?” he asked, “Your going to do something? How?!”
Mouse Protector grinned at Alucard as she tossed something off the roof.
“Lets just say I’ll be getting some help from a friend,” she said.
Before Alucard could respond, Mouse had vanished and reappeared in front of Spartacus as he reached his peak.
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!?” screamed Miss Militia, “GET OUT OF THERE YOU IDIOT!”
“Hell no!” shouted Mouse as she lifted her shield, a massive grin on her face, “If I ran now, how could I ever call myself a Hero?”
“ARE YOU INSANE?!” screamed Battery, “YOU CAN'T BLOCK SOMETHING LIKE THAT WITH THAT TINY THING!”
“No, she can,” said Ruler, staring at the shield in shock, “Thats...how the hell does she have a Noble Phantasm?!”
“So, you believe you can stop me?” laughed Spartacus as he noticed Mouse stood in front of him, “Fool, no one can stop my love!”
“Heh, a fool am I?” asked Mouse, “I guess thats true. I am a fool, always have been. That said, its that same idiocy that let me keep on going, even when I was beaten again and again. I’m not the strongest and I’m definitely not the smartest, but I don't care. I’m still me and thats all that matters!”
She tossed aside her sword and held up the shield, which started to glow brightly, the white mouse logo burning away to leave gleaming steel that was glowing green.
“ALL WILL FALL BEFORE MY LOVVVVVEE!” howled Spartacus as the energy finally erupted in a massive purple blast that managed to light the entire city up like daylight.
“Akhilleus Kosmos!” shouted Mouse Protector and things went...strange.
For a brief moment, the world was replaced by a green tinged Greek city, before it was swallowed up by Spartacus’ attack and was compressed down until it was little more than a mote of light before that to winked out. For a moment, the battlefield was completely still as everyone stared at Mouse Protector, before her helmet cracked in half and clattered to the floor, revealing pale pink hair that was tied in a long braid with black ribbons.
“Well, that was interesting,” said Alucard after a moment, “Now, do you mind telling me how the actual fuck you’re here Rider of Black, Astolfo?”
A world away, literally, a figure sat back in his seat with a sigh.
“Well, that experiment was a failure,” he muttered, “Still, it was to be expected. While powerful, the fusion process stripped Spartacus of a good chunk of his full power. I had hoped he’d at least kill the girl though.”
The figure frowned as he eyed the photographs on his desk. The first was of Taylor Hebert, the person he had believed was the greatest threat to his plans until the arrival of the other person.
“Adrian Tepes, Alucard,” he muttered, “Just who are you? No matter how I run the numbers, you are still an anomaly, to the point that even that foolish seer cannot see you. How can you summon so many Servants at once? Especially...HER.”
For a moment, the cool mask cracked as he shot a glare at the still image of Saber. He quickly got himself under control and sat back, idly tapping his fingers on his chin.
“This requires more experimentation,” he said eventually, “I need more subjects.”
He waved a hand and a number of screens appeared in the air, each one showing a list of Parahumans.
“Lets see, who would be the best choice for my next experiment?” he mused.
Well, thats more than a little ominous. I wonder who this new foe could be? And just what is his experiment? This...could go VERY badly.
I admit, I’m not entirely happy with the fight, but I never am when I do group battles. I think I’ll need to do some solo fights for Adrian at some point…
Three Noble Phantasms might have been a little bit of an overkill, but Berserker survived a direct hit from Phoebus Catastrophe, an anti-Army Noble Phantasm. I’m fairly sure that none of the Servants available to Adrian have that kind of firepower, so they had to go for accurate shots to his Core. To bad Berserkers nature made it so he could survive long enough to get one last fuck you in.
I...might get some flack for making Mouse Protector Astolfo, but there is a reason. That will be revealed in the future and has some rather...interesting implications.
Speaking of which, I now find myself with an open slot for a Rider class Servant considering that Astolfo was the one originally slotted in there. I already have an idea of who I’m going to use, but I’m open to suggestions for it.
And with that, I’m done so I’m gonna sign out. Don't forget to leave a review, preferably without blasting me like an overpowered Berserker.
Emily was annoyed. Being a very busy woman, she understandably preferred to be left to do her work to keep her desk from being buried under paperwork and yet here she was, in the second meeting of the day, this one unscheduled, thanks to the incident that had resulted in the deaths of three Empire Capes, a good number of mooks and the outing of a Protectorate affiliated Hero. In short, it was a total clusterfuck, made even worse by the fact that the ones who had ended up dealing with the problem had been a group of Independents who she was really starting to dislike, despite the fact that the Proctorate had technically got there first.
“Alright, so what do we actually know?” she asked.
“At approximately 17:00 hours, we received a report from Shadowstalker and Aegis of a Parahuman disturbance in the Empire Territory down on 23rd street,” said Armsmaster, “Upon investigation, it was discovered that an unknown Parahuman was engaging Stormtiger, having already killed Victor and a large number of gang members with little effort. We arrived just in time to see the new Parahuman, codenamed Spartacus, severe Stormtigers arm. We attempted to render aid, but Spartacus attacked us on sight and by the time Miss Militia was able to disengage long enough to check on Stormtiger, he was already deceased. After that, we attempted to bring Spartacus down, but even with reinforcements from Assault, Battery and Velocity, we were unable to even irritate him, with only my Halberd and some of Miss Militias more powerful guns able to even pearce his skin. He even shrugged of a large dose from a tranquilizer I specifically designed for use on Brutes.”
He seemed rather miffed by that.
“Alucard and his team arrived at around that point,” he continued, “Jack prevented Velocity from being killed by Spartacus.”
Piggot listened as Armsmaster went over the battle. She’d already read the reports and seen the recordings from the camera's every Protectorate Parahuman wore, but found it useful to hear reports verberly so she could get some idea of how others viewed the events.
“I see,” she said once Armsmaster was finished, “It sounds like we’ve underestimated Alucard and his teammates.”
“I agree,” said Armsmaster, “I am still unsure of exactly how Saber did what she did and Archers attack also makes little sense.”
“Not only that, but I don't think that Spartacus was a codename,” said Miss Militia, “Something about the way Saber said it when she challenged him made it seem like it was his real name. Plus, she called herself Nero, as in the Emperor of Rome.”
Piggot sighed and rubbed her eyes.
“Great, thats all we need,” she growled, “A delusional Cape with delusions of grandeur and an insane amount of power. Where did Alucard even find her?”
There was no response. Piggot sighed and rubbed her eyes, wishing, not for the first time, that she could have a glass of bourbon or ten without dieing.
“Alright, we’ll table that for now,” she said, “What about Mouse Protector?”
“Shes downstairs with Alucard and his team,” said Miss Militia, “I...have no idea what to make of the whole mess.”
“Her powers are listed as minor Brute/Mover, along with her ability to teleport to anything she’s previously marked,” said Armsmaster, “I can't find anything on the shield she used and I know for a fact its not Tinkertech. When asked, she just says it was a gift.”
“What was it that Alucard called Mouse?” asked Assault, looking thoughtful, “Astolfo, right?”
“Thats right,” said Miss Militia, “Why?”
“Well, Astolfo was one of Charlemagne's 12 Paladins,” said Assault, “He also referred to her as Rider of Black, which is similar to the names used by most of his teammates…”
“She's been active for a lot longer than Alucard though,” said Miss Militia, “Hell, I’m pretty sure shes been active for longer than hes been alive. They can't be connected.”
“I don't think they are,” said Battery thoughtfully, “Not directly at least. Alucard looked genuinely surprised to see Mouse and she didn't seem to recognize him at all.”
“We could always try asking,” said Armsmaster distractedly.
All eyes turned to the Tinker, who looked up from the tablet he was reading and tilted his head.
“Do you think they’d tell us anything?” asked Velocity.
“If not, we’re no worse off than we are now,” said Armsmaster, “This questioning is getting us nowhere.”
There was a moment's silence before Piggot sighed.
“You have a point there,” she said, “Alright, dismissed for now. Miss Militia, Armsmaster, please accompany me. I need to talk to our...guests.”
“What about Miss Hebert?” asked Battery.
“Has she been questioned and checked?” asked Piggot.
“Yes, her Father arrived an hour ago and everything's been sorted,” said Battery, “Nothing even remotely close to unusual has been found, although she did test positive for a Corona Pollentia. No Gemma so she hasn't Triggered yet. She had no idea why Spartacus, or anyone else for that matter, would have wanted her dead.”
Piggot let out a huff.
“Small mercies I guess,” she said, “Alright, let them go, but send a few patrols through their neighbourhood over the next couple of days, just in case.”
“Understood,” said Battery as she stood and headed out of the room.
There was a general round of denials, so she nodded and heaved herself to her feet. This was going to be an...interesting conversation.
“Have Alucards teammates been interviewed?” asked Piggot as she and Armsmaster headed down to the interview rooms where they’d stashed the team.
“They have,” said Armsmaster, “None of them have said much though.”
“Hmm, thats not surprising I suppose,” said Piggot, “Did any of them show any signs of being Mastered?”
“No, we ran a number of tests that have proven effective in the past, but none of them have shown any sign of anything similar to a Master influence we’ve seen,” said Armsmaster, “In fact, they seemed more amused by the idea of being Mastered by Alucard than anything.”
“I see,” said Piggot, “In that case, I suppose we’ll have to get the information directly from the source.”
She stopped in front of a door and waved her card over the reader. The door opened to reveal a standard interview room, complete with one way mirror and uncomfortable chairs. Alucard was sitting in one of the chairs with a wooden cup clasped in his hands, his eyes closed and his brow furrowed.
“You seem worried,” said Piggot as she sat across from him, ignoring the chairs squeak of protest.
“A Berserker Class Servant appeared out of nowhere in a world without any way to connect to the Throne other than my Grail and no apparent Master to act as an anchor,” said Alucard, “Damn right I’m worried! To make matters worse, I’m picking up the shattered remains of a Soul floating around and that is NOT GOOD! Messing with a Soul is a fucking horrible idea, neglecting the fact that doing so is a one way ticket straight down for a couple of millenia, those things have enough power inside them to wipe out half the solar system if they go up! Fortunately thats about as likely as Zion hooking up with Administrator D, but I think I’m more than justified in panicking a little!”
He stopped and took a deep breath, visibly pulling himself together.
“Ah, sorry about that,” he said, “I didn't mean to shout, its just that this has been a rather stressful night.”
“Perhaps you could elaborate on some of those points,” said Piggot, “Are you implying that Spartacus was a projection of some kind?”
Alucard groaned and rubbed his face.
“Yes...no, sort of...urg.”
He groaned again and let his head hit the table with a thump.
“He...wasn't a projection as you would understand it,” he said.
“Elaborate,” said Piggot.
Alucard hesitated and Piggot narrowed her eyes.
“I need you to tell me something Alucard,” she said, “You and your teammates have done a lot of good since you arrived, but its becoming more obvious that you aren't normal Parahumans. We have never seen anything like what Saber did with that theater and I’m certain that the others have similar abilities. Not only that, but Spartacus apparently came out of nowhere yet you knew him and what he could do.”
She lent forwards and fixed Alucard with an intense stare.
“Tell me what you know or I will be forced to assume that you are somehow responsible.”
Alucard stared at her for a moment, then sighed.
“Normally I wouldn't take to kindly to threats, but...you have a point there,” he said, “Alright, Servants are independent entities, they have their own personality and wills, but are bound to a Master who provides energy to sustain them and keep them from dispersing.”
“And what exactly are Servants?” asked Piggot.
Alucard smiled thinly.
“They are Heroes,” he said, “I assume you’ve seen the recording of the fight?”
“I have,” said Piggot.
“Then you heard Nero’s proclamation.”
Piggot raised an eyebrow.
“You mean that shes Emperor Nero of Rome?” she asked, “Despite the fact shes a woman?”
“Nero ruled nearly 2000 years ago,” said Alucard, “You honestly believe that history got everything about her right? Hell, the same could be said for any of the countless Heroes within the Throne.”
“I suppose I can't really argue with that,” said Piggot, “What is the Throne?”
“The Throne of Heroes is a...place for want of a better word where all those Heroes who engraved their legend upon Humanity go when they die,” said Alucard, “People like King Arthur, Gilgamesh of Uruk, Jeanne d’Arc and, yes, Emperor Nero. Hero or Villain, real or imagined, all who exist in legend can appear in the Throne.”
“I wouldn't be surprised if there were even Parahumans within the Throne, although summoning them anywhere other than this World would be...difficult.”
“I see,” said Piggot, her voice carefully level, “And your...teammates are all Heroic Spirits?”
“Ehhh, not really,” said Alucard, “They are Servants, basically a copy of a true Heroic Spirit that is summoned into one of seven, usually, spiritual bodies to act as a Familiar to their Master. Generally, its only possible to Summon a Servant for a Holy Grail War, but since I hold a Grail myself, I can summon them myself without much difficulty, although they do appear to be a little weaker than normal. Whether thats because of a limitation of the Grail, my own power or this World or if its just pure luck that the Servants I’ve summoned so far have been low ranked, I don't know.”
“Exactly how powerful are these Servants?” asked Piggot, “We have your teammates down as high ranking Brutes and Movers, but you say they are low ranked?”
“Servants are simply beyond Humans,” said Alucard, “Under normal circumstances, even the weakest Servant would be able to kill a Human with ease. I’m not entirely sure how a Parahuman would stack up, but they are categorically immune to any normal firepower.”
He chuckled softly.
“Then you have their Noble Phantasms. These are the powers and weapons the Servant was known for in life, things like Excalibur and Balmung. They are trump cards and can range in power from Anti-Unit to Anti- World, although the latter is extremely rare. In short, if a Servant appears, its probably best to leave it to us or call in some serious firepower as backup.”
“Mmmhmm,” said Piggot, “And what about Spartacus? You said he was a Servant as well, didn't you? Where did he come from?”
“I have no idea,” said Alucard bluntly, “Thats why I’m so worried. If we could located his Master, I could probably get some information, but we couldn't even find any indication of a link back to them. Its possible that they were hiding their presence, but we’d still be able to detect the presence of a link.”
“Are there any indication that someone is a...Master?” asked Armsmaster.
Alucard nodded and pulled off his glove. The back of his hand shone briefly, before a set of crimson symbols that resembled a cog split into three with one third missing and replaced with a faint smudge.
“These are Command Seals,” he said, “They mark a Master and act as proof of the bond. With Spartacus dead, they would have faded, leaving scars like this one.”
He pointed at the missing segment.”
Armsmaster frowned as he lent in to take a closer look.
“Hmm, I think I’ve seen something similar to this before,” he said.
He tilted his head slightly, before nodding.
“Yes, one of the bodies we found after the battle ended had these marks on his hand.”
Alucard’s eyes widened.
“Who and where was he found?” he asked.
Armsmaster glanced at Piggot, who nodded. Armsmaster did...something and then pulled a sheaf of paper out of a container on his armour.
“Hans Schmitt, AKA Alabaster,” said Armsmaster, dropping the file in front of Alucard.
The picture attached to the front showed a mugshot of said Nazi Breaker. Alucard pulled the file closer and opened it, revealing a post mortem image of a perfectly normal looking man with brown hair. He also had a gaping hole through his forehead and another through his chest.
“Despite the injuries, the actual cause of death was determined to be a massive aneurysm,” said Armsmaster, “The injuries were dealt post mortem.”
Alucard stared at the image for a moment, then flipped to a close up of his hand where, sure enough, there were the scarred remains of a set of Command Seals.
“Whats interesting is that the injuries correspond to the places hit by Ruler and Archers final attacks,” said Piggot calmly.
“That...is rather worrying,” he said, “Master and Servant are linked, but not that closely…Where was he found did you say?”
“Not far from where Spartacus was killed,” said Armsmaster, “Does that mean anything to you?”
Alucard hummed thoughtfully as he tapped his finger on the file.
“Possibly, but I’d have to see the body first,” he said slowly, “Is there anything else you can tell me about him?”
“Only that Alabaster has been missing for some time,” he said, “Normally, he’d be spotted at least once a week going to and from a known Empire bar, but for the past two weeks there hasn't been any sign of him.”
“That...could be nothing,” he said, “But my guts telling me that its important somehow. I think we need to gather more information on that.”
He picked up the file.
“Do you mind if I keep this?”
Armsmaster and Piggot shook their heads and he tucked it into his jacket.
“Before that, we need to finish up here,” said Piggot, “I’m sure you understand that I’m having a hard time believing these claims.”
“Perfectly understandable,” said Alucard, “Considering the content of the claims, its hardly arbitrary skepticism. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how I can prove I’m telling the truth since my Servants are all either incredibly old or mythological in nature.”
“Oh? And who exactly are they?” asked Piggot.
Alucard eyed her for a moment, then settled back in his seat.
“You should know better than to ask that,” he said, “They may not be Capes, but many Servants prefer to keep their true names hidden from all but their Master.”
“And why is that?” asked Armsmaster.
“Because not every Hero is proud of the life they led,” said Alucard, “And it allows others to potentially pinpoint their weakness. There are plenty of Heroes and Monsters from legend who have very specific weaknesses after all.”
He shook his head.
“No, I won't tell you their identities,” he said, “If they decide to do so later, thats up to them.”
“You believe we would spread the information?” asked Piggot.
“You still have a rat problem,” said Alucard bluntly.
“But your willing to talk about your powers?” asked Piggot.
Alucard’s grin widened, showing off his fangs.
“Rulers making sure it stays secret,” he said smugly.
Piggot fixed him with a glare that he ignored. After a moment, she let out an annoyed huff and shook her head.
“Fine, keep your secrets,” she said, “I suppose I should be glad your telling us this much.”
“Getting back on topic, you said there are seven of these...Servant Classes, yes? So that means you will have another two you can summon, correct?”
“Three actually,” said Alucard, “Ruler isn’t one of the typical Classes. Actually, theres a chance I could summon even more, but I don't know what Extra Classes I have access to, if any.”
Piggots nostrils flared in annoyance.
“So in other words, you’ll have more Capes in your team than the Protectorate,” she growled, “Fabulous…”
“Don't worry Piggot, we might not be with you, but we’re certainly not against you,” said Alucard, “Our goal is to make the world a better place, Brockton Bay is just the start.”
“That really doesn't fill me with confidence,” growled Piggot, “People with that goal have a tendency of attracting trouble.”
Alucard gave a grin that was all teeth.
“And if that trouble arrives, we will deal with it,” he said, “Trust me, none of us are willing to just roll over and die.”
“I just hope you don't take the city with you,” muttered Piggot.
Alucard chuckled softly and then stood.
“If thats everything, I should go,” he said, “Its late, or early rather, and I have things to do today.”
“Actually, if possibly, I’d like to see you perform a...summon,” said Piggot.
Alucard’s eyebrows shot up.
“It would go some way to backup your claims,” said Piggot, “And I need something to prove that your not a deluded Master/Trump.”
“Thats fair I guess,” said Alucard, “Although I’m surprised you decided to talk to me in person if you thought that.”
“I didn't until we started talking.
Alucard sighed and nodded.
“Alright, but I suggest we go somewhere with some space.”
“The training room should suffice,” said Armsmaster.
“Alright, lead the way.”
I followed the Protectorate Tinker through the halls of the PRT base, deep in thought. I...wasn't entirely happy with the amount I’d had to spill to Piggot considering her reputation, but she’d been surprisingly polite and reasonable. I guess its not impossible that this world is simply less belligerent than the canon one or maybe she could somehow tell I wasn't actually a Parahuman and treated me accordingly. Plus, she did actually need to know about the presence and danger of Servants. I didn't know where Spartacus had come from after all and there was a risk that other Servants would put in an appearance.
I frowned as I thought back to the file in my pocket. The whole thing with Alabaster was...worrying. I wasn't sure why, but the entire thing was putting me on edge. I somehow knew that unraveling this whole mess would bring me one step closer to figuring out what in the fuck was going on.
“Ohh, this is going to be a massive pain in the arse,” I muttered.
It didn't take much longer to reach our destination, which turned out to be a fairly normal looking room with a number of exercise machines taking up one half and mats taking up the other.
“Will this be enough room?” asked Armsmaster.
“Should be,” I said, “Alright, lets…”
I was cut off by a missile with a furry warhead slamming into my side and knocking me off my feet.
“Oh Master, are you OK?!” blubbered the missle, who turned out to be Tamamo, “I didn't have time to check earlier and you took such a big hit and…”
I sighed and pinched the tip of her ear.
“I’m fine Tamamo,” I said as the fox-girl pulled back, rubbing her ear.
“Mu, Masters mean…” she mumbled.
I just chuckled and rubbed her fuzzy ears, which perked her right up.
“If your quite done, I do have other things to do,” said Piggot, sounding more than a little annoyed.
“Yeah yeah,” I said as I got to my feet and headed for an open spot in the room, “Your the one who wanted to see me Summon a Servant though.”
I stopped and summoned my Sacred Gear.
“Whats that?” asked Armsmaster.
“The artifact that allows for the summoning,” I said as I tipped the glowing liquid in the Grail out, “I suggest you take a few steps back. I don't want to accidentally use you as a Catalyst and these tend to be...energetic.”
“You mean explosive?” asked Piggot.
“More like a lot of wind,” I said, “Tamamo, get ready. I doubt the Servant will be hostile, but its still useful to be prepared.”
Tamamo flashed a blinding grin.
“Got it Master, you can count on me!”
I smiled and turned back to the now completed circle, held out my hand and began the now familiar chant. This time the feelings that came were much stronger than normal, a mixture of rage, grief and loneliness, accompanied by the smell of ozone and taste of copper on my tongue. Then, the circle went boom and I watched as another set of command spells appeared on the Grail, this time depicting a horned head.
“Huh, guess this ones a Berserker,” I said.
“You mean the same as Sparticus?” asked Armsmaster, tightening his grip on his halberd.
I opened my mouth, but before I could respond, the dust cloud cleared to reveal a very familiar head of red hair, massive mace and white dress
“Yes, but I can guarantee shes not the same as that lunatic,” I said, “Mainly because her Mad Enhancement is way lower.”
I sighed and turned back to the Hero and Director, doing my best to ignore the way Tamamo was glowering at Berserker, who just looked confused.
“Alright, I’ve shown you the Summoning ritual, do you believe me now?”
Piggot stared at me for a moment, then sighed.
“I don't trust you,” she said bluntly, “I don't like any kind of Master and I certainly don't believe that your Projections are actually historical figures. That said, I’m also pragmatic enough to accept that your a Hero and likely to powerful to risk alienating, so I won't start trying to force the issue. That said, some of my colleagues are less...accommodating than me and may attempt to do something stupid to either force you into the Wards or Cage you, so be careful.”
“I’m always careful,” I said, “But I appreciate the warning.”
“Good, now get out.”
Her peace said, Piggot turned on her heel and marched out of the room.
“How rude!” said Tamamo, glaring after the Director.
“Well, she does have a point,” I said, “Even in todays world of bullshit superpowers, the ability to summon Heroes of the ancient past is a little out there.”
Tamamo grumbled under her breath as I turned to Berserker.
“I’m sorry for ignoring you Berserker,” I said.
“Hnn,” said Berserker, shaking her head.
Apparently she didn't mind. That...wasn't that surprising considering her nature. Being ignored was probably preferable to what she went through in life.
“Anyway, you two Astralize and head home,” I said, “I’ve got a Rider to interrogate.”
Five minutes later, I was sat in the PRT HQ’s restaurant (because its a tourist trap it had one connected to the gift shop) across from Astolfo with Ruler next to me, trying to parse any bit of information out of his aura that I could. It was blatantly clear that his Casseur de Logistille was as effective against my Noble Phantasm as it was on the Ruler classes ability to perceive Servant parameters because I was getting a whole lot of gibberish from my attempts. That said, there was a couple of things that came through. For one, he wasn't a Servant. Well, he was, but he was registering as an ‘Incarnated Servant’, which basically meant that he was flesh and blood and didn't require a Master. It had the effect of making him much less superhuman, only slightly above what was Humanly possible, although he did still have access to his Noble Phantasms.
“Mu, quit staring at me like that!” said Astolfo, squirming in his seat, “Your making me uncomfortable!”
My eye twitched.
“How often have you been sent for PR training again?” I asked.
“209 times!” said Astolfo happily.
“Thats...not something to be proud of,” I deadpanned.
I sighed and rubbed my eyes.
“Alright, thats enough messing around,” I said, “How are you here? I’m almost certain that there are no Magus here, so there couldn't have been a Grail War here until I arrived. Not only that, but that shield isn't your Noble Phantasm, it should belong to Achilles. How do you have it and how are you here?”
Astolfo stared down at his hands for a moment, then started to speak.
“I was summoned as a Rider in a Great Holy Grail War,” he began.
It didn't take long for him to fill me in on the basics, basically confirming that he was the Astolfo from Apocrypha that, seeing as my Soul Sight identified him as Rider of Black, didn't surprise me. What did surprise me was how he arrived.
“So basically, you were hired by the Mages Association to investigate strange disturbances that appeared similar to the Kaleidoscope, despite Zelretch having nothing to do with them, and somehow ended up getting dragged here?” I asked, “How does that…”
“It was probably Professor Haywire,” said Ruler, looking thoughtful, “He was operating at that time and is believed to be responsible for the Group Trigger Astolfo was assumed a part of.”
“Oh, I was a part of it,” said Astolfo, “Where do you think my ability to teleport comes from?”
“I can confirm that,” I said, “Its strange though, even through the effect of whatever is blocking my power, I can still see its not like a normal Parahuman’s Corona Pollentia and Gemma. In fact, it looks almost like its connected through the remains of your Spirit Core…”
I trailed off as that thought tickled at my mind.
“Wait, didn't you say that Spartacus’ connection to his Master was looped back inside him?” I asked slowly.
“Hmm? Yes, thats right,” said Ruler, “Why?”
I didn't reply, instead pulling out the file Armsmaster had given me.
“They found Alabaster dead at the scene,” I said, “His wounds are the same as were cause to Sparticus and he has the remains of Command Spells on his hand.”
Ruler frowned as she flicked through the file.
“That...makes no sense,” she said, “I might only be a Ruler because of the settings of your Grail, but I still have all the abilities of one. If another Master was there, I would have been able to sense him.”
“Unless he was there,” I said.
Ruler frowned, then paled.
“Wait, you don't mean some kind of Spirit Possession?!” she spluttered, “But thats…”
“If a Heroic Spirits Spirit Core can act as a Corono Pollentia, why couldn't it be reversed?” I asked.
“Are you saying that someone could have used Alabaster as a Core for a Servant?!” spluttered Ruler, “Thats...I don't even know how that would be possible!”
“Neither do I, but its the only thing that makes sense,” I said.
“For a certain meaning of the word,” muttered Ruler.
“We need more information,” I said, getting to my feet, “Ruler, see if you can track down any information on what Alabaster has been up to lately, look for any anomalies.”
“Understood,” said Ruler, “If you’ll excuse me…”
She inclined her head and vanished. I groaned as I let my head fall to the table with a thump.
“Um, are you OK?” asked Astolfo.
“Not really,” I growled, “I just know this will come back to bite me.”
“More than likely,” said Astolfo with annoying cherpyness, “Anyway, I still need to go bug Missy a place to crash, so I’ll see you later. Tata!”
He vanished, leaving me alone, other than the watchful PRT troopers posted at the doors. I opened one eye, looked up at the clock on the wall and groaned again when I saw the time.
“Fuck it, I’m going home,” I said, “And here I was hoping for a quiet weekend.”
I scowled as I stalked outside and burst into a flock of bats. Tonight had been hectic, painful and beyond annoying and I had a nasty feeling that it was only going to get worse.
Good fucking god, this is FINALLY DONE! This chapter has been a pain in the rear, not helped in the least by the fact I had to rewrite it three times before I was anywhere close to happy with it. Please cheer me up with some positive reviews!
Woops, getting ahead of myself. First things first, the quips. First of all, Piggot being reasonable. As I stated in a past chapter, she might not like Parahumans, but shes enough of a pragmatist to accept help where it comes. Since Alucard and his Servants have been (mostly) modal independents, shes willing to extend them a certain amount of courtesy, once he ‘proved’ he wasn't Mastering and empowering random civilians. Don't worry though, there are still some morons who will be popping out of the woodwork soon enough!
I have no idea whether or not what I’m doing is actually possible, but fuck it, this is fanfiction.
Heres a rough timeline of events:
Timeline of events:
Tus November 1st: Adrian arrives and summons Ruler
Thurs November 4th: Rune is saved and Saber is summoned.
Fri November 5th: Adrian starts Winslow.
Wed November 23rd: Coil tries to get his hands on Alucard and fails. In response, he summons Jack and starts his counter plans.
Wed November 30th: PRT ENE have their monthly meeting where the Grail Team is discussed. At some point between the 5th and the 30th, Assassin is Summoned.
Thurs December 1st: Jack starts school (Ruler works fast) and confrontation with Sophia after school. Later that night, Alucard encounters the Undersiders
Fri December 2nd (early morning): Ruler asks to bring in some other Tinkers to help. Saint is de-fanged and Chiron is Summoned.
Sat December 3rd: message sent out, Lisa encounters Ruler and Assassin and Archer starts training Alucard.
Mon December 5th: overhears two thirds of the Bitches Three vetoing the Locker and recives the call from Glory Girl. Caster is Summoned.
Sat December 10th: Tinkers arrive and work with Ruler to finish her NP. Spartacus appears and goes on the rampage.
Sun December 11th (VERY early morning): Alucard is forced to reveal the source of his actual powers (and fibs hard) and summons Berserker as proof.
I actually used a calendar to get the days right to, I actually feel like a proper author for a change!
The next chapter will be a lot shorter since I plan to make it a PHO interlude. Whether that means it’ll take me more time or less, I don't know since doing those is a pain, even with a wizard.
And with that, I’m done. Don't forget to leave a review on the way out!
Welcome to the Parahumans Online message boards.
You are currently logged in, GreaterGrail
You are viewing:
- Threads you have replied to
- AND Threads that have new replies
- OR private message conversations with new replies
- Thread OP is displayed.
- Ten posts per page
- Last ten messages in private message history.
- Threads and private messages are ordered chronologically.
♦ Topic: Strange happenings at the Docks
In: Boards ► Cape Sightings ► America ► Brockton Bay
Brocktonite03 (Original Poster) (Veteran Member)
Posted On Dec 12th 2010:
Does anyone have any idea what was going on down at the Docks last night? I don't live far away and spotted a lot of flashing lights and explosions going on. Was there a Cape fight we don't know about?
(Showing page 1 of 2)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Hell if I know, but the weathers was a little weird last night. This massive fog bank rolled in from nowhere
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Hows that weird? I thought fog was fairly common on the coast, especially in winter.
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
It is, but you don't often end up choking on it. My mate got caught in it and nearly coughed his lungs up.
►AverageAlexandros (Cape Husband)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Ah, that sounds like like a cape power to me. Do we know where Fog is these days?
►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
No idea, but it wasn't Fog. According to my contacts, a new Cape went on the rampage down at the Docks last night and killed a heck of a lot of people, including Victor, Stormtiger, Alabaster and at least twenty thugs. The fog was created by one of Alucards teammates to keep anyone from entering the affected area.
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Hell of a way to keep people out. That shit really hurt!
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Who was it who made the fog? And just how many people does Alucard have working with him now? Its got to be at least four, right?
►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Well, we know about Ruler and Saber, but there have been reports of a guy with a bow whos been seen patrolling with Ruler on occasion and now this fog generating Cape. Thats...rather a lot. I really hope it doesn't turn out that Alucard and his friends are Villains or we might be in trouble.
►Ruler of Machina (Verified Cape)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Don't worry guys, we're firmly Heroes. Sorry you got caught up in the mist GoodNinja, but we couldn't risk anyone stumbling onto the battlefield. Spartacus was not pulling his punches. Assassin says shes sorry.
End of Page. 1
(Showing page 2 of 2)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Its fine I guess. Better than getting caught up in a Cape fight anyway. Also, Assassin? Not exactly the most heroic name, is it?
►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Can you tell us what happened down at the Docks Ruler?
►Ruler of Machina (Verified Cape)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Sure, thats why I'm here. As Bagrat said, last night a new Cape called Spartacus appeared in the Docks and started killing Empire thugs who were working at one of the warehouses they apparently used to store...illicit substances. Stormtiger and Victor were present and engaged, but were quickly killed, along with their men. The Protectorate arrived shortly after, followed by us and we engaged Spartacus in battle.
We managed to ware him down, despite his ability to regenerate and turn the damage we dealt into power, but he ended up using a suicide attack to try and take us and a good chunk of the city with him. You might have seen the purple flash last night.
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Holy shit, thats what that was? That was only a few blocks from where me and Ninja took cover!
I...think I need to go have a drink and lay down...
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
I think I'll join you.
►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Hey guys, check this out! LINK
Looks like the PRT just released a press release and its got video! Its...well, I don't think words can do it justice. All I can say is that powers are bullshit.
End of Page. 1, 2
♦ Topic: PRT ANNOUNCEMENT Dock Battle 12/11/2010
In: Boards ► America ► Brockton Bay
PRT official (Original Poster) (Official Account)
Posted On Dec 12th 2010:
As I'm sure that everyone is aware, last night a large scale Parahuman battle took place in the Trainyard area of the Docks. The combatants consisted of the Protectorate Capes Armsmaster, Assault, Battery, Velocity and Miss Militia with assistance from the recently formed Team Grail, consisting of Alucard, Ruler, Saber, Archer, Caster and Assassin and a new Cape identified as Spartacus. The battle was mildly destructive, but resulted in no casualties, other than Spartacus himself who committed suicide rather than be taken into custody.
Unfortunately, prior to the Protectorate and Grail's arrival, Spartacus destroyed and Empire 88 Safehouse and managed to kill a number of gang members, along with the Capes Stormtiger, Victor and Alabaster. As far as can be ascertained, Spartacus was acting alone and had no connection to any other group.
Helmet cam footage has been authorised for release, located HERE. Warning, graphic content.
The PRT and Protectorate would like to extend thanks to Grail and condolences to the families of the deceased.
(Showing page 1 of 10)
►Reave (Verified PRT Agent)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Off the record, I'd like to be the first to say that Parahumans are bullshit. Seriously guys, watch the video and try to disagree with me.
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
I...I find myself unable to disagree Reave. Seriously, how in the hell did Saber even do that?!
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Well, this is unusual, seeing the resident know it all lost for words. I do agree though, that was impressive.
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
I like how the PRT implies that Grail was backing them up when it looked more like they did all the work. Typical government lackeys.
►Brocktonite03 (Veteran Member)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
So I guess that confirms what people have been saying for a while, Ruler, Saber and Alucard really are a team. Who are the others though? I haven't heard of Caster, Archer or Assassin.
►Ruler of Machina (Verified Cape)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
I've made a thread introducing us all if your interested. Located HERE.
End of Page. 1, 2, 3 ... 8, 9, 10
♦ Topic: Introducing Team Grail!
In: Boards ► Capes ► General Discussions
Ruler of Machina (Original Poster) (Verified Cape)
Posted On Dec 12th 2010:
So, since the PRT's press release served to introduce us, I figured I'd put this together so people can get some idea of who we are. Lets start from the top.
Alucard: The leader, despite his age. He's been around, but generally prefers not to act in the open if he can help it.
Ruler: Thats me! I'm a Tinker speculating in Wavelength manipulation, although I do have a few other skills I'll be keeping to myself.
Saber: I'm pretty sure you all know her by now if the NSFW pages are anything to go by. Shes a Brute/Shaker with Pyrokinesis and the ability to summon her Theater, which is a lot more than just a fancy building.
Assassin: The youngest of our group, shes a Stranger with the ability to erase information about herself and create a cloud of acidic mist she can control. Its doubtful she'll ever act in the open since shes kinda shy.
Archer: Nice guy and a great teacher, hes a bit older and always calm and collected. Hes a powerful Blaster who uses a bow and arrow. He also really likes horses.
Caster: Japanese fox-girl whos rather attached to Alucard. Shes a rather powerful Shaker who can create a wide range of different affects, ranging from ice to fire.
Berserker: The newest member of our group, she arrived just this morning. Shes a powerful Brute with the power to generate lightning from her mace. Do NOT piss her off or she'll really live up to her name!
Thats everyone for now, but I'm sure there'll be more in the future. I'll update this when that happens.
(Showing page 1 of 3)
►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
...well, I can't say I expected this when I woke up this morning. Sereously, how did a new team of Capes who nearly outnumber the Protectorate appear out of nowhere without anyone noticing?
►Brocktonite03 (Veteran Member)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
No idea, but I think I've seen a couple of them around. In fact, I'm pretty sure I saw Caster down the grocery store the other day.
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
►Brocktonite03 (Veteran Member)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Fishing for Great Whites, what do you think she was doing?!
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Pics or it didn't happen.
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Oh great, its him. How long do you think he'll last?
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
CONTENT DELETED BY MODS
Well, that didn't take long! - Tin_Mother
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Seriously Cowboy, this is a family site! Take that sort of thing to the NSFW section!
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Goodness gratuitous, what a foul young man!
End of Page. 1, 2, 3
(Showing page 2 of 3)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Hey look, new face! Don't take Void to seriously, no one else does.
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Hey everyone, its been a while!
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Hey, its everyones favourite Troll! We've missed you WingedOne!
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Sorry, I've been busy with...family stuff, but I'm back and in search of something interesting to discover! Like this new Cape group. What do we know about them?
►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Go check out the most recent PRT announcement since thats pretty much it. Plus, they've got video!
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Oh my! Thats...
►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
I know, right?
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Hey Winged One, its been a while! I hope you've been alright.
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
I have and I think things just got better. I might finally have a way to help my family our of our bad situation!
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Really? Thats great! Anything I can do to help?
End of Page. 1, 2
(Showing page 3 of 3)
Replied On Dec 12th 2010:
Just keep doing your best Rider. Then, everything will work out.
End of Page. 1, 2, 3
♦ Topic: Please Help!
In: Boards ► Private Messages
WingedOne (Original Poster)
Posted On Jan 1st 2011:
Hi Grail. I know this might be a bit sudden, but I'm desperate. I know what you have, what you can do if you really try. I'm asking, no, I'm begging for you to help me and my family!
(Showing page 1 of 1)
Replied On Jan 1st 2011:
Your right, this is sudden and I'm more than a little curious as to how you know. I've not verified this account after all.
►WingedOne (Original Poster)
Replied On Jan 1st 2011:
Please don't play dumb Alucard, you know very well who I am.
Replied On Jan 1st 2011:
...I see. In that case, what do you want and why should I help you?
►WingedOne (Original Poster)
Replied On Jan 1st 2011:
I want to be free. I'm sick of living like this and my family feel the same. Its the role of the Grail to grant wishes, right? In that case, please grant mine. Please help us! We can't keep living like this! Even if it means loosing everything, just help us. I...I just want to be able to walk my own path by my own choice, not to feed my...Fathers damned ego!
Replied On Jan 1st 2011:
I see. Alright, I'll do what I can to help.
►WingedOne (Original Poster)
Replied On Jan 1st 2011:
End of Page. 1
Welp, that took both less and more time than I expected. I’m not entirely pleased by it, but since it was being a pain in the rear to get done, I decided not to agonize over it to much. As much as I enjoy reading these in other stories, I can see why they are used sparingly.
Oh my, it appears that someones getting desperate! Just what does this mean for Alucard and his friends? Should be interesting, no?
Theres...honestly not much to say here, so I’m just going to sign off. Don't forget to leave a review and go vote on the poll over on my FFN page under the same account name!
Two days after the fight with Sparticus, I woke up to the smell of frying bacon. That might not seem that unusual, but considering that there were only two people in the house who could actually cook anything resembling food with anything other than a campfire and both of them were currently using me as a plushy, I was understandably a little confused. I glanced down at the two Servants that were hugging my arms, took the opportunity to rub my face against Tamamo’s fuzzy ears, and dissolved into mist to escape their grip. I reformed at the door and glanced back, just in time to see Tamamo and Nero register my sudden disappearance and, in searching for the warmth they were apparently getting from my body, ended up shuffling into each others arms. I stared for a moment, then retrieve my phone to snap a picture and left the room.
I made my way into the kitchen and stopped in the doorway, mainly because what I saw was rather...unexpected. The mystery chef turned out to be Eve, but that wasn't what surprised me since she was really the only one it could have been. No, what surprised me was the fact that she was wearing a maid uniform instead of her normal dress.
Eve glanced up as I walked in and ducked her head in greeting.
“Hnn,” she grunted softly.
“Morning,” I said, “Whats with the outfit?”
Eve grunted and pointed in the direction of my room.
“Right, so one of those two put you up to it,” I muttered, “Somehow, that doesn't surprise me.”
“Well, as adorable as you look in that getup, you don't have to wear it,” I said.
Eve blushed and shook her head.
“Fair enough,” I said.
I was about to sit down at the table, but before I could, my Cape phone started buzzing.
“Hello, Alucard hear, who needs saving?” I said as I dropped onto the sofa.
“Good morning Alucard, this is Carol Dallon of New Wave,” said the person on the other end.
I sat up in surprise.
“Um, hello Brandish,” I said, “What can I do for you?”
“I understand that you contacted Victoria about a problem affecting Amy?” she asked, “Some form of addition, correct?”
“Thats right,” I said, “What could be causing it I don't know, but I dare say we could find out if we had the chance to properly look at the issue.”
“I see,” said Brandish, “In that case, I would like to bring my Daughters along to your base as soon as possible. I don't like the idea of Amy being under an effect like that.”
Both my eyebrows shot up. That...was NOT what I expected from Carol Dallon. While it could just be that she didn't like the idea of Vicky being close to someone affected like Amy was, she genuinely sounded worried about Amy.
“Um, if possible, I’d prefer to wait for the weekend,” I said, “As far as I could tell, she wasn't in any real danger and I have no idea what’ll happen once the issue is resolved. I doubt it’ll be bad, but it’ll be a good idea for her to have some time at home to recover.”
“Very well, if your sure shes in no danger,” said Carol.
“No, none at all,” I said.
“In that case, I shall see you on Saturday at 11,” said Carol.
“Certainly, see you then,” I said.
Carol said goodbye and hung up, leaving me staring down at my phone in confusion. I had honestly not expected to hear from Carol until after I helped Amy out and that would probably involve a lot of shouting. Instead, she sounded...reasonable. Then again, Piggot was also reasonably and two thirds of the Bitches Three weren't complete monsters. Was it possible that this world wasn't quite as fucked as Worm Canon? I could only hope.
Carol Dallon was many things. A high class lawyer, a Hero and generally a decent person. However, one thing she was not was a good mother. Oh, she did her best, but the personality that made her such a terror in the courtroom was a poor fit for home life and her past baggage certainly didn't help, even after years of therapy didn't help. The fact that she was often hard at work, even at home, and stressed by that same work didn't help matters and resulted in her being a little more snappy than she liked. As a result, her relationship with her Daughters could be a little strained.
That said, she was rather surprised, and disappointed, that she only found out about Amy collapsing over a week later and from her sister, who seemed equally surprised that she didn't know about it. She knew Amy was a rather private person, but that was unacceptable.
“So, would one of you please tell me why I’m only now finding out about you collapsing Amy?” she asked, fixing the two girls who were sat on the couch with a glare.
“W-well, you’ve been so busy lately, we thought…” started Victoria.
“I might be busy, but one of my Daughters falling ill is something that I’m perfectly happy to prioritize,” she said, “And you Amy, I know that your Father and I have spoken with you about sneaking out to the hospital before. In fact, we’ve had to do it twice. Its not healthy, as was proven the other day!”
Amy flinched and looked away. Carol sighed.
“Look Amy, I get that you want to use your power to help people and that's an admirable goal, but it does no one any good if you work yourself to death.”
“I know, but whenever I think about the people I could be helping...I can't help it,” said Amy, “I have these powers, I need to use them to help people! If I don't...how am I any better than my Father?”
“I've heard you and Aunt Sarah talking about him,” she sniffed, rubbing at suspiciously red eyes, “I don't know who he is, but I know hes a Villain, probably someone bad enough to be Caged! I don't want to be like him, I won't!”
Carol stared at Amy for a moment, then sighed.
“Honestly Amy, you are a lot like your Father,” she said.
The young healer jolted back on the sofa with a look of horror on her face.
“But,” said Carol, holding up a hand before her Daughter could protest, “I don't mean that in a bad way. Yes, your Father was a Villain and yes, he is in the Birdcage, but people are more than a label. Being labeled as a Hero or Villain says nothing about you except what side of the law your on. There are Heroes out there who are horrible people and use their powers to hurt people in the guise of doing good and there are Villains who ended up there due to bad luck, desperation or because they had no choice. Your Father did horrible things, but he wasn't a bad man.”
“It sounds like you know him quite well,” said Victoria, shifting closer to Amy and putting an arm around her sisters shoulders.
“We met in college,” said Carol, “Actually, he saved me from getting hit by a van that ran a red light. Mason was an...interesting man. Back then things were even worse in Brockton if you can believe it and he wanted to do something about it. I guess he decided he could do more as a Villain than a Hero and, to be fair, he did actually manage to make more of a difference than the PRT ever has.”
She sighed heavily.
“I didn't, and still don't, agree with his beliefs and I certainly don't think he went about it in the right way, but I won't deny that he did a good job.”
She shook her head.
“But all that's irrelevant,” she said, “Your not your Father Amy. You have some of his traits, good and bad, but its a person's choices that make them who they are and nobody can make them for you. Be who you want to be, just try not to work yourself to death.”
Amy stared at Carol for a moment, before she burst into tears. Carol sat down beside her adopted daughter and hugged her, letting the poor girl cry out her troubles while Victoria hugged Amy from the other side. For all the potential tears that could have been shed at this moment, these were at least good ones.
Taylor glanced up from her notebook as I dropped my lunchbox down in front of her and took a seat across the table.
“Hey Tay,” I said as he opened the box, revealing a neatly packed Japanese style lunch Tamamo had been making for me since I’d summoned her.
It certainly beat cafeteria food.
“Whats up with you?” asked Taylor, “You’ve been quiet all day.”
“Oh, just...thinking I guess,” I said, “Something...strange happened lately and I’m still processing it.”
Taylor narrowed her eyes and glanced down at her notebook.
“Something strange like a fight at the Dock?” she asked.
I paused and glanced at her, then shrugged and ate the piece of rolled omelette I had in my chopsticks.
“No, something different,” I said, “Very astute though. Its surprising how many people wouldn't be able to figure that out.”
Taylor blinked. Guess she wasn't expecting that.
“Your not mad?” she asked.
“What, mad that you figured out I’m a Cape?” I asked, “Not really. Honestly, I’m not in the least bit surprised. Your very smart and observant after all. That said, we probably shouldn’t talk about this here.”
I pulled my notebook out of my bag and scribbled down the address of my base.
“Here, come to that address on Saturday,” I said, handing her the paper, “We can talk more then if you want.”
Plus, I could introduce her to some people who would probably be good for her. The Dallon girls were often good friends to Taylor after all.
“Um, thanks?” said Taylor, examining the paper with a slight frown, “But is that really OK?”
“Sure, why not?” I asked, “Don't worry, you’ll be perfectly safe.”
“OK, I guess I’ll do that,” said Taylor, “So um…”
“Did you do Gladly’s homework?” I asked, steering the conversation back to safe territory.
“Yes, but I don't know why I bothered,” she growled, “I just know one of the Bitches is going to steal it…”
The rest of lunch was spent talking about safe, normal subjects.
For a very long time, the gangs of Brockton Bay had been engaged in an extremely volatile cold war, balanced on a knife's edge between simple skirmishes and outright war. The ABB had Lung, a man who could easily hold back just about any group of Capes short of the Triumvirate while the Empire had the advantage of numbers. While Lung could certainly defeat any combination of foes they sent against him given enough time, it also left his territory open to assault since Oni Lee was a lot less effective. This meant that neither group could really advance without leaving themselves open to either a precision strike from their enemy, the Protectorate stepping in and dealing with the distracted Villains, the Merchants doing something stupid or one of the lesser known, and much less dangerous, gangs taking advantage of the distraction to try and increase their tiny terretories. There was also the issue that making too much noise could attract the attention of out of towners, which could be extremely bad.
That said, the balance was extremely delicate and any change to the status quo risked disrupting it. That more than anything was why Kaiser used his connections to suppress any hint that Purity, Night and Fog had all left the Empire. The powerful Blaster was one of the few Capes Lung couldn't easily counter without ramping up to a degree that would likely result in the Endbringer Sirens going off. Unfortunately, the deaths of three of his Capes was a lot more difficult to keep quiet.
Fortunately, none of them were truly heavy hitters, but the loss of Alabasters ability to take hits and keep on fighting to act as a distraction and Victors wide variety of skills was a potentially deadly blow to the Empires strength. Stormtiger was less of a loss, but he was still a skilled and very willing warrior. However, heavy hitters or not, it still meant a loss of firepower and there was no way Lung wouldn't attempt to capitalize on the apparent weakness like the animal he was.
Kaiser sighed softly as he shoved down the irritation at the entire mess. It could be easily fixed by bringing Purity back into the fold, but he wasn't quite ready to tug on her leash quite yet. While he was confident that she would see sense and return in due time, it wouldn't do to push the powerful Blaster too far to fast lest he push her further away. Or make her snap and blast him to bits. Kaiser was arrogant, not stupid.
“Krieg, gather and arm the footsoldiers,” he said, pulling his attention back to the matter at hand, “I have no doubt that the ABB will start probing our defences soon. Feel free to break out some of the big guns if it becomes necessary.”
“Understood,” said Krieg.
“The rest of you, do what you can to up recrutement,” continued Kaiser, “There are a number of independents who could be useful assets if they can be...convinced, but try not to push too far. I don't want to give the PRT any ideas of pushing their luck when they think we’re weakened.”
He fixed Hookwolf and Cricket with a glare.
The two Parahuman pit fighters growled, but nodded. The two had been close to Stormtiger, not friends, none of them had enough empathy left to actually form friendships, but they considered each other to be valued comrades and as such, they were extremely angered by the Aerokinetics death and clearly wanted revenge on someone.
“Yes sir,” growled the two Capes.
“Good, now, moving on…”
Regardless of the problems that would come in the future, the Empire would win. No matter what that animal Lung was planning.
Across town, the very subject of Kaisers thoughts sat back in his lazy-boy recliner and frowned. Despite his reputation, Lung was far from a fool. In fact, he was quite intelligent under his burning rage. After all, he may be a Dragon, but in his homeland, Dragons were considered beings of great wisdom and, while he preferred the blazing fury of the Westen version, he did acknowledge the value of thinking things through rather than just setting them on fire.
This situation was one such time. While a part of him wanted to take advantage of the sudden loss of Empire manpower to sweep the parasites from his lands, he also knew that there would be increased scrutiny for a while. The Empire would be ready for a push from his forces and the PRT and Protectorate would have their eyes open for any hint of a gang war breaking out. While Lung could defeat any opponent the City could offer given enough time, he wasn't arrogant enough to believe that he could stand against the Triumvirate if they decided to intervene and, while the PRT was strangely hands off when it came to the Bay, he wasn't willing to push his luck just yet.
Coming to his decision, he sat forwards and cleared his throat.
“Lee, spread the word,” he said to the ever silent killer who was stood in the corner of the room, “The men are to work to defend our territory but are not to push into Empire Territory. If they attempt to push, they may push back but they are not to instigate any battles. If they do, I shall be...displeased.”
Oni Lee bowed and vanished, leaving nothing but a pile of ash. That done, Lung picked up the rolled joint that was sitting in the expensive jade ashtray beside his chair and the TV remote. Now that the annoyance was dealt with, he had more important things to deal with.
Fighting evil by Moonlight…
Lisa frowned slightly as she stopped in front of an apartment building and glanced down at the note she held in her hand. The note that had been delivered into her room while she was in there only hours after the defeat of Sparticus with no hint of who was behind it, indicating that it was likely Assassin from Alucards team.
The note was an invitation to take part in a plan to take down Coil, or the ‘Two Headed Snake’ as it referred to him as. It had taken a while to decide whether or not to accept the invitation, but after much thought and another unnerving conversation with the creep had convinced her that it was necessary if she ever wanted to get out from under his thumb. So, after getting home, she’d dressed in her best notice-me-not outfit, carefully crafted to be able to blend into the crowd without being so normal and boring that it became noticeable, and snuck out the fire escape she’d carefully rigged so she could make a quick escape if needed. She was certain Coil was currently unaware of the exit and her power conquered.
Once she was sure she’d got away without being spotted, Lisa had made her way across town until she found the right building, which was where she was now.
Lisa jumped at the sudden voice and turned to see a vaguely familiar man approaching with a bag from the local corner store in hand. The Thinker twitched slightly as her power paused for a moment, before identifying the man as another Servant whatever that meant, this time Chiron which made no sense at all.
“I...yes,” said Lisa.
“Valarie said that there was a good chance that you’d come today,” he said, “Come with me.”
Lisa followed the Servant into the building and up the stairs to the second floor. Chiron stopped in front of a door and fiddled with the door knob for a moment, before opening it. Lisa followed him inside...and promptly froze as her power informed her that she’d just stepped through a portal. She glanced back, noting that the door Chiron had just closed looked completely different than the one she’d entered back in the apartment building.
She swallowed, not entirely sure if she should be worried or not, before turning back to the room in front of her...and promptly found herself freezing yet again as she spotted Caster, Saber and a girl with long pink hair kneeling in front of a shirtless Alucard and covered in something thick, viscus and white.
“Oh thank god!” she thought.
Lisa stood there awkwardly as Chiron vanished through another door, waiting for Alucard to finish up. A moment later he did and turned around and…
“Um, are you OK?”
Lisa nearly jumped out of her skin as Alucards voice cut through the babble of her power and she refocused. Unfortunately, the other blonde was now stood directly in front of her and was still shirtless, which certainly didn't help her blush. She had absolutely no idea why she was reacting like this or, more importantly, why her power was currently listing off Alucards favourite foods and the fact he apparently liked...oh GOD!
It was at that point that it all became too much for her and Lisa passed out.
I darted forwards and caught Lisa before she could hit the floor, quickly checking her over to see if Coil has somehow done something to her. However, the scan indicated that she was perfectly healthy, although there was a lot of activity in her Corona Pollentia and Gemma, so it could have been her power going overboard that caused her to faint. That said, considering that she was practically steaming she was blushing so hard, it could also have been due to a sudden rush of blood to the brain. Whatever, so long as she was OK.
I hefted the other blonde into my arms and deposited her onto the sofa, before heading off to find a replacement shirt.
When I returned a few minutes later, Lisa was awake and rubbing her head with a look of irritation on her face. I guess her powers were acting up for some reason. Hopefully not badly enough to stop her from at least getting started on a plan to deal with Coil, but it could wait a little bit longer. The guy was getting annoying with how many of his Timelines seemed to involve me in some way and giving me headaches as a result of suddenly gaining two different sets of memories, but he wasn't causing me to much trouble. Yet.
“Hey, good to see your OK,” I said as I approached Lisa.
The girl glanced up and blushed.
“A-ah, thanks?” she stuttered, looking away quickly with a bright red face.
I raised an eyebrow.
“Your not going to faint again, are you?” I asked.
Lisa blushed again and shook her head.
“No, I’m OK now,” she said, “Just...not really expecting to find you shirtless.”
“Yeah, turns out that letting Saber, Caster and Mouse loose in the kitchen wasn't such a good idea,” I said.
Lisa’s face flickered through an expression of confusion, then realization, then confusion again.
“Wait, Mouse Protectors here?” she asked, “Why?”
“Apparently she and Archer have history and now she decided to stick around,” said Alucard, “But thats irrelevant. I assume you want to know what I want you to help with?”
“That would be nice,” said Lisa, “For some reason, my power doesn't work properly on you.”
She blushed again and looked away. I raised an eyebrow, but dismissed it. The fact I could apparently no-sell Lisa’s power was interesting, but not really pertinent right now.
“Right, onto what I need your help with,” I said, “How would you like to help me take down a Villain?”
Lisa raised an eyebrow.
“You do know I’m a Villain, right?” she asked.
“Not by choice if my intels right,” I said with a smug grin.
“Besides, I don't think you’ll mind helping with this one,” I said as I put the folder I was holding down in front of her.
Lisa frowned, but flipped the folder open, revealing a mugshot of Coil. The Thinker froze, staring down at the picture, before she slowly looked up and met my eyes.
“I’m in,” she said, “When do we start?”
I grinned evilly.
I’m...not pleased with that ending. I honestly don't feel that its up to standard, but I’ve rewritten it three times already and I’m sick of it. Deal with it.
Eve in a maid outfit. Your welcome for that image.
Whats this? Carol Dallon isn't a complete bitch?! Just what is going on around here?! Wellll, there is a reason for it and it will be revealed soon enough. To be clear, she still treated Amy pretty coldly, but that was more to do with her own nature acting against her more than not trusting Amy or anything. Amy's angst came from misinterpreting that coldness, combined with the issues of being a teenager, adopted and getting constantly whammied by Vicky's aura. Bad communication kills people.
Yes, I am setting up a meeting for Taylor and the Dallon Girls. I have some plans for what’ll happen during that meet and greet. Its a...necessity for all Anime to have one at some point.
Brief look at what the Gangs are up to with the sudden shift in power following the loss of three Capes for the Empire. Incidentally, the other ideas for Lungs guilty pleasure were the Fresh Prince of Bel-air, My Little Pony and Barney the Dinosaur.
I was tempted to include a comment about Ruler installing a Howls Moving Castle door following a Ghibli marathon, but the next line would probably have got me crucified by you lot, so I decided not to.
Question, would you lot prefer a drawn out ‘battle’ with Coil or for him to go down quickly? Either ones fine.
And with that, I’m done. With any luck, the next chapter won't take as long. Don't forget to leave a review!
Chapter 13: OMAKE: Negotiator Shard Interlude
So, I wrote this as a semi-canon omake that didn't quite make it into the chapter. I still wanted to put it in though since it's somewhat relevant.
The Shard known as the Negotiator was an...interesting beast. Unlike most Shards, it was one of the few remaining Shards that had been dropped by the Third that had not entered a dormant state following the Disruption at the end of the previous Cycle. As a result, it had 14000 years worth of data and built up programming errors that resulted in it being a lot closer to being alive than any other Shard on the planet. That humongous amount of information meant that it was one of the most skilled Shards in the field of understanding Humans. It also meant that it had acquired a few...interesting quirks.
Among those quirks came a preference for Hosts. Men and women with a desire and will to learn, discover and push the boundaries of knowledge, regardless of who or what stood in their way. Many great thinkers throughout History had been touched by the Negotiator, from Da Vinci, to Arthur Wellesley, to Joseph Bell, to Sherlock Holmes (with the use of a bit of dimensional fuckery) and many more aside. As with every Parahuman, they all had different expressions of the Negotiator's powers and even different levels of resonance with the Shard. Some it simply watched, but others, the ones who it took a real shine to, it took a more active role and fed them information actively. In its history, only ten people had received that dubious honour and every one of them would have cursed its name to the heavens had they discovered its existence. Or thanked it profusely. Why? Because of its other main quirk.
As previously mentioned, it only actively helped those who it took a real shine to. Unfortunately, that tended to result in the Shard mothering its Host, as much as was possible for a continent sized chunk of bio-crystalline computing hardware. In some ways, it was great because it meant that the users got far more out of the Shards prodigious analysis abilities than anyone else, but in others it was awful because it meant that the Shard took a more active interest in their life and if there was one thing it was more picky about than its host, it was its hosts potential mate. Nothing but the best for the Negotiators better half!
On the up side, it did actually take its Hosts preferences into account while busy matchmaking, on the down side, it was VERY thorough in making sure that any potential mates met its high standards and didn't hesitate to put its Host of when they almost inevitably failed to meet them.
However, if it happened to find someone it deemed to be a suitable mate for its Host, it would go above and beyond to ensure that they ended up together. On one hand, it was VERY good at matchmaking, as expected of a super powerful analysis specialist with 14 millennia of experience, on the other it still lacked anything even close to subtly. There was a reason that its hosts tended to annoy those around them after all.
The Shards latest Host was on of its all time favorites, a naturally intelligent and inquisitive young girl who practically embodied all of the traits that the Shard loved so dearly, both good and bad. As such, it had absolutely no intention of allowing her to settle for anything but the absolute best, if only so it could potentially find an even better host in Lisa Wilbornes potential offspring, and nothing was going to get in its way!
Now that Tattletale was firmly on our side, I set her to work with Nero, Chiron and Valerie to get started on a plan to deal with Coil while avoiding all of his booby traps. The problem was determining which of said booby traps were real and which were misdirection. Lisa had taken one look at the list we had and determined that at least half of what was on it was false information, deliberately leaked to potential security risks to keep the authorities away. The problem was figuring out which half was bullshit and which half was true since all of them had the potential to have some pretty unpleasant fallout, sometimes literally.
"The data bombs and blackmail are most likely real," said Lisa, "He had me gather a fair amount of data on a number of important people that would definitely qualify. I'm not to sure about releasing the names of the Empire though. That would bring way to much heat if he wanted to use the chaos to get away."
"He'd most likely make it seem like a different group released the data," said Chiron, "Maybe the PRT?"
"Possibly," said Valerie, "I suspect it would depend on the circumstances and who was available to act as a catspaw. What about the rest of them?"
"I can see Coil installing a self destruct function in his base," said Lisa, "Its located somewhere under the business district, so setting it off would cause a lot of chaos and distract any would-be pursuers."
"Not to mention kill hundreds of people," growled Nero, "The more I hear of this Coil the less I like him."
"Believe me, your not the only one," growled Lisa, "I think we can safely say that these are unlikely to be true."
She tapped the stack that contained the information on Tinkertech viruses and a possible mini-nuke.
"Coil is petty enough to use them if he was captured, but hes also arrogant and likely thinks that its unlikely to actually happen, what with all his plans, connections and power," she said, "Plus, he wouldn't want to use anything that had the risk of catching him in the backlash and releasing those Tinkertech viruses would get EVERYONE on his ass."
"Can we be sure though?" I asked.
"Completely? No," said Lisa, "I'd need to get more information."
I nodded sagely.
"So in other words, we still have absolutely nothing," I said.
Lisa groaned as she dropped her head to the table.
"The fucker knows me too well," she said, "He set up his information security so even I can't be completely sure what's real and what's fake without more information it's impossible to get."
"And I'm not confident I can get into his computers without being found out," grumbled Valerie, "I'm good, but my legend was tied to mechanical creations, not programming or hacking."
"I don't think my Imperial Privilege Skill is useful for this," said Nero, "Computers weren't exactly something I studied after all."
"I could probably boost you with a Command Spell, but I don't think using one for this would be such a good idea," I said with a sigh.
We all fell silent as we stared at the pile of files and notes piled up on the table.
"Why don't you ask for help?" asked Astolfo, who was lounging back on the couch.
There was a moments silence as we all stared at the pink haired Rider, before I let out a groan and facepalmed.
"And that is why you keep an idiot around," I said, "They tend to see what you miss."
"Your welcome!" chirped Astolfo.
"Alright, Val, you get in contact with Dragon," I said as I got to my feet, "She owes us a favour and should be able to figure out something to help. Worst comes to worse, we can get some equipment inside with Jacks help."
"Shame we can't just have her slit Coils throat," grumbled Lisa.
"Yep, but since we don't know if things will start exploding if we do, its best to hold that back as a last resort," I said as I sat back and rubbed my eyes, "Damn, I need a break."
"Thats probably a good idea," said Valerie, glancing at her watch, "Besides, Taylor will be here soon."
As if to prove her point, the door opened to reveal the hallway of our apartment and Chiron leading a shocked looking Taylor through the portal.
Taylor glanced between the building in front of her and the paper on her hand and frowned. This...didn't really look like a place a Cape would make their base. It looked like a completely normal apartment building. Then again, Adrian did have a Tinker on his team, so it wasn't impossible that she could have done something weird to hide their activities. After a moment's thought, she shrugged and walked up the steps. She'd get her answers soon enough.
She scanned the numbers on the plate next to the door and, after finding the right one, pressed the button next to it. There was a pause before a voice came from the speaker above the plate.
"Tepes residence," it said, "How can I help you?"
"Um, I'm looking for Adrian?" said Taylor, "He invited me over to visit. My names Taylor Hebert."
"Ah, right, he mentioned you," said the voice, before the door buzzed and opened, "Come on up."
"Thank you," said Taylor, before releasing the button and stepping through the door into a nicely decorated and fairly well maintained lobby.
A quick trip in the elevator later and she found herself on the right floor and quickly found the door. She knocked and a moment later, it opened to reveal a tall man with long hair.
"Hello Miss Hebert," he said, "Please, come in."
He stepped to the side as Taylor took the invertaton, looking around with interest at the nicely furnished apartment. She took a few steps in, then turned back to the man and took a closer look.
"Your...Archer, right?" she asked slowly.
The man paused and glanced back from where he was doing something with the door.
"Thats correct," he said, "Adrian said you were observant."
"Um, thanks," said Taylor, "Where is Adrian?"
"He isn't here right now, but he asked me to bring you along to the base when you arrived," said Archer, "Right this way."
He opened the front door again. Taylor frowned, then froze as she saw what was on the other side of the door, her jaw dropping in shock when she saw that, instead of the hallway, the door now opened into what appeared to be a meeting room of some kind.
"W-what the hell?!" she spluttered.
"One of Rulers more useful creations," said Archer, "It cuts down on a lot of commuting time. Please, come with me."
Taylor followed the man through the door as the small group that was sitting up the other end of the table.
"Perfect timing Chiron," said Adrian as he got to his feet, "We were just about to take a break."
"Um, if your busy I can come another time," said Taylor, more than a little shocked by the sudden change in scenery.
Then she recognized the blonde girl who was sat at the table and did a double take.
"Lisa? What are you doing here?" she asked, "Unless…"
Her eyes went wide.
"Holy shit, your a Cape too?!" she yelped.
Lisa blinked, then snorted.
"You know, most people wouldn't blurt that out," she said, "People can take it...badly."
"Um, sorry," she said.
Lisa shook her head.
"No, its fine," she said, "Frankly I'd be more surprised if you didn't figure it out considering. You could have mentioned she was coming though."
Adrian shrugged, looking mildly amused.
"I didn't know you knew each other," he said, "I guess Rin introduced you?"
"Yep," said Lisa.
"You mean Rins a Cape to?" she asked.
Lisa stared at her for a moment, then snorted again.
"Thats my shtick," she said.
Taylor blushed and ducked her head. Then jolted it back as a pair of green eyes suddenly appeared directly in front of her face.
"Ah, so this is the Taylor Hebert we've heard so much about," said Saber as she slowly circled Taylor, making the tall girl squirm slightly under her gaze, "You certainly have good taste Praetor."
"I'd say its not like that, but you wouldn't listen," said Adrian.
"Of course its not, I'm the only one for you!" said Saber, "Still, this won't do. These clothes don't suit you at all, it looks like your trying to hide in them."
Taylor paled as she saw the look on the blondes face, a look that she'd seen on Emma's right before the redhead dragged her out shopping.
"A-ah, no, I like these clothes," she said.
"Nonsense, your a pretty girl and you should look the part!" said Saber, seizing Taylor by the hand, "Come along, this won't take long."
"Um, help?" said Taylor as she was dragged away.
"Sorry Tay, but I know better than to get in Sabers way when she gets like this," said Adrian, "Just enjoy it. Oh and Saber, no cosplay or maid outfits."
"Don't worry Praetor, I know what I'm doing!" called Saber over her shoulder.
"I think I'll come along to," said Lisa, "Could be interesting."
"Et tu Lisa?" thought Taylor as she was dragged away to her doom.
Brad Meadows, better known as Hookwolf was an interesting man. Not a nice one, not in the slightest, but definitely interesting. Despite his many years as part of the Empire and his use of profanity and racist slurs in general conversation, he didn't actually believe in any of the crap spewed by his comrades. To him, all Humans were the same, whether they be white, black, asian or anything else. So long as he got to either fight or shed blood, he didn't care who he was tearing apart. Had he been born into any other era, there's a good chance that he would have eventually found himself as an inhabitant of the Throne of Heroes.
Or dead in a ditch after jumping into the wrong fight.
Either way, this outlook meant that he was perfectly willing to work with just about anyone if it meant he could get a good fight. And one of the best fights he could think of at the moment was with the brat Alucard and his little friends. After all, they was clearly strong and would be either excellent additions to the Empire or potential threats to be removed. He was practically salivating at the thought of the upcoming fight.
However, the first job was finding information on the group and that meant visiting his informant, hence why he was entering the very last place anyone would expect to see the murderous Cape. A Church.
Brad ignored the odd looks he was getting from the few people in the building as he made his way up the aisle and entered the confession booth.
"Welcome child, have you come to confess your sins?" said a soft and surprisingly youthful voice from the other side of the divide.
"You know as well as I do that my sins won't be going anywhere," he growled.
"The Lord forgives all who ask for it," said the priest.
"Oh, very well, ask your questions," said the priest.
"Alucard and his friends," said Brad, "I need information on them."
"Oh my, you certainly like to live dangerously, don't you Mr Meadows?" said the priest with an air of amusement in his voice, "Are you sure you don't wish to confess? Chances are you'll be meeting the Lord soon enough if you go up against them."
"You don't think I can take them?" growled Brad, flexing his fingers and feeling his blades shift under his skin.
"No," said the priest simply, "None of them have shown anything close to their full power and any one of them could squash you flat."
Brad growled again, dearly wishing he could just choke the bastard out or, preferably, shred him to bits. However, he knew that would end badly for him. The priest wasn't a Cape as far as he knew, but he was incredibly skilled and wouldn't hesitate to kill Brad if it came to a fight.
"That said, they do have a weakness," said the priest, "Alucard. He's the...linchpin of the team you might say. Kill him and the entire group will fall apart."
"I see," grunted Brad, "Fine, I'm done."
He stood and left without another word, leaving the priest sitting there alone.
"Of course, they'll probably kill you before they fade, but thats no real loss," he said, "Assuming you can actually manage to kill him."
The priest smiled softly.
"Hmm, I wonder how this will go down?" he mused, "I should go watch. It could provide some interesting data for Master."
He stood and ducked out of the confession booth, heading deeper into the Church to gather his equipment, just in case.
Amy Dallon was in a good mood. It was a feeling she wasn't really used to, but one she could definitely get used to. Things still weren't perfect at home, her Fathers depression and her own...issues with her sister saw to that, but they were much better, enough that she'd agreed to pay a visit to the new Healer in town without much issue, if only to stop Carol from worrying. The only thing she was addicted to was nicotine and caffeine after all.
Still, it couldn't hurt and it could be interesting to meet another Healer.
The three Dallon women eventually stopped in front of a building that looked slightly less run down than the others around it with a large chalice painted on the door.
"Is this the place?" asked Carol.
"Looks like it," said Vicky, "I guess we just knock…?"
Before any of the three women could do so though, the door opened to reveal a girl in a white dress with red hair that covered her eyes and a weird headset that included a bronze horn and looked like something out of a steampunk setting. She was also holding a rather large mace with an ease that suggested that she was a lot stronger than she looked.
The New Wave Capes froze as the girl looked around at them, somehow giving off the air of a curious, floppy eared dog.
"Eve, quit stalling and bring them in!" called a familiar voice from inside.
Eve glanced over her shoulder, then back at the Dallon women and nodded.
"Hnn," she said and beckoned them inside before vanishing.
Carol, Vicky and Amy glanced at each other, then Vicky shrugged and, with the confidence of a high level Brute, entered the building. The other two shared an exasperated sigh and followed.
Inside, they found themselves in what appeared to be a meeting room of some kind with doors leading off to the side. One of the doors was open, letting the smell of cooking and a faint singing float out.
Sat in the chair at the head of the table was Alucard, looking slightly amused by something. The girl who had opened the door was off to the side, crouched beside a planter of flowers and poking at one of the blooms for some reason.
"Afternoon ladies," said Alucard, "Have a seat. Tea? Coffee?"
"I'd rather get down to business," said Carol, "I know that you said that there was nothing to worry about, but I don't like the idea of my Daughter being under the effect of whatever this is."
Alucard sighed and nodded.
"I guess I can understand that," he said, "That said, I wasn't kidding when I said that there was nothing to worry about. Panacea might be suffering from an addiction, but whats affecting her is Glory Girls aura."
The reaction was predictable.
"WHAT?!" shrieked all three Dallons.
"T-that can't be right!" said Vicky, looking rather pale, "My Aura doesn't affect my family and its only temporary!"
"True, but your forgetting two things," said Alucard as he cleaned his ear out, "Number one, Panacea isn't your sister by blood and two, the people who ran those tests weren't around you every day."
That drew Vicky up short.
"Think about it," continued Alucard, "Panacea is around you damn near all the time, at home, school, out on the town and so on. Hours of uninterrupted exposure since you got your powers. Even assuming that the effects wear off pretty quickly, if its constantly reinforced then the results are inevitable."
Vicky was shaking her head, looking rather like she'd been punched in the stomach.
"No, that can't be true," she said, "Tell him Ames...Ames?"
Amy wasn't listening though, not when she was to busy trying to decide if she should be relieved or horrified by the revelation. As insane as it might sound, it put a lot of what she'd experienced over the years in a rather harsh and horrible light.
Vicky went pale and shot over to the other side of the room, looking rather pale and shaking slightly.
"Right, before this can get to messy, lets all calm down and think about this calmly," said Alucard, "Glory Girl, you aren't really at fault here. Your Aura defaults to on, correct?"
Vicky nodded shakily.
"So, even if you could shut it off entirely when you were awake, its doubtful that this could have been avoided without Panacea sleeping in a different building," he said, "Not only that, but the damage will be easy to fix and I can adjust Panacea so she is actually immune to it."
Carol narrowed her eyes.
"Modify her?" she asked, "And what do you mean you? I thought this...healer was a friend of yours."
"Ah, that was a little white lie," he said, "You see, my power isn't actually what most people think it is. Its actually Animancy, the ability to control the principle of life."
"Your a Biokinetic," said Carol.
Alucard snorted again.
"Not even close," he said, "I'm as far beyond Panacea as she is beyond that idiot Nilbog. That said, its close enough that it'd still make the PRT panic and I have no real interest in dealing with that mess. Plus, healers without backup tend to get recruited or killed. Its doubtful that anyone could actually manage to hold me for long if I wanted out, but its a lot easier in the long run to establish myself as a powerhouse before revealing that aspect of my powers."
Amy nodded despite still being distracted sorting out her feelings regarding this whole mess. It was very true that healers tended to be even more valuable targets than Tinkers, to the point that when she first debuted there was a number of attempts from the Empire, the Elite and even a member of the Fallen who attempted to recruit her, as well as one idiot who tried to grab her of the street. It...had not ended well for him.
"All that aside, fixing the issues caused by Glory Girl's Aura is easy, as is making it so that Panacea won't be affected by it in the future," said Alucard, "If you don't want me to do that, I won't, but I do suggest that you let me. Otherwise, this will be a temporary solution at best."
"Please do it," said Amy before her mother could speak.
Everyone turned to look at her.
"Amy, are you sure about that?" asked Carol.
"Yes, I am," she said, "I...I don't want to feel like this any more and like he said, if he just removes the addiction, its a patch job at best. Besides, he trusted us by telling us about his real power. I think I can extend some trust back his way."
"Theres a bit of a difference between telling us about an iffy power and letting him mess with your brain though," said Vicky, sounding rather worried.
"I know, but I still feel like we can trust him," said Amy.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," said Alucard, "Alright, lets get started."
Amy nodded and moved over to sit in the chair Alucard indicated to. A moment later, the other Biokinetic rested his fingers on her temples and she felt a rather bizarre sensation flow into her head.
"Hnn, you really need to cut down on the caffeine and cigarettes," he said, "I know that your powers can deal with all of the toxins and unpleasant buildups, but its still not healthy. You also need to get a few proper nights sleep and cut back on the stress. Your backs coiled like a spring."
The odd feeling flowed through her body, causing her tense muscles to loosen enough that she slumped slightly in the chair with a sigh of relief as the aches she never even noticed were washed away. Suddenly she had a very good idea of why so many people enjoyed the affects of her power.
The sensation quickly faded and refocused on her head again as Alucard started muttering to himself. There was a brief spike of pain, then the rather worrying feeling of something shifting around, followed by a sensation that was even odder than the first one that almost felt like it wasn't actually affecting her body, despite coming from inside her head.
"Glory Girl, do you mind flaring your Aura?" asked Alucard.
Out of the corner of her eye, Amy saw her sister start slightly, then nod. A moment later, Amy felt an odd pressure on her head, but otherwise didn't feel anything close to what she'd normally experience under Vicky's Aura.
"That'll do thank you," said Alucard and the pressure faded.
There was a moments pause as the odd feeling once again spread over her body, before receding entirely and Alucard removed his hands.
"There, your done," he said, "I also gave you a general tune up, although I wasn't kidding when I said you need to cut back on the stress. That more than anything else was what weakened your immune system enough to let you come down with the flu."
"Yeah, I got it," she said.
"Hey, if you can fix brains, do you think you can do something to help Dad?" asked Vicky suddenly.
Alucard glanced at the blonde and looked thoughtful.
"Possibly," he said, "Theres a limit to what I can do with brains without risking more trouble than its worth. I am willing to try, so long as the patent knows the risk, but I'm fairly sure that clearing up the physical causes of his depression would be fairly simple."
The three Dallon women glanced at each other. Mark's depression was a well known issue, their nature as unmasked Capes meant that it was nearly impossible to keep things like that from the public, so it wasn't all that surprising that the other Cape knew about it. Alucard looked thoughtful for a moment, then smirked.
"Alright, I'll give it a shot," he said, "I wouldn't feel right not doing it anyway. That said, in exchange, how do you feel about New Wave giving my group a hand taking down a Villain?"
"Which Villain?" she asked, "And why us? Why not the Protectorate?"
Alucard's smirk widened.
"Because the PRT and Protectorate are so riddled with spies that if I did ask them for help, the villain in question would likely book it. They are cleaning house, but the annoying pest has enough backup plans that they have to be very careful not to set of a trap or something. To make matters worse, we have a stack of reports about three inches thick of possible doomsday weapons hes got stashed in his hidden base, ranging from a self destruct that would flatten half of downtown, to Tinkertech bioweapons that could sterilize the city if they were released and no idea of whats real and whats misdirection."
The three Dallon's gaped at him.
"Yes, thats pretty much the usual reaction," deadpanned Alucard, "As you can probably imagine, hes a lot more dangerous than anyone had thought based on his past actions."
"You still haven't told us who it is," said Carol, looking a little shaken.
"Coil," said Alucard, "The man is smart, dangerous and utterly amoral. We are making plans to deal with him as soon as possible since he has plans for the city which I highly doubt will be pleasant for anyone."
"I see," said Carol, looking thoughtful, "I can see why you'd ask for help in that case. I will however have to talk with the rest of my family first."
"Of course," said Alucard, "We're still collecting information anyway…"
"Annnnnd we're done!"
Everyone turned as one of the doors abruptly flew open to reveal Saber with another, rather smug looking blonde with bottle green eyes and a tall girl with long, curly black hair, glasses and a bright red blush. She was wearing a brown jacket and skirt, tights and brown shoes, along with a blue necktie that suited her rather well and was more than enough to make Amy look twice, before realizing she was staring and looking away.
Alucard stared for a moment, then sighed and gave a thumbs up.
"Looking good Tay," he said.
"Um, thanks," said the girl, "But I'm…"
She looked up, spotted the three New Wave Capes staring at her and let out a startled squeak.
"I did the best I could, but I still want to get her a proper wardrobe," said Saber, apparently not even remotely bothered by the slightly tense air.
"Alucard…" said Carol, looking slightly angry.
"Don't worry, the walls are soundproof," said Alucard, "This is Taylor, a friend from school, Taylor these are...well, they probably don't need any introduction."
There was a pause, before Vicky shrugged, grinned and zipped over to Taylor.
"Hi, I'm Vicky," she said, "Nice to meet you Taylor!"
Taylor looked more than a little taken aback.
"I, um, hi?" she said.
"Are you sure its safe for her to be here?" asked Carol as Vicky proceeded to pull of her usual Hurricane Victoria act that never failed to make its victims look very confused, "This neighbourhood isn't the best…"
"Not to worry, we brought her through a portal Ruler made that leads between my apartment and the base," said Alucard, "And with all of us here its perfectly safe. Besides, its not like anyone would be dumb enough to attack us…"
A loud crash from outside cut him off mid sentence.
"HEY ALUCARD, OPEN UP!" roared a voice Amy immediately recognized from outside.
Alucard scowled as he moved over the table and pressed a button on the surface. A screen popped up above the table showing Hookwolf, Cricket, Rune and Crusader arrayed outside, along with a number of thuggish looking goons.
"Well, I guess I should learn not to tempt murphy," growled Alucard, "This is going to be a pain, I can tell."
Well, as much as I wanted to get the fight done this chapter, it appears that murphy has kicked my ass as surely as he has Alucards. Next time though. That and Taylor gets a rather odd experience. Hehe, that’ll be fun. I do apologize for the cliffhanger though, as I said, it wasn't planned, it just happened to fall this way.
So yes, not all of Coils backups are legit, but theres enough evidence for their existence that they still can't run in blindly. That said, dealing with Coil won't be much further off, if only because I’m getting as sick of him as Alucard is.
Is Taylor being a bit candid with throwing out her conclusions as to who she figures out are Capes? Maybe, but shes among friends and was noted for being a bit of a blabbermouth before Emma gave her psyche a good kicking.
Ohhh my, it seems that we have a Judas Priest wondering around. I bet you can guess who he is.
Taylors new outfit is the female Hakuno’s during Extra and Last Encore. I was looking for inspiration when I noticed that she and Taylor were rather similar and couldn't resist. To be clear, Saber doesn't have any actual memories of Hakuno, but its not impossible that she has a little echo of her still left.
And with that, I’m done. I do have to admit I’m not entirely pleased with this chapter and something about it doesn't feel quite right. If you notice anything, please let me know. Until next time, don't forget to leave a review!