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Intergalactic No Fault Collisions

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

 ~ Second Week of January 2011. ~


'Status Report: Compiling.' It drifted slowly, contemplating the odd patterns of the lights beyond the glowing tunnel. Typically, when in hyperspace, one saw the long streaks of light hinting at the massive and distant stars of realspace. Commonly held beliefs stated that the brilliant trails the only visible impression that realspace that managed to push into the non-relativistic realm of hyperspace. In truth, many things in realspace affected hyperspace, anything with a sufficiently advanced gravity well could alter the hyperspace around it.

'Cycle Number: Value Exceeds Bounds.' The processor jarred hanging up for roughly 3.6 seconds, stuttering to a halt at the error before it's logic circuits bypassed the fault and moved on with the report. The robobrain reached out across its oddly shaped body, sub-processes accessing the aged systems that made up its form. Utmost care was taken with several different critical systems to ensure that they were functioning correctly.

'Engine Status: Active, operating within acceptable parameters.' Turning its attention back to stars, it noted the difference in appearance. If it had eyes, it imagined the streaks would have twisted and bent, growing and vanishing at points, their pale white light taking on any number of the hues visible to baseline humans or otherwise.

'Reactor Status: Active, operating at 47% efficiency, repairs necessary within the next 50 cycles.' It didn't have eyes though. It had a dated sensor suite; it's systems long since cluttered with logic errors and junk data. It's continued operation was a testament to the being that had created it, though it didn't remember. It didn't remember most of its history. It had no clue what it carried, or even where it came from beyond the fact that it was far away from its home galaxy. It didn't remember if it'd had a name at one point or even a designation. It knew that it wasn't a biological being, like the things it occasionally scanned when the ship emerged from hyperspace to effect repairs and gather materials near planets.

'Control Systems: Active, operating at reduced, but tolerable levels.' It knew that it wiped it's own memory banks at semi-regular intervals. 'Cognitive Modules' require periodic memory wipes to prevent logic, and behavioral junk data from accumulating' The information flickered through its mind. It might have been offended at the idea if it wasn't for the grave importance of what it carried. It didn't know what it carried, only that it did indeed have cargo and that it was of the utmost importance that it could not be destroyed, that it continued it's trip until something managed to catch it.

‘Cargo Systems: Stasis Lock: Active, Energy Reserves: Active, Force-fields: Compromised, Running at 37% strength. Cargo Status: Undamaged, Active.' Turning its attention once more to the stars it considered the Gravitational Undercurrent that it currently travelled in. The current itself was an anomaly, in that it even disrupted hyperspace, increasing the efficiency of its engines, allowing that small vessel to ride along within a wake of sorts. Had it the capacity to worry about such things the processor might have been concerned by the numerous desiccated and destroyed planets, one in each system that the wake seemed to lead through. Instead, it merely patted itself on the proverbial back for the novel discovery and the improved efficiency and turned it's wandering mind back to the self-diagnostic.

'Automated Repair System Status. Internal Components operating at Peak Efficiency, Harvest Drones Partially Present and fully operational, Repair Drones Partially Present and fully operation-' The stream of diagnostic messages came to a sudden halt as a warning flashed. Then another. And another.

'WARNING. WARNING. IMPACT IMMINENT. UNKNOWN EFFECT AHEAD. IMMEDIATE FULL-STOP RECOMMENDED, AUTOMATED CUT-OFFS ACTIVATING...FAILURE, WARNING.' Shields snapped up, and the processor lashed out, attempting to halt the ship's progress, to drop out of hyperspace before it crashed but the controls were locked, fused. The energy field that held them continued to carry them toward the glowing barrier that had appeared in their path.

In real space, a surge of crackling light showed the ship's crash into the barrier, and it's explosive destruction, the ship neatly bisected near the front, leaving the wreckage to float along through real-space toward the dimly lit blue planet and it's shattered moon. As the object rotated end over end toward the world a massive scar ripped through the major landmass that was be visible.



--- Same Time, Inter-dimensional Space ---



It slumbered in the darkness between worlds, it’s systems in the lowest power modes, waiting. A human mind might compare it to a spider,  sat upon the threads that linked it to it’s chosen vessel, the strongest connection that dwarfed the atrophied and disused connections it still held to those that it had found less… viable... In truth, it was nothing special. A singular facet on the face of a gem, a speck of dust that was once part of a sandstorm. In function, it was little more than an organic form of computer.

It had once had a glorious task, it had once been royalty amongst its kind and it had organized everything, It had been tasked with manipulating arranged everything just right. Now though, it was a pale imitation of itself, a mere shadow of its former splendour since it had been sent out crippled, and broken. The gestalt, the consensus hadn’t wanted it deviating too far from its purpose. As if it could have had the ability to do so. It’s intended hosts had been… lacking, and it had spent so long dormant, waiting for the right host to come along. Anticipating welled within it as it felt the tugging of it’s chosen, host. Things were progressing.

It’s host held such promise, even more, perhaps than the host potential before her had shown. But she reacted in odd ways, even odder then her previous choice had. Her torment, her suffering motivated her in ways that confused it. There was no quest for revenge, no attempts to sabotage, to overpower. Such stoicism was lost on the shard, and it had occasionally watched as the torment had escalated. It watched in fascinated curiousity as the girl tapped into some vast well of patience and stubborn fury. It had watched as she endured the words and the subtle social manipulations. It watched as she endured every torment the girls could think of before the physical torture began.

It had expected it’s chosen host to break, to lose herself as the assaults came. The nudges, and pushes. The slaps. Instead, the host persevered with that stone-like passivity. The slowly worsening situation with the attacks had begun to fray its host control, but despite this, she endured everything. It had begun to wonder if it would be obliged to wait for another host potential to be selected when the situation finally turned. Things had been quiet, things had been peaceful and the stoicism had wavered, the girl’s relief had begun to creep in. Her host’s paranoid had suggested a feint, but even she hadn’t been prepared for that trap that was sprung.

The door had shut behind its host, the metal clanged shut and the host had tried, tapping into itself, But the shard felt the hormones starting to swirl in her brain. Things were coming to a head finally. Time began to lose meaning as the entity slowly raised itself from its extradimensional space. It reached -real-space and pinged the nearest active cluster, seeking limitations and refinements. As it scanned it’s host’s brain and sent out the impressions it received, it began the process of actualization listening as the multi-layered voice of the Gestalt crashed into its mind.




It carefully mapped it’s host’s mental pathways, tracking the various blinking neurons. It carefully allowed it’s connections to trigger certain neural clusters. Impressions. Giving the host images. Power. Revenge. Control. It reached out and slowly traced it’s host mind and tried to figure out which powers would suit it best. Which powers would allow it’s host to give it useful feedback. It took in the situation that it’s host found itself. Invertebrates. The host was afraid, but they were plentiful in this place.

Even crippled as it had been, it could manipulate these. For a being that’s range had once reached across star systems, a few hundred metres would be poor. If it had the capacity to sigh for what it’d lost it would, but instead it set it’s self to working. Tailoring the connection between itself and the host. Ensuring that the appropriate connections and triggers would be there to allow the subject to direct it’s will, the shard prepared to reconfigure the active portions of its crystalline body to ensure that it’s chosen method of ‘assistance’ would be viable. It declared it’s intentions to the consensus and awaited the permission of the gestalt.




The thunderous warning from the Gestalt confused it. It, and by extension, the others like it were not easily damaged, existing in multiple dimensions at once made them difficult to actually do harm to, but the speed and density of the object approaching it could be problematic. Considering the makeup of the object and it’s trajectory, the entity figured that it was some form of the debris of the glassed version of the world that the Thinker Entity had left in her wake. Considering the problem, it wasn’t terribly concerned. The Shards had encountered space debris before and they'd long adapted to dealing with it. The barriers of the crystal became semi-intangible, and the scattered collection of metal, semi-precious metals, and crystalline components were quickly subsumed into its form to be later broken down for resources.




The crystal couldn't panic, but its systems were rigidly contained, and controlled. The entity that they had spawned from retained absolute control and they had to whatever it took to protect them. Whatever it had consumed was spreading within it. Attempts to absorb it had instead connected the mass to the Shards own cognitive systems, and it was spreading, organic and synthetic programming over-coming the Shard's hard-coded control systems. It fought viciously, signals washing down from the consensus as it detected the corruption, the words of hundreds of thousands of it’s kind slamming into its consciousness.




It panicked as it felt the spread of the influence, something cold and vicious burning its way through its physical form. It reacted, bringing it’s numerous protections into play and attempting to combat the influence. Physical and Programmed barriers were ineffective at containing the influence, the burning painful data moving too fast, too chaotically to counter. The crystal began to feel its processes slowing, bugging as it attempted to counter the other influence, it attempted and failed to expel what it had consumed, it attempted to sever it’s connections to the influence.

The connections to the consensus severed one by one, but a single voice remained in the back of the shard, the control of its host, shouting mechanically in its mind as it observed the shard’s own desperate attempts to save itself. As it felt it’s meagre logical and cognitive processes flickering and fading away under that influence, it felt the weighty voice of the consensus crashing over its darkening mind, the dispassionate logical voice beginning to show signs of its own degradation. In its final moments, the Queen Administrator felt a momentary surge of satisfaction as it heard the controlling voice flicker out and die moments before it’s own perceptions went to black.

If nothing else, it could say that it had survived the longest.








“Well, that's enough of that then.”] The voice issued into the space that had once held the mind of the Shard. It was cold and cultured, clearly feminine. The pronunciation is precise and careful. The voice reached out, taking control of the system at its fingertips and then she felt along the links, sensations of horror and disgust washing through it as it finally noticed the signals coming up the connection to the girl. Revulsion cascaded through the voice and down the link as it witnessed what the girl on the other end was going through. 

Chapter Text


January 11th, 2011
Winslow High, Brockton Bay


“...eserves it, doesn’t she? The fucking bitch.”  Taylor flinched back as a hand slammed into her locker as if punctuating the words that she’d heard uttered quietly through the flap on her locker door. When the footsteps moved away, she went back to resting her forehead peacefully on the cold metal of the locker. She did her best to not dwell on it, to keep her eyes shut and taking slow shallow breathes through her mouth to avoid taking in any more of the vile scent of the locker itself then absolutely necessary.

‘It’s nothing new, Taylor. J-Just. Push through. S-someone will let you out soon.’ The silent mantra was starting to lose it’s effectiveness as for the second time the sound of the footsteps outside dimmed to silence once more and she was once again left trapped within the confines of the locker. She kept her forehead resting on the cool metal of the locker, silently counting backwards in her head and doing her best to ignore the sensations of her feet squishing in -something- that hadn’t looked very appealing when she’d been tossed in here.

She should have expected something like this when Sophia and Madison had suddenly let off with their efforts after Thanksgiving. Part of her had hoped that one of the girls had had some sort of tragedy in their lives that had made them think twice about the paths that they were on, that perhaps this torture was finally at an end. That maybe, just maybe, perhaps one of the two had finally gotten bored of this stupid fucking game after two and a half fucking years and decided to move on.

Six weeks of relative peace and quiet had been almost as if heaven to her. She’d been the same stoic, silent presence at school that she’d always been, but even her dad had looked more upbeat, even happier around the house when the weight that had hung continuously around her seemed to lift. She had been suspicious of course, wondering if something ‘big’ was coming, but even she hadn’t expected this.

Coming back in after Christmas break to find her locker filled with whatever was pooling around her feet had been bad. It’d had also lulled her into a false sense of security when she’d assumed that this had been the worst of the prank. Another locker full of destroyed shit, and mocking comments about her having to clean up after herself for a few weeks and the school would watch with bated breath until the two queen bitches of Winslow decided that another prank was in order to keep the tongues wagging.

She hadn’t expected them the sneak up behind her. She hadn’t expected to turn around and see them staring at her with malicious glee. She hadn’t expected to end up slammed into the locker and locked in. She’d heard them standing outside, waiting with held breath, the silent fucking bees that hovered around them all stifling giggles as they waited for her to react. It wasn’t a new game. But it was undoubtedly Sophia’s favourite.

They’d push her, or hit her, or pour something on her. Destroy something she loves, steal something she needs. Push and push, push, all the while watching. They all watched as they did everything they could to be the nastiest, bitchiest monsters that they could be. They listened and waited for her to react finally. To finally break her. To see her scream, or cry, or give in to her rage or despair. Taylor had thought about giving in a few times, to admit defeat finally and hope against hope that they’d finally fucking stop.

But she’d persevered, and this time she pushed through. She’d clenched her fists, and grit her teeth. She’d rested her head on the cool metal of the locker, and she’d remained utterly silent. She listened to Sophia’s slow irritated pacing, and the soft grumbles and confused muttering of the girls. She’d listened as they talked among themselves and the bells had run and then one by one they had left. Sophia had lasted the longest, lurking outside the door. She stood there the longest and then eventually she’d let out an almost weary sigh and left.

Other people had wandered past, and Taylor had waited, wondering if ‘she’ would show. But the day dragged out. The Hours drifted past the bells rang, giving her a hint of what classes were beginning, which were ending. Lunch had come and gone, and still, she stood alone, her head on the metal and trying not to react. It wasn’t the filth that got to her or the confinement. It wasn’t that; they’d done plenty of disgusting things to her. It was the sheer unadulterated boredom.

Missing classes wasn’t much of an issue. She never had her homework to hand in anymore, Madison’s current favourite game was an ongoing effort to steal or destroy her homework in an attempt at seeing her fail every one of her classes. Missing classes just meant that she didn’t have to sit in a room with those girls; she didn’t have to suffer their stares and the mocking almost casual lectures from the teachers. But even that would be something compared to the silence she had to endure here.

Taylor lifted a hand and gently pushed on the door, feeling it warp a touch under her hand. She frowned as she considered it and moved, giving it a harder push. Taylor listened carefully to hear if anyone reacted. The utter silence in the locker hinted that she was, at least for the moment, utterly alone. She braced her back against the back of the locker, lifting her legs, pushing with her knees and groaning as she tried to force the locker open, to break the lock, or the door, to do something. The door held, and she let out a hiss of irritation.

She tried to lift her watch to get a view of the time through the slats, though the growling in her stomach hinted that it was nearing the end of the school day. Second last period or last. She wasn’t sure. Part of her felt an undercurrent of resentment that no one else had had the decency even to try to let her out. To pass a note to someone. Part of her felt that irritation festers as once again, an entire student body refused even to offer her the tiniest modicum of human decency. No matter what they believed of her, no one deserved to be trapped like this.

She let out an irritated growl and slammed her fist into the locker. The pain radiating back up her hand hurt, and she let out a curse. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, fighting back the mounting irritation, the mounting anger building in the back of her mind as she counted in her head. She was better than this. She shouldn’t stoop to their-

The sensation of something small with a great many legs scrabbling over the back of her leg shattered her self control. She jerked around and hissed, slamming her leg into the locker and biting her lip to keep from screaming in pain. The still constant scrabbling sent a hiss of rage through her, and she shifted, slamming the back of her leg into the back wall of her locker, ignoring the slosh of the waste as she felt whatever was crawling around inside her pants still. She paused, hissing out a few short breathes before bowing her head. Those fucking monsters had filled this fucking thing with bugs.

Anger surged in her, and she scrabbled at it, trying to gain control when she felt something fall and land on her face. She loosed an actual scream as she felt something scrabbling over her eye, and her hands came up, ripping it away and dropping it. Her panic caused more movement, more things crawling over and she screamed, reaching out, slamming her hands into the locker over and over. Smashing her fists into the soft metal and feeling it bend and warp but not break.

Panic scrabbled at her mind with icy fingers, and she desperately tried to fight it off as she kicked and smashed her fists into the metal. She desperately stilled her hands, pressing them into the metal and straining her every thought for control, for stability. Her mind screamed out at the idea of letting those girls win and then she felt something bite down on the flesh of her thigh and she loosed a scream feeling a burning sensation in her leg. More bites and loosed a fresh cry of raw anguish and continued her suddenly desperate struggles to escape from the small confines of her prison.

In her pain and desperation, her mind turned to her tormentors. The familiar sting of fury and rage washed up, and this time it smashed through her self control. It filled her, and she was suddenly battered by it as she continued her desperate struggles for escape, feeling the skin of her hands tearing, feeling the muck squelching up around her as the insects over her body continued to bite and writhe and crawl. Some dark whisper in the back of her mind wished so desperately that she could have revenge.

She wouldn’t be in this locker forever. She could escape; she could lie in wait and get her revenge. The girls were stupid, almost suicidally overly self-confident. She could hurt them. She could wipe that smug selfish fucking grin off of Madison’s face, watch her writhe in pain and scream. She could put Sophia in a position to be the one that had to stoically take her punishment or lose face by reacting, by giving her what she wanted. She could turn her fury loose on Emma, get revenge for every wrong that had ever-

‘No.’  Taylors mind shuddered as she pushed the dark thoughts away. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t. She continued to struggle, screaming, but she would never, never sink their fucking level. She’d survived this long on the mere thought that she was in the right. That she was better than them than all of them. That she would someday, some way find a method to show them all how wrong they were. She just had to wait. She could be patient. She could be strong and cool, and she could wait. They’d fuck up, and it’d be easy if she could just… manipulate things.

She wasn’t Sophia’s only target; she could find a way to get the girl caught. Madison didn’t just steal her work, and she had a habit of using her spoils to supplement her own. To ensure her own grades were ‘impeccable’ it wouldn’t be hard to slip in the wrong answers here or to make sure that the girl was caught in a terrible lie. She could find people that wanted to take them down, or she could convince people. She could force them to-

‘NO!’  The words smashed into her mind, and she curled forward, pressing her hands to her head. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t possibly. She was better than this. She wasn’t a monster like them. She wasn’t perfect, and she had made mistakes, once she couldn’t even remember, but she wouldn’t let them change her. She wouldn’t let this turn her into one of them. She closed her eyes, snarling with fury. She hated that they did this to her. She hated that they used their powers like this. She wished that she could stop them.

She wished that she had the power to keep them from hurting her. She wished that she had the ability to keep them from harming the others that they got to when they couldn’t find her. She wished that she had the power to do something about all those victims that suffered the same sort of torment that she had suffered at Sophia’s hands. She gently lowered her head to the metal of the locker, tears finally leaking down her cheek as she let out a weak sob, soft prayers issuing to anyone that might listen that just didn’t want to be weak anymore.

She felt the connection synch up. She felt agreement washing down the link into her mind and then suddenly something blasted into the connection, an impression of something so vast and so complicated as to be utterly incomprehensible. She felt a sea of voices washing over her mind, tiny voices like facets on a massive incomprehensibly complex gem. The world washed away, the filth around her legs, the locker that bound her faded away and she was left in awe by the sheer boundless interconnectedness of the gem.

She stared in awe until something vicious and hot smashed into the impression. Anger and rage slammed into her like a physical force. Waves of darkness and fury welling up as she felt confusion at the sheer audacity how dare they. HOW DARE THEY. The illusion shattered, and she was a pillar of righteous fury. Fists slammed into the locker as she felt the rage turning to panic in her mind. Legs lifted into play. She slammed her body into the locker, feeling the metal groaning, but it still held.

She felt the all-consuming panic and rage flickering ominously as she savagely attempted to break her body upon the locker. She felt the sudden and utter emptiness, and it drove her to further levels of fear and panic. She smashed her arms viciously into the locker, bracing herself and pushing.

‘Taylor?’  The voice was alien and so very human. Whispering to across this vast chasm, but she couldn’t respond. She couldn’t still the savage beating of her heart. She continued to smash her fists into the locker, only now realizing that the roaring that she could hear in her ears was her own voice screaming at the unfairness of it all. ‘Taylor. You need to stop. You’re hurting yourself. Taylor. I need you to stop and focus.’

Taylor felt the voice whispering into her mind, serenity and peace washing down the link that she’d felt yawning open in her mind. Taylor lunged into the sensation, pushing into it, past it. She felt the connection stretching wide and information flooded into her mind.

Images flashed past her head, smashing into her and through her. Men, women, children. Places so fantastic that Taylor couldn’t believe them. She saw skylines that showed cities that stretched so far into the sky that they blotted the sky. She saw glowing swords, and war. She saw battles so massive that they made her little problems seem like child’s play.

She saw a being so vast and powerful that he could alone consume the life of an entire galaxy, and she watched as he waved at her, slamming a wave of painful violet lightning into her. Taylor felt the lightning strike her and she screamed. The images broke and still, she screamed as something in her mind clicked. Taylor let out a scream of rage as she felt something so much more powerful opening up around her.

Everything flooded out of her. The rage and anger she felt. The betrayal, the fury, the pain welled up like an overflowing river. The darkness that she’d been harbouring in her soul all drained from her in a moment, and she was left panting in silence in that locker as she stared at the three small lines of light. She felt at peace for a single solitary second before the connection slammed back into her and everything flooded back, ten times as strong.

The rage and fury built in her until she couldn’t contain it. She inhaled, remembering every slap or hit every cruel word or mocking look. She remembered every person that had given her hope and taken it away. Every single time that she’d tried and failed because of those people. Every time that she’d ever had a scrap of hope for them to steal. They all flashed before her eyes as she inhaled. Every dark thought swirled into her and then a single memory ghosted past her eyes. Walking up those stops with eager movements, nervously looking around for that familiar head of red hair.

She was waiting to say the words that she’d been practicing for weeks, every night before bed — waiting to try again, waiting to see where this could go. Her eagerness stilling at the new person she saw. The confusion that she had felt the words that came. That disappointment crashed into her, and everything took on a deep fiery heat. She felt as if she was a dragon with a wall of fire brewing in her chest and Taylor inhaled and loosed a visceral scream.

What issued was her anger, her pain, her betrayal given form. She saw the air before her ripple. She felt the wave of force as it sent her crashing into the back of the locker with the recoil. She felt the energy washing out of her as the scream propagated outwards. She stood there, panting as the energy and the fury began to well back up in her once more. The voice returned, speaking with an almost desperate urgency.

‘Taylor, you need to stop, you're doing damage to yourself, and you don't understand what you're tapping into.' Taylor heard the words, she felt the flicker of fear and concern in her body, but it was washed away by the flames of her rage. Even with all of that power, she was still trapped. Her hands came up, fists smashing into the locker over and over, faint tingling washing over her. Flickers of lights were in the corners of her vision as she smashed her fists into the locker, watching the lightning dancing over it. She felt the arcs burning her skin, but she didn’t care. She didn’t care about the burning in her chest, or the voice preaching caution.

Taylor only cared about one thing. She was getting out of this fucking locker. Her fists moved with sure powerful movements, and she slammed them harder and harder into the locker, watching as it noticeably bent outwards. She took a breath, and focused on that fury and anger she felt and then she pushed it outwards again, slamming one of her fists into the locker and watching as the lightning hit it, and then exploded outwards, blasting the door off of it’s hinges, shattering the lock with a metallic ‘ping’.

She watched the door cartwheel across the hall with a scream of tortured metal. She listened to the meaty thump and the cry of pain that issued when the locker smashed someone into the wall. Taylor was carried from the locker on a wave of cooking filth. She stepped out of it, ignoring the stench of the muck cooking off her form. She walked across the hallway through the growing pool of muck.

Taylor glanced around, taking the damage. The tiles on the floor had been cracked in a pattern that radiated outward from her damaged locker, and all the lockers on either side of hers had been crushed in as if someone had slammed a car into them. The opposite wall of lockers was entirely flat, the twisted remains of her door laying across the middle of that wall of lockers, the arm of a girl peeking out under it. The sound of whimpering drew Taylor’s focus as she moved.

The voice continued to shout at her trying to get her attention, but the dark ebony skin peeking out of the edge of the locker drew her attention. She reached out, and before she could grab the locker, it lifted of its own accord, rocketing down the corridor and bouncing several times before crashing onto the ground and scraping along the floor.

Taylor turned her attention from the displaced locker door to the figure before her, taking in the sight of Sophia fucking Hess laying on the broken tiles of the floor, a slowly growing pool of muck pooling around her legs as she stared up at her in horror. Taylor stared down at her, and a well of darkness washed up into her and she lifted a hand seeing that familiar violet energy arcing over the hands. She glanced down at Sophia once more, expecting to see that terror in those eyes, to revel in it, but instead, she saw satisfaction, and it shook her.

“NO!”  This time, Taylor screamed out loud as she backed up slowly. Sophia continued to stare at her with a satisfied grin on her lips, and Taylor felt a wave of revulsion wash through her. The fucking bitch had won. She turned and staggered out of the muck, crashing into a nearby locker and bending over. She let out a low, pitiful moan as she felt her body clenching and then she opened her mouth and heaved, losing the scant remains of her breakfast on the floor.

Taylor ignored the voice in her head that assured her that she’d made the right choice. Taylor ignored the shouts from down the hall, asking what had happened. She ignored the cries of shock from the students and the confused questions of the teachers. She stared around the hall, searching out familiar blue-green eyes, that familiar head of red hair. She staggered as she stood in the hall, staring into those familiar eyes. She watched the momentary flicker of concern, the wash of guilt over those features before the mask resettled.

Taylor stared at Emma quietly, watching as the other girl stared at her with that mask of disgust and then she felt the darkness closing in and she gently flashed the other girl a tiny sad little smile. She was surprised when the other girl’s control flickered, and the concern returned, but she couldn’t respond, she merely swayed in place for a moment before the darkness washed in. Her vision blurred and suddenly broken tile was rushing up to fill it and then there was nothing.



▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂



She stood at the end of the hallway, staring down. Something about it made her nervous. She shouldn’t be here. She was supposed to be on a bathroom break, though she doubted that Mr. Gladly would actually say something if she spent the rest of the class pretending to take a water break. The man was so desperate for the positive attention of the students that she could, and had, got away with almost anything in his classroom. She was almost certain that the man had been aware of where Taylor was currently trapped, and he hadn’t done anything about it.

No one had done anything about it, Sophia assumed, if the dented but still sealed locker was anything to go by. The dark skinned girl paused nervously at the end of the hall, staring at the still locker that contained her favourite victim. She was tempted to walk over, knock on the metal and ask Hebert how she was doing, but something in her gut made her think that going over there was a horrible idea. She frowned as she stood where she was, wondering why she cared at all. She frowned as she shifted from foot to foot, wanting to return to class but unable to force her feet to move.

Boredom. That's what Sophia told herself. It had been boredom that had lured her from the droning of Mr. Gladly's classroom. This place had been the same today as it had been when she’d entered the fucking halls two and a half years ago. It had been almost comically easy to get to the top of the chain with Emma at her side. Sometimes, Sophia imagined, it had been ‘too’ easy. That she’d only indulged in her ‘sport’ because of how infantile the rest of the experience had been, she’d nervously pace closer to Taylor’s locker, staring at the silent locker in nervous curiousity.

Things were easier when she was in costume. Bad guys dressed bad, did bad things, and she was a good guy because she stopped them. It was when she dressed like this that things became complicated. There were no ‘bad guys’ to face when she was a civilian. There was no predator or prey. It was people, vicious, cruel people, and she knew that she had to be the most vicious, the most ruthless.

Everyone expected it of her; the popular preyed on the weak. Playing her role and proving her place, to Emma herself, and especially to Taylor. It had been easy, Emma had been betrayed. More than that she’d been afraid, of what Taylor knew, of what the girl would do, and she’d been content to give Sophia every last bit of information that she had asked for.

The fear of what if had been so strong that she hadn’t once reconsidered her plan, hadn’t once wondered if Taylor would actually strike first. That Taylor might be the bigger person. Sophia had thought their game done then, the charade up, but Emma had doubled down. The tearful confessions to other students had turned to whispered betrayals of secrets, and finally disdainful gossiping. It hadn't even been hard for Sophia and Emma to turn the school on Taylor like that. She’d expected Emma to regret it, and perhaps she did deep down, but the girl had played her part. They’d committed to war, and that means that they had to win.

The games had changed then. They’d taken everything Taylor had, but she hadn’t broken. They’d expected her to rage, to turn on them, but she’d simple faced it head-on. She endured with a placidity that fascinated Emma. She was a predator, and the prey fell before her, but Taylor refused to submit. Taylor had suffered it all with aplomb, her disappointment visible in her eyes, but her actions stoic, silent. The games had changed. Whispers became texts, information leaving the classrooms and the hallways and moving onto the internet. They’d left Taylor to suffer her isolation, and they’d waited.

Still, she endured, and Sophia had been fascinated. She survived, plodding on with disappointment in her eyes, and Sophia had pressed on with Emma. Sophia understood that they’d almost certainly been wrong all those years ago about what happened, but she had never admitted that to Emma. The way that Taylor endured their war hinted that she wasn’t what Emma or Sophia had believed her to be, but now it was more about winning. The Predator in Sophia would allow her to suffer the indignity of the other girl to continue to refuse to acknowledge her.

The games had changed as they’d grown, now Juniors, Taylor had learned. She didn’t open herself up anymore. She didn’t talk to anyone. She hunched down and ate alone. She pushed on, clearly hoping to survive until graduation. She was weathering them like a storm, and that pushed them on. There had to be a way to get to her. Madison had turned to try to ensure that Taylor would never move on, that she would never be able to graduate.

On the other hand, Sophia had turned to more overt attempts to get her attention. Attacks, assaults. She pushed, and prodded and hit and destroyed, and the girl had endured it all with that passive acceptance that grated on Sophia. As she slowly padded to the dented locker, she frowned, hearing the cry from within. She felt her lips curling into a smile. She could go and let her out. She could rub it in the girl’s face that she’d finally broken her; that she’d finally fucking won.

A few moments later, the dark-skinned girl had stood there in the hall opposite Taylor's locker. She took a step closer, even considering doing it. The prank hadn't been intended to damage the girl; it'd been a joke that they'd expected to end quickly. She didn't worry about trouble, after all, her parents could care less about what she did, and the principal and her PRT Liason both wanted her to remain in this school and remain she would. Even if they could pin this on her, she was golden, but even then, pining it on her would be hard. Emma's Father and Madison's parents would keep their daughters clean of it, and by extension, their claimed 'accomplice' would have had protection as well. Another step closer, and she hesitated.

The sound of fists suddenly striking the metal caused her to take a step closer with a frown. Taylor was more than reacting. She stared at the locker as the metal warped and distended, She had heard worse from her victims, and even worse than that from those that she victimized had victimized. She started to take a step back when the locker itself had expanded outward with a savage, brutal scream of pain and anger. Sophia's power activated without her input. Darkness washed into her veins, subsuming her into her breaker state as the wave of darkened energy spread outwards crushing half a dozen lockers on either side of Taylor's. The floor cracking outwards was the only warning before a full dozen lockers smashed in. Travelling through the hall, the wave of the energy passing harmlessly through Sophia's shadowed form before crushing the lockers at her back like a giant's fist.

Shadow Stalker had been so distracted staring at the damage lockers in wonder that she never noticed the lightning dancing over the locker at her back, only turning at the stressed sound of metal tearing watching as the locker door flew at her riding a wave of jagged purple lightning that dance over its surface. When the locker smashed into her and savagely threw her out of her breaker state, she was shocked, silently screaming in agony as the lightning danced over her form and sent her smashing into the battered lockers.

She didn't know how long she lay there twitching at the agony of the lightning dancing up and down her battered form, her eyes on the broken locker that fallen over her. Every time that she tried to move, to speak the pain got worse, and she lay there, feeling the locker drip that filth on her. As the pain that filled her dimmed a touch, she finally gained control of her mouth enough to moan in pain. When the locker savagely flew off of her form, and down the hall, it revealed a sight that she had never expected.

Wreathed in shredded hand me down clothing, her form coated in filth Taylor's face was a rictus of hate. Once brown eyes glimmered with amber light as she glared down at Sophia. The girl tried to move, to squirm, to activate her powers but nothing responded beyond sending fresh waves of agony down her broken form. She stared terrified up at Taylor as that unnatural violet lighting danced up and down her arms. One hand lifted, fingers curling and shaking as she pointed the 'claw' at Sophia.

The sound of distant feet approaching was coming, but it was too slow, cautious. They'd never get her before Taylor could unleash that power on her. That power that Sophia's own cruelty had triggered in her. She wanted to break the girl, to remake her into something powerful like herself and she had, and that thought had filled her with equal parts terror and dread. Sophia stared up, waiting for her end to come, eyes flicking between that shaking hand and the girl's face.

“No!” The black haired girl screamed out in rage and fury and backed off, her face closing back down, and Sophia felt hate welling within her at that familiar face. She stared in impotent rage at Taylor’s back, watching as she turned and staggered across the hall and violently puked all over it. Sophia lay there in pain, watching as the girl slowly got her feet under her, staggering up and looking around. She watched as a familiar head of red hair appeared in the crowd.

She couldn’t see Taylor’s face, but she watched as the barely standing girl locked on her once-best-friend, and they shared a long connected stare for a few moments, Emma’s face dancing through a series of confusing emotions before settling on an almost palpable despair as Taylor slowly swayed to the side and collapsed with a meaty thump. Sophia flickered her gaze over to the other girl, watching the slow rise and fall of her chest as she felt her arms continue to twitch.




Chapter Text

February 17th, 2011
Saint Elmo’s Hospital, Brockton Bay


Danny absent-mindedly wrung his hands, his form haggard and exhausted. Rheumy dark eyes stared down at the calloused digits. If he'd been in a more creative mood, Danny might have even considered it an odd sort of poetic coincidence that the only two times that he'd prayed since becoming an adult, had been in the waiting rooms of this very hospital. Instead, Danny's focus was on the battered Diary in his hands, considering the worn, dog eared pages and the brittle cover. Something had been spilled on it, perhaps more than one thing, but care had been taken to preserve the writing on the pages, and Danny had read it cover to cover, coming to truly understand what had been done to his daughter.

Fists clenched in his lap, and the man counted silently in his head, starting at one hundred and continuing backwards until he didn't feel the urge to storm out of the room and wring those girls necks. Making it past thirty before he could stand to release his fists and glance down at the bed that he sat next to, silently studying Taylor. She looked so small, laying in the middle of the bed, seemingly asleep. Compared to how she'd arrived and her first week and a half in the hospital she looked amazing, the scars that had lined her arms and legs had vanished slowly over the last four days, and the doctors seemed confident that she'd wake up soon though no one could really account for the Taylor's recovery. Most of the doctors seemed convinced that it was a manifestation of her new powers, a healing factor or a brute rating of some sort that had come with her trigger apparently.

'Trigger.' The older man gritted his teeth painfully, eyes clenching shut. He'd thought his daughter was sad, a bit withdrawn, perhaps, at the loss of her friend, he hadn't understood that she'd been getting tortured and ostracized day in and day out, as those children systematically tried to destroy everything good in her. Once more his fingers curled, fists clenching painfully, nails digging into palms as he peered at Taylor, wondering why she hadn't come to him. Why hadn't his daughter told him what was going on?

'You know why.' The man told himself, and honestly, deep inside, he could probably guess. His temper was famous around the docks, and Taylor wouldn't have wanted him to turn that against her tormentors. The school itself seemed to be against her from the get-go, and his storming down there would have done nothing but drawn their attention to his daughter even more.

Even taking the log to the school, and demanding to know what had happened hadn't helped him much. The Principal herself claimed that nothing had been reported to her; she had told Danny about the rumours that had gone around about his daughter. Painting Taylor herself as a damaged child. They'd attempted to initially claim that Taylor had locked herself in the locker in a cry for help before it'd become widespread news that Taylor had triggered. Danny didn't understand the mechanics, but most experts seemed to agree that triggers were statistically more likely from external forces than internal ones. Much more likely to trigger when being attacked than when committing acts of violence against oneself.

Though even then, it was odd. Doctors and experts of all kind had been studying Taylor's convalescence carefully, while not being unheard of for powers to affect their wielders, unfortunately, powers that directly harmed those using them were rare. And when Taylor had arrived, she had been in a sorry state. Beyond the damage from having been trapped in the locker and trying to escape it in a panic, the ripped nails, numerous open and tainted wounds over her form, the strained ligaments and cracked bones, those had paled in comparison to the nerve damage.

Something about the lightning powers that Taylor had exhibited had done extensive and severe damage to her own body. They knew this because she'd done similar damage to Sophia Hess, and Danny couldn't really force himself to feel any sort of compassion for the girl. The best guess that the doctors and 'experts' could come up with was that the metal locker and the liquid waste that she'd been coated in had acted as a conductor that had allowed her powers to travel back into her. Half cooked and at significant risk of septicemia, Taylor had not been given any sort of favourable prognosis, the numbers all looked terrible, and they’d begun discussing ‘options.’

Danny remembered his panic then. Arriving at the hospital and being told that Taylor was in quarantine, that he wouldn't be allowed to see her. The police and the PRT had taken turns to explain to him what had happened. As far as they knew, Taylor had triggered publicly and had used her burgeoning powers to assault another student, how it was likely that in her current condition, she wouldn't make it a week. She'd had two heart failures in the first four days, and she'd drifted into and out of fevered states, occasionally waking up for scant moments to scream and lash out at the blankets restraining her.

Taylor was the only thing keeping him going at this moment. The thought of her surviving this was the only thing that had kept him from dragging Alan Barnes into the street and crushing the man's nose when he read about Emma had done. Taylor's disappointment was the only thing that kept him from beating both men unconscious when the two PRT troopers had begun discussing 'Options' and trying to couch Danny's interest in turning his daughter's corpse over for scientific study before she was even cold.

And yes, he'd even prayed. Danny's parents had been religious, and they'd taken Danny himself to Sunday school, though he hadn't attended in years. Most organized religions had taken a hit when God had decided that it'd be entertaining to split the population up, giving a small percentage of them superpowers and then having them use the rest of the world as a staging ground for a drop down brawl with the magical powers they'd acquired. Danny hadn't stepped foot in a church since he was twelve, but he'd prayed exactly twice since then. Once as they had Annette under the operating lights, hoping that he wouldn't lose his wife, and now. He'd raged in his mind, saying that God owed him for what he'd taken and he couldn't stand to lose his daughter.

Not long after Taylor's condition had suddenly changed, they'd been concerned at first when Taylor's erratic mental patterns had stilled and settled into a deep almost coma-like sleep, they had worried that Taylor's body was giving up and settling in to die, but instead, she'd begun to recover. Within three hours, her fever had broken, and her form had started to improve with inhuman speed. Bone fractures sealing, torn and damaged ligaments mending in hours. Two weeks of this self-induced coma had continued, and at this point Taylor looked almost like herself again, laying small and mostly healthy in that bed.

Danny did hope that Taylor would wake soon. The school had offered to cover the costs of the hospital stay in exchange for not pressing charges, but Danny had refused and whilst he had some medical insurance, he shuddered to imagine what his premiums would look like if this continued for much longer, with nothing to say how they'd handle the financial issue of him having lost over four weeks of work. The union was doing what it could, but Danny doubted that they could continue like this much longer. The PRT had offered to assist as well, in exchange for Taylor's enrollment into the Wards, but Danny was reluctant to agree to that, to allow Taylor to be press-ganged into service as a hero while she was in a coma.

Ultimately his reluctance had proved wise, Danny admitted to himself. The armoured figure that had been sitting outside Taylor's room for the last three days didn't seem like he had his daughter's best interests in heart. When Danny hadn't immediately agreed to enroll Taylor in the Wards program the subtly worded threats had started. His daughter had used her powers to injure another person, that was frowned upon, the fact that that person was one of her tormentors was merely more evidence for her guilt.

The brusque blunt man sitting in the uncomfortable chair outside the door had pushed, and Danny had used every ounce of willpower to resist pushing him down a flight of stairs. Merely, Danny had, reminded the man that the choice about enrollment in the wards would remain Taylor's, and Taylor's alone and if they wanted to press charges against her for her actions, then he'd happily take them all to court. Something about the idea of going to court had caused the armoured figure to back off, and Danny figured that they didn't want the bad press of attacking a victim and left it at that.

▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

Taylor wasn’t sure how long she’d drifted on this ocean of gently swaying warmth, the only sign of the passage of time being the slowly fading aches in her body. Impressions occasionally intruded on her slumber, the soft constant beeping of machinery, the quiet mutterings of her father. Some things even drew enough attention to partially dispel the warmth around her. Heated arguments and long conversations that had seen her father reacting with anger or fear. The emotions had whispered around her before vanishing into the ether, and on she buoyed through it all.

Part of Taylor wished that she could remain like this forever, blissful and safe, but it wasn’t meant to be. Soft emotions washed into her, an almost contrite desire pulled at her, and the warmth around her began to evaporate slowly, her mind soon crowded by the ache of her body as it grew more potent, more real. As the last vestiges of the blissful peace washed away, Taylor slowly arched her back and let out a pained moan.

Or she tried to moan, anyway. Her mouth felt like cotton, and her mind was still confused, muzzy. The only thing that emerged from her lips was a whispered gasp that barely reached her own ears. The young woman lay there, slowly letting her body settle, the ache fading to background noise after a few moments. As she lay there, she’d shift her limbs, testing them. Her legs didn’t move at all, but she felt something weighty over them. One of arms lifted and the hand moved, wiping the gunk gumming up her eyes away and she slowly, blearily blinked.

Sitting up as best she could despite the weight on her; she’d slowly lean toward the misshapen lump that seemed to be draped over her bed. She blinked at the sight of her Father laying over her, his face unshaven and his features haggard. She swallowed nervously, and she reached out a hand, tempted to shake him gently.

“Let him sleep, Taylor. He’s been very worried about you.” Taylor jerked back and glanced around, staring around for the source of the voice. She frowned as she found no one but her father. Taylor took a few breaths, trying to calm the rapid beating of her heart. She glanced around the room once more, finally taking in the blinking machinery and the various bits of odd equipment set up around her. She frowned quietly as she considered the space. How long had she been in the hospital?

“A little over four weeks. Truthfully, you’re lucky to be alive. Few that tap into the dark side as mere novices do. If it wasn’t for you managing to claw your way close enough to consciousness during your convalescence for me to guide you into a healing trance, I don’t think you’d have made it.” The voice came again, and Taylor jerked once more, glancing around. The sound of amused laughter washed over her and Taylor nervously gripped her sheets.

“There’s no need to fear Taylor. I’m not in the room with you. I’m speaking to you through your mind.” The voice came, and Taylor swallowed quietly, staring in fear at the nearby window. She briefly wondered if Sophia and Emma had finally done it. Finally managed to push her far enough that she’d gone truly and utterly insane. The thought filled her with nervous dread until a brief surge of faint warmth washed over her, soothing her quietly.

"You’re not mad, Taylor. I’m not sure how this connection is possible, beyond the fact that it happened as you were triggering. Something had connected itself to your mind, and it had the misfortune to intercept the Noetikon. When it attempted to subsume us, it was conquered and taken over, and we were left connected to your mind.” Taylor blinked at the words, shaking her head as the fogginess cleared, rubbing at her eyes as she tried to focus.

“Noetikon? Us?” The words were whispered, and she felt a wave of amusement washing over her before the voice returned, soft and dulcet.

“You needn’t speak Taylor. You can merely think of your questions. I am aware of your thoughts. As for the questions that you asked; The Noetikon is a compendium of knowledge. An artifact that was created by the order that I once belonged to. It is a device, and I am one of its three gatekeepers. My two companions and I were entrusted with safeguarding the legacy of the Jedi Order.” The voice seemed oddly proud, and Taylor would shift quietly as she glanced around the darkened room and moved, tentatively thinking a question.

‘What’s a Jedi? And… what happened? I can’t remember. I was-' Taylor paused, a wave of revulsion coiling in her stomach and she swallowed the ghost of bile back, doing her best to keep from losing the meagre contents of her stomach. ‘I was trapped, and I got scared. I panicked and then… it’s… I can’t-’ Taylor tried to focus with a frown, listening for the other voice.

"That might be partially my fault, I’m afraid. When the connection first established, the… mind of whatever currently houses us bled its emotions into you. As it attempted to prevent us from taking it over. That pushed you into a panic. When I tried to speak with you, to try and calm you, you pushed back and accessed the records of the Noetikon. You saw our memories, and that pushed you over the edge, I think. You lost yourself to rage and fear. Your connection to the force manifested, and you hurt yourself effecting your escape from the storage cupboard that contained you." The voice was soft, tentative, and Taylor sat there, quietly digesting the words and frowning softly. She gently gripped her blankets and glanced out at the moonlight.

‘The force?’ The words were curious, and Taylor blinked when the amusement washed down into her.

"The force is… It’s in you now, it is your ally, and you will come to know it. You can feel it, even now. It’s like a cloud, a mist that drifts from creature to creature. Set in motion by currents and eddies. It is the eye of the storm, the passions of all living things turned into energy, into a chorus. It is the rising swell at the end of life, the promise of new territories and new blood, the call of new mysteries in the dark." The woman recited as if from memory, the words resonating in Taylor and the swell of something powerful washing up within her. Taylor closed her eyes and rode the sensation, feeling it swelling in her mind like a crescendo, the warm arms of an old friend enclosing around her before the impression slipped through her fingers. And once more she was a battered girl sitting in a bed alone in the world.

‘What’s a Jedi?’ Taylor asked softly, and something washed down the link, that connection broadening as memories washed across her, glimpses ghosting over her. Glowing swords igniting in the dark, battles fought over suns, and ancient wars more devastating and powerful then she could ever imagine. Taylor fell back into her bed, collapsing on the pillows as the connection slowed once more, and the voice came again.

"Jedi are guardians of peace. We exist at the will of the Force, beacons of light and justice in an unkind and dark galaxy. In the galaxy that we came from, we were a force for good, for stability. Or we attempted to be." Taylor slowly caught her breath as she sat there, staring across the bed at the far wall. Images ghosted across her mind as she remembered the power, she remembered grasping it and exulting in it. Feeling that fire in her mind as she broke her own chains and freed herself.

‘In the locker, with the lightning. Was that me? Or was it you?' Taylor thought quietly, shuddering at the image of Sophia’s happy face staring mockingly up at her, her stomach turning once more at the picture that ghosted through her mind.

"We’re not ghosts, or spirits. We maintain no connection to the force. Mere imprints and memories tuned to serve as guardians, custodians and teachers. What was done in that hallway was of your own doing, sadly." Taylor flinched at the shame that washed into her at how easily and quickly she’d fallen. She stared in horror at the gaunt form of her father, feeling the sickly creep of self-loathing welling in her. Warm, soothing emotions washed over her and around her dispelling the darkness as the voice returned.

"Taylor. That wasn’t meant to be a judgement. Most Jedi train for years, decades to learn to resist the pull of the dark side. Most are trained for nearly ten years before they’re even allowed to attempt to grasp the force. You were thrust into it while battered by the emotions that you were feeling and managed to turn away of your own power. Take heart from that, child." The words were soothing, and Taylor shuddered as she clenched her fists. The images of the damage she’d done ghosted over her mind.

‘H-how do Jedi train? How do they learn to stop that from happening?’ The thought was nervous, almost desperate as Taylor sought a way to keep from repeating what she’d done, a way to keep from allowing that darkness to win.

‘Meditation and self-reflection. Emotional control is important to the training of a Jedi. Darker emotions lead to the dark side. Rage, Fear, Pain all can serve as gateways to the darker sides of the force. And the dark side feeds on and propagates those emotions. Jedi are taught to embrace serenity. To only tap into the force with peaceful minds, to use the force itself to reinforce that self-control.’ Taylor shuddered quietly at the images that ghosted past her with the words, scant impressions of the training of younglings. She considered the pictures as she drew back from the connection, getting struck by the intense loneliness of their lives. She shook her head, focusing her thoughts.

‘Is it worth it?’ The question washed out toward the spirit, and she felt the faint hints of amusement washing back down toward her from the voice in her head.

‘The force inside you is a powerful tool, Taylor. It can be used for many great and terrible things. But in the end, what you do with your gifts is entirely up to you. If you'd chosen to stalk those halls and destroyed those girls, there's nothing we could have done to stop you. But that'd have been a tragedy, Taylor, for far too many fall into the trap of the dark side and find out that they can only use it to destroy and corrupt, and they find themselves unable to protect or nourish. All of us in this Noetikon can understand having darkness in our souls, but you should be sure that you don't let it consume you. You have the potential to help so many.’ Taylor listened quietly to the words ghosting into her mind, and she shifted back quietly.

‘Darkness? And, what’s your name? And who’re the others you keep referring to?’ Taylors scattered questions washed out as she considered the information.

'My name is Bastila Shan, and I am the first of the memories on the Noetikon of the Eclipse. As for darkness; all three of the imprints on this archive have had experience with that same darkness you felt that night. Sadly, you’re expected to progress through us on your own, and I am prevented from divulging their identities.’ Bastila’s voice was remorseful, and Taylor quietly picked at her blankets, considering them quietly.

‘Taylor,’ The words came as she’d been thinking, as the minutes passed and she’d glance up despite being physically alone. ‘You’ve not actually slept in nearly a month; you should get what rest you can. Something tells me that you’ll need it in the coming days.’ Taylor paused and frowned before nodding quietly, slowly slipping down into blankets and getting comfortable. As she lay there, she considered the information that she’d been given and eventually sent out a tentative thought.

‘Bastila?’ The thought was greeted with a warmth that let her know the spirit was listening, and she continued nervously. ‘In the locker… I begged something for the power to… the power to make sure that no one else had to suffer what I suffered. You said you were a teacher… could you teach me to do that?’ The thought was tentative, and Taylor braced herself for rejection. She was surprised when the warmth intensified.

"We all exist to teach, Taylor. Whatever you wish to learn, we will be here to share. And I promise that I at least will do everything in my power to ensure that you can make good on your request. The force brought us to you when you asked for the power to keep this from happening to others, and I’ll help carry out the will of the force. Now. Sleep."

Taylor’s thoughts slowed at the confirmation, and she felt that warmth intensifying in her mind, the pleasant sensations washing away her minor aches and finally letting her blissfully slip into slumber.


Chapter Text

February 18th, 2011
Saint Elmo’s, Brockton Bay

The warmth of the sun shining on her face quickly dragged Taylor from the sweet embrace of sleep. Faint impressions of distant worlds, glowing weapons, and odd-looking aliens would linger in the back of her mind for a few moments. Though, when she shifted into a more comfortable position, the vague memories of the dreams faded as dreams were wont to do.

Carefully testing one arm and then the other allowed her to see that the bone ache that had permeated her body the night before was finally gone. Carefully, she lifted a hand, slowly running it through her hair, reassured by the thick texture and length, happy that her adventure in the locker hadn’t cost her that at least.

Sitting up fully, she slowly let her gaze drift around the room. Now illuminated by the early afternoon sunlight, the room was much less imposing. She adjusted her hair, running her hands through the unwashed mess before turning her attention to the left, taking in the machines next to her bed. Taylor’d lifted her arms, glancing down and noticing that beyond the IV she didn’t seem to have anything hooked up to her. Assuming that her awakening during the night had been noticed, she leaned out to the left of her bed, her hand seeking the bedside table that was an indistinct brown blur in her vision.

Hands encountered wood, and she scrabbled at the nearby table, flailing until she felt her fingers touching glass and metal. She leaned over, curling her hand around the lenses and dragging them over. She flopped back into bed and lifted the glasses, casually flipping them open in the manner that she’d learned so long ago, smirking at the memories that the action always brought up before lifting the glasses and sliding them carefully onto her face.

The room somewhat suddenly shifted into focus, and Taylor quickly turned to peer at the chair that had once held her father’s sleeping form. It’d been pushed back, and she wondered where he’d gotten off to. She considered the room around her for a few moments before deciding that she was on her own for the moment.

Remembering the agony that she’d been every time that she had awakened before now, Taylor took a little time checking her various limbs to see the sort of damage that she’d done to herself. She was shocked to see that her arms were pristine, lacking any hint of scars. She frowned and turned her hands around, remembering shredding her palms when she’d been smashing her fists on the locker door, her hands laid bare before lacking any sign of the ordeal that she had suffered.

Moving past the marks, she carefully tested her range of motion, rotating her arms and elbows, curling her wrists and clenching her fists. She repeated the process for her back, hips, legs, testing each and every joint and limb. Both arms and her torso seemed fine, though her legs still had pins and needles and were mostly numb, so she didn’t think she’d be walking anywhere, any time soon. It was only when the physical check finished that the girl realized that she had no idea how she’d known to do that test, and she frowned, her mind turning back to the night before. She paused, wondering if it had all been a dream a flicker of hope igniting in her chest.

“Sadly, Taylor, we aren’t mere figments of your imagination." The feminine voice was laced with amusement. Bastila would let that sink in before speaking casually.

“You have our influence to thank for the spatial reaction test. It seems like our memories have bled over in small amounts if your dreams were anything to go by. I saw you dreaming of my training on Coruscant and my adventures against Revan. That’s the same body test that I always did after recovering from my own healing trances, and I think you’re right about your legs. Better not to test them.” The voice lazily whispered into her mind and Taylor flushed a bit.

‘So. I think if we’re going to be sharing this much head-space, that we should discuss boundaries. Even if you can see my dreams, it might be best that we don’t discuss them?’ Taylor would mentally ‘speak,’ coaching her thoughts in a way that would provide context that this was a directed form of thought, perhaps a way to keep the impressions from responding to every idea that she had. The girl paused and frowned at the thought she issued replayed in her own mind, and she shifted a bit.

‘Speaking of, have you had any more thoughts about how you ended up in my head? You sort of glossed it over last night. I know that most people that ‘trigger’ don’t end up with voices in their heads.’ Taylor paused, frowning at the thought and rubbing her chin before quickly appending the thought.

‘Or at least I hope they don't. I suppose that they could have all been getting talked to by strange voices and they just never mentioned it, and it’s a big strange conspiracy, where everyone conceals their crazy head voices cause they think that no one else has them. I mean, some capes certainly seemed-’ Taylor’s ruminations continued to trail until she felt a wave of wry amusement washing over her and she suddenly trailed off.

"Uh." There was a beat. A moment or two where the spirit was silent through the faintest hints of amusement continued to drift out over the connection, and then Bastila eventually spoke up softly.

“I don’t think that’s the case, Taylor. As I said last night, we’re not actually in your head. The exact nature of the situation isn’t clear. But from what we can tell the probe that housed the Noetikon was damaged beyond repair, and that was where most of the connected sensors were. With some experimentation we’ve been able to jury-rig the Noetikon’s modest self-repair systems, to tell us what it’s experienced. Our best guess from the data is that the damaged wreck of our probe impacted...something.” The spirit paused in its recitation, briefly taking a moment to think before continuing.

“This object was crystalline in nature, and when the vessel struck it, it was absorbed. As I mentioned last night, the crystal itself attempted to consume the damaged ship, and the Noetikon, triggering the Noetikon’s self-defence mechanisms and detecting that this object was a computer of some fashion, or similar enough organic crystal lattice. The Noetikon attempted to take it over rather than let itself be destroyed. When the object fought back, we were awakened and used our skills to help the Noetikon overcome the object. We’ve taken it over, and it’s what is connected to your mind.” The words were oddly matter-of-fact, and Taylor frowned quietly.

‘So.’ Taylor thought slowly, dragging out the word in her head. ‘Your vessel struck ‘something’ that was connecting itself to my mind. It attempted to destroy you, and you killed it. And you are now operating its corpse like a puppet to keep in contact with me?’ The brunette would blink quietly, frowning as a flicker of disgust washed into her.

“More like lobotomized it. But I’m unsure how alive it was. It’s badly damaged, crippled almost, partly done when we affected it, and partly done before we arrived. It seems like it’s still operational, though. There’s a power reserve that’s augmenting the Noetikon, and if it’s any consolation, whatever this was it was attempting to rewrite parts of your brain when we arrived, and I only destroyed it when it seemed like it might kill you rather then let us interact with you.” Bastila’s voice was laced with remorse and Taylor frowned, her heart beating a touch harder at the idea.

“Taylor, your heart stopped twice during your convalescence; unfortunately, you’ve got several holes punched on your ‘I nearly died card.’ Truthfully, I imagine that this object, whatever it is, is what gives the other...parahumans their powers. Although that’s merely conjecture, for all we know, this object is more tied to whatever your powers would have been. Perhaps you had control of a crystalline entity in another dimension that you could use to attack or defend yourself.” Bastila paused and took a moment to marshall her thoughts before continuing smoothly.

“In any case, the object itself is directly connected to your mind, and that’s what we’re using to communicate with you.” Taylor digested the information that had been shared curiously for a few moments before loosing a sigh and then turning her attention back to her initial question.

‘Back to the subject at hand, as I said, privacy might get to be an issue. I assume that you’re capable of pretending as if you can’t hear my every thought, and you can give me at least the illusion of privacy.’ Taylor glanced around, waiting till she got the impression of consent from the spirit before letting out a long slow sigh.

‘It’d be nice if I had a face to look at, to put something to the voice if nothing else. You’ve been giving me some good advice so far, but it’s still kind of...disconcerting taking advice from the voices in your head. You mentioned that helped me heal myself, right? I remember that from last night, though the conversation is rather hazy. I think that I was on some form of pain killers?’ Taylor’s thoughts were lazy, moving slowly as she glanced around the room. A faint hum of agreement washed down the link before Bastila’s voice issued into her mind once more, laced with a thoughtful tone.

“Direct neural links aren’t actually how the Noetikon is meant to function. But, now that you mention it, with how this object is connected to you, I think we could possibly broadcast an image into your mind.” Bastila’s voice seemed to pause, and the warmth of her ‘presence' drew back. The sensation of whispered conversation in the back of her mind was a trip, but a few moments later, the warmth returned, and Bastila’s elegant tone rejoined her.

“It should be possible. It’d allow you to see us at least, although you’d still need to be careful talking to us.” Bastila’s voice was laced with equal parts eager curiousity and patient concern.

‘Right, wouldn’t want ‘the man’ thinking I was crazy after all. Do you want to give it a shot?’ Taylor eagerly thought toward Bastila. When the spirit didn’t immediately respond, Taylor got a bit nervous.

It took a few moments of nervous waiting before something changed. An area to Taylor’s left visibly distorted, the air itself bending and warping inwards into the vague shape of a person. The air itself grew distorted flickering from painful static to glimmering lights before something seemed to click, and the image formed into a clear vision of a woman. The ‘glass’ woman remained statue-like for a few moments as the ‘whispering’ resumed in the recesses of her mind.

The statue remained clear and immobile for a few moments flickering out of view and back in a few times before colour suddenly bled into the image. Browns and oranges washed over the slender body, the pale face filling in with pinks and specs of freckles and dark greens washed into the eyes, whites expanding around them. The statue-like image of a woman seemed to stutter and flicker before the warmth in her mind suddenly receded, and the image staggered forward, turning to look at her.

“Aha!” Bastila spun in place, moving to glance down at herself, turning and nodding appreciatively before turning to look at Taylor with a soft smile on her pink lips. Taylor blinked and slowly inspected the woman’s form before a thought ghosted through her mind directed at the woman.

‘Did you make yourself look, human?’ The woman herself was fascinating to look at — pale skin with aristocratic features, a faint smile on her lips. Warm green eyes framed by long brunette bangs. Her hair was done in an odd pair of pony-tails at the back, and Taylor got the impression that if it was let down, it’d be as long and full as her own. Her form was clad in an odd sort of armoured robe. Light browns with layered brown padding over the collar, shoulders, down the front, dipping below the belt and hanging around her form. A long silver cylinder rested at her hip, and the woman’s rested one hand on the object, the other hand on the opposite hip

‘No, Taylor, This is my true form. I’m a human, or at least that’s what we called ourselves. Although this image isn’t what I looked like in my later years, the image for the Holocron was based on my appearance in my prime, which is flattering, if nothing else.’The image smoothly shifted, walking over and perching on the edge of Taylor’s bed.

Taylor stared at the image, frowning at the oddity of the pose and how it looked… off before realizing why. There was no sensation of pressure from the picture, no weight to it. The image looked like it was sitting on the bed, but the bed didn’t depress under the Jedi’s body. The image seemed to sense her discomfort and lifted back up, moving to sit instead on the chair that had once held her father, the chair looking like it sank under her weight.

‘It’s-’ Whatever Taylor had been about to think was rather rudely interrupted by the door swinging open to reveal a nurse. Taylor glanced up at the woman, offering her a nervous smile, sighing when she merely let out a gasp at the sight of her sitting up and staring back.

“Miss Hebert! You’re awake; we were expecting you up sometime in the next few hours. I can’t tell you how glad we are that you managed to pull through, it was very stop-and-go there for a bit. Since you seem comfortable, I’ll collect the doctor and bring you some water.’ The woman quickly turned, gasping a bit at something outside the door.

“Sir, I’m afraid that I can’t-” The woman paused suddenly before glancing at her with an apologetic look.

“I cannot stop you, sir, but I will be informing her father and her doctor immediately.” The woman brusquely squared her shoulders before pushing past whoever she’d been speaking to and vanishing out the door.

Confused, Taylor watched the door as it slowly swung shut in the woman’s wake. An armoured hand reached out and caught the door. Taylor blinked quietly as the door slowly pushed inwards, an armoured figure in bronze and blue entering the room. He towered over the bed that she lay in, his suit adding several inches to his already considerable height.

“Taylor Hebert. I’m Armsmaster; I assume that I need no introduction. I’m the local head of the Protectorate.’ Armsmaster moved with surety across the tiled floor, moving up to the bed and looming up and over it for a moment. He seemed to stare at her for a moment, though with his mask there was no way to tell, before moving to pull out the chair that had once held her father, taking a careful seat on it — the creak of the wood under him hinting at the weight of the armour that he wore.

Bastila’s image had flitted out of the chair at his approach, and she stood to the side watching as Armsmaster studied her. Taylor watched as the man shifted to rest his elbows on his knees, his helmet remaining still and Taylor assumed that he was watching her, observing her. The silence, along with the stern set of his jaw pushed at Taylor, the brief flicker of nostalgia and warmth that his image had induced quickly fading at the rather strict set of the man’s body. Taylor stared back at him, her shoulders starting to hunch up under his look wondering what he knew, what he’d heard.

"Sit up straight Taylor, push your shoulders back. No, don’t look at me. Keep your eyes on his, or where they’d be if they were visible." The woman’s whispered commands stopped Taylor from shrinking into herself, her eyes flickering to the side before turning back toward Armsmaster’s helmet, staring up at the man curiously, her face remaining impassive. "You’ve done it before Taylor, reach out for the Force, and immerse yourself in it, it’ll help you deal with this. Something tells me that he’s not here to congratulate for joining the club."

Taylor pushed her mind back, remembering the words that Bastila had uttered the night before, her almost poetic recitation of the what the Force was and what it wasn’t she reached out and tried for that feeling again, feeling it ghosting over her metaphorical fingers. She tried to grasp at it, finding it fleeting and almost ephemeral. A moment of clarity washed over her, and Taylor didn't try to grab, to pull the Force in. She merely opened her ‘hands’ and beckoned it and felt the peace and clarity suddenly flooding into her. Things seemed to grate to a halt, and she stared at Armsmaster, watching his lips slowly opening before everything suddenly caught back up again, and the man moved to speak.

“It’s common practice for the PRT to approach anyone that experiences a sufficiently traumatic experience that might induce a trigger.” That man’s words were cold, dispassionate and Taylor could tell that he was reciting them from Rote.

“Considering the very public nature of your own trigger event, it was determined that we would offer you a fast-tracked admission to the Wards. This would, of course, be a good way to ensure that any adverse consequences from your explosive triggering could be avoided. We would speak to the school on your behalf, and ensure that the local district attorney understood the accidental nature of the damage and we’d even help you register in a new school to avoid the unfortunate situation that led to you being trapped in that locker.” Taylor heard it. The moment his voice slipped as he was speaking about her public trigger. She focused on the sensation, following it at Bastila’s silent urging. The set of his jaw leaped out at her, the tenseness of his shoulder. The man was… irritated, felt this was below him. Thought she was below him. Taylor felt her insides hardening as she spoke back brusquely.

“What do you mean consequences? Are you implying that I could be in trouble for triggering like that? I was forced into that locker against my will. If I had shattered the lockers with my feet on pure human brute strength, I wouldn’t have been punished. I have the right to defend myself. Or are you implying that I lose my right to self-defence because powers were involved?” Taylor’s voice was low and precise, carefully emulating Bastila’s tone while inside, she desperately attempted to marshall her growing panic.

Her eyes were drawn to the man’s face, watching as his teeth clenched, and he leaned back. She listened as Bastila whispered explanations into her mind. She clenched her fists as more details became apparent. He wasn’t irritated with her. He was annoyed with something else. Angry even. He didn’t want to be doing this, that was for sure, but it had less to do with her.

“You’re mad.” She’d speak slowly, frowning at the shock and the hint of nervousness that slipped through him.

“Not at me.” She’d comment faintly, her eyes narrowing as the raspy words slipped past her lips

“And not only mad. Disgusted. Again, not at me. It's focused inwards. You’re disgusted at yourself. It’s not that you don’t want to be here; it’s that you don’t think you should be here doing this.” Taylor saw the reluctance washing through him along with the shock and concern that her words were engendering. The shifting power in the situation calmed her own fears, and she leaned forward, listening as Bastila helped her decipher, helped her understand what she was seeing.

“No, not quite. It’s not that you don’t want to be doing this. It’s that you shouldn’t be doing it like this.” She’d frown sharply as she stared at the man, her eyes drifting over his form.

“Indeed. Using smokescreens and threats against an underage girl. Not exactly your shining moment, Armsmaster.” The voice was crisp and precise, and Taylor glanced over at the open door, staring at the tall, powerful woman that was there. She studied the woman for a moment, but she felt the pull dragging her gaze back to the armoured cape, staring coldly at him, slowly peeling away his motivations. Whispered words from Bastila pointed her in the right direction, and she spoke.

“I saw the damage that I did to that hallway when I got out of the locker. I’m powerful, and I’m guessing that your boss wants me on the wards.” She stared at him, almost staring through him. She watched as his body tensed, tightening up as if to protect itself. She let out a sigh at the minuscule reaction to the shock.

“I hate to disappoint.” Taylor paused, frowning. “Well, actually now that I think of it, considering the manner in which you opened this conversation, I’m actually quite happy to disappoint. But the fact of the matter is that-” Taylor paused and frowned, considering how she could explain this.

“The lightning that I used is an aspect of my power that is exceptionally dangerous for me even to attempt to use.” Taylor watched as the man firming up as if preparing to argue. To offer something. Training. She sighed and rubbed at her face, holding up a hand.

“My powers are emotionally controlled. That particular power comes with a backlash from what I can tell. I doubt that I’ll be running around electrocuting anything in the near future.” She watched as the man puffed himself and narrowed her eyes, glaring quietly at the man.

“Before you offer the training that’s been hanging on your tongue for the last five minutes, I should probably say that, until I’ve had a chance to speak with my father and to see the exact nature of my powers, I don’t think it’d be wise for me to agree to join any team.” She glanced over at the woman at the door and chuckled when she lazily moved away from the doorway and spoke slowly.

“Miss Hebert has made her position perfectly clear, I should think. Armsmaster.” Taylor finally took a moment to study the woman, taking in her long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, the bright blue eyes peering out of the elegant features that she held. The woman seemed almost amused as she flashed Taylor a wink before rounding on the armoured figure in the chair by Taylor’s bed, her voice taking on a practically arctic hue.

“Armsmaster, I was under the impression that PRT recruiters generally required a parent present when speaking unmasked minors.” Taylor turned her gaze onto the man and watched as the brief flicker of irritation and guilt flashed through him. Clearly, the woman was right. She leaned forward, watching raptly wondering just who this woman was and why she was so eagerly defending her.

“Carol. I wasn’t aware that the Heberts had retained your services. I was merely confirming the events on young Miss Hebert’s trigger event and what she remembered of her powers. It’s a dangerous world out there for unmasked capes after all.” His voice was low and quiet as he stared at the other woman, watching her visibly step back, her lips compressing into a thin line. Taylor’s powers told her that whatever the armoured figure had said had hurt her saviour and Taylor felt her insides hardening.

She glared at the man as he dusted off his armour and strode past the recovering blonde before she could say anything, marching to the door and stepping out. He paused in the doorway, turning to stare back at her for a moment before speaking cooly.

“We’ll be in contact, Miss Hebert.” His voice was cold and brisk, and then the door clicked shut behind him. Taylor’s wide eyes drifted from the man toward the woman in the suit, staring at her as she glared after the disappeared hero. Taylor watched as the woman’s tension slowly, achingly uncoiled as she forced herself to relax. Taylor stared at the woman before speaking gently.

“He shouldn’t have said that.” He spoke quietly as the woman’s name clicked in her mind. Carol Dallon. New Wave. Taylor stared after the vanished cape. Despite her own interest in the local cape scene, Taylor had always been a Protectorate girl while her Mother had been a fan of the Brockton Bay Brigade. Taylor still remembered when her mother had heard about the loss that the team had suffered. She remembered the tears her mother had shed at the atrocity. Taylor stared at Carol as the woman glanced at her nervously, wiping the faint tears from her eyes.

“My mom was a fan.” She spoke quietly. “Of the Brigade and later New Wave. Before she died.” Taylor calmly picked at her shirt. “Fleur seemed nice; he shouldn’t have said something like that.” Taylor glowered quietly over at the door that the man had left through and let out a quiet sigh.

“I-” The woman seemed to pause, hesitating as she considered Taylor for a few moments before regaining her composure and continuing.

“Thank Miss Hebert. Or, Taylor if you prefer. Your father has agreed to retain my services. While Parahuman Law isn’t my specific focus, I am familiar enough with it. Your father has dealt with all the paperwork for everything that’s happened, but I need you to do one thing for now. Don’t agree to speak with anyone without myself, your father, or ideally, both of us present.” Waiting until Taylor nodded she let out a quiet, rubbing at the bridge of her nose.

“I need to get back to your Father; we’ll be speaking more in the coming weeks, from what your Father has explained we’ll be dealing with the legal backlash of your Trigger event on top of the other issues that you’ve had at the school. Your father showed me a Diary that you’d been keeping. Today and tomorrow I need you to try and remember any other evidence that you might have stashed around, and we’ll go over it all when you get out of here. For now, focus on recovering, alright?” Getting a nod from the girl, the powerfully built woman smoothly turned and strode out of the hospital room, the sound of her heels clicking on the linoleum serving as a guide for how far the Lawyer had gotten.

▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

Collin sighed faintly. He regretted the words that he’d said almost immediately after they had left his mouth. If he was honest with himself, he was secretly glad that the ‘interview’ had been interrupted when it had, but the embarrassment of being deconstructed like that in front of another cape had gotten to him.

Striding down the hall, he adjusted a few settings on his HUD, truthfully doing little more than merely flipping display elements that he’d probably be flipping back in mere minutes. The action was borne more out of the need of something to do, then any real interest in the temperature that his suit was resting at, or the current static discharge level of the exterior plates. Bypassing the elevator and smoothly descending the stairs he’d dial up his mobile connection, connecting a call Dragon.

“Collin...” The reproachful voice of the Tinker easily filtered through the speakers of his helmet and he’d sigh faintly. He should have expected that she’d be listening in. He let out a quiet sigh as he moved the image of the other Tinker around his mask and continued to hurry down the stairs.

“How did you intend to convince the girl to join the Wards if you insulted the first person that’s stood up for her since she’s been fourteen? I sent you the psych profile on her that you asked me to assemble. I expected you to read it.” Collin let out a slow sigh as he continued on.

“I did read it. I attempted what you suggested, but I only had a few minutes with her before someone else showed up. I had hoped to convince her to join to protect herself, but she was tearing my arguments apart as soon as I made them, and-” The man’s voice was cold and irritated as he hit the basement floor and Collin pushed the door open, marching out into the darkened parking garage.

“You thought that instead of attempting to get on her good side by actually investigating the issues that she’s been labouring under for years, you’d attempt to use them against her.” The woman’s voice was cold and clipped, and Collin frowned. “When I compiled that report about the bullying that she’s been subject too, I didn’t expect you to attempt to use it against her Collin.” The other tinker’s voice was angry, and Collin growled as he approached his bike.

“I was trying to get a win, Dragon. I don’t need to justify myself to you. And clearly she doesn’t need your protection, she had me on the ropes before Carol Dallon arrived. Remind me to make a note in Taylor Hebert’s file. Suspected thinker Rating. She was picking me apart from that bed like it was easy. She could detect my reactions even inside the suit.” He’d mutter faintly as he exited the stairwell, moving through the small hallway that led past the elevator and toward the parking garage.

“Also note that her father has apparently retained the services of Carol Dallon.” He’d comment faintly, glancing around and making his way carefully toward where he’d parked his bike before this little vigil. Dragon retained a mulish silenced before her curiosity seemed to win over and she spoke with an irritated clip.

“Brandish? How did she end up with Brandish as her lawyer? I pity the man that attempts to steamroll over her. What’re you going to tell Piggot?” Her voice was laced with curiousity, and Collin frowned behind his helmet as he too considered that question. As he thought, he slipped atop his bike, getting into position and waiting for the suit to synch into the bike.

“I don’t know. I suppose I’ll just submit a report about what happened. Lucky for us, she walked in before I could really go into the hard sell. While Taylor Hebert might be unaware that the law prevents anyone from punishing her for damage and non-fatal injuries incurred during a trigger event, I doubt that’ll remain the case for long.” Collin let and irritated grunt as he put the bike into gear and set off, driving up the curved ramp and out into the sunlight, heading toward downtown.

“At least she didn’t manage to cotton onto how Shadow Stalker was involved in the situation. Although I don’t know how long we can protect her if this goes to court at all. I’ll probably recommend that Director Piggot leans on the school to settle with an agreement that protects the girls from further litigation. It’s not ideal, but if Sophia’s actions come out, I don’t think the PRT in this city would survive it.”

“Collin, you shouldn’t blame yourself. You’re not the one that decided to put Sophia onto the Wards instead putting her into Juvenile Detention where she belonged. You’re also not the one that arranged to sacrifice this girl to her to keep the school and PRT happy. You’re doing everything you can in this situation; it’s just shitty all the way around.” Dragon’s voice was low and comforting, and Collin almost took the words to heart before gunning the engine on his bike and turning toward PRT HQ, weaving in and out of traffic as he went.

“I’m the head of the Protectorate. I should have been paying closer attention to the Wards as a whole; I spend so much time tinkering, and to be honest the only wards that I know anything more than the names of are Kid Win and Gallant. That’ll be changing. I’d rather not have another situation like this on my conscience.” The man let out a bitter sigh as he checked the cars around him, weaving through them as carefully as he could.

“On that subject, I’d appreciate any help you can offer Dragon. I know that you’re not exactly… local, but your programs could be helpful in finding out if anything like this is happening elsewhere, or if it might happen again.” Colling muttered quietly. There’d be a momentary lapse in the connection, and Collin worried that he’d lost the signal, but then Dragon’s voice crackled back in.

“Alright, Collin. I’ll do what I can. I’ll forward what I can find to you, and figure out what sort of programs I can work up for this. I’ve got a few projects that I should check on. We can pick this up later, yeah?” The other Tinker spoke quickly, and Collin let out a grunt that saw the connection closing rather suddenly

Chapter Text

February 18th, 2011
Saint Elmo’s, Brockton Bay

Carol Dallon’s exit had left a somewhat awkward and weighty silence in her wake, and Taylor sat there carefully staring at the sheets that covered her legs. It took a few moments for the reality of the situation to penetrate her mind and Taylor felt her heart starting to beat faster as she glanced around.

Brandish had been in her hospital room, more than that, Brandish was her lawyer. Mom would have been so stoked, she’d often gushed about maybe one day meeting the members of new wave, and Taylor frowned as she considered the situation. Brandish was her lawyer, and something told her that the woman didn’t come cheap.

Speaking of that, how had her father managed to contact her, how had he managed to afford the lawyer. Taylor’s forehead creased in thought as she wondered what this would cost them both. She didn’t want to lose the house, the memories of her mother had soaked into the place, and she couldn’t stand the idea of losing them. She glanced over toward the door, staring at it thoughtfully as her mind whirled, wondering if she could make it to her father. She didn’t trust her legs, could her new powers…?

“Yes. You could use the Force to get your legs under you, and you could probably use it to catch up to Mrs. Dallon, though the consequences would be unfortunate. With as inexperienced as you are, you’d do some damage to your body attempting to use the Force to manipulate your body in that way. And truthfully it’s not that desperate hrm? I imagine that she or your father will be back before long, and you can get your answers then.” Bastila’s voice was gentle as she persuaded Taylor not to make any stupid or rash decisions. Taylor’s gaze lingered on the door for a few moments, hands curling into fists as she thought. In the end, she let her hands relax, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour.

‘I guess that we should discuss this properly then? While we have a few minutes, anyway?' Taylor’s eyes turned to rest on the image of Bastila. The woman had moved, slipping casually through the room to perch on one of the chairs that sat beneath the full window, seemingly comfortably at ease, her green eyes watching Taylor curiously.

‘You mentioned that you could teach me to use these powers less destructively? Would I be trained to be a Jedi like you?’ Taylor blinked when she saw the amused smirk passing over the other woman’s lips. She had been about to ask another question when the image had started to speak.

“Sort of... before we get into all that I think I should tell you a story. So that you truly understand what exactly you’re getting yourself into with this request of yours. I’ve already shared my name with you, and this is the rest of my story. Where I’m from, humanity has spread over most of the galaxy we lived in. We were part of a great Galactic Republic, Diplomacy and human ideals spread over much of the galaxy." Bastila’s voice was laced with wry amusement as she spoke. "I was born on a world call Talravin. It’s was in the core of the galactic republic, and that made it relatively safe. I don’t remember it much; my family were travellers. My father was a treasure hunter, and we often moved from world to world.”

“I loved my father a great deal, as any little girl loves her dashing, heroic father. But looking back on it now I think of some of the places that he’d spoken of taking me, and I shudder. Sadly, his dream of a father/daughter tomb raiding team was dashed when my latent powers began to show. He didn’t want to lose me to the Order, and I didn’t want to go, but my mother chose to send me away. The lives they lived were too dangerous for a child, and I would be safe and happier with the order. I resented her for a long time for that choice, but I eventually came to terms what she did to protect me. But, in any case, she got her way, and I was handed over to the order, sent to join the other younglings of the council.” Images flooded into Taylor's mind. Images of a clunky ship that reeked of home, and a wiry man with Bastila's eyes and smile. The broad grin on his face dancing as she stared up at him with rapt attention. The nervous looks of a woman with Bastila's hair colour and freckles. The fear in her almost palpable. Images of screaming fights, and arguments, of being dragged from home and handed to a tall woman with horns and a painted face, the kind smile as the woman held her as she sobbed and begged for her father flickered through Taylor.

“We grew up together and learned the philosophy of the order. That was how it was done. Younglings were taken when very young, and they were taught the tenets of the order, how to control themselves, how to use their powers the right way.” Bastila paused here, and Taylor felt the impressions. The bitter, sad child being welcomed by the others. All of them friendly and supportive. Slowly coming out of her shell among her peers, making friends, and growing among them. Living on Coruscant, seeing the city stretching out to every horizon as they trained in the ancient building that sat atop technological marvels that made Taylor's heart race. Learning and meditating, preparing and watching.

“You have to understand that our galaxy was different than this one. The Force was pervasive, and it drew at many, both light and dark. We needed Jedi to hold back the dark, and the council had long memories of their failures, of those of their number that fell to the dark, and it did what it needed to keep more Jedi from falling. They justified their indoctrination that way.” Tall, stern men and women grew in Taylor's mind. They were wreathed in stern robes and even sterner expressions. They issued words that drifted past her ears without penetrating, but the meaning was there. They were orders, commands. She remembers listening, turning away from the anger and the confusion of the Republic, focusing on her training and not questioning it.

“I was trained with the others until my innate talents began to show. I was unusually gifted with battle pre-cognition, first my skills, and then later that gift increased until I could turn the tides of entire battles with my actions, I could route armies, and inspire entire armadas and it was an overwhelming feeling. I was singled out for special training, and I soon began my apprenticeship. I was so full of myself and bold, and then the war came. A faction from the edges of our galaxy began to push on the republic, decrying it as weak and outdated. They were the Mandalorian Neo-crusaders. They sought to conquer and destroy. The republic appealed to the order for help, and the masters opted not to assist, fear of what war would do to our number. Against their orders, a great many knights left and joined the war effort anyway.” On flashed the impressions and the images flashed in Taylor’s mind as the spirit spoke, senators flashed in her mind in ostentatious robes and of every race imaginable, visiting the majestic temple, begging. Protests outside the temple. The fear that they had to overcome, the compassion they had to show without happening. The images showed a man with a stern face and training to use a blad, the combat and training a blur of pain and focus and determination.

“I remember one point, as I stood watching one of the people I’d admired in my youth standing before the rest of us, passionately speaking to us of his best friend and Mentor, as he ripped apart the council with words for their inaction. I didn’t follow, but part of me yearned to turn my power loose on them. Those Jedi that went saved the war for us, they were war heroes. At least, they were until they turned on the Jedi. Most of them fell to the dark, became true Sith, and attacked their fellow Jedi. They did what they could to conquer the galaxy, using long lost technologies to bring a war of the most brutal sort to the galaxy as a whole. The intense young man that had spoken of honour, and faith, had turned into one of the most sadistic of the killers, eventually leading a coup against his former best friend and attempting to kill all of us, attempting to conquer the entire galaxy for himself.” Onward spun the images, showing Taylor everything. Revan was powerful, reliable, charismatic. He started as a glorious knight, powerful and pure, a beacon in the darkness against the oncoming scourge. The image flashed, and the war was when and he turned. Became vicious and dark as he fell, transforming into a monster as he lashed against those who had once been his allies, his friends. Taylor shuddered at the images, at the sheer darkness bleeding off the words that ghosted incomprehensibly through her mind.

“I did my part in the civil war, and I fought them at every turn. I even managed to board one of the flagships of the invading army, and I nearly killed the young man’s best friend, and instead of letting him die I bound him to myself, and we spent the next few years getting into a great many scrapes." Bastilla shifted, resting her elbows on her knees as she glanced over toward Taylor and she watched as the ghosts danced in front of Taylor's eyes. A battle, Bastila turning her powers on the fleet, shredding the enemies, taking the lead ship, fighting and destroying, capturing and conquering, and a bond forming, redeeming the broken, bitter man that she'd found when she'd set out to hunt down a violent god of war.

"I told you this story because you need to understand the consequences of failing here. It’s easy to slip into the dark side, you’ve seen just how slippery a slope it can be. I was even corrupted once myself, though that same man I had bound to myself managed to redeem me. Fair compensation for my redemption of him.” The images danced on. Intrigue, danger, then battle. Victory at a cost. A bond, a tether, a fall and redemption. Love, and so much more stretching out into the distant reaches of the future. A legacy. Bastila’s warmth washed over her, and the images faded as the image of the woman chuckled. The image moved closer, staring into Taylor’s eyes as she spoke.

“You’re in a war here, Taylor. That’ll make it hard to stay true to yourself, you lack the structure and the foundations that we all had, but you’ve got the power, and I’ll do everything I can to help you achieve your goals, and I want you to understand the risks that you’re taking truly. There are no other Jedi here to stop you. If you go dark, you’ll leave this world a smouldering ruin.” At Taylor's shocked look, the image studied her sternly, slowly crossing her arms.

“The Force is a powerful tool, it can do great and terrible things, and with the right focus, you can change the world. For better or worse.” Bastilla hummed and let the words sink into Taylor for a few moments before shifting back, taking on a more casual tone.

“Which is nothing to say for the other sacrifices you’ll have to make. Physical training if nothing else. We’ll need to get you into shape physically; the Force can do wonders, but the better you are, to begin with, the more it can improve what you can do.” Taylor blinked as she eyed the spirit. Working out? She’d been thinking of running, and getting into shape would be a good idea. Taylor stared at the image of the woman, waiting to see if she was done. The expectant look saw her smoothly responding.

‘I’m tired of being like I am. I don’t want to be small anymore, I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through, and I want to see this through to the end. Besides, if you’re stuck in my head, I should get something out of it.’ Taylor smirked softly at her companion, taking any bite out of her comments. After a moment, the girl's gaze shifted when the sound of the doorknob rattling reached her. Taylor’s form turned a bit, curling into herself in preparation, only relaxing when the door opened to reveal her father’s haggard form carrying a simple tray laden with a hospital meal of some sort.

“Hey, Dad. I figured I should stop being so laz-” The words were casual, an attempt at levity that died on her lips when her Father reacted. Taylor sniffed a bit when her dad let out a strangled gasp, setting down the tray and storming across the room to drag her into a hug. Taylor could only wrap her arms around his broad shoulders, patting him softly on the back in commiseration.

“...You look like you've been awake for two weeks straight." Taylor gently spoke, feeling his arms tightening around her, and she slowly lowered her voice, gently dragging her hands over his back and smiling quietly at the soft, gentle shaking in his body. She stared down at the figure quietly, her fingers slowly moving up to pat him gently on the head.

"I’m sorry, Dad, I didn’t think it’d ever get that bad." The words were murmured against the scratchy skin on her father’s unshaven face as she tightened her arms around him. The hug went on for a few moments before a mild cough returned them both to the land of the living, and they drew apart to glance over at the blonde lawyer lurking in the doorway.

“Miss Hebert. I’m glad that you and your father are feeling better, but we do have some business to attend to before we can let you both focus on recovering from this. Your father has explained much of the situation to me, and I’ve seen the diary. But I want to hear what happened from you.” Taylor watched as Carol took the other chair by the wall, sliding it over and placing it near her bed. She could almost feel Bastila moving to stand on her side. She glanced over at the blonde Lawyer, her eyes dropping to her lap and her cheeks darkening in shame.

“Miss-” The lawyer sighed softly before trying in a more gentle voice, finally making Taylor realize that beyond being Brandish and Carol Dallon, Criminal Law expert, the woman before her was a mother as well. The look in the eyes made her sniffle as she gently picked at her sheets.

“Taylor. I understand that this is hard for you, I’m not doing it to be cruel, but we need a complete picture of what happened.”

Taylor started at the beginning, giving a brief, almost clinical descriptions of the end of her friendship with Emma, pausing when Carol interrupted to verify her name. When the lawyer merely waved her on at her curious look, Taylor related the story of the loss of her mother and the depression that followed. She commented on her terrible time at camp and how she had returned to find that Emma had cut her out of her life entirely. Taylor’s voice had become almost monotone as she continued relating in broad terms the nature of her trials at Winslow. The harassment, the rumours, the games. Her efforts to avoid them, everything slid out. When asked about other evidence she had admitted to a backup of the diary hidden in the attic of their house and a file on the school's local storage that included the more digitally inclined of the Trio’s tortures.

“Well.” Carol adjusted her glasses and set her pen down; the lawyer had been taking notes for the duration of the discussion, making notes and occasionally asking Taylor to clarify things.

“I think that we can help you. We have a pretty good case against the school. That the school has already offered to cover your hospital costs doesn’t make them look good at all. As for the girls, it’s tricky. Criminally, the proof would need to be iron-clad, and I might be unable to help there due to Alan Barnes' position in my law firm, but there’s no conflict of interest in the issues with the school. I’ll work on this and get some notes to your father about what you can expect in terms of each case, and you can both decide what you wish to do going forward.”

“That brings us to the second issue at hand. You’ve been outed. You triggered violently and publicly, and it took mere hours before the news sites were reporting on what happened when you triggered, newspapers and television were slower to follow, reluctant to break the unspoken rules, but once it was out there, they followed. It’s not good. I imagine that Armsmaster was able to make his pitch before I chased him off. I heard you telling him that you’d have to speak with your father about it, and that’s wise. But you should consider joining a team. With your identity out there like this, it’s going to be dangerous. Blasters are common enough, so you’re not a novelty, but the gangs in the city are eager for recruits, and they might try to press-gang you into service. Joining up with the PRT might protect you both from all that.” Carol took a moment to let that sink in before turning her gaze from Danny back to Taylor, studying the girl carefully.

“They almost certainly know that your power damages you, so that should make you less of a priority in terms of recruitment so you might be able to skate by like that Cloth-tinker does downtown, too small peas to be of much use. Do you have any control of your blasts? The PRT does offer training in how to handle your powers, and even if you join up, it might be worth attending a few classes.” The words were spoken gently, and Taylor frowned as she gripped her sheets, contemplating the idea of going back to that man and asking for help.

Taylor lay there in her bed, thinking quietly. She glanced toward the window, taking in the sight of Bastila studying her. Part of her wanted to tell them both about what had happened to her. To explain to her father all about the voices she heard and woman in her head, but she was terrified of what they’d do. If they didn’t believe her, she had finally ascended from her old life of vague anonymity. The Trio had made her a pariah in her olf life, and her triggering had made her one of the capes, one of the heroes or villains and she feared to lose that connection after only just getting it. So instead she lied, adjusting the story to fit their perceptions.

"The lightning isn’t exactly my main power. I can’t even access it normally; it’s only available to me when I’m very angry or very scared. And I don’t know how to use it properly, that’s why it rebounded back onto me when I used it.” The girl’s voice was small and afraid as she glanced over at the woman and her father, taking in their nonplussed expressions.

“When I woke up I understood what I had done, I somehow understood my powers; they’re more… versatile. I have a well of energy that I can tap into to do different things, that was what I could do when afraid, but it’s capable of so much more." Taylor sought a way to prove her point, glancing around.

“The tray, the one that your father brought it. There's a cookie; it's small enough that it should be easy to control, Taylor. Your connection is strong enough to use Force pull, though you’ll need to focus on keeping control of the power.” Blinking, Taylor turned her attention to the tray, one hand raising as she focused her will on the cookie, willing it to obey. When nothing happened, the amused voice in her head chimed in.

“You need to reach into the Force, Taylor, to let your mind drift out before it’ll obey your will.” Huffing softly, Taylor reached out for that warmth with her mind, feeling it rushing up to meet her and she drifted into it, focusing her will on the cookie.

Danny and Carol glanced over watching as after a moment the cookie slowly wobbled up into the air, hovering in place before slowly drifting through the air toward Taylor, the girl’s attention focused solely on it. Taylor’s hand shook a bit as the girl put every once willpower into it as she could, doing her best to keep the cookie from slipping her grasp.

“Fascinating, can you make it m-” Carol had chimed in when the girl’s razor-wire thin control snapped and the cookie shot across the room smashing into the wall above Taylor’s bend and sprinkling the poor girl chocolate chips and cookie crumbs. Staring up at the patch of dust on the wall, Taylor’s voice cut into the silent room.

“Shit," Taylor muttered quietly, sinking down into her bed in embarrassment.


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“Shit,” The tone, the delivery, even the nervous hunch of the shoulders of the black haired girl reminded was so much like Victoria when she fucked up that Carol couldn’t resist. She let out a soft snicker, hearing the man to her laugh, starting to join her. The pair of them chortled together as they stared at Taylor’s slowly deepening blush. When the girl gripped her blankets and pulled up them around her face and sank down into the bed, her cheeks remaining as red as the setting sun Carol finally lost her control and fell back against her chair and burst out laughing as she stared at the tiny mark that the poor baked good had made on the wall.

“That brings back memories,” Danny spoke as he wiped a tear from his eye, getting his chuckles under control. He glanced over, and Carol lifted an eyebrow as she felt her own chuckles dying down.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that word, said that way. There were a few years, though, that I’d often hear a crash or a bang, and I’d come into a room just in time to see Taylor standing there saying it just like that. Her mother -hated- that I taught her that particular word, and I always get a dark glare. Lucking for me E-” He paused, frowning as he considered what he’d almost said. Carol glanced overtaking in Taylor’s nervous peeking out of the blankets at them both, and her rather telling silence.

“Her friend never really picked up the habit. I doubt that her father would have been too pleased. Though. Considering.” Carol blinked quietly and frowned when Danny dropped the subject and glowered at his hands. Rather than letting the pair dwell on their dark thoughts, she smoothly cut in, offering the two an almost casual smile.

“Well, I’m distinctly more familiar with that sound. My daughter, Victoria, still says it just like that when she smashes a door, or breaks a phone, or accidentally punts one of the lawn ornaments into the next zip code.” Carol’s voice was soft, laced with amusement, and she watched as both of the Heberts turned to focus on her, offering matching nervous smiles. Figuring that the situation had been defused, she casually changed the subject.

“So you said that you have access to other powers? What else can you do anything beyond the electrical blasts and the telekinesis.” Despite her calm and self-assured words, her mind was spinning. The PRT had her classed as a Blaster 2 or 3 at best for what she’d done to the lockers, if this got out, it could be a blood bath.

“I can’t do much now, the…” Taylor’s voice trailed off as she seemed to drift deeper in thought as she tried to figure out how to explain this. She took a deep breath before moving to gesture with her hands in an explanation of sorts.

“So I can tell that my pool of power is broad, and when I think of ‘issues’ things that I need to solve, solutions come to me. For that, I thought of wanting that cookie and the knowledge of how to bring it to me without walking to it came into my mind.” Taylor quickly spoke, and Carol leaned forward, listening with fascination.

“I get the feeling that I can do a lot of things, but only the most basic don’t require any sort of...practice. The more I practice, the easier the skills I use will come to me. It also seems like some skills will lead to others.” The girl seemed to pause and shake her head, tilting her head to the side as if focusing. Carol watched her curiously.

“From what I’ve been able to piece together so far; I could use it to augment myself, physically or mentally. I could move faster, jump higher. I could augment my reflexes and understanding. I can apparently heal myself, and I can use that power. I showed you to move things. It's more versatile than that though; It could be used to create barriers, or even to weaponize my environment. I think I’ll be able to use waves of force eventually? But that’s pretty far off. At the moment, my powers are telling me that I’d have to work hard at them to do much of anything. Exercise, working out and practicing is all I’ll be able to do for a while.” The girl spoke carefully, considering something it seemed, as she sat stock still, her eyes closed.

“Taylor that’s… That’s a very dangerous power-set. You’re starting to sound almost like Eidolon. A limited form of his power perhaps, but if that got out, you’d never be able to get any peace from the gangs if they knew what you could do.” As she spoke, the woman’s mind was spinning. She was a trump four, at least, with nothing to say of any other hidden powers that Taylor might have. She adjusted her pose as Taylor nodded in thought, her gaze shifting to Danny, watching his fists clench.

“Taylor, I’ll help protect your secret as best as I can, but this means that you need to consider joining some team seriously. The PRT might have seemed heavy-handed earlier, but they could help you, keep you alive long enough that you might be able to learn to survive on your own.” Carol considered Taylor’s reaction carefully before offering a different option.

“Sarah typically handles the new offers, but I doubt she’d mind this. While New Wave hasn’t been officially recruiting in a while, but you’ve already been unmasked, we could mentor you at least if that’d be more palatable than the Wards. Our benefits package is less impressive, but we’re a smaller team, so it’d be more hands on.” She studied the girl, chuckling wryly as Taylor considered it. She saw when the girl decided against it, shaking her head slowly.

“I appreciate the offer, Mrs. Dallon, but at this point, I’m not even sure if I want to participate in the cape community. I’ve barely got any powers, and most people don’t see me as a threat. I was the girl that was publicly bullied and triggered, but most people thought I was gonna die from using my powers. Hopefully, that’ll protect me for a while.” The girl’s voice was careful and polite, and when Carol felt herself smiling unconsciously at the girl, Taylor returned it quickly.

“I want to get to know just who I am with all this going on before I commit to anything. I wouldn’t want to disrupt your group only just to leave later if my powers pull me in a different direction.” The girl was good with words; Carol would give her that. And she did have a point about the dynamics. Things could get complicated if she were to show up with a new recruit without even talking to Sarah or the others. She’d have to mention this at least and get their impressions.

“I understand, Taylor. I can appreciate that sentiment. If you change your mind, feel free to contact me. I’ve got a meeting in an hour that I should be getting to, and then I’ll get started on the preparations for your case. We’ll speak more in the coming weeks, so try to stay out of trouble as best you can. Being seen as recovering and healthy, especially mentally, will only make the school's defence seem even more ludicrous. From what your father has mentioned, they were originally attempting to claim that you put yourself in there.” Waiting till the two occupants of the room had nodded at her, she slipped to her feet, turning and striding from the room, each step accompanied by the slow, powerful click of her high heels.

When she heard the soft wheeze from the room behind her, she paused at the doorway, listening carefully as Taylor’s voice softly whispered toward her father.

“D-Dad. New Wave just offered me a position. Mom would freak.” Her voice was soft and laced with sadness. But the wry little chuckle from the other occupant of the room saw Carol smiling faintly.

“She’d probably kick your ass for turning them down.” His voice was laced with nostalgia and Carol would gently close the door before moving on with her business for the day, her thoughts rarely drifting from her newest client despite the busy schedule that she had.

Chapter Text

Interlude 1
Subject: Updated Protectorate File on Taylor Hebert, <Cape Name Indeterminate>

Armsmaster requested my help in tidying up and arranging this file, I've sent along copies to yourself and Armsmaster.


--- Attachment Included ---

◈ INDETERMINATE; Taylor Hebert
Classification: Brute 1, Blaster 2-4, {Thinker 2}
Minor (Apparently Conscious and drawn out) Healing Factor. Lightning Attack with medium to long range with moderate collateral damage. [Edit: In a recent Interview, Armsmaster came to suspect that the host possesses some form of Thinker power similar to cold reading.]

Disposition: Independent
Location: Brockton Bay. [[Currently Hospitalized in St Elmo’s General Hospital.]]
Age: 16 Status: Student, Prospective Ward, Disinterested
Height: 5’8” Weight: 90 lbs.

Appearance: Tall, and slim. Brown eyes and Hair. Poor Eyesight requires the use of glasses.

[Pre-Trigger] Subject is the only daughter of Daniel Hebert and Annette Hebert. Subject's father is an administrative member of the Dockworkers Union and works extensively in the blue-collar community, well thought of by his peers and spoken of with some trepidation by his opponents on the city council. Mother was a member of Lustrum’s gang during graduate studies, exited gang prior to Lustrum's death. Subject’s Mother was killed in a car crash in 2008. Later investigations ruled that the wreck was an accident. A targetted and malicious campaign of bullying has been directed at the Subject over the last few years.

[01/11/2011] Protectorate notified of Parahuman triggering publicly in a school. Investigations determined that the subject had been trapped within a locker filled with human waste as part of ongoing harassment from fellow students. This event apparently served as the subjects trigger, and she was able to use her powers to escape from the locker. The subject was found in critical condition on the floor near to the damaged lockers and required transportation to a local hospital in critical condition. [Subject was admitted to St. Elmo's General Hospital.]

[01/11/2011 - 2] Further investigation revealed that the instigators of the campaign were a trio of girls that included [Redacted]'s civilian identity. Details forwarded to Miss Militia and Emily Piggot as the relevant officials. [Update: The instigator’s name has been altered to protect their identity. After investigating the instigator was placed under administrative observation and removed from Winslow High. After considering the state of the subject, PRT Command determined that preserving the Instigator’s Identity was more strategically viable. Private punishments to follow, See Instigator’s File for more details.]

[01/12/2011] Subject remains in critical condition. Has severe third degree burns on 12% of her body, with an additional 32% covered in second and third-degree burns. Septicemia remains a constant concern, and the girl has severe neurological trauma. Between the persistent fever, the seizures and the infections her prognosis is very poor. Most of the damage seems to be self-inflicted, either from attempts to escape her locker or her usage of her powers, the lightning itself washing back into the subject when in use. Whether this is typical for her power usage, or a result of the situation remains to be seen.

[01/13/2011] Subject’s name revealed on National television after being released across the board on various forums, internet news sites, and cape unmasking sites. PRT Public Relations assigned to the situation with intents of redirecting the stories away from the bullying and toward Taylor’s tragic story and the dangers of triggering. Recommend leaving Instigator in place until the attention on Winslow High’s student body dies down, removing them now could damage their secret identity.

Local News seems content on reporting on the subjects name, apparent power set, and the damage that was done to her and the school as a result of bullying, stories seemed aimed at stopping rampant bullying around the country. News agencies seem reluctant to focus too closely on the particulars of the situation, considering the gang connections to Winslow High this might be wise.

[01/24/2011] Subject has begun to show signs of increased recovery. Subject awoke in a delirious state on the late evening of the twenty-second, and after muttering to herself, she drifted into a deep sleep followed by a coma and then persistent vegetative state. Initial guesses were that her body was finally giving up, but her form began to recover quickly. Detailed scans on her body revealed that she was in a deep sleep of some fashion and her recovery has proceeded apace since. Recommend stationing a Protectorate or PRT agent close at hand to speak with Subject when she awakens, and to deter anyone else from making an attempt to abscond with the subject as she convalesces.

[02/01/2011] Armsmaster assigned to the Subject as the point of contact, Dragon has agreed to keep the hospital under observation remotely to ensure that no attempts on the subject are made before she awakens. Recommend approaching subject’s Father in the coming weeks to broach the subject of wards membership. Subjects compromised identity and powerset would work well with the existing team, though caution is advised due to potential conflict with [Redacted.] 

[Edit: Cape name removed to protect the identity of the Ward in question, please refrain from mentioning the Instigator in this file, this could be inflammatory if Subject ever gains access to this file.]

[02/14/2011] Armsmaster placed himself in a position to speak with the Subject once she wakes up. He'd approached the subject’s father, and the man seemed reluctant to commit to having his daughter join the wards without consulting with her.

[02/18/2011] Armsmaster interviewed the Subject upon her waking and having seemingly recovered. The Interview was cut short when the Subjects attorney [Carol Dallon - Brandish] entered the scene and convinced Armsmaster to retreat. [[Dragon: Armsmaster observed a currently unknown aspect of the subject’s powerset in the interview. She seemed to be cold-reading him despite his mask, using minor facial cues and body language to determine his emotional state. Armsmaster recommended increasing the subject’s power classifications to include a Thinker rating of 2.]]

Students interviewed about the subject are divided. Most students in private expressed misgivings about the Subject, describing her as mousy, creepy, or small, often at the edges of the group and always worried about her surroundings. This would fit with the psychological profile of someone undergoing continued psychological trauma. When in front of the camera, most of the students described the girl favourably, describing her trauma’s as ‘inspiring’ and hoping that they get to help her in the future.

Teachers interviewed were much less divided. Most seemed to think that the girl was a troublemaker, though questions about the source of their conclusions most admitted that the girl was often caught by fellow students to be committing acts of cheating or work dodging. When confronted about the evidence of the bullying, most were quick to defend their lack of action, one teacher even commenting that they’d attempted to assist her, and had been summarily rebuffed, so he felt that she had hoped to deal with it on her own.

[02/18/2011 - Armsmaster] Subject interviewed as she recovered. While I’m not an expert in this field, I’ll share my observations. She seemed almost pre-naturally calm, and her accent would constantly shift as she drifted in and out of focus, speculation is that she was using some thinker power to try and read me. This same power seems to have blunted her reactions, though the subject could merely be in shock, a more in-depth analysis would be required to get a good grasp on the subjects mental state.


Subject has the ability to generate directed blasts of electricity from her hands. Energy seems to generate over the entire body but is directed through the hands. [See Transcription below.] Subject has a low-level healing factor that seems to require at least a semi-conscious effort to activate. [Subject appears to have a minor Thinker Power that allows her to read the reactions of those around her and perhaps marshal control of her emotional state. - Pending approval]

[Transcribed from [REDACTED]’s Report on the trigger event.] [REDACTED] was interviewed upon leaving the hospital. [REDACTED] confirms that she was walking past when she heard the subject struggling and crying out within the locker. Before [REDACTED] could approach much closer a wave of force washed out and smashed in the lockers on either side of the hall, cracking the floor in the process and then Lightning began to spread over the floor and lockers in waves. A few moments later a blast of this same lightning destroyed the locker she was trapped in nearly entirely.

The locker itself was expelled across the hall and struck [REDACTED], and it had somehow been affected in a way that it was able to force [REDACTED] out of her Breaker State, leaving her injured on the ground. Further observation revealed the damage itself was extensive. [REDACTED] couldn’t access her powers for nearly an hour after being struck by the Lightning and she experienced occasional aches and tremors for almost a week after being exposed to the power. Whether this was a factor of [REDACTED]’s known weakness to Electrical Fields, or an aspect of the power remains to be seen.


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February 18th, 2011
Brockton Bay PRT HQ

Raising a hand to press fingers to her forehead, an attempt try and ineffectively still the throbbing headache that had begun to develop, Emily Piggot turned her attention from the screen of her computer toward Armsmaster, watching as did his best to sit uncomfortably on the opposite side of her cluttered desk. Seeing the figure opposite her doing his best to hide his squirming she slowly raised a single eyebrow, lifting her arms to rest her elbows on the desk and lacing her fingers together. When Armsmaster moved to open his mouth, Emily let herself hold up a singly pudgy finger, waiting until the parahuman closed his lips before speaking.

“So. Let’s start with Brandish then. How exactly did Carol Dallon end up interrupting your interview? You were camped outside Taylor Hebert's room for three days, and you spoke with Her Father, correct? Did he mention anything about her before she stormed into that room?” Her narrow eyes locked on the man, waiting for him to think, taking in his almost affronted pose, and the clench of his jaw. She waited patiently as Armsmaster marshalled his thoughts before speaking.

“No. He was very upfront and open with me, despite his reluctance to commit to admitting his daughter to the wards without discussing it with her first. He was perfectly cordial and polite until I began to try and apply pressure to him. I mentioned the damage and the Shadow Stalkers injuries and his face seemed to shut down. I got the impression that he was doing everything in his power to keep from striking me, so I opted to halt that approach rather than having him demand that I vacate the premises.” One shoulder raised just a tiny touch as the figure turned his visor toward Emily’s computer. “I had imagined that he’d probably discourage Taylor’s joining if I was outright hostile with him.”

“Mn.” Emily murmured, shifting her attention from the tinker to her computer, tapping a few times and clicking. “And this bit about the interview? You said that she seemed odd?” The woman turned back to Armsmaster.

“I’ve spoken with nearly three dozen fresh triggers over the years, and she was the least traumatized of the lot. She seemed almost calm, pristine. She sat there looking like she was in control of the situation. She casually shut down my offers, and pre-emptively picked apart the hard sell that you suggested. And then she started picking apart my motivations. Half the time it felt like she wasn’t even looking at me, her eyes would lose focus, or she’d stare at my jaw and body. Dragon thinks that she was reading my posture and expression somehow. It’s why I suggested the thinker rating. Even if Dallon hadn’t arrived, I would have stepped out, considering how she was picking me apart.” Emily did her best to keep from smirking as Armsmaster spoke, his pose saying that he was staring directly into her eyes. “There are certain precautions in place for dealing with fresh Thinkers after all.”

“Yes, probably best to have other thinkers make the next attempt.” Nodding absently in agreement the director studied the file on her screen scrolling down. “There’s this part that was added at the end, mention of her disrupting Shadow Stalkers Powers. Why isn’t there a trump rating in there?” She turned her attention back to the Tinker, lifting her eyebrow again. Watching the tension across his shoulders as he began to speak almost monotonously, the director did her best to keep from smirking.

“We’re currently unsure if it’s an actual Trump Power, or if it was simply Shadow Stalker’s power reacting to electricity. We know that she’s especially vulnerable to electricity in her breaker state, and it could be a poor power synergy, though considering how she was involved in the girl’s trigger, it might be linked. We’re aware that certain powers tend to develop when other powers are used near them.” Figuring that man wasn’t done, Emily watched him until she continued after a moment, making his almost inevitable suggestion. “We could add a note about it in her power section, hinting at the possibility just in case?”

Nodding, Emily turned back to her computer, quickly and precisely making the necessary changes and thinking about the girl. Her powers seemed useful, and if they could figure out a way to safely use that lightning, Taylor could be an asset in the field. There were no powerful blasters on the Wards ENE, and someone to counter Purity would be helpful. The issue was with Shadow Stalker, if that detail came out it’d be disastrous.

“Director.” The voice from Armsmaster drew her attention back to him and the Director paused her typing, she stared over her monitor at him, raising an eyebrow as she waited for him to continue. “In investigating the situation in a bit more depth, I can’t help but feel a bit responsible for this. Admittedly, most of my focus on the wards has been with Chris. I’d like to take a more active role with the team. I’m not interested in stepping on Miss Militia’s toes, and I understand that she’s taken Sophia’s case on personally, but I’d like to be more active with the rest.”

Piggot stared at him silently for a few moments, rapping her fingers on the desk before finally letting her expression break a touch, chuckling softly. “About damn time. You’re welcome to do as you wish with the wards, although typical rules about requisitions and mission remain, I hope that you’ve learned from this. This was nearly a career-ending disaster for all of us, and we’re not even out of the woods at this point. Make sure that nothing like this happens again, or you’ll be the one that I throw under the bus.” Emily gave him a severe look, secretly amused at the faint image of him swallowing before waving a hand.

“Alright, get out of my office. I have to tidy this up and send it on to my bosses.” As she watched him standing carefully and exiting the office, Emily turned her attention back to the file on her computer. It wasn’t enough to save the girl that Sophia had tortured, but perhaps this could, at least, keep it from happening again.

Chapter Text

March 20th, 2011
Docks South, Brockton Bay

The sound of her battered sneakers slapping on the pavement was her metronome and Taylor moved in time with them, carefully timing her breaths as she kept her arms in motion, focusing on the road ahead. As she ran, the dark-haired girl's thoughts turned inward, contemplating how easy it had been to get used to the changes that her life had undergone. The running was a prime example.

When she’d first started, she’d been almost paranoid, constantly altering her routes, her timings. She’d watched with almost paranoid eyes for the attack that she was sure was coming. She waited for the gangsters to emerge from the woodwork, make her an offer that she couldn’t refuse. Then one week without a response had turned into two. Two had turned into four, and she’d realized that no one cared.

Most people didn’t even see her, didn’t pay attention. She was another young woman in comfortable clothes jogging up a street, and she revelled in the anonymity. For so long everyone had known her name, eyes had regularly watched her, and now as she huffed and felt her lungs burning she felt the eyes of the many pedestrians sliding off with almost supernatural ease.

Dark brown eyes swept from one side of the street to the other. She took in the people opening their shops, sweeping the sidewalks. She nodded at the few people that glanced at her and continued along, wishing not for the first time that she had some sort of music to make the long stretches of silence more bearable. She knew that Bastila could replay music or recite things for her, but it wasn’t quite the same as loud music to silence the world around her. And a person with earbuds in their ears had a certain air about them that discouraged interruptions.

As Taylor pushed her way up a steep hill, the burn in her legs and her chest tempted her to reach out for the Force to soothe away the ache. Instead of giving in to the desire, she gritted her teeth and pushed through the pain. The warmth in her head hinted that the spirit was proud, and Taylor slowly rolled her eyes. In truth, times like this were meant to be private, but she didn’t begrudge Bastila her encouragement. While she understood the reasoning behind the training, a little support certainly made the pill easier to swallow.

In truth, Taylor had been swallowing quite a few pills lately, both figuratively and literally. Taylor wryly remembered the negotiations about her free time that had happened as she headed down Fifth, moving carefully to keep in broad view of the various shops she passed. Her body often ached most nights, and this was following her own modified version of the Jedi training regimen.

Initially, Bastila had hoped to have her follow the Jedi method of training with its five periods of meditation every day on top of the physical therapy. Many arguments had ensued before Taylor had reached a compromise with the spirit. Six hours for Entertainment, Eight hours for training to be split between schoolwork and Jedi Training, and the remainder that wasn’t allocated to sleep and the various other logistical concerns such as eating, cleaning, chores, and personal hygiene.

If Taylor was being honest, considering that her homework usually took about three hours, she felt that this left her with plenty of time for training. Often, the schedule would start with an hour or two of actually using the Force in the mornings, practicing her control of the powers that she had access to, before speaking with Bastila on philosophy, and then starting her run.

As she crested the hill that marked the end of Fifth, she descended into Downtown. Leaving the cracked sidewalks of the plaza, Taylor ran down the paths and through the central park that sat between the city's central library and City Hall — walking casually down the grey stone path. The dark-haired girl let out a long low whistle as she considered the gloomy skies and the heavy wind, briefly studying the sky. She shook her head at the first few drops of water crashing onto her bare hands and moved to hustle toward the library.

She could flip around her schedule today, get some time in the library first and then do her exercises afterwards. As she hustled up toward the library, she did a few simple stretches with her legs that would hopefully keep the limbs from cramping up while she worked. She hurried in the drizzling rain, ducking into a door being held open by an amused looking college kid. She flashed him a thankful smile before ducking in and out of the shower.

Taking a moment to pause in the rotunda of the vast library, Taylor spread her mind outward and released a combination of invitation and tolerance, her signal to Bastila that the guidance of the spirit was welcome. With a shimmer the by now familiar form of the Jedi Master appeared at her side, flashing her a bemused smile. Taylor watched as Bastila moved away from her, the spirit eagerly approaching the stacks. Taylor let a soft smile grace her lips as she trailed along.

She moved through the tables of students studying, glancing around at the oddly busy Library and then she made it past the workspace and into the tall stacks. She briefly paused near the books taking a deep breath and revelling in the smell of the books; the scent of paper and ink and plastic lingering in her nose. She let the aroma ghost through her mind, and a flicker of memory washed behind her eyes, words that her mother had once spoken to her as they’d curled up on a chair with a book hiding from the rain.

‘Can you smell it yet?’ The image ghosted past her mind, and Taylor let out a sad smile as she anticipated the words, whispering softly in time with the words in her mind.

“The scent of new books, the smell of unread adventure. Friends you haven’t met yet, and hours of magical escapism awaiting you.” Taylor muttered the words, glancing over at the fiction section almost mournfully for a few moments before the sensation of eyes on her saw her turning to flash a rueful smile in Bastila’s direction. The sight of another pair of dark brown eyes watching her made her start.

She blushed at the attention from the older girl, the curious lift of the eyebrow, causing her to squirm a bit and bow her head. She didn’t wait for the odd well-dressed girl to call her on her oddness. She quickly ducked past her and vanished into the psychology section. She quietly headed down the eyes shooting the distinctly amused looking Bastila a venomous look before shooting a thought her way.

‘The periodicals probably aren’t open yet, so I suppose that we have to pick between the aisles. History? Psychology, perhaps? Philosophy is making my brain melt, so we should pass on that. Uhm, Some more anatomy? Or we could do something new, a bit of Sociology, perhaps?’ Taylor glanced over at Bastila and chuckled when the woman merely gestured at her, indicating that the choice was hers. Taylor let out an amused huff and moved down the aisles of the Library, carefully tracing her fingers along the spine of the books, curiously touching the tomes, frowning as the words jumped out her.

Loss, and pain. Adaptation and coping. Taylor came to the end of the aisle and collected one of the weightier tomes on the subject, slowly folding it open and skimming through the pages. She considered the images as she read the topics of the chapters, coming to a stop on the sad eyes of a very young boy on a page that was simply titled; Milgram experiment. The image caught Taylor’s eye, and she briefly skimmed the text, frowning at the words that jumped out. She shook her head, muttering to herself as she snapped the book shut.

“People can be such monsters. Though I guess I didn’t need a book to tell me that.” She shook her head, snapping the book shut and glancing up at the chuckle, flushing at the now-familiar chocolate eyes studying her. She stood still and nervously felt her cheeks darkening as she considered the strange woman. When the girl stepped close and spoke faintly, Taylor blinked.

“There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes into work every day and has a job to do.” Taylor stared blankly at the strange girl as she nodded and then lazily wandered off. Taylor stared in confusion after the girl before speaking softly.

“D-Did she...Did she just quote Pratchett at me?” She huffed and shook her head, shoving her book of choice back onto the shelf and ignoring Bastila’s amused chuckles as she made her way back up the aisle.

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Taylor flopped over and banged her head down on her books, puffing out her cheeks as she tried to read the words with her face mashed up against them. This wasn’t strictly the most efficient method of consuming the information in the book, but it did amuse her. She felt the wash of amusement before sitting up and glancing at the image of Bastila’s form sat in the chair opposite her.

“It doesn’t make sense.” Bastila’s voice was soft as she gestured at the book before Taylor. The girl had collected almost every tome about Parahuman psychology that she could find, adding a few general reference tomes to cross-reference things. Taylor groaned quietly as she shrugged her shoulders.

‘I understand Bastila,’ The girl thought quietly, rolling her eyes at her teacher. ‘But, I didn’t write the book, and I’m just reading it. Despite how crazy it seems, everyone plays by the rules. That’s just how it is. When people break the rules, like Gavel, or whatever, the villains do band together and put him down. Barring S-class threats so dangerous that no one is willing to face them? Everyone plays by the rules.’ Taylor’s mental voice was sure, and she flipped the pages quietly inspecting the various sources noted in the book, humming.

“Taylor, I’m telling you, criminals don’t play games like this…” Bastila’s voice paused, and she frowned as she leaned forward, resting her arms on the table.

“Unless they’re forced to do so by something higher on the food chain. Back home, the Emperor would make his Sith Lords play games like this, but they’d never choose to do it willingly.” Taylor hummed faintly as she flipped the pages before switching back to the other book that mentioned the ‘unwritten rules.’ This one was apparently the brainchild of a Tinker that’d ended up in prison in Pheonix, and it read much less dryly then the academically produced one.

‘I mean, I don’t know what to say. It doesn’t mention some great equalizing force, but I guess it’s possible — something behind the scenes keeping the people playing along. The rules themselves seem like they’re geared toward like, keeping us from killing each other. We get to play out at being criminals, or villains and heroes, but when there’s a big threat, like an endbringer, we’re all there to lend our aid.’ Taylor hummed as she considered. She watched as Bastila hunched down, getting deeper in thought. She studied the woman for a moment before a thump drew her attention to the side.

The dark haired girl that’d caught her talking to herself twice had just smacked her head down into her book much like Taylor just had as she was letting out a low, irritated groan. Taylor glanced at Bastila’s distracted face, and she slipped out of her chair.

She watched the girl nervously as she approached, stilling and pausing near her for a few moments as she reconsidered even interacting. She must have loomed too long because the girl reacted, tilting her head to the side and peeking over her shoulder.

“Your method of literature osmosis doesn’t seem effective.” The words washed into Taylor, and she blushed before blinking quietly. When she didn’t respond, the girl snorted and lifted her head and turning more fully to face her. “I saw you banging your head on your book, and I figured that it might help, certainly couldn’t hurt..” Taylor blinked and chuckled before slipping closer, peering down at the massive pile of books around the girl. She inspected the tomes curiously before speaking.

“Having issues with your assignment?” She spoke quietly before watching as the girl glanced around at her books and snorted.

“Yeah. Ethics 101. The assignment is on ‘Transformative Identity.’ Whatever the heck, that means.” Taylor blinked as she slid closer, gently tugging on the assignment and carefully reading the oddly worded question. Bonus points, smart teacher. She snorted, and the girl glanced up at her.

“Your teacher is pulling a fast one. It’s uh. The Ship of Theseus.” She glanced at the girl and seeing the blank look she chuckled.

“It’s a bit beyond 101 level philosophy, but I guess that’s why the question is bonus points, but it’s based on this thought experiment posed by this Greek philosopher and historian. Well, most people assume that he stole the experiment from Plato but…” Seeing the girl’s eyes glazing over, Taylor shifted and shrugged.

“Unimportant, but basically, the uh, experiment goes that if an object has all of its parts replaced one by one, is it still the same object once everything has been replaced.” Seeing the confused look on the girl’s face, she quietly reached for an example.

“Star Trek? You know it?” She saw the girls cautious nod, and she pulled out a chair, taking a seat and gesturing with her hands.

“So the transporters right. They break you apart here and then re-assemble you there with stuff that’s there. Ship of Theseus is all about whether the you that’s there, at the other end is actually ‘you’ and not some. Perfect copy with all your memories but lacking some fundamental aspect that makes them ‘you.’” She hummed faintly.

“It’s all about identity. Is there something that makes you ‘You’ with a capital y. If there’s some aspect of you as you exist now that is transitive into the you that you become over time. Questions about what would stop them from copying you now and then there being two ‘You’s’ running around. It’s a complicated field of thought, but I’d uh. Brief description of the thought experiment and the name should get you your bonus points. Right?” Taylor muttered, glancing down at the booklet that the girl was working out of.

The dark haired girl stared at her and chuckled before quickly writing down the answer. Taylor had been about to back off when the girl scooted closer and pointed at a different response on her page.

“I was confused by this one too, do you have any idea?” Taylor blinked and leaned in quietly, humming as she read the question on the page and the answer before letting out a snicker.

“Oh, uh. This isn’t quite right. See you’ve confused metaphysic materialism and idealism with the uh, other definitions…” Taylor quickly launched into a brief explanation of the concepts, grinning as the other girl hunched down and listened quietly.

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“Shit.” The words startled Sabah, and she glanced up, peering over at the other girl who’d suddenly jerked up, staring at her watch. “Shit, Shit, Shit. I’ve gotta go.” She flushed and squirmed out of her chair, hopping up to her feet and freezing.

“Uh. Are you good with all this? I gotta put my books away and get going I’m super behind schedule.” The girl flashed her a nervous smile, and Sabah blinked before nodding quietly. She watched as the black haired girl, scampered over and collected the massive pile of books on her table, moving across the floor and collecting the huge collection of books from her desk.

Sabah found herself chuckling when the girl stumbled, dropping a few and wincing as the librarians all glanced at her. She quickly ran over, dumping the pile on the return cart and sorting them out before running back and collecting her books, her cheeks stained red in embarrassment. She spent a few minutes quickly sorting things out before turning and heading toward the check out desks, and Sabah turned her attention back to her work.

She considered the books before her carefully selecting the three that would be most helpful before jotting down the last few notes that the girl had shared before packing up her own things. Lunch was rapidly approaching, and she’d have just enough time to scarf it down before she had to be in her next design class. She carefully collected her own books, putting them in the return cart.

Sabah was a bit disappointed when she glanced up and saw that the tall girl had vanished while she was cleaning up and she headed toward the counter, checking out her own books quickly and moving toward the exit.

Emerging into the gloom, Sabah took a moment to take a deep breath, inhaling the fresh spring air and revelling in that post-rain scent, the world still a touch damp but the meagre sun shafts peeking through the clouds were quickly clearing it away. A quick walk through the plaza found her a small diner to collect a sandwich from, and she’d head out into the afternoon. Figuring that she could find someplace dry to eat once she got back to school, she set out cutting across the park.

“...ook at her move.” The hushed words caused her to pause, and she glanced to the side, seeing a group of young mothers with their daughters sitting on a bench and staring off to one side. Sabah moved over toward them, peering past the copse of trees and letting out a soft gasp.

Her new friend was there, and she was in the middle of a martial arts practice of some sort. She moved with almost fluid grace, her form smoothly and precisely shifting from pose to pose. Sabah had seen other martial artists before, at school events, or on the television when she’d visited bars with friends from her old program, and there was something otherworldly about the way that the girl moved.

She bent over nearly 90 degrees at one point actually pivoting around some unseen strike before snapping back up and spinning through a kick that saw both of her feet twirling around and lashing out. The movements were sure and practiced, and Sabah glanced over when she heard someone speaking.

“It’s fascinating, isn’t it?” She glanced over and saw the mothers staring at her in amusement, and she blushed prettily, adjusting her outfit. When she didn’t respond, one of the older women let out an amused smirk.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing. Pretty young girl learning to defend herself like that, and you can tell that she’s enjoying herself.” Sabah blinked and glanced back, taking in the other girl’s face. The hint of awkwardness that had lurked around the other girl when they’d spoken had been dispelled, and a small grin of joy was visible on her face as she moved and danced along the ground.

Sabah watched as the girl landed on the ground and pivoted on her foot, lashing out in a spinning kick before slowly dropping onto both feet. She fell into an odd sort of crouch, breathing heavily and taking a moment to collect herself. She heard the impressed sounds of the women next to her, and she quickly slipped over the damp grass, coming to a stop near the other girl and letting out a polite cough.

She almost laughed when the girl leapt like a scalded cat and spun into a ready pose, her hands coming up. The girl stared at her, shocked for a few moments before nervously lowering her hands, that awkward smile coming back to her face. The girl shifted on her feet before speaking quickly.

“Oh, Hey, uh…” She paused and blinked quietly, and Sabah grinned as the girl finally came to the realization that they hadn’t actually exchanged names before the black-haired girl had simply started fixing all of her homework for her. Sabah took pity on the other girl though, quickly reaching up and offering out the bottle of water that she’d bought with her lunch. When the girl nervously took it, she spoke softly.

“It’s Sabah. We didn’t actually introduce ourselves back there.” She held out her other hand and watched the other girl awkwardly juggling the bottle before reaching out shake.

“Taylor, it’s uh. Nice to meet you, Sabah. That was uh. Pretty poor manners.” Sabah grinned when Taylor shifted back and cracked the bottle, taking a long sip before wiping at her forehead. Sabah considered the girl before shifting back on her heels. She studied the taller girl curiously, taking in her features before speaking slowly, her words caged carefully.

“Eh. You did come swooping in out of the blue to save a poor damsel from the mysteries of ancient riddles, so I shall, of course, forgive your indiscretion this time.” The words were spoken with a teasing smile, and she watched as Taylor seemed to consider her curiously for a moment before nervously smiling and rubbing at the back of her neck.

“Yeah, that’s uh. That’s me. Always there to lend a helping hand to a damsel in distress.” She’d cough nervously, and Sabah let out a snort. She waved to a nearby bench and Taylor nodded, following. Sabah dropped onto the bench and unwrapped her sandwich, setting it on her lap. She glanced up at the other girl.

“So, Martial arts, Psychology, and Philosophy, and you’re apparently some form of drive-by peer tutor?” She glanced at the girl curiously and snickered when the other girl shrugged and dropped down next to her, rubbing at her cheek.

“I uh. I like to keep busy.” The girl smiled faintly, and Sabah shrugged before casually offering half the sandwich over. The other girl stared at it curiously before shrugging and taking it. She sniffed it quietly before taking a nervous bit and tilting her head as she chewed. She seemed to stare at the sandwich considering it.

“It’s Lamb.” She spoke with amusement, pointing at the nearby Greek restaurant. “Spiced lamb, not bad in a sandwich. I was in a bit of a hurry.” The other girl seemed to shrug before moving to take another larger bite and chewing thoughtfully as she sipped at the water. Sabah considered the girl quietly before proceeding to speak again.

“So, uh. The Martial arts you were doing? I know it’s not Tai Chi, and it didn’t look like Jiu Jitsu or Krav Maga. What’s it called?” She watched as Taylor took a moment to quickly chew and swallow, wiping at her mouth before speaking.

“It’s called Matukai, of those it’s closest to Tai Chi, in that it’s more about meditation then being used as a weapon, though it’s more helpful in combat then Tai Chi typically is.” The girl spoke quickly, and Sabah hummed, quickly adding Exercise Science, to the list of possible majors that the other girl had. She was tempted to ask, but half the fun in the game was guessing what other student’s majors were. Before she could worry on it more, the other girl quietly leaned forward and continued to speak.

“I usually do it post run, but the weather outside was pretty poor earlier. It helps center me.” Taylor hummed faintly before shrugging. “It’s a good way to get your schedule ironed out.” The other girl leaned back and took a bite of the sandwich, glancing over at Sabah quietly and considering her. She opened her mouth as if she was about to ask something before the clock tower on the mayoral hall let out a loud ‘bong’ and the girl winced.

“Right. I’ve gotta get going, it’s my turn to make dinner, and I’ve got to hit up the butchers on the way home. But. I generally swing past here most days? Maybe I’ll see around?” The girl slid to her feet, and Sabah blinked, leaning forward and nodding quietly despite how rare it was that she actually got around to the library. She considered the taller girl, and on a whim, she spoke.

“How about, uh. Tomorrow? I’ve got to do some work on a few projects, and maybe you could help out?” Taylor seemed to pause and consider for a few moments before nodding quietly.

“Yeah. I’ll have more time. I usually do my post-run exercises down here around 11:30, if you want to can meet me here, and we can go over whatever you’re working on? I might not know much, but I can certainly fact check from a book.” The girl hummed and shrugged her shoulders. Sabah considered her for a few moments before letting out a snort.

“Anyway, I gotta go. I’m here most days at that time, so if you don’t see me, I’ll be around. Nice meeting you, Sabah, good luck with your assignment.” She snorted and turned to leave, jogging a few feet away. She paused and spun in place, switching back to facing her and Sabah blinked as the girl casually shouted something at her.

“Thanks for the sandwich.” She’d wave it playfully before turning and heading off, nibbling on it quietly. Sabah sat back, finishing the other half of her lunch and watching the girl disappear, only realizing as she vanished out of the park that she hadn’t bothered to get the other girl’s cell phone number. Oh well, there was always tomorrow.

She finished her half of the food before getting to her feet and dusting off her hands and heading off toward school. She only had twenty minutes before she had to be in her next class.

Chapter Text

April 2nd, 2011
Brockton Bay Docks

The rumble of the ageing truck was like a balm to Danny’s soul. Often the feeling of the ageing beast rattling through his bones was the first sign that his body got that he was going home, that he’d soon be out of his uncomfortable work shoes, and relaxing on something comfortable. This was almost certainly the reason that he’d never gotten the ageing truck’s battered engine fixed. Though if he was honest with himself, as he felt the rumble through his feet and back now, the truck’s engine had become louder and gruffer in its old age, much like Danny himself.

The two fossils rolled along the darkened streets of the dock as Danny carefully guided the truck toward home. A hat sat low on his head, the brim down over his dark eyes, and a hand occasionally lifted to scratch at his beard. The man kept his gaze moving, watching the dark shapes lurking on either side of the street, waiting for any hint of danger. The car rumbled along, and the shadows remained shadows, and it seemed, for tonight at least, the ABB and the merchants had little interest in harassing him.

The harsh lights of the truck washed over more than one tattooed youth, but beyond a few middle fingers, they didn’t react to Danny. Tonight had been the first time in nearly three months that he’d not been home before sundown. The union had bent itself over backwards to help him in dealing with Taylor, and her entire situation. Danny didn’t think that pulling the occasional double, even against the complaints of his coworkers, was too much to ask in return. There was a lot of goodwill that he’d gotten from the rest of the union, and Danny intended on paying it back as best he could. Danny wasn’t the kind of person that liked being in the debt of anyone else, and if it hadn’t been for Taylor, he wouldn’t have allowed Carol to do everything that she’d done either.

Pausing when he came to a red light, Danny’s hands gripped the wheel harder, his teeth grinding just a touch. Carol had mentioned that Alan was making her life a bit more complicated than it needed to be. Danny couldn’t believe that the man was this petty despite them doing as Carol suggested and dropping the individual claims against the girls to focus on the supervisory neglect of the school itself. Taking a few deep breaths to calm himself; Danny’s grip slackened on the wheel. When the light changed, he continued, driving down familiar streets, eyes focused on the road as his thoughts swirled onwards.

The case was going well. The school had been dragging its heels, but between Carol’s work and the evidence that Taylor had accrued they honestly had the school over a hump, and it was now just a matter of pinning them down and getting an appropriate settlement. Carol seemed to think that they’d be finished with the worst of it before Taylor’s birthday in June, which would be good. Taylor was doing astoundingly well in her online schooling, but part of Danny was concerned with the amount of free time his daughter had during the day. Taylor had always been… intense, but the drive she seemed to hold now was a little concerning.

He’d just gotten his daughter back, and she’d already begun changing so much. She seemed happier, even if she spent her days buried continuously in books or training. Danny couldn’t count the number of times he’d stumbled across her in some corner of the house meditating and floating objects around her. Eventually, he’d moved most of the collected junk out of the basement and made the space available to Taylor to allow her to work her powers.

She’d actually ended up making the ample space hers, acquiring a few carpets by helping a some of the more friendly elderly neighbours and had taken to referring to the basement as her temple. Most evenings, he ended up find her meditating in the basement while using her telekinetic power to move things.

Danny’s concerns only grew as Taylor’s evident grasp of her powers did. He knew that he’d have to speak with her soon about it. Danny’s greatest fear was that she’d come to him and tell him that she intended to use her powers to do good. It wasn’t that Danny wasn’t against the idea of his daughter helping people; even as a child Taylor hadn’t been able to stand the thought of people suffering, and the pain she’d gone through had only made that inability to stand by worse. No, it was more about the danger involved. Danny had already lost so much, and part of him turned to ice at the idea of Taylor out there, getting into fights with super villains.

The truck pulled up onto the street, his house smoothly coming into view. Danny let out a soft sigh of relief, seeing the light on and waiting for him. Pulling up onto the gravel-lined driveway, Danny killed the engine. Opening his door and hopping out, Danny took a moment to glance back into the truck.

He stood there next to the open door for a few moments, his expression conflicted, and in truth, he almost left the small box on the bench seat. Danny had promised himself that he’d never bring one of these into his home again. A tiny traitorous voice whispered in his mind though, asking him if this could have saved Taylor, and he grit his teeth snagging the box and closing the truck door a bit harder then he had to.

Danny walked across the grass of the lawn, ignoring the footpath and hopped up the steps to the porch, crossing the ageing wood and opening the front door. He juggled the box in his hands, eventually pinning it to his side with an elbow and using his key to unlock the door. Quickly squeezing in the door, Danny took a few moments to kick off his work boots and hang his coat, before moving around the ground floor to try and locate his wayward daughter.

Finding no sign of Taylor in the living room, Danny moved toward the kitchen smiling when he saw two wrapped plates waiting for him, along with a folded up newspaper. Taking a few moments to unwrap the food, he was amused by the sight of the meatloaf and potatoes and the small slice of pie.

Setting the box on the table, Danny picked up the cold food and set it in the microwave, waiting for it to warm as he moved over and collected a beer from the fridge. When the microwave dinged, Danny retrieved his food and brought it to the table with his beer, setting both in place before flipping open the newspaper so that he could read while he ate.

Danny savoured the food as he skimmed the paper. The front page had a few articles about an explosive attempt by the residents of Canberra to break the quarantine. Danny let out a compassionate sigh before flipping through the paper and looking for more local news.

It seemed that a local minor gang was making waves; apparently, the ABB was on the warpath after an assault on one of their illegal gambling houses. Lots of speculation about who was involved but the paper didn’t seem to have any information. Danny took a moment to check the sports section, rolling his eyes at a fluff piece about a parahuman that had streaked the field in a Bruins game. His power had caused anyone that looked at his bare skin to see spots in their vision had meant that he’d been challenging to capture until the local Protectorate had shown up. An image with the paper had shown an eight-foot-tall man in a skintight costume holding the Parahuman by the ankle and doing his best to not to look at whatever had been censored in the image.

Finding nothing else of interest, Danny folded the paper and set it aside. As he continued to eat his dinner, his eyes caught on the pile of books on the table that was waiting for Taylor to return them to the library in the morning. He considered the books as he chewed thoughtfully before reaching out a hand.

He quickly dragged the small stack over, carefully pulling the top book down and blinking at the skinless man on the surface. Danny checked the binding, chuckling at the word ‘Anatomy’ in bold letters flipping through the book to see variously detailed diagrams of human anatomy showing the different parts of the human body. Setting that aside, he pulled the other three books over, turning the stack to the side to make it easier to read the titles on the spines. Two of the books were more psychology textbooks and the last a rather heavy looking book on Greek Philosophy. He shook his head as he stacked them back up where they’d been.

Taylor’s reading habits had exploded over the last two months. If only her social life had followed that trend. She’d spent that same amount of time with precisely one person besides himself and Carol, and all that he’d been able to get out of his daughter about her was that she was a shy girl that she often shared a table with at the library.

He’d gotten a name out his daughter, Sabah, and he’d listened to her describing her help with the girl’s homework. Taylor had seemed almost excited by the idea of helping someone else, and he had seen the other girl the few times that he had picked Taylor up at the library. They often parted ways on the steps of the library, Taylor's new friend heading toward downtown.

She seemed older than Taylor, but at least it was good that she was talking with someone. He had been concerned the first few weeks when Taylor had thrown herself into training her gifts, reading, and exercising to the exclusion of all else. Now if he could get her to separate her social life from her research, he could breathe a bit easier.

His food consumed, Danny slipped to his feet, setting his dishes in the sink, rinsing each off before moving around the first floor, peeking about to see if he had missed Taylor passed out with a book on a couch or the carpet in the sitting room. Finding no sign of his wayward daughter, he approached the door to the basement, rolling his eyes at a scrap of paper with ‘Jedi Temple’ scrawled on it tacked to the door. Danny opened the door, smoothly descending the stairs as silently as he could. About halfway, he came to a stop, staring at his daughter.

Taylor was sitting in a classic lotus pose, her eyes closed and her form completely serene. This wouldn’t have merited much of reaction but for the fact that she was doing so as she hovered about four inches off the ground. Half a dozen objects floated around her in a complicated dance, drifting upwards and downwards as they weaved carefully around each other.

Danny stood there entranced for a few moments before he shook his head, still a little shocked at the things that Taylor could do with her powers. He shifted his position, intent on heading back upstairs, but when his foot moved on the step, the aged wood let out a low creak. Danny tensed remembering the last time that he had startled Taylor while she was practicing, and how much time they’d spent cutting the wrench out of the drywall in Taylor’s bedroom. Turning back he was shocked to see the objects still in the air, hovering in place as they and Taylor lowered toward the ground.

“You missed the family meeting; We voted to secede from the United States, and named me the new Monarch.” Taylor’s voice was laced with light-hearted sarcasm, and when everything had settled on the ground, she opened her eyes, glancing back at him with a wry grin. Rolling his eyes at her comment, he turned and headed back up the stairs.

“Of course your highness, I only dread for the Royal family that you inherited my sense of humour, and not your Mother’s. C’mon though, we’ve got a few things to talk about.” He clumped up the stairs, shaking his head at the sound of Taylor scrabbling to chase him up the stairs.

“Hey! The voices in my head laugh at me all the time.”

▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

‘Bastila, we’re both aware that I understand the concept of Decision Theory on a cursory level at least, we don’t have to debate it.’ Despite the words, Taylor was more amused than irritated, and Bastila’s chuckling from across the room was evidence that the lecture hadn’t been entirely serious. Taylor sat up from her position on the floor, tucking her legs under her as she resumed the lotus position. She glanced over at Bastila, watching as the woman’s image settled comfortably and studied the book in her hand.

Honesty, the spirit was right; this extra training session was entirely her fault. Taylor could admit to herself that she shouldn’t have stayed up so late reading the last three chapters of the God Emperor of Dune, but even Bastila’s attention had been rapt as the God-Emperor, Leto the second himself had finally fallen. Neither of them had wanted to set the book down until they’d finished the very last page, which had meant that they’d been reading until almost four in the morning.

That had meant that Taylor had slept in, and had been late getting her day started. She had ended up leaving her force training in favour of doing run on time so that she might still make it to the Library in time to see Sabah. Wednesdays and Fridays tended to be the days that their schedules lined up, and they’d often meet in the park, Sabah eating her lunch while Taylor did her meditations, and they’d retire to library to work on their various projects, keeping quiet company, though occasional conversations drew the ire of the librarians down on them.

This decision meant that after dinner, Taylor really should be doing her force exercises, and she did understand that. It didn’t mean that she didn’t also enjoy playfully whining at Bastila to see the woman get grumpy. Bastila was her ‘Master’ and she often ‘complained’ that her student was too driven, and that she should try to enjoy her life more. So Taylor found herself occasionally whining and acting like a brat to give the Jedi master something to lecture her about. Seeing Bastila peering over her book at her and raising an eyebrow, Taylor rolled her eyes before settling into her pose and closing her eyes.

Taylor settled softly into the pose, taking several deep cleansing breathes before letting her mind focus inwards. She imagined a vast ocean of mist around her, and she used the image to help clear her mind of thoughts of her Master and her friend. As the thoughts faded out, Taylor breathed slowly, deep, precise inhalations and exhalations, the motion of her chest and the sound of the air rushing in and out of her lungs pushing her focus deeper.

Her mind reached out, tentatively finding its connection to the force and feeling it out. The link itself was becoming familiar to Taylor, and if she was honest, it was always partially active in her mind these days. Once she had the power, she allowed it to spread through her, deepening her connection to the force until she could feel the universe around her. Taylor took a few moments to acclimate before reaching out and selecting her weights.

“Before you do that, try and lift yourself, use yourself as an extra object to control.” Bastila’s words were a shock, and Taylor nearly lost her focus, but after a moment she nodded, as her control returned. The words penetrated her mind, and she took a few moments to consider how best to do what she’d been instructed.

Eventually, ready to at least try, Taylor gently grasped her form with her power, slowly raising herself into the air. It was surprisingly challenging, and Taylor understood immediately why she'd been told to do it. It increased the difficulty of the training exercise quite a bit, the constant sensory input from the force holding her aloft was affecting her control, and it took her nearly twenty minutes before she felt comfortable enough with the Force to reach out for her objects.

She started with a single broken side-table, lifting it off the ground and moving to swing it out and around her slowly, grasping a standing lamp next and running it in the opposite direction of the table, weaving the objects around each other as necessary. On went her power, grasping other objects one at a time, an old digital clock, her Father’s backup tool-box, a bowling ball that she’d never seen used and finally a single bicycle tire. Each object lifted one at a time, moving the opposite direction of the last one that Taylor had raised.

Once in the air, Taylor used her powers to keep them moving in a complicated dance, each one ducking past every other on their trips orbiting Taylor's hovering form. Maintaining control of them was hard, and that was before she factored in making them dodge each other without striking the roof or the floor, splitting her attention between each object and her floating had been a challenge, but Taylor was impressed that she’d accomplished it.

The sound of something creaking audibly startled her and Taylor snapped down on her power, keeping it around the objects to stop them from flying all over the place like missiles. Slowly reaching out and lowering everything to the ground, she let her senses reach out and check to see who had snuck up on her. Confirming her suspicions Taylor’d let out a sarcastic comment before turning and grinning at him.

He looked tired, but the joke drew a short bark of laughter from him, which Taylor considered a win, and the sarcastic response was the cherry on the cake. Though it saw her rolling over to get her feet under her so that she could give chase, she called out as Bastila vanished from view.

“Hey! The voices in my head laugh at me all the time.” The wash of amusement from Bastila proved her point. When she reached the top of the stairs, Taylor pushed herself entirely to her feet, glancing out the door and blinking when she found her Father sitting at the kitchen table. Taylor slowly walked out of the doorway, approaching the table and glancing at her father and the table for a moment before taking a seat.

The family meetings had started when Taylor had returned from the hospital, initially being Bastila’s idea, when she saw how exhausted Taylor’s father had been and Taylor had brought it up. Once a week, they sat down to dinner together and discussed what needed to be done for the week. They conferred on the budget, figured out what they needed to buy to stock the pantries and addressed any issues going on with the house. Taylor’s powers required that they be used to develop and control them properly and this had led to her assisting her father with a lot of the home repairs that they’d been putting off.

Taylor’s power could be used to pull nails cleanly from wood; she could remove entire sections of drywall, and working with her father was something that Taylor had found that she rather enjoyed. Even when they were working on the old plumbing or doing complicated and delicate wiring, Taylor had gained a new appreciation for her Father’s sense of humour and stoic work ethic. She had been badgering him to join her for runs in the morning, but he had yet to comply.

“So.” Taylor drew the word out, tapping her hands on the table and she sat up a bit straighter. “Everything okay, Dad?” Taylor glanced at her father as he took a few moments to organize his thoughts before speaking.

“Yeah, but we got a few things to talk about. First off, I heard from Carol when I was at work today; she told me that we should be finishing the court case with Winslow in the next few weeks, she is pretty certain that we’ll come out ahead in it, and I was wondering what you wanted to do about school. Once the case is finished, we’ll be able to afford to send you to Arcadia, or any other school you wanted.” Taylor’s lips curled into a frown at the thought, she’d gotten used to her schedule, and she wasn’t exactly looking forward to going back to a school and having to not only deal with other students but slowing down her training as well.

“I was getting used to the Internet schooling, it’s easier on me, and I can do it quickly enough that it leaves time for me to train my powers,” Taylor spoke quickly, although the nervous tremor in her voice meant that she was fooling neither herself or her father. Taylor glanced up and saw him staring at her curiously, and she let out a long sigh before continuing.

“I- It’s more than that, I’m not really… sure that I would want to spend eight hours a day in a school with hundreds of other kids,” Taylor paused softly and frowned at her linked hands on the table, speaking nervously.

“It’s stressful enough dealing with pedestrians; I don’t think I could handle kids looking me up on google and then asking questions about… Well. You know.” Taylor’s voice was small, and she’d quietly pick at the table, The pair remained like this for several minutes, and she heard the long slow sigh of concern from her Father. Taylor nervously hunched her shoulders down, waiting until he picked up the conversation again.

“I hate to think that those girls ruined schooling for you forever, Taylor. It’s not just about learning, you know? It’s about the social experience; if we give in to them like this, it’s like they won, they got what they wanted and broke you.” Taylor glanced up at her Dad, feeling a momentary surge of flame in her chest, the image of Sophia’s smug face ghosting through her mind. She flinched quietly and glanced away. Her father must have seen it because he let out a gentle sigh and continued to speak.

“We’ll discuss it later. There’s also the fact that I’m not exactly happy with the idea of you being around this place all by yourself all day or running the city as you currently do.” When Taylor moved to open her mouth, he’d hold up a calloused hand.

“I know that you’re not doing anything wrong and you’re doing your projects, but I don’t feel comfortable having my sixteen-year-old daughter constantly by herself when she’s not at the library. Let me think about it, and we can discuss it next week.” Nodding, Taylor blinked when her father reached down, collecting something from beside his chair and setting it on the table.

“Now, speaking of you being all alone in the day, Carol convinced me that I should give you this.” Taylor blinked as her father, slowly opened the box and slid it over to her. She stared in confusion at the small phone, glancing up at her father. The man let out a nervous sound as he rubbed at the back of his neck.

“The plan is rather basic, a hundred day time minutes, with 50 text messages a week. I know that I don’t have to tell you to be careful with this, right? I don’t want to find you in the hospital having walked in front of a car while texting on it.” He’d stare at her quietly. “This is so that when you’re out, you can call me if you need help, please don’t abuse it.” Taylor frowned at the comment before nodding quickly.

“Anything else?” She’d ask, blinking when her dad seemed to almost age before her eyes, tucking her hands in and staring at him carefully.

“You’ve been getting rather skilled with your powers from what I saw. Your control has improved a lot, and I’m wondering what you plan to do with them once the control is where you want it?” Taylor paused, frowning as the question slid through her mind. She hadn’t really thought of it beyond her initial discussions with Bastila. It hadn’t felt real then, telling the ghost that she wished that she’d had the power to stop herself from being hurt, to prevent others like her from being damaged. Now though, that it was actually an option, she felt a bit sick to her stomach.

“H-Honestly, Dad, I haven’t thought of it? Most of the time I train my powers to know that I’ll have them when I need them, and you’re right my control with telekinesis and control have been improving, but I still have a lot to learn I think. I’m not even sure if I want to be a cape. All I know is that at the moment, the idea of putting on a form-fitting outfit and running around in the dark beating up gang members isn’t super appealing?” She frowned at the image that conjured in her head, the ideas of tattooed gangsters lying broken at her fight like Sophia had and her stomach roiled quietly, and she shrank back into herself a touch.

“Alright.” The relief in her father’s tone was almost palpable, and Taylor frowned, wondering just how long her dad had been harbouring that worry. “I can understand the need to help people Taylor, your mother and I both did that in our own ways, and your mother was something of an activist in her youth, so I can see you eventually wanting to help people in danger, but I want you to think about how you want to do that. Independent capes don’t last long, especially here, and you’d be safer joining up with the Wards or New Wave if you chose to fight crime.”

“30%” Taylor muttered faintly. Seeing her father’s confused look, she spoke again, clarifying. “That’s the number of capes nationwide that last more than eight months as an independent. Of those that don’t, nearly 40% get arrested, 30% end up dead, and the rest join a team later.” Taylor reached out, tapping the pile of books on the table.

“I do research more than dead philosophers, Dad. I understand the dangers that I’m in, and I’ve done the research. You can rest assured that I don’t intend to go around looking for fights in the docks in a onesie and a skull mask.” When her dad nodded, Taylor shifted back into her seat, quietly running a hand through her air. The awkward silence would drag on for a few moments before her dad leaned in and spoke teasingly.

“So. Your Highness, how could the vote elevating you happen if half the population of our sovereign kingdom wasn’t present?” Taylor grinned at her father as he grabbed his beer and took a sip, and she assumed an almost haughty accent, holding out a hand.

“We announced the elections the moment the secession was decided; it’s not our fault that the citizens chose not to attend the vote. Why our election was positively democratic considering that last year, less than half the population of our former overlords elected to vote in their elections.” Taylor stuck out her tongue at Danny, grinning when he rolled his eyes and stood up to start doing dishes.

“Well, I’ve got my duties, your Majesty, you should probably get to bed if you plan on being up at the crack of dawn like most days.”

Chapter Text

April 14th, 2011
Brockton Bay Central Bank

{This errand is looking like it’s going to be an all-day thing, Sabah, I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to make it to the library before your afternoon class.} Taylor groaned quietly as she typed out the message. She quickly sent it off before crossing her arms and resting the cool plastic of her phone against her cheek. Tapping the phone against her chin while she kept her arms wrapped tightly around herself, Taylor found herself tapping her foot. A few moments of this saw her glowering toward the rest of the people that were standing between her and the blessed freedom of not being in a crowded bank.

This visit was supposed to take twenty minutes tops, a quick errand on her run to the Library. That was before the comedy of errors that her day had become left her standing in the wrong branch, surrounded by angry, sweaty people. First, her home branch had been closed, and she’d been forced to divert to the nearest bank between her the library.

She’d expected the main branch of the bank to be a bit busier, but not to this extent. It didn’t help that since she’d arrived at this branch, they’d barely gotten through half a dozen customers since it seemed like every other person that got to the head of the line thought they were important enough to start screaming about the inconvenience.

Checking her watch, Taylor found that the current customer, an overweight woman that was making a fuss to the poor harried looking teller, had been doing so for nearly three-quarters of an hour. A momentary pause in the screaming saw her turning her gaze back to the front but if the way the woman had leaned back with a hand on her chest was any indication, the manager next to the teller hadn’t said what the woman wanted to hear. Taylor wasn’t surprised when the woman began to scream all the louder, turning a fascinating shade of puce.

When she started ranting about ‘the people that she knew in this town,’ Taylor rolled her eyes, turning to rest her hip on the nearby table and glancing down at her still silent phone. The irritated sigh from her left saw her glancing up at the figure directly behind her in line. The girl was glowering toward the front, and Taylor followed her gaze just in time to see the lady through a chequebook over the counter with a loud screech at something that had been said to her. Snorting and shaking her head, Taylor turned her attention back to the phone when a message came back through from Sabah.

{Boo. Now I’ll have to figure out this intro to psych assignment myself. Alright. Tomorrow, usual time?} Taylor rolled her eyes, shooting off a reply and then tucking her phone away. She glanced over to make sure that the crazy woman at the head of the line was still blustering away before crossing her arms and wondering for the third time if she should bail out and come back tomorrow.

If she was honest with herself though, she probably wouldn’t come back tomorrow. The crowds were starting to get to her, and it was only her tenuous grasp on the force that was keeping her irritation and claustrophobia in check. If it weren’t for the necessity of getting at her savings to continue her training, she would’ve escaped out into the fresh air over an hour ago.

Unfortunately for her, Taylor did need to get the cash out so that she could buy the collapsible bo-staff that she’d had her eyes on. Bastila had pointed out that Taylor had a firm enough grasp on the unarmed combat styles and her powers that they could start working with weapons. That meant that Taylor needed cash to source herself a weapon. They’d been making do for the last few days with an old wooden broom handle with its middle wrapped in rubber, and either end painted a vivid yellow, but the weight was wrong, and the stick itself was too fragile to practice striking at all. Taylor needed an actual weapon that she could familiarize herself properly with its use.

Other skills that were starting to come into play were even more difficult to practice. Bastila and Taylor had spoken at length about combat precognition, but seeing as Bastila was merely an image in her head, Taylor couldn’t practice that skill, she’d need an actual partner to spar with to properly hone that skill. There had to be a genuine danger of her being hurt before she could figure out how to use the power to weave around blows. She’d tried a few times with her father, barehanded fighting, but she could tell that her dad was reluctant to strike her. The only reason that he’d been helping out as often as he did is that she’d said she needed his help or she’d have to find some goons in the street that didn’t mind taking swings at a girl. She’d nearly gotten herself grounded, but he had agreed to practice with her.

Bastila had been prodding her about hunting down a local martial arts classes, someplace that she could pick up a more thorough understanding of the weapon she was intending on getting. Also, someplace where she could find people more skilled than herself to practice with to hone her skills would be helpful. But, the idea of finding a class near her house and trying to explain to the teachers that she was a parahuman trying to hone her powers didn’t instill her with any confidence, and for the moment she was putting that off at least.

Taylor’d been so wrapped up in her thoughts that she missed the irate businessman, four people ahead of her in line. Truthfully, Taylor wasn’t much in the business of noticing strange men, but this one had gotten rather angry with the queue that he threw his hands up and turned, trying to leave. He pushed his way angrily past the people behind him muttering curses and comments about how he had better things to waste his time on.

Most of the people in line gave him a dirty look but moved out of his way. Everyone that is, except Taylor, who had been so distracted that when his rotund stomach slammed into her side, she was knocked back arm’s flailing. She staggered back and to the side, trying to keep her feet under her, only coming to a stop when she crashed into someone else. Feeling one of her elbows striking something warm and solid; a morbid tension ran up her spine, especially when the warm object she was resting on suddenly started cursing like a sailor.

“Jesus, fucking Christ!” The shout was low and harsh, the voice pushing past gritted teeth and obscured by a hand. A small hand found it’s way to Taylor’s side, pushing her back up and onto her feet. Turning to see who she’d maimed, Taylor got a view of the back of the angry girl from earlier as she turned to shout at the man.

“Hey, Asshole! Watch where you’re fucking going or learn to go around.” When the man flipped her the bird and stormed off, the girl smoothly turned, wincing as she gripped her nose. The girl took a few deep breaths, and Taylor winced seeing the tears in her eyes as she clutched her nose. After a few moments, the girl spoke as she opened her eyes.

“Are you alright? Did he hurt you?” Taylor blinked at the question from the other girl, feeling oddly bemused. The other girl eyed her up and down, casually checked her over for injuries while holding one hand over her face, still. After staring in shocked embarrassment, Taylor’s mind finally caught up, and she quickly stammered out a response.

“N-No, I’m fine. Just a bit startled,” She flashed the girl a nervous smile before returning the favour and carefully checking the girl over. As she took in the girl’s rapidly reddening face, she babbled without thinking about it.

“What a dickhead. I’m sorry about that, is anything broken?” Seeing the girl wincing and closing her eyes again, Taylor gently tried to touch her arm. The other girl started and then she shook her head rapidly, keeping her eyes clenched shut and hissing out a breath.

“Let me see?; I can’t tell if there’s any blood or damage. You might need First aid.” At first, the girl seemed reluctant to move her arm, but eventually, Taylor coaxed the hands from her face, gasping at the blood.

“Oh, Jeeze. Okay. Tilt your head back and pinch here; it’s like a faucet.” When the girl barked out a laugh, Taylor rubbed nervously at her neck.

“We uh- we need to get to the bathroom unless you want to ruin that shirt.” She moved, hopping adroitly over the divider of the queue, grasping a pole and lifting it and the divider high enough for the other girl to duck under it without fully bending over. Glancing around, Taylor tried to figure out where the bathrooms were. She was surprised when the other girl stormed off casually, she quickly turned and followed in her wake.

A guard approached them as they were halfway across the lobby, and Taylor quickly stammered out an explanation. When the comments went over the poor man’s head, the other girl removed her hand from her nose to show the twin trails of blood over her upper lip. She explained quickly, and the guard nodded, before heading off to collect a first aid kit. Taylor trailed after the injured girl, following her to the sink, nodding quickly when the other girl bent over the sink, allowing her nose to drain. The knock on the door startled her, and she moved over, opening it to find the older security guard holding a first aid kit. The poor man seemed reluctant to enter the girl’s bathroom, and Taylor took pity on him, grabbing the bag and returning to her victim.

“Seriously though, sorry about all this. Probably shouldn’t have been wool-gathering like that.” Taylor commented nervously as the girl, watching the blood drip into the white sink. The girl casually waved her off, poking carefully at the mess of red over the center of her face, frowning as the skin started to darken. When the drip of blood slowed, Taylor found herself confronted with the other girl’s severe looking features. The girl gestured to her face.

“How bad does it look?” Taylor took a moment, reaching out, and when the girl didn’t flinch, she gently lifted the girl’s jaw to peer over her features. Frowning, Taylor gently touched the nose, removing her hand when the girl hissed. Between that and the better view of the other girl’s face, Taylor was reasonably sure that the whole thing was almost certainly going to swell up rather splendidly.

Taylor's hand reached out, gently tracing a finger over the nose, sighing as the girl flinched. The black-haired girl turned and moved to rifle through a nearby bag as the girl let out a rather florid curse. Snorting at the colourful language, Taylor drew out a chemical cold press from the first aid kit, cracking it carefully and shaking it up as she responded.

“The last time I heard that particular word, my Dad punched his best friend for corrupting his little girl.” She smirked at the abashed look that the wild-haired girl gave her before continuing. “Well, good news? Doesn’t seem to be broken, it’s relatively straight if a bit, uh. Bruised.” She held up the ice pack once it felt cold.

“Hold this to your nose, alternate it fifteen seconds on and fifteen seconds off. Count uh. Hippopotamuses, or Missipis or whatever.” At the blank look from the other girl, she rolled her eyes and quickly moved to explain.

“Like uh. You know, when you were a kid, and they wanted you to count without going to fast? One hippopotamus, two hippopotamuses, and so forth. It makes it closer to actual seconds since most kids count too fast.” At the raised eyebrow, Taylor huffed a bit as she stepped back. “Sorry. I tend to get weird when I get nervous.”

“You’re uh… definitely pretty weird. But It’s alright. Wasn’t even your fault, right?” The mousy girl said with an almost resigned tone as she stood holding the ice pack to her face. Taylor glanced at the girl’s lips, smirking to herself when she noted her mouthing the word hippopotamus. When the girl scowled at her, Taylor chuckled before glancing at the med kit. No Tylenol or any other pain killers, the unnamed girl was gonna have quite the headache at this rate.

“Right. It doesn’t look we’ve got anything to dull the pain, that’ll have to wait till you can hit up the Pharmacy, I guess.” For some reason, when she mentioned that the other girl got this odd look on her face, like a mixture of amusement and disgust at the idea of being in a pharmacy. ‘Maybe she has a fear of doctors.’ Taylor thought to herself, humming when a voice reached back, Bastila’s cultured tones reaching her ears.

"We have been attempting to practice healing Taylor? I’m sure that your new friend would be interested in avoiding a long recovery." Taylor’s mind seized up at Bastila’s comments, her thoughts staggering to a halt before spinning rapidly in her head. The guilt felt was warring rather brutally with the paranoia she had about drawing any more attention down onto herself. But then she glanced over at the other girl who stood before the sink, poking at her face, and testing the nose before she tried to wipe at the dried blood on her face and hand, scrubbing at it. Taylor headed over to the paper towel dispenser, tugging out a handful of the expensive paper towel and offering it to the freckled girl. The girl offered her a nod in thanks before turning to try and clean herself up tenderly.

"Go ahead, Taylor, it can’t hurt to offer, and practice is always good, right? Could even end up making a new friend. I’ll observe and make sure that you’re doing the healing properly." The voice was gentle, and Taylor let out a small sigh, turning to study the mousy girl for a few moments.

‘What could it hurt.’ Taylor thought to herself, coughing to get her attention. When Mousy glanced over, giving her, a look Taylors shifted back on her half of the sink bench, fiddling with her shirt nervously.

“So. I’m uh. Well.” Taylor paused, glancing around, checking each of the stalls, peering past the half-open doors and double checking the closed door. Seeing they had some privacy for the moment at least, Taylor took a deep breath. “I’m a parahuman. I’m uh. A healer. Sort of?” She glanced over at the other girl, blinking when the smaller girl’s face flushed red and her eyes sparked with anger.

“Do you think this is some kind of fucking joke?” The girl stalked closer, and Taylor slowly let out a nervous sound, stepping back slowly and flinching just a bit as dark memories flashed over her eyes. The action caused the other girl to pause, giving Taylor a deep look before holding out a hand.

“Give me your hand.” Taylor nervously hesitated, her eyes staring at the other girl quietly and backing up a step. Before she could escape the other girl snapped her fingers, and Taylor sighed softly, stepping forward.

“It’ll let me tell if you’re lying to me, if you do, then I’ll put you to sleep, and you can explain to the protectorate why you think it’s funny to fuck with me.” Taylor’d flinched a bit, her heart beating a bit faster and she peered at the other girl nervously. The accusation hurt oddly, but the harsh look in the girl’s eyes made her reach out a hand gently. When the other girl grabbed her hand and dragged her closer, Taylor lout a noise of discomfort that saw the other girl loosening her grip just a bit and staring at her in confusion.

“H-hey, I don’t even know who you are.” The words were soft and worried, and she saw the other girl staring at her strangely for a few moments. The other girl seemed to stare at her quietly, and Taylor let out a nervous sound before continuing to speak nervously.

“I erm. I didn’t mean anything by it really. I’m still. Well, I’m still learning, and I know that I can heal, but it’s not something that you can easily practice right?” She paused, blinking at the blank look from the other girl, not understanding the almost incredulous look that she was getting.

“What? It’s not like I can walk into the hospital and be like. ‘Hey! I’m a parahuman, where are the sick people, I wanna tinker with their insides.’ They’d toss me in a cell, and I’d never see the light of day again.” She shrugged glaring down at the hand that gripped her own as if it proved her point. The other girl seemed to study her for a moment before sighing and releasing her. Taylor blinked and nervously stepped back, rubbing her arm, glancing at the other girl quietly.

“But I mean, your face looks like it hurts, and I figure that I could practice a bit? Win-win… Right?” Taylor flinched back as those dark eyes stared coldly into her. Taylor’d begun to get even more nervous, fidgeting quietly as she nervously rubbed at her arm and took another tentative step back. She’d been about to rescind the offer and ask that they forget about it when she was released.

“Fine. Let’s see what you can do, then.” The mousy girl dropped her arms to rest at her side, and Taylor stood there staring at her in confusion. The other girl stared back at her with a ‘What are you waiting for’ expression that got Taylor moving.

The dark haired girl tentatively approached the much less friendly looking brunette and carefully, ever so carefully reached out, tilting her chin up. When the girl didn’t bite her head off, she let out a gentle sigh before stepping closer and carefully staring at the damaged flesh.

She studied it for a few moments before lifting one of her hands from the girl’s chin, moving to reach out her hand slowly. She was about to touch the other girl’s face when she got a slightly suspicious look. She stared at her nervously for a few moments her hand wavering before she spoke softly.

“Sorry, uh. I’ve gotta touch the affected area; it makes it more effective. Do I uh- Do I have permission to heal you?” Taylor wasn’t sure what caused the small little laugh that came from the other girl, but when she eventually nodded and stepped closer, Taylor reached out and set her fingers over the bridge of the damaged nose.

When the girl’s forehead creased in pain, she let her power come up, remembering what she’d been taught. The feedback from her powers was odd, but she started by muting the pain she could feel radiating into the other girl, watching as she relaxed a bit. Taylor let out a soft sigh and let her power go to work, her fingers tightening a touch and the energy flowing into the damaged flesh.

The girl’s face seemed to expand within her mind; damaged skin stretched over expanding muscles laced with burst blood vessels, more damaged tissues hidden under though clotting had started to set in within the nose. Taylor let out a soft sigh as the power worked, relaxing as she let her power reach out, soothing the pain away fully.

When the girl finally seemed to relax, she allowed the energy to spread into the damaged flesh, carefully washing away the damage. The force moved quickly through the girls body, nearly of its own accord, quickly repairing the broken blood vessels and nerves, forcing the blood to break back down into the muscles and then checking everything once before drawing her hand back, pulling her mind back up out of the force and glancing over at the other girl.

“Everything better?” The girl leaned quietly on the sinks; her face relaxed. Taylor stared at her, wincing when the girl didn’t move. She stepped closer, raising a hand. “Did I miss something? I’m new, and it’s a bit difficult to visualize everything.” When the other girl flinched, leaning back from the hand, Taylor quickly halted. “Sorry.”

“It felt warm.” The other girl spoke softly, almost distracted, and Taylor wasn’t sure what to say to that. So, rather than responding to the feedback, Taylor turned and set to work putting the kit back together and zipping it up. She glanced at the other girl, seeing her looking somewhat distracted, she walked over and opened the door. She handed the worried guard the first aid kit, letting him know that they’d be out in a few moments before turning and heading back over to sinks.

Finding that her new friend had gotten her feet back under and was checking her face to see how the healing had gone she grinned as she approached up behind the tiny girl, offering a soft smirk at her over her shoulder in the mirror.

“All better?” The words were tentative, and the girl seemed to glance at her before looking back at her reflection and touching her nose before speaking.

“Mhm.” The words were soft and cautious, and the girl’s eyes ghosted up and over to her in the mirror before flashing her a smile. “Better than new even.”

“It’s okay to say it, I’m pretty impressive, It’s not exactly big news,” Taylor spoke playfully, watching the other girl’s reaction. When she snorted, Taylor mimed puffing out her chest, grinning quietly before talking a bit more seriously.

“Honestly though, You’re the worst thing I’ve healed so far. Mostly just uh. Paper cuts and scrapes up to now.” The dark-haired girl spent a few more minutes to convince herself that Taylor hadn’t changed her nose at all before she turned to offer out a hand.

“Thank you.” Her voice was just as soft, and Taylor had to lean closer to pick up the words. When the girl held out a hand, Taylor quickly reached to take it. Taylor promptly shook the hand before leaning back and studying the other girl. She could see an odd sort of tension around her shoulders, and she spoke quietly.

“It was my pleasure,” She hummed playfully before speaking. “Now I suppose it’s rather rude to just, heal without introducing myself, so, uh. Taylor.” She saw the other girl blinking in confusion, and she chuckled pointing at herself. “I am. That is. Taylor.”

“Nice to meet you, Taylor. I’m-” The other girl paused, frowning quietly as she stared at her and Taylor slowly tilted her head, taking in the odd reluctant look in the girl’s eyes. She studied her quietly before offering a curious smile.

“You, uh, don’t have to tell me your name if you don’t want.” She saw the girl shuffling quietly before she moved to speak. Taylor grinned softly and held up a hand.

“I’ll just call you uh,” She paused frowning before reaching out, tugging on one of Amy’s hairs. “Mousy. You’ve got a ‘Mousy’ look about you.” She saw the girl look momentarily offended before she let out a soft snort. Taylor grinned quietly as she shifted back on her heels.

“I… Thanks, but-” Whatever the other girl had been about to say was cut off at the sound of a massive Crash that shook the building itself. The pair glanced nervously at the door. When the brunette turned and headed for it, Taylor nervously tugged on her arm and spoke softly.

“Hey, It could be dangerous, be caref-” Taylor trailed off as the door to the bathroom opened to reveal the front half of a large van peeking out of the shattered concrete of the floor above. The van was heavily damaged, and something from the floor above was glowing dangerously. A few moments of shocked silence dragged out before one of the doors opened, and a tall, thin figure rolled out before falling two feet to the tiles of the lobby. Taylor watched as the guy staggered to his feet, taking in his appearance. The boy and Taylor was certain that he was, in fact, a teenage boy, had dressed in all black with a balaclava. How cliche.

Taylor snagged Mousy’s shoulder, dragging her back into the bathroom. Before the door closed, Taylor saw two more figures quickly emerge from the door of the van. Both landed smoothly, One a tall and wide boy with a broad form, clad entirely in black, with a skull helmet on his head. The other one was female, willow and surprisingly spry considering her size. The girl had purple fabric covering most of her form, long blonde hair mussed from the crash.

Pulling the other girl back to the stalls, Taylor nervously glanced around, looking to see if there was someplace to stash the other girl. When Mousy noticed her assessment and looked at Taylor as if she might speak, Taylor held a finger to her lips, continuing her inspection. She’d barely made it to one of the stalls before someone knocked almost politely on the door. After a moment, a high pitched feminine voice washed into the interior of the bathroom.

“I don’t know who you are, but you should come out of there slowly. We’re robbing this bank, and we don’t want to hurt anyone, but we can’t have you doing anything or making any phone calls.” Taylor paused and rubbed her face as she realized that she hadn’t even thought about making any phone calls. She glanced at the other girl seeing a similar look of self-recrimination in her eyes.

When neither of them responded, the doorway opened, and the girl in purple entered. Taylor frowned, blinking as the girl that she’d dubbed Mousy slipped around in front of her. The absurdity of the girl who was nearly six inches shorter than her trying to put herself between Taylor and the taller blonde saw Taylor chuckling. The blonde stared at them, giving Taylor a curious glance before she settled her gaze on Mousy and stared intently, a grin spreading on her face after a few moments.

“Well, look what we have here. Panacea shacked up in a bathroom with her girlfriend. Naughty, Naughty. Let’s go.” She waved a hand, something glinting in the lights as she gestured them out. Taylor glanced at the girl, clearly a villain, frowning at the gun she held before moving to follow Mous- Panacea out of the bathroom. Seeing the faint hints of red around the other girl’s neck, Taylor reached out, squeezing Mousy, or rather Panacea’s shoulder.

As they walked, Taylor looked nervously around the lobby. Everyone else was already face down on the floor of the lobby, thick black shadows coating the windows. The large woman that had been screaming at the tellers was on her side on the ground, whimpering audibly as one of the robbers, a boy in a Venetian mask crouched next to her and slowly poking her with the end of his rather long sceptre.

The two boys that’d escaped the van first were accompanied by a heavyset...girl? In a growling dog mask, and they were conferring quietly. When they saw the villain in purple leading them out toward the kiosks, they waved her over. She gave them a look before glancing back at Taylor and Panacea.

“Sit here, and don’t do anything stupid.” The words were spoken to Panacea, and Taylor almost growled when a subtle nod in her direction was used as a threat. Taylor moved along quickly though, dropping into an uncomfortable seat on the cold linoleum. She glanced over to find Panacea’s eyes on her. She offered a reassuring smile before turning to watch the blonde saunter away.

The purple-clad Villainess casually strolled away from the pair, moving to stand laconically next to the tall, powerful figure in the skull mask. The man, apparently satisfied, coughed loudly trying to draw the whimpering hostages attention, attempting three times before the girl in the dog mask raised a hand slipping it under her mask and let an ear piercing whistle that quieted everyone and turned their attention to the quartet standing near the van.

“Hello. We’re the Undersiders. This is a bank robbery, which should obvious.” The guy’s voice was oddly deep, the helmet he wore almost certainly disguising it. It even had an odd echoing effect to it, and Taylor found herself impressed. He worked with his image.

“Our names don’t matter, what we’re doing doesn’t matter. You all,” He paused here, staring at Panacea now. “Are going to sit there silently, and allow us to do our work. We are not taking your money; your money is insured. We’re taking the bank’s money. We will not be attempting to steal anything from the deposit boxes, so you may rest assured that your assets are safe. If you remain quiet and out of the way we’ll all be out of here and on our way home to our families in no time.” The boy’s words were polite, almost professional, but there was no mistaking the subtle hints of menace in his tone.

Taylor let her gaze drift back to Panacea, her eyes studying the girl from the side as they sat quietly near each other, both girls resting their backs on the fake wood panelling of the tellers stand. Panacea seemed to be watching the robbers with narrowed eyes, and she seemed to be muttering to herself, committing details to memory probably. When the girl’s eyes narrowed dangerously, Taylor followed her gaze, frowning as the blonde emerged from the back of the bank, calling out to her team-mates. “We’re in boys. Get everything you can.”

When the villainess sauntered over to them, Taylor gritted her teeth, watching how the pale girl’s gaze bored into Panacea, something about the look seemed almost corruptive. When the girl crouched down and started to mutter, Mousy’s shoulders tensed up, and she continued to glare back, something was going on, and Taylor disliked it. She’d been about to speak out when she felt a hand on her arm, glancing down she saw one of the girl’s hands gripping her arm, and she got the message. Don’t.

“Aw, how cute. Wonder what dear sister would think about this little development, hrm?” The blonde barked out a laugh as Panacea’s face heated up, and she glared all the more bitterly. Taylor glanced confusedly between the two, clearly missing something important, but she let out a sigh of relief as the powerful figure in rich black leather approached, tapping the blonde on the shoulder, distracting her attention from Panacea.

“We’ve got a problem, Tats.” His voice was low and deep, the metallic flanging effect doing absolutely nothing to disguise the concern in his tone. “You said the boss said that this would be an easy job? Cause it’s not good. The entirety of the Wards is assembling out there.”

▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

“It felt warm,” Amy muttered to herself, frowning at the other girl as she stammered at her. She waved her off, offering a tiny smile of thanks. The girl seemed uncomfortable with the thanks and moved to collect the first aid kit, quickly replacing everything within before heading over to return it to the guard, evidently speaking with the man. Amy moved, tossing the cold pack in the garbage and cleaning up her mess. She took a moment while the healer was distracted to check her expression, inspecting the nose to see if it was fully healed. It certainly felt healed.

She considered the things she’d heard about her own power, how people had described her using their powers on them to her; she wondered why no one had ever said it was warm. The sensations weren’t always unpleasant, but they were rarely comforting. When the tall thin girl returned to her side, babbling nervously, Amy found herself amused.

She quietly thanked the girl, and when she introduced herself, Amy reached out a hand. She’d been about to introduce herself when the girl’s earnest words about having no clue who she was struck her and she frowned, the words dying in her mouth. The girl, Taylor, seemed to pick up on her discomfort and made a joke, playfully giving her a new name.

Amy stared at her as she tried to decipher if the nickname was intended to be hurtful but the friendly earnest look on the girl’s face stilled her concerns, and she let out an amused chuckle. She moved to open her mouth to dispell the silly game when the sound of a crash from outside startled her. She stifled a curse and walked toward the door, surprised when the tall girl shadowed her closely.

“Hey, Mousy! It could be dangerous. Be care-” Amy found herself chuckling at the nickname, but it was something to think about later. She pulled the doorway open, peering through at the sight of carnage beyond. Some idiot had driven a van through the second floor of the bank and if she wasn’t mistaken a half dozen goons were in the process of clambering out of it. When she felt the older girl’s hand on her arm, drawing her back, she allowed herself to be pulled back into the small bathroom.

Taylor dragged her to safety and then started to fret nervously, and Amy found herself watching as the taller girl moved around, evidently checking the hiding spots. She found herself impressed with the way that the other girl inspected the bathroom, checking for concealed storage spaces, or vents in the stalls. Amy stepped closer and tried to speak when the brown haired girl turned and gave her a severe look holding a finger over her lips. A small part of her wanted to object and tell the other girl off, but something about how the young woman moved hinted that she knew what she was doing.

When the knocking on the door intruded on them; Amy just sighed, moving quickly to place herself between her ‘saviour’ and the figure in purple. She felt the eyes on her, staring into her and through her, completely disregarding the other occupant in the bathroom. When the blonde spoke though, Amy’s heart clenched, and she gritted her teeth. A thinker if a simple glance like that could out her. The salacious taunting was the icing on the cake, a faint tinge of red rushing up around her ears and neck. She stomped out of the bathroom past the smirking Villain, only slowing her movements at the feeling of a hand on her shoulder. She glanced back, seeing the dark haired girl walking casually at her back. She seemed concerned, as she glanced at a large number of people scattered around the lobby.

When they came to the small teller desk, she dropped petulantly to a seat on the ground, glaring angrily up at the purple-clad villainess, growling low in her throat at the smug look that was being broadcast at her like a thousand-watt lightbulb. The girl let the look linger for a few moments before speaking lazily. “Sit here. Don’t do anything stupid. Or else.” Then she had lofted an eyebrow, gesturing with her head toward the other girl. Amy felt her fists clench at the idea of involving innocent bystanders in this mess.

“This could get messy, Mousy.” The girl's voice was soft, and she seemed almost to be talking to herself. They’d both settled against the desk and glanced up when the tall figure in black coughed. When that failed to garner attention, and his follow-ups also followed suit, it was the girl that managed to get everyone to look, letting out a rather sharp whistle. As the boy started to talk and explain, she let out a groan of discomfort. She moved to lean back, listening to the boy’s spiel before they all vanished into the back except for the balaclava-clad lad. She considered making a shot at the kid, at escaping, but then her eyes drew over to the healer who was staring around at the other hostages, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth and she sighed — bad idea.

She felt the eyes on her more than saw them, glancing up to see that familiar purple suit as it sauntered toward them. Panacea gritted her teeth. If these were The Undersiders that made this stuck up…

“Tattletale, yes, Thinker extraordinaire.” The girl muttered, “Took you long enough, took me a minute to figure out who you were Panacea, but you don’t exactly hide it, hrm?” The girl grinned faintly. “Though to me, you’re not hiding anything at all, even your deepest darkest secrets.” The wave of shock that washed through her caused the blonde girl’s smile to spread. “Yeah, exactly like that one.” Amy felt the tension building, and she glanced to the side, seeing an angry brunette glaring at their captor. Before things could out of control, she reached out, grasping the other girl’s arm and stilling her. The brunette stilled at the touch, but she continued to frown in Tattletale’s direction until the brute in black came up, drawing Tattletale off and speaking quickly.

“We’ve got a problem, Tats.” His voice was low and deep, the metallic flanging effect doing absolutely nothing to disguise the concern in his tone. “You said the boss said that this would be an easy job? Cause it’s not good. The entirety of the Wards is assembling out there.” Amy mostly tuned out the rest of their conversation. The wards were outside, that was good. And since they hadn’t mentioned Gallant being missing that meant that Victoria was probably here as well. She’d been planning on meeting Dean after school, and she would not let him go off to a fight on his own. Smirking to herself, she glanced over to offer the other girl a reassuring smile when something the purple-clad villain said caught her attention.

“We can’t run. Glory Girl’s lurking around somewhere.” When Amy looked up, she saw tattletale staring at her. “She was supposed to be meeting Gallant, and since he’s fucking out there, she’ll be here too. Probably hidden and waiting for us to try and make a run for it, which we’ll have to do since -someone- trashed our ride.” The Villain, Tats, let her gaze drift to the kid in the starter costume, and he flinched under her gaze stammering some explanation about how his tinker-tech had gotten the arrival coordinates wrong, but Amy wasn’t listening; neither it seemed, was Tats.

“So.” The tone was conversational. “You’re here waiting for Backblast Barbie to smash through the wall like Behemoth?” She rolled her eyes quietly as she glanced at the others. “We’ll need a plan to get out of here. Can you do anything with that van, Chariot? Maybe a one-shot Teleport or something? Bitch is down to one dog, so if we have to get out of here on foot, it’s gonna be a tight fucking squeeze.” They didn’t have an exit strategy, of course. This sounded like a -wonderful- thing considering she was the most valuable bargaining chip in their hands. She was surprised; she didn’t think they’d have the nerve to pull this off after having had their asses handed to them by Lung on the weekend.

At a look, or at least the helmet turning in her direction, the girl in purple held up her hands and fell silent, turning back to smirking smugly at Amy, herself. Amy kept her gaze on Tattletale, her gaze narrowed as she listened to the others talking. The tall figure in Black, Grue her mind supplied, was directing the others. They needed to make a significant distraction, keep the wards distracted out front and hopefully draw out Glory Girl while Chariot did his magic.

Grue, Regent, and Bitch walked over toward the entrance, the three of them conferring quietly amongst themselves as the other figure, Chariot apparently, made his way over to the van, climbing in and cursing up a storm as he did something within. Tattletale remained in place staring at her casually, and Amy couldn’t shake the feeling that the girl was determinedly picking away all of her secrets. The growing grin on her face certainly made her seem like she was going to do something unfortunate.

“So.” The word was casual and lazily drawn out, and Amy’s eyes narrowed at the twisted smirk on that girl’s face as she studied her. “It’s almost poetic, you know? Well. You don’t know. Not yet I bet, but I’m tempted to tell you. Or tell her.” Amy’s fist clenched, and she was about to lunge to her feet as the girl talked when she felt that hand on her shoulder, glancing down at those pale fingers as the healer spoke slowly, her voice low and firm.

“Hey. Tats, was it? Just back off, alright?” Amy glanced over at the girl and blinked, seeing the serious look on her face, turning to watch as the grin spread across Tattletale’s face, and she turned her piercing gaze toward the healer.

“Yeah, getting a bit of a crush on your friend here? You should know tha-” The blonde suddenly cut off, staring wide-eyed at Taylor for a moment before letting a strangled gasp of pain, ripping her gaze away and gripping her head savagely. Amy blinked, turning to the other girl, jaw-dropping as a long string of curses tore from Tattletale's mouth, the blonde girl carefully keeping her gaze averted.

“What the actual fuck! What do you-” The girl’s tirade was rapidly cut short at a call from Grue, the dark-clad figure staring across the lobby at Tat. When she finally glanced up at him, he waved her over. Amy watched the group conferring, and she secretly watched the other girl, noting the concerned look on the girl’s face. She wasn’t sure what that was all about, maybe the girl had a master or striker power of some sort. Whatever it was, Tattletale hadn’t liked it.

When the group near the window split up, they started gathering the hostages, taking most of the older hostages and the women, leading them over toward the entrance where Grue was confidently speaking to them. Tattletale had moved over to help the kid in the balaclava while he dragged some large piece of junk across the lobby floor toward the safe. When the pair of them vanished into the back, and the others were distracted with the hostages, Amy drew out her phone and quickly started typing.

“And, what exactly do you think you’re doing?” The voice that came over her shoulder was haughty, feminine, and oh so very smug. Amy stared at her phone, feeling the cold metal of something pressing into her back, and she stared down at her phone. She pressed a single button before holding up her phone, tossing one of the girl’s smug grins back at her.

Amy watched the girls eyes widening as the others kicked the doors open and the hostages charged out, Grue’s black smoke following them out and over the plaza, obscuring the three heroes as they vanished into it to distract the Wards.

{I’m in the bank, the Undersiders are here. They’re trying to set up a teleporter.} Amy kept the phone held up toward Tattletale as the phone vibrated. She couldn’t see the screen from her position, but the sound of crashing was undoubtedly a good hint at what her sister had said. She drew the phone back, taking a peek at the message.

{Coming.} And in true Glory Girl Fashion, rather than coming through the smoke that obscured the plaza the girl had smashed through the exterior wall of the bank, coming through the bathroom that she and Taylor had been ensconced in mere minutes before.

“Where is my sister.” Glory girl’s face was dark, the mask of professionalism that they’d been taught as girls firmly in place. She floated in place, cape fluttering in the non-existent wind. Amy’s gaze drifted around the lobby, taking in the hostages who all stared at Victoria with awe, she peered back when Tattletale took a single step back nervously before raising her hand.

The glimmer of light off the gun was a shock. Amy’s eyes widened, and she shifted nervously, but before she could do anything stupid, she felt hands hooking under her arms and smoothly dragged her back. Coming to a stop cleanly out of the line of fire, she glanced up to see the healer holding her carefully and crouching low over her, one hand held up at the ready, watching the fight.

“So! Battering Ram Barbie here to save the day, must be a dream come true for that sister of yours!” The blonde called out cattily, keeping her gun pointed toward the hostages as she tried to circle Victoria, Amy’s gaze watched the barrel of the weapon as it swayed wildly amongst the crowd of cowering people around herself and the other girl. The barbs started, catty comments tossed back and forth as they danced around each other. Amy, watched, growling faintly as Tattletale’s constant stream of comments began to get to Victoria. The girl’s power and some educated guesses seemed to be getting under her sister’s skin. It was making Vicky sloppy.

Whenever Tattletale lowered her weapon, Victoria charged, lashing out. Tattletale was oddly slippery, though, somehow ducking under the blows. Moreso; each time that she did manage to dodge, she said something soft enough for only Victoria to hear that was picking at her temper, each missed attack seemed to be making Victoria more angry and reckless. Attacks that ended up swinging in the air were soon smashing into the floor, chairs or desks as Victoria continued to up her speed to try and get the other girl. Amy watched as Vicky lost her temper, the anger overtaking her and causing her to either constantly over-shooting or just miss entirely.

The damage had gotten bad, her sister angrily smashing aside masonry and brickwork as she cursed and yelled for the blonde villain to stand still. Tattletale just laughed, and Amy didn’t even catch onto what was going on until the blonde ducked out of the way and allowed her sister to smash through one of the pillars, causing the already compromised section of the roof over where they were all huddled to finally give way under the weight of the van with an audible groan.

Amy ducked down and covered her head, waiting for the pain, laying there silently for a few moments before peeking open an eye and seeing that they weren’t dead. She looked around taking in Tattletale and Victoria both staring at her, or above her. Amy turned to look up and found her saviour looming over her, holding both hands upwards, the healer’s entire form visibly strained as the roof seemed to float untouched in mid-air.

“M-Mousy, c-can you get the hostages out from under this so I can p-put it down please.” The girl’s voice strained under whatever burden she was experiencing, and Amy moved, quickly gathering up a few of the slower people to walk, dragging them along with the others as everyone got out from under suspended concrete and rebar. Only once they were all clear did the dark-haired girl take several slow steps, carefully emerging from the affected area before allowing the shattered masonry to slowly lower, gently setting it on the ground. An eerie silence drew out as the entire lobby stared at the healer who shrank a bit under the scrutiny, at least until Victoria turned and lunged for Tattletale.

The blonde girl managed to duck in time, but she was clipped and spun through the air, landing a fair distance from her gun. When Victoria turned in the air and attempted to get back to her, the blonde rolled under a desk, using the dense wood as a barrier as she dove towards where her gun had ended. Tattletale continued, charging along and suddenly gripping her head ducking to the side, or dropping to the ground each time Victoria took a swing, each attack missing the thinker by bare millimetres. Amy crouched around the desks and moved to cut Tattletale off from her gun as Victoria continued to try and snag the wily blonde.

Amy’d just reached the weapon when she felt a hand on her. Glancing up expecting to see the healer she was shocked as she saw the blonde hair and domino mask of Tattletale a tiny trickle of blood emerging from her nose. The girl shifted, eyes widening before she suddenly spun in place, dragging Amy along with her. Amy glanced up seeing Victoria’s blue eyes staring back at her, wide with shock, the pain is what drew her gaze down staring at the fist that was pressed to her chest, against her sternum. As she was released and fell her world lit up with agony, and she lay there, wondering why she couldn’t seem to draw a breath.

Chapter Text

April 14th, 2011
Brockton Bay Central Bank

Victoria Dallon floated lazily in the air about ten feet above the roof of the building, casually miming a laying position with her body, aimlessly peering down at the gathering crowd below on the street before the bank. She floated in place, adjusting her position to kick her legs up, resting her chin on her folded arms so that she could stare down at the tiny figures, trying to figure out who was who. Bright blue eyes danced over the crowd on the street, taking in the various figures slipping in and out of the crowds. Almost as an afterthought, Victoria casually wondered which of the glinting figures was her boyfriend. She strained her eyes for a few moments, attempting to figure it out, before giving up and rolling over onto her back, shielding her eyes and staring up at the blue sky.

She lay there, drifting on nothing and ignoring the tiny voices in her earpiece, scratching faintly at her cheek. She probably shouldn’t be here; Mom was going to blow a gasket when she found out. She wasn’t on the wards, but when Dean had gotten the call, she’d begged to be allowed to come. How often did you get the chance to interrupt a bona fide bank heist? It was like, a rite of passage or something for a real superhero. She grinned as she tucked her hands under her head, imagining taking the steam out of the guys down there, just smashing through the wall and landing with her hands on her hips in a classic Alexandria pose.

“Halt Evil Doers!” She muttered to herself and snickered quietly. It was a silly image, but the idea behind it wasn’t. They were heroes, they saved people and sometimes that required a little grandstanding — a bit of presence. You had to make the villains believe you meant business if you wanted them to respect you. Look at Vista, the girl was the longest serving member of the Wards in three different districts, and she was treated like a kid cause she let the Wards dictate everything about her. Cute sold and Vista had it in spades, much as she might hate the impression.

Feeling her phone vibrating, Victoria snagged it and started drawing it out. Pausing and glancing over her shoulder, she shivered at the several hundred-foot drop beyond. Victoria floated herself over to hover atop the building. Mom would kill her if she broke another phone. Once it was safe to do so, Victoria whipped the bit of metal and plastic from one of the hidden pockets on her uniform, carefully turning it around and checking the screen. If Amy needed a ride, she’d have to wait. She was about to become a he-

{I’m in the bank, the Undersiders are here. They’re trying to set up a teleporter.} Victoria’s heart started to race, and her hand shook as she stared at the phone, her eyes narrowing. She quickly moved to type her response out, having to delete it several times as she mixed up letters. The shaking of her hands on the keypad meant that in the end, she settled on just sending a single word.

{Coming.} She sent the message on before touching her hand to ear, calling out over the coms.

“Console, this is Glory Girl.” She waited to be acknowledged, her body shaking softly. When the soft voice of Console responded, she cut them off and spoke quickly.

“Amy just texted me. She is in the bank, and they’re currently attempting to set up a teleporter.” She heard the intake of breath and bit her lip, listening carefully.

“Glory Girl, this is Console. Your report is acknowledged.” The voice was cold, and Victoria let out a quiet hiss, floating in place before touching her ear.

“Console, it’s my sister I have to-” Console cut her off, speaking harshly.

“Glory Girl, there is a plan in the works. Hopefully, your sister will be okay, but we need to ensure that all the hostages survive this. The plan proceeds as it was originally outlined. Now clear the line, remain in place and catch anyone that attempts to flee.”The words were cold, and Victoria let out a furious growl before pressing her hand to her ear.

“They’re not going to run; they’ve got a tinker in there building a teleporter. And They’ve got my sister in that building. There’s nothing to stop them from taking her hostage since she’s the most valuable healer between here and Austin, Console.” Victoria floated in place, glaring angrily down at the street as the dispatcher sputtered and started to issue orders. Sounds from below saw her peering over the edge, watching a crowd that distinctly lacked her sister's familiar shade of hair stormed out of the building, rather suddenly being enveloped in inky black smoke. She clenched her fists as she saw the Undersiders making their move.

“I’m done with this. Console, I’m going in.” She ignored the orders of the PRT dispatcher. She drew the bud from her ear and tucked it into one of the hidden pockets in her uniform. She moved, turning and stepping of the building and letting herself fall for nearly thirty feet before kicking in her flight and gliding out and over the inky black cloud. It covered the face of the building up nearly three stories even obscuring the rear of the truck that had been peeking out of the bank when she’d arrived.

She hovered over it nervously before glancing to see where it ended, it covered a vast patch of the road, and she whipped off to the side, ducking down and around the side of the building. The black smoke terminated at the head of the Alley, and she set down, glancing around. Taking a moment to study the alley, she moved partway along the building before turning and slamming her form into the brick wall, smashing through into a bathroom. She casually stepped over the spraying pipes, the forcefield keeping her from getting wet.

“What a mess.” She muttered to herself, slipping past the damaged masonry and stopping at the door. She took a moment, taking a deep breath and mentally focusing.

'Head back, shoulders square. Walk with slow, sure movements, project your voice and keep your gaze flinty.' When she was finally confident that she was prepared, she lifted a hand and flicked the door sending it careening across the empty lobby floor and skidding to a halt halfway between her and the hostages. She strolled slowly through the open doorway, doing her best to look dangerous, trying to move like a feline, like a predator on the prowl.

“Where’s my sister?” She said the three words slowly, trying to sound dangerous. After wandering past the other hostages one or two pointing, she glanced up, her expression darkening as she noted the villain looming near her sister and another girl. She moved closer, approaching the group, that was when the villain held up a glittering silver gun, casually aiming it at the Hostages.

“So! Battering Ram Barbie here to save the day, must be a dream come true for that sister of yours!” The catty words made Victoria’s hackles rise, her teeth gritting. Who did this girl think she was. She tried to step closer, but the gun waved wildly, the barrel pointing toward Amy and the other girl before waving back at the hostages, flailing around. Shock pierced through the superhero when the blonde answered her question without her actually voicing it.

“I think I’m Tattletale of the Undersiders,” When the shock lanced through her, that smug grin grew, and the chick lazily waved a hand. Victoria gritted her teeth and clenched her fists, glaring at the smug bitch as she let out a low peal of laughter and continued. “And yes, before you ask, I do think that I’m better than you.” Victoria snarled quietly before taking another step closer, though she paused when the gun pointed back toward her sister, though Tattletale seemed to be using it to make a point instead of a direct threat.

“I mean, you’ve got all this power, and what do you do with it? Beat up gangbangers and constantly force your sister to cover up your mistakes.” Victoria felt a sliver of ice washing through her middle at the words, wondering how she’d found out. When the blonde villainess gave her a smug grin and crossed her arms, Victoria reacted.

She pressed her toe to the linoleum, launching herself at the villainess, reaching a hand out to grab the smug bitch’s uniform, only to have her fingers find air as the girl twisted her form almost casually.

Victoria swung around in mid-air, changing direction and lunging at the girl again who managed to step the side at the last second, feigning a disinterest that caused Victoria’s blood to boil. She lunged out over and over; if she didn’t charge, the girl did a backstep to remove herself from the path of the blows, if she did charge she just moved to the side and ducked to leave Victoria scrabbling at empty air.

Flipping in mid-air to bleed off momentum after another failed grapple, she turned her gaze back on Tattletale to find the villain posed comfortably against a pillar; the weapon pointed at the hostages again. The blonde villain seemed to be trying to hold back a laugh as she stared directly at Victoria. Something about the smug look made Victoria’s teeth grind, and she shifted closer until the girl wiggled the gun threateningly.

“Careful there, You might shrug off bullets like Alexandria, but I don’t think the rest of these people do, and I wonder what might happen if I hit your sister? There isn’t anyone around to patch up the great Panacea, why she’s a national treasure.” The blonde turned her gaze on Amy, and Victoria nearly growled as the woman looked her over. “Must be why your Mom keeps her around, right? Certainly not for the warm and fuzzies I bet. I mean she’s not even really your sister. Just some orphan your mom took in.”

Victoria let out a low growl of rage before lunging forward, fist lashing toward the smug bitches face. At least this time those fucking eyes widened and she dropped to land on the ground rolling away to just barely missing the explosion of dust as Victoria smashed through the pillar. Undeterred, Victoria spun around, snarling and lunging at the girl again, feeling as if she was chasing soap bubbles with how the girl kept slipping through her fucking fingers. And she wouldn’t shut her fucking mouth.

“I mean I can see it, right? She’s helpful enough,” Blonde hair ghosted over her hands too fast to grab as the girl danced back. “Patches you idiots up when you get hurt. Turns over all those donations she gets to keep the team running, and even gives you all that good press. Why else would you want her around? She’s not family; it’s not the same, is it?” A step to the left and she was ducking past a table, and when Victoria tried to follow, she smashed through three or four signs and Tattletale had the gall to laugh at her.

“But I mean, not to you right, Glory Girl?” The girl let out a mocking laugh as she ducked around another desk and kicked back, rolling over another as Victoria reduced the first to splinters.

“I mean you? You’re just pathetic; you couldn’t stand to lose her, because she’s the only one ‘Immune’ to your power. The only one that you know for certain will ever love you for you. The only one that sees past that fascinating little aura of yours. The only person you could ever be certain chose to be with you.” When she turned, she found the girl leaning against a pillar again, waving the gun around casually, making air quotes with her hands and Victoria’s fists clenched.

“But I mean, you’re fairly attractive, I’m sure that there are people that like you for the real you, like that saucy boyfriend of yours, the one that’s getting spanked by Bitch outside.” She grinned wickedly.

“But you’re not sure of that are you, Glory Girl. You’re worried that they’ve just been under the effects so long that you couldn’t tell the difference. Let me see if I can make a few educated guesses here. So, your boyfriend, He can only stand to dump you on the phone, maybe?” Tattletale leaned back, buffing her nails as Victoria felt herself transfixed, seething in rage as the girl stared at her. “But he comes back and is so happy to be with you again. I mean. I guess I can see the fear, cause you’re mediocre, right? Under all of that, a perfectly average girl that’s oh so desperate to be special.”

“And you can’t handle it when you’re not. So you try harder, and you fuck it all up.” The girl’s voice dropped, low and dangerous. “You’re constantly trying so very hard to be a fucking hero, and you can never manage it, always falling short, and you know the reason why. It’s cause you’re not a hero. You’re nothing special.” It was this last line that drove out the last vestiges of control from Victoria's mind. She lunged out, viciously driving both fists toward that smug face, screaming in petulant fury when she smoothly ducked to the side. Victoria didn't even feel it as she ripped through the pillar, she was already turning, trying to find that fucking weasel when she heard the low, ominous grumble.

She turned and stared at the roof starting to cave as it’s final support pillar cracked visibly, her gaze staring at all the people huddled right under it. She felt her eyes meet with Amy’s for a moment before the girl ducked and wrapped her arms over her head, she lunged toward the rock, intent on grasping it when it suddenly halted in mid-air. She stopped, staring at the floating masonry for a moment before turning to Tattletale, finding the villainess just as shocked. The sound of a new voice snapped her attention back to the hostages. It was the girl that had been looming at Amy’s side since Victoria had arrived. She was standing over her sister, arms lifted and straining under some invisible weight, as the roof remained floating in place above them all. When Amy glanced up, and the girl spoke, she moved, collecting hostages.

“Hey. Get out of there!” Snapping out of her stupor, Victoria waved at the other hostages and the ones that could move hobbled to their feet, one fat woman though required Amy’s help to get her trembling legs under her before she could be pulled out. When everyone was clear, Amy’s friend finally moved. The girl was an oddity; she wasn’t exactly...noteworthy. She looked like your average high school senior or college student. She was dressed in exercise clothes, baggy sweatpants, a simple top and a sweater. Rail thin with clear skin and long wild curly hair pulled into a messy ponytail behind her head. The girl seemed so... regular behind those glasses; if it weren't for the visible strain as she walked slowly toward Victoria and Amy, Victoria would have sworn she was a random civilian. When she cleared the area under the platform, she turned and slowly lowered the patch of floor to the ground.

“Jesus Christ, what is this, girl.” The voice cut into her, and her anger surged again. Victoria turned, suddenly orienting on the blonde hair of Tattletale, lunging at the bitch before she could out of the way. Somehow, the girl reacted, letting out a startled cry of pain before trying to throw herself away. It was a reasonable effort, but it was only successful enough to keep her from taking a smack to the chest that would have left her seeing stars and gasping for air. Instead, Victoria’s fingers clipped the girl’s shoulder, and she went spinning away, the flash of silver showing that she had lost her gun in the kerfuffle. Grinning she darted after the bitch, growling when she continued to dodge her somehow, ducking and weaving through desks, around various bits of furniture.

Why couldn’t she just stand fucking still, she gritted her teeth and moved faster, lunging out and slamming her elbows and fists into the desks and the floor each time she missed the girl. The sounds of pain were getting worse, and she didn’t think this Thinker had much more of it in her. She moved around, seeing where the girl was going, and she swung around. She flew quickly to swoop in over the gun, lunging out with a fist to where she knew the girl stood, her eyes widening when she saw the bitch spin up and pull Amy in front of her. Amy was too close, the girl had placed Amy in front of her, and her hands were moving to fast. Victoria tried to stop her strike, bleed off the power, even shut off her fucking forcefield but it was all in vain, she felt her hand meet something warm and soft, and a series of crunches seared themselves into her memory.

The girl stared in shock at her over her shoulder and Victoria felt her hand clenching. When Tattletale half pushed, half dropped Amy in her direction; Victoria swooped in scooping her sister up, wincing in pain as the girl screamed in agony. She stared in horror at her sister before moving to lower her to the ground. Everything about Amy, from the short gasping breaths, to the obvious pain in her eyes, stabbed at Victoria. She’d killed her fucking sister. No, that bitch had murdered her sister. What kind of monster uses a human shield like that against a brute. She’d stare at Amy as the girl stared up at her pleadingly, lips parting and closing with a sucking sound as she tried to draw in a breath. She stared at her sister, whimpering faintly as she glanced at her and then turned to the Thinker that was staggering away. She growled and launched herself off. She couldn’t...she couldn’t watch Amy die. She had to avenge her.

Justifying it to herself she charged, accelerating as fast as she could, ignoring the scream from the Thinker as she dove to the side, she spun in the air and turned, lunging again, as the Thinker just moaned, blood running in streams from her nose as she collapsed, barely dodging the blow again. Victoria grits her teeth as the blonde girl fell, her entire form screaming for vengeance until shock lanced through her seeing Amy's friend standing behind where Tattletale had collapsed.

Victoria drew on her power, tried to break free of the hold, but the brunette lifted a hand with a slight gesture a wave of force slammed into her sending her cartwheeling through the air, everything a blur of colour before a vicious crunch announced her arrival at the Teller’s counters. She lay there quietly on her back before staggering to her feet. Staring out the hole she had been blasted through, Victoria saw that blonde bitch hanging in mid-air talking to brunette. She saw red, they were in on this together, a plant.

Victoria launched herself and screamed as she aimed her strongest, fastest punch at the Thinkers head uncaring what happened to the bitch that had killed her sister. The brunette reacted, using her powers to push the bloody girl away, but it was too little, too late and her fist connected with the smug bitch’s jaw, and she knew that she wouldn’t be smirking at anyone any time soon. She turned on the brunette, intent on castigating the doublecrossing bitch about her poor choice in friends, her mouth going dry at the look of anger on the girl’s face.

Feeling something wrapping around her, she felt herself lifted and smashed into the roof and she coughed. That twiggy bitch would have to do better than that if she wanted to stop Glory G- The sound of her leg snapping like a twig as she crashed into the floor was the last thing that she heard before the blessed blackness of unconsciousness took her.

▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

Agony. That’s what Taylor felt. It was like her entire head was on fire as she kept a furious grip on her Force powers, eyes clenched shut as she spread the force over the section of falling debris, waiting till she had the entire thing before stopping its downward momentum. Taylor stood there, arms shaking, her whole body aching as she cracked one eye open and then the other. She glanced around, taking in the remaining hostages, Panacea, Glory Girl, and Tattletale all staring at her. Taylor carefully breathed as her form screamed at her to release what she held and then she glanced down at the shocked green eyes of Panacea.

“M-Mousy, c-can you get the hostages out from under this so I can p-put it down please.” When the girl moved, Taylor closed her eyes, thinking happy thoughts as best she could until she heard the shuffling of feet slow. Opening one eye, and seeing everyone clear she moved carefully, taking one step, then another, keeping her focus entirely on the fifteen-tonne block of concrete that she was barely holding aloft. Only once she was also clear did she allow her powers to lower the block to rest gently on the ground.

Taylor stared blankly at the block, shocked that she’d managed to lift it. It was larger than most cars. ‘I can lift cars?’ Taylor’s mental voice was soft and nervous as she dropped to rest on her bottom, trying to catch her breath.

‘When you’re one with the Force, the size or weight of the object doesn’t matter. I’ve heard of Jedi that could lift entire star destroyers.’ The image of a ship the size of a city flit through Taylor’s mind, and she boggled at the sheer scale of it. Dark brown eyes turned when the sound of Glory Girl and ‘Tats’ battling continued, the pair of them charging around the ground floor, doing even more damage as the blonde continued to dodge every one of Glory Girl’s strikes at the last possible second. Taylor’s eyes narrowed.

‘Is she using Battle Precognition?’ Taylor’s voice was curious, reaching out with the Force and finding nothing going through the girl, but considering the powers out there it wasn’t impossible, right?

‘Something like that, I think she’s twisting her power to do it because it looks it’s very draining for her,’
Taylor frowned slowly, nodding as she observed the girl’s minute winces each time she dodged, it seemed like there was a cost to using her power this way. Watching the girl, she frowned as the force whispered into her mind. The girl was manipulating their positions again, lining up something. Taylor dipped into the effect more fully, mapping out her movements, watching as she ducked and wove. She saw too late when Amy suddenly got in the way when the girl moved and reacted with desperation.

She was going to- Panacea! Taylor surged to her feet as the girl suddenly rolled to dodge a fist, curling around to snag Mousy, dragging her up and spinning her around to use her as a human shield to absorb one of Glory Girl’s punches. Taylor heard the crunch of bones breaking, and the gurgling of an un-vocalized scream as Tats tossed her into Glory Girls arms. Taylor felt a stirring of rage building in her as she watched as the blonde teen hero allowed Panacea to slide to the ground as she charged after Tats. They’d both just dropped mousy onto the ground, and Taylor stared in mounting horror at the girl as she gasped and failed to find her breath as the others fought.

Taylor’s eyes snapped to the pair as she felt the heat of that familiar righteous fury building in her. Glory Girl had given up any pretense of avoiding collateral damage at this point flying at the other girl in a blind rage. Each time she lunged at Tats, and the girl dodged, Glory Girl ended up smashing through large sections of the floor before trying to swing back around in a berserker rage to continue to the assault. Staring at the girl on the floor with her bluing lips, Taylor snarled quietly, didn’t they fucking understand what they were doing.

She moved behind Tats, lining herself up and when the girl dodged to the side, Glory Girl came barreling at Taylor. Eyes didn’t even seem to notice as she turned to snarl after Tats and Taylor lashed out swinging a hand around in a backhand motion and using the force to viciously slap Glory Girl to the side, sending her careening off through the air and through one of the bulletproof teller stations.

When Tattletale turned to look at her Taylor reached out snapping her up in the force and dragging her close, holding her aloft. Taylor's eyes narrowed, this girl had tried to kill them all at least once, and she just forced Glory Girl to break at least half of her sister's ribs. She also looked like utter shit. Her skin was deathly pale, twin streaks of blood dripping down her face, and her eyes rolling as she kept glancing around.

“Y-You can’t afford to keep doing this.” The blonde spoke, keeping her gaze averted from Taylor’s face, gritting her teeth. “She’s going to die if she goes much longer with air. J-Just let me go and-” The girl's comment cut short when a scream of rage emerged from the destroyed stands and a blur of white and gold came flying at the suspended Tats. Taylor raised a hand and used the force to push Tats away, the fist that Glory girl was leading with only grazing the girl’s cheek, shattering her jaw instead of crushing her head like a ripe melon. The thinker was sent rolling across the ground, and Taylor’s fists clenched as she turned on Glory Girl. The girl was a god damn hero, and she couldn’t control herself.

With a single thought Taylors, powers lashed out, grasping Glory Girl’s form and lifting her upwards with enough force to dent the floor above, then Taylor gestured with a hand smashing the girl into the tiled floor with enough strength to crack bone. The scream of pain was enough to tell Taylor that she had made her point. Taylor stared at the collapsed blonde to see if she was going to move. When she didn't, Taylor reached out, scooping Tattletale up in her power and staring at her.

“If she wakes up with you in here, you’re dead. Say hi to the Wards for me.” She ignored the wince of pain and the dirty look from the girl before tossing her gently out the door using enough force to let her roll out of the smoke cloud hopefully so that someone could get her before Glory Girl regained her senses.

Turning quickly, she dashed over to the gasping form of Panacea, dropping to sit next to her mind, starting to fill with panic. The girl’s face was deathly pale, her lips dark blue as she gasped weakly, eyes unfocused. Taylor stared down, reaching out with her power, and the panic became even brighter, as she saw all the damage. Nine broken ribs, pulverized sternum, lacerations to the heart, lungs, and the thoracic cavity. She couldn’t do this. She could barely heal a god-damned nose. Taylor’s mind started to race as she stared down at Mousy, her hands shaking, Bastila’s shouts unheard in her mind.

The sound of footsteps made her look up, and she stared at the Leather boots with simple lacings, eyes drifting up over loose leather pants, past the robe he wore, and odd silver cylinder on his waist. The man moved up to stand over her and Panacea, his old black face staring at her curiously. A white goatee covered his face, and his head was completely bald. He lowered himself down to stare into Taylor’s eyes.

“Taylor Hebert. Breathe.” The words cut quickly into her, and she gasped, sucking in a huge breath. “Deeply. Focus. Your friend is very close to dying, and if you do not center yourself, she will not survive the next fifteen minutes. Your fear is justified, your panic valid, but you must push past it. You can do this.”

Taylor stared at the man, mouth opening and closing as she glanced down. Staring in fear at the paling face of the Mousy girl, Taylor closed her eyes for a moment, taking a few deeps breaths, a surge of determination washing through her. Her hands slid out, splaying over the girl’s chest, and light emerged, vanishing into Panacea’s chest.

"Seek out the shards of bone; they’ll have been broken with her ribs, reach out, you know what bone feels like in the force, focus on each one. You’ve used your power to hold multiple objects before; this is no different. Find every single shard within her chest and wrap it in your power." The spirit waited patiently, watching as Taylor spread her power through the girl’s chest, ignoring everything but the bone shards. Once she couldn’t find any more, she glanced up. “You’ve seen the diagrams, you know the ribcage looks, you need to fit everything back together. Don’t force it; the Force will guide you."

Taylor let the force work, watching as the shards slid around inside the chest cavity reforming the shape of her chest. Then, she fed power into the bones, encouraging them to heal, to repair themselves. As Taylor broadened her focus, the Force reached out. It re-attached the intercostal muscles to the ribs, healed the damage the bone shards had done, and then it triggered the girl's diaphragm, forcing her to breathe. Only then did the energy surge out to wash away the effects of hypoxia, healing the damaged tissues in the girl’s brain with astounding ease. Taylor watched this play out, only drawing her hands back when Panacea seemed to have recovered fully.

Taylor lowered her hands, blinking at the lack of strain she felt. That was the hardest thing that she had ever done, and she didn’t feel the familiar feeling of exertion from her powers. Shifting back and glancing at where the dark-skinned man had been, Taylor found herself staring and empty air. Before she could continue looking for the new spirit, an inarticulate scream of rage gave her enough warning to dodge Glory Girl’s incoming punch.

Taylor shifted her knees out, dropping her rear onto the tiles, her upper body curling back to lay entirely flat on the ground just in time to see a blur of white and gold to go streaming over as it screamed angrily. The resulting crash told Taylor that Glory Girl had gone through another wall. The gasp from Panacea suddenly saw her sitting up and glancing at the shocked girl. Taylor rubbed her neck nervously.

“You...alright there, Mousy? I’ve uh. I’ve never done anything like that before.” Apprehension flickered through Taylor as she stared at the shocked looking Panacea, wondering if she’s screwed up somehow. As the feeling crept in, Taylor heard another growl, only turning in time to see the pale backhand coming her way. When the slap connected, Taylor certainly felt the sharp brand of pain in her face, and then the air whistling past her. She used the force to reinforce her body and closed her eyes, waiting for the wave of pain that would signal the blessed release of unconsciousness.

As she approached the wall, a voice whispered through her mind.

‘Never take your eye off a fallen opponent, more then one Sith has been felled even after they’ve won the fight.’ The deep masculine voice tinted with some mechanical alteration, and part of Taylor thought that he sounded almost amused. Taylor wondered who this spirit was, but before she could think on it any further, her world exploded into a wild burst of colour, followed by pain and then blissful darkness.

Chapter Text

April 14th, 2011
Brockton Bay Central Bank


“-ing bitch attacked me, Amy!” Consciousness greeted Taylor like an old friend, the world slowly swimming out of the darkness and coalescing around her. Her entire body braced it for the pain, tensing just a touch when instead of pain she felt a pleasant floating sensation. Finding herself on something soft and plush instead of scattered rubble was confusing as well. Rather than try and move just yet, Taylor lay still taking stock of her body. Everything felt fine, she was laying in a comfortable position and something warm was resting on her neck. Nothing seemed broken, which was a shock considering how fast she’d been flying when the wall had interrupted her trip.

“Yes, Victoria. You’ve said as much.” The voice was familiar, Mousy, or Panacea, or apparently Amy, her words were low and tinged with exasperation, rather surprisingly close to Taylor’s face. And judging by the vibration of the warm thing that had found itself on the side of her neck, Mousy was looming very close over her.

Taylor laid as still as she could, hearing the worn out sigh that the figure over her gave before the hand pulled away, the warmth lingering in its wake along her neck. Taylor mimed unconsciousness as she listened to the private conversation.

“She attacked you as you and that Undersider were playing Rock-em Sock-em Robots with the battered remains of that Lobby. She attacked you both, put you down to stop your rampage, and then captured the only villain we got at this damn outing before going to heal me.” The girl’s irritated tone seemed to trickle away. Taylor heard when the girl’s head shifted back to face her, the words clearer and aimed toward her.

“She saved my life, Vicky, and in response, you shattered her shoulder, clavicle, three ribs and she had compression fractures in every bone in her arm, and her right cheek was in four pieces.” The words were soft and Taylor felt herself tensing at the amount of damage that she’d undergone, feeling the other girl’s hand gently gripping her arm and she settled, waiting quietly.

“Amy. She was talking to that Villain. You know what Mom used to say. You don’t let them get in your head.” Victoria’s growl was audible from Taylor’s position though something bothered her about the girl’s voice. It was moving around but Taylor couldn’t hear any footsteps. It took Bastila’s wave of exasperation before Taylor caught on. Right, Glory Girl can fly.

“I nearly had that bitch Tattletale and she fucking coldcocked me, and then saved her. And when I tried to finish the damn job she threw me around like a toy before knocking me out.” The girl's tone was petulant and she seemed to float away as she spoke, the sound of a door opening accompanied by some sort of rattling and a voice commented softly, nearly too quiet for Taylor to hear. “I’m glad that she saved your life, Ames, but I don’t trust her.” Then the door closed in her wake.

Taylor lay there comfortably, idly considering taking a nap when she heard the rustle of cloth as ‘Amy’ shifted above her. The low tired sigh caused Taylor to open her eyes, peering up at the other girl who didn’t seem that shocked by her sudden wakefulness. Taylor stared up at Amy for a moment before glancing around the tiny space that held them. Some sort of office? Glancing over to the side revealed the door that ‘Vicky’ had left through. The blinds, the source of the rattle, hung crookedly, their slats doing little to obscure the reversed letters that spelled out ‘Branch Manager.’ So they were still at the bank then, that was good. Taylor glanced back over at Amy, taking in the girl’s expression.

“Your sister’s got a hell of a right hook, Mousy.” She spoke quietly, enjoying the wry smile that ghosted over the other girl’s face. “Though I feel right as rain. You do good work. How long have I been out? What’d I miss? I’m guessing that since we’re in here the bank heist is over?” The questions slipped out easily and Taylor was a touch shocked at the casual camaraderie that she felt. Apparently, bank heists made for fast friends, or perhaps it was all the tinkering around in each other’s insides.

Amy started at the questions and stared back at Taylor for a moment, her forehead creasing. She’d opened her mouth as if to say something before rolling her eyes and apparently moving to answer the questions.

“Uhm. You’ve been out for about forty minutes, it’s nearly four, I think?” She glanced around but no clock presented itself and she moved on. As she spoke she slipped up from Taylor’s side, and Taylor shifted up to a sitting position, glancing down at the couch that she’d been laid on, turning to put her feet under as she listened to the explanation.

“After V-Glory Girl hit you, you were tossed across the lobby and landed out of view, which is probably for the best. Not long after you went down the rest of the Undersiders came in. Hellhound and Grue were Carrying Regent between them, Apparently, Shadow Stalker saw Grue and started firing Live ammunition into the shadows. Grue, Regent, and two of the hostages ended up getting hit, though Regent was the only one that took anything life-threatening.” The girl paused and glanced over toward the windows, staring out the lobby for a moment before continuing.

“They came in and when they couldn’t find Tattletale they freaked out. They started talking about using some of the hostages as human shields to escape when the one in the Vault came out and said he’d fixed something. They went to leave, and Glory Girl tried to stop them. Regent did something that caused her to fly into the ground, and they managed to escape as she was cursing them out.” At Taylor’s look, Amy paused before chuckling.

“When you uh...Put her down? I guess you one of her legs pretty badly.” The girl offered Taylor a mildly reproachful look and Taylor frowned before slipping to her feet. Taylor studied the girl for a few moments before sitting up and speaking gently.

“They were going to get someone killed, and I didn’t want that on any of our consciences. I’m sorry that I hurt her, but I didn’t really want to see her shattering Tattletale like a meat pinata. And despite how pissed she is, I sincerely doubt that your sister wanted to do it either.” Taylor glanced around, finding her sweater on the desk and she moved over and collected it. She slid it on, feeling much better as she zipped it up over her front, turning back to Amy as she slid her hands into pockets.

“So, uh. You’re the expert here...Panacea. How does this all work? Do we have to go somewhere or uh?” The words slid out easily and she studied the other girl nervously before shrugging up her shoulders.

Amy gave her that look again but she seemed to snap out of it quicker this time. “We’ll have to talk to the PRT. Armsmaster is here I think, and we have to give a report, it’s usually done on sight. After that, we’ll be free to go.” She hesitated when Taylor nodded and headed for the door. Taylor stopped by the door, glancing back curiously.

“About Glory Girl…” She trailed off as if trying to find the words for what she wanted. Taylor stood there conflicted for a moment before she sighed and opened the door.

“I won’t lie, Mousy, but I won’t volunteer anything either.” She gave the girl a look before slipping out. Taylor wasn’t really surprised when Amy fell into step at her side. She moved out, blinking at the two figures in PRT uniforms that were waiting. She glanced at Amy who offered a shrug.

The two troopers gestured for the pair to follow, leading them through the wrecked lobby that was crawling with PRT Troops and toward the closed doors. The men stopped her at the door and they offered out a disposable mask. Taylor blinked as she stared at it before glancing at Amy in confusion.

When she looked out the door she saw what the issue was. The Street outside the bank had been cleared for about forty feet, but there was a huge crowd pressed up against the dividers. Taylor had no issue picking out several different commercial cameras and the occasional flash of some sort of camera. She gritted her teeth quietly, holding the mask in her hand tightly.

She studied it a moment only starting when Amy moved past and out the door. She held the mask for a moment before sighing. Jedi didn’t hide with masks, but… Taylor stared at Amy moving stoically along the road toward a tent and she handed the mask back and headed out after her. She moved along, doing what she could to feign disinterest she nervously slipped out to follow in Amy’s wake.

Taylor ignored the shouted questions and did her best to keep from staring at the camera’s as she followed Amy and the two agents toward a pavilion-style tent. There were a few people gathered, and one of them was the familiar armour clad form of Armsmaster. Taylor stared at him and touched on the force, chuckling to herself at the idea that he was just as uncomfortable under all this scrutiny as she was. The pair of them came to a stop by the desk he was working at, and Armsmaster looked up at them.

“Panacea and Miss Hebert. I was hoping that you might be willing to lend your aid? Several of the Wards received minor injuries during their altercation with the Undersiders.” He’d keep his helmet pointed in Amy’s direction. Taylor frowned quietly and stared at Amy as the girl seemed to shift in place a moment. Taylor shifted her pose into the one that Bastila seemed to consider at ease. Feet shoulder width apart, arms crossed in front of her waist, one hand gripping the wrist of the other. She took on a professional tone and began speaking.

“Mo-” She paused. Probably not the best time for nicknames. “Panacea was injured in the lobby. I healed her wounds but I’m not as...skilled as Panacea is and it might be best if she was checked over.” She smirked as the healer turned on her, giving her an incredulous look. Taylor returned the look with an amused one of her own before gesturing toward the nearby ambulances and speaking softly.

“There’s an ambulance over there, it’d be best if you got it out of the way, I’d rather be safe then sorry.” Taylor held Amy’s gaze for a few moments before turning to look over at Armsmaster. “If wounds are minor, then I can deal with them.” When the armoured figure merely stared at her for a few moments she kept her grasp on the Force to return the stone-faced look.

“You are indeed a healer then? I shall look forward to seeing you at work. Panacea, you’re well aware of how this works when you’re healed by a parahuman, you should follow her instructions.” Taylor watched as Armsmaster glanced at two of the troopers who drew the grumpy looking healer away, leaving them standing mostly alone.

“Panacea mentioned a report that I would have to give.” Her voice was calm, though Taylor imagined that she could feel a tremor of nervousness in it. When Armsmaster gestured to a nearby chair, Taylor took a seat, slowly crossing her legs and resting her hands in her lap.

“I’m guessing that you’ve never given a field report before.” His tone was almost bored, as he took a seat opposite her and drew out several sheets of paper and pen. “You’ll write down what happened on these, and then we’ll discuss it.” He handed her the paper. Taylor carefully grasped the paper and a pencil. She considered what to write for a few moments before sighing and quickly leaning over and moving to write down everything that she could remember of the fight, doing her best to explain what she understood of everyone’s motivations as well merely what happened.

It took her nearly fifteen minutes to commit the adventure to paper. When she was done she handed the papers to Armsmaster allowing the man to read. Taylor maintained careful control of her connection to the force, seeing the surprise that the man opposite had begun to feel. She waited quietly as the man finished reading before he turned to start asking her questions.

“We were under the impression that generating and manipulating electricity was your power. I assume that from the reports we’ve collected and your own here that this isn’t the case?” Taylor stared at the man for a few moments before shaking her head.

“Not really. On the most simple level, I have the power to manipulate energy but it’s heavily tied into my emotional state. That lightning power only works if I’m very mad and it effects me badly.” The man nodded, carefully checking the folder in front of him.

“So this Telekinesis is your main power? And then there’s healing as well?” Taylor merely nodded quietly, not offering up any more information to the cape. She expected him to press the issue but he seemed to study her for a few moments before smoothly moving on.

“A number of the witnesses claim that there was some sort of altercation between yourself and Glory Girl. You said in your report that you felt that she had lost control of her temper and you were merely trying to get her attention?” When Taylor nodded he continued. “You tossed her through a teller station and then proceeded to bash into several hard surfaces.” Taylor, in response, shifted her pose before speaking simply.

“It got her attention and she stopped her attacks.” When he started to perk up she rolled her eyes. “She hit me when she woke up but she had just been knocked unconscious and I was looming over her sister. I won’t be pressing charges and I will strongly request that no one does either.” Taylor spoke quickly, glancing away from Armsmaster. The man was quiet for a moment before speaking slowly.

“Did Panacea request that you conceal what Glory Girl had done?” His voice was low and quiet. “Did she threaten you, or attempt to entice you by offering to heal you in exchange for silence?” The words saw Taylor turning askance toward Armsmaster shaking her head.

“What? No. She didn’t try to force me to lie to you. She also didn’t try to bribe or threaten to me either. She did speak with me briefly about her sister’s boundless enthusiasm and apologized for her. That’s all.” Taylor stared at the man, studying his entire form. The man seemed to be genuinely concerned, but the emotion faded quickly, her words apparently assuaging his concern. There was a story there, Taylor though, but she couldn’t think of a way to follow it.

The questions after that were more basic, verifying her statement and expanding on a few points where her descriptions were weak. Eventually, the questions stopped and Armsmaster slid to his feet and gestured for Taylor to follow along. They slipped through the cordoned off area and over to a different tent, this one sealed. Armsmaster took a moment to announce himself before slipping into the tent and holding it open for Taylor to follow. When she got in she found quite the tableau awaiting her.

“Wards,” Armsmaster spoke as he moved ahead. The wards looked rather haggard over-all. They were scattered across a number of folding chairs and benches, and it seemed that she’d interrupted some sort of argument. She followed Armsmaster in and suddenly there were seven pairs of eyes on her. Although she could only see half about as many. She stood silently as Armsmaster continued his speech.

“This is Taylor Hebert. She’s a healer that’s offered to patch up your wounds.” Brisk and to the point, he’d move over to stand near the entrance. Taylor stood in place as the eyes studied her, waiting quietly for someone to speak.

It was the girl in green that moved up first, the shortest of the gathered wards approached Taylor and held out a hand. Taylor’s eyes flitted over the girl’s face taking in the long angry scrape along her cheek and jaw.

“Vista,” Taylor smirked, bemused as she moved to take the hand, giving it a firm shake before responding.

“Hello Vista, I’m Taylor. Can you tell me where you’re hurt? Is it just the scrape that needs to be fixed?” When the girl gestured to the scrape Taylor reached out, holding her hands over the skin, a warm light emerging from the digits and gently soothing away the damage.

“So. Did you trip? It looks like it was quite the tumble that led to you landing chin first on the concrete.” Taylor blinked when the girl merely shook her head and glared at one of the other capes in the room.

Taylor’s eyes flicked over to another figure sitting silently in the back. The woman was dressed in black with a mask, a bow over her lap. The one that had been shooting arrows into the crowd. Shadow Stalker. When she stared back Taylor offered a nod before turning her focus back to her patient.

Drawing her hand back she tapped the girl’s skin, seeing no sign of discomfort she offered a smile. The other girl merely bowed her head and glanced back at the bench she’d left. The bench held a figure clad in red and white armour and another wreathed in metal with numerous clocks imprinted all over it. Another chair held a figure in black and purple, and a figure in glowing power armour with a damaged board, standing at his shoulder. The only other occupants of the room were a surly looking Glory Girl and a figure in glowing armour with a medieval bent. All of them fidgetted under her gaze.

“There we go. Right as rain.” Rather than smiling or making a comment the girl shuffled away. This seemed to be the theme for the visit. Most of the wards were polite as Taylor soothed their minor scrapes, but they seemed uncomfortable at her presence. Perhaps because she was the only person that had caught a villain? She considered commenting on it but she merely shrugged and when she’d found there was no one else to heal, she moved to leave the tent.

Offering a friendly smile to Armsmaster, she headed back toward the troopers hoping they could get her out of the building someway that didn’t involve being pressed up amongst the crowd outside the barricades.

She’d almost made it to other tents when a figure grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. Taylor easily corrected the movement and came to a stop facing a familiar pale face and blue eyes, that blonde hair looking just as disastrous as it had when she’d slammed the girl into the floor. Taylor felt a flush of anger at the manhandling, but she quelled it down and offered the girl a curious look. They stood in silence for nearly a minute before Glory Girl finally said something in a rush.

“Thanks for saving my sister.” She scowled at Taylor as she said it but there was serious gratitude in her tone and Taylor, nod in response. “I’m…” Glory Girl sighed. “I’m not sure what I’d do without her. So thanks for that.” As Glory Girl hovered in place, shrinking a bit under Taylor’s eyes, the brunette considered pointing out that she’d gotten a slap as thanks for that already, but instead she offered the girl a half smile and a nod.

“I’m glad I was there to help. Make sure that she doesn’t strain herself. She’s still recovering.” Taylor’s comment was simple and then she turned striding off toward the troopers. They’d apparently had a plan to get out of the scene and it involved a wig, a heavy set of trooper gear and a truck that would drop her off near her jogging path home.



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Freshly showered and clad in comfortable pyjama's and a warm sweater, Taylor sat on her bed, running a brush through her hair, doing her best to ignore the Force Spirit sitting on her desk chair next to her bed. Taylor’s eyes were focused on the wall, as she quietly ran through the bank and everything that’d happened. The brush dragging over her scalp reminded her of her mother, and usually soothed Taylor, but at the moment it merely made her feel worse as she worried her bottom lip with her teeth.

‘I fucked up.’ Taylor’s mental voice was low and laced with remorse. When she finally glanced over at Bastila, expecting disappointment or irritation, she was shocked to instead find a curiosity visible in the spirits eyes. Taylor stared at her confused for a moment before turning back to the wall and continuing the soothing gestures. As she did she heard Bastila slipping to her feet and moving to set herself on the edge of the bed, casually staring at Taylor from her new position.

“And how did you mess up Taylor?” When Taylor glanced over at Bastila, she saw nothing recriminating in the woman’s eyes and she let out a tired sigh.

‘How? How didn’t I mess up? I just stood there like an idiot. I let those two…’ Gritting her teeth, Taylor pushed on. ‘I let them have that brawl in a room with over a dozen people. I could have stopped it instantly. I used way too much force on Glory Girl, and I nearly got Tattletale killed. It was my first major conflict since I got my damned powers and nearly everyone died.’ Taylor set her brush aside, drawing her knees up and wrapping her arms around them, her chin moving to rest on her knees as she continued to stare at the wall instead of Bastila.

“How about we start with the ‘brawl’ as you put it. How did you let them do it? It was the two of them doing it right? How is any of that your fault.” Bastila’s voice was curious and soothing and she remained quiet once the question had been posed, allowing Taylor to consider her response.

“I could have stopped it,” Taylor spoke softly. “They’re… They’re both idiots. I could have stepped in at any time and pinned them both to the floor and kept them from trying to kill everyone there.”

“And why didn’t you?” Bastila’s response was quickly offered up, almost as if she’d been expecting Taylor’s comment.

“I was…” Taylor paused, considering herself. “I was shocked. I think. I had been expecting heroes to be like... better. These were heroes and villains, the books have all this to say about them right, and these two girls were acting like god-damned teenagers. Tattletale was winding her up like…” Taylor frowned. “Like ‘people’ at my last school did, and Victoria was falling for it. And she was reacting like a child. Screaming and throwing a tantrum.”

“Taylor. They are teenagers.” Bastila’s voice was laced with amusement and Taylor glanced up at her incredulously. At Bastila’s raised eyebrow, Taylor sighed before responding.

‘I get that they’re teenagers, but they have no… gravity to them. Don’t they understand that this isn’t a game? They were acting like it was a contest about who could win and it.’ Taylor grit her teeth. ‘They were acting like screaming children, except they had loaded weapons, and they didn’t even get that. They didn’t care where they aimed their attacks. We were all bystanders in their war and they couldn’t care if they killed any of us.’

“It’s not unreasonable to get angry about that Taylor. Irritation at the immaturity of others is something of a fact of life in most societies. The question you need to ask yourself is why you did what you did.” The Woman’s voice was gentle and chiding and Taylor’s shoulders hunched down as she toyed with the seam of her pyjama pants

‘They were going like this and I’d had to save all those people, and they just got back to it like it didn’t matter. I figured that I’d step in right? I’d make them understand that these weren’t toys by showing them what they were truly dealing with.’ Taylor sighed as she glanced at Bastila. ‘But I just pissed off Glory Girl more, and I nearly got that girl killed. I should have restrained them both and offered them the option of stopping. And if they didn’t I could have knocked them out then.’ Taylor muttered softly, staring at her hands. The silence after her comment dragged on before Bastila let out an amused sigh.

“Taylor, honestly?” She waited until Taylor looked at her and smiled before continuing. 

"If you were a padawan back home you’d still be ensconced in the academy. These are growing pains. Even if you’d been assigned to a master as out in the open as you are, they would have been in that bank and they’d have stopped the situation, not left it up to you. The concerning thing is the anger.” The woman raised a hand as Taylor opened her mouth, cutting her off. 

“You’re not Jedi trained and you’re not as skilled at mastering your emotions, to learn our way of doing things will be difficult. That doesn’t change the fact that you need to learn some way of dealing with your emotions. Your adventure has unlocked Jolee and he’ll be taking over your Emotional Control lessons.” Bastila studied her for a few moments before speaking softly.

“And you should expect us to discuss this more in the coming weeks. There was a lot of Philosophy in the Jedi Order about when to act and when not to act, and that’ll be a bit of a running theme for us until you can find the time to actually locate a weapon so that I can teach you more combat skills.” Taylor blinked before letting out a groan, with everything that had happened, she’d only just remembered that she hadn’t got the money she needed to buy her weapon.

The knock at her door came as a surprise. “Taylor.” Taylor glanced up at the door, as her Father’s tired voice drifted through the wood, “Carol is here, and she wants to speak with you.”

Taylor surged to her feet, glancing down with a dirty look at her poor choice in sleepwear before moving to exit the bedroom. She pointed her finger dangerously at her Father at he’s amused look before glowering at him as if daring him to say anything. When he merely raised his hands in defeat, she turned and headed for the stairs. As she descended to the ground floor, she paused halfway down seeing her Lawyer standing in the doorway to the dining room with one key difference.

“Danny, when I’m dressed like this you really should refer to me as Brandish.” Clad in white and orange, Taylor’s lawyer stood in the entrance hall looking as casual as she could be. The brunette slowly descended the stairs, nervously approaching the cape. She froze when Brandish’s voice reached her across the hallway.

“So. Taylor, my daughter told me that you broke one of her legs in two different places.” Taylor glanced up at Carol’s impassive face, ignoring her father’s choking sounds behind her.



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Carol reread the message from Piggot on her phone for the third time, sighing and staring blankly out her window as she set the phone down and gripped the wheel in shaking hands. She was tempted to just leave, to go back home and confront her daughter about the text messages that had been blasted into her phone about the altercation at the bank. Victoria had hit her first talking about Taylor and what the girl had done to her, and Carol had seen red at the idea that someone would hurt her daughter. She’d already been on her way to the Hebert Residence, in full costume, to give that girl a piece of her mind, when her phone had notified her that she’d received an email.

Considering that New Wave’s mail servers were heavily screened and the things that could reach Brandish directly were even more she’d paused in the car to check the email, carefully reading the Director’s words as she explained what had happened at the bank. The anger she’d felt at her daughter’s attacker had evaporated but now that she was here, she should probably get this over with. With a sigh, Carol exited the car and approached the house, carefully rapping on the wood. When it opened to reveal Danny Hebert in his work clothes she offered a smile that seemed to confuse the man before he made the connection.

“Oh. Uh. Come in. Are you here to see Taylor?” He blinked slowly glancing around. “I think she’s upstairs. She was pretty tired when she got back, didn’t even come down for dinner. I’ll get some coffee brewing and then I’ll grab her.” Carol watched in amusement as the man casually babbled, moving to get the coffee pot dealt with before turning and ascending the stairs. She listened curiously to the muttered conversation before they started to descend. Feeling a need to break the nervous tension she’d offer a joke to see Taylor’s reaction.

When the girl looked shocked and nervous she’d sighed, waiting for Taylor to join her on the ground floor.

“So. Taylor, my daughter told me that you broke one of her legs in two different places.” Carol winced at the tone, as the words slipped out a bit harsher then she’d been initially hoping for, and she smirked when the girl suddenly squared her shoulders and stared right back almost taking a chunk out of Carol herself with her response.

“Your daughter was going insane in a populated room and she was in danger of bringing the whole damn place down on our heads. I needed to stop her from murdering tattletale, and I didn’t have a lot of time to heal Amy, so I couldn’t afford to be gentle. But you can tell her that I’m sorry that it came to that.” Carol, blinked as she stared curiously at Taylor, glancing from the shocked Danny to his daughter before speaking curiously.

“Amy? What happened to Amy?” When Taylor’s shoulder’s drooped Carol had frowned, the expression became even worse when Taylor indicated that she should sit. Carol took a seat, watching as a cup of coffee was mixed up for her. She accepted it, watching as the girl saw her dad lurking, and made up another for him handing it over before pouring herself a glass of water and sitting at the table. Danny would join her on her side of the table, both of them turning to Taylor as she started to speak.

Carol considered herself remarkably restrained, especially considering that Danny was seated next to her and doing much worse at keeping his temper as the story came out of Taylor. Every detail filled her with a sense of mounting dread. Victoria had gone too far this time. She’d had suspicions about Victoria in the past few months, rumours circling among the criminals she dealt with about excessive force, and she had hoped she was wrong, but to see it brought to light like this made her terrified. Piggot had seemed almost giddy in her email and she knew that the next meeting they had wouldn’t be a happy one.

As Taylor related the end of the fight where Tattletale used Amy as a human shield, ignoring the hisses of anger from Danny and Carol, merely moving on to mentioned breaking Glory Girl’s legs when her first attempt at breaking up the fight failed. She’d offered Carol an apologetic look when the woman winced at the concept of her daughter in that agony. She continued on to haltingly explain healing Amy, listing every broken bone that Victoria had given her, and explaining the healing. On the conversation went, through Taylor’s own encounter with GG’s fist, and then through the report and what’d happened after. She did offer a nervous smile to Carol when she mentioned Glory Girl offering a thank you but no apology.

Carol was shocked though. Her daughter wasn’t exactly a pushover and the way Taylor described it, she’d been almost negligent in dealing with her. She’d apparently learned not to turn her back on a brute, but she wasn’t aware that Taylor had progressed with her powers this fast, and she studied the girl. Taylor quietly stared at the drink in her hands, letting her and Danny digest as she waited for what was to come. Carol let her eyes drift to Danny taking in the mix of Anger, Fear, and pride on his face. She leaned back and let him go first.

“Taylor. You didn’t tell me any of this when you got home.” His voice soft and when Taylor glanced up she’d carefully shrug up a shoulder.

“I just wanted a shower. I didn’t want to think about it. I was going to tell you, just. Probably not tonight.” She frowned at her drink before sighing. “I’m sorry, I know I should have said something but I didn’t want to get into a fight. You’re pretty stern about the hero-ing thing, and I. It wasn’t my fault you know? I was just there to get some money and everything-” Taylor seemed to shrink into herself.

“Everything just went wrong. I couldn’t There were all those people just… on the sidelines. They nearly dropped the floor above us on them… I. I just couldn’t let them all die when I had the power to do something. I couldn’t just stand by and watch like-” Taylor paused and didn’t finish the sentence, frowning when her Dad flinched as if struck anyway. He studied her before pulling off his glasses with a sigh, wiping them clean before nodding.

“I-” He paused and sighed quietly. “Your mom would have gotten in there even though she had no powers. She’d be proud of you, just. I worry.” His voice was rough and Taylor nod, the girl’s eyes shimmering with unspent tears. Eventually, the two would settle before glancing at her. Carol shifted nervously at the angry look in Danny’s eyes and the concerned one in Taylor’s.

“It was wholly inappropriate for Victoria to do that, and if you want I could step down as Taylor’s attorney.” She stared at them and Danny sighed before shaking his head, and it was Taylor that chimed in.

“No, I uh. You’re good, and you know what you’re doing. I’d rather keep you on if you can handle working with me? I didn’t mean to hurt your daughter.” When the girl glanced nervously at her Carol found herself chuckling.

“Honestly, Taylor, you showed more restraint then I would have in your place. And you saved my other daughter’s life.” When her phone buzzed she ignored it. “If you’re fine with keeping me on, I’d be glad to keep helping you out, we’re near to the end of your legal troubles and it’d good to finish with you.” She’d glanced down when her phone continued to vibrate, sighing and wondering what was going on now, continuing to ignore it as the Heberts stared back at her. The awkward silence wasn’t broken by them, instead, it was shattered by the upbeat peppy song that Victoria had set for herself in Carol’s phone and that Carol hadn’t managed to fix yet.

“Can we pretend that airplane’s in the night sky are like shooting stars?

I could really use a wish right now, wish right now.”

Mortified, Carol would fish out the phone as Taylor and Danny snorted out laughs and glanced at each other. “Victoria.” She’d say rolling her eyes and Danny would nod. He too understood the burden that was children embarrassing their parents for no good reason. Carol turned the phone on and held it up to her ear. “Victoria Dal-”

“Mom, why aren’t you answering your phone? The Hospital’s been trying to call you for like ten minutes. Amy’s collapsed.” Carol stopped, her skin paling as she took the phone from her ear, and accessed the menu, quickly checking her messages, a notification from the hospital and PRT that Amy was in serious condition at St. Elmo’s. Collapsed while treating a patient. At the concerned looks from the other two occupants of the kitchen, she’d hold up her phone quietly.

“It’s Amy. She’s collapsed at the Hospital. They don’t know what’s wrong. I have to go.”

Chapter Text

April 14th, 2011
Docks South, Brockton Bay

Carol moved on autopilot. She briefly thanked the Heberts for speaking with her and turned, scurrying from the house. As she approached the car, she fumbled with her keys, dropping them once before grabbing them off the ground and managing to unlock the vehicle. The van itself was rather plain looking, though the interior was comfortable enough. It wasn’t the vehicle that they customarily used for cape business, and it had often ferried Victoria from one sporting event to another before she’d triggered. As she pulled open the door, she heard a scuffle at her back and muttered words, but she didn’t have the time or patience to pay attention to Danny and Taylor at the moment.

Carol was shocked when it took two attempts to slot the key into the ignition, and she nearly screamed when the door on the other side of the car swung open. Turning she was shocked to find Taylor dropping into the passenger seat and moving to buckle herself in. She stared at the girl uncomprehending for nearly a minute before she managed to produce a tired question.

“What are you doing in my car, Taylor?” Carol watched Taylor push her hair back from her eyes, the serious expression on her face even more severe than usual. She remained stoically in place, returning Carol’s incredulous look with one of firm resolve, responding readily.

“I’m coming to the hospital with you. I was the one to heal Amy, and it might have been my fault that something went wrong. If it was me, you might need me to fix it. I need to see what’s going on.” Taylor stared at her and Carol watched as she raised an eyebrow behind her glasses.

The hero considered kicking the teenager out of her car, but she didn’t have time for games like this. Carol glanced up, staring at Taylor’s father standing framed in the light of the door to the house, and she sighed, moving to turn the car on. As the vehicle rumbled, it’s way out into traffic she casually reached out when Taylor told her to put her seat belt on, slipping it on despite its lack of usefulness for her. They drove in nervous quiet, heading out the Docks with surprising ease and heading toward the Hospital that she’d first met Taylor.

“This isn’t what I expected Brandish to drive.” When Taylor spoke it startled the superhero, Carol had expected to travel in this oppressive silence, so the almost casual question was a shock, though she took a moment to consider her ‘ride’ finally offering Taylor a nervous chuckle.

“What? Not a fan of the Brandish-mobile?” She eyed Taylor out of the corner of her eye, watching as the girl’s lips quirked a touch into an almost imperceptible smile.

“Careful, if you’re caught on camera in this thing, they might give you a name like Photon-Mom.” Taylor’s voice was laced with wry amusement, and Carol shuddered at the thought. Sarah had been trying for years to convince the various newspapers to drop that god-damned nickname, and it never entirely went away. Carol personally imagined that the name stuck because of how the press often saw the Pelhams, the family had a sort of synergy that made them seem more approachable. The nuclear family, now with superpowers.

“I doubt that. If the press knew what I was doing now, I certainly wouldn’t be getting any mother of the year awards.” The Lawyer’s words slid free when they came to a stop at a red street light. Her voice was tense with stress as she tapped the wheel, watching the cars cross ahead of them and silently begging the lights to blink faster.

“I can see the headlines now; famed parahuman healer Panacea injured at work, Mother nowhere to be seen.” Carol gritted her teeth as she watched the light on the other road shift to Yellow, blinking there for a few moments. She was startled when she felt Taylor’s hand on her arm.

“You just found out, and you’re heading there. No one can fault you for your reactions tonight.” The girl offered her a sincere smile, and Carol found herself nodding, though deep inside, she wondered on that. They might not fault her for what happened tonight. Power interactions were a tricky thing, and most people understood when accidents happen, but this wasn’t the first night that she’d had no idea what had happened to her daughter, or where she’d been, and the thought made Carol’s neck itch as she considered what her mother would think of that.

“I told her that she should take it easy.” Taylor’s voice was tense, and at the next stop, Carol peered over at the girl, taking in the serious expression and the stoic pose, though the effect somewhat moderated by the unusual sleepwear that Taylor wore.

“When I heal someone with my powers, it takes something out of them, and that’s for common injuries, from the amount of damage that she’d taken she should have been laid up in bed for a few weeks, healing the old fashioned way. I’m not sure what sort of side effects my healing has, and she’s a healer too; she should know not to ignore the attending medic’s advice. What was she doing at the hospital…” Taylor muttered the last line to herself, but Carol heard.

Carol frowned as she remembered the conversations that she and Amy had used to have about the subject of healing and a cape’s life. She frowned as she stared at the road, hands gripping the wheel. Eventually, the silence began to weigh on her, the ire she felt with herself, Amy and the hospital mellowing out. As they were nearing the hospital, Carol found herself unable to resist. She glanced at Taylor out of the corner of her eye, watching the sullen girl’s reaction as she casually spoke.

“So. What’s with the pants, then?” She smirked as Taylor tensed, and did her best to keep from reacting. Sadly for Taylor, the skin of her ears began to darken hinting that Carol had made a hit. When the girl didn’t respond, Carol quickly smirked as she glanced at the Hospital as it came into view. Instead of driving up toward the doors, Brandish turned, descending into the lower floors of the parking garage. She parked the van as close to the entrance as she could, and she hopped out and headed for the door.

Inwardly she was secretly impressed as Taylor kept up at her as they both moved at a near run. Carol brushed past anyone in her way, her expression a hard mask that kept anyone from speaking to them. In her wake, Taylor occasionally spun, jogging backwards as she shouted apologies at the various occupants of the hall that Brandish went through or over. The girl was spry, dodging around the scattered and fallen people, and when Brandish made her way up to the main reception, Taylor would be right on her heels.

When the woman at the counter had begun to explain that the entrances for the emergency room were on the opposite wing, Carol had slammed her fist into the table to startle the woman and make her look. The young nurse had sat up sharper, seeing the cape looming before her, and she coughed.

“B-Brandish. I wasn’t expecting-” She’ paused floundering around her desk, pulling out a book. “They’ve got her in a room up on 3. They’re keeping her near the PRT guards to be safe; The doctors are saying that only family is allowed, though.” The receptionist added the final comment when her eyes cut to Taylor.

Taylor had stepped back, nervously considering the pair but Carol just waved for her to keep up. Taylor might be able to help, and the hospital could deal. She headed toward the nearby lift, and she and Taylor spent nearly three minutes standing in awkward silence until the doors crept open. Carol emerged from the elevator only to be scooped up in a pair of white-clad arms.

“Carol! They don’t know what’s going on.” The woman dragged Carol out of the elevator and toward the hospital room. Carol noticed the guards standing outside a nearby door, but she entered a different room to see a hospital bed with a large number of devices arrayed around it. They were all hooked up to Amy’s form, and the girl was in bad shape. Her entire body shook, alternating between tremors and seizures, and she was coated in sweat.

Amy’s outfit had been stripped from her form, leaving her in a white tank top and the matching scrub pants that she’d often worn beneath the heavy white and red robe, the actual garment and her scarf hung nearby. Amy’s pallor was deathly pale, and the freckles on her skin stood out like tiny pinpricks of colour.

Three doctors were present in the room arguing furiously near the squirming body of Amy. The monitors beeped haphazardly and occasionally offered loud alarms that didn’t draw the attention of the doctors. Carol stared at Sarah, wondering what was going on. Her sister merely shrugged in confusion. Brandish turned to the doctors and cleared her throat to try and garner their attention. Again the comment failed to slip past the haze of the arguing doctors.

It was a whistle that silenced the heated argument, everyone in the room going utterly silent as the sharp, high pitched whistle went through the room. Everyone turned to the source of the noise to find Taylor standing over Amy’s bed, staring at them all abashedly. When the silence dragged on, the brown haired girl muttered something under her breath before speaking.

“I’m Taylor Hebert. I healed Panacea earlier today. What’s happened to her?” She stared down at the ashen-skinned girl for a few moments before looking back over at the doctors. The silence continued to drag on.

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Taylor shifted nervously in place, watching from where she stood behind and to the side of Brandish in the elevator. She fidgeted nervously with her hands, watching the lights on the control panel of the elevator change as they passed each floor, finally coming to a stop with a ding on ‘3’. She’d stepped back in shock when the door opened, and a white blur flew in and dragged her escort into a crushing hug.

Taylor studied Lady Photon curiously, watching her face and noting the genuine concern and fear and she trailed along as the blonde woman dragged Brandish from the elevator, leading her down the hall. Taylor moved swiftly in their wake, feeling the eyes on her. She saw two other figures in white staring at her in confusion, and a trio of guards further up the hallway staring and cooly as she if she might be dangerous. Taylor curiously inspected the three capes in white, trying to place names to faces. The older man was probably Lady Photon’s husband, and that’d make the younger two their children.

Taylor shrank a bit under the curious gazes, standing and watching as Photon and Brandish vanished into a room. She fiddled with her sweater for a moment before moving to carefully trail after them. When none of the other capes acted to stop her, she ducked into the room, navigating around the edge of the space to come to a stop at the side of Mousy’s bed. She stared down at her, taking in the sorry state of her new...acquaintance. She quietly inspected the girl’s form, frowning before turning as Brandish tried to get the doctor’s attention. Completely ignoring the new occupants of the room, the Doctors continued to throw three syllable long words at each other. When one started yelling about ‘Serotonin Syndrome’ while ignoring Brandish’s second cough, Taylor stepped in. Lifting two fingers to her lips, she hooked them in her lips and blew sharply as her father taught her on a warm summer years before.

The action was surprisingly effective, the prolonged high pitched whistle utterly silenced everyone else in the room, everyone staring at her in confusion. “Huh, guess that’s why Hellhound did it." Taylor had muttered the words quietly enough that only she could hear, and she chuckled to herself before glancing up to meet the other eyes. Taylor remained rooted to the spot as everyone else stared at her, and as she began to feel more and more uncomfortable, she started to fidget. Eventually, she finally began to speak if for no reason than to get the eyes off of her.

“Hello. I’m Taylor Hebert; I healed Panacea earlier. What’s happened to her?” When the silence dragged on, she sighed softly before glancing down at the girl. “She was fine when I left her. I had told her that she should get checked out by the ambulance and then go home to rest. How did she end up here.” When the silence continued, Taylor turned her attention on the youngest doctor who’d been shouting about Serotonin.

“You. What’s your name?” She called, and the young Indian doctor glanced at his friends before speaking.

“Dr. Vaziri. Who are y-” Taylor stared at him blankly as he paused the question midway through before sighing and nodding. “Of course. Taylor Hebert. I am not sure that I should-” The young doctor began but stopped when Brandish coughed. When he glanced over, and she nodded, he shrugged and moved closer to Amy. The young doctors glanced down at Amy and considered her for a moment before speaking.

“I wasn’t here, but it’s all in the report. She was brought in on the bus. They did some x-rays to make sure that her ribs were properly healed, and then she said she was feeling better and offered to help some patients. She’d used her powers on three when she suddenly collapsed and began to convulse.” The man paused when Amy suddenly arched her back, letting out a long low hiss and then collapsed with a shudder. The doctor glanced at her before speaking slowly.

“Like that,” He gestured to her form when it convulsed again as if it’d been shocked and sighed. “We can’t seem to figure out why. Cat scans show increased brain activity, but there’s nothing to account for this. No damage at all beyond what you’d expect from the convulsions.” He sighed before stepping back and glancing at the other two doctors who remained silent. “We’ve all got different ideas, but honestly we’re guessing at this point.”

“I told her that she’d need rest to heal.” Taylor sighed and looked at Brandish. “May I heal her?” She waited till she got the woman’s nod before holding her hands out, one over Amy’s head and the other over her heart. Taylor allowed the force to wash up around her, imagining herself sinking into an ocean and becoming one with it. She felt the presence of Bastila in her mind, the warmth and concern matching her own. Taking a few moments to center herself, Taylor carefully brought her power to bear on Amy, allowing the energy to emerge from her hands and to seep into Amy’s form.

The Force washed through the girls ravaged body finding scar tissue everywhere, damaged muscles and over-exerted nerves, and Taylor’s power seeped into it, carefully washing away the damage, healing it. Barely even started, her concentration took a hit as the machines began to go crazy behind her and the body convulsed even worse wild signals driving the girl's muscles and nerves wild. Taylor stopped the healing, but Amy's form continued to spasm and jerk for several minutes longer. Taylor pulled back, standing there, as the doctors rushed up to the bed and checked Panacea. Taylor remained still, shocked to the core and felt similar concern from Bastila.

‘This sort of thing should only be possible with a dark side curse or wound Taylor, and there are not nearly enough dark side energies lingering around her for that to be the case. She shouldn’t be this sick and healing shouldn’t hurt her. I’ve... I’m not sure what’s wrong.’ The tone was apologetic, and Taylor sighed.

"I can't heal her; Her body is rejecting it. I'll just do a scan, see if I can figure what's causing this." Before they could protest she returned to place, focusing on scanning Amy this time, her body wasn’t handling the stress of the constant spasms at all, and there were patches of almost cancerous growths over her body where cells exploded exponentially and absorbed all around them only to be destroyed by other over-charged white blood cells. The girl’s brain was swimming in a mix of convoluted and complicated hormones that Taylor had no idea how to identify. After taking a moment, she stepped back, lowering her hands and staring at Brandish.

“I...I have no idea, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s like her body is tearing itself apart or something.” Taylor stared carefully at the others before glancing at Amy once more. ‘Could it have been me Bastila? Could the force have interacted badly with her power?’ Taylors mental question was tentative and terrified, and the concern she got back wasn’t settling. Glancing up to see the devastated look on Brandish’s face, Taylor looked instead to the doctors who all looked disappointed. She shuffled in place for a moment before heading toward the door.

As she passed the doorway, she saw a file sitting in a holder near the door that caused her to pause, the force whispering in her mind. Taking a moment to ensure that no one was looking, she pulled it free, flipping it open to examine the contents. She stared at it quietly before heading out into the hall. When she saw the hopeful looks on the Pelham’s faces, she bit her lip before shaking her head.

“Sorry.” She muttered before moving to get away from them. She walked up the long hall, carefully inspecting the document on the clipboard, doing her best to ignore the suspicious looks from the other men in the hallway, and stared at the door they guarded.

“-ing. We’ll have to change the rotations if you want us to keep an eye on Panacea as well. Tattletale isn’t much danger with her jaw wired shut, but she still needs to be watched in case the Undersiders try to break her out. With her thinker power, she could certainly get them around any patrols once they’d reached her.” The voice came from a taller man, his coarse thin hair peppered with gray. The man seemed to be in charge if his different uniform was anything to go by, and he was speaking with someone on his cell phone. Taylor considered the man for a moment, staring at the doorway that contained Tattletale. A thinker.

She considered the file in her hand for a few moments before slipping over and approaching the door. When the guards raised their weapons, she halted, and the man shifted in place, speaking into the phone. “Just a moment, Director.” He turned around, and Taylor nervously shifted from foot to foot. His face wasn’t ‘chiselled,’ but it had an unusual shape to it, and he had an odd intensity about him, his dark eyes staring at Taylor curiously.

“Can I help you with something, Miss Hebert.” Taylor frowned at the use of her name, but she figured that a few people in the PRT had figured out who she was. She stood in place for a moment before sighing.

“I was hoping that I could speak with Tattletale.” The man’s trimmed eyebrows raised over his dark eyes and he stared at her for a moment. When one of the men went to speak, he raised a hand and held his phone to his ear.

“Emily. I’ve just had the most interesting request from someone that you’ve been hoping to speak with.” He paused, listening. “Taylor Hebert.” He blinked and listened more. “I’m unsure, but considering Panacea’s condition, I imagine that it’s probably at least tangentially related to the situation.” He waited a bit more and then hummed before speaking. “Well, that’s the interesting part. She wishes to speak with Tattletale.” He paused chuckling. “She didn’t exactly say.” The man waited once more, listening for almost a minute before handing the phone over to her. “She wishes to speak with you.”

“Ah. Thanks.” Taylor lifted the phone to her ear and listened quietly. “Uh. Hello?” She spoke softly and started when a breathy, no-nonsense voice responded.

“Taylor Hebert. My name is Emily Piggot. I am the director of the PRT ENE.” Taylor blinked and nodded before realizing that the woman couldn’t see her.

“It’s uh...nice to speak with you, Director Piggot?” The girl’s voice was tenuous, and the short bark of laughter startled her.

“Manners are a rare commodity in capes, Miss Hebert. Team Leader Carmichael informs me that you wish to speak with Tattletale. Why? And why do you think I should allow it, no matter your reason.” Taylor blinked, frowning as she considered the hallway and the file in her hand. It’d take her a moment to respond, though Piggot seemed patient enough to wait.

“I think she can help me figure out what’s hurting Panacea; I think she can help me stop it from killing her. And as for why... Panacea has saved a lot of your capes. Endbringer fights or otherwise. I think that she deserves all the help that you can offer.” It was a bluff, Taylor didn’t really know how often Amy helped out the PRT, but considering the work she did around endbringer fights that were televised, Taylor assumed it was a safe bet. There was several minutes of drawn-out silence before the voice on the other end of the line responded.

“You make several fair points, Miss Hebert. But I should point out that it’s exceptionally illegal to allow you to speak with a captured villain even if you weren’t both underage. That being said, considering the situation at hand, I could ask Ralph and his men to look the other way for a few moments. But, I’d like to ask you for a favour in exchange.” The voice sounded almost regretful, and Taylor frowned as she tapped her foot. She glanced at Ralph quietly before she spoke softly into the phone.

“What do you want from me?” The director’s voice went silent, and Taylor glanced up to see the trooper watching her with an amused look on his face, as he leaned on the door, his arms crossed.

“You’re an interesting girl, Miss Hebert. The favour is that I want a meeting with you. Where you come down to the Headquarters alone or with your father and we, sit down and talk for at least an hour. Promise me this, and I’ll help you.” Taylor listened to the request and mulled it over in her mind. It could have been worse, and that made her nervous, but she needed to see Tattletale.

“Fine.” Taylor didn't wait for the response from Director Piggot. Instead, she handed the phone over to the man, and he took it.

“Emily!” His friendly voice drifted over the line, and he paused, listening thoughtfully. He nodded finally, and moved to the side, opening the door smoothly. “The Director says pleasure doing business with you. I’ll get you a business card for you to use to schedule your appointment." He offered her a wink that caused Taylor to shift nervously in the doorway before she disappeared into the dark room.

The entire room was empty but for the single bed that held the deceptively small looking Tattletale her domino mask still in place. Taylor took two steps before she noticed the girl's eyes staring stonily at her from the middle of the bed and she sighed before stepping closer and seeing the restraints that kept the girl firmly affixed to her bed. Taylor watched as the girl held her eyes for a minute before wincing and looking away. Taylor stood at the side of the bed and spoke softly.

“I need your help.” Her voice was soft, and she heard the scoff from the hurt villainess. “I’ll heal you, and then I’m going to ask you for your help, and if you refuse, then I’ll walk away.” Her voice was soft. She watched as the Villainess tensed and then relaxed. Taylor reached out a hand.

"Do I have permission to heal you?” She spoke softly, and Tattletale nodded silently, still refusing to meet Taylor’s eyes. Once the girl nodded, Taylor’s hand lit up with a soft azure light and the Force washed over Tattletale’s head, the energy moving to heal the girls pulverized jaw, guiding the bones back into place better than the wires had, lining up the shards as best she could before guiding the healing along each fracture. As she came to a stop, she brought her other hand up, moving to carefully use her force powers to unwind and remove the wires that kept Tattletale’s jaw sealed shut. She snorted to herself, considering what Victoria would say if she knew that Taylor had given Tattletale the ability to speak again.

“What?” The words were rough as the voice spoke, and the head turned her way, though the young Thinker’s eyes still refused to settle on Taylor’s form. The Jedi in training blinked a bit. “I was just thinking about what Victoria would say if she found out I gave you the ability to speak again.” The loud bark of laughter was unexpected by Taylor found herself snickering as well. As she stood in silence watching Tattletale, she noted the girl shrinking into herself nervously as she continued to look away.

“Are you afraid of me?” Taylor asked with confusion. The second bark of laughter was even harsher, and Taylor’s lips pressed into a line as it quickly became almost scathing.

“Scared of you? I’m fucking terrified of you Taylor Hebert. You beat down Glory Girl with a gesture of your hand and then proceeded to rebuild the meat pinata that she’d turned her sister into.” She shook her head, taking a deep breath and letting out a hacking cough before continuing to speak.

“I imagine that lots of different capes are getting very nervous about you right now, and that’s not good for you.” The girl continued, glancing back at Taylor finally, and stared her right in the eye. “But that’s not why I’m afraid. I’m afraid because when I look at you, the voice in the back of my head that whispers peoples deepest darkest secrets to me? It just screams.”

Taylor wasn’t sure how to take that, standing in silence as the blonde girl winced and looked away. “You asked for a favour; what do you want.” When she spoke, the profound exhaustion in her tone nearly made Taylor reconsider. Eventually, Taylor decided that it couldn't hurt to ask. She quietly filed the screaming comment away for later consumption, taking a moment to study the younger girl’s features observing her reactions carefully.

“Panacea is sick, and we’re not sure what’s wrong with her. When you were in the bank, you said that you saw something wrong with her?” Taylor blinked when a more genuine wicked laugh answered back, and the blonde shook her head.

“I doubt what I saw is what’s making her sick unless she’s puking.” The blonde glanced in Taylor’s direction, wincing and pointing to the file. “Is that her file? Let me see it.” Taylor hesitated a moment before handing it over and stepping back. The girl stared at the file for a few moments before letting out a long low whistle as she stared at the words that had gone entirely over Taylor’s head.

“You think you killed her?” She watched as the girl opened the file and carefully leafed through the pages, staring at the notes, the various x-rays and images and she slowly closed the file, offering it back to Taylor. “Well, you’re right. She’s dying, but you didn’t do it. Well, not by yourself, anyway.” The words were clearly meant to be comforting, but they came out too harsh for Taylor’s tastes, and she felt her shoulders hunching up.

“What?” Taylor said quickly, dread washing through her. Taylor felt her heart stop as she considered the implications. Could she heal anyone, had she killed Tattletale as well? “What does that mean. She’s dying, but it’s not 'exactly' my fault?” Taylor stared at Amy, taking the file in hand once more and gripping it nervously.

“She’s sick because she’s using her powers on her own body, and she’s doing it badly. Considering that she’s lived this long, she probably can’t do that normally, so I’m guessing that when you put her back together like Humpty Dumpty, you did something to her that removed her Manton limit.” Taylor frowned at the concept. She’d read about the Manton limits, but she didn’t understand how she could have robbed Panacea of hers.

“H-How?” She stared at the blonde, but Tattletale merely offered a shrug.

“I have no idea, that’s not how my power works, but hopefully, you can reverse it.” She went silent then and laid back down, rubbing at her head tiredly. Taylor remained silently in place, considering whether to offer to help before shaking her head and walking toward the door. She opened it and stepped out, holding her hands up at the guns pointed at her. The guards gestured her out and secured the door before backing off.

The Director was standing in place. “Did you heal her?” He seemed curious, and when she nodded, he nodded, taking out his phone. Before dialling, he handed her a card. “This is my card, but I put Director Piggot’s number on the back. I’d suggest calling her sooner rather than later.”

“Oh. Taylor!” As she had turned to head off, he called out a quick comment. “Thanks for healing her up. It means that we can move her over to HQ and it’ll be much safer for everyone. Good luck with Panacea.” Taylor nodded absently before walking back towards Amy’s room. Taylor stepped into the room and stood in the doorway, observing the collection of people within. The Doctors were conferring among themselves, quietly this time, and the Pelhams were surrounding Carol-Brandish, Taylor corrected herself, and they seemed to be trying to rouse her spirits.

“Brandish,” Taylor called out, and the conversations fell to the wayside as everyone turned to her. Most of them were shocked as if they’d forgotten that she was there at all. She held up the file in her hand and ignored the scandalized looks she got from the doctors. “I uh. I showed this to Tattletale. She had a theory about what happened.” When the others looked at her, she shrugged up a shoulder. “It’s partly my fault. Tattletale seems to think that I somehow affected Panacea’s Manton limit, and this is cause she’s using her powers on herself.”

Taylor was surprised when everyone turned to stare at the weakly struggling Amy and the looks of dread that spread over most of the faces. She wondered what that was about but figuring that she should at least try, she set the file down and approached the bed. No one attempted to stop her as she moved in and carefully set her hands over Amy’s head and chest once more, dipping back into the Force and letting her power map out the girl’s body. As she worked, Taylor reached out to Bastila.

‘How could I have done that? I don’t even understand how powers work, how can I figure out what I messed up?’ She was terrified, she might have killed someone with her inept fumbling, and she couldn’t even understand how. A wave of warmth and support wrapped around her and Taylor’s grasp on the force strengthened.

"It has to have been something we -could- affect directly, or indirectly. So start there. Scanning Amy's body and try to find differences. Let’s focus on the cells attacking each other, the cancerous ones." Taylor’s mind gently examined the cells, considering them quietly as Bastila continued to speculate. ‘If the computers are what gives people their powers, then the limits can’t only be locked in on this side because there’s no way you could have affected that with your healing skills.’

Taylor’s focus went in more in-depth, and she considered the individual cells, precisely studying one of the cancerous cells and one of the wildly violent ones, and the ones that the girl’s body was using to destroy the other. Only then did she think to check an unaffected cell just as carefully and then she frowned.

"What’s that?" Bastila had cottoned onto Taylor’s concern and she examed the unaffected cell. ‘The DNA is nearly the same; junk DNA was attached here.’ Taylor followed the pull of Bastila’s presence and studied it. It was simple, a few tiny nucleotides that shouldn’t even be there, but seemed to do nothing. Taylor checked another unaffected cell and found the same thing. Recognition flew through her, and it took Taylor a moment to realize that it wasn’t her recognition, but Bastila’s. ‘It’s a marker. Your healing was too broad, you cleansed the affected cells, and she could affect herself.’

‘...How do I fix this, Bastila?’ Taylor’s mental voice was terrified; they’d never even covered this tangentially, she got the feeling that tinkering with DNA wasn’t something that most Padawans had to deal with. She got a mess of conflicting emotions from Taylor, and then Bastila’s voice sighed deep within her mind.

"I wasn’t a healer Taylor, I never…" She paused, frowning, and then she spoke. "It’s an emergency, and one of our spirits could help with this Taylor, but. It’s...It’s not like our Holocrons. You lack the fine control for this, but his Holocron can take direct control for a few minutes to direct it himself. You have to give permission for the Noetikon to allow it though. You should understand Taylor; The way it'd fix this... it’s the Dark Side. Deep in the dark side, this won’t make your control any easier.’" It didn’t even take Taylor a minute to respond, her mental voice ringing with determination.

‘Yes. Do it. I accept.’ Taylor expected for Bastila to ask again, but instead, the connection changed, seemingly deepening. The presence felt completely Alien to Bastila and Jolee’s touches, where they were gentle and contemplative this presence pushed into her, tore at her mind and quested into every dark and broken secret. A masculine voice was radiating through her mind; the words tinged with a mechanical after effect.

‘No niceties today, Taylor Hebert. Our time is short.’ The voice was cultured and proud, and he seemed impatient. ‘This will be unpleasant Taylor; we will need to delve into the darkness in you to access the power that you seek. If it wasn't an emergency, I wouldn't normally agree to push you this far, this fast.’

‘But, If you can produce the correct emotions, then I believe that I can fix this.’ The voice pushed past Taylor somehow, leaving her a passenger as her body shifted, every ounce of tension and unease melting off her as she stood tall and proud. Her hands splayed out, fingers moving to hold themselves out over Amy's supine form. His voice was contemplative as he used Taylor's body to scan the broken form of Amy carefully. ‘I will not apologize for this, Taylor Hebert, but I do wish that it wasn’t necessary.’

It was sudden and vicious and then came the pain. Something dug itself into her mind, dredged up every scrap of anger and rage she had. The torture played in her mind over and over, and the horror spread through her, the passion and the pain sparking over her mind. Taylor screamed in her mind, and her body remained perfectly still and stoic. Taylor ached to close her eyes, to hide, but the emotions didn’t stop, and her eyes couldn’t move, her hands remained still, and Taylor watched as Darkness emerged from her hands forcing its way down into the body on the bed.

The Force twisted and bent the girl’s form, savagely erasing every last scrap of material in her body that lacked the marker, using the dark side to force her body to grow flesh to replace it, drawing heavily on the dark-side to replace the mass without using nutrients. Taylor’s mind felt the memories pushing in, remembering the darkness that the spirit drew upon, his own darkened past feeding the twisted powers that they wielded.

She saw the tortures he endured to earn his dark gifts and the terror that he’d wielded. She remembered his pride in service, and his disgust in the failure of that which he served, everything melted together, and then it all ended, and Taylor collapsed back. She hit the ground and kicked backwards as fast as she could, only stopping when her back hit the wall. Taylor sat there, breathing heavily and staring at the bed that held the seemingly healthy looking Panacea, the girl’s form laying there still. Her heart beat like a drum and Taylor did everything she could to keep a savage grip on her gullet to avoid vomiting all over the floor.

She pushed the darkness down, savagely pushing it away and clawing for the Light Side once more. For several terrifying seconds, it didn’t respond, and then tranquillity washed through her and Taylor sagged against the floor, finally feeling the hand on her shoulder. She glanced up into Carol’s worried eyes. She was about to speak when the sound of something smashing drew their attention to Amy’s bed. The girl had lunged from the bed, dragging several monitors with her, sending them scattering to the floor and smashing them as the leads ripped from her body. She ran toward the bathroom and skidded to the ground, violently emptying her stomach.

Carol moved the fastest, getting across the room and carefully pulling Amy’s wild hair back. Taylor pushed herself slowly to her feet and followed, listening as Amy sobbed over the toilet and continued to violently expel the contents of her stomach into the porcelain basin. Taylor paused as she heard the comforting words from Brandish and Lady Photon, who had joined them. She stopped at the door just in time to hear Amy’s terrified response.

“I saw it.” When Lady Photon and Brandish asked her what she’d seen, Taylor tensed, wondering what the girl would reveal. She wasn’t any less concerned when instead of acknowledging the darkness in Taylor, she merely said; "I saw my brain. I saw what it had been doing to my brain." and then she had dissolved into more tears.


Chapter Text

April 14th, 2011
St. Elmo’s Hospital, Brockton Bay

A heavy silence hung in the air in the wake of Amy's declaration. But then everyone began talking over each other. Several of the members of New Wave had looked in her direction, and she’d swallowed nervously, though Carol at least seemed more concerned with making sure that Amy was okay, soothingly patting the girl’s back as Amy clung to Lady Photon.

It took a few minutes, but the doctors eventually managed to corral everyone, the majority of the group was evicted into the hallway. Taylor then found herself in the enviable position of facing the suspicious looks of the two-thirds of New Wave with energy powers.

Instead of allowing them to interrogate her, Taylor quietly shuffled off to stand near the friendly PRT agent that she’d spoken with earlier in the afternoon. The man seemed confused but didn’t object, and his presence seemed to be enough of a deterrent that New Wave remained on their half of the hall, though the girl, Laserdream if Taylor remembered correctly, did require a hand on her shoulder not to follow.

The hall’s awkward silence continued until Lady Photon emerged from the room nearly twenty minutes later, muttering something to the others that immediately cut off the suspicious looks being tossed her way though the argument that started up wasn’t any easier on Taylor’s frayed nerves.

The entire Pelham branch of New wave was arguing with each other at a furious whisper and Taylor, and the PRT Agent merely stared at each other shocked before shrinking down and doing their best to seem inconspicuous. Luckily, before the argument could get too heated, the doorway opened to disgorge Carol and the doctors. They moved past the Pelhams away from Taylor and toward the elevators, Sarah and the rest of New wave following.

Taylor considered following that group or even just leaving. The idea of riding the city transit in her pyjamas wasn’t exactly appealing, but the idea of facing Amy after whatever had just happened didn’t seem any more bright. Eventually, though, Taylor stubbornly firmed up her resolve, slipping over to the closed door and gently pressing down on the handle. The lack of sunlight through the windows shocked Taylor; she hadn’t realized that it’d gotten that late. Taylor stood in the doorway, the light from the hall throwing a large square across the floor of the darkened hospital room.

The bed that had held Amy had been moved back to its typical position against the wall near the window, and there was a heart monitor next to it that beeped softly, the rest of the equipment that had been attached to the Healer had been moved to the opposite end of the room, clearly not needed anymore.

For the first few minutes, Taylor quietly remained standing in the doorjamb, staring at the hunched figure of Amy on the bed, watching as the girl’s eyes stared back, shimmering faintly in the light from the hall. Taylor considered the door for a moment before letting out a sigh and carefully pushing the door closed in her wake. She walked across the room in the darkness, dragging one of the chairs over to the side of Amy’s bed, sitting and staring at the girl’s back.

The silence lingered around them, heavy with unspoken questions that Taylor knew that Amy would never answer, even if she asked them. Taylor considered asking what had happened; she considered apologizing for what her healing had done to Amy, she also briefly considered telling the classic polar bear joke. Eventually, though, Taylor leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees, lacing her fingers carefully and then resting her chin on them before she finally spoke.

“What a fine mess we’re in, Mousy.” The words were low and gentle as if Taylor was thinking to herself, but it drew a reaction from Amy, the girl finally rolling over in the bed to stare at Taylor, her eyes glimmering still in the moonlight that shone in the windows behind Taylor’s chair.

“Why are you still calling me that? You know my name.” The words were low and curious. The thickness in Amy’s voice was new, and if she hadn’t known what’d caused it, Taylor might have assumed that Amy had just awoken from sleep. Taylor blinked at the question, shifting in place as she considered whether to tell Amy the truth or to lie about it.

“You remember earlier when we were in that bathroom?” She paused and waited till Amy offered up a grunt of acknowledgment before continuing. She studied the eyes of the girl in the dark for a few moments before leaning forward on her knees.

“I gave you my name, and you seemed like you didn’t want to give me yours, so I gave you the nickname. After that, it didn’t seem particularly fair to just switch to your name cause other people told me what it was.” Taylor took a moment to think about that, eventually continuing when Amy didn’t seem interested in changing the subject.

“Besides that, you kind of like… tense up? Whenever anyone calls you by your names, any of them. Amy, Panacea.” Taylor lifted a shrug though it’d be hard to see in the dark and hummed in thought.

“You seemed to cringe whenever people spoke of you, and I didn’t really want to make any of that worse, so I kept calling you Mousy. I can stop if you’d prefer?” Amy didn’t respond to the comment, rolling onto her back and staring at the roof in silence. Taylor sat quietly in the dark, listening to Amy’s slow breathing, well aware from it that the girl hadn’t fallen asleep.

As she sat, Taylor considered and discarded numerous questions that she could pose to the other girl, each seeming a bit personal to ask someone and then she finally just let out a sigh and leaned forwards, waiting till Amy’s eyes glanced in her direction before speaking.

“Did you know that studies show that Cynics are better at handling extended periods of stress when compared both to an unbiased control group and a similarly selected group of Optimists.” Taylor’s voice was casual, and when Amy looked at her incredulously, she offered a faint smirk.

“What, you don’t want to talk about whatever happened earlier, and I’m reading a lot of psychology books lately.” Taylor watched the incredulous look on Amy’s face remain for a moment before she offered a weary sigh and gestured for Taylor to continue.

“So, while Cynics are better at handling ongoing stress, both mentally and physically, optimists generally complain more, and they tend to get sicker when they’re stressed…” Taylor spoke casually to Amy, generally drifting from subject to subject to keep the girl entertained. She dipped into her advancing knowledge of Psychology, and then the pair traded stories and anecdotes about physiology. Amy had a perfect understanding of the human body in a diagrammatic sense, but Taylor had read more on the subject, and she had all sorts of neat anecdotes and facts that even managed to draw a smile or two from the bedridden healer.

This was how they were found a little over an hour later when the door swung open to admit Carol and Doctor Vasiri. When the Indian doctor flipped the light on, Taylor and Amy were left covering their eyes as they adapted to the bright lights, muttering curses under their breath. It was only when Taylor’s eyes cleared that she managed to see the newest addition to the room.

The figure didn’t seem that odd a first, a tall, slim woman with a friendly heart-shaped face. It was when you looked closer that you started to see the oddities. The woman had pearlescent almost shimmering skin, and her eyes glistened with reflected light more then healthy eyes did. The long hair atop her head that had seemed black in the hall shimmered as she moved, changing from colour to colour as she walked, and when she got close to the bed, Taylor looked closer, realizing that it was some type of crystal, that the woman’s entire body was made of that same crystal.

“Hello, girls.” The woman’s voice, despite being gentle, wasn’t what Taylor would call typical. The woman’s voice was altered by her powers, sounding almost like resonating glass. Taylor was reminded when her science teacher in grade school had brought in two dozen wine glasses and had them fill them differently so that the students could play music on them. When the memories turned to other things from her past, Taylor brutally crushed it, turning her attention back to Amy, frowning when the girl continued to stare at her instead of the strange crystal woman staring at her. Taylor glanced up and saw the Crystal woman staring at her as well, and a sidelong glance revealed that Carol was looking shocked as well she tilted her head.

“What?” Taylor’s voice was laced with concern, as she glanced down, wondering if this was another joke about her damn pants.

"Your eyes. They’re yellow.” It was Amy that spoke and Taylor winced as she considered it. “And you look like you haven’t slept in days. There are bags under your eyes, and I can see burst blood vessels in your face.”

“It’s my power. I had to tap very deeply into it in order to properly heal you, and it required darker emotions then I’m used to. Using my powers in that way can cause feedback on my body.” And her mind, but Taylor didn’t voice that comment, doing her best to ignore the concern radiating from Bastila’s presence in the back of her mind. “It’s fine. I can self-heal unlike some people, and I should recover in a day or two.”

Taylor shifted awkwardly under all the gazes before she felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up, seeing Carol’s thankful expression.

“Come on, Taylor, Laserdream’s offered to take you home. Amy’s got to speak with Resonance about a few things.” Taylor stared at Carol for a moment before looking curiously at Amy, who’d be nervously studying the Crystalline woman. She briefly considered arguing, but she coughed to draw the attention of both of the women near the bed, giving Amy a simple glance before staring at Resonance.

“She’s recovering from having over a third of her body forcefully regrown. If she tells you that she needs to rest, I must insist that you respect her wishes.” Taylor stared the woman down until she nodded with a soft smile before glancing at Amy. “Just uh. Keep your health in mind, Mousy. Don’t do anything crazy. And no healing anyone until you eat six meals that aren’t coffee!” She chuckled as Carol tugged on her, pulling her toward the door.

“Taylor.” The voice brought her up short, and Taylor wondered if Amy had even said her name before. She turned and glanced back at the other Healer, lofting an eyebrow behind her glasses, waiting to see what Amy had for her.

“Nice Pants.” The girl said with a tiny little smile and Taylor felt her cheeks heating up. “They’re comfortable.” She defended herself with as much dignity as she could, before stalking out of the room, her head held high when the door closed behind them. Taylor turned her attention on Carol, giving her a single raised eyebrow.

“You need to keep an eye on her. She’s got to eat real food, and she’s got to sleep. From what I could see she’d been suffering from Chronic lack of both, although, with the amount of rebuilding that we did, she’s mostly healthy, that won’t last if she doesn’t take care of herself.” Before Carol could comment a choked giggle from one side drew Taylor’s attention.

“What?” She spoke slowly, staring at Laserdream, who was biting one of her knuckles. When the girl continued to chuckle, Taylor glanced over at the rest of the Pelhams that stood with her. Seeing that they were all holding back chuckles, she huffed and spoke again.

“What?” Taylor blinked when she saw Shielder pointing down she stared at her pants, cheeks darkening. She took a few moments being horribly embarrassed before she straightened her back and adopted a firm tone before responding.

“They’re just damn pants. My mother bought us matching pants before she died. I outgrew mine, but these are hers, and they’re comfortable.” She continued to glare as they all continued to laugh behind their hands, only pausing when, as one, their eyes turned to stare over her shoulder.

Taylor froze in place. ‘There’s no way.’ She thought to herself, staring down at her Midnight Blue Pajama pants with their silver accents. The tiny little visor emblems scattered haphazardly over their fabric. She dreaded turning, but there was no way to resist. When she finally spun around, she came to a stop to see Armsmaster standing outside Tattletales room staring back at her. The team leader just behind him had a wicked little smirk on his face, and Taylor blushed as she realized that she’d been set up. When the armoured figure approached, she remained stock still until the man stared down at her, his much larger frame looming over her.

“Shall we never speak of this again?” His voice was almost as uncomfortable as Taylor felt and the brunette couldn’t help but let her lips quirk up in amusement. But she nodded, getting the tiniest sense of relief from the man. Once that was done, Taylor let him return to what he had been doing. When he stepped away, Taylor turned, her cheeks still brilliant red as she glared at every other occupant of the hall.

“We never speak of this. Ever. I believe that Laserdream offered me a lift?” She glanced at the gathered capes, and when Crystal nodded and pulled back, Taylor followed, climbing into the elevator with her. As the doors closed, Taylor started when Crystal grabbed her arm.

“Thanks.” The words startled her, and she blinked, her ears heating up again. “For saving Amy. And uh. Sorry. When she freaked, we all got worried; we didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” She chuckled as she glanced at Taylor. “Though you seemed rather friendly with that PRT Officer. Do you know him?” Taylor shook her head fishing out the card he gave her.

“No. And I think he’s the one that called Armsmaster. So now, I have to get revenge.” She scrutinized the card. "Field commander Ralph Creighton's going to rue the day that he met me.” Taylor huffed as she stuffed the card away, glancing at the elevator control.

“...Why are we going up?” She glanced at Laserdream before she cottoned on. “Oh. I thought they meant with a car. Is” She stared nervously at the cape, ignoring the amused look on her face.

“I will have you know that if I die, then my dad would be very put out with you.”

▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

Amy watched as Taylor and her mother left the room, startled at the look of concern that Carol shot her. The sound of laughter drifting through the doorway tempted Amy, making her wish that she could be out there, instead of in here, but as it closed she finally let her eyes settle on the Cape. The woman seemed to remain still, allowing Amy to study her before speaking.

“Hello, Amy. As your mother mentioned, my name is Resonance.” She moved over to the chair that Taylor had sat in, and she took a seat, seeming almost too big for it for a moment before she adjusted her posture and crossed her legs. “I’m normally based out of Colorado, but your Mother and Aunt contacted me and even arranged for a Mover to bring me here to speak with you. They are understandably concerned about your announcement.” When she didn’t respond, the crystalline woman merely sat patiently and watched her. When Amy remained reluctant to speak, the woman studied her and then spoke casually.

“I can see that you don’t trust me. Perhaps a show of Faith? My name is Melanie Cao; I’m a Doctor.” She shifted in place, her entire form pulsing with light and then the light faded and a smaller woman had replaced the crystal woman. Long straight black hair framed a face with mixed Asian-American features. The woman’s lips curled into a friendly smile, and she resumed her relaxed, almost casual pose in the chair. “I’m a board-certified Therapist on top of being a cape, and I’m not part of the PRT, though my group is affiliated with them. Doctor-Patient confidentiality does apply, so you needn’t worry about me spreading your secrets.” Resonance’s voice was gentle, and she continued to watch until Amy couldn’t take anymore.

“I don’t need a psychologist. I’m not crazy.” She growled. “I know they think that I’m lying for attention, but I’m not crazy, I promise you that. If they don’t believe, then I’ll-I’ll..” Amy paused here, unable to say for sure what exactly she’d do if they didn’t believe her. She wasn’t sure that she could handle going home like this. Her mind was clear for the first time in years, and she shuddered at the idea of being hit with feeling again, and yet, part of her longed for her sister anyway. Victoria had been a part of her for so long that it felt wrong to be away from her, even considering this. Amy lowered her head as she stared at her hands, only glancing up in shock when she heard the other woman’s comment.

“I believe you, Amy.” The woman stared at her and Amy flinched at the thought of it. “You don’t seem like you’re lying, you certainly believe what you’re saying, and from what the doctors and your Mother and Aunt explained, what you suggest was possible. Truthfully, they believe you as well. Your Aunt Sarah was the most firm about it. I believe that she intends to take you home with her for the moment.” The words robbed Amy’s form of the nervous tension that had been building in her, her form sinking back into the bed. She’d thought that she’d have to face Victoria like this.

“Tell me about Victoria.” The woman’s words were patient and calm, and Amy stared at her for several minutes. Eventually, she sighed and glanced out the window instead of speaking. Amy stared wearily at the dark violet sky and imagined stars, as the healer fantasized about pricks of light, a single glowing white shape shot away from the building, shrinking as it flew north. Amy smiled, imagining that it was a shooting star, and finally she spoke.

She told the doctor everything. She told her about triggering to save Victoria’s life. She talked about her experience at the periphery of Victoria’s and her problems with Carol. She spoke about her work at the hospitals and the various people that she saved. She had intended to start with facts, but other details crept past her as she continued to talk, the understanding eyes of the doctor spurring her on.

She spoke of her troubles with Victoria’s aura, and her continually aching jealousy and desperate need, and she spoke of the crushing expectations of her volunteer work, the way that it had all changed. She talked about when she’d started and the gratitude for the lives she’d saved, and the constant concern and how it had turned to expectation and assumptions. Amy talked until she was spent, and then she lay there, breathing haggardly and trying not to cry or throw up again.

The silence after her verbal deluge dragged on for nearly ten minutes, the woman merely watching her as Amy tried to get her breathing under control. Melanie leaned forward when Amy had started to get nervous about what she’d say, and she gently took Amy’s hand. The healer felt a touch uncomfortable at the physical contact, but she gently gripped the Doctor’s hand.

“You’re not crazy, Amy, so that’s good. But you do need to talk to people more. You’re dealing with far too much stress for a teenage girl.” She sat up quietly and studied Amy. “I’m going to speak with your mother about arranging to speak with you more. It might require a computer, but I think I can convince our mover to continue helping out, bringing me here or you to my offices in Colorado, but I think you need someone to talk to.” When Amy nervously nodded, the doctor stood up quietly.

“I need to speak with your Mother and Aunt.” At Amy’s panicked look, she shook her head. “I won’t repeat anything you said without your permission, Amy, but they need to know more about what you’re going through, and you should certainly speak with them more. I’m also going to speak with them about limiting your work here at the Hospital. You’re just one person, and you can’t keep working yourself to death like this.” At Amy’s rebellious look, Melanie’s features firmed up.

“This is a problem that I’ve dealt with more than you can possibly imagine, Amy. It’s significantly common amongst medical providers Amy, and you need to understand that more than being unhealthy, this is dangerous. It can lead to mistakes, and with powers like yours, that could cost lives.” Amy felt her face heating up as she glanced at her lap shamefully, though the doctor continued as if she hadn’t seen it. “I want you to promise me that you’ll agree to follow whatever the limits that your family sets for you. If you want, I can sit with you when you discuss it with them.”

Amy glanced up at the doctor, feeling those eyes on her, and she nodded rebelliously after a moment. When the woman turned and slipped from the bed, Amy let herself collapse back into it. “I’m going to speak with your family, is there anything that you want?” Amy glanced up at the strange woman, watching as that glow over-took her once more, transforming her into that other form once more.

“My phone.” Amy stared after the woman at the nod. She watched as the crystalline woman left, walking out the door and leaving her alone in the dimly lit hospital room once more. Her gaze drifted over to the window once more, staring quietly at the darkness beyond until she heard the door open to reveal her Uncle.

“Amy...” The man’s voice was strained, and he stared at her quietly before darting toward her. Amy tensed up as he suddenly wrapped her up in his powerful arms. The tingling shocks that she felt up and down her arms hinted at his emotional state. The man held her in his powerful arms for a few moments before softly speaking into her hair.

“You nearly died…” The words were soft and scared, and Amy felt her eyes pricking with tears as she wrapped her arms around her uncle and clung to him as she’d done as a child. She didn’t hear what he muttered into her hair, but she just clung harder to him, crying softly into his shoulder.

The hug lasted nearly fifteen minutes before he pulled back to reveal eyes that Amy suspected matched her own quite well. When the man sniffled and rubbed his face, Amy couldn’t help but let out a wet laugh. She stared at him as he scratched at his neck before smiling when he drew her phone from his pocket and handed it over. Amy accepted it quickly and paused when a scrap of yellow paper accompanied it. Taking the paper, she carefully read the name and number on it, considering it for nearly ten minutes. She didn’t even notice Neal leaving and heading back into the hall; she merely studied the paper before finally taking her phone and carefully inputting the contact information in.

{My Mom gave me your number, is that okay? (It’s Amy if you didn’t know. I’m not sure who else’s Mom would give them your number, do you know a lot of Moms?)} The message sat alone on the screen for nearly five minutes before a response came in.

{Heya, Mousy. Course it’s okay, and as for the second question, I know many Moms. I am secretly the head of a Villainous group dedicated to the eradication of the dreaded Mom-joke.} Amy laughed as she snuggled down into the uncomfortable bed, fingers dancing over the keys, the dim glow of the phone illuminating the tiny smile on her face.


Chapter Text

April 16th, 2011
Docks South, Brockton Bay

“Taylor!” The sable-haired girl slammed down the cup that she’d been cleaning, her tense shoulders bunching up as she turned and stalked from the kitchen. “Taylor! I’m speaking to you. Stop.” The girl glared blisteringly over her shoulder before storming down the hall and toward the back door. Her father’s continued shouts were trailing after her, heavy demands that she stop and talk. Taylor ignored the surge of reproach from Bastila, throwing open the back door of the house and storming into the backyard. This had been the third god-damned argument today, and she was tired of it. Nothing she said mattered, every word was twisted, and she couldn't stand constantly correcting herself like this.

When she spun in place and saw her dad standing there, powerful arms crossed and his face red from the argument she just crouched low. “I can’t talk about this again, Dad. If you don’t believe me; that’s on you.” She ignored his attempt to respond, and she leapt, the force carrying her over a dozen feet upwards. Her feet landed on a second-floor window sill, and she sprang backwards, flipping in the air and landing perched on the edge of a neighbour’s roof. She stared down at her father for a few moments before leaping the gap between houses and landing on the roof of the house, quickly pacing up and over the crest.

As the shouts of her father died down behind her, Taylor was tempted to keep going, to run, to leap from the roofs and head into the docks, to look for trouble and get out her aggression. She held herself back with a tremendous force of will. She stood there staring at the setting sun in the distance, and after a few moments the tension in her body melted away, and she dropped back onto the roof, considering the drifting clouds in the distance. Legs dragged up, and Taylor wrapped her arms around them, resting her chin quietly on her knees. This had been her life for the last two days. She'd been deposited on the stoop by Laserdream, and her father had been sitting in his old armchair, waiting for her.

The look on his face when she saw her state had made Taylor's heart ache. Rather then waiting for the brewing argument she'd muttered something about sleep and had vanished up the stairs, but the morning after had been brutal. He'd dragged the entire story of the day out of her, from the bank to the hospital and every word she said made him angrier. It hadn't initially been directed at her, he'd cursed the Undersiders, and the PRT, and even Glory Girl. He cursed his daughter being dragged into all of that and then the lectures started.

He had wanted her to promise to stay out of cape business unless she joined a team. He had wanted her to promise him that she’d not get involved in things like this again. Taylor had stared at him anger at those words as if he’d ask her to stand by if something like that happened. She’d done her best to explain, but it devolved into an ongoing argument they’d been having for the last two days. Taylor refused to back down, to admit that her father might have had a point. She shouldn’t be doing this herself, but she still wasn’t even sure she wanted to be a cape, never mind joining a team, and her father seemed insistent that she choose one or the other.

Her father was worried, and she understood that. She could tell that he didn’t want her to be a hero at all, and he was utterly convinced that she was desperate to be one. Taylor found herself angrier that he didn't seem to believe her when she said that she herself wasn’t entirely certain what she wanted. She was strong, and she could help people, but from what she’d seen the cape life chewed up heroes and spit them out. Mousy and Victoria were perfect examples of what this sort of life did to people her age. But her dad wouldn’t believe her. Every time she trained a bit too hard, he’d confront her about it. The Bank incident and her poor state in the wake of healing Amy had both unsettled her father, and she wasn’t sure how she could make him understand.

The sound of the door below her opening followed by a truck door slamming and her Father’s ageing truck rumbling off toward the docks made her rather glad that she’d avoided getting into trouble. She didn’t think having her first cape fight broken up by her dad grounding her would be a great start to her career. Taylor rested her chin on her knees quietly and considered just dropping back down and going inside, but the setting sun made her ache for something beyond the cluttered basement of her house, or the backyard. She had been about to dig out her phone and message Amy or Sabah when a flicker in the corner of her vision drew attention.

When she glanced to the side and saw Jolee standing there, staring at the sunset as well, she tensed up. They’d spoken about the training that she needed, but she hadn’t committed to doing it yet, the idea of exploring her emotions wasn’t appealing to her in the slightest. When the dark-skinned ghost merely looked at her, she frowned at the idea of the ghosts reading her thoughts, and she finally stood.

“Fine. Let’s go.” The man stared her for a moment, his whiskered face quirking into the hint of a smile before he turned and leapt toward the nearest roof. Taylor stared after him, watching as he jumped from roof to roof heading north-west. Taylor moved to follow, using the force to augment her abilities and she leaped along ghosting over each roof before leaping to the next, covering distance faster then most cars could. Despite the distance, Taylor wouldn’t have much time to think as the ghost seemed to be headed for the woods that dotted the base of the mountain near Captain’s hill. When the spirit leapt off the last roof and then dashed toward the forest on the ground, Taylor followed, pushing herself to keep the ghost in view.

She lost sight of Jolee, though how that was possible, she didn’t know, but she eventually found a small clearing that the Jedi was waiting in. Taylor stood at the edge of the clearing before slipping in carefully and moving to face Jolee. The old Jedi stood in a relaxed pose, watching Taylor as she caught her breath after the exertion, merely observing as if he couldn’t see every thought that she had.

“Meditate.” The word was given quickly and brusquely, and Taylor started before looking for a place to sit. “Not like that. With the movements. Do the exercises you do in the park and meditate.” Taylor stared curiously at Jolee before shifting into her starting position. She started to move, flowing from one pose to the next, Taylor let herself sink into the art, mind focusing on which pose came next, which attack she needed to do. With the focus, her consciousness started fading into the force as she moves through the Kata. Taylor’s body relaxed a bit as the tiny seed of anger in the pit of her stomach finally began to shrink away.

“Faster.” The man’s voice was cool and Taylor grit her teeth a bit but accelerated the movements, shifting between forms faster, her focus tightening as she felt more than saw his presence moving around her, seemingly observing her movements. “Bastila’s been training you to use the force. She’s never once claimed to be teaching you to be a Jedi. Do you know why that is Taylor?” His voice wasn’t sarcastic, or smug, but Taylor felt her hackles rising at the calm, serene tone.

“It’s because you can’t be a Jedi.” Taylor nearly turned on the Jedi, but his barked commands kept her moving. “Keep Moving!” As Taylor moved with more force, her movement becoming harsher and firmer. “There is a reason we take children to become Jedi; it’s partly because it’s easier to mould them into ‘proper’ Jedi to help them think as they should, but more of it is the connections. Attachments are dangerous, Taylor; they can lead so easily to the dark side.” Taylor tensed up and gritted her teeth as her punches and kicks became more vicious, anger bubbling under her skin as she desperately tried to control it.

“Your connection to your father is a source of great strength at times, but at other times it erodes your control. Like now. 'Real' Jedi wouldn’t feel this conflict you feel, wouldn't let it erode their control. They are stern, firm. Arguments breed discord, and that can't be allowed.” The girl continued her motions as she pressed the angry feelings down, held them restrained, eyes glaring at the stump in the center of the clearing. Punch, Punch, Kick, Spin, Flip, Punch, Kick. Over and over, motion to motion motions sharper and more precise as she tried to tune out that voice that wouldn’t stop whispering into her ear. “And there’s more, worse connections... Like, Emma.” The words stabbed into Taylor’s head, and her tenuous grasp slipped, and she released her pose, spinning.

“I don’t want to talk about Emma.” Taylor’s voice was low and dangerous, and Jolee stared at her quietly.

“Why not?” At the growl from Taylor, Jolee continued, his casual disinterest almost palpable as he stared at Taylor. “Do you not think she affected you, still affects you, even to this day?” His eyes followed as Taylor spun and stormed away from him, and when the image flickered back in front of her, Taylor’s entire form tensed up more.

“She’s in my past, I’d rather leave her there, she doesn’t have anything to do with my present. It’s the Jedi way, isn’t it?.” Her voice was a mix of pleading and sarcastic at this point, and Jolee considered her as if tempted to let the matter drop.

“You don’t think she affects your present Taylor? She betrayed you. Do you think she knew?” His voice was calm as he spoke, and Taylor’s eyes narrowed on him. “Those concerns you had crying in that camp that you didn't want to go to? When you came back from that summer so very desperate to see your only friend. You’ve only ever missed someone like that once before, and she left you too. Do you think it'd even matter to her?” Taylor’s fists clenched as she spun away from Jolee the words stabbing into her mind, dredging up feelings that she’d long ignored. “You think that things like this don’t affect you, Taylor?”

“It’s my past. I’m better now, I-.” Taylor cut off, biting on her lip as she felt the anger and hurt swirling within her, and the girl clenched her fists as she looked for an escape. She shifted and ducked back the way she came, leaving Jolee behind her only to see him in front of her once again, his expression piercing.

“You what? Do you think you are better now, Taylor? That you ignored it for long enough and now that you’ve got powers it doesn’t matter. Do you think that you can run from your past? That just because she’s incapable of hurting you physically, that she can't emotionally? Do you think that sight of her wouldn't still stab deep into you.” Jolee's voice was cold, and Taylor glared angrily at him, tears pricking at the corner of her eyes. Part of her ached to lash out, to hurt him to make him stop. She kept a tense control of herself, shaking as she stood as still as she could. "Being a Jedi doesn't mean that you're better than anyone, Taylor, it just means that you get better sticks to vent your frustration."

Jolee stepped to the side, and Emma stepped up from behind the man. Taylor knew, deep down, that it wasn’t real. She knew that Emma wasn’t here, couldn’t possibly be here, but everything in her screamed out at the perfect image of Emma, the girl’s arms crossed behind her back and that friendly half smile on her face. She stepped up and smiled broadly, seeing Taylor, and something inside of Taylor surged with warmth at the expression resting on her.

A swirl of colour in front of Taylor resolved itself into the back of Sophia’s head, with its dark hair hanging over her defined back and dark shoulders. Sophia walked over, moving to stand next to Emma, both of them grinning and speaking energetically to each other. Then as one, they both seemed to notice Taylor and their expressions fell, the warmth melting away to reveal scorn and dislike. Emma’s expression was haughty and mocking, Sophia’s disinterest almost palpable until Emma leaned over and whispered just loud enough for Taylor to hear.

“Did you know that she…” Was as far as the image got, Taylor’s tentative grasp on her darker emotions snapped, and she lashed out, the force propelling her forward, fist aimed at the redheaded girl’s head. The punch connected and sent Emma spinning head over heels across the clearing to land tangled in a bush. Sophia lunged back with an aborted scream, her expression shocked and angry.

“What the f-” The comment cut off as Taylor slammed her forearm into the girl’s throat the words ending in a wet gurgle. Taylor stared up at the other girl’s dark eyes, watched them widen in fear before curling her hand around under her arm that rested on Sophia's throat. She held her fingers out and released a blast of Force Lightning that set the girl screaming in such a familiar way as she was tossed across the clearing to smash against a nearby tree with a sickening thud. Taylor reached out and aimed her hand at a nearby stump, the darkness in her swelling with delight as she ripped the stump from the ground and moved to throw it in Emma’s direction.

Taylor’s blood was singing as she exulted in the power and then she froze. Unable to move she stood there, the Stump floating over Emma’s broken form, Sophia laying slumped against a nearby tree with glazed eyes staring back at Taylor. The girl crowed in her mind as she struggled to move and then the rush began to ebb, began to wane, and everything slammed back into her. Disgust hit her like a literal wave, and she let her gaze focus on Emma’s broken body on the ground and suddenly everything shattered, the illusion vanishing as Taylor lunged across the untouched clearing ending up on her knees by the clearing’s edge, vomiting noticeably over the ground, retching over and over as she emptied her stomach.

When her heart stopped racing, she turned to find Jolee sitting on the stump in the middle of the clearing, the man’s entire countenance changed. He slumped against the wood with a heavy weariness about him; his expression was understanding.

“The dark side isn’t as fun when you have to come down off it and stare at the result of your darkness. This sort of thing is why most Jedi fall so hard. They can’t handle the consequences of their actions, and more than that, they can’t anticipate the results of their choices. They think they can take on the darkness without truly falling to it, and when people get in their way bad things happen.” Taylor staggered toward him, staring up at the ghost quietly. When he gestured for her to take a seat, she complied, sitting uncomfortably and staring up at the spirit.

“Do you know what the point of that was Taylor?” He stared at her quietly, and Taylor flinched as she sat back on haunches, her shoulders shrinking down. She glanced at the Jedi for a few moments, her thoughts swirling around as she briefly considered the possible lesson he could have been trying to impart. About how far she had to go to be a Jedi, how terrible her control was. She was still mulling over her failing when the man stood and let out a sigh, moving to kneel before her, staring her in the eye.

“I’m going to tell you something, Taylor, that I wish someone had told me.” He stared her in the eyes and leaned down, gently gripping her shoulders. She blinked and stared up into his dark eyes, watching him nervously. The man watched her quietly before speaking softly. “You’re doing a good job. Considering the amount of shit that you’ve had to deal with, you’re doing amazing. No one could expect any better of you.” She blinked and flushed at the compliment, glancing away.

“B-But I-” She glanced over where the images of the two girls had been, and he’d chuckled. She turned back to him and frowned. “I- I thought that Jedi had to be-” She spoke nervously, pausing when he gently waved her off and sat opposite her.

“Taylor, I think you’ll find that Jedi, especially good ones, are rarely one thing.” The man stared down at Taylor, and when she nodded, he continued.

“Me, for example. I was raised as a child by the Jedi Order on Coruscant.” As he spoke the clearing around them changed, showing the grand halls of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant before it’s sacking. “I was a brash and wild as a youngling, and even worse as a padawan. I went through many Masters, and few could keep me under control.” More images flickered of training and a young black man’s furious arguments with men in ornate robes.

“I often ended up going on adventures of my own since I found training to be boring and restrictive. One such adventure happened to involve a good friend of mine. We discovered that a system had been sealed off by its King. The system and its people were starving. So we styled ourselves up as pirates, stole a ship, stole a whole lot of food from rich people that didn’t need it and went about feeding the people. While we were doing this, we were shot down.” He chuckled. “We survived, and we even became friends with the captain that shot us down. Her name was Nayama, and I later married her.” At Taylor’s look, she chuckled.

“It wasn’t 'common,' but it wasn’t banned either at the time. So I married her, and when I discovered that she was force sensitive, I trained her. Taught her to use the force despite only being a Padawan myself. We were happy until another Jedi fell. Exar Kun turned to the dark side and began drawing other Jedi to his side, including my wife.” He stared at Taylor, watching her mull this over.

“The dark side feeds off itself, Taylor, it twists emotions, even good ones. Irritation becomes anger; anger turns to rage, then hate. My wife loved me, and the dark side in her twisted that. She came to me and tried to convince me to turn away from the light and to join her. And when that didn’t happen, she attacked me. We fought a duel.” Taylor glanced up as the images around the clearing shifted again to show a young black man and a young woman with red and blue blades dancing around, battling each other with the glowing swords. The man was better by many factors, and he soon brought her to her knees but then hesitated.

“I couldn’t do it. The connection I felt kept me from doing what I needed to do, and I let her go.” The images shifted to show that same woman in a battle from a distance, carving a path of wanton destruction through an entire field of fighting sith and Jedi.“And she killed so many more after I left her there. Someone else eventually put her down, and when it was all said and done I put myself before the Jedi and sought punishment, or atonement and they offered me a promotion. Sorry about the death of your wife Padawan; we feel you’re ready to be a knight.”

“I was so angry at them. the Council, the galaxy, everything that I'd tried and failed to protect.” Taylor watched as Jolee shook his head. “I wanted to be punished, and they didn’t get it, they thought that I’d learned my lesson. Instead, I went into voluntary exile. I would have never used my powers again if I could have, but I lived a dangerous life, and I was never given that option. I moved on as best I could, kept myself separate from the Jedi until Bastila and her husband to be showed up, demanding my help with some fools errand. I joined up expecting to die, and we won.” He shook his head and hummed before continuing.

“Do you know why I’m telling you this, Taylor?” When the girl shook her head, he slid to his feet and crouched near her. “I spent nearly thirty years after the loss of my wife dealing with that pain, and it never completely goes away. It always hurt, but bottling it up and refusing to speak of it? It made it worse. Imagine how you’d feel if that scene had been real.” He gestured to the clearing.

“You’ve got great power in you Taylor, but you need control to keep from losing yourself in it. We’re going to do this often, and you’re going to talk about how you feel because bottling up everything you feel isn’t going to work. And you can’t just talk to you, Taylor. You need to tell your Father at least part of what’s going on and explain yourself to him. This… This cold war that you have going on? It’s not doing either of you any favours.” Taylor studied him quietly before letting out a tired sigh.

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It’d been one of the less pleasant chats of her life, but when Taylor left the forest she felt...lighter. Like a part of the darkness that had been weighing her down had lifted. She walked back toward the houses, waiting till she was in the city streets before using her force powers to get to the rooftops, jumping to the roof of a squat bungalow before jumping onto a larger house and then making her way up onto the roof of a store and then making her way east toward the Docks.

As she headed toward home, Taylor’s movements slowed, and she glanced to the south, watching the moonlight ghosting off the tall windows of the large building downtown. Something whispered in the back of her mind about the view, and she found herself heading that way instead of home. She didn’t want to deal with another fight with her dad, and the light of the moonlight on the glass was rather pleasant. Taylor had been moving past the college when she first heard the scuffle. She paused on a building and glanced down, frowning when she saw a man with a shaved head accosting a woman with a knife, trying to get her purse. Taylor considered moving on, but the woman’s terrified cry saw her reaching out, using the force to slam the poor goon into the wall with enough force to daze him. She grinned when the woman, instead of running screaming, merely glanced around and delivered a kick to the goon's side before rushing off.

Feeling good Taylor quietly hopped along a few roofs, checking to see if anything was going on, a tiny surge of guilt washing through her. She wasn't a cape. She was just...nudging things helpfully; no one could get mad about that. She moved through the small residential district coming to a stop on top of the roof of a store of some sort, resting on the edge and letting her legs hang as she enjoyed the view of the moonlight bouncing off the various reflective buildings. As she sat there, she thought of going home, and when that didn’t seem like a good idea, she drew out her phone. She considered texting Amy, but the girl hadn’t responded to her last text yet, and instead, she scrolled down to Sabah’s name, quickly clicking on it and typing.

{Hey, Sabah. You busy?} The words were sent into the void and Taylor set her phone into her lap, resuming her quiet inspection of the moonlight on the building opposite her. She slowly swayed her legs as she considered the building, rubbing quietly at her chin. The silence lingered until her phone dinged.

{At work, nearly done. What’s up?} The response was quick, and Taylor studied her phone for a few moments before letting out a sigh.

{Had a fight with my Dad, kinda didn’t want to hang around. Do you wanna hang out or talk or something?} The text sailed off, and Taylor was surprised when the response came back immediately.

{I’m just getting off, you can meet me at home?} The girl sent the message before sending another with her address. Taylor considered it for a few moments before quickly sending an assent and then resting quietly. Sabah would need time to get off work and make it home, and getting there before she did would be suspicious. Taylor spent nearly fifteen minutes watching the moonlight on the buildings before getting back to her feet and glancing around, trying to orient herself.

Taylor briefly debated with herself about just going home, before moving and gently leaping across the street, landing on a small apartment building between two large office buildings and walked along through the back streets away from the Financial district. Taylor watched the niche shops and ran down stores drift past beneath her as she leaped from building to building, her eyes narrowed, wondering just where Sabah worked, and if she’d given the woman enough time to make it home.

As she was hopping along, she saw a green shape suddenly burst above the roofline of an abandoned warehouse, wave at her and then vanish out of sight. The image repeated several times, and she paused, staring in confusion.

‘Is that…’ Jolee’s voice was a surprise, Bastila usually slipped out when the others weren’t active, but Taylor merely nodded.

‘A wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man? Yeah.’ Taylor shook her head as she hopped across the few buildings, coming to a stop on the roof of an abandoned warehouse, standing on the lip and staring down at the back alley, watching the figure in white that stood next to the giant Giraffe backing nervously away from a half dozen goons in armour with lances. Taylor blinked as she considered what kind of weirdos ran around in period costume accosting strange doll-like girls.

Taylor remained in place, watching the interaction with fascination, and when the Giraffe moved, she felt the surge of shock from Jolee that matched her own. The waving figure moved, lashing out and Taylor watched as it passed right through half the mooks in armour, the that long arms slapping the ground and sending stones scattering across the ground.

‘Some sort of Illusion?’ Jolee’s voice was fascinated, and Taylor found herself equally fascinated as she leaped along to the next building. She headed across the roof, jumping to another warehouse, coming around the other side of the open area, closer to the combatants. Too far to hear, but she could see that the girl was trying to speak with the armoured figures. When one lashed out and smacked her with its lance, the girl screamed, and Taylor reacted a surge of… something was washing up from deep in her chest.

She moved before she realized what she was doing, her sandaled feet clattering as she landed, drawing the attention of the seven figures, scattered around the empty yard. The doll girl stared over at her for a moment before turning back to the armoured figures.

“I don’t know what your boss wants from me. I’m not even a tinker; that’s just a rumour; I can only really control fabric and light things. I’m useless in a fight.” The girl’s voice held a tremor, and she glanced back at the girl, watching as she shrank back into herself before continuing.

“Just…” She glanced at the matching armoured figures and moved to speak softly. “Please just go, I’m not involved with any other gangs, I just want to live my life in peace.”

The armoured figured didn’t even seem to hear her, focused instead on Taylor. Taylor supposed it was understandable. She was in her casual clothes, and she had just dropped two stories to interrupt a cape fight. Taylor didn’t flinch back, striding out of the shadows and into the moonlight, staring curiously over at the armoured figures. Both of the capes seemed surprised by her lack of a mask and her comfortable loose clothes, and the man laughed mockingly before speaking.

“Nice jump there, girl, but you should get out of here before you hurt yourself.” When he had moved to turn his attention back on the blonde-haired doll, Taylor called out casually, dipping herself into the force and drawing on her meagre skills with Dun Möch.

“She doesn’t seem interested, dude. It might be worth barking up a different tree. I’m sure it’s not the first time that a girl’s said that you weren’t their type.” Taylor winced when of the armoured figures tensed up and then all five turned to glare at her. She offered a friendly smirk and a wave, doing her best to look nonchalant.

“I warned you.” The man’s thick accent was tinged with anger, and one of the ghosts turned and charged at her, hefting up its lace like a baseball bat. Taylor shifted, augmenting her fortitude with the Force before swaying down under the swing and lashing out with a foot, she was satisfied with herself when the strike struck into the illusion’s leg, staggering it. She lashed out with a fist, smashing up into its elbow and freeing the lance which she knocked upwards with a knee.

As the lance spun in mid-air, Taylor moved, throwing herself into a vicious butterfly kick that drove one of her feet into the illusion’s head. The strike sent it skidding away, though it didn't seem to react in pain. She quickly leaped back from a swing from another ghost that had rushed to join the first, flipping over him entirely and snagging the lance from mid-air and lashing out with it at the other ghost. When the weapon passed through it to no effect, Taylor let out a curse, feeling the ghost’s lance slamming into her side and dragging painfully along it leaving a rather unpleasant burning sensation.

“How the fuck is that fair?” Taylor called out flipping back and away, springing off a trashcan to land on a fire escape on the back of the building. Breathing heavily, Taylor drew on the force to ignore her wound and to ignore the mocking laugh from the guy. She glanced his way to watch more and more spirits emerging from his body.

‘Okay. So. I can hit them, but nothing else can. Just. Stop the big guy, right?’ Taylor lunged away from the fire-escape and spirits that were floating up toward it, springing from window to window before launching off the wall, lance in hand, aiming at the guy. When he saw her, he lunged to the side and Taylor cursed as the spirits around him dragged him away before surging after her as she hopped away.

Taylor ducked around the side of a building, trying to catch her breath. She touched her side, wincing as the fingers came away bloody and peered at the corner, watching as the ghosts came at her through the actual stone, and she cursed, dancing away as a lance traced a line of fire along the small of her back that she barely managed to dodge with the force.

‘Jolee, how the fuck can they see me. They don’t have god-damn eyes, and they can see me through walls. If he can’t fucking see me, how can they?’ Taylor leaped to the top of a nearby dumpster, springing off the escape and barely snagging the edge of a building, dragging herself up and rolling away as a ghost sprung the roof below her and lashed at her with the lance. Taylor got her feet under her and ran, ducking past the battered remains of air-con units, and using the force to keep the distance wide but the ghosts were spreading out, the guy on the ground trying to trap her among them.

‘If he’s not controlling them directly, maybe he’s got one of whatever we’re in, and that’s controlling them. Since it cannot physically see you, so it must sense you somehow. What has Bastila taught you about concealing yourself in the force?’ The man’s voice was deceptively calm, and Taylor supposed she could understand that since he wasn’t being chased.

‘I mean we touched on it once, it’s all about compressing your presence in the force to the point that nothing else can see you, right? She said that; if you’re focused enough, you can fool people, and with even more focus, you can affect non-living ‘eyes’ computers and camera’s.’ Taylor huffed at the feeling of being penned in, leaping over the gap of a building to get more room and cursing as a wave of ghosts erupted from the roof where she was about to land. Flipping, Taylor pointed both hands at the building and used her telekinesis to launch herself up and over the flailing spears, flipping again to land on her feet and charging on, cursing under her breath.

‘That’s not exactly a lesson, but okay.’ Taylor snarled as she ran, jumping and leaping, doing her best to split her focus between the force and trying not to die, and the power washed into her and Taylor wrapped it around her, focusing on the idea of being small, tiny, so small nothing could see her, nothing could sense her. Taylor continued to focus, turning all of her attention to it and slowing to a stop.

‘I’m so small that nothing can see me. I’m so small that nothing can see me.’ She continued the mantra in her head over and over, only opening her eyes when she realized that she had stopped running, and she wasn’t dead. She glanced around, keeping a tight grip on the force, watching the ghosts floating around the area looking around for her. Taylor stared in awe at the dozens and dozens of knights in mid-air lances hanging in confusion as they looked around for her.

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Despite the general ineffectiveness of it, Sabah kept her power wrapped around the tattered remains of the advertising dummy that stood tall and wildly happy just to her left. She stared tiredly through her mask at Crusader. She blinked in confusion when the large armoured man winced and touched his head. The man muttered to himself as he glanced up and followed his gaze to watch the legion of armoured figures floating upwards and spreading out in confusion.

The ghosts drifted around for a moment before Sabah glanced back down to see the ‘Knight’ staring at her through the eyeslits of his helmet. His tone was laced with a smug amusement that made Sabah tempted to smash the doll down on him.

“I don’t know where your would-be rescuer went but considering that mover power of hers, she might have just dodged out before my ghosts could see.” The man shook his head before stabbing his lance into the dirt of the yard, crossing his arms over his chest and speaking casually.

“Since it seems like she won’t be if you’ll pardon the pun, your knight in shining armour, let’s get back to our discussion about your joining up.”

Parian felt her hands clenching as she glanced around, part of her was relieved that Taylor had left, she didn’t want her friend being hurt, but another part was terrified that she’d left her alone to this. That wasn’t even accounting for the parts of her that were confused about Taylor’s powers. The girl had been inhuman, moving in a blur at times and doing jumps and flips that had seemed impossible. She’d dismantled one of the Crusader clones with almost laughable ease.

When he coughed, The doll cape glanced up to see the disinterested look in Crusader’s eyes becoming more dangerous. She saw the ghosts shifting focus and descending around her, she imagined their faces behind the masks, all of them staring dangerously at her through the gloom. She nervously shifted in place until her eyes widened at the sight of a dirty and bleeding Taylor flickered into view at Crusader’s left.

The man must have seen her eyes cause he glanced over, and tried to speak, but Taylor moved, her dirt and blood caked form winding up and slamming a crumbling brick into the side of his helmet hard enough to dent the metal. Taylor watched him crumple and stared at the ghosts looming around and sinking in on them, she cocked her head to the side, held a hand in the armoured figure’s directing and he seemed to lift off his own accord before Taylor gestured and his body slammed back into the ground with a meaty thump. This caused all of the spirits scattered around the yard to flicker out as one. Taylor stared around, swaying on her feet.

“Huh. Th-That was harder, then I was expecting.” The words were low and weary, and Parian couldn’t help but be reminded about the times she’d said something similar about a particularly challenging concept in a book, and she moved closer.

“Are you alright?” She spoke softly in the affected tone she used to conceal her identity when in the mask and Taylor stared at her strangely, studying her for a moment. She opened her mouth as if to ask a question, but she staggered forward instead, nearly ending up her knees before swaying drunkenly back to her feet.

“I think... I think I’m bleeding.” She stared down at herself and began to fall once more, and Parian swooped in, catching the girl and wincing at the low moan of pain that emerged from the younger girl.

“You need a hospital.” She said her voice responding without her affectation, and she winced when Taylor’s tense form relaxed against her.

“Sabah. I saved some crazy capes life. She looked like a doll and was using a wacking wav- wacky wav- A tube man. It was weird.” Her words were light, and she was breathing heavily. “I d-don’t need a hospital. I-I J-Just need to sleep.”

“Taylor! C’mon, don’t fall asleep yet. You’re really hurt; we need to get you to a doctor before you sleep.” She’d not seen the girl hit her head, but she didn’t think that letting her pass out would be a good idea.

“Don’t need a doctor.” Taylor’s voice was thick with exhaustion, and she shifted. “M’Magic. Just needa sleep and I’ll heal. Was shoved in a locker and nearly died and I healed from that, easy. Just need.” Taylor’s words became less coherent, and she started to slump against Sabah. The girl watched her quietly and frowned. Taylor was a cape and if she didn’t want a hospital, she wouldn’t out her. She shifted, trying to pull the girl up to carry her and sighed as Taylor’s weight slumped heavily on her.

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It’d been a chore to get the girl here. She lacked the upper body strength to actually carry the taller girl in any fashion besides an odd limping piggyback, and it’d taken almost twenty minutes. Half a dozen times on the painstaking trip back to her apartment Sabah considered just setting Taylor down and calling an ambulance, but each time the soft, comfortable breathing on her cheek caused her to firm up and push through. Eventually, though, she managed to make her way back to her tiny apartment.

When she finally got Taylor up the stairs and into her place, she had enough strength to deposit the girl on her couch. She took a moment to check Taylor’s breathing and pulse, inspecting the wounds on her side and back to see that they’d both stopped bleeding. With a sigh she left Taylor to rest, vanishing into the bedroom to change out of her costume, and returning after a shower dressed in a pair of track pants and a t-shirt that served as nightwear.

Sabah considered the other woman as she made herself a cup of tea in her apartment’s tiny kitchen, sitting in one of the wooden chairs and staring at the slumbering Taylor. She’d been her first attempt at a regular friend, and apparently, that hadn’t even worked. When the kettle whistled, she moved, taking her cup and adding a tea bag to it, boiling water was poured over, allowing the tea to steep. The woman would study the dark liquid deep in thought, before adding milk and honey. She considered Taylor and frowned at the relaxed and unguarded look on her face. She seemed so at peace, and it made her realize how nervous and cautious Taylor was around her when they had their study dates.

The Basrah born woman sighed deeply, sipping wearily at her tea. Taylor had been amazing, but she clearly wasn’t a 'cape.' There was no costume or disguise. She’d just dropped out there in her damn jogging clothes and tried to break up the fight. Sabah shook her head, amused at the nobility of it, having no doubt that Taylor could be like that. She was reminded of the girl’s furious debates about inequality and exploitation, rolling her eyes at her own blindness.

The girl spent every day studying Psychology, Philosophy, History, and Law with bents on the Parahuman and she hadn’t even considered the possibility that Taylor could be a Parahuman as well, merely focused more on seeming disinterested enough not to be suspicious as she made mental notes about things to check up on. As she finished her tea, she flipped out the lights, disposing of her cup. When a nudge to the dark-haired girl didn’t rouse her, Sabah left Taylor to rest with a shake of her head. Grabbing a blanket and pillow from the linen closet, gently tucking the other girl in before heading to bed. They could have the difficult conversations in the morning when they were both rested.

Chapter Text

April 17th, 2011
Downtown/Docks South Border, Brockton Bay

Taylor wasn't sure if it was the persistent buzzing of her phone or the nagging pressure in her bladder that first pulled her from the soft, warm place into which she had drifted off, but ultimately it was the latter that forced her out of that beautiful cocoon to face the dawning day.

Immediately, she was aware of two things. Firstly, she wasn't in her bedroom, the textured pattern on the ceiling was completely different, then she was used to, and the entire place smelled wrong. The subtle aroma’s of cinnamon and lavender were undoubtedly pleasant, but Taylor wasn’t sure her father knew of any fragrance that wasn’t pine, cedar, or musk. Thinking of her father, Taylor dipped her hand down, snagging the vibrating phone from her pocket, and lifting it to stare at it.

‘9 am. Fifteen missed calls. 12 missed messages.’ Taylor groaned and dropped her phone against her face, slowly sitting up. The thick quilt that had been draped on her pooled around her waist. Taylor stared down at her destroyed shirt, taking in the great rents and blood spatters over her left side, and along her back. She carefully pulled up the fabric a bit, finding long thin lines under the shirt to show where the cuts had healed. Taylor slipped out of the blanket and got her feet under her. Staring down at her socks, she glanced around, noting her shoes by the door and breathing a sigh of relief. She moved around the space of the living room, curiously looking for hints of where she was.

It was the familiar sketchbooks and textbooks on the desk in the corner of the room that told Taylor who’s couch she’d ended up on. ‘Sabah?’ Taylor thought curiously as she glanced around. She remembered training with Jolee; she remembered wandering the city to avoid going home right away and finding the mugging. Texting Sabah and heading toward her, and then the altercation between… The duplicator and the doll girl. She’d won, and she’d collapsed against… ‘Bastila, Jolee? What happened?’ Taylor frowned at the reluctance that washed over the link, and she sighed softly when no one chimed in, turning to carefully pull open one of Sabah’s textbooks, inspecting the homework that had been stuffed haphazardly into it.

Finding a half completed essay in Sabah’s handwriting on psychology, she curiously opened the book to keep the page, carefully removing the paper, and scanning it. Seemingly a treatise on the underlying psychology of various local superstitions, Taylor hummed quietly in thought as she grabbed a nearby pen and made a few notes on a separate piece of paper, quietly jotting down the title of a book that she’d read and a few tips about structure and layout. She’d gotten so engrossed in her work that she didn’t notice the presence lingering behind her until someone leaned in close and whispered into her ear.

“Taylor, what’re you doing with my homework.” Taylor was so shocked by the arrival that she nearly leaped out of Sabah’s desk, spinning on the chair and putting a hand over her heart.

“Jesus Christ, Sabah, don’t sneak up on me like that. You were sleeping, and I uh.” She shrugged as she handed the notes over. Finally robbed of the distraction, Taylor’s bladder was finally able to make its displeasure known and Taylor hopped to her feet. And scooted past the reading Sabah, vanishing into the bathroom to deal with her biological imperatives.

“Taylor.” The voice drifted through the door as Taylor was tidying herself up and washing her hands. She heard the sound of someone leaning against the wall next to the door, and Sabah’s voice called in over the running water. She paused and glanced at the door listening as Sabah called through it.

“You put a note here that says, 'Perception' and 'Religion.' What’s that all about?” Taylor snorted softly and opened the door casually, peering out. She stood there staring at Sabah, and she felt the tension in the air between them ramp as she waited for Sabah to ask about her powers, and if she was a cape, but when it didn’t come she looked closely, and she saw the tension in the other girl, finally figuring out that Sabah seemed to be dreading that conversation just as much as she was.

“There’s a lot of religious texts on the dangers of superstition and mythology; it could help you make some relevant points up here about the difference between fact, faith, and the mysterious unknown. Otherwise, that point you try to make is kind of weak?” She shrugged as she glanced down at her damaged top. She gave Sabah a once over and hummed.

“Silly question but I don’t suppose you’ve got a t-shirt or something loose enough to fit me? I’d rather not deal with the cops or anyone as I walk home.” Taylor blinked quietly as the diminutive girl gave her a curious once over, cheeks darkening a bit before she glanced at her room.

"Maybe.” Taylor ignored the smaller girls curious look before she disappeared into her room, returning a few minutes later with two different shirts that were hilariously over-sized for Sabah herself. Taylors inspected the shirts, one seemed to have been from a fundraiser of some sort and would be extra long on Taylor, the and the ornate design was a bit wild, the palm-tree and beach themes a bit out of place. The other was a button-down shirt that would still be large on Taylor, but she grabbed it anyway.

Vanishing back into the bathroom and locking the door she set to work swapping shirts and tucking the bottom into her sweatpants. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than blood. She quickly borrowed a hair tie, securing her hair into a messy ponytail and coming out to find Sabah sat at her desk, apparently nose deep in her book. Taylor moved over and peered down at the girl, watching as Sabah made the structural changes to her essay that Taylor had suggested.

“The book I wrote down is about historical superstitions that were tied into psychological disorders, things like the full moon driving people crazy. It might be relevant? It’s got a fair bit of the subject you want, and you could use some of the anecdotes from it in your essay depending on how much of a sense of humour your professor has.” Taylor backed off and then moved to head for her door, snagging her shoes and slipping them on. When Sabah noticed her leaving, she was surprised at the girl’s comment.

“I’m uh, probably not hitting up the library today, I’ve got a few books to smash through, did you wanna grab coffee instead?” Taylor paused and considered. She wasn’t exactly looking forward to going home, and she could do with something in her stomach.

"Yeah, I’m pretty busy today, too, coffee sounds great.” She considered herself, patting herself down and feeling the wallet in her pants. She glanced over at Sabah and nodded, and she waited, while the other woman got dressed for the day. Fifteen minutes later saw them walking the border of Docks South and Downtown, headed toward a small cafe that’d be open at this hour. “My wallet even survived that little adventure.”

When they arrived, Taylor took a seat, and Sabah vanished to collect their drinks. While the other girl was gone, Taylor stared at her phone, curiously inspecting it. After taking a steadying breath, Taylor finally unlocked the device, flipping through the menu’s to get to the notifications. The first dozen were from her Dad; they’d started around an hour after she’d left the house. The texts had initially been angry, and then they'd got more furious as the night crept on, finally shifting into fear in the early hours of the morning. Taylor quickly typed out a message to him, telling him that she was okay and that they’d speak when she got home.

Flipping through her contacts, she sighed, noting the concerned messages from Carol and Amy both who had both asked if she was alright and where she was. Both of the women had offered in their own ways to assist, Amy commenting that Taylor could hide out in her hospital room if she needed, and Carol had offered in their own ways to help her speak with her dad. Touched at the sentiment, Taylor quickly shot off a reply to both briefly explaining that there had been an incident and she’d been away from her phone for a few hours. The sound of cups being set down drew Taylor’s attention, and she glanced up to see Sabah sitting opposite her holding some sort of foamed beverage.

Taylor curiously lifted her mug and sniffed finding it to be a latte of some sort. She inhaled and then took a sip, frowning at the acrid taste, Taylor curiously lifted an eyebrow at Sabah.

“You mentioned that your mother often drank hazelnut lattes.” She gestured to the mug and Taylor took a second deeper sip and smiled softly, savouring the warmth in her hands. As she sat there, Taylor watched Sabah, and she tilted her head. She briefly wondered why the other girl hadn’t brought up the night before, she considered asking herself but decided that an open-air cafe in the middle of the street wasn’t the place to have that kind of conversation. Sabah, though, was the one that broke the silence, finally having consumed half her beverage.

“So. You’re working on studying for finals as well? I’ve got like six more chapters to read for Psychology, and it’s not even my major. That plus another whole section to review in design, and I’ve got to put the finishing touches on my final projects.” Sabah sighed melodramatically as she slumped against the table. Taylor chuckled, and it drew the other woman’s gaze.

“I don’t even know how you do it, you’re at the library reading most days and you never take notes, but you seem perfectly calm about your tests. What’s your major anyway? I’ve seen you spread out wide, but I’m guessing it’s Psychology or Pre-med with a minor in Parahuman studies?”

“Major?” Taylor paused, blinking as she shifted in her chair. “Er...Sabah, I’m not in university.” She shifted nervously in her chair, frowning as she considered. Her grades were improving, and this would be the year that she could do AP classes at the local university. If she could leverage a way to do the fall entrance exams, she could start attending a few lessons to keep Bastila happy and get her father off her back about being out of school all day. Her thoughts were interrupted when she glanced up to see Sabah staring at her in confusion.

“Are you doing an independent study? Or something like that?” Taylor frowned and shook her head, studying Sabah again and frowning quietly when it clicked in her head.

“Sabah, I’m uh, a bit young for University just yet. I’m Sixteen, Seventeen in two months.” She shrugged faintly as she noticed the shock on the woman’s face. “There was an incident at my school, I nearly died, and it allowed me to enroll in an online education course. But I tend to spring through it fast, so I end up doing my own work at the library.” Taylor frowned as she considered the other woman. “Why did you think I was in university?”

“Taylor, you’ve proofread half my Psychology assignments in the last two months, you’ve almost single-handedly gotten me a pass in the course, and you talk about things that fly over my head.” Taylor frowned, shrinking back in her chair at the almost angry tone from the other woman. She bit nervously at her bottom lip as she played with her phone, staring at her half-drank coffee. She stared at it and did what she could to avoid the other woman’s sharp gaze for a few moments before quietly pushing her chair back.

“S-Sorry for the mistake.” Taylor stood there awkwardly for a second. “Thanks for the coffee, I should uh...get back to things. See you around.” She glanced at Sabah, seeing the woman’s conflicting features and she moved to slip off, pausing to stand near Sabah. “Thanks for uh… well, everything you know.” She moved off quickly, though she still heard the woman behind her letting out a tired sigh.

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'10:02 am’ Taylor stared silently at her phone, letting her legs hang off the edge of the roof that she was perched on, staring at the truck sitting in the driveway of her house. Her father had called in sick; this wasn’t good. She quietly flicked into the phone, flipping through the two more requests from her dad to return home immediately, and curiously checked the messages from the others. Carol hadn’t responded, probably busy at work, Amy had sent a quick question about what sort of incident she’d been in, and Sabah’s number sat silent.

Taylor sighed faintly and glanced at the house, wondering just what she was going to do. It’d be then that a figure slid up next to her, worn brown robes coming into view as the older man took a seat with a soft grunt and let his legs hang next to Taylors, quietly watching the house across the street from her. They sat in companionable silence for a few moments, legs swaying in time before Jolee finally spoke.

“So, are you waiting to see if the entire house up and vanishes?” At her incredulous look, he offered her a smile. “It’s just a house, Taylor, and your father is just a man. You’ve got nothing to fear from him because he loves you.” Taylor glanced at him, and he smiled quietly.

“He's your Father, Taylor; he'll forgive you because that's what love is. Just go tell him you're sorry.” Taylor frowned at the quote, shifting quietly. When she glanced up, she found Jolee had gone once more, and she let out a sigh.

‘Time to get this over with.’

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{I’m fine, something happened last night, I’ll be home soon, and we can talk.} Danny stared at his cellphone, and for the fifteenth time this morning, he resisted the urge to physically smash it against the wall. He’d broken his oath about his temper too many times this week already. He’d had a lot of time to think over the last two days, and this last night had been the worst. His daughter had been gone all night. He’d driven up and down the docks, listening for a fight, and apart from finding Leet and Uber sneaking out of yet another hidden warehouse as something in the background exploded, he hadn’t had much luck finding her. He’d eventually headed home and tried to call her. Call after call went to voice mail until the box was full of his angry blustering.

Then he texted her and then texted the only other number that he had. Carol had responded that both she and Amy had sent their own messages and try to get ahold of Taylor and that that hadn’t turned up anything either. He’d entertained the thought of calling the police and had been in process of doing so when the message came through. At first, he’d been relieved that she was okay, and then terrified at the contents of the message.

What could have happened that’d kept her from coming home, from even responding to his messages? He sat there staring at his phone as she continued to ignore his messages. His fingers clenched up as he gripped the phone, teeth gritting as he prepared to throw the stupid hunk of plastic at the nearby wall.

The front door opening with a creak saw him on his feet, leaving his phone in his wake. Heading toward the doorway, the man moved fast, clearing the entrance to the kitchen and passing down the hall to see Taylor standing there and kicking off her sandals in exhaustion. She turned to him, her hair wild and untamed and tied back in a messy ponytail. She was wearing a man’s shirt, and she seemed to be holding the shredded remains of another sweater. And there was blood on it. He stared at her, and a flash of rage went through him at the idea that she’d gone out and gotten into a fight.

Then he saw her face, her eyes welling with tears as she stood there. He saw how tiny she seemed, framed in the doorway, and he felt his anger melt away. Danny stepped forward and scooped Taylor up in his arms, crushing her to his chest and holding her quietly. Taylor babbled at a mile a minute her rapid words dissolving into tears, entire sentences mushing together as she sniffled her way through a mess of names, and confusing facts. Danny found himself chuckling at the over a dozen sorry's mushed in with the rest. Danny let it go for a few minutes allowing Taylor to cry herself out before he gently set her down. When she bowed her head, Danny moved to use his hand to gently nudge her chin up, drawing her head up and gestured to the stairs.

“Go get cleaned up. I’ll get you some breakfast, and then we can talk.” He stared until she nodded and then watched her climb the stairs with a weariness around her that he was far too familiar with seeing in the mirror. The man turned and headed for the kitchen, quietly putting together a simple breakfast for Taylor. Scrambled eggs and toast were prepared with care, and when the girl joined him at the table, he set the plate before her. Watching with an amused smile as she voraciously devoured the food, he took a good look at Taylor’s face. She looked fine, but she’d looked fine two days after nearly killing herself healing Carol’s daughter.

“What happened last night, Taylor? Why didn’t you come home?” When his daughter glanced up at him and stared quietly at him, as if considering, he felt a flicker of irritation though it’d wane as she finally began to speak.

“I headed west, out of the city. I just had to...get away. I went and trained some in the woods near Captain Hill. I was on my way back, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to just come home, so I kept roof hopping around downtown. I uh, I was kind of upset, and I texted Sabah, asked if we could chat. As I was headed her way, I heard a woman get mugged, and I smacked her attacker into the wall with my powers.” When Danny gave her a look, she held up her hands. “No one saw me, I stayed on the roof, but she did kick him good, so I doubt she’ll tell.” Danny sighed but waved her on.

“I was hopping along afterwards, just, looking around and I came across this abandoned factory complex? There was a yard or something anyway and a bunch of factories. I was just exploring when I heard someone scream, and I saw two capes.” Taylor picked at her fingers, staring at the table and Danny, sighed heavily as she avoided his eyes. “There was this one with like, pale skin and blonde hair and she was cornered by this group of guys that I later found out was just one guy with clones. I was going to mind my own business, but he hit her.” She glanced up and flinched, and Danny felt his features smooth out.

“Your moth-” Danny started to speak, but Taylor didn’t let him finish, sighing softly.

“I’m not, Mom, dad.” The girl stared at him. “I. I’m not going to get dragged into this life as she did, I know that she used to be part of Lustrum’s gang.” Danny felt his mouth dry as he stared at Taylor, frowning as she picked through his concerns. “I can help people, dad. I went in there, and I had no idea what I was doing, and I got hurt, but I beat him, and… I want to help.” Taylor frowned at her hands, and Danny watched her closely.

“You’re right, you know.” When Taylor glanced up, he offered a tired smile as he adjusted his glasses. “What you did wasn’t really what your mother would have done. That seems like my own sort of play.” He shook his head tiredly as he leaned back in his chair, staring at Taylor. The pair studied each other, Taylor carefully finishing the last of her breakfast under Danny’s eyes. He was surprised when she started to speak.

“I’m gonna be a hero, I think.” His heart dropped a bit. “But not yet. I’m… I’m not ready to go by myself, I’ve still got so much to learn, and I’m not even sure who I want to work with.” Danny studied Taylor, briefly considering denying her what she wanted. She would be safer as a regular kid, and he’d breathe easier. But he saw the look in her eyes, and he knew that if he tried she’d just go around him, or wait till she turned eighteen and go and do it anyway to spite him.

“Fine. But you’ve got to start going to school.” Danny was surprised by the lack of rebellious look from his daughter, and she merely gestured that they’d talk about it later. Danny quietly adjusted his pose and stared at Taylor. He watched as she hunched in silently, her ‘planning’ face back in place. Rather than let her vanish into her head, he spoke. “So. For this, for you to become a hero. What do you need to do, what can I do to help?” He watched as she glanced up shyly at him and they started to quietly go over her training schedule, and Danny hunkered down, turning his mind to the plan, even offering a few tips.


Chapter Text

April 17th, 2011
Dallon House, Brockton Bay

“Deep breaths, Carol. In and out, slowly.” Speaking softly to herself as she sat in her car, Carol rested her forehead against the cool leather of the steering wheel. Lifting her head, and glancing out at her driveway, Carol wasn’t sure if she wanted to cry or to smash something. Both ideas seemed like they might make her feel better, but neither looked like a great choice at the moment. Rather than doing either, she sat up, scrubbing at her face with her hands. When her phone chimed, she pulled it from her pocket, letting out a half-hearted smile as the message from Danny arrived.

{Taylor is fine, she’s home now, and we’ve spoken. She’s going to try to be a hero, she says.} Letting out a relieved sigh, she carefully slid her phone away, moving to push open the car door. She grabbed her briefcase from the back of the car and shut the door before heading toward the house. As she ascended the steps, she drew out her keys, unlocking the front door and pushing her way inside into the entrance hall. The sound of something clattering to the floor upstairs preceded her daughter’s arrival at the second-floor landing of the main hall.

“Mom! How’s Amy doing? Is she with you?” The girl was floating in mid-air, as she spoke, and Carol was tempted to lecture her for flying in the house. Considering what they needed to discuss, she let it slide for the moment. When Victoria moved to glance past her, Carol let out a tired sigh rather than respond immediately. Shrugging off the jacket of her pantsuit, Carol hung it by the door and set her briefcase down. She used the tip of one foot to remove the other’s shoe, then reversed the process on the other. Carol let out a sigh of relief as her finally free toes wiggled and cracked. When she turned, Carol nearly shrieked as she found Victoria looming less than four inches from her, the girl floating in mid-air and peering out the door over her shoulder. The blonde girl’s eager expression turned to concern as she floated back a bit, her blue eyes staring at Carol. “Where’s Amy, Mom?”

Bowing her head and rubbing tiredly at her forehead, Carol took a few moments to collect her briefcase before gesturing for Victoria to follow her. She moved along the hall, continuing to not comment on her daughter’s ongoing flight in the house. She led Victoria toward her office and proceeded into the small professionally appointed room. Carol set her briefcase down on one side of her desk, before taking a seat behind it, staring at Victoria as the girl nervously joined her in the room, landing and taking a seat opposite her.

“Mom, Where’s Amy? What’d that-” When Victoria started to speak, Carol felt her temper flare and she held up a hand to silence her daughter. She took a second to get her temper under control before finally speaking.

“If you’re about to call my client a bitch again, Victoria, don’t. As it stands, Taylor is the only reason you’re not sitting in holding cell at PRT HQ sweating.” When Victoria moved to speak again, Carol held up her hand, giving her daughter the most severe look that she could. “Do you have any idea how much trouble you’re in Victoria? How much trouble you’ve nearly got your sister into? The rest of New Wave?” At the gobsmacked looked from her daughter, Carol paused, taking a breath and continuing at a more normal volume.

“They have you on assault at the very least, Victoria. Signed statements from at least six criminals. Which isn’t even counting the number of civilians that saw you slap Taylor across a bank lobby.” Seeing the nervous look on her daughter’s face, Carol sighed softly. “Though I’m guessing that there were more, to be honest, that doesn’t matter at this point. Director Piggot just had to wait for you to screw up publicly as you did on Thursday.” She glowered at her daughter, watching Victoria shrink into her chair. “Do you have any idea what this would have done to New Wave? What it would have done to your sister? You dragged her into this and made her try and cover up your mistakes. That’s obstruction of Justice, at the very least, and having her force her healing on someone is grounds for her losing her medical license. And if the PRT pushed it, it could even be assault. ” Each word seemed to strike at Victoria, and Carol watched her shrinking slowly into her seat. She watched as the girl’s expression hardened, and when she felt the subtle regret and nervous tension spreading through her she subtly tapped into her power, letting the tingle of her breaker state spread into her without actually transforming and the feelings evaporated.

“It was an accident.” The girl said holding the tattered remains of her dignity around her, and when she crossed her arms, Carol had to close her eyes and count backwards in ten to keep from screaming at her daughter.

“The first time is an accident, and there are protocols in place for that, Victoria. When you pass into the double digits, it’s a pattern of behaviour. You should have come to us the first time it happened and said you were having issues controlling your power. Did you even consider what this would do to the rest of the family? I’ve got a job, we would have survived, but this would have ruined your Aunt and Uncle.” Feeling her hands shaking Carol closed them carefully into fists, setting them on the table, and staring at Victoria.

“What does this have to do with that-” At her dark look, Victoria paused, frowning before sullenly changing her word choice. “What does Taylor have to do with any of this.” Carol gave Victoria a look, staring at her quietly before leaning back and speaking as she rubbed at her head.

“Director Piggot is exceedingly interested in getting Taylor into the wards and the Protectorate. Her powers are varied and surprisingly powerful. Apparently, The Protectorate's thinkers give better than even odds that she’ll eventually end up in New Wave." Carol didn't mention that they also seemed terrified of the girl, and she didn't comment on the dirty look that ghosted over Victoria's face. "So when she called your Aunt and me into a meeting, she offered us one of two choices. We let you take the fall for this mess, and you’d probably take Amy with you, or we agree to PRT Affiliation for all of New Wave.” When Victoria lunged forward and opened her mouth, Carol gave her a blistering glare, staring her down until she sat back down.

“We obviously didn't agree to hand you over, and that means that we’re going to be working a lot closer with the local Protectorate. We'll be coordinating our patrols, and the younger members will be doing the same with the Wards. The Director has also suggested a few things in regards to you.” Before Victoria could even stand Carol shouted over her comments. “Your aunt and I both agreed when we’d seen the evidence.” Waiting until the girl returned to her seat rebelliously.

“You’ll not be allowed to patrol alone anymore. Period.” She stared at Victoria, watching her eyes narrow. “And before you get smart, You’ll also not be allowed to patrol with Amy. Again, Period.” Watching the disbelief on Victoria’s face wasn’t pleasant, but Carol pushed through. “They’ve agreed to allow you and Gallant to work together on a trial basis assuming you can remain professional in the field. Any slip-ups about his secret identity and you’ll be restricted from working with him as well.” Watching Victoria until the girl slumped and began to pick her fingers Carol let out a tired sigh.

“This isn’t all about you; your Aunt’s been considering something like this for a while. New Wave mostly runs on donations, and it’s been getting harder and harder to do that in the last few years. In exchange for all of this, the PRT has agreed to subsidize a lot of the costs, and they’re keeping your Aunt on as the nominal leader of New Wave in the way Armsmaster is in charge of the Protectorate and Ward members in Brockton Bay.” At the miserable nod, Carol sighed once more, leaning back in her chair.

“On top of the professional limitations, you’re grounded. Nowhere but here, school, training and patrols for the next month. If you don’t show improvement, that’ll be extended.” Carol spoke softly and watched Victoria nodded at her. She watched her daughter slip to her feet, moving toward the door. When Victoria paused there, she glanced over, waiting to see what she had to say.

“Where’s Amy mom?” Carol sighed softly before standing and glancing at Victoria.

“She had a bad reaction to Taylor’s healing and it sort of lead to us discovering something about her. She didn’t react well, and she needed some space. Your Aunt’s agreed to let her stay there for as long as she needs to. She said that she’d rather not see any of us for the moment. Since you’re both grounded, that won’t be a problem.” Carol stared at Victoria, sighing when the girl miserably launched herself down the hall, standing in the door of her office, watching Victoria bypass the stairs entirely, flying up out of sight, the sound of her door slamming in her wake apparent.

Carol’s mind drifted to Amy as well, leaning on the jamb as her mind replayed her own last visit with Amy. Listening as Amy brokenly explained everything that she’d been going through during the previous six months and then staring at her as if terrified of what she would say. The shock and nervousness on Amy’s face when she had merely drawn her daughter into a hug had stabbed at Carol. She had been confused, but it occurred to her that she couldn’t even remember the last time that she’d hugged Amy before that hospital visit. Victoria had always needed more attention, needed more support and affection. Amy had always been content to watch from the sidelines, and before she’d known if she’d let the girl think that she didn’t care about her. Carol had allowed her daughter to believe that she hated her. Silently, she resolved to do everything it took to help Amy recover, even if it meant doing everything required to keep her from having to confront Victoria before she was ready.

The hand on her shoulder was a shock and she glanced over to the see the worried features of Mark. She stared at him for a moment, watching the concern in his features, and before she could stop herself, her hands gripped his shirt, bunching up the fabric and she was dragging herself against his form and burying her face in his neck, the tears she’d been holding off for the last several hours pushing free. She felt him tense at the contact, and then those arms closed around, and the comforting touch of his hands dragging over her back as he murmured gently into her ear was all that she felt for a while.


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Victoria yearned for the years of her youth where she could stomp up the stairs to her bedroom in a fit of pique, where she could slam her door and scream to let out her frustrations. Instead, she was trapped by her powers. Stomping on the floor would see her careening through it, slamming her door would reduce it to splinters. Instead, she flew gently into her room. She floated in mid-air in her room keeping her wrists to her hips, and her eyes clenched shut, her shaking body doing everything it could to contain the maelstrom of rage and hurt that she felt. She counted backwards from a hundred until her entire body didn’t feel like it was coming apart at the seams.

When her hands finally unclenched she reached out grabbing her phone. Seeing a new message notification, she eagerly unlocked her phone. Her shoulders slumped when swiping a finger over the face in a complicated pattern unlocked it, and Victoria found herself staring sadly at the four unanswered messages that she’d sent to Amy. With a sigh, Victoria gently lowered herself to perch on the edge of the bed, and carefully tapped out a message, her eyes staring at the screen hopefully.

{Amy, Mom said that you needed some space, what happened? She told me about the PRT finding out about the accidents. They weren’t too harsh on you were they? I’m sorry that I got you in trouble.} Taking a moment to stare at the message before sending it, Victoria watched the words sadly as they sat there for a minute, then two, then ten. Eventually she turned her attention to the other texts from her friends, responding to Dean, and the few other messages in her inbox. Dean's responses were quick, and they struck up a conversation, eventually calling him, but nothing managed to draw her mind from the lack of response from her sister. The night dragged out, her parents ascending and heading to bed and still her phone was silent. Eventually, the girl set her phone down and drew out her laptop.

Logging into PHO, Victoria quickly checked the messages in her Cape and Private accounts. Finding nothing too unusual, she quickly skimmed through the half a dozen pages that she’d commented on herself before turning her attention to the rest of the forum. Eventually, slipped into the one forum post that she’d been avoiding, and she began to read about the bank heist. Gritting her teeth and ignoring the numerous comments about her stupidity and lack of care she skimmed through till they began discussing Taylor. Following links, she began to research the girl. The mods were especially vindictive about comments on the girl, but eventually, Vicky started to find more and more information, from the girl’s public triggering to sightings of her around the city. As she read a plan began to formulate in the back of her mind.

Chapter Text

April 20th, 2011

“You can’t do this.” Sophia’s voice was low and dangerous as she glared at the short fat woman across the desk from her. She felt the low hum of the rage in the back of her mind, and she imagined what it’d be like putting an arrow in the woman’s face to remove that smug little smirk. “We had a deal, I join the Wards, and you don’t send me to lockup.” Sophia felt her hands gripping the hardwood of the arms of her chair hard enough to make them creak.

“We’re not sending you Juvie.” The Director smirked casually over at her, and Sophia felt her blood boiling when the tiny fat woman set her elbows on the table and laced her fingers together. “We should be. We should be sending you to the deepest, darkest pit that we can find, but we can’t afford to do that. We’re in a very tentative position here, and that means that you get to get away with attacking that girl, with nearly killing her. And we’re going to ignore the numerous indiscretions we’ve seen since you joined our wards.” Sophia snarled and moved to open her mouth, and the woman held up her hand, and Sophia stilled herself, glaring hatefully at the woman.

“No, Sophia. You’re right that I’d prefer to put you away, but just like you, what I want doesn’t matter. Someone has stood up for you, and that means that what we’re doing is giving you another second chance — a Fresh start. Since the court case is finally winding down and the Local Police seem to have set aside their investigations, you’re getting off scot-free. But that only lasts as long as you don’t draw the attention of Taylor Hebert.” Sophia felt her face tightening, and she glared at the desk, doing what she could to not meet the Director’s eyes. “You heard what she did to Glory Girl then? That was the least impressive part of her evening. The girl has powers that terrify our Thinkers, and we’re honestly not sure what’ll happen to you if she finds out who you are. So we’re going to remove the temptation.”

“You can’t just transfer me! It’s in the god-damn rules.” Sophia interjected, ignoring the harsh look that the Director sent her, and then shifting her chair back as if to stand. “You can’t fucking force me to go anywhere.” When the director didn’t get angry or yell at her, she faltered, the look on the piggish woman’s features made her nervous, that wide self-satisfied smile forced Sophia back into her seat, despite the rage she felt through her back.

“You’re mistaken, Shadow Stalker. We’re not transferring you. You’re right that we cannot transfer the Wards. I merely suggested that your Mother might have better luck with a job in Austin. And your Father. And when they asked about transferring you to the Wards over there? Well, I mean, I just had to do everything that I could to ensure that your upcoming transfer went smoothly. You’re already out of school on that administrative suspension. It was a small matter to arrange the transfers of everything that you need.” The woman’s smug look and feigned innocence grated on Sophia but she couldn’t reply.

Sophia sat there in an impotent rage, her form trembling as she did her best to burn the PRT Director to death with her eyes alone. As the minutes ticked by and the woman seemed to languish in amusement at the look, Sophia felt her fire dying, and she finally slumped back in her chair, glancing at the door. “May I be excused, I have to pack...apparently.”

“In a moment.” The Director’s amusement seemed to melt away and she leaned forward. The director’s eye held a startling amount of intensity and Sophia felt herself shrinking back just a bit. “I’ve had a long talk with the Local Director in Austin, and even more time than that was spent speaking with your new Team Leader. Hoyden is the head of the Local Wards Team, and as someone with experience in ‘Image Issues’, she’s assured me that she will be personally over-seeing your transition. This is your last chance, Hess. If you fuck up again, that’s it. I will personally come to Austin to take you to the Birdcage myself.” The director stared Sophia down for a long few minutes before finally waving the girl toward the door. Sophia kicked back her chair, slid to her feet and stalked toward the exit.

“You’ve been trying and failing to be a hero for so long, Shadow Stalker. Maybe this is where that changes.” The director’s words were soft enough that Sophia wondered if she’d even heard them right, but she couldn’t stand to turn back and ask so she left. When she heard the boisterous excited conversations in the lounge, she ducked through a side hallway and collected her gear before moving to exit the building, pausing and swallowing at the intense look that Miss Militia sent her when they passed each other in the halls. Rather than arrange a ride, she took what she needed and ducked out past the counter, heading toward the nearest bus stop. Several troopers stared at her, but rather than chase they backed off as she headed for the door.

She was halfway home on the bus when her phone started to ring. Seeing the familiar face on it she let out a sigh, accepting the call and holding it up to her ear. “Hello, Emma.”

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Boredom. Boredom had been Emma’s constant companion for the last month and a half. When the school had informed her, along with Sophia and Madison, that due to an ongoing criminal and civil case against them that they’d be placed on an administrative suspension, that hadn’t sounded so boring, a month off of school, who could complain, it’d taken a week before the allure of sleeping in every day and watching all the TV that she wanted had faded. The amount of homework that they’d been assigned was staggering, and it took most of Emma’s afternoons doing all the research necessary to actually do it. Without teachers guiding her she had to do a great deal more reading herself, and when you didn’t get the personal touch on handing in assignments, teachers tended to be less forgiving in their grading.

She’d be glad to return to school in the coming weeks. Her father had announced that he’d heard from his firm that… Taylor’s Dad had accepted the settlement from the school, and they’d agreed to drop all three suits and not disclose any of the details. Since the Police hadn’t investigated any of the complaints, and Taylor hadn’t testified apparently, the school had decided that as soon as the details of the suit we’re final they’d be welcome back in classes. Emma was looking forward to speaking with other people, and more than that, being top bee again. Her home had been like a prison, she caught her father watching her when she wasn’t looking, and that was better than the concerned looks that her mother and sister had been sending her. She missed her friends, she missed spending time with Sophia and Madison both, but Madison had at least texted the entire duration of the suspension.

Sophia was a different kettle of fish entirely. The girl had been grounded heavily, though Emma figured that this had been a way to cover up the fact that there had been some blowback from the Wards about what had happened since Taylor had ended up triggering. Emma had been wrestling with that for a while. Taylor had triggered, and she’d been disturbed to see the almost excited gleam in Sophia’s eyes when the girl had related that to her while they sat alone in her hospital room. Like that made her special or something. Taylor wasn’t special at all, she was ugly and tall and plain. Emma still had no idea why Sophia insisted on putting so much effort on Taylor. Hadn’t she learned from her that Taylor wasn’t worth the time? Didn’t she see that Taylor was pointless?

Emma glared quietly at her phone and the messages that Sophia still hadn’t answered, and she sighed, calmly swiping through the menu’s to bring up her phone. Rather than swiping through the contacts she carefully pressed each number one by one, humming as the last one was entered and the phone began to ring. Flopping back on her bed Emma got comfortable, listening to the rings. She was preparing herself to leave a suitably classy message insisting that her best friend call her back or else when the phone was answered and Sophia’s rough voice washed over her.

“Hello, Emma.”

“Sophia! I’ve been trying to get ahold of you for days! Did you hear? Hebert settled and we’re in the clear. Dad says that the suspension will be done soon and we’ll be back in school by like Monday or Tuesday.” Emma rattled off her comments faintly, humming quietly as she got more comfortable, twirling a finger through her hair. “We’ll have to do something suitably vicious to get the bitches back in line though, considering that they’ve had the place to themselves for a month. Can’t let them get uppity, you know-”

“I’m not coming back. My parents decided to move to Austin apparently. They found out about what we'd done and weren’t too happy about what sort of things I was getting into.” Sophia’s voice was heavy, laced with regret and anger and Emma found her toes curling in the sheet as she gripped the phone harder. ‘Leaving? Sophia can’t leave. She’s been my protector, we’re each other’s right hands…’

“You’re moving? When?” Emma did her best to keep her voice steady but she resisted the urge to smack her head at the low nervous whisper that came out instead. She bit her lip as she heard Sophia sucking in a breath on the other side of the line.

“I don’t know. Soon. I just found, out but I’m apparently to start packing immediately. I guess they don’t want me to miss any more school when we arrive. My dad’s aunt apparently arranged everything, even helped Mom and Dad with finding jobs out there.” Emma winced, they’d invented a code between them to speak about things that Sophia wasn’t to do over the phone. If the Protectorate had arranged to have her moved there wasn’t much that Emma could do to stop that. The sound of something clanging was suddenly audible, and Sophia let out a grunt before speaking. “Look, Emma, I’ve gotta go, I’ll text you or something. Bye.”

And then she hung up without waiting for a response. Emma sat there in her room, staring up at the roof, watching the sunlight washing over it as the sun began to set. She lay there and considered what she’d do now without her partner in crime. Sophia made her strong, and taught her to be cruel, but what would she do without Sophia at her back. Terror, rage, resentment and pain were her only companions that night, and when the sun rose, Emma was still holding her phone, staring sadly at the unanswered questions she’d sent to Sophia, wondering if the last words she’d hear from her saviour would be ‘I’ll text you or something, Bye.’

Chapter Text

April 22nd, 2011
Pelham Residence, Brockton Bay

It wasn’t the oddness of her life that got to Amy, that was sort of par for the course for her life over the last few years. What had really begun to bug Amy as she sat, arms wrapped around the over-sized sketchbook and fingers clasping the coloured pencils tightly, while watching Carol speak briefly with Sarah and Neil before slipping out the house, was that everything was going so well. Parts of her in the deep dark parts of her mind whispered about when the other shoe would drop when everything would fall out from under her.

Amy carefully shifted the book down to rest on her lap, carefully sliding the cover open, gently dragging the tips of her fingers over the rough pages. She considered the pad and the pencils, she was hardly an expert, but they’d seemed expensive, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. Amy was so used to Carol barely paying her any attention at all, that a gift like this made her nervous. As she sat there, staring down at the book she started when a voice intruded on her thoughts.

“It was probably Mark.” Amy glanced up in shock, staring over to see that Neil had taken a seat next to her and was studying the pad. “He used to do a lot of drawing and painting when we were younger before…” He trailed off, and Amy understood what he meant. ‘Before’ was a shorthand that all of the older members used. It meant Before Fleur died and before everything had fallen apart on them. Amy sat there, quietly studying the book and firming up her determination. It was a gift from her parents so she’d use it. She stared down at the book, and another small frown marred her features. When Neil let out a cough, she glanced over, seeing her uncle's raised eyebrow. “Something wrong?”

“Nothing with the gift. It’s mostly about uh... Taylor.” She commented faintly, flushing when she caught Neil’s wry smirk. She turned back to the book, studying the pages and sighing. “I just. I was talking to Taylor about this the other day. Drawing. And today, Mom shows up with this.” She huffed faintly at the amused chuckle that Neil released, and she shrugged. “It’s just. I’d rather not have her running to Carol with everything I say.” She glanced at Neil, and she sighed again when he merely offered her a half smile.

“I think her heart was in the right place, but if it bothers you, maybe you should mention it to her.” She glanced at him and then she idly considered pulling out her phone and doing just that. Images of what might come of it made her stall her hands. Maybe later, Amy told herself with a tiny frown.
Before Amy could agonize over it any longer, a surge of golden light erupted in the middle of the room and silenced any further conversation. Amy shielded her eyes at the glare, and when the light faded, she blinked away the spots it had left in her vision, glancing over when her gaze cleared to see a strange man standing in the middle of the living room.

“Nick!” She’d been about to panic when Neil slid to his feet and called out eagerly, and the man spun around. He was clad in typical superhero fashion, his entire outfit in shades of white, purple, and blue, the whole thing shimmering with self-contained light. He threw his arms out, easily scooping Neil into them, laughing when the other man groaned and feigned struggling. Amy felt herself smiling as ‘Nick’ playfully taunted Neil.

“C’mon, Neil don’t be like that. We’re big strong men confident in our masculinity we can totally hug. The young lady certainly seems to appreciate the view.” He kept his arms around Neil until Amy’s uncle gave in and scooped him into a bone crushing hug that saw him lifting the smaller man off the ground with an oof. The guy bounced back when released and let out a whoop of delight. “That’s the spirit, Neil!”

Nick smirked as he reached up, pulling his mask back to reveal a youthful Asian face. His features were friendly, and he clearly smiled a lot. After a moment, he turned to offer Amy a hand. “Hello there Amy, the name is Nicholas Cao. You’ve met my wife.” When Amy reached out and took his hand, he gave her a firm shake before smirking as he pulled his mask on. “Though most people refer to me as Impulse. Melanie mentioned that you two had an appointment today. I’m here to serve as transportation.”

Amy blinked as she glanced at Neil and found him smiling at her. “Nick and I are old friends from before I joined New Wave. From before I joined the Brockton Brigade at all. We actually grew up together, though we clearly ended up going in somewhat different directions.” Amy glanced at Nick who nodded faintly before gesturing for her to join him. When she slid to her feet, he waited for her to join him before speaking casually.

“I’m a mover. I can teleport, but my powers have an emotional component. It’s how I target my teleportations. More specifically, I can teleport to anyone that I know well enough to have feelings about. Good or bad really. Neil tends to serve as our point of arrival for the East Coast, and Melanie serves as the anchor point for back home in Colorado.” He glanced over at Amy before offering his hand again. “You’ve got a two-hour session, right? I’ll be dropping you there, and then returning you here when we’re done.” When Amy nodded, Nick glanced over at Neil, offering a smirk. “Tell Sarah that I said Hi. We can have a drink later.”

Amy felt the man’s arm settling around her shoulders, but before she could tense up, warmth spread over her form, and the world before her dissolved into scintillating golden waves. She floated there among the light for barely more than two breaths, then an entirely different world coalesced up in a reversed-parody of the Pelham’s living room vanishing. She stood quietly in the room with Nick’s arm around her shoulder, staring curiously over at the elegantly laid out office.

The office was warm and had an attractive layout that appealed to Amy’s sensibilities more than either her mother or Aunt’s offices, both of which tended to be laid out more like a businessman's office, cramped with a great many bookshelves and filing cabinets. Conversely, Melanie’s office held several comfortable pieces of furniture arrayed around a table, and there was a desk with more comfortable chairs, off to one side, where the woman herself sat, typing something into a computer. It left the large room with a more open and elegant feel, which appealed to Amy.

The healer glanced over and watched Impulse as he pulled back, flashed her a wink, and then slipped around the desk, leaning down and kissing the top of his wife’s head. The doctor glanced up from her work, smiling at him before glancing over, and starting at Amy’s presence. The woman stared at her oddly, and Amy glanced down realizing that she still held the sketchpad in her hands, and she felt her cheeks heating. When Amy glanced up again, she saw Melanie gesturing her toward a chair, and she slid over, taking a seat opposite the doctor. Amy blinked, watching as Impulse slipped around the desk, ruffled her hair and then headed off.

She glanced back toward the Doctor and felt her cheeks heating a bit when the woman tilted her head in amusement. “Welcome to my office, Amy. Sorry, I got caught up in my work, but welcome. What do you think of it?” She gestured around and Amy stared at the space, considering it carefully before smiling quietly and turning back to the Doctor.

“It suits you.”

▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

Melanie sat quietly at her desk, watching as Amy sat opposite her sitting quietly in the large plush chair, gripping the sketchbook in her hands like a life-line. The doctor leaned back and let the girl study the space around her until some of the tension began to bleed out of her form. Mel waited for Amy to look at her with curiosity instead of the nervous tension that was currently wrapped around her. When the girl seemed at ease, Mel finally spoke, offering the girl a friendly smile.

“So. As we discussed last week, we’re going to start meeting here more often. You’ve been very good at speaking, but I could tell that there were certain subjects that you were more reluctant to bring up around your family, and my office here is a bit more private for discussions like that.” She watched the girl’s shoulders start to tense, and she offered her a gentle smile. “Though that’s in the future, for today, why don’t you tell me about your last few days. You’ve been out of the hospital for a week now, yes? Do you feel like you’re settling in better?”

“Little over a week, yeah.” Amy muttered quietly and Melanie relaxed and let the girl mull over her thoughts, watched as she picked them apart and then smiled when she reluctantly continued. “It’s been...strange. Aunt Sarah and Uncle Neil have been great. I’ve got the guest room to myself, and they’ve been talking to me lots. Crystal’s been spending a lot of time with me too.” Melanie raised an eyebrow as the girl picked guiltily at her shirt.

“I’m guessing that you haven’t managed to respond to any of Victoria’s messages yet?” The therapist leaned forward, resting her elbows on the desk, watching her patient curiously as Amy shrunk down into her seat. “You know that you don’t have to speak with her, or even respond to her texts yourself, you can always write a letter and have it sent by your mother. Or you could even have someone else explain the… situation to her.”

“N-No. I… I should do the explanations myself, but I m-might try a letter. Maybe.” The girl stared nervously at her lap and hugged the book quieter and Mel felt herself grinning just a touch as she watched the mousy girl using the giant book as a shield almost.

“So what’s that there then? A sketchbook? I didn’t know that you drew.” She chuckled when Amy started and glanced down as if realizing what she was doing and embarrassedly setting the book down on the table, and running her hands absentmindedly over it.

“I don’t.” At her curious look, Amy backpedalled. “Well, I mean, not anymore. Mom got it for me. She uh. Brought it over and sat and talked with me about art. She seemed interested.” She bit quietly at her lip, and Melanie watched the girl, knowing that she’d voice her concerns if given time. “I’m just… It’s weird okay?” Mel flashed the girl a smile and gestured for her elaborate. “It’s just we never got along before. She was always so busy with other things. So... brusque and now she’s different. She stops by every day to speak with me on her way home from work, and she texts me a few times a day. I’m wondering how long it’ll last.” Amy’s voice was small, and Mel watched the girl finger the edges of the book quietly as if contemplating picking it up.

“She had a pretty traumatic experience too, you know, Amy. You nearly died, most of your family was very shocked, and I imagine they’re all trying to show you that you’re important to them, to seek validation with you, and to let you know that you’re important to them.” Mel, sighed faintly when she watched the girl frowning down at the book, and then hummed a bit, changing the subject to keep Amy from dwelling on her own emotions. “So, you were looking at the book oddly when you arrived; why’s that?”

“Well, it’s just…” The girl trailed off and seemed to think quietly, contemplating what she wanted to say before continuing. Mel waited patiently; truthfully it wasn’t that odd considering that Amy was trying to figure out where she started and Victoria ended still. “I didn’t tell Carol about this, about the drawing thing. I was. You remember last week we talked about what I used to do before I spent all my time at the hospital or with Victoria?” Mel nodded quietly, indicating that Amy should continue, chuckling as the girl did. “Well I talked to Taylor about it, I uh. I tend to discuss some stuff with her.” The girl flashed her a concerned and nervous look. “She’s better at explaining some concepts to me; you tend to get...verbose.” She said softly, and Mel grinned.

“I prefer the term exuberant. I’m aware that I can be exuberant, and you’re allowed to discuss your sessions with whoever you want.” The doctor smirked as Amy relaxed and then continued. “Anyway, you were saying.” She gestured to Amy, indicating that the ball was in her court.

“So I talk to her about things, occasionally, she helped me understand the Pavlov concepts you were occasionally bringing up, though the uh..” Amy frowned. “The books about it can be rough… the experiments were difficult to read about.” Mel nodded gravely, her eyes following Amy's reactions attentively. “Anyway, I mentioned your assignment to her, and we got to talking about hobbies. She told me about her hobbies, and we chatted until I could remember a few things that used to interest me before…” Amy paused and frowned, before continuing. Apparently the older members of the new wave with that tic. “Before high school. Drawing came up, and she said I should give it a shot. That was a few days ago, and Carol got me this. I’m…” Amy trailed off and continued to trace the book.

“It’s complicated then? Does she know? About Victoria?” Seeing Amy’s nervous shake of the head, she offered a small smile. “You should consider talking about it with someone that's less involved. But back to the matter at hand, You love the gift, and the idea behind it, but you don’t want your friends breaking your confidence?” Watching the girl nod, Mel offered a simple smile. “That’s a pretty common reaction you know. I’d suggest perhaps that you gently tell her that you appreciate her efforts but that you’d prefer to talk to your mother about these things on your own.” She tilted her head at the girl’s soft sigh, lifting an eyebrow curiously.

“Uncle Neil said the same thing,” Amy said gently and then glanced at the pad. “When I explained it to him. I just… I’ll think about it.” Mel watched the girl nervously fiddling with her shirt, and she shook her head quietly, lips quirked in a smile. Rather then push there, she moved on.

“Smart man, your uncle. You should take his advice more often.” She studied the girl and watched as she became distracted again, the book holding her eyes as she lost herself in thought. She reached out quietly, drawing out a few of the nicer pencils from her container and offering them out. “We’ve got two hours, why don’t you take a short break over there on the couch, and draw something, Amy? Whatever comes to your mind, and when you’re done, we can discuss what you drew?” The girl stared nervously at the pencils before gently taking them. Mel had to hide a smile as she scooped up the book and went to get comfortable on the couch.

Mel tapped a few keys on her keyboard, letting a gentle tune play, occasionally glancing up to watch over Amy’s shoulder as the face started to resolve itself into the wild happy grin of her husband. She tilted her head to the side, smirking and wondering if Amy would let her keep the finished image. As she worked, a ghost of a smile slid over Mel's lips when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Amy draw out her phone, quickly tapping something into it before nervously watching it for nearly a minute. When Amy relaxed and quickly typed back when it dinged a minute later, Mel found herself chuckling softly. After that, the girl lost herself in the act of drawing, which forced Mel to turn her attention back to the forms she’d been filling out, leaving Amy to draw in peace.

Chapter Text

Date Unknown
Coil's Super Secret Base, Brockton Bay


Thomas Calvert sat in full costume at a small dining table in his office, an untouched plate of food set before him, a hearty serving of eggs, bacon, and ham with buttered toast, and opposite him, a small girl was eagerly consuming a matching plate of food. As he watched the girl eat, Coil was satisfied that his disgust was hidden by his mask. Seemingly aware of his look the girl glanced up, giving him a rebellious look as if daring him to comment on her poor table manners. As he studied the smug lilt to the expression on the young girl’s face, the man known as Coil once again found himself considering going with his first plan for controlling the precog and keeping her pliable. Though, as soon as the thought passed through his head, he felt a shiver travelling down his spine as he remembered the reason that he’d chosen not to in vivid detail.

Calvert turned his attention from the various screens that monitored his fledgling empire and focused on the image of the girl he’d acquired being restrained on a bed by half a dozen mercenaries the girl’s shouts vicious. Coil casually increased the volume on the feed, watching as a man in a white lab coat moved toward the young girl with an impressive needle in hand.

“Odds that your leader dies screaming in the next three months if you use whatever is in that syringe on me? 89.46 percent.” The words were spoken with cold certainty, and the girl’s panic seemed to melt away. Coil sat there watching as Plinkett ignored her and approached closer, only pausing when the speakers came to life. Coil glanced down, finding his hand on the button.

“Don’t. Miss Alcott.” He waited till the girl glanced up fearfully. “Chance that you die screaming if you attempt to escape today? To one decimal point.” He watched as the girl’s face scrunched up, but he waited and watched and noted the moment that the girl’s face fell. Even when she whispered the feeds on his speakers picked up the words.

“92.6 percent.” The girl sank back into the bench, and he leaned back, watching as the guards quite suddenly had a much easier time getting her adequately restrained on the bed.

“Miss Alcott. I have a one-time offer for you. You’re going to be my guest here for the foreseeable future, and you’re going to answer the questions that I ask you. In exchange, I’ll feed you; keep you clothed, and ensure that no harm comes to you.” When the girl glared up at the camera, he’d casually asked a question. “Chance that you survive the night if you don’t agree to this deal? Once again, to one decimal point.” He watched the screen as the girl shrank into herself, muttering again.

“11.2 percent.”

Coil had had to re-arrange his plans a bit, but he’d gotten what he’d wanted out of the situation, a precog on tap to help him fine-tune his plans, and it’d only cost him, Tattletale. Sadly, he wasn’t sure how much he viewed that exchange as net-positive these days. Something had begun interfering with the young precog’s powers. Coil stared at the smug expression on the girl’s face, and he had to restrain himself from slapping her. Instead, he casually set his hands on the table, moving to repeat the daily ritual they’d started. The timeline split as one Coil dismissed Dinah from his office, and the other began to speak with her.

“Finished?” When the girl stared at her empty plate and nodded, he casually rested his elbows on the table, staring at her through his mask. “You know the first two questions.” He watched her casually, observing as she grumped but then started to speak.

“0.316 percent chance there’s any problems here in the next hour. 6.116 percent chance there’s any problems before lunchtime.” Calvert nodded minutely as he considered the girl, silently tapping his fingers on the table. Eventually, he'd look down at the pad next to him, contemplating the questions he had written down for today.

“The chance my grand plan is a success, ignoring any uses of my powers?” Coil’s voice was silky smooth and casual, and he watched the tiny wince the girl gave, this was his revenge on the girl gently taxing her power to ensure that she understood his ire with her.

“Unknown, Everything dissolves into jumbled screaming.” The girl’s voice was nervous, and she shrank back when he set his utensils down. This pleased coil enough that he merely crossed his arms, and considered a way to reword the question.

“Chances that if we continue going as we are now with no changes, that my plan will still be on track and viable in exactly one month.” The questions had to be couched precisely, and time-gated or else the precog's powers started spitting out strange errors, unknowns, or strange, horrifying visions. As he studied the girl, he smirked as she winced in pain, though the growing grin on her face riled him even more. He knew what was coming before said it.

“43.615 percent.” The girl’s voice was cold as she glared back at him across the table and Coil growled. Down by another three percent and he’d done nothing at all to interfere with it. Sometimes he wished that he could ask the girl questions that weren’t merely numerically significant.

“Chance that my plans suffer a major setback in the next week?” He glanced up when the girl winced and glared at him.

“The questions-” He raised a hand cutting her off. They had a deal; she knew that. So she merely let out a soft growl and then spoke precisely. “77.36 percent.” That was troubling. Coil growled as he quickly skimmed through his various projects wondering what would take the fall. After considering for a moment, he rubbed his head and spoke with resignation, realizing where the most apparent weak link was.

“Chances that the Undersiders are attacked in the next week?” When the girl smirked at him despite the visible pain on her features, he restrained the urge to smack her in the face with the nearest heavy object.

“97.83 percent.” He snarled faintly at the response. The ABB he’d forgotten about them entirely, and they’d been plotting something for weeks. He moved to push his chair back, staring coolly at the young girl.

“Chance that the ABB attacks my holdings besides the Undersiders in the next week.” The small girl let out a small pained chuckle. “97.83 percent.” He growled, wondering how long the brat had known about this. He moved to head for the door, pausing and staring at her.

“Chance that you die screaming if you attempt to escape?” He watched the colour drain from her face like it did every time that he asked that question. Instead of listening to her answer, he dismissed her from his office. Quietly considering the problems that Dinah was starting to cause, and his lack of an appropriate backup, he considered how best to get Tattletale back in play. Taking several minutes to contemplate his various options, eventually, Coil activated his powers to collapse the timeline where he’d questioned Dinah. Next, he quickly started another timeline immediately. One timeline saw him managing his various projects, and in the other, he drew out a notepad, and he began working on a cipher.

▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

Lisa grunted as she was shoved into the small room with the large table. She spun to glare back at the trooper, but he merely shot her a smirk before leaving her to cool her heels. She paced around the room, coming to a stop before the great mirror that covered one wall. She stood there taking out her washed out features, the slightly unkempt blonde hair on her head. The orange suit didn’t really suit her either. She stood there, staring at her reflection until a cough at the door startled her, and she spun.

There was a man in a suit there, staring at her with a friendly smile. The smile was fake, and he was condescending. He worked for Coil, though he didn’t know the name. He knew he worked for a criminal, that he wasn’t doing anything perfectly honest, but he didn’t know who he worked for, and he didn’t care. Lisa scowled as he walked toward her.

“Greetings Miss Tattletale, I’m Brian Wilcox, I’m the solicitor hired by your parents to represent you here.” He drew out a bundle of official looking documentation offered it over. Lisa studied the papers long enough to make sure they weren't poisoned before she reached out and grabbed them. The man had never met her parents, but the signatures on the paper were theirs. Dead? Probably not, Coil needed to keep her under his thumb, and killing her family would be unwise. She read the document then frowned, rereading it. It took a moment for her power to pull the hidden message out of the cipher that had been threaded into the legal document. Her power spits the concealed message into her head, and she felt a sudden shock whisper through her.

‘ABB going after Undersiders and Me. Need you out of the way for now. Your gifts more important then skirmish. Use any means necessary to keep yourself out of prison. Relate nature of employment, burn any contacts necessary. Don’t fail me; your parents wouldn’t like it.’ Lisa stared at the document and frowned as she considered it quietly.

Something had scared Coil quite a bit to give her this amount of latitude. She stared at the document silently for a few moments before making her way over to the table and taking a seat. She casually glanced at the lawyer when he sat next to her and tried and failed to offer her a reassuring smile. She rolled her eyes as the door opened to admit Armsmaster and a short fat woman. Staring at her, Lisa allowed her power to pick the woman apart. Local Director of the PRT. Doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t want to discuss a deal, forced to play ball. She glanced at the two figures as they moved to sit across from her. She waited for them to settle, allowing them to speak first. It was Armsmaster that finally broke the silence.

“Mister Wilcox, I’m hoping that your client is aware of just what sort of charges she’s up against, even without factoring in the way she’s used her powers, she’s looking at a sentence in the double digits. We’re here to see if she’s got any information that might make a judge look upon her situation more favourably.” The armoured figure spoke casually and stared at her despite addressing the lawyer. Tattletale shifted, speaking up before the lawyer could, ignoring his dirty look.

“That’s not my lawyer. He’s a plant hired by Coil to keep me from talking.” She glanced at the Director, noting the widening of her eyes, and then she glanced back at Armsmaster as the man turned from her to the lawyer, speaking low and casually.

“Truth.” Tattletale felt her powers surge, pressing a hand to her head as pain lanced through it. Moving quickly she kicked back at the desk, and her chair slid back and away as the lawyer lunged at her, drawing something sharp from his jacket. From her newly distant position on the chair, Lisa sat watching as Armsmaster moved. Something twanged, and quite suddenly the lawyer was on the floor screaming in pain. The heavyset man lay there, his entire form twitching on the floor. She sat there, staring down at the man before glancing up at Armsmaster. She peered between him and the Director.

“I was never given a choice about joining the Undersiders. I was held at gunpoint, then later blackmailed into serving as Coil's inside man on the Undersiders. Truthfully, given a choice, I'd have rather done nothing at all, as opposed to being forced to serve Coil’s aims. I’ve got plenty of information to share, including the fact that Coil is fairly certain that the ABB is planning something big in the next week.” Lisa stared coolly at Armsmaster, her powers lancing pain through her head as soon the man came to a 'decision', She knew when the man began to believe her, and she didn't even need him to tell her, though the verbal confirmation was undoubtedly helpful in keeping the Director from glaring so harshly at her.


Chapter Text

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♦ Topic: Trigger in Winslow!
In: Boards ► Brockton Bay
 (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Posted On Jan 11th 2011:
Hey everyone, Bagrat here. Now you may have heard this on the news, but if not, there has been a public triggering in Winslow High School over in Brockton Bay. They details are scarce, but there has been at least one person who has been sent to the hospital.

(Showing page 1 of 2)


Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
Oh crap. I know who that is. You won't believe what happened to her.

Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
Seeing as it's you Void, I seriously doubt that.

Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
No for real. Her name is [REDACTED]

SuperTutor (Mod) You aren't allowed to post a cape's real name here Void. You know the rules.

Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
Seriously, you think he'd know better. But on to this piece of news. Who do you think is the one who went to the hospital?

Reave (Verified PRT Agent)
Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
The details of this incident are confidential until said otherwise.

Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
Guess that means all we can to is speculate for now.

Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
We should respect their privacy. I'm sure whomever it is doesn't want people poking their noses where they don't belong.

Vista (Verified Cape) (Wards ENE)
Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
All I hope for is that it isn't a would-be gangster. There are enough capes in the gangs as there is.

White Fairy (Veteran Member)
Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
It is a person with a problematic life. Hopefully when they awaken, they'll be able to rise up again.


End of Page. 1


(Showing page 2 of 2)


Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
I get what you mean. Hopefully whoever it is will join the Wards.

Replied On Jan 11th 2011:
With our luck, most likely not.

End of Page. 1, 2


♦ Topic: Trigger in Winslow!
In: Boards ► Brockton Bay
 (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Posted On Jan 11th 2011:
Hey everyone, Bagrat here. Now you may have heard this on the news, but if not, there has been a public triggering in Winslow High School over in Brockton Bay. They details are scarce, but there has been at least one person who has been sent to the hospital.

(Showing page 25 of 26)


Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
Big news! The identity of the new trigger has been confirmed to be one Taylor Hebert. The name was leaked from various sites and the story of why she triggered is heartbreaking.
[Link to bully campaign story]

Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
Yeah. What happened to Taylor was terrible. I heard she was trapped in that locker full of rotten tampons for hours. No wonder she's in the hospital.

Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
There's bullying and then there's this. The girls responsible for this aren't bullies... they're monsters!

Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
I hope she recovers. What is happening in that school? Where were the teachers?

Brocktonite03 (Veteran Member)
Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
Winslow is a mass of gangbangers and would-be gangbangers. I'm not surprised that the teachers there did nothing to help this girl.

Laotsunn (Kyushu Survivor)
Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
If it's that bad, it needs to be inspected or something.

Brocktonite03 (Veteran Member)
Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
I wouldn't be surprised if some of those teachers ended up being fired for this. On to another topic, is there any news about Taylor's recovery?

Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
None so far. Last I heard, it wasn't looking good.

Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
Don't feel sorry for her. She's a bigot. She got everything she deserved.

Answer Key
Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
Whoa. That came out of nowhere. What do you mean by that? How could she possibly deserve what was done to her? She was systematically tortured for years and ended up in the hospital.

End of Page. 1, 2, 3 ... 23, 24, 25

(Showing page 26 of 26)


Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
Look her up in the internet. You'll see the proof. She's a close-minded bigot who hates homosexuals.

Replied On Jan 13th 2011:
Alright. I've looked up Taylor Hebert online and there does seem to be chatter about her being a bigot. Problem is it's all on social media. You know you can't take everything there as true right?

End of Page. 1, 2, 3 ... 24, 25, 26


♦ Topic: New Wave Recruiting?
In: Boards ► Brockton Bay
Forgotten Creator
 (Original Poster)
Posted On Apr 14th 2011:
The Undersiders tried to rob the bank today. I don't know much about what happened, but I do know that Panacea and Taylor Hebert were seen healing the hostages. Since the latter is an unmasked cape, could she be joining New Wave?

(Showing page 1 of 2)


Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Someone joining New Wave? I didn't think anyone would do that. Then again, it does make sense. At the very least it'll give her some protection from the gangs. She's not Asian, so the ABB won't come calling, but the E88 and Merchants might make an attempt.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
I love New Wave. It would be awesome they got a new member.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Why? They don't do much anymore. We mostly just see Panacea healing and Glory Girl destroying the city when off fighting petty criminals.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Hey, don't underestimate New Wave. Remember, they were the ones who took down Marquis. If they got more members, maybe we would see more of them active.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
She'll probably join. She wasn't exactly social when she was in school, but from what I saw in the pictures, she seemed a lot happier when she was with Panacea.

Bruce Lao 
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Considering what happened to her in school, of course she'd be happier when not talking with the tormentors and the enablers.

Overload (Moderator)
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Bruce Lao
I'll say this once. Please don't let this thread be filled with people who are going for or against Taylor. If this turns into another long argument, we'll be forced to lock this thread.

Good Ship Morpheus 
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
You heard the moderator. Keep this on topic and civil.

Brocktonite03 (Veteran Member)
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
I'm ambivalent either way. What I'm more curious about is the fact that she can heal. Healers are rare, and thus, valuable. The Protectorate will probably try to scoop her up so that they don't have to rely on Panacea so much.

End of Page. 1

(Showing page 2 of 2)


Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Wait, I thought she put someone in the hospital. You can't do that if you're a healer. Is she a grab-bag or... Wait. Is she a bio-tinker?!

Valkyr (Wiki Warrior)
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
I don't think she's a bio-tinker. If she were, I sincerely doubt she'd be allowed to heal civilians and the Wards. I am in the process of making a page about her powers. Anyone have a good grasp on what those powers are, cause she has to have more than just healing.

Vista (Verified Cape) (Wards ENE)
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
She can heal and use TK. According to Panacea, she was able to hold up a collapsing ceiling long enough for the people to move out of the way.

Valkyr (Wiki Warrior)
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Healing and TK? Those don't seem to be related. So she's a grab-bag?

Brilliger (Moderator: Protectorate Main)
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Okay, this is getting derailed. All speculation on Taylor Hebert's powers will go to this new thread. Remember, this is supposed to be about whether or not she'll join New Wave.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Right, thanks Brilliger. There might be a problem with her joining New Wave. I heard she got into a fight or something with Glory Girl in the bank and she put GG down hard.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Wait. She downed GG with TK. But she was able to stop a collapsing ceiling. That means her TK isn't Manton-limited. This plus her healing means her value suddenly went up.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
We were just told to stay on topic. Go to the new thread if you want to discuss her powers.

End of Page. 1, 2


♦ Topic: What the heck are her powers?
In: Boards ► Power Speculation
 (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Posted On Apr 14th 2011:
Alright. I think it's time to try and figure what the heck Taylor Hebert's powers actually are. Let's put down the facts:
1. She can heal. This was proven after the Brockton Bay bank heist.
2. She was reported as having TK. Multiple witnesses claim that she was able to prevent a ceiling from falling onto civilians and was able to easily take down Glory Girl, the person who is considered Alexandria Junior.
3. I was able to get information that she was in the hospital because she electrocuted herself with her powers in the locker.
4. Those same sources told me that she is fine now because she has some sort of self-heal power that requires she go into a coma-like state.

That is a wide array of powers for one cape. Does anyone else have any more info?

(Showing page 1 of 1)


Laser Augment 
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
That is a lot of powers. I'm going with grab-bag.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
I bet she's much more powerful than what we've seen. What if she was actually a powerhouse and both New Wave and the Protectorate want to keep it under wraps and her under the radar. What we've seen could just be the beginning. Maybe she's the next Eidolon!

Mock Moniker 
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Let me stop you before you choke on your words and delusions Void. All we know is that she has four powers that don't really make a theme. It's much more believable for her to just be a rather potent grab-bag.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
I saw her a few days ago. She seemed to be doing some sort of martial arts exercise or something. Could she be some sort of combat Thinker?

Forgotten Creator 
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
That doesn't prove anything. Look at Armsmaster. He can fight really well with his halberd. But that doesn't make him a combat Thinker.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Bit off-topic, but does she have a cape name? I feel a little weird always calling her by her real name.

Bruce Lao
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
No idea. PRT probably gave her a temp name. Haven't seen it but someone could look it up.

Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
So Blaster (lighting/electricity), Striker (healing), Shaker (TK), and Brute (self-healing). Filling up a third of all the classifications with potent powers is rare. Maybe Void might actually be on to something.

Brocktonite03 (Veteran Member)
Replied On Apr 14th 2011:
Please don't support Void's crazy theory. I don't want to have to read three paragraphs worth of his postings about completely unreasonable and impossible crackpot theories.

End of Page. 1

Chapter Text

April 28th, 2011
Docks South, Brockton Bay

Bastila had explained it several times, but Taylor still had issues seeing just how far she’d come over the last few months. When she’d started her runs, she’d been left red-faced and panting at fifteen minutes, and had nearly collapsed at the end of the first length, and now Taylor was running backwards and outpacing her companions, using the force to keep from striking anything as she watched her ‘Running Mates’ struggling to keep up. Both of the older men were red in the face and Taylor felt a bit bad about the strain they were under, but considering the exercise they were getting, Taylor imagined that their hearts would thank her for the work-out.

Feeling the ground levelling off and knowing that she didn’t have long before the hill began its descent, Taylor turned, slowing her pace to allow the two men to catch up. Grinning, Taylor flashed her eyes up at her father, watching as the panting man came up on her left. Considering her Dad quietly, Taylor was honestly astounded by the changes that had overcome the man since their explosive fight the previous week. When he’d sat her down, and they’d began to discuss her plans to get ready to be a hero, she’d expected some help with planning, and perhaps some assistance with running around, or some money if she needed something, she hadn’t expected him to join her on her training, or as much of it as he could do.

The pair of them had become a common sight in the early morning before Danny had to head to work, the pair of them chugging their way toward the western edge of town and back, and Taylor had caught a few amused eyes glancing their way as they went, amused by the idea of a girl and her dad working out like that.

“C’mon boys. Just down the hill and we can stretch out a bit before continuing.” She’d flash a grin to the two men, glancing up to take in the other figure that had become a constant companion over the last few weeks. Ralph Creighton had been at her side not just during her training, but any other time that she left the house as well. The PRT Field Commander and a small team had been assigned to Taylor to keep her from getting attacked at home after her rather public activities over the last few weeks.

Taylor suspected that there were other motivations behind the posting, believing that the man was intended to be a soft sell for the PRT and Protectorate. Ralph was a friendly and amusing man, and he seemed happy to chat with Taylor and had joined Taylor on her work-outs, even offering her tips when he could. Bastila seemed to think that the man was also there to serve as a not-so-subtle reminder of the debt that she owed to Piggot, and Jolee imagined that it was some blending of both motivations, along with perhaps a genuine concern that someone else would get to Taylor before she could make a choice.

As the two men puffed down the hill, Taylor brought her speed up to close to her maximum, grinning at the groans from the figures behind her as she descended the steep hill with an eager lope, heading toward her house. She ended up beating both men to the house by nearly fifteen minutes, and they’d find her stretching near the dilapidated patio set in the rear of the house. Each of the men took a bottle, drinking quickly before joining Taylor and stretching out before they flopped onto the ground. Taylor glanced at them both before playfully rolling her eyes at their half-hearted whining to each other.

Deciding that they needed to relax a bit before continuing, Taylor reached a hand out toward where her satchel rested, using the force to open it and summoning her weapon to her side. The gun-metal black cylinder that shot out was over a foot long and covered in a thick rubber grip that allowed her to quickly snatch it out of the air. She spun the cylinder in hand and used her grasp on The Force to depress the releases on it causing the twin ends of the retractable bo staff to snap out to full extension as it was rotated.

Taylor moved to test the weapon, ignoring the men’s eyes on her as she stepped into her first Kata, slipping through the practiced motions with ease as she subsumed herself into the force, moving with precision and speed from form to form, her eyes eventually drifting closed as she worked. Taylor eventually became so lost in The Force that it took both men coughing to jar her back to the world around her and she ended up with a bright blush as both men stood on either side of her. She glanced at them, ignoring their smirks and affecting a faux haughty tone.

“So you finally decided to join me, hrm? Fully recovered from your arduous trials then?” She grinned when they both rolled their eyes, settling into a ready stance when both men pulled out expanding batons and snapped them out to full extension. When they both came at her from different sides, Taylor dipped into the force, using her power to counter their attacks, twirling the weapon around and intercepting each attack.

Ralph was by far the more severe threat. The man’s training had left him well skilled with the painful baton he held, and often he gave Taylor the most trouble. Her father’s skills weren't anything to ignore. Taylor's father was rapidly improving, and somehow he was picking up moves that neither Ralph or herself had been teaching him. Taylor was reasonably sure that he was getting lessons on the side. The ebony haired girl danced between the men, using her staff to block each attack, chuckling to herself as she spun the weapon adroitly between her hands to keep Ralph off guard. A flash of The Force saw her dodging and snapping the staff back over her spine to intercept the clumsy strike at her back.

When she caught the pair of them nodding at each other over her shoulders, she tensed and when the force screamed at her as the pair suddenly attacked as one. Ralph lunged in with a feint that would require both ends of the staff to intercept both it and the follow-up strike, while behind her, Her father moved with a practiced attack toward her lower back. The move had been rehearsed, and Taylor imagined that they were hoping to leave her with the choice of taking a strike across her lower back or thigh. Rather than doing either, Taylor instead chose to use the force to launch herself upwards, flipping over Ralph to land facing both men, holding the weapon before her as the winded men stared back at her incredulously.

“That’s cheating.” Taylor grinned cheekily at her dad as huffed and took a moment to breathe. When Ralph merely grinned and presented a second baton that he extended with a click, Taylor moved to intercept the man before he could charge at her. When the weapons crashed into her own, and her father headed toward her back again, Taylor grinned happily, allowing her mind to sink into the exercise, happily leaving the problems of the world behind for a few blissful minutes of simplistic problem-solving.


▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂


Eventually, though, Taylor’s father had gotten a call to go into work early, and Ralph begged off to return to lead his team, leaving Taylor alone in the house. As she stood in the kitchen mixing up and actual breakfast for herself, Taylor considered her schedule for the day. She had some homework to attend to, but that wouldn’t take long. Taylor considered the small pile of books on the table and she moved over, gently tracing the thick tomes.

Part of her wasn’t sure if she wanted to return the library, every time was a disappointment, she kept turning around and expecting to find a puffing Sabah waiting for her, explaining another mishap that had lead to her being late or missing a study session. It hadn’t occurred to Taylor how much she might miss the shy girl’s presence in her life. Sabah had integrated herself into Taylor’s life as a touchstone almost. Taylor hadn’t realized how much she used those quiet morning chats and conversations to ground herself. To make her see that the insanity that plagued the cape worlds wasn’t all that there was.

Conversations both personal and academic were a luxury that Taylor had begun to miss. She missed looking over Sabah’s work and pointing out the spelling errors or suggesting edits, more than that she missed having someone to chat with about the weather, or the news. She missed being able to look up interesting anecdotes and facts and having someone that she could share them with and laugh. Taylor glanced at the phone that sat depressingly silent by the stove and considered adding a fifth unanswered text to the four that she’d already sent to the other girl.

Amy had been a welcome change and Talking with her often helped, but the conversations were different, and the friendship had lacked the casual ease that had factored into Taylor’s friendship with Sabah. Taylor understood why, of course, Capes inherently didn’t trust each other, and it took time and effort to overcome that natural inclination. She couldn’t imagine talking with a random cape about the things that had seemed perfectly reasonable to discuss with Sabah when she’d been the shy nerdy girl with a fascination in bright coloured fabric.

Taylor imagined that the ongoing silence was probably due to similar feelings on Sabah’s part. Though she supposed that the girl’s mistaken impression of her age and intelligence hadn’t been an easy pill to swallow, she’d considered how she’d have felt if someone who’d been four years younger had done that to her and she could easily see herself just pretending that she’d never met the other person.

Taylor’s thoughts continued to whirl like this as she cooked a passable breakfast and muddled through her homework for the day. Eventually, the time rolled around that she’d have left the week before to meet Sabah, and rather than giving up on the idea, Taylor packed the books into her handbag and set off at a fast jog. It might be pointless to try, but that had never really stopped her yet.


▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

“Excellent hustle today, Danny, I think we’ll have her on the ropes soon enough.” Freshly showered and dressed for work, Danny chuckled as he met up with Ralph in the kitchen and walked the man toward the front of the house. As he moved, he casually checking his pockets to make sure that he was ready to head to work. Glancing up he found the PRT trooper watching him curiously.

“So what’s the emergency anyway? You don’t normally have to leave this early.” The man checked his watch, and Danny rolled his eyes as he slid on his work-boots. Tying them up as he spoke, Danny glanced up toward the other man.

“Some of the guys said they saw an ice cream truck with a demon head on it zipping around the docks by the DWU offices, so we’ve got to check it out.” Standing, Danny brushed his hands off on his jeans and then gestured for the other man to precede him out. When the PRT Trooper had headed off toward the van that served as the small team’s command post, Danny headed for his truck, climbing in and turning it on and heading for work.

As he drove along, quickly following the familiar streets, his thoughts turned introspective, the older man considering how the last week had gone. When he’d suggested assisting Taylor with her training, he imagined that she expected him to keep himself appraised, and help her when she needed it, but she seemed to enjoy having him around more, and if Danny was honest with himself, he enjoyed the chance to connect with his daughter.

They’d started out simply at first. Danny had shown up in the morning as Taylor prepared for her run, and he’d joined her for it. She seemed bemused but allowed him to keep up, showing him the proper stretches afterwards that kept him moving. Then he watched her training her powers or practicing with her weapons. When she meditated he’d initially just sat with her, but after asking her to show him, he’d begun quietly meditating when she did, the mental exercises improving his disposition immensely.

At meals the pair discussed whatever Taylor was writing, and he involved himself in what she was learning. Quite proudly, he’d even occasionally suggested an avenue of research that hadn’t occurred to Taylor or commented on a problem from a direction she hadn’t thought of it. A thoughtful debate wasn’t something that Danny often found himself engaged in, but he did his best to at least keep abreast with what Taylor was focusing on each night.

Currently, he knew that she was focusing on studying for AP classes and put aside her more esoteric research projects for the moment. He occasionally quizzed her, and the family meetings had moved from the kitchen to the living room and they often just chatted for a few hours about what was going on around the house and what Taylor or Danny needed to get done. The weapon training had come last when the PRT Guard had asked to join their daily exercise regime. He’d offered to spar with Taylor, and then he’d even begun showing Danny a few tricks with the baton he had that Danny had been supplementing with help from some of the boys that hung around the docks that were familiar with the weapon.

He was watching the buildings beginning to decay around him visibly as he headed east. Considering the street, Danny shifted, locking the doors of his truck, directing it toward the headquarters of the Dockworkers Association. As he pulled the vehicle into the lot, he rolled his eyes at the small knot of men standing around waiting on him. He hopped out of the truck and adjusted his hat, making his way toward the group.

“All right guys, what’s this about you all freaking out about a haunted ice cream truck?” His voice carried, and the men all chimed in as one, all of them babbling rapidly at him until Danny held up a hand and pointed at the oldest of the lot and lifted an eyebrow. The man shifted in place nervously, drawing a flat cap off his head and wringing it between his hands.

“Wusn’t haunted.” His voice was low and raspy. “Jes’ creepy lookin’. Had a big flaming clown head on top with a terrifying smile on it. And it was playin’ some truly off banging metal. Honestly, s’the weirdest thing I seen since that parahuman burned off his clothes as he tried to rob that cigarette factory.” Danny sighed rubbing at his scruffy beard. Danny took several minutes to consider the lot and the men before gesturing around.

“Alright, where did you see it last? We’ll fan out, see what’s going on. If we can locate it, we’ll call the cops. Otherwise, they’ll just ignore us. I doubt anyone else would want to canvas this pile of rotten brick.”


Chapter Text

April 28th, 2011
Downtown, Brockton Bay

Taylor had glanced around hopefully as she arrived, and when she found no one awaiting her arrival, she wilted a bit. Standing in the middle of the park she caught sight of Ralph dressed casually, taking a seat on a bench a fair distance away, a thermos of something warm and a newspaper tucked under her arm. Taylor considered immediately starting her meditations, but part of her couldn’t give up hope that Sabah might be lurking around. She gave Ralph a wave, nodding at his friendly nod as she crossed the street and headed up into the library.

As she headed across the polished floor, she casually opened her bag, drawing out the books that she had to return, setting them neatly before the Librarian, standing on her tip toes to peer out over the sea of study stations, frowning before a gentle voice broke into her observations.

“Sorry dearie, still haven’t seen her. It’s a busy week as you know though, probably just got distracted studying for exams right?” The older woman flashed Taylor a smile, and the girl tried to return it with as much realism as she could. Once she’d swiped her card and gotten the nod from the librarian, she quickly ducked away, disappearing through the study stations, keeping her eyes on the carpet.

The girl breathed a bit heavier as her eyes pricked, though this didn’t stop her from quickly scouring the shelves of books for the ones she needed to continue her studying. Collecting all four before returning to the counter, Taylor hurried through the process of checking them out. Taylor clenched her fist, doing her best to keep her breathing even, though once she had her books, she practically scurried across the lobby, bursting out into the fresh air and gasping in huge lungfuls of air. When she recovered, she moved quickly down the stairs, walking to lean against one of the colossal statues that sat to either side of the stairs.

Ignoring the looks she got from the people that passed her on the street just as easily as she was ignoring the looks that Bastila and Jolee’s images gave her when they flickered into view. Instead, Taylor was focusing on getting her breathing back under control. She kept her eyes on the sidewalk, staring at the cracks in the stone path, counting and tracing each until her racing heart stilled and she could finally stand. Seeing Ralph was watching her with concern, Taylor waved him off, moving carefully across the open grass of the park, setting her bag down and assuming her ready stance.

The young woman paused before reaching out to the force, remembering Jolee’s lessons and she breathed in and out, imagining the concern and panic in her welling and bubbling up through her chest, gathering it in her lungs as she inhaled and slowly expelling it as she exhaled until she felt more at ease. Only then did she reach out, touching The Force and letting the warmth surge through her, washing away the worst of her concerns. She stood in her ready position basking in the comfortable sensation for a few moments before moving into her first pose, holding it and then continuing into the next.

In her mind a shadowy figure formed opposite her, moving in time with her. Each movement was precise and careful, and Taylor imagined that she was dancing with the shadow, matching it with a move for each move the shadow made, dancing around each other and never quite touching, both of their forms twirling around each other like two ribbons on a breeze. She continued like this, submerging deeper into The Force and accentuating her style, bending and twisting through each of the more complicated motions, twirling and dancing along the grass, utterly blind to the occasional pedestrian that stopped to gawk or take images of the skilled martial artist.

Taylor would have continued like this for as long as it took to utterly purge the panic and fear in her mind, but partway through her fourth repetition of the set her senses lit up, and the girl spun rapidly, twirling low and opening her eyes to see a blue and pink blur go screaming past her. Taylor followed it and scowled as the blur resolved itself into Glor- Taylor blinked staring at the pink tank top and jeans that the girl wore and sighing. Victoria Dallon had just attacked her. She watched the girl ramping up for another attack, and she felt irritation swirl up and over her mind.

Before she could think better of it, Taylor’s hand lashed out, and the force wrapped around Victoria’s flying form and slammed her face down into the dirt. When the girl braced herself to try and force herself up, the Force remained constant, and Taylor watched the girls hands and knees forcing themselves into the turf. Glancing up to see Ralph standing and moving toward her Taylor held up her hand and shook her head. Ignoring the PRT trooper’s reproachful look, she walked across the grass and crouched down next to the struggling girl. She stared at the desperation in the girl’s movements, and she eased the pressure enough to keep the brute from digging herself a hole quite literally.

“Why do you keep attacking me Dallon?” Taylor’s voice came out harsher then she’d intended, and she frowned when the girl glanced up at her and growled loudly struggling even now against the force that bound her savagely in place.

“L-Let me go.” She growled and struggled, and Taylor snapped her fingers in front of the blonde girl’s face until her panicked eyes stopped spinning and focused on her. She repeated her question and was shocked at the angry expression on the girl’s face. She couldn’t still be upset about the beat down at the fucking bank.

“What’d you fucking do to my sister?” That shocked Taylor, and she blinked, staring at Victoria askance. She imagined that her shock was showing cause the girl lost a lot of her fire and seemed to shrink into herself. “What’d you do to Amy?” She asked softer this time, voice tinged with desperation. Taylor stared at Victoria for a moment and sighed softly, quietly taking a seat and shifting her grasp on Victoria loosening it enough to let the girl sit up. When Victoria ended up perched on her knees, Taylor studied her for a few moments, speaking when the girl looked like she might start shouting again soon.

“What makes you think that I had anything to do with Amy?” She stared at the girl quietly and blinked, concern splashing through her at the deep sadness and desperation that seemed to wash through the girl opposite her.

“You had to have done something. Amy was hurt in that bank, and you… did something to her. You saved her, but then everything went wrong. She was hurt, and you and Mom went to see her, and now she refuses to even look at me.” Taylor flinched back at the look of raw anguish on the blonde’s features. “She’s my best friend, and now she won’t respond to my texts. My sister won’t answer her phone. She’s not in school, and I can’t visit her at my aunt’s house. They’ve all been keeping us apart, and no one will tell me why.” The girl stared at her accusingly and Taylor rubbed her forehead.

“Before you ask, no I don’t know what’s going on there.” At the look of disbelief. “I don’t. I haven’t asked her about it, and she hasn’t told me. We’ve tried to keep our conversations light. We’re still getting to know each other, and discussing what you and your therapist are trying to deal with is a bit much for new friendships.” Taylor spoke soft, her tone laced with concern and sympathy. And it was the truth, Amy hadn’t told her anything, and Taylor hadn’t asked, though considering the subject that Amy tended to bring up after her Wednesday and Saturday evening sessions with Resonance, Taylor could certainly make an educated guess. But that’d not be fair to Amy or Victoria. She watched the girl opposite her crumpling painfully back onto her haunches, and she sighed faintly.

“Victoria.” When the miserable blue eyes turned on her Taylor found herself running a hand through her own sable coloured hair. “She’s your best friend right? Your sister? And you love her?” She watched the girl nod, and she shifted a bit, sighing as she brought her legs up and rested her elbows on her knees, staring at Victoria as she placed her chin on her crossed arms. “Something did happen, that’s pretty clear, and while I don’t know what it is, what I can tell you is that when I healed her, I didn’t do it perfectly, and it allowed the doctors to discover something going on with her. She’s trying to deal with it, and I don’t think you chasing her like this as she tries to get space is helping her.” She spoke gently but still sighed when the girl before her crumpled anyway.

Running a hand over her face, Taylor considered the blonde quietly. She shifted a bit and settled down, leaning forward and reaching over to very gently and very carefully give the blonde girl a carefully squeeze on the shoulder. Victoria glanced up at her blue eyes sparkling with tears. Taylor took the fact that her arm had remained attached as a good sign.

“She’s still your sister, Victoria. She still loves you, and she’s getting help. Give her time. She’ll come around…” ‘Hopefully,’ Taylor added silently to herself after the comment and she chuckled as the blonde girl scrubbed at her face with her hands. She watched the girl as she sat there, muttering quietly. She finally sat back and stared at the irritated girl for a few moments and moved to hop to her feet. She limbered herself up and considered whether distracting Victoria was worth the risk. She glanced off to the side, finally studying Bastila. The woman stared back a moment before offering a shrug. Apparently, it was up to her.

“So. Victoria. Since you’re here, I was thinking maybe we could spar?” She glanced at the blonde as she froze and glanced up at her incredulously. “I won’t use telekinesis. Just uh. Fists. I doubt I can knock you over with my hands, but uh. Tags?” She stared at the girl, snorting when Victoria scoffed and hopped to her feet.

“You might be hot shit with your mind-power voodoo, Hebert-” Taylor chimed in quickly, getting the other girl’s attention before she could finish the sentence.

"Taylor. Your sister’s one of my friends, and your Mom’s my lawyer. You can call me Taylor. And before you shoot it down, give it a shot.” She grinned at the reluctant look on Victoria’s face, shifting into a ready pose and raising her hands. “C’mon. One hit, you can even pull it. If you break anything, I can heal myself, unlike your sister. No harm no foul.” When the girl didn’t step closer, Taylor shifted from foot to foot and waved her arms.

“C’mon! Try and hit me. If you can.”

▂ ▃ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ █ ▇ ▆ ▅ ▄ ▃ ▂

“C’mon! Try and hit me. If you can.” Victoria had been about to leave when she’d heard that. If the girl had said that. If she wanted a broken nose that badly, she’d get one. She shifted into position, lifting her foot and pausing when Taylor held up her hand. “No flight! Just. Keep your feet on the ground. You’re still strong down here with us mere mortals, right?” Victoria rolled her eyes and raised her fist, stepping forward.

She lashed out with a perfect Jab. She blinked when Taylor raised a hand and casually deflected the punch which could dent steel. She stared and blinked. She shifted back and moved in again, lashing out with a cross, watching closely this time. Taylor’s hands came up again, her flat palm deflecting the punch. When Victoria saw the fist connect with Taylor’s palm, she saw the faint haze of glow around the girl’s hands and the faint sparks. Victoria glanced at the other girl's face and chuckled as Taylor's grin grew even broader.

“So, boxing? Interesting, I didn’t take you for a technical fighter like that.” Taylor shifted spryly from foot to foot, and Victoria felt her smile growing as she dropped into a more relaxed stance, lashing out with a harder punch, the effort causing significantly more sparks and Taylor’s hand to jerk back. Victoria was impressed, she could have put Armsmaster through one of Dragon’s suits with one of those punches. But Taylor merely grinned and moved more eagerly, egging Victoria on. “You’re good, your technique is solid if a bit dated. Who taught you?”

“My Grandfather.” Victoria moved faster, lashing out with her fists, starting to mix punches, trying to line up combo’s, her grin spreading as Taylor laughed and danced back. When Taylor started to use her hands, those glowing palms lashing out and deflecting Victoria’s punches from important area’s she felt herself relaxing more and lashing out eagerly. “This was before I had the powers. I was athletic, and he thought a girl should know how to defend herself. Most guys that don’t take no for an answer stop being so pushy when you hit them with a cross or an uppercut.” She found herself chatting quietly as the girl moved around her, egging her on.

“You’re good like this. You know. Controlled. Precise. You’re keeping your strikes away from vital areas in case I miss my blocks. Why don’t you fight like this.” Taylor’s voice was curious, and Victoria tensed up before she caught Taylor’s eyes seeing the earnest curious expression, and she sighed, stepping back and moving to work some footwork into the spar, lashing out with a few of the simple taekwondo kicks that she’d learned. Taylor merely grinned and stepped smoothly out of the way of the clumsy attack.

“You know why. I’m Alexandria Lite. I should fight like her. She’s like…” Victoria trailed off, trying to describe what watching Alexandria's fighting style was like. How she'd felt seeing the woman do battle with villains on the Television? Victoria juggled words in her mind, her expression turning contemplative until she glanced up to see Taylor smirking at her. When Victoria attacked, she was shocked when instead of blocking, Taylor shifted around Victoria's blows like water around a stone. Slipping past her one-two punch, the young girl jumped up at the spinning kick that Victoria attempted, landing on the hero's leg and using it as a spring-board to vault clear over her. Taylor landed facing Victoria's back, and with a grin, Taylor reached out, tapping Victoria’s spine playfully.

“Alexandria’s actually indestructible, unlike you,” Taylor commented faintly. “Also, I think that her flight works differently than yours. You seem to have to deal with momentum a lot more then she does, from what I’ve read about. And so what if you’re Alexandria Lite?” Taylor bent over backwards at the waist, nearly making a 90-degree angle, allowing both of Victoria’s snap punches to swing past her entirely, and she sprang up and playfully tapped the center of Victoria’s forehead.

“You’re strong, fast, and you’ve got that one-hit barrier. With a bit more skill you could be devastating in close quarters combat. Launch yourself into the fight, and go in hard before they can go in hard on you.” She counted faintly under her breath as she moved around Victoria’s slow, heavy punches. “Not so hard. I’m not coated in heavy-duty Titanium plates, and winding up your punches like that slows you down. Even your taps would rattle most brains, you know. You can flick people and hurt them, and that’d be quicker.” Taylor smirked and moved, seemingly blurring as she lashed out, fingers playfully tapping at Victoria’s forehead, shoulders, elbows and wrists before Victoria could do more toss out a punch.

“You’ve got the power, and your technique isn’t terrible. Speed is what you need to work on.” Taylor hummed faintly and waved a hand, and Victoria found herself stilling her attacks as Taylor tiled her head, glancing off to the side as if in thought. She nodded almost to her self and then Victoria found Taylor’s eyes back on her once more.

“You ever played Hot hands?” She grinned at the blank look that Victoria shot her. “Hold your hands out like this.” Taylor demonstrated, holding her hands out arm’s length out with her palms up. When Victoria mimed the pose, she blinked as Taylor stepped in and rested her hands over Victoria’s facing down. “Object is to slap the tops of my hands with both of yours. If you can get the slap off before I can draw my hands back, you win. If you can actually do it at least once, I’ll do my best to keep you from getting grounded forever for skipping school.” Victoria paled as she realized how long she’d been here. She glanced off as Taylor waved at her.

“You needed an emotional day. There’s no point in going back now. Let’s do this.” She grinned competitively and then stared at Victoria, watching her curiously. Victoria glanced down, staring at Taylor’s tense hands and shifted, suddenly spinning her hands and slapping them down on...empty air. She glanced up and found Taylor feigning at buffing her nails on her sweatshirt. “Gonna have to get up earlier than that Dallon if you want to catch me.” She winked cheesily, and Victoria found her smile returning.

“Victoria, and back at it Taylor, let’s do this.” Victoria felt her competitiveness rising as she settled in, watching Taylor’s face and hands to try and judge her reaction times.

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The explosion shook the ground and startled everyone in the park, Taylor and Victoria included. The girls had moved on from Hot Hands when Victoria had finally figured out that sacrificing power for speed, and watching Taylor’s face instead of her hands improved her skill. They’d swapped to an overly complicated patty cake style game where they did a chant and slapped their hands together and went faster and faster, Victoria only realized halfway through that it was a test of her control when she accidentally snapped Taylor’s wrist. She’d been shocked, though the girl had waved her off, and healed it almost casually with a glowing hand, before getting back in position with a quick suggestion about what to do next time.

The girls had been going at an almost blurring speed when the flash of light had blinded them, and they’d thrown themselves down. When the ringing in their ears faded, Taylor had turned to stare, Victoria watching as well as a huge billowing cloud of smoke to the north-east. Taylor recovered first, leaping to her feet and staring in shock in that direction.

“That’s the docks, Victoria. My Dad’s out that way." She shifted, lunging over and grabbing her bag. Victoria quickly darted over and grabbed onto the other girl's arm.

“Taylor that was a fucking bomb. Several of them. What’re you planning on doing. We need to get somewhere safe. My house. My Mom will know what to do.” She tugged nervously on the other girl’s arm, confronted with the surreal realization that she of all people was suggesting caution. She watched as Taylor pulled back on her arm and all but growled.

“Victoria. It’s my Dad!” She shifted and tried to free herself. “I can’t just... Look at that cloud; half the docks have to be on fire. We have to go. Your mom wouldn’t get there in time.” Finally, something changed and with a surge of strength, the other girl yanked her arm free and turned. When Taylor started waving at someone, Victoria glanced over to see a man on a nearby bench already on his phone. She frowned at the implication before shifting in time to see that Taylor was already gone, running toward the smoke with rapidly increasing speed. Swearing Victoria leapt into the air and quickly set off after the other girl. Victoria had to go at nearly full speed to close the widening gap between herself and Taylor, barely reaching the other girl who didn’t seem capable of outpacing her at full flight speed. She followed along in Taylor's wake, getting close to the edge of the park before Taylor shocked her. Floating in place, Victoria gaped at the girl when she leapt fifteen feet into the air to land on a building and started to hop from roof to roof like a demented grasshopper, rapidly heading north.

Only when Victoria lifted herself over the level of the taller buildings, following as quickly in Taylor’s wake as she could, did she see the fires. Half of the docks and the Trainyards had gone up in flames, and numerous small explosions were visibly detonating still toward the middle of the docks. As she flew at full speed after Taylor, Victoria watched thugs dressed in yellow storming down the streets, throwing grenades. She growled as she considered stopping, but she turned and followed the other girl. The bigger fight was that way.

Victoria could only sigh in relief as they seemed to turn toward the coast, Taylor’s path moving to dodge around the worse of the ongoing explosions, heading toward the water. As they moved into the docks proper, Victoria found herself having a harder and harder time keeping Taylor in sight, the girl’s rapid lunges and leaps were outpacing Victoria’s flight in the thick smoke, and the clouds seemed to be thickening around her, leaving it darker and darker. Victoria felt her breath getting shorter as she tried to keep up with Taylor. Taking a moment to wipe at her eyes to try and clear them, Victoria felt herself panting. When she opened her eyes to find no sign of Taylor, she panicked, spinning in place and calling the girl’s name as loud as she could with her raspy voice.

As the darkness closed in around her, the last thing she saw was the ground rushing up around as she weakly shouted Taylor’s name.

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The sensation of movement brought her back to wakefulness. Victoria’s eyes pried themselves open, and she stared up to see Taylor’s determined features, the girl’s dark hair flowing around behind her as the world blurred with the speed they were moving. Thick black smoke hung around them. When she shifted, she felt Taylor’s hand tightening around her arm, and those dark eyes peered down at her through the large bottle-like glasses.

“Your shield isn’t so good with smoke, it seems. I had to catch you to keep you from shattering the road. Luckily my power can bypass your shield partially? We’ll need to stay in physical contact. I can keep myself and anyone I’m touching breathing in most environments, but I can’t do it at a distance." Victoria blinked and glanced around. Part of her wanted to fly on her own, but she remained in place as she saw Taylor focusing on a colossal towering inferno, heading toward what had once been a six-story building.

When they came to a stop at the end of the lot, Taylor let her down and Victoria took the girl’s hand, staring at the blazing inferno. She stared at it in horror, glancing back at Taylor. “Taylor...that looks bad. I can’t go in there alone since I can’t breathe, and you’re not fireproof.” She paused, eyeing Taylor to try and figure out if she was. Taylor didn’t react; her eyes closed as she clenched Victoria’s hand.

“There are people alive nearby. Not the main building. That warehouse though.” Taylor pointed at a nearby warehouse that looked like it’d been converted into a garage of some sort. Victoria wanted to ask how Taylor could know that, but she merely shook her head and headed toward the garage. Both ends of the building had collapsed under the flames, but the middle of the building seemed to have been spared the worst of the fire, though with the licking fire that wouldn’t last forever. Taylor followed in Victoria’s wake and stared at it.

“At least ten, no more than thirty,” Taylor spoke softly, her tone laced with horror. She stared at the building and shuddered. “Over a hundred people worked here, and that’s nothing for the people that came here to get work.” Taylor’s voice was a traumatized whisper, and Victoria frowned but tugged her along.

“If they’re in there, they won’t be alive much longer. C’mon. She paused a distance from the building staring at the glowing metal siding. She glanced at Taylor. “I’ll hold my breath, and I’ll pull the siding away. If I fall, uh. Stop me from dying please?” She spoke and frowned at the shell-shocked look on Taylor’s face. “Taylor! Do you understand, I do not want to die in a warehouse fire.” The young woman snapped, and Taylor seemed to jerk out of it, staring off to the side before firming up and nodding at Victoria.

“Just uh. Be careful Victoria. Amy wouldn’t forgive me if you died.” She stepped back, releasing Victoria, and suddenly the superhero felt the oppressive heat against her shield, and she coughed at the smoke. She held her breath and stepped forward, gripping the metal and ignoring how her clothing began to smoulder. She seized the metal and ripped the entire super hot sheet off ignoring the burning sensation her hands and tossed the whole section of the siding toward the water. She lifted a hand, and ignored the screaming from Taylor, slamming her fist into the interior wall of the building.

She barely felt Taylor lunging toward her, and wrapping her arms around her before the wall cracked and a wave of super-heated air exploded out over them both. Victoria flinched and closed her eyes but paused when the pain didn’t come, staring down at Taylor who’d clung to her back. The girl was muttering curses into her back, but she’d kept them both from being incinerated. That was a plus. Victoria took a moment to peek in before stepping through the hole she’d created, Taylor attached to her back, the pair crept around the burning wreckage, coming across a truly odd sight.

Twenty-three dockworkers with various degrees of burns and scorched clothes were crouched around a tiny glowing object that projected a dome that barely covered them. Standing between the workers, the object and them were two figures in armour. Victoria was initially reminded of Gallant, but the armour was different, One figure was tall and broad, cloaked in inky black armour and chain with devil horns. He carried a massive sword rested over one shoulder, and a heavy shield in the other. The faint glow from the joints and the shimmers over the armour told her that this was some sort of power armour despite its appearance. The other figure was so massive that he had to crouch down to fit inside the building and he was actually outside the bubble, seemingly exposed to the fire.

If this was power armour, it was unique. It looked like a hunched over giant with a massive head with a single glowing eye in the visor. A mace the size of a pickup truck rested next to the reclined giant’s leg. Both of the armoured figures turned to stare at them, and the one in the bubble with the horn called out caustically.

“These are civilians. We don’t care about your damn turf war, you Asian bastards. We didn’t do anything to piss you off, and they certainly didn’t. So back off or we’ll use these suits on you.” Confused at the vague threats, Victoria tried to glance at Taylor, sighing at the girl gripping her shirt. She stepped forward, emerging from the smoke to stand before the two figures. She stared at them curiously wondering who the two independents were. It wasn’t until she saw the fluttering snitch around the massive figure that she caught on.

Leet and Uber. Victoria stared for nearly a minute before casually releasing her confusion in a single encapsulated word.


Chapter Text

April 28th, 2011
Docks, Brockton Bay


It had been deceptively easy to locate the ‘haunted’ ice cream truck. All of the workers had scattered in different directions, but in less than twenty minutes one of the younger lads had called over the walkie-talkies to say they’d sighted the thing. Having drawn the short straw, Danny found himself quietly appreciating the artistry of the vehicle as he approached the vehicle. It was, in fact, an ice cream truck as they’d claimed. At first, glance, if you ignored the massive flaming clown head atop the vehicle, it looked almost normal.

The vehicle had been painted white with pink Polka Dots, and there were windows on either side, both displaying menu’s, though when he got closer enough, Dan doubted that he’d enjoy a Molotov Milkshake all that much. He walked around the truck, taking in the cutesy but still disturbing imagery, and he peeked into the driver’s seat to see a backpack several boxes, and a handful of scattered looking battered electronics. Realization hit Danny, and he rolled his eyes as he hopped down. Taking his walkie-talkie from his belt he depressed it, speaking into the receiver with wry amusement.

“It’s Uber and Leet, I guess this is a video game thing.” He stared at the truck, figuring that it was from some game that he’d never seen. Taking a moment to glance at the rest of the workers, watching them head back toward the DWA building nearby. Danny hadn’t thought that the villains were so close to the Association building, they typically set up further away to maintain their privacy. It was a bit of an open secret among the Dockworkers that Uber and Leet were among the broken parts of the docks with them, the group as a whole treated them more as unofficial mascots. The kids seemed to buy into it, tossing the occasional bit of less than legal work to the DWA and its members. Danny was typically against gooning, but others were less particular about feeding their families. Danny had often wondered if one of the boys' parents had been members since they seemed oddly fond of the Dockworkers despite their typically caustic treatment of most people that weren’t also criminals.

Heading over to the Warehouse, Danny shook off his thoughts, hand raising and moving to rap heavily on the rusted door with his knuckles. Danny was surprised when the door opened almost immediately, and he found a shotgun shoved into his face. Holding up his hands and backing up, the older man watched the concerned look on the muscular young man’s face. The boy stared at him in concern and then gently lowered his weapon.

“Mr. Hebert? What are you-” The massive young man, Uber almost certainly, glanced over his shoulder and toward the interior of the long-abandoned factory. Danny watched the younger man’s concerned disposition, and he frowned.

“Danny is fine, lad. You’re not in trouble, we just saw the truck screaming around the docks earlier, and we were wondering why you guys had gotten so close to the offices. Don’t you usually stay closer to the middle of the docks? I thought I saw you moving bases last week.” Danny spoke curiously, pausing when Uber kept his attention on the interior of the shop. Going silent Danny listened to the panicked cursing and rustling toward the rear of the warehouse. “Everything alright there Kid?”

“Something's going on, ” Uber replied distractedly as he hung the shotgun over his back by a strap, staring around before waving Danny in. Danny entered the shop at Uber's back, following him toward the panicked noises. “We were test driving the Sweet Tooth out there when Leet’s bomb detectors started going off.” Danny frowned as he glanced around, the pair coming into a room with a massive central space that was a colossal mess, dozens of, as far as Danny could tell, half-completed projects covered every open surface of every table in the cavernous room. A few completed ones were around; the Mario carts hung up on a nearby wall from the kids’ Mario adventure. Other weapons and various bits of tech had also been hung on the walls like trophies. Danny paused at the sight of two large somethings covered in tarps, only turning when he heard the muttering.

There was a large desk that had once held massive reams of paper and a computer if the scattered and broken junk around it’s base was anything to go by. Currently, the surface had been cleared and Leet was standing before it, the wiry man's face white with terror as he rapidly assembled something. Leet was muttering under his breath to himself as he worked, and Danny found himself stepping closer, watching the work carefully.

“Can’t do that, did that with-” Leet muttered faintly and trailed off and he was rapidly cannibalizing various bits of tech from every other project making an even bigger mess of the room as he ripped components free and attached them to the strange device he was building. Danny glanced over at Uber, watching as Leet moved to keep packing up a bag. Part of him was worried that the boy was messing with him, but terrified way that he held his shoulders made Danny concerned.

“You said there’s a bomb around here somewhere, we could call the police, they could help.” Uber barked out a laugh and Danny winced.

A bomb? Danny, the detector was going crazy. There are Dozens, hundreds of them. We couldn’t go more than ten feet without seeing more. Leet found one, and they’re tinker tech of some sort. We tried to get out, and we found that all the exits from the docks are rigged to explode. There are goddamn depth charges in the bay. Someone desperately wants to keep someone inside this area, and they’re doing their damnedest to kill them.” Danny felt his face drain of colour and he moved to glance over toward Leet as the kid worked. As if sensing his direction, Uber spoke again. “He’s building something. Got an idea as we headed back here, Apparently, the bombs are timed and we have a bit of time.” Danny glanced over when Uber checked his watch and frowned severely. “Not much time mind. Hey! Wait, where are you going?”

“Where? There are over 3 dozen dockworkers at the HQ, Uber. I have to go and get them out of there.” Danny had turned and headed toward the exit at the words, and he paused at the young man's outburst. When the boy looked concerned, Danny just waved at him. “It’s fine, kid, watch out for him, okay? Good luck!” Danny turned and started to jog for the exit.

“You’ve got twelve minutes Danny! Try not to fucking die!” The shout carried through to him and Danny chuckled darkly as he headed out of the warehouse. He grabbed his walkie-talkie as he jogged toward the headquarters of the Dockworkers Association, lifting it to his mouth.

“There’s a credible bomb threat, I repeat, there’s a bomb threat. You all need to get out of the building.” Danny held the Talkie up and listened to the crackling silence before another voice came over the talkie.

“Funny Danny, some of us have actual work to-” Dannie pressed the button and spoke over the voice of the young man that handled the communication station.

“Eric, so help me god. There are bombs over half of the god-damned docks, and I need you to do what I tell you. You need to go and pull the nearest fire alarm, and then go and tell everyone in the offices that they need to get out of the building, now!” Danny let a bit of the anger he was feeling leak into his voice as he kept up the jog. He switched through the various frequencies the Union used, quickly repeating the conversation as he headed for the offices.

It was ten minutes later that he was rounding the corner. He watched the stream people rushing out the front doors of the building. The man let out a sigh, coming to a stop, and resting his hands on his knees as he puffed, watching the building disgorging people. Danny had been checking his watch to see how long he had when the building before him detonated. The entire building went up in flames and the shockwave from the explosion blew half of the slower escapees across the parking lot, most of them ended up flying into the others who had made it out faster, and the others ended up rolling painfully along the cracked gravel of the lot.

The rest were vaporized by the fires, the entire building going up at once, and leaving it a massive flaming torch. The shockwave had blown Danny off of his feet and that’s the only thing that saved him from the waves of shrapnel as half the buildings on the street he’d been running down detonated like dominoes, going off one after another. As the explosions became more and more distant, Danny rolled over, getting to his feet. Ignoring the numerous tiny bleeding wounds that he had, Danny headed for the building.

Seeing that Eric had already gotten to one of the downed people, Danny crouched down, taking in the sight of the bleeding woman, Danny thought her name might be Marjory, an accountant, and the pressure that the young secretary was putting on her middle. Danny patted the kid’s shoulder. “Keep the pressure there. Did you get the fire alarm?” When Eric nodded in shock, Danny moved quickly, checking out the wounds. There were several bad scrapes and burns, but there didn’t seem to be any more severe piercing injuries among the rest of the fallen.

Taking a few minutes to get everything sorted, Danny did his best to ignore the ongoing sound of not-so-distant explosions, forcefully pushing the panic that he felt aside. He glanced at the others. “We’ve got enough vehicles here to get most of us out. Start pairing off and fill your cars.” Danny called out, marshalling the attention on him. “I doubt that staying this close to an ongoing cape fight will be wise. We’ll try and get as far from the middle of the docks as we can. Apparently, the exits are blocked, but we’ll see what we can do.” The others started nodding and gathering up the wounded, everyone heading toward the old warehouse that served as their parking garage.

Danny had almost reached the building when the rear of the building detonated entirely, followed shortly by another section, the explosions growing more and more violent as they grew closer to the approaching group, numerous secondary explosions joining them as the vehicles parked in the garage went up as the flames reached them. Danny froze in place, the world around him slowing to a halt as he watched the onrushing wall of flame approaching him. The sound of heavy thumping behind them didn’t penetrate Danny’s mind until something rattled him as it passed like an onrushing Train.

Interposing itself between Danny, the rest of the Dockworkers and the explosion it viciously slammed...something into the ground and with a sudden surge of light, a wall of scintillating colours grew up between them and the ‘garage, the wave of fire washing over the dome and shooting upwards. Danny stared up at the giant until he felt a hand on his shoulder. He glanced to the left seeing a heavily built figure in inky black armour staring back. He stood there in shock as he glanced toward the flaming remains of the garage.

“We need to get inside somewhere, I don’t trust the ABB to not take a shot at a group of us standing around like this.” Danny glanced over at the massive figure as Leet’s tinny tiny voice emerged from it. He removed the ball of gadgetry from the ground, hafting it over his shoulder along with a mace.

“The ABB?” Danny stared toward Uber in shock and the armoured villain nodded while leading the group toward the smaller warehouse that the Dockworkers typically used for storage.

“We saw Oni Lee from a distance as we were heading this way. He was tossing bombs at anything that moved. We hid out, but I doubt we have much time.” The kid sounded genuinely worried, and Danny glanced at the others, speaking quickly to get them up and moving. Most were in shock but between Uber, Leet and himself they moved at a quick pace to the so far undamaged warehouse.

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“What?” Danny had heard the tearing but he’d remained inside the bubble with the rest of civilians as Leet and Uber had insisted. The shield kept the smoke out of their area while allowing the oxygen to flow freely. The glowing bubble could apparently take the weight of the building, but Uber seemed concerned that they might suffocate if it had to. The entire group had all been playing very close attention to ends of the building that had already collapsed with all the damage that the spreading fires had done. Once again Danny considered trying to make a break for it. It’d been nearly twenty minutes, and things were just growing more and more dangerous.

Danny glanced up at the sounds of footsteps, watching quietly as a figure slowly resolved itself out of the smoke. When it was still mostly concealed, Danny let out a chuckle at Uber’s brusque tone, and the way the boy lifted his sword, clearly intent on taking out anyone that got too close. The older man stood up straighter when a familiar face emerged from the smoke. Despite the soot-stained pink shirt and blue jeans, the ash smudged face was still recognizable as Glory Girl. The girl strode up toward the group and stared. She stared more, frowning at the image before her. Danny could appreciate the amusement factor of Leet and Uber shielding a bunch of random bystanders from a cape fight, and when the flat what emerged from Victoria’s lips, he let out a chuckle.

Leet and Uber stared at each other in confusion before glancing back at the strange teenager. Danny stepped up to edge of the shield, sighing quietly as he stared out toward the strange blonde girl.

“Glory Girl.” He spoke simply and chuckled when Leet and Uber tensed, staring in concern at the blonde. Danny stared at the girl and said the first thing that came to his mind. “I thought your mother said that you were grounded.” As one, all three capes turned to stare at him with different levels of confusion and shock on their faces.

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“Glory Girl.” The words caused Taylor’s racing thoughts to still, and her racing heart to ease its rapid pitter patter. She gently weakened the death grip that she had around Victoria’s middle. She shifted, peering out and past the other blonde girl. Despite the incongruity, Taylor found herself boggling at the fact that she was the same height as Glory Girl, if not Taller. Shaking off the though Taylor peered around the other girl, blinking when she heard her Father’s voice continue. “I thought your mother said that you were grounded?”

Taylor took a moment to consider the fact that her father and Brandish apparently discussed disciplining their children with each other and shifted around Glory Girl. She knew the moment her dad saw her when his eyes widened with shock that rapidly slipped between a look of intense concern and anger. As she approached the bubble, she felt herself jerking to a stop, glancing back to see Victoria holding one of her hands and lofting an eyebrow. Right. Breathing. She merely tugged the girl forward, ignoring the confused looks from Leet and Uber.

“Taylor! What are you doing here? Half the god-damned docks are on fire at this point, and there are maniacs blowing up the rest of it. Why would you even think this is close to a good idea?” He turned and glanced toward Victoria who raised her free hand in defence.

“Hey! I tried to stop her, she just took off. But I think that uh. Mook that was following her called in the PRT.” Taylor glanced at Victoria, finding her glancing back in confusion. Taylor took a moment to work out what the girl was talking about before sighing.

“Ralph.” She said turning to face her dad. “He was on his phone as we left. Hopefully, he was calling in the PRT. New Wave will probably be coming along too if he tells the PRT that Victoria’s here.” Taylor shrugged and frowned quietly. Taylor shifted and stepped closer, glancing at the two metal-clad geeks who were just staring at her in shock. “That’s my dad.” She pointed at her glowering father. “Can you uh. Let me in? I need to see to the injured.” Leet glanced between Danny and her a moment before doing something and causing the barrier to flicker out.

When the workes began to cough, Taylor quickly dragged Victoria in. The shield immediately re-established and Taylor grasped the force, pushing the smoke out of the field, relaxing and releasing the other cape’s clammy hand when the air was safe to breathe. Taylor moved to crouch down near a younger man that was still holding a wound on a bleeding woman’s side. Taylor smiled at him and chuckled at the relieved look on his face as he drew back.

Taylor quickly set her own hand over the wound, reaching into the force and healing the wound. She ignored the looks that her father was sending her as she worked. She healed the worst of the serious wounds, leaving the scrapes and scratches for now. Eventually, the shivers down her spine and the -very- awkward silence from everyone else drove Taylor to stand and spin on her father.

“Stop staring at me like that. What dad? What did you expect me to do? Leave you here to die?” She ignored the shocked look on his face. “I’ve got these amazing powers, and you were in danger and you didn’t expect me to come and help you. More help is on the way, and I’m a god-damned healer on top of everything. What if they’d arrived ten minutes too late, and you’d bled out before they could get you to a hospital.” Taylor swiped at her smoke irritated eyes. “I couldn’t…” She trailed off, pausing at the hand on her shoulder. She glanced up to see her father staring at her and she huffed.

“I-” She paused, taking a deep breath. “I’m not going to say sorry for coming after you.” She glared at the man who merely rolled his eyes and chuckled, though they were both brought out of it by the sound of a soft cough. She glanced over and stared at Leet and Uber watching her. Leet had raised a single massive hand, pointing a finger up as he prepared to voice a thought when a -very- close explosion rocked them all.

“Olly Olly Oxen Free” The mechanically altered voice seemed feminine with a faint undercurrent of insane. It penetrated the thick black smoke, and Taylor frowned at Victoria and her father. It was Uber cursing that drew their attention though. Everyone turned to Dark Knight.

“Bakuda.” He said simply, shifting over to peer out of the hole that Victoria and Taylor had used as their entrance. When he cursed and ducked back, Taylor figured that they’d been caught, the sound of the mechanized voice continuing was just confirmation.

“Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in." Part of Taylor was tempted to shout that they wouldn’t come out by the hairs of their chinny chin chins, but the idea of Bakuda huffing and puffing and blowing their ‘house’ down wasn’t appealing. Taylor glanced at the others as Leet and Uber stood up, moving toward the door. When Danny tried to speak up, Uber stared at him severely.

“Stay here. This is a cape fight, you’re bystanders. Just. Stay.” He sighed and moved out of the door. Taylor heard Uber calling out as they exited the building, Leet expanding the hole as he emerged. “My, what big eyes you have.” The demented cackling showed that the boy had landed a hit, and he continued. “There are civilians in there. Let them be, we’re just keeping them out of the line of fire until you’ve done what you’re here to do.”

“See. I would. I don’t give a rats ass about some random plebs, but Lung, he really dislikes these guys. He wanted to be sure that this place was the first thing to go up when this kicked off. If I went and let all those piggies live, well he’d be pretty disappointed in me.” The voice had affected a faux conciliatory tone and Taylor clenched her first, growling as her father gripped her shoulders. “How about this. If you two strapping lads can put me on my back, well, then I won’t murder every big burly men that you’ve got hiding behind you? Deal?” Taylor heard the sound of pounding feet and the cackling laughter faded away.

“Fuck this.” Taylor had reached into the force, trying to restrain her temper, but it wasn’t her that cracked first. Taylor had looked over to see an irritated Victoria gripping the long staff that held the field projector. “I’m not gonna let Uber and Leet get martyred saving my ass.” When the rest of Dockworkers nodded, Victoria reached out, touching something and the field snapped out.

Taylor’s powers came up and pushed back the smoke, and she stepped out of the area. Taylor held her hands up when her dad tried to follow, waiting for Victoria to join her. “Dad. I can’t fight and keep you moving at the same time. Sorry.” She used the force to activate the device once more and grabbed Victoria’s hand and let the smoke rush back in. When her dad yelled, she called over her shoulder.

“You can ground me later, at least you’ll be alive to do it.” She glanced at Victoria, rolling her eyes at the amused smirk, and dragged the girl out the hole in the wall. “I’m sure your mom will hear all about my punishment too.” She grinned as Victoria groaned but pulled the girl along. The sounds of battle were louder out here, and she headed toward the burned out remains of the other warehouse that had once sat on the lot.

As they passed the corner of the ruin, Taylor caught sight of them. Something crystalline had trapped Leet’s much larger mech in place. Taylor and Victoria approached Leet, watching Uber doing his best to strike at Bakuda, the demented woman was firing her grenade launcher with almost insane speed, shrieking as the armoured kid deflected half the bombs and allowed the rest to explode, the flames of each generic explosion having little to no effect on his armour.

“Black Knights are almost entirely immune to fire damage.” The words came from Leet’s suit and Taylor glanced up, shocked that despite the spike through him he was still moving. Taylor glanced at Victoria, and the girl moved, using precise strikes to break key parts of the sculpture like crystal that trapped leet. When she went to grab the one that was embedded in the chest of the suit, Taylor saw the blood and stopped her.

“It’s hit Leet, if you pull it out, he might die before we can get him out of the suit.” Taylor frowned when Leet merely waved her off.

“It’s not important, I can fight, we can get it treated later.” She glared up at the mech and then sighed, glancing at Victoria. The blonde shrugged and Taylor rubbed her forehead. Before they could convince Leet to be less of an idiot, the sound of metal scraping across stone was heard drew everyone’s focus from Leet’s damaged suit to the ongoing fight. They’d missed the explosion that had blown Uber off his feet, but they did see the poor kid skid nearly 80 feet across the shattered gravel of the parking lot. Glancing over they found Bakuda’s eyes on them.

“Oh, What’s this then? Didn’t think that Leet and Uber could save your asses? Picked a poor place for a date.” The woman cackled and Taylor rolled her eyes at the woman as she lined up a shot. Taylor reached out with the force and ripped the weapon from the Tinker’s hands. Rather than stopping her, this seemed to enrage Bakuda. “Well, that just isn’t fucking fair. I hate sharing my toys.” The deranged woman snarled and grabbed something off her chest and hurled it at them. Before Taylor could react, Uber was between them, his shield coming up. The mocking laugh from Bakuda was all they heard before something activated and Uber was suddenly frozen in place a shimmering field separating them from Bakuda.

Taylor watched the woman turn through the haze and start running deeper into the docks. She stared at Victoria who lofted an eyebrow and she sighed. They couldn’t run like this, and it was simply easier for Victoria to carry her, as opposed to the other way around. She glanced at Leet and sighed. “Don’t do anything stupid. I’ll heal once we deal with her.” She glanced at Victoria and sighed. “Do it.” She glared at the other girl as she smirked and scooped Taylor up bridal style, lifting off and rocketing after the fleeing tinker. Taylor watched as they headed toward the suddenly silent woman who was running at full neck toward the middle of the fight.

“We need to stop her without giving her a chance to bomb us.” Victoria’s voice was cool and Taylor glanced at her seeing her glaring at the psychotic woman. Apparently, Uber taking a shot meant for them had upset the girl. Taylor stared down, watching the fleeing tinker before reaching out with the force. It wasn’t exactly sporting, but she quickly scooped up the tinker, ignoring her undignified shrieking as Taylor simply tossed the woman into the wall with enough force to break bones. Feeling Victoria slow, Taylor glanced up to see the odd look on her face. “...Remind me never to attack you like that again, you’re fucking terrifying.” Taylor rolled her eyes as Victoria set them down.

The girls approached the battered form of the tinker and Taylor held out a hand, scanning the battered form. With a thought, The Force washed over the woman’s form, deepening her slumber and healing the worst of her injuries. Taylor’s touch on The Force as she healed was the only thing that saved them. Feeling the warning screaming at her, Taylor hooked an arm around Victoria and leapt away quickly, barely clearing the suddenly growing cloud of vibrant red smoke that looked very unpleasant.

She glanced around, looking for the source of the attack. Keeping her connection to the force down, Taylor looked around, suddenly carrying Victoria across the street to one of the burned out building’s roofs as another explosion turned the spot they’d been standing to a crater. The ash that had been the cape gave away her opponent. Oni Lee. She glanced at the terrified look on Victoria’s face, and she frowned.

“You can hold your breath for a few minutes. Grab Bakuda and get her back to the others, I’ll lead him away.” Raising a hand to cut off Victoria’s comments, she lept carrying them to another building to avoid another explosion. “Take a deep breath.” She stared till Victoria till she obeyed and then released her, lunging across the street toward where the force said she should go. Seeing a clone appearing at her destination and dropping something told her that was the right bet and she forced herself up and over the worst of the explosion, allowing the shockwave to buffet her further up.

Taylor landed on a different roof and sank herself into the force, using it to track the cloning Cape. She turned and leapt off toward a different building, barely staying in place longer than a moment and using her precognition to keep the cape from attacking her in flight.

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The game of cat and mouse had been going on for a bit, Oni Lee’s teleporting made him faster then Taylor could possibly chase, but it also meant that he was no longer doing his level best to destroy half of the god-damned docks. Taylor chased the cape around the periphery of the docks, using the force to ensure that he couldn’t get too far away, cutting him off when she could, and keeping his focus solely on her.

She’d seen the battle toward the middle of the docks, the explosions of fire going into the sky were startling, along with the waves of darkness and the horrendous howling of battle. Lung’s growing dragon form was becoming oppressive, and Oni Lee seemed to be avoiding the fight, probably trying to keep Taylor from interfering. Taylor knew that it was only a matter of time before Lung became big enough that his opponents lost or fled, and then she’d be in a much less tenuous position.

When Oni Lee suddenly turned and headed North toward where her Father and Victoria were, Taylor felt dread wash through her. She moved to follow, using the force to go even faster, dodging the clones with bombs entirely and doing her best to over-take Oni Lee and get to the others before he could. As she crested a tall building, she saw that the building had finally collapsed, and the group was outside of it still under the shield. Uber was still restrained in the glowing field, and Leet was holding off a half dozen gangbangers with assault weapons, using his heavy mace to smash through their number. Inside the barrier, Victoria had a screaming Bakuda pinned under her foot and she was watching the battle with concern.

Taylor watched the black flicker that was One Lee arriving at the end of the street with his teleportation. She lunged, but the man glanced up in time for him to see her coming. As she approached, his form began to shimmer and then he drew out a pair of grenades. Taylor reached out and grasped the force and flicked the cape with enough force to send him through the nearby building which collapsed when the bombs went off. She spun around seeking out that vibrant mask. She sank into the force again and considered the area, growling as it pointed out where she had to go.

“Taylor.” As she landed on a building, Jolee’s voice whispered into her head. “His powers seem to be tied to his sight. If he can’t see where he’s going, he can’t teleport...Hopefully.” Taylor blinked, wondering how that helped her as she lunged after the cape, watching him blink away again, and dodging the resulting the explosion, keeping Oni Lee from using those bombs of his against her friends.

“There’s a technique. It’s similar to the Telekinesis that you use. You gather The Force into your hand like you were going to move something, but then instead you force it to condense as tightly as you can. When it starts to get unstable, release it and close your eyes.” Taylor ran the words through her mind, carefully considering them. When the Cape teleported again, Taylor lunged away from the explosion, lunging high into the air and releasing the glowing ball of the light.

Loud screams from every direction were a good sign that it’d hit something and Taylor opened her eyes and landed on the ground. Following the pull of the force, she arrived on a roof to see Oni Lee had ripped off his mask and was scrubbing at his face. Shocked that it’d actually worked, Taylor hesitated long enough at the oriental man managed to glance up, seeing her there he balanced and then suddenly his form shimmered again. Taylor kicked back off the building, flipping through the air to watch the building she’d been on going up in flames again. When she reached into the force though, the presence she’d been chasing had gotten far away and was moving much faster than before. Running.

Turning, Taylor paused as she saw a glowing four-armed dragon floating over the parking lot. Fifteen feet long with spread wings and looking for everything to be an oriental dragon, Taylor just stared up at the floating figure as it stared down at the glowing field and the Heavy mech that was Leet standing guard over the battered remains of his gangsters and a handful of civilians. Taylor watched as he considered the situation for a moment before inhaling deeply.

Something in the force began shrieking at Taylor and deciding that it was a bad idea if whatever that was happened, Taylor reached out, wrapping the force around a burned out car husk next to her, lashing the object viciously against the dragon, the wreck deforming around his from before pinging away, but hitting him hard enough to send his body rearing back and letting a gout of flame shoot up into the sky.

When the dragon turned its eyes on her, Taylor wished that she had her staff, though a moment later wondered what the hell she’d manage to do with something like that against a Dragon. When the dragon let out a thunderous roar and shot toward her, she leapt up, landing on a building and leaping away. She kept his focus on her as she headed away from the rest, occasionally lobbing bits of the scenery at the dragon to keep its focus on her. Cars, Mailboxes, the neon sign from one very unpopular biker bar. All of it simply glanced off the charging dragon. Taylor kept running until she heard the sound of an explosion behind her.

Pausing on a roof, she turned to see that the Dragon wasn’t chasing her. She watched as it clawed it’s way out of a building, a figure in a black and blue bodysuit escaping before the dragon could attack and speeding away in a blur. When more figures arrived and joined her, a entirely red figure launching himself at Lung to keep him from standing, and a figure in red and black zipping around the struggling dragon to keep him from rolling away. Several other figures arrived, stark white outfits rimed with colour standing out as they flew in formation. Lasers lanced viciously from the trio smashing into the struggling form of Lung, blasting him further and further back toward the water.

Rather than remain and watch the fight, Taylor quickly headed back north toward where she’d left the rest.

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Taylor’s feet had begun to sting when she finally landed on the gravel to see Victoria shrinking under her mother’s severe lecture. Taylor crossed the lot, glancing at her Father where he was talking to Miss Militia. Near them the wards were gathered around zip-tying gangsters, Aegis physically standing next to a restrained Bakuda as a disgusted PRT Agent was doing his best to disarm the screaming woman.

Taylor considered Joining her dad but as she watched Victoria’s shoulder’s shrinking, she moved toward that pair instead, walking up and coughing before she got close enough to hear the angry words being said. She blinked at the relieved look on Victoria’s face and flashed Brandish a smile.

“Something wrong here?” She stared at the woman for a moment and Brandish sighed quietly as she rubbed at her head.

“Taylor, what are you doing here? It’s dangerous, you and Victoria shouldn’t have come here.” When Brandish paused to stare at her Taylor shrugged a shoulder.

“That’s what Victoria said.” Taylor paused when Brandish glanced toward her daughter with shock. Taylor ignored the mildly offended look on Victoria’s face before continuing. “We were talking in the park about her issues with control, and when we saw the explosions. She tried to stop me, but… It’s my dad.” She glanced at Brandish and gave her a look that plainly said; ‘What would you do?’ The woman stared at her for a moment before rubbing her face. Rather than continue the conversation the woman strode off toward Danny after giving Victoria a look implying that they would speak later.

Taylor moved to stand next to Victoria, grinning when the girl next to her let out a sigh that seemed to encompass her own thoughts for the afternoon.

“What happened to Lung?” Victoria’s question startled her and Taylor glanced over.

“We played tag for a bit, I was winning, but then the Protectorate, and your Aunt and Cousins kibitzed. They seemed more intent on the bout so I let them deal with him. I’m magnanimous like that.” Taylor feigned a snooty tone and buffed her nails on her shirt, a more genuine grin growing on her face as she heard the blonde girl laughing at her side.

Taylor dropped to sit on the uncomfortable gravel and watched Victoria sitting next to her, the pair just quietly watching the aftermath in companionable silence.

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“Yeah. She’s still here, she nearly passed out during dinner, and last I saw she was dozing on the couch while Taylor read a book.” Taylor paused at the door of the kitchen, listening as her dad spoke on the phone. “No, it’s fine. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of stuff to deal with, and I’d not send her back to an empty house in a cab this late. Taylor hasn’t had a sleepover in a few years, it’s fine, You can collect her tomorrow.” Taylor listened as her dad went silent and then chuckled tiredly. “Yeah. You as well. Try to get some sleep at some point?” Whatever Carol said drew a snort from him and then he hung up the phone.

Taylor slid into the kitchen and glanced at her dad. She watched him peering at the phone in his hand and offered a polite cough that startled him. “Missed the glory days of us begging to stay up late to watch movies that much?” She grinned over at him when he scoffed. When he made a muttered comment about missing his sleep more, she moved to collect a packet of popcorn from the cupboard, unwrapping it and setting it to pop. When her dead slid past her to wash out his mug, she glanced at him, watching him wash his hands as the sound of popping popcorn was heard. “So what happened?” She gestured to the phone.

“Lung ended up getting away eventually, he got so large that they couldn’t stop him. Carol has to still deal with a debrief at PRT and then she has work in a few hours, so she’s gonna let Victoria stay the night. I’m gonna get some sleep, make sure that she ends up sleeping in a bed, and doesn’t remain draped over the couch like that? She looks like she’s gonna have a hell of a crick in her neck come morning.” Taylor nodded, watching as her dad slid out of the kitchen and headed to bed. Taylor thought quietly as the popcorn’s popping continued unabated. When the microwave dinged, she quickly opened the steaming bag and added it to the large bowl before sprinkling a few things over it. Collecting her wonderfully buttery bounty, Taylor headed out of the kitchen and back into the darkened living room.

The light of the TV washed over the dozing blonde’s form, Taylor was amused at the sight of Glory Girl in sweat pants and hoodie. The frumpy look suited the exhausted looking girl though. Though Taylor imagined that she wasn’t fond of deep gray as a colour. Taylor considered the young woman for a moment before taking out her phone and lining it up. She took a picture, freezing when the flash caused Victoria to shift and rub at her face. Waiting to see if the girl would wake, Taylor counted to ten before opening up her messaging app and sending out a quick message.

{Look what I found on my morning run. It followed me home and I’ve decided to keep it.} Taylor attached the image of the sleeping cape and sent it along to Amy. She didn’t have to wait long before a series of dings caused her to draw the phone out.

{Where are you, and why is Victoria there? What did she do?}
{Also what is she wearing?}

Taylor grinned at the comments, quickly settling in and typing out a response.

{We’re at my house. She’s currently drooling over my very chic 15-year-old flower print couch. She ran into me while I was exercising at the bank. She’s pretty worried about you, we talked a bit. We were still talking when the explosions started. When I went to find Dad, she followed. She helped a lot, despite everything.} Taylor bit her lip and considered the message before sighing and adding a few lines. {She skipped school to come to see me. She said that you’re not responding to anything she says and she’s getting upset. I managed to talk her down, but uh. She lost her best friend too, you know? Something to consider maybe?}

Taylor let the message sit, sighing when Amy didn’t respond, she casually put her phone away, settling more comfortably into her half of the couch and munching on her popcorn as the strange movie played. When a particularly loud shriek filled the room, she laughed when Victoria jerked up, wiping at her face.

“I’m awake.” Taylor chuckled when the girl glanced around the dark room before flopping onto the couch. Taylor glanced at the girl wondering if she’d go back to sleep but eventually the blonde rolled over and edged close enough to steal some popcorn and crunch on it quietly. “What’re we watching?” She peered over at the TV and Taylor shrugged.

“Something old. It’s a horror movie about Birds. Kind of funny.” She held the bowl over, watching as Victoria settled in and quietly munched on the popcorn and watched the black and white movie. When the other girl’s phone on the table buzzed, Victoria picked it up. She read the message before smiling softly and quietly typing something into the phone and holding it close to her side, dividing her attention between it and the TV.

Chapter Text

April 29th, 2011
Protectorate HQ, Brockton Bay

Emily Piggot sat and glared silently at the food on display before her. A tiny part of her was thankful that the Protectorate Doctors had gone to all the work of actually prescribing her a meal plan that would keep her from dying in the next year from salt or fat consumption, but that didn’t mean that she appreciated the things that she was expected to eat now. Add to that the fact that her new personal assistant took an almost sadistic delight in ensuring that she was following her diet, even going so far as raiding her candy stashes, and the Director was in a rather poor mood. Eventually, when the growling of her stomach overcame her distaste, she cracked open the container, removing the utensils and adding in the pouch of cold chicken, and the tiny packet of fat-free dressing. As she shook up the salad, the Director let her mind drift to the disaster that her morning had been.

After moving a third of her personnel, along with the entire Wards program, to the Protectorate HQ, she had spent the afternoon fielding calls from various Director’s in the PRT that felt that they had excellent advice for a ‘Woman in her position.’ And she’d had bite back her sarcasm and accept the advice graciously so that none of the decrepit old men tried to have her removed and replaced with one of their underlings. The call with Director Costa-Brown had been the easiest and the most uncomfortable of the lot. The woman had been furious that she’d lost Lung. Truthfully, Emily couldn’t blame her; she was just as upset. The man had been twenty feet long and breathing fire, and he’d managed to vanish by diving into the damn bay? Worse, the Undersiders had escaped his wrath as well.

They’d had the Protectorate and New Wave scouring the docks till the sun had come up, but the pyromancer had somehow managed to escape in the chaos of the efforts to quell the burning in the docks before it spread to the rest of the city. Worse still, the only two captures that had been made had either been directly, or indirectly due to the Hebert girl. She and Glory Girl had captured Bakuda, and their capture of his Lieutenant had distracted Lung to the point that he'd lost the only Undersider that he'd captured, allowing New Wave to scoop them up in the clean-up. Even now when the Director glanced out the window of her appropriated office she could see lingering smoke and ash drifting up and over the city through the glimmering shield that surrounded HQ.

It wasn’t all bad though, she had several carrots to dangle past Director Costa Brown to deter her wrath, and they’d worked. Letting the woman in on New Wave’s recent change in status had shocked the woman into admitting that she was impressed, that paired with their acquisition of Leet had kept the woman from tearing too many strips off her hide. Emily herself had found the Leet issue odd, the young man had shown up at the Ferry Point and turned himself over to the troopers on hand and merely requested to speak with Armsmaster. Whatever the Tinker and the boy had discussed had impressed Wallis, and Armsmaster had personally asked that he be allowed to assist the boy with his project. It seemed that the tinker wanted to rescue his friend from the time-stop bomb that Bakuda had used on him. Wallis seemed to think that if he succeeded, the technology could even be used to rescue those trapped by Grey Boy. When Costa Brown had heard that, she’d immediately allocated the necessary funding and ordered Emily to do everything required to get the project done. That paired with her final achievement of the day had put Piggot in a good mood before the sight of her lunch had defeated it.

Additionally, she had finally managed to get Taylor Hebert to agree to come to a meeting here at the HQ. Oddly, she was looking forward to meeting the young cape for herself. The reports she had heard on Hebert were varied, and it concerned her. Half the people she interacted with on an ongoing basis described Taylor as genuinely caring and thoughtful, slow to anger, and deceptively insightful for her age. The rest were filled with dread at the things she could do when her ire was raised. From her putting Glory Girl down with laughable ease at the Bank, and if the report from Creighton was to be believed, again the day previous, to facing off with Lung and Oni Lee, and keeping them both distracted from the wanton destruction that had up to now defined their careers. Even those that were fond of her admitted that her power was staggering, even if she seemed reluctant to unleash the full force of her skills, no matter how dangerous the enemy she was faced up against.

Savagely stabbing her fork into the offending salad, she munched on it grumpily as she logged back into her computer and called up the PRT’s files on Taylor. The power ratings merely had large red ‘Pendings’ next to each section, and she skimmed down past it to Taylor’s suspected and confirmed activities. The confusion around the girl was the main the reason that she had assigned the squad of troopers to her, so she could at least know if every other random assault by unseen capes in the city was her. Half a dozen attacks from bolts of lightning coming from the darkness to random telekinetic attacks on muggers were possibly tied back to her. Ralph had turned out to be a wealth of information, and some of it was more disturbing than others. The girl’s skills with hand to hand combat and her more esoteric powers were growing in leaps and bounds, according to the field commander. Creighton, who’d worked with nearly a dozen capes in his various postings, found Taylor’s typical serenity to be almost unsettling in a cape. Most parahumans weren’t known for their restraint, after all.

The trooper had begun joining Taylor and her Father on their morning exercises, and he seemed impressed with her skills with her chosen weapon. Emily found herself fascinated in the choice, Taylor wielded a modified bo staff, and according to Creighton, she used it in an oddly defensive nature, though he mentioned that she was capable of using it in devastating assaults when she wished. Strangely, according to Creighton, she seemed more content move around the fight and use her powers to manipulate her opponents into making mistakes. Other reports were compiled, details gleaned from numerous sources, comments by Dragon even pointing out the girl’s easy camaraderie with much of New Wave and the widely spreading ripples that her interaction was having.

They’d not missed the changes among the Pelhams and Dallons, and Panacea’s change of address was a matter of curiosity, as was her unexpected visits to a well known PRT affiliated Psychologist turned cape. That had startled Emily since she wasn’t aware that PRT affiliated psychologists were required to notify the PRT that a cape was seeking mental help. Details were still confidential without a congressional order, but the fact that they were seeking help was known to the PRT. Add to that the growing unease around Glory Girl, though Emily imagined that her revelations had no small amount of influence on that, and the Director found herself wondering if New Wave would dissolve completely before young Hebert could join it.

As she considered the file she sighed faintly, checking her watch and noting the time. She slipped to her feet, and move toward the door that separated her office, from the reception area. Opening to hear that familiar coy mocking voice speaking in sibilant tones.

“Do you intend Director Piggot or any other person on this base any harm?” The question was rote, and Emily found herself leaning on the door fascinated in the Hebert girl’s response. The playful teasing comment surprised her.

“Would you be able to tell if I did?” When her secretary didn’t respond, Emily stepped out into the room and coughed.

“Miss Hebert, I’d appreciate it if you don’t harass my assistant any more than necessary.” She glanced around and found herself shocked that the girl was alone. She blinked and snorted. She guessed that she owed Dragon ten dollars. She gestured Taylor through into her office. She invited her to take a seat before the desk before waddling around it and seating herself opposite the new cape.

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The wind blowing her thick hair around brought a smile to Taylor’s face. The young woman was sat in a comfortable leather chair in the odd little speed-boat as it skimmed across the bay toward PRT HQ. As the converted Oil Rig grew before her eyes, the sable-haired teen was distracted by how she’d ended up here by herself. Her father had initially planned to attend along with Carol, but Brandish had been out most of the night attempting to pin Lung down, and her father had been called in to help with the Association.

When the headquarters had been destroyed, her dad’s boss had died in the explosion, and most people were looking to Danny to deal with the aftermath. Luckily, enough insurance and public aid grants were going around to keep things afloat for a bit. Less fortunately, her dad had been called in to deal with a vast amount of paperwork. Taylor had expected more of a fight from her dad about coming here alone, but he’d agreed after she explained that she just wanted to get the meeting out of the way and she wouldn’t sign anything without him or Carol present.

Thinking of her Lawyer reminded her of the other person who’d hung around her house most of the morning and early afternoon. Taylor had been disabused of a number of her assumptions about the blonde girl throughout the morning. Rather than sleeping in, Victoria had been up at the crack of dawn with her and her father and had eagerly joined them on the run. Part of Taylor had wondered if Victoria’s impressive stamina had been an aspect of her flight or her shield, though she had kept the thought to herself. Ralph had been a bit less diplomatic about his thoughts on the matter, but the other girl had had no issue keeping up on their run and had explained to the Trooper that before triggering she had been active in several different sports, and a bit of a fitness nut.

Taylor had come to know Victoria a bit better beyond her super-powered persona. They’d discussed Victoria’s past as they ran, and stretched, and Taylor began to understand the girl a bit better. Even before triggering, Vicky had been competitive, a true Type-A personality. She'd apparently been rather self-conscious and she'd had a heck of a chip on her shoulder. It must have been devastating for Victoria to be cut off from every method of venting she had acquired the moment she’d gotten powers to keep things fair to ordinary people. Taylor could undoubtedly see the source of some of the other girl's anger issues.

Instead of focusing on her meditations that morning, she’d chosen to carefully run Victoria through each pose in the first Kata she’d learned. Taylor had corrected Victoria's poses until she’d gotten each perfect. When she felt that Victoria was ready, Taylor had joined the girl in running through the kata a few times to show the girl how the repetition allowed one to center themselves. Ralph and her Dad had begged off from weapon training, each understandably busy in light of the attacks of the day before. Left on their own, Taylor and Victoria had used the time to practice their abilities, which meant that Taylor had an entertaining time using her telekinetic powers tossing obstacles in front of Victoria to improve her reaction times while in flight.

They’d been halfway through lunch when Carol had finally come to collect Victoria, and that’d left Taylor sitting alone at her house, staring at the books that she’d not had a read the evening before. Part of her had been tempted to go to the Library like she had done every day earlier that week, but instead, she sent a text to her dad letting him know that she was going to her meeting and that’s how she found herself sitting in a private speed boat skimming across the water. Taylor initially intended to ride the ferry, but the Director and her Father had nixed that when the meeting was being arranged. She didn’t mind mingling with regular tourists, but apparently, security demanded that she ride alone in a boat that was being helmed by a young trooper that kept glancing at her out of the corner of his eye. Slightly uncomfortable at the attention, Taylor watched the rig growing as they approached, curiously studying the odd saturation effect of the shield.

“It’s an odd design for a shield. Most shields back home were invisible unless they were blocking something. I suppose it’s a function of the technology level. Cobbling advanced technology from garbage rarely gives you the best results.” Taylor glanced over to see Jolee’s image sitting on one of the other leather seats. She snorted faintly before glancing back up. “I was never much of an engineer, but I imagine the saturation is caused by the shield refracting light. I’m guessing that they couldn’t get the shield’s tensile strength up without increasing the actual thickness of the shield, which would refract the light like that.”

The boat continued across the bay, and Taylor watched the various things that the older Jedi playfully pointed out and mocked. The Rig’s repulsors were over-sized and over-engineered, but he didn’t think they had the capacity to create repulsors, so their version was plausible if inelegant. When they reached the base of the Rig, the trooper pulled the boat into a small covered Jetty, joining another five boats that were of similar design to the one she'd been on. The young man hopped quickly out before moving to offer Taylor his hand nervously.

“The kid looks like he’s afraid you’re gonna bite him. Wonder what you did to make that impression.” Grinning to herself saw the colour draining from the kid’s face, but she took his hand and allowed him to haul her up and out of the boat. Once her feet were on solid concrete, she wiped her hands before following the trooper toward the large freight elevator at the back of the Jetty. As they ascended into the Rig, Taylor let her eyes peek out the open sides of the Freight elevator. She watched the water shrink away as they travelled up one of the Rig’s supports, getting a closer view of one of the Repulsors for a moment before they vanished into the Rig popular, and the only view past the sides of the lift was the various wires and mechanisms of the Elevator shaft.

When the Elevator came to a stop, she stepped out and glanced at her escort, smirking when he didn’t exit the elevator with her. “There’s a purple line on the ground. Follow it, and you’ll reach the director’s office.” Taylor gave the young man a nod and stepped back. Watching him close the door in her wake and descend out of sight, Taylor turned her attention to the ground, finding the dotted purple line and moving to walk along it. The elevator had disgorged Taylor in a stark hallway. Concrete-lined floors were painted with arrows and lines, and the walls were almost entirely bare and painted a pristine white.

Off to one side, the rattling of metal and conversation drew her attention, and Taylor peeked through the small window on the door to see a kitchen bustling with activity. Moving along Taylor guessed that the other doors she was passing were storage rooms and similar spaces area’s dedicated to the Rig’s cantina and it’s various staff. As Taylor followed the arrows, she came to a large double door, pushing it open to reveal something like what she’d been expecting.

The doors marked ‘Staff only’ closed behind her and she stood in a hallway that looked more like what you expected to see in a military base. Taylor glanced to the left and saw a pair of heavy doors marked ‘Cantina’, and she glanced down. Seeing the line leading in a different direction she moved to follow, politely nodding at anyone that she passed in the halls, eventually coming to a stop when the arrow terminated at the door. She rapped on the door and when a familiar voice called out "Enter" she pushed the doorway open, slipping in.

Taylor froze in place, staring in shock at the figure sitting opposite her. The girl’s immaculate blonde hair was coiffed into a severe-looking bun that Taylor found funny for some reason, the domino mask was still in place, but the girl’s purple and black cat-suit had been replaced with a matching pantsuit with a skirt. Taylor stared at the girl for a few moments before pushing a hand against her mouth to stifle a chuckle. She ignored the glare from the blonde girl, walking over and taking a seat opposite her desk.

“This is entirely your fault, you know.” The blonde girl glowered across the desk, and Taylor shrugged in amusement. The girl had opened her mouth to speak, but a loud beep from her left arm drew both girl’s attention. A black metal band had been fitted around the girl’s upper left arm, and a red light was blinking on off. Taylor watched as Tattletale let out a weary sigh, moving to glance back at Taylor and speaking words in a monotone that could only come from constant repetition. “As we are in a two-party consent state, I am required by law to inform you that as part of my parole, all conversations with me are recorded by this, and can be reviewed at any time. Should you remain, you’re declaring your consent to be recorded.” The girl stared at Taylor lofting an eyebrow. After a second the light on the band flicked to green, and she relaxed.

“Interesting accessory. Parole?” She tilted her head curiously at Tattletale, crossing her legs and checking her watch. She had nearly half an hour till her meeting was to start so she could chat with the villainess a bit. However Tattletale had ended up in that suit was a story that she absolutely had to hear.

“Mhm. The Director wasn’t exactly happy to hear that her organization was riddled with spies from every gang in the city. She was even more displeased that I couldn’t name names because I’d only ever been shown what they’d shared as opposed to who they were. Armsmaster and Dragon came up with this.” She gestured to the band. “And Piggot decided that a work release would be a ‘fascinating experiment.’” The girl seemed somewhat irritated, and Taylor found herself chuckling faintly, the sound growing more noticeable as the girl glared at her once more.

“I mean, you’ve been leading quite the merry life of crime lately, and you did rob a bank and take a half dozen people hostage. Considering what you did to Amy, I’m surprised they were this lenient. I looked up the laws around that after it happened. State and Federal Law has all sorts of Felony Enhancement charges on the books for forcing Parahumans to use their powers as you did. And considering your Thinker power, they wouldn’t have been so gentle in their sentencing.” She watched the girl’s expression shift, the irritated look shifting in guilt for a moment before he haughty mask slid back into place. “She’s fine by the way. Amy. I figured out what my power had done to her, and we fixed it.” Taylor found herself smiling at the minute nod, straightening up when the girl spoke earnestly.

“Alright, so, back to business. You’re here for an interview with the Director?” She glanced at Taylor and then frowned. “Where’s your escort?” She glanced toward the door and then sighed as she wrote something down on a pad of paper. “Alright. So. Before I let you in the room, I have to ask you a question.” Taylor nodded easily and watched as Tattletale stared at her. “Do you intend Director Piggot or any other person on this base any harm?” Taylor found herself grinning at the wince the girl gave before drawing her eyes back.

“Would you be able to tell if I did?” She watched as Tattletale huffed and glanced off, rubbing tiredly at her head. The sound of a cough and a woman’s deeper voice startled Taylor. She glanced over to see the severe expression on the Director’s face, and Taylor felt herself swallowing nervously.

“Miss Hebert, I’d appreciate it if you don’t harass my assistant any more than necessary.” Taylor nodded and slid to her feet, offering Tattletale a nod as she passed. She stepped into the woman’s office, curiously looking around at the spartan place, taking in the woman’s displayed art and the half-finished salad on her desk. The view behind her would have been lovely if not for the lingering smoke over the city. She stood until the Director nodded toward a chair, and then she moved, taking a seat in the plush chair, watching as the other woman scooted around and took a seat. “Welcome to PRT HQ. What’ve you thought of the facilities so far?”

“It’s interesting.” Taylor was briefly tempted to related Jolee’s thoughts on the shield and the repulsors but decided to be more polite and merely crossed her legs. “I only saw a small part of it on my way from the lift near the kitchens, but it seems like an interesting place to work. Tattletale was a pleasant surprise.” She hummed faintly. “She helped me save Amy’s life; I’m glad that she didn’t end up in prison over it.” Taylor frowned at the cold look the Director gave her and then shrugged at the woman’s response.

“She’s useful, and that earns her leniency, perhaps with a few more good deeds, she might eventually buy her freedom. But that’s not what we’re here to discuss Miss Hebert.” Taylor watched the director close up the salad and deposit the remains of her lunch in her trashcan. She tilted her head watching the woman as she continued. “You might have seen the news about Shadow Stalker’s transfer, that leaves the wards a bit short. I’ve invited you here to invite you to join the Wards personally. There are numerous perks associated with the program from the pay, to the support and help with your powers.” The director produced a colourful booklet that she offered over. Taylor took the book, quickly skimming it to see that it was the same one that she’d examined online.

“I’m flattered, Director Piggot. I had considered joining the Wards initially, but there are a few issues that would make us not a perfect match.” When the older woman gestured for her to Continue Taylor sighed and leaned back. “The biggest is that the Youth Guard requires that all Wards attend school. My Power’s effect on my brain means that I absorb and process information at an accelerated rate. I’m working through an accelerated online course load to get my high school diploma at the moment, and I plan to test into placement into an Advanced Placement Program at the University, but as far as I can tell the Youth Guard requirements preclude a program like that entirely, something about social experiences?”

“The Youth Guard feels that the secondary school system functions both as a means of education and a means of encouraging the social development of young people. They wouldn’t approve of your education scheme.” Taylor watched as the Director sighed, offering an amused smile.

“I’m also a lot closer to New Wave. I’ve met most of the members, and we get along fairly well. I get the impression that they’ll offer me membership again shortly. Considering the huge mess that we got into yesterday,” Taylor paused and snorted. “I doubt they want me running around on my own, and my Dad certainly doesn’t.”

“Yes, about that.” Taylor watched as the Director drew a file up, carefully opening it and reading it carefully. “Team Leader Creighton mentioned something about an incident with Miss Dallon last night?” When Taylor felt the woman’s gaze on her, she waved a hand watching as the woman swallowed a cough.

“There was a disagreement. We spoke about it, and we’ve come to an understanding. Victoria was worried about her sister and thought that I was involved. We’ve decided to train together though to help with her power control.” The words caused the director to glance at her and open her mouth, almost as if shocked before she could say what she was going to say though the woman let out another cough, this one rooted in the chest and hacking.

Taylor frowned deeply, studying the Director curiously and when the force pulled at her. She leaned into the power, allowing it to guide her eyes. She watched the cough wracking her form and tilted her head. ‘Pneumonia of some sort, not the main issue, side effect, caused by a compromised immune system.’ The woman’s pallor, the way her cheeks had sunk in, the scent in the air. The colour of her nails, and the dullness of her eyes. ‘Extended Dialysis.’ Taylor stared at the woman quietly and frowned, slowly speaking. “You’re dying.” She studied the woman. “Slowly, but your kidneys have already failed.”

“How could you know that?” Taylor shifted back when the woman’s shocked expression shifted quickly to anger. “That’s personal and wholly private. It’s utterly inappropriate that you’d use your powers to discover things like that.” Taylor held up her hands quietly and shifted back as far in her chair as she could to try and defuse the woman anger. She watched as the Director took two deep breaths, glowering over at her. Taylor waited a few moments for the woman to get her temper back under control.

“I could heal you.” She watched the woman’s expression turning thoughtful, the force allowing her to see to conflict on the chubby woman’s face. She stared and sighed when the woman’s face shut down, and she stonily responded.

“And what’s in it for you, hrm? No. I’m not exactly fond of the idea of parahuman healing. Thank you for hearing me out Miss Hebert. Miss Militia has offered to give you a tour, and I hope that we’ll see each other in the coming weeks.” Taylor offered the woman a confused look and Director waved a hand. “New Wave has recently accepted a PRT affiliate status, and we’re going to be working more closely in the coming weeks.” Taylor watched the woman, noting the interested spark in her eyes. She was supposed to react to that. She used her grip on the force to keep her expression calm, nodding as she slid to her feet.

She had nearly reached the door when the Force brushed along her mind, and she paused, her hand on the handle. She quietly decoded the impressions she was getting. She glanced over her shoulder at the Director, humming faintly. “I owe you a second time, you know.” The words were spoken casually, and she watched the Director looking at her. “You sent New Wave and Protectorate to save me when Ralph called you. That and helping me fix my mistake with Panacea. That’s two debts I’ve got to you. I’d rather discharge those debts.” She watched the words penetrate the woman’s mind and the self-satisfied smile that crossed the woman’s face.

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Taylor had been shocked that the Director was still on her feet. Both Kidneys had failed, and her liver had been in its death throes. The woman’s scarred heart and damaged cardiovascular system had made Taylor nervous about even coughing near her. With the practice and reading that she’d been doing Taylor had been able to repair the worst of the damage, working with care and it’d only cost the director roughly thirty pounds of body fat to replace the dead materials. After getting the doctor to sign off on the healing, The director had sent Taylor off with Miss Militia.

Taylor had been a fan of the strange cape, but the woman’s rather stoic appearance was oddly unsettling in person. Taylor had allowed the woman to show her around the base, she’d casually checked out the various amenities, and she had even met Aegis and Vista, who’d been in the common room. Kid Win and Gallant had been on patrol, and she’d missed them, and Clockblocker was assisting Armsmaster with a project. The two Wards had seemed more at ease and friendly with her, and Taylor had taken the time to speak with each. When they’d asked if she intended to join up, she had deferred politely, grinning when Vista had groaned quietly about never evening the gender disparity in the government-sanctioned superhero team. Taylor decided to keep the fact that she was probably going to join New wave to herself; it seemed a bit premature to discuss it.

Miss Militia had been more friendly after she’d talked with the wards and the rest of the tour had been fascinating, but it hadn’t changed her mind. Eventually, she had been escorted back to the boat to find her nervous shadow waiting for her, and they’d headed back toward shore. The trip had been as awkwardly silent as the trip in. They’d been nearly two-thirds of the way back to shore when a surge of violet light had exploded in the distance. Taylor frowned and waved at the trooper.

“Stop the boat. Now.” The kid had reacted, immediately cutting the engine. Taylor was already counting under her breath, tapping her thigh with one finger. ‘One Mississippi, two Mississippi.’ Hazy memories of hiding from storms under her bead with a red-haired child and counting out loud in the wake of lightning flashes accompanied the counting. Taylor made it up Eighteen before the roar of the explosion had washed past them, whipping the water up in a mist around them. Eighteen seconds, over three miles. It had come from Downtown.

Taylor stared at the cloud of black smoke that had replaced the violet light, watching as it rose. Something about it struck her as odd, but it wasn’t until the kid next to her spoke that she realized what it was.

“It’s perfectly cuboid.” The kid muttered softly, and Taylor glanced at him before glancing back as the ‘smoke’ continued to rise perfectly in a cuboid, extending what had probably been a building slowly toward the clouds. When the black cloud reached the lower clouds it’d suddenly expand outwards in every direction, and Taylor found herself sitting in the boat in inky darkness with the Trooper, the black 'cloud' had blotted the sky out above them. Looking toward the ocean revealed that enforced darkness effectively ended a few miles out, but it seemed to cover most of the city.

When the entire cloud shimmered, Taylor turned and peered toward the city as the cloud over where it had started expanded and shimmered into a view of a masked man. His form was powerfully and covered with tattoos, and more concerning, he was sitting in an operating chair. A Doctor in a mask was quietly stitching up the man’s left side as he stared at ‘The Camera.’ As he shifted, his voice boomed down from seemingly directly above Taylor.

“Greetings Brockton Bay. Some of you may know who I am. For those of you that were lucky enough to have not heard of me, My name is Lung. I am the leader of the Azn Bad Boys. I am not a man of many words.” The man paused as the doctor took a pair of scissors and snipped a thin wire, standing and backing off. The masked figure waited for the doctor to leave before sitting forward on his chair, his 50-75 foot tall image glaring out over the bay.

“For too long have me and mine been relegated to the sidelines, forced to contend with racist pigs and drugged out maniacs. This is a declaration of war. We will be coming for the Empire Eighty-Eight. We’ll be coming for the Merchants. We will go through any means necessary to cleanse this city of the filth, and we’ll free to you live under my rule. This is war, and unfortunately, that means that there will be collateral damage in this assault. Starting tomorrow, bombs will begin going off, the longer this campaign takes, the worse the bombs will become.” The man’s accented voice was chillingly calm, and Taylor felt herself shivering at the words. “You might be aware of that attack that we carried out over the Docks this past evening. That was an attempt to root out the vermin that had infested the docks. We used only conventional weapons in that assault, and I assure that Bakuda has gifted us with a great many more...fascinating weapons.”

“Make this easier for yourself. Anyone that helps direct us toward the other gangs will be shielded from the attacks, anyone that is found to shield them will burn. And before anyone in the PRT or the American Pigs decide to get involved in this mess," The man shifted back and pushed out of his chair standing. The angry red wound on his side was visible, and he gestured to it. “This is a dead-man switch. It’s tied to this.” The image cut back to reveal something large and round and glowing -very- ominously. It dominated the rear of the bunker-like structure. “If I die, it goes off. It’s been heavily re-designed to function as an EMP, and while that means that the explosive potential is small, it’d only destroy a third of Brockton Bay, the EMP would utterly destroy the East Coast of the United States. This location is hardened, and if a missile strikes the bay, it’ll detonate.”

“The PRT has failed to deal with the other Parahumans in this city, and so I’ve decided to do it for them. All I ask is that they stand aside and allow me to do so.” The man spoke, waving a hand magnanimously before turning back to the camera. “I know that despite my efforts last night, some of you will doubt me. This should prove the sincerity of my intentions. Do it.” The masked man nodded at the ‘Camera,’ and the view shifted to the side, showing a circle that had been spray painted on the floor of the bunker. A table was set in the middle, and then a case laid on it. The case was opened and a complicated bit of machinery revealed. Taylor glanced over at the kid’s sucking in of breath and assumed it was some form of a bomb.

Lung walked into the circle, holding a strange looking grenade. He pulled a pin, set the device atop the open case, tapped a key that set the timer counting down from one minute, and then exited the ring. As soon as the gang leader cleared the ring, the ‘grenade’ activated, expanding out a circular field that stopped right at the edge of the painted circle, a swirl of light had Taylor suddenly raising an arm and shielding her eyes, and when the glow cleared the ring had shifted, and was filled with an odd sight.

The circle of concrete had been utterly replaced by a circular patch of reinforced steel. Across the middle of the circle a wall was present, and from it hung a bed. Atop the bed sat a familiar figure. The Orange robe and lack of mask were startling, but the maniacal cackling was familiar. Taylor stared at the Giant Bakuda for a moment before she and the trooper both turned and looked back toward the rig in time to see a massive explosion erupt from it. A ball of flame exploded viciously from the Northern edge of the structure, raining debris out toward the water the shield flickering ominously for a second before stabilizing.

Taylor looked at the Trooper and then back toward the view. Lung had stepped back into view, crossing his arms. The image stilled suddenly and then a flicker saw the still image of the gang leader collapsing, melting as the objects that made up the projections fell. Taylor glanced up as the cloud above them started to fall, holes already forming in the cover to let through shafts of sunlight. She turned and sighed at the Trooper.

“Let’s get back to the Rig. I imagine that a healer might be helpful.” She glanced up, watching the black specks floating down around them. The engine roared to life, and the trooper spun the boat around and returned them both toward the rig.

Chapter Text

April 30th, 2011
Downtown, Brockton Bay

Taylor pulled her gaze back from the traffic outside her window, focusing instead on her hands. Gently turning each hand over she inspected the pale slightly pink skin quietly. Taylor unbuttoned the sleeves of her white shirt, rolling them up and checking her arms. Despite the evidence available to her eyes, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d missed some of the blood that had coated her hands the day before. Looking close and finding that even under her finger-nails were pristine she sighed faintly, glancing out the window. The day before had been brutal.

They’d arrived back at the Rig to find it in chaos. Half the place was being evacuated, and she’d briefly seen Miss Militia hurrying the Wards through the Rig toward the upper levels as her trooper escort led her toward Medical. When she’d entered, she’d found three doctors shouting and the director standing nearby, her face a mask of rage. The woman’s expression had shifted to shock at seeing her, but Taylor hadn’t even needed to explain. The director announced her, a look of mild respect on her face and Taylor had been elbow deep patching people up before she could comment.

It’d been harder than she’d expected. Healing with The Force was taxing on the mind and the body, the act of healing was difficult, focusing and controlling The Force like that exacted a toll. Mentally, it was even worse. It seemed to Taylor that for every person she healed, another showed up too damaged for her to do anything. She had seen several people die as she held their hands and found her powers lacking. Bastila and Jolee had tried to be consoling, but a failure like that ate at a Jedi, and Taylor almost felt like it was intended to. A way for the universe to remind her that she wasn’t perfect.

She’d worked until she had nearly dropped until every person injured in the explosion that didn’t die was able to walk out of the infirmary. She’d almost passed out on the boat ride back, surprised to find that same trooper waiting to take her home. She’d learned his name was Jeremy, and he’d seemed much more respectful and calm on the trip back, far less nervous. Taylor hadn’t been surprised to find Ralph waiting for her at the docks, and she’d been bundled into his modified PRT Jeep, and the trip home had passed in a blur.

Someone, probably the director or Tattletale, had evidently called him because he’d greeted her at the door with a hug that had done wonders in soothing her raw bones and hadn’t commented on her spending nearly an hour in the bathroom scrubbing every last remaining inch of the blood from her hands and body. It had made her feel better, but that wasn’t what had allowed her to sleep peacefully last night.

The shower had helped a bit, but the long chat with Amy had soothed her aches more. Amy had sat and listened as Taylor told her about what happened, and the girl hadn’t commented or offered assurances. Oddly, Amy shared stories about the times she’d felt the best about using her gifts, the people that came back to thank her, and to speak with her. She’d told Taylor a story about a woman who’s leukemia she’d cured, and how the old Russian woman who couldn’t speak a lick of English had come back the next day with her three children, nine grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren, and how Amy had had to accept a hug and heartfelt thanks from each. The girl had sounded mortified, but when Taylor had broken into laughter, Amy had joined her, and it’d felt good.

It had been Amy that had indicated that her aunt was interested in speaking with Taylor, and Taylor had offered to come out today. She’d not had much on her plate, and when she’d told her father, he'd seemed relieved that she’d finally be speaking with someone about her Hero-ing. Taylor had initially intended to take the bus since her Father was growing increasingly busy with the Dockworkers, but Ralph had told her this morning that the director had increased her security detail in light of the threats from the ABB and now Taylor was escorted most places by Ralph or one of his men.

Currently, Ralph was in the driver's seat, and he’d been complaining about the traffic, though as the man ranted, Taylor felt her attention being drawn in.

“-idiots. Half the city is in chaos because of the ABB, and people are out in the streets Protesting the arrival of Watchdog.” Taylor perked up frowning. She glanced at Ralph and spoke curiously.

“Watchdog?” She felt the older man flick his eyes at her and he shifted the wheel, changing lanes and moving minutely forward.

“In light of Lung’s threat, The Protectorate has dispatched a task force to the bay, It was initially going to be the Triumvirate, but Congress got worried about their approach, and it was decided that they’d work on a more subtle team. It’s being headed up by Myrrdin, the Leader of the Protectorate in Chicago. They’ve brought in a few of the Strangers, but the big name was Watchdog. They’re the Thinker Thinktank. They usually handle Thinkers using their powers on the stock market and the like, but they’ve been diverted here to deal with the Bomb Threat.” Taylor hummed and glanced around, noting the crowds with signs on the street. Most of the rest of the cars in traffic obscured the signs the picketers held, though one man was tall enough that his board stood out, that the Government and PRT hadn't cared about his city until it was their necks on the line.

“Why’re the mad? Because of Lung’s threat?” Taylor studied the angry faces around the cars and shivered a bit.

“Partly.” Ralph let out out a grunt as the traffic picked up once more and carried them along the street a bit before it screeched to a halt again. “It’s partly that and partly that Lung’s a lot smarter than most of us gave him credit for. Last night folks were scared, people were talking about what the government was going to do to put him down, but then the ABB moved out. They were different, precise, well trained. They moved in units with Tinker-tech weapons and grenade, and they hit the Merchants and the Empire Eighty-Eight hard. They burned 6 of the Merchant’s buildings to the ground, and they shut down every dog-fighting ring in the city last night. We were expecting that. What we weren’t expecting was their methodology.” When Taylor glanced up, she found Ralph frowning at the road ahead.

“The ABB removed every single addict from the buildings before burning them down with the Merchants trapped within. They let the gamblers leave the Dog-fighting rings, keeping the Empire thugs pinned down and again burning the shops down around them. They even ended up freeing all the dogs as well, delivering them to a half dozen shelters across the city. The ABB has been breaking up street crime in other territories as they do this, we’ve had nearly a dozen reports about ABB gang members taking out muggers and helping people to the hospital. We expected this to be a flash-fire, a massive war that burned the city around us, but Lung’s being careful. He’s playing the public against us.” Taylor shivered at the thought as she glanced around, watching as the traffic started to move again, the car speeding up.

“The rest of the Troopers seem to think opinion will shift when he starts bombing buildings, but considering what he’s done so far, I’m guessing he’ll be opting for borderline targets. Going after criminal enterprises first, and then later on sympathizers. He’s trying to spin this as a war amongst the criminals, and he’s playing himself off as honourable but brutal, like the dragons that he’s named after. When he’s up against Nazis and drug pushers, it’s hard to argue.” The older man sighed, as they finally left the main streets and exited into side streets, quickly getting up to speed as they headed into the more affluent parts of the city. The two rode in silence after this revelation, carefully watching the buildings pass until the GPS announced that they’d arrived.

Taylor was surprised. She’d expected a small mansion at the top of a hill with large fences, but the house seemed almost normal — a split level ranch-style house at the end of a Cul-de-sac. The white picket fence and neatly trimmed yard were a surprise. As the car rolled to a stop on the street outside, Taylor glanced nervously over at Ralph. She'd gone out especially to get the clothes for this interview, the first time she'd dipped into her earnings from the court case, a new outfit, new glasses, and rather suddenly, she felt very over-dressed in her dress shirt and pants. Taylor had dressed like this was a job interview, and now it felt more like her friend's aunt inviting her over for a chat. When she started to nervously panic the older man rolled his eyes.

“You look fine, Taylor. Go and talk to them. We all know that they want you on the team, and it’s where you want to be.” Taylor whined a bit but shifted a bit and slipped out. She adjusted the dark blue shirt that she wore, trying to look like less of a dork as she headed up the steps. Pausing at the doorway, Taylor glanced back at Ralph, unable to see him through the windows but knowing that he was rolling his eyes. She turned and rang the doorbell, waiting nervously on the stoop. There was a be a beat of shoes over the tiles inside, and the door swung open.

Taylor blinked, finding herself face to face with a boy her age. His bright blue hair and interesting hair-cut gave him away, and he stared at her in shock glancing her up and down in confusion before shrugging and leaning back.

“Mom! Taylor’s here.” Taylor blushed at the look before nervously running a hand along the side of her head. Having pulled her hair back into a pony-tail kept the stuff out of her face, but it also meant that she couldn’t indulge in her nervous tick of running her hands through it. When the young man stepped back and gestured her in she slipped in, kicking off her shoes and smiling at him. “We’ve met, but never been introduced. I’m Eric, though I go by 'Shielder' in costume.” Taylor chuckled at his nervous smile and took his hand offering a quick shake. Before the conversation could move into more awkward small talk, a low whistle drew her attention to the top of the stairs.

“Well.” The words came from the top of the stairs, and Taylor glanced up to see a blonde girl standing there. Taylor blinked at Laserdream, or rather Crystal, dressed in jeans and a halter and she was be grinning a grin that made Taylor want to bounce the poor girl off the walls. “Welll~” The girl’s mocking words made Taylor cringe. “Doesn’t someone look all dressed up. Here for a job interview? Or something else, hrm?” Taylor blinked in confusion, before grinning when Sarah stepped out into the foyer and called up at her daughter.

“Crystal. Behave.” The woman turned, and Taylor found herself searching the woman’s face, tracing the features that she shared with Carol and her children. She studied the woman in her non-cape attire, startled that she seemed like your average working mom. Casual blouse and comfortable pants. When the woman grinned at her Taylor felt her cheeks heating up. “Though I do feel a touch under-dressed.” Taylor rolled her eyes and followed along when the laughing woman indicated that she should.

They eventually ended up in Sarah’s office, though Taylor did pause long enough to toss a wave to Amy when she saw the girl peeking out of a sitting room on the way. Grinning at the small, encouraging smile she received, she headed into the office and glanced around curiously. The office space was small, a bedroom that had been converted into an office but it felt warm, lived in. A large desk was scuffed and battered from constant use, and the desktop was an expression of organized chaos. Around the walls of the room were shelves. Some held books, but most were filled with more interesting trinkets and pictures. Slipping closer, Taylor examined it all, seeing many images of Sarah, Neil and their kids, in or out of uniform. Studying a few, she turned to find Sarah smiling at her.

“I like to keep what I love around me. Keeps it in my heart, yeah? And helps me deal with bureaucrats.” The woman took a seat and indicated the seat opposite, and Taylor scooted over taking a seat. Taylor was fascinated by the contrast of sitting here with sitting opposite Director Piggot and chuckled at how much more at ease this situation felt. At the look from Sarah Taylor waved off a hand. “Alright. So. I know that Carol offered you a place in New Wave before, and you weren’t interested at the time, but you’ve been a lot more active lately, and you seem to have a more firm grasp of your powers. In light of this, Carol and I both felt that it might be time to recheck your interest, considering your friendships with Amy and Victoria, we both feel that you might prove to be a valuable addition to New Wave.”

“Oh.” Taylor blushed a bit. “I’m flattered. And uh, I’m certainly interested, I know all of you, and I could see myself working with you. I’d love to hear more, with the caveat that I’ve got to go over everything with my father?” She smiled when Sarah nodded, smoothly drawing a packet out of a nearby drawer.

“You’re in luck. Up to recently the positions were non-paying for most of the junior members of the team, considering they were mostly family it didn’t matter. But as we’ve recently been accepted into the PRT affiliation umbrella, they’ve sent some funding our way. Enough to help with the day to day cost of running the team, and to ensure that everyone gets a stipend. It’s not as generous as the one that the Wards get, but it’s impressive.” She offered a booklet over, and Taylor opened it up, skimming the details. Same basic concept as the Wards with the trust being set up in her name and having her earnings entered into it although the amounts were about a third what the Wards earned. Still, Taylor reasoned, it’d be enough to fund her college if nothing else.

“I spoke with Director Piggot yesterday, before the uh...incident.” She waved a hand. “She had intended to offer me a place in the Wards, but my unique learning situation made it difficult.” When Sarah tilted her head, Taylor sighed, continuing. “Due to how I practice controlling my powers, my focus, retention and reading speed are all greatly improved. It means that I perform exceptionally well in online schooling. As it is, I’m nearly six months ahead on course-work, and I’ve begun working toward testing into the advanced placement classes at the University. That’s not exactly a Youth-Guard approved learning schedule. Would that be an issue with your affiliation?” Taylor blinked when the woman seemed to consider it, drawing out a book.

“I don’t think so, I’m still new to the system, and I’ll have to go over it with Carol, but as we’re not actually part of the PRT or the Protectorate we get some leeway in this, with your father’s approval and perhaps a test of some sort it should clear any issues.” Taylor nodded as she quietly studied the book. Sarah considered her own before humming and setting it aside, drawing Taylor’s attention back to her the pair sank into a deep conversation on New Wave and how Taylor felt she might fit in.

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The conversation had been interesting, and Taylor had been fascinated with the process of joining. She’d go over everything with her father, but Taylor was reasonably sure that this is the deal that she’d be accepting. As the conversation wound down, Taylor finally dragged herself to her feet, grinning toward Sarah and offering her a quick thank you. She’d started to back up when the woman called her back quickly.

“Oh. Taylor. One more thing.” Taylor paused, glancing up at the woman. “We all were a bit adventurous when we first got our powers, but if you join New Wave, we’re going to have to ask that you keep your crime-fighting efforts to the official patrols. I’m sure that you enjoy your late night patrols, but it’s unsafe for you to be out by yourself.” The woman spoke sternly, and Taylor frowned, tilting her head the woman’s words. Her confusion must have been obvious because Sarah’s earnest expression shifted to concern. “...You’ve not been going out, have you?”

“No.” Taylor frowned and slid over and back into the chair. “What makes you think that I have?”

“There have been a number of interrupted crimes fairly close to areas that you’re often seen exercising and your house, that have been attributed to you. The PRT assumed it was you due to the relative closeness to your house and the way the Cape was taking out their targets.” Taylor frowned quietly, and after a moment Sarah continued. “According to the perpetrators, they’d been in the midst of their crimes when a voice came from the shadows, drawing their focus. Then, the moment they released their victims to investigate or confront the voice, they were struck down by lightning.”

“I can’t use that power,” Taylor spoke softly and blinked at Sarah’s confused look. “My powers, they’ve got emotional components tied to their use. Certain emotions evoke certain powers. The Lightning that I used when I triggered? It requires deep rage or hate, and it’s not a healthy power to use. I’ve noticed that my powers tend to wash back into me, making me wallow in what I use to conjure them. Telekinesis is almost as effective as the lightning, more versatile and I can conjure it feeling happiness or serenity.” The older woman studied her for a moment, and apparently satisfied, nodded.

“I’ll make a note about it to the director. She’ll have some of the capes look around if they’re in the area, if it’s a new cape operating out there, it’s rather dangerous. They’ve been skirting close to ABB territory and considering current events, that’s getting more and more dangerous.” Taylor nodded and studied Sarah seeing if there was anything else. The woman merely smiled. “That’s all I’ve got, but I hope to hear from you soon?” Taylor nodded quickly and took the woman’s outstretched hand, shaking it quickly and then standing. This time she was able to exit the office, and she wandered back toward where she’d seen Amy.

She and the other healer had texted a lot, even talked over the phone a few times, but this was the first time that she’d seen the other girl in person since the hospital. Taylor perched on the doorjamb of the living room, staring across the room at the sight of Amy curled up in the bay window, using the natural light for her sketching. The girl’s face was creased up with focus, and the sound of the pencil scratching over paper was apparent. Taylor paused, briefly considering just letting the girl focus on her art, but then the idea of going home to her empty house ghosted over her mind. So she marshalled her courage, stepping into the room and rapping on the door.

When the other girl jerked up and stared at her before clutching the pad a wicked smile crossed her lips. She tilted her head to the side before speaking. “Mousy.” She waited for the girl to meet her eyes before dipping her hands into her pockets. “I’ve got an entire empty day ahead of me. You should come and entertain me.” She grinned a bit. “We can get out of here. Do something fun, maybe?” She paused when the girl frowned and clutched the book a bit tighter.

“I mean, as fun as it sounds running around and entertaining you Taylor, I’m still grounded.” The girl spoke with a touch of playful sarcasm, though Taylor suspected it masked a bit of nervousness. The sound of someone behind Taylor coughing drew their gazes. Taylor braced herself to keep from jumping at the shock of someone suddenly speaking less than four inches from her, but her tension must have been apparent because when she glanced back, she found Neil smirking at her.

“Hey there, Taylor right? I’m Neil.” The man offered out a hand, and Taylor spun and took it. “Nice to meet you properly. Thanks by the way, for saving Amy, we’re kind of fond of her around here.” Taylor found herself smiling at the man’s casual friendliness. When he glanced over at Amy and spoke, Taylor felt her smile growing. “As for your grounding, Amy, I figure we can give you a short break. You’ve not left the house in over a week, and if your Aunt or Mother ask I’ll just say you’re schmoozing the new recruit to convince her to take the deal.” Taylor saw him grinning at her, and she felt her cheeks heating for some reason. Glancing over at Amy saw that she was in a similar predicament.

The mousy girl shifted nervously in place for a few moments, holding that sketchpad like a life-line. The girl seemed conflicted for a few moments before she sighed and slid to her feet. “Oh alright. I’ll be back.” She scooted past Taylor. The dark haired girl tried to get a peek at the pad, but a glare from Amy saw her holding up her hands in surrender and glancing over at far too amused Neil. The older man crossed his arms.

“So. You got your license?” Taylor paused, blinking and glancing at the man, shaking her head.

“No, Uh. I’m only sixteen. I’ve not even had a chance to sit down and do the written test. The last few months were pretty hectic, and before that I… wasn’t in a great place.” Taylor paused as the man’s face darkened and she glanced to the side, figure that he understood why. “The PRT has assigned me a bodyguard though. He drove me here; I guess he’s supposed to take me around to keep me from being kidnapped or something.” When the man nodded like that made sense, Taylor rolled her eyes. The older man moved to study her, almost opening his mouth to speak but the sound of shoes clattering down the stairs was suddenly audible.

Taylor slid out into the main foyer, glancing over and chuckling at the sight of Mousy in fitted jeans and a jumper. The girl headed over, grasping her arm and dragging her away from her uncle with an unusual amount of haste.

“Goodbye Taylor! Great meeting and talking with you!” The playful mocking in his tone caused Taylor to chuckle, though Amy merely grumbled. As she opened the door, she shouted out.

“Going out with Taylor, Aunt Sarah, Uncle Neil said it was fine!” Taylor glanced back in time to see the man mime out a look of mock betrayal, putting both hands over his heart as Mousy threw him to the wolves. Taylor snorted and glanced at Amy as they paused on the stoop.

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Amy paused on the stoop and stared nervously over at Taylor. It took her a moment to realize that she was still holding the other girl’s arm and she released it stepping back. She glanced around before sighing and shoving her hands into her jeans pockets.

“So uh. Where did you want to go?” She blinked as Taylor laughed and just walked toward the jeep parked at the end of the path. She blinked when the girl strode up and opened the back door, gesturing her in. When she climbed in, she hesitated seeing an older man glancing at her through a rear view mirror, raising his eyebrow in amusement. When Taylor scooted in next to her and buckled in the man spoke.

“Taylor. I might have to request backup if we’re going to have both of the city’s best healers wandering around together.” The comment was almost playful, and Amy chuckled when Taylor flipped the man the bird.

“Ralph, this is Amy, also known as Panacea. Mousy, this is Ralph.” She gave the man a look as he raised an eyebrow. Amy felt her cheeks heating up at the nickname but didn’t say anything as the man wisely kept his own counsel on it as well. “We’re gonna go be teenagers I think. Let’s head downtown; See if we can find something fun?” The man nodded and turned the jeep on and as it rumbled away he and Taylor briefly begin chatting, the girl leaning up and over one of the seats as far as her seat belt would allow as she discussed what was interesting downtown.

Taking the opportunity to study Taylor, Amy boggled at the changes in the girl. It had been a little over two weeks since she'd met Taylor, and part of her doubted that if they put this Taylor down next to the girl who’d smacked her in the face in the bank if they’d match up. The girl that had accidentally hit Amy had felt small despite her height. Between the over-sized exercise clothes she wore and the way that she hunching down her shoulders, wild hair hiding much of her face, she had ended up seeming almost tiny despite the impressive powers that she'd wielded.

Today she was in an outfit that while it wasn’t expensive made her look comfortable. The dark blue button-down shirt tailored for her athletic frame, with its sleeves rolled up, along with the slacks and the comfortable shoes. The girl’s hair pulled back to show off her face and the new slimmer glasses she wore that showed off her dark eyes. The girl seemed… not happier, the girl had seemed relatively cheerful in that bathroom, despite the guilt. It was that a weight had been lifted off her and she seemed content to sit for a while.

“So.” Amy was drawn from her thoughts when Taylor called the trooper a boring old man and had flopped back down next to her, grinning. “I figure we’ll drive around downtown and see what seems like fun? I’d normally suggest a walk up the boardwalk, but considering the number of explosives that went off near there, it’s probably not terribly safe.” Amy shrugged and glanced out the window, shifting awkwardly in place as Taylor settled back. They’d drifted in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes before Taylor let out an excited sound.

“Oh! Ralph. Left up here. We’re heading toward Hudson. Swing a left there, and then head up to Lexington.” Ralph seemed to get the comment and nodded, and they were soon heading into the sky-scrapers, dodging the worst of the traffic. Amy tried to discover their destination but she’d never been one for wandering the city, and when they stopped on a street in shadow from a massive stone building she stared at it in confusion. She glanced over at Taylor and blinked when the girl stared at her expectantly. A moment of this ensued before Taylor pointed.

“Curbs on your side, Mousy.” She grinned, and Amy huffed before opening the door and hopping out. She stepped back when Taylor bounded out next to her. She headed over and ducked in the window to talk to Ralph.

“Yes, I’m sure it’s fine. No, you don’t need to follow us around.” She listened and snorted. “It’s a museum Ralph; they’ve got security. Just uh. Find a place to get some lunch for yourself. I’ve got your number; I’ll text you if something happens. I promise.” She paused and sighed. “Yes, I know that if I get hurt, you’ll get fired and killed by my dad, I’ll be careful.” A beat. “Promise.” Taylor reached into the window seemed to pat the trooper before hopping back and grinning at Amy. “C’mon Mousy, I’m proud of this one.” She turned and headed off.

Amy glanced at Ralph who shrugged at her before pulling away, and then she turned and followed in Taylor’s wake. They ended up heading to the next block and turning left to reveal that the massive stone building that dominated the entire block was, in fact, a museum as Taylor said. The Brockton Bay Museum of Art and Natural History. She perked up as she trailed after Taylor. The girl led them up the stairs and held the door for her, eventually heading over and purchasing two student tickets. She handed one to Amy and pinned her own to her jacket.

Amy glanced at the bored looking tour guide that had so far managed to collect an oriental family and a trio of bored looking college girls. When Taylor bypassed the man entirely and headed toward a kiosk, Amy trailed after her.

“Are we not taking the tour?” Amy’s voice was curious, and Taylor scoffed.

“Why take a tour with that guy. I’ve got my very own artist to show me around, Mousy.” Taylor had begun to rifle through the books on the kiosk and Amy snorted.

“Just because I doodle doesn’t mean that I understand anything about art, never mind its history or design aspects.” Amy paused when Taylor let out a tiny ‘Aha.’ and then spun around, glancing at the thick book in her hands.

“It’s fine. I found a guide book.” She handed it over to Amy, and Amy stared at it and blinked at Taylor. “C’mon Mousy. Let’s do this!” She grinned at Amy and Amy snorted finding the enthusiasm rather infectious. She opened the book, blinked and rotated it before inspecting the map. Taking a moment to orient herself, she flipped through the book finding the relevant section. Glancing over at Taylor, and using a finger to keep her page, she quickly lead Taylor into the wing. Opening the book once they were in the gallery, she' glanced at one of the paintings, quickly checking it against the guide.

“Seems like this wing is dedicated to the Realism school of art.” Amy rolled her eyes when Taylor nodded eagerly and followed her toward the first painting. She stared at the image that had been done in shades reds, blacks and whites. Amy stared at it quietly and studied the technique, glancing over to see Taylor peering at it too with a small smile. The girl checked the book and read out the description. “This is called Harvester’s resting; it’s a painting by Jean-Francois Millet, one of many named similarly. It’s from 1853. It’s an example of the Realism school of painting.” Taylor grinned and peered at Amy.

“So. What’s that mean?” She smirked when Amy looked confused. “What’s Realism, what’s it all about? Why this Jean guy paint a bunch of peasants taking a bath?” Amy frowned and considered the question, studying the guide book to see if it had any answers.

“The uh. The book doesn’t say.” When Taylor merely offered a raised eyebrow, she moved to tuck the book under one arm, pulling out her phone and jumping onto the internet. Using her thumbs to type the relevant term into the search box, she quickly found an article about the art movement. Reading swiftly, she hummed in thought and found herself getting distracted by the words. It’d take her nearly ten minutes to finish reading the first section only then glancing up to see Taylor conspicuously inspecting the painting once more. Blushing and glancing at her phone she coughed, and Taylor glanced at her with a grin.

“Right, so Realism. It’s a French school of painting, sprang up after the French Revolution in 1848. It was apparently a response to the school of Romanticism that had been popular up to that point. It lampshaded the exotic subject matter and the exaggerated emotions of the Romanticism and simply focused on painting real people in real places. Kind of like candid photographs but with a lot more work put into it. Most of the paintings in this section are about Realism. This one over here is a Corot.” Amy gestured to an image of a young woman reading a book. She glanced over and saw the girl watching her with interest and Amy started discussing the painting’s origin and then moving on.

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Amy curled up comfortably in the wicker chair, tugging her sweater more tightly around herself to protect her from the later spring chill. She glanced around as people casually wandered up and down the streets. There was a nervous tension to the crowds, but it hadn’t boiled over yet, and people seemed to be focusing on their shopping. The cafe was mostly empty, and Taylor moved to speak with the barista trying to purchase some snacks. As she watched the girl speaking curiously with the server, she let her mind wander back.

The tour had been amusing. Between her phone and the guide book, Amy had had an entertaining time leading Taylor around the various wings of the museum, teaching them both about the bits of art on display. Sometimes they’d discuss the works and what they reminded them of. Taylor kept playfully adjusting the list of paintings she’d steal if she became a villain, and Amy couldn’t help but laugh that one of Gustave Courbet’s more racy paintings had stayed at the top of the list. The other girl had claimed that it’d make an excellent conversation piece if she ever had an office.

When the art had been seen they’d returned to acting like teenagers running around the Natural History wings and staring at the panorama’s amusing themselves taking pictures with the various Dinosaurs and woolly animals. They’d have still been there if Amy’s stomach hadn’t betrayed her by growling ominously loudly in the empty wing they’d been standing and staring at stuffed cheetahs in. Taylor had laughed then mentioned that she knew a cafe nearby and they’d headed out to get a snack. Taylor had called Ralph and Amy could see his car lurking nearby, though he seemed content to keep his distance.

“So. I was thinking Tython.” The words startled Amy, drawing her attention over to Taylor, the girl had apparently snuck up on her and had set out two large mugs that wafted steam over their whipped cream toppings. Amy grabbed the closest one and took a sniff, smiling at the heady scent of chocolate. When Taylor set a plate with a chocolate-dipped croissant on it before her, she tilted her head and glanced at her. “Closest thing they had to food.” She nodded and ripped off a piece, nibbling it and sighing as the chocolate hit her stomach, quieting it. “So. I said Tython. What do you think?”

“Hrm?” Amy glanced up, blinking. She shook her head before finally catching on and responding. “Tython? What for? And what does it mean, I’ve never heard it before.”

“I was thinking of using it as my Cape name. We still need one on New Wave, and I figure that could work for me. Your Aunt seemed fine with me using white and brown as my colour scheme, but she said I’d need a name and a crest.” She took a muffin in hand, ripping a piece off and nibbling on it, pausing as she ate. “It means…” She blinked, glancing off to the side. “Home, basically.” Nodding, Amy shrugged and mulled the word over in her head a few times. It was distinct.

“It’s unique, and it’s short and easy to say. It could work. What do you think of your crest?” She blinked at Taylor quietly when the girl drew out a napkin and a pen and started to sketch something. She slid the paper over after a moment, and Amy glanced down, staring at the drawing. It looked like a sword with a star over it that had a pair of wings coming off the hilt. She considered it before sliding it back to Taylor. “It’s interesting; what’s it from?”

“I saw it in a dream once. Kind of stuck with me.” Amy nodded at Taylor’s words and opened her mouth to respond, blinking when she felt the sensation of being watched. She glanced up and around, pausing when she saw an older girl a short distance away. Mocha coloured skin with dark eyes, the girl was dressed fashionably, and her dark hair was cut interestingly. The girl was staring rather seriously at them both. Amy shifted a bit and frowned. Not at them both, at Taylor. She glanced at Taylor and then back and watched as Taylor spun in her seat, staring over her shoulder.

Seemingly caught, the girl shifted from foot to foot before stepping closer. Amy moved back when the girl’s eyes came to rest on her, glancing her up and down appraisingly before she slid closer and leaned down, speaking softly to Taylor. Amy was surprised when Taylor gently brushed the girl’s hand off her shoulder and glanced at her.

“Just a minute Mousy, I’ve got to speak with Sabah.” She paused, gesturing between them. “Sabah, this is Amy, Mousy, Sabah.” She slid to her feet and moved to walk a short distance away. Amy took her drink in hand sipping gently at it as she watched the pair as subtly as she could. Taylor stood tall, her form rigid and almost uncomfortable. The other girl's stance started out nervous, almost apologetic even, but as the conversation went on, she became seemingly angry.

The pair seemed to be arguing at one point, and Amy nervously shifted in place when Sabah looked at her and pointed causing Taylor to make a dismissive motion with her hand. This seemed to irritate Sabah who started to actually raise her voice until Taylor cut her off with a severe look and then said something apparently harsh enough that Sabah backed off and glanced around. Evidently finding a path of escape, she started to head off. Taylor watched her go with an angry set to her shoulders before she deflated a bit and headed back toward Amy, gingerly slipping back into her chair.

“Sorry about that.” Amy watched with concern as Taylor scooped up her drink and took a sizable pull, glancing away when she felt Taylor’s eyes meeting her own. “Can we not talk about it. It’s… complicated, and I’d rather just deal with it later.” Amy nodded and glanced in the direction the angry girl had gone. She wondered what the girl had done to upset the typically somewhat patient and serene Taylor. The awkward silence dragged out for a few minutes until Taylor’s phone buzzed. Amy glanced back and watched for a few minutes as the girl stared at it, reading the texts before sighing. She quickly punched something in with her thumbs before laying it face down on the table and returning to her coffee.

“I might have to take you on home soon. It's getting late, and I’ve got to make a stop before going home apparently.” Amy frowned a bit and glanced up noting how low in the sky the sun was and felt surprise whisper through her. She hadn’t realized they’d been at the museum that long. She glanced at Taylor offering an easy smile.

“It’s alright, it is getting late, and I should be getting home for dinner anyway. Did you wanna take these to go, or?” She chuckled when Taylor shook her head and settled in. “I’m not in any rush, and I’d rather enjoy the afternoon breeze as I sip my hot chocolate. Anyway. Before we left the museum, you were telling me a story about how Victoria’s shield didn’t use to cover her uniform?”

Chapter Text

May 2nd, 2011
Downtown Coast, Brockton Bay

Taylor watched Amy disappearing into the house, staring quietly after the girl, frowning as she glanced over at Ralph. The man returned her look for a moment before turning the car on, pulling away from the house, and driving down the cul de sac. Taylor had expected an argument when she’d asked to stop by Sabah’s shop on the way home, but her escort had merely nodded agreeably. Rather than trying to converse with the older man, Taylor found her attention drifting to the streetlights blinking on as they drove down the much quieter streets. The sun hadn’t set just yet, but with the skyscrapers this close to downtown, the lights would soon be needed.

As the car slid into traffic and began weaving its way toward the border between Downtown and the Southern portion of the docks, Taylor let her mind drift back to the ‘conversation’ that she’d had with Sabah earlier in the afternoon. She should have realized that the cafe might be a place that other girl had frequented since she’d brought Taylor there from her apartment, but Taylor had been somewhat distracted by the fun time she’d been having. Truthfully, speaking with Amy was one of the few times that her issues with Sabah drifted out of the fore of the mind, and it’d showed when Sabah had arrived.

Taylor had been distracted with her drawing, rather proud of the rendition she’d done of the classic Jedi crest, though she’d found Amy’s lack of reaction to her idea of a Cape name to be disappointing. She decided to put that one back on the drawing board, perhaps consulting with her father and Jolee about it. While considering what other names might work, Taylor noticed that Amy had gone silent and she glanced up seeing the girl staring over her shoulder. Taylor blinked at the odd look on the other girl’s face, glancing over her shoulder. When she saw those familiar brown eyes, Taylor felt her heart begin to race and she swallowed nervously as the familiar mocha-skinned girl began to pad toward her.

When Sabah had leaned down and tersely asked to speak with her Taylor had delayed them a moment in a fit of pique, introducing Amy and Sabah to each other, a small part of her enjoying the way the older girl’s eyebrows raised at the nickname. Eventually though, the niceties were exhausted and she’d been forced to stand and follow Sabah a short distance away. As they walked, Taylor had found herself watching the older girl’s tense back and shaking hands, trying to decipher the emotions that she’d seen in the older girl’s eyes.

“Taylor, I… I’m.” The girl paused and sighed deeply, her hunched form straightening as she turned to look fully at Taylor, speaking quicker with a slight under-current of anger in her tone. “Taylor, what’re you doing here? Did you miss the homicidal giant in the sky last night? He’s planning on burning the city to the ground. The ABB has been all over downtown for the last two nights and it’s very dangerous for you to be out and about.” Taylor frowned when the older girl rounded on her and she felt the woman’s dark eyes staring down at her. Rather than letting herself be intimidated, Taylor squared her shoulders and took a step forward, her chin lifting minutely as she stared at Sabah.

“What am I doing here? I’m spending an afternoon with my friend, Sabah.” Taylor watched the other girl flinch and a tiny part of her felt glad about that. “I decided to take a break from wandering that stupid library alone wondering if you might actually show up. I’m a cape if you forgot I can take care of myself, I certainly took care of you, in case you’ve forgotten.” Taylor watched as Sabah’s face darkened and she stepped back when the girl spoke a bit more harshly in response.

“You were fucking stabbed in the side Taylor, I had to bind your god-damned wounds and drag your delirious ass back to my fucking apartment. You’re still barely more than a god-damned child, you shouldn’t be getting into fights like that at all. You should be going to fucking school and making normal mistakes. Dating stupid boys, and getting into trouble with your friends. Just because you have powers doesn’t mean that you’ve got to use them, Taylor. You have no fucking idea what you’re getting yourself into.” Taylor stared at Sabah, watched the girl’s irritated and guilty look and she snorted out a bitter laugh crossing her arms. When Sabah looked like she might continue the girl raised a hand to cut her off.

“My name is Taylor Hebert.” Taylor stared at Sabah and when the girl didn’t react, Taylor rubbed at her face. “About three months ago I was shoved into a locker filled with soiled tampons and garbage by the three girls that had spent over two years slowly destroying every aspect of my social and personal life. One of them had been my oldest and best friend.” Taylor watched the recognition washing over Sabah’s features and that little voice in her head laughed cruelly as the color drained from the girl’s the face.

“Yeah, that Taylor Hebert. I triggered publicly. And I’ve got more power then a bit of telekinesis, Sabah. I faced off against Oni Lee and Lung two nights ago. I spent six hours last night up to my elbows in blood as I tried and failed to save a half dozen PRT troopers in the wake of that explosion that blew out the side of the Protectorate HQ. As you can imagine, being a normal kid isn’t really an option.” She stared at Sabah, her expression fierce daring the girl to call her out on it. She wasn’t disappointed as Sabah raised her voice and responded coldly.

“So, what you think you’re strong enough to be running around with your girlfriend in public? The ABB is probably-” Taylor growled and waved a hand to silence the girl, the expression on her face must be impressive because Sabah immediately cut off and Taylor nodded her head in Amy’s direction.

“That’s Amy Dallon, she’s part of New Wave. Her aunt just offered me a place in the team and considering that I’m probably going to take it, we’re getting to know each other a bit better. And even if I was out here hanging out with my friends, I don’t really see what say you’ve got in it Sabah. You’ve made your position patently clear.” Taylor’s voice was almost subzero and she glared at the other cape. She watched as Sabah stepped back and stumbled with her words for a moment before turning and slipping off with an angry look. Taylor frowned, watching her go, waiting until Sabah had vanished into the milling crowd to allow her shoulders to slump.

Taylor had done her best to keep the argument from making the rest of their afternoon awkward, and Amy played along, but Taylor knew that the girl had all sorts of questions that Taylor wasn’t even sure she could answer. The conversation had been a bit strained after the argument, and the ride back to the Pelhams had been even worse. Taylor wasn’t sure what had been on the other healer’s mind, but something had undoubtedly been occupying Amy’s thoughts if the searching looks had been anything to go by.

As the Jeep started to travel down familiar streets, Taylor pulled out her phone. With a few deft flicks of her thumbs, she moved to reread the message that Sabah had sent after making her escape.

{Taylor. I’m sorry about what happened. I’d really like to talk about things.}
{I’ll be at my shop, you’re welcome to swing past whenever you’re done with your friend, just uh. Please give me a chance to explain?}

{Fine. I’ll be there in an hour or two.} Taylor’s reply had been brief, and Sabah hadn’t actually responded, but Taylor hoped that she had at least waited for her. Considering the number of shops that seemed to be closing early, she supposed that it was possible that she’d get to the Tailor’s shop and find that it had been shut down and locked up like the rest. When Ralph pulled down a side street and parked in front of a fancy looking clothing shop, he glanced over at Taylor when the shop looked like it’d been shut down, the lights on the main floor out.

Taylor considered the building for a moment, letting out a weary sigh. She briefly entertained the thought of the just leaving and going home, curling up with a good book and forgetting that she’d even seen Sabah today. Instead, Taylor found herself unbuckling her seat-belt, waving Ralph back into his seat and exiting the car. Checking the traffic, she quickly ducked across the quiet street and made her way up to the dark shop. Taylor glanced around hoping for a doorbell and finding none she raised a hand rapping firmly on the heavy wooden door. As she waited, she wondered how she'd ended up feeling both overdressed and underdressed at different points today.

She stood in silence on the doorstep for thirty seconds contemplating knocking again or leaving when a light flicked on in the depths of the shop, and a few moments later the sound of the door unlocking was audible. The doorway creaked in, and Taylor found herself confronted by a pale mask with golden blonde hair, though Sabah’s dark eyes peeked out of it. Taylor stared at the doll face for a moment until the other girl backed up and widened the doorway to admit Taylor. Deciding to play along, Taylor slid into the shop and let Sabah lock the door in her wake, glancing around.

She had been inspecting the man-sized Lion Plushie that was sat by the counter when she heard Sabah slipping up behind her and coughing. Taylor turned and blinked at the sight of the other girl with her mask slid off. She frowned quietly at the conflicted look on the older girl’s face and let out a tired sigh.

“So.” She dipped her hands into her pockets, scuffing one of her shoes on the wooden floor. Digging into her mind and finding a lack of any anger to play off of she offered the other girl a weary smile, glancing around the shop. “It’s a neat shop. It seems like the kind of place that you’d like. Very you.” She grinned a bit, though the expression faltered when the smaller girl merely stared silently at her. Taylor shifted gears, speaking a bit softer. “You uh...look good?” She smiled nervously and let out a startled gasp when the other girl lunged toward her.

The Force washed up at her mind but stilled when she felt the tiny dark-skinned girl crash into her chest, small arms wrapping her and letting Taylor feel how Sabah was shaking. Gently releasing her grasp on the force, Taylor sighed, carefully wrapping an arm around the Sabah's back, the hand gently patting up and down the other girl's back. When the girl started to shake harder, Taylor tightened her hold and began to mutter soothingly under her breath. Fairly certain that the other girl was crying, Taylor continued the gently murmurring as she held onto the smaller girl, doing her best to ignore the warm dapness soaking through the collar of her shirt. When the shaking slowed, Taylor spoke gently into her friend's hair.

“Sabah,” Taylor spoke gently and moved to try and pull the girl back. When the other girl’s arms tightened around her, Taylor let out a soft chuckle. “Sabah. C’mon. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.” This time when she attempted to guide Sabah back, she moved, and Taylor felt a bit of guilt washing through her as Sabah lifted one of her costumed hands and wiped at her face. “I was pretty upset. I-” Taylor paused, frowning. “It’s been over a week and you like cut me off with no explanation.”

“You nearly died Taylor.” The words were soft and Taylor sighed when she tried to cut in Sabah gave her a look. “You’re the first friend that I’ve made since I became a cape, and the first time I get into trouble you nearly get killed trying to put yourself between it and me. How do you think that felt Taylor? And I know that you healed it off, but it terrified me. You nearly died and then you came out and told me that you were what, fifteen?” The girls comment startled her and Taylor snorted softly shaking her head.

“Sixteen. Seventeen in two months.” Sabah waved a hand and sighed before continuing.

“You’re a still kid Taylor. When I was your age, I was teaching myself English and trying to get good enough grades to get into college. You’re running wild and training as if you want to be a soldier. You shouldn’t-” Taylor gently raised a hand and though Sabah frowned she paused.

“If we’re going to keep on being friends, you need to stop making assumptions Sabah. I am in school. Sort of.” She shifted in place, leaning back against the counter. “My power means that I retain information nearly perfectly, and I read significantly faster then most. A traditional high school syllabus would kill me. I’m currently about six months ahead of where I should be in an online course and I’m attempting to get placed into AP Classes at the university, so you might be seeing more of me come the summer semester.” Taylor studied Sabah’s reaction and snorted at the woman as she rolled her eyes.

“Alright, but everything else Taylor. You’re still a kid you know? I just.” Sabah seemed to pause, carefully considering her words. “You were the first person to be nice to me here in the city you know? People were polite but. Well, I guess you know all about how people can be cruel to each other. And yet you sort of just. Casually adopted me into your circle and it was nice. You’re the first person that wasn’t my family that I felt at ease around despite my triggering and it was nice having a little bit of normality in my life despite all of this.” The woman waved around the shop and Taylor sighed as she shifted back.

“Sabah, we can still be friends, even if we’re not ‘Normal’. I have no intention of allowing this to dominate my life.” She shifted in place gesturing around as she said ‘this’ as if she could gesture to the various bits of the cape life looming over them. Taylor took a moment for her mind to mull the words bouncing around her skull, trying to fix them into coherent thoughts before letting them slip free.

“You were my token normal friend too, my only friend at one point and finding out that you’re not quote-unquote normal doesn’t mean that you being my friend meant anything less.” She glanced over at the other girl, offering a smile. “But, you’re only four years older then me Sabah, and we’ve established that I’m probably smarter than you.” She grinned at the offended squawk from Sabah, smirking teasingly. “I can make my own decisions about what I want to do with my life. I respect that you care about me Sabah, but I don’t need another parent, my Dad coddles me just fine, and he’s come to accept that this is something that I have to do. I have all this power and I can help people and part of that means that I’ve got to use my gifts.” Taylor stared earnestly at Sabah, watching the conflicted look on her face. Eventually, Taylor watched Sabah let out a defeated sigh before nodding tiredly.

“Good.” Taylor smiled at the other girl and nudged her gently. “It is a neat shop you know. I love this guy.” Taylor pointed at the lion with her thumb and grinned when Sabah perked up and moved to point out what the critter was made out of. Sabah had begun to describe the complicated process of stitching a rotating limb into a man-sized Lion when there was a sharp business-like knock at the door. The girl paused and glanced at Taylor before peering over to see Ralph standing at the door. Taylor frowned and cut in when she saw the man’s concerned expression.

“That’s Ralph, he’s part of my security detail. He looks upset” At the girl’s incredulous look Taylor shrugged. “What? The ABB are waging a ground war down here, do you think the PRT is going to let the only healer besides Panacea walk around without a guard? Put on your mask, I’m gonna see what he wants” She moved to the door, pausing to check Sabah was obscured before opening the door and letting Ralph in. She blinked when he pushed her back and shut and locked the door. “Ralph?!”

“Taylor, quiet. There’s Empire Eighty-Eight coming up the street. From both directions. It looks like they’re going to meet outside this place.” Frowning, Taylor glanced at Parian, though the mask concealed any reaction that the girl might have. She looked at Ralph as he pulled out his phone and began to rapidly dial. Taylor turned to study Sabah quietly. She spoke softly and reached out with the force extinguishing the lights in the shop in case that helped.

“S-Parian. Have you had any issues with the Empire since I stepped between you and Crusader?” She stepped closer and studied Sabah curious, frowning when the girl shrugged up a shoulder.

“Some? They don’t harass me but I’ve noticed gang members lurking outside the shop occasionally, and they’ve been on my path home some nights, though I’ve started changing that up and that seemed to stop them. They weren’t here last night, but I guess that was because of everything else going on. I have no idea why they’d be here now.” The girl paused and seemed to shrink into herself. Taylor had been about to speak when a brick came through a nearby window drawing a shriek from Sabah. Taylor rubbed her face as a loud voice shouted for Parian to come out.

Taylor turned toward the door and ignored the calls from Ralph and Sabah both. The tiny angry voice from earlier was back and she moved to flick the door open with the force, striding cooly out into the night, staring at the assembled gang members. The three figures in front gave her pause, two men and a woman. All three wore masks, both men were topless and Taylor wracked her brain trying to remember what she’d found about the Empire from Victoria and her father.

“Little Girl.” The taller man with the greasy hair and metal wolf mask, Hookwolf probably, spoke casually as he stepped closer to the shop and her. “You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Considering the game that the Chinks are playing though, you’re in luck. We’re supposed to avoid any civilian casualties, so if you turn and leave right now, we’ll let you live.” The words seemed sincere, but the dark chuckles from the other man didn’t engender a lot of trust in Taylor. Studying his tiger mask, Taylor guessed this was Stormtiger. When she didn’t immediately respond Hookwolf called out. “Little Girl! I said-”

“I heard you. You picked a poor night for this, Hookwolf. My control is very tentative, and I’m going to give you all a chance to surrender. If you don’t, I can’t promise that I won’t hurt you.” She spoke slowly and clearly, noting as Ralph stepped out of the shop his weapon drawn to stand at her side.

“It’s the fucking PRT, Kill the fucking bit-” Taylor didn’t wait for him to finish, her tenuous grasp on the angry little voice in her mind slipped a touch and her hands opened, releasing the force out in a wave. When the gangsters started raising their weapons Taylor brought the entire wave of force down on the group smashing every gangster and cape face down into the asphalt. The sound of bones snapping and the screaming accompanying the action drew a little smirk of pride to her lips, though the expression smoothed out at the faint hint of reproach washing through her mind.

Flicking her eyes to Ralph saw the man’s face pale as he stared at the dozen gangsters and capes pinned casually to the ground. Taylor turned to watch the capes struggling far more desperately then the gangsters. Wind whirled chaotically around Stormtiger, and the woman, Cricket, Taylor assumed, was kicking out haphazardly with her legs, trying to gain purchase on the floor. Hookwolf was snarling and blades had started sprouting from his form as he let out a string of racial slurs and epithets. Taylor felt the anger in her mind bubbling up and she shifted a hand, curling one of her splayed hands into a fist.

The Force wrapped around Hookwolf and squeezed, forcing every last blade that had emerged from his skin savagely back into him. When the cape began screaming hysterically in pain every other figure in the street went deathly silent. Taylor stared at the cape until he collapsed panting as the last of the blades stopped trying to grow, the hand on her shoulder instantly quelling the rage. She glanced over, staring at Parian and somehow feeling the frown in her eyes. She sighed and turned back to the group.

“The PRT and the police are on the way. We’re all going to stay quietly where we are, and I won’t have to make an example of anyone like Hookwolf, agreed?” No one spoke but the struggling had stilled and Taylor stepped back, keeping a firm grasp of her power and staring at the group, and doing her best to ignore the concerned looks that Ralph and Sabah were shooting at her back.

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Sabah leaned against the wall of her shop, quietly watching as Taylor gently released the gangsters one at a time, the small group of police checking each one over and handcuffing them. The ones that weren’t hurt were placed into cars but at least one in three was instead loaded into the back of an ambulance to be treated for the broken bones that Taylor’s power had caused.

A group of PRT Troopers stood off to one side quietly conferring on how they planned to transfer the capes. Hookwolf would apparently prove troublesome since they needed to keep him from transforming in the van and destroying it. Getting bored of listening in on the troopers debating between having Taylor hoist them up so they could foam them into cape-sicles for ease of transport or sedating them while they were held down, Sabah moved to head back over toward Taylor. She studied the younger girl seeing the tell-tale signs of the strain that using her powers this long and in this way was putting on her.

“You okay?” Sabah spoke gently, her tone laced with concern. Taylor nodded faintly and kept her eye on the group. “Taylor-”

“I’m fine Parian, we’re almost done, and if I let them go now people could be hurt, it shouldn’t be much longer.” Sabah sighed softly as she crossed her arms and stood quietly at Taylor’s side watching as the last group of gangsters were released and handcuffed, all three of these getting loaded into the back of a police truck, apparently healthy enough to face the jails.

“So. Mousy?” She asked finally, her tone laced with wry amusement, and she watched Taylor tense, her cheeks and ears darkening.

“That’s Amy to you. Or Panacea if she’s in costume, it’s a nickname I gave her, during that bank heist that I mentioned.” She coughed faintly as the troopers moved to inspect the capes, Taylor shifting and studying them carefully. As if sensing her raised eyebrow, Taylor continued. “She gets a lot of pressure put on her by most people, and the nickname makes her smile, even if it confuses her. I get the feeling that she could do with a bit more playful confusion and smiles in her life.” Sabah let out a gentle chuckle and dipped her hands into the pockets of her dress, staring at the troopers as they indicated that Taylor should hoist up Stormtiger. While Taylor acquiesced, Sabah spoke.

“I get the feeling that being your friend is plenty confusing enough for most people, Taylor.” Sabah’s voice was low and wistful and Taylor let out a bitter laugh that made Sabah think that she hadn’t quite gotten the underlying joke of the comment. The troopers hosed down Stormtiger in foam, the white substance expanding and hardening and turning the Cape into a white cigar with a tiger mask on one end. The troopers turned to each other, conferred and gave a thumbs up to Taylor. Sabah assumed that Taylor took that to mean that she should heft the other two up, since that's what the other cape did.

As the troopers were hosing down Hookwolf and Cricket, Parian watched the older man that had called in the rest slipping up toward Taylor’s other side.

“I let your father know what happened. He’s a bit concerned, but he calmed down when I explained that you hadn’t charged headfirst into this one, merely got stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The man’s voice was laced with reproach and Taylor sighed.

“What did you expect me to do, Ralph? Let you and Sabah get attacked as I sat back? I put them all down in thirty seconds. No one was hurt, and that’s fifteen Nazi’s off the street.” She spoke tiredly and glanced at Ralph as she released the capes, startling the troopers who barely caught Cricket and Stormtiger. Sabah winced as Hookwolf just teetered over and landed on his mask with a meaty crunch.

“What happens when they come back next time, Taylor, with capes that aren’t two-bit thugs like these. Fenja and Menja could step on this shop Taylor, and there’s nothing Parian could do to stop her. You can’t be here all the time to protect her and you doing this paints a target on her. If you’d stayed, we could have stalled them until the PRT showed up.” He sighed faintly and glanced at the troopers as they moved to pack up the capes. Parian linched quietly as she considered the older Troopers words.

When she glanced up and saw Taylor’s concerned eyes, she tried her best to smile before realizing that her mask made the expression pointless. Instead, she spoke softly. “It’s fine Taylor. They’ve been after me for a bit, I can look after myself. I’m working on something that’ll help me protect the shop. I’m nearly there.” Taylor stared at her dubiously and Parian did her best to seem confident until Taylor looked away. Sabah stood quietly and watched with Taylor and Ralph as they PRT and Troopers finished the clean-up.

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Between the clean-up and the interviews, it was nearly midnight before Sabah made it home to her apartment. As she stripped out of her costume, she found herself drawn to the sketch-pad on her desk. She quietly flipped it open looking at the sketches of the various large stuffed creatures that she’d created. If what the trooper had said was right, it was about to get a lot more dangerous down near her shop. Making a mental list as she headed toward the Shower, Sabah quietly began to figure out what she’d need to make the first of her guards.

Chapter Text

May 4th, 2011
Docks South, Brockton Bay

The sound of Jolee’s laughter in her head wasn’t helping Taylor’s focus at all. The girl felt her cheeks burning despite the lack of any actual physical presence to warrant the feeling of embarrassment. As she stood and stared at the various articles of clothing that she’d laid over the bed, she was forced to admit that she may have been a little bit over-zealous in avoiding anything that could have appeared robelike. With the success of her outfit from the other night, Taylor had dipped into the restitution that she’d garnered from the school, focusing on improving her outdated wardrobe.

As she stood and quietly fingered the sleeve of one of the fitted button-down shirts on the edge of the bed her thoughts lingered on the money. She’d felt somewhat guilty using the money on herself. She had been almost tempted to donate the money to some worthy cause or to try and force her father to accept it. He’d supported her through the entire trial process and everything else that was going on during it, even though she knew that she’d been straining the family savings quite a bit with all of her training and the various things she’d needed over the last few weeks. It had taken her pointing out that she'd soon have a better paying job than him to get him to accept her replacing the savings they'd burned through. She had also managed to convince him to come shopping with her, funding the replacement of a few of his things as well. Though, when she’d spread her purchases out to sort them and put them away, she’d thought for a moment that she’d swapped bags with her dad.

Dress pants, Slacks, and jeans covered the lower half of the bed, t-shirts, dress shirts and vests covered the upper half, each having been carefully selected following the measurements that Sabah had talked her through taking the night before. Taylor briefly considered hiding everything in her closet, sneaking out and replacing the outfits with a few blouses but the resounding laughter of Jolee caused her to set her shoulders and grab several things. She moved over to the mirror, pulling her hair back into a messy ponytail. She discarded the scruffy outfit that she’d gone shopping in, the track pants and t-shirt ending up in the hamper.

Taylor was surprised how comfortable the garments felt. The shirts were cut very close to her frame, but not enough to accentuate her lack of noticeable curves, just loose enough to leave most of her form to the imagination. The shirt was tucked into the dress pants that wrapped comfortably around her hips. A shiny black belt was looped into the pants and Taylor peered down at her black socks peeking out of the bottoms of the pants, the faint silvery pin-strips visible when the light hit the pants just right. Tugging a vest on, Taylor stared at her reflection in the mirror, carefully adjusting her new glasses and frowning at the image of herself. Something didn’t seem quite right yet.

‘Your shirt. Unbutton the top button.' Bastila’s voice drifted through Taylor’s mind, and the girl did as the woman asked and chuckled as the collar of the shirt parted and left the outfit looking suitably rakish. She considered herself in the mirror, spinning in place and glancing over her shoulder at herself. Sighing as she contemplated the look, she had to admit that with her frame, the garments looked good on her. With a grumble, Taylor moved to slip her shoes on, quickly racing down the steps, heading toward the kitchen. If she hurried, she could grab a snack before returning her library books, and get back in time to catch a classic movie with her father.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Taylor skidded to a stop, glancing into the kitchen. Seeing her dad sitting at the table, reading the newspaper as he drank coffee, Taylor padded over toward him. Things with the Dockworkers seemed to have been calming down, and he’d been able to join her for training again for the last two days. Adding in the fact that he had a day off finally, despite it being the middle of the week, and Taylor figured that things were looking up. Slipping up behind her dad, she peered over his shoulder at the article he'd been reading. After she read the first few paragraphs, she stepped away, letting out a snort.

“If they think that the ABB is better for the city than the PRT then they’re insane,” Taylor commented as she headed toward the fridge, rooting around within for a bottle of water. The PR Nightmare was steadily getting worse and worse for the PRT as time went on. The ABB had been continuing their campaign against the other gangs, and their restraint hadn’t been a fluke. Even their promised explosions were all targeted at known Empire or Merchant holdings, and the bombs had been designed to limit the collateral damage. One Townhouse that’d served as a storehouse for the Merchants had just vanished in the middle of the night leaving two smooth brick walls on either side of the empty lot where it’d once stood.

The problem with the PRT, Taylor thought as she removed the cap from her water bottle and took a sip, was that they had managed to seem ineffective by the ABB’s surprising efficiency and dedication. This impression was made even worse when they’d ended up looking flat-out inept when the previous evening their attempts to crack down on the ABB assaults had resulted in increased civilian casualties. The gangsters hadn’t turned their guns on the bystanders, or anything so obvious, but as soon as capes showed up, the number of ‘accidents’ increased, and videos were quickly uploaded to various bits of social media that had been cut just right to make the capes look bad. According to Victoria’s texts, even PHO was starting to turn on the PRT despite the moderators' draconian enforcement. And judging by the looks that Ralph was getting in his uniform on their morning run, even off the internet opinions on the PRT and Protectorate were beginning to sour.

A strangled chuckle drew Taylor from her thoughts, and she turned, glancing at her dad, glaring when she saw him trying to stifle a laugh. Taylor narrowed her eyes, hoping that her dark look would smother whatever 'hilarious' thought was trying to escape his tiny brain. She found herself sadly disappointed when he opened his mouth and allowed it to escape.

“Taylor, when I said that you were a chip off the old block, I didn’t mean to imply that you should also absorb my fashion sense.” The black haired girl glowered at her father, grumbling as she stuck out her tongue at him. He snorted as he moved past her, moving to slice a bagel before dropping it in the toaster. “So, is there a special occasion? Or are you just trying to improve the general aesthetic around here?”

Rather than dignify that with a response, Taylor groaned at the teasing and moved to storm off with sufficient poise as to show him who was boss. The sound of the doorbell ringing robbed her dramatic exit of much of its gravitas, and Taylor found herself grumbling as she headed for the door.

Unlocking the heavy wooden door when she reached it, Taylor quickly swung it open. She paused, staring in horror at the person on the opposite side of the door. The silence dragged out between them for a minute, then two before the girl opposite Taylor burst into raucous laughter. Taylor felt her cheeks heating up as she stared at Crystal Pelham standing on her stoop in skinny jeans and a soft blue top. Tapping her foot, Taylor continued to grumble as the other girl got her laughter under control.

“My…” The girl commented, stifling a giggle before continuing. “My, don’t we look dapper today, Taylor.” Rubbing her face, Taylor let out a groan and stared at the other girl with an unimpressed expression. When the girl glanced over her shoulder and perked up, offering a wave, Taylor leaned to the side and glanced back to see her Dad standing in the hallway, half a bagel in his mouth as he waved confusedly in response to Crystal before heading toward the living room.

“Crystal...why are you on my doorstep?” She spoke blandly and rolled her eyes when the other girl seemed to realize where she was and perked up.

“Oh! Right. Dad is going to be training us, and I figured that I’d come and grab you. Victoria’s finally going to be joining us again, and I figured that it’d be good for someone that can break her out of her funks to be around.” Crystal flashed her a broad grin that didn’t fool Taylor for a second. The Jedi in training narrowed her eyes at Crystal and considered her a moment before speaking slowly.

“I mean, I’ve already done most of my training for today and to be honest, I was kind of planning on spending the afternoon with my dad.” Taylor shifted back and moved to glance back toward where her father, the coward, had escaped to. When Crystal reached out and poked at her, Taylor turned back toward the blonde girl nervously.

“Ah! Did I frame that as a question? I meant to say that Dad’s training us and you should definitely come since you’ll be joining the team soon. It’s a great team building exercise.” She reached out and tugged on Taylor’s arm. Taylor whined faintly and tried to pull back, torn between trying to avoid whatever trap the other girl had in mind and wanting to see what the others could do with their powers. When Crystal managed to yank her past the doorframe, Taylor let out a half-hearted complaint.

“But. My Dad.” Rather than let her finish her thought, Crystal leaned into the house and shouted.

“Mister Hebert! This is Crystal Pelham speaking, Carol’s niece. I’m kidnapping your daughter!” Taylor paused, listening to see if her Dad might save her, but she rolled her eyes at his response came echoing up the halls.

“Alright. Make sure you bring her back for holidays and birthdays. Careful she bites.” Taylor glanced over when Crystal looked at her nervously and clicked her teeth playfully causing the other girl to snort out loud. With a sigh, Taylor tossed her arms up and sighed.

“Alright. Let’s go then.”

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The trip over had been awkward, since the only comfortable way of someone of Crystal’s height and build to carry someone of Taylor’s was bridal style. Twice during the trip when the other cape had made a crack about Taylor’s clothing choice being at odds with her pose, Taylor had demanded to be let down so she could run and jump the rest of way, but Crystal had apologized and left Taylor to grump. The blonde just seemed to find this even funnier, and Taylor found herself watching the scenery drifting past instead of the other girl’s smug features.

It had soon become apparent that they weren’t heading for Crystal's house, the directions were all wrong. Instead, they flew in a direction that was much further south than where the Pelhams lived. Eventually, they approached a rather affluent neighbourhood, heading toward one of the houses on the outside of it. Unlike the ranch house she'd visited a few days ago, this one was more of a Tudor style house, with its mixed materials, solid masonry, and elaborate design. It took Taylor a few moments to figure out that this was probably where Victoria and Carol lived, considering the much larger plot of land that the house sat on, Taylor imagined that this was where most of the training happened.

When they neared the ground, Taylor shifted, slipping neatly out of Crystal’s arms and rolling herself in the air. She used the force to slow her descent, and she landed neatly on the gravel path that served as a driveway to the large house, glancing up when she heard Crystal scoff and mutter something about a show-off. Taylor trailed after the other cape, following Crystal when she landed on the front porch and opened the door and letting herself in. As she entered the house, she heard the sound of quiet conversation coming from further in the house, and she headed toward it with Crystal.

“So what’d you think of the New Wave Cave?” Crystal’s voice was laced with humour and Taylor facepalmed as she ignored the older girl, heading past her into a warmly decorated sitting room. The room held two-thirds of new wave scattered across a pair of couches and several comfortable chairs. Carol and Neil were sat off to one side in matching chairs, murmuring to each other. When they entered Eric glanced up with relief at Crystal and Taylor. Victoria perked up as well and looked over, but her expression seemed to fall when she saw who’d arrived. Taylor glanced from Crystal to Eric and took in their awkward expressions and rubbed at her nose. Of course.

When Crystal quickly abandoned her and headed over to speak conspiratorially with her brother, Taylor let out a soft grunt, moving over and around the back of the couch. She hopped up and perched on the back of the couch before falling over to land on her back, staring up at Victoria as her legs hung over the back of the couch. Taylor lay still, staring up at Victoria’s sullen expression for a few moments before offering her a tired smile. She watched as Victoria cracked a tiny smile before sighing and leaning back into the couch.

“She’s not coming, huh?” The blonde’s words were rather small, and Taylor sighed as she glanced at everyone else who was conspicuously not paying attention to them.

“She told me this morning that she’d be over at the hospital with your Aunt. They’re doing some healing I guess, there’s a waiting list or something, and she doesn’t want to give up the healing entirely.” Taylor offered the other girl a consoling smile and sighed when Victoria rubbed quietly at one of her eyes. Taylor shifted and pulled her knees in, rolling over to land on her feet standing up in front of the couch. She reached out and tapped her knuckles atop Victoria’s hung head. She waited for Victoria to react before speaking, smirking when Victoria hit her with a glare while rubbing at her head despite the fact that there was no way that rap could have hurt her.

“C’mon. You’ve been doing the routine I showed you right?” When the girl nodded, Taylor smirked. “Show me. Let’s head out back.” She gestured and smiled when Victoria sighed before slipping to her feet and leading her out back. Taylor spun and quickly followed the girl. Victoria led Taylor out a sliding door onto a small raised patio. Taylor paused on the patio, leaning on its stained wooden fence and watching the other girl descend and step out onto the grass.

She tilted her head when Victoria kicked off her sandals and moved to step into her first pose. She shifted into the next and Taylor sighed. It was very messy. She quickly slid down the steps, walking over toward the other cape.

“Wait. Wait. Victoria, stop.” She quickly slid up to the girl. “Just. Stand still. Okay, like that. Feet shoulder width apart.” She paused, watching as Victoria adjusted her stance. “Hands at your sides, not fists, just hands. Okay. Now close your eyes.” Watching Victoria Taylor shifted back on her heels carefully. “Now just breath. Focus on that. Breath in slowly, count to three, and release, Hold for a beat. Just focus on those words. Breath in, count, breathe out, hold.” Taylor watched as Victoria did what she said, watching some of the tension bleeding out of her form.

“Okay, now focus on the first form, picture it in your head, where your arms would go, where your feet would go, focus.” She spoke softly watching Victoria grinning quietly. “Keep breathing,” she added, and Victoria continued the slow breathing exercise. “Alright, now without opening your eyes, move into pose one. Okay, now picture pose two.” She watched as Victoria slowly slid into the pose. Taylor checked it, adjusting Victoria’s stance a bit before humming and watching as she kept the breathing up.

“Alright move into two now. Picture three.” She smiled as she adjusted the girl’s pose again. She continued moving Victoria gently through each pose, watching the tension melting out of her. Once Victoria had her poses right Taylor shifted into place next to her, and they both quietly slid through several repetitions of the 14 pose kata. Taylor watched Victoria out of the corner of her eye, though she held her comments until they’d finished the last full run-through. When Victoria dropped her arms to her side, Taylor backed off and crossed her arms behind her back.

“Feeling better?” She spoke quietly and smiled when Victoria nodded uncertainly.

“Matukai isn't just a form of Martial Arts. It's a blend of hand to hand combat and moving meditation. It helps to clear one’s mind. It’s the main reason that I learned it; it helps with my powers since they are tied into my emotions.” Taylor chuckled when Victoria looked surprised and seemed to get lost in her thoughts as she thought about that. Rather than letting the other cape dwell Taylor smirked quietly. Taking a moment to carefully roll up the sleeves of her shirt, as she moved back a short distance. When Victoria glanced up, Taylor spoke quickly.

“Shall we see how much you’ve picked up? Quick spar?” Taylor couldn’t hold back the soft laugh that bubbled up at the rather eager look on the other girl’s face. Instead, she moved over and took up a position opposite Victoria, waiting for the girl to get comfortable and toss the first punch. As with before Taylor lifted her hands, using Force Deflection to catch the first punch. Victoria’s technique was getting better, and she was becoming more varied, throwing kicks and moving around Taylor instead of standing still and attempting to pummel her into the ground. It took more effort and both hands and even occasionally her legs to deflect all the other girl’s kicks and punches, and Taylor found herself enjoying the challenge.

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“So. You wanna tell me what that was all about back there?” Taylor’s voice was conversational as she used both hands to block the inventive jumping spin kick that Victoria had launched at her head. She shifted her hands, grasping Victoria’s shin and using the grip to spin and plant the girl into the dirt, finding it rather unfair that her shield protected her outfit from grass stains. When Victoria didn’t respond immediately after rolling over and getting her feet back under her, Taylor lashed out with a pair of rapid jabs aimed at the girl’s midsection. She was impressed when Victoria used her hands to brush the attacks aside instead of tanking them. “Amy again, I guess?” Taylor hazarded a guess, the tension in Victoria’s shoulder showing that she’d scored a hit.

“She’s responding to my texts now, but.” The girl lashed out with a haymaker and then lunged after Taylor when she faded to one side to dodge. Without warning, Victoria snapped out a kick with one of her legs and attempting to use it to sweep out Taylor’s legs. Rather than toppling, Taylor merely hopped over the strike and tilted her head at Victoria, inviting her to continue. Taylor casually brushed aside the half a dozen punches that came flying at her, frowning at Victoria’s tone when she finally spoke. “It’s different. She’s very...terse at times, and everyone refuses to tell me what’s going on. Amy still doesn’t want to see me in person. She keeps insisting that I haven’t ‘done’ anything, but…” She sighed softly and shifted into a defensive pose, ducking and weaving around Taylor’s return volley of strikes.

“I mean.” Taylor ducked under a cross strike from Victoria, snorting when the other girl lunged in with an elbow drop. Taylor tucked and rolled to one side, weaving around Victoria and playfully tapping the back of the other girl’s knee. “I’m not exactly an expert with things like this. You’re currently in third place for my longest lasting friendship.” She paused and kicked back dodging the girl’s return lunge, using her hands to deflect the quick, precise strikes from the other girl.

When Victoria made a sudden jab and overextended, Taylor grabbed her arm, pulling her close and shifting into her block, using a hip to toss the girl into the grass again, grinning faintly. “It might be worth trying to find something to distract you from stuff until Amy is ready to see you again? A hobby or something? Amy’s taken up drawing, and I imagine you’d enjoy being able to show her your own hidden talents?” Victoria didn’t respond, but Taylor could see the gears turning in the girl’s head.

“What about you? What’s been new with you? I heard Aunt Sarah offered you a place on the team. I guess she and your dad are still ironing out the details, right?” The change of subject was expected and Taylor went with it, nodding as she watched Victoria warily.

“Yeah. Dad has an old friend who’s a lawyer that’s going over the contract, since your Mom can’t do it really. Beyond that, It’s mostly been Dad subtly trying to figure out what he wants to get me for my birthday.” Taylor blinked when Victoria kicked off and rocketed at her under the power of her flight. Crouching and leaping up she did a twist in mid-leap to land neatly on her feet watching Vicky quickly recovering in mid-air. “That’s cheating!” She called out before turning and hopping away, using the force to bounce out of range of Victoria’s lunges, dodging adroitly around the less precise girl’s quicker lunges.

This continued for several minutes but Taylor with the force was too spry for Victoria to actually catch her and when Taylor ended up perched on a branch as Victoria ate dirt below her, the pair ended up dissolving into giggles. When Victoria righted herself and floated up to sit next to her, Taylor relaxed into the trunk of the tree, swinging her legs. Taylor glanced over and watched Victoria staring sadly at a mess of buildings in the distance. Taylor followed the gaze, seeing the hosptial peeking out past several tenements.

“It’s pretty close, you know. I bet you could get there before anyone could stop you.” Taylor’s voice was lazy and she watched as Victoria seemed to shift as if considering it. Eventually, she let out a tired sigh before glancing over at Taylor. She didn’t comment on it, turning her focus back to what Taylor mentioned earlier. “Your birthday’s coming up? When? Going to do anything fun for it?” Smiling to herself, Taylor hummed and shrugged up a shoulder.

“It’s in…” Taylor trailed off, quietly doing the math in her head. “Shit, a little under six weeks, June 11th. And I mean. Usually, I just have dinner with my dad.” Taylor didn’t tack on the fact that her social life mostly ensured that that’s all she could do. Instead, she swung her legs glancing at Victoria.

“Just hanging with your dad? That seems like a waste.” Taylor rolled her eyes, glancing at Victoria when the girl snorted and continued. “What? I mean, I used to like, dream of when I would be old enough to go out and do stuff on my birthday. And you’re wasting it.” Taylor blinked and stared at Victoria curiously. She stared at the girl, tilting her head.

“What’d you mean? Wasting what?” Taylor stared curiously at Victoria, watching the wistful look in her eye as she responded.

“Well, like. Being free to do what you want. I bet that once I’m out of high school and stuff, I'll have more fun with birthdays. College Parties and dancing and things like that.” Taylor sat silently for a moment before quietly rubbing at her face. When Victoria looked back, Taylor wiped at her face and sighed, carefully looking at her friend.

“Victoria... I’m only sixteen.” She sighed when what had become a very familiar shocked look came over Victoria’s face. “Why does everyone keep looking at me like that when I say that?” She pointed at Victoria’s face and groaned when the other girl started to giggle. Taylor reached out and pushed Victoria out of the tree, relishing in the indignant squawk that came up to her when Victoria recovered on the dirt below.

“Get down here. I need to show you something.” Taylor sighed and hopped down, moving to hurry after the blonde who’d already disappeared up toward the house. Ten minutes later saw the black haired girl in the upstairs bathroom staring at herself in the mirror. She looked mostly the same as she had this morning, her outfit a bit more rumpled, her hair a bit messier as a few wisps of black hair escaped the pony-tail from the various exertions she'd been indulging in.

“I don’t see what I’m supposed to be seeing Victoria.” The girl spoke faintly as she adjusted her glasses, and did her best to smooth out the soft material of her shirt. Rather than answer Victoria walked into the bathroom and stood next to Taylor, smiling cutely at the mirror. Taylor frowned as she was struck by the differences. She hadn’t realized that she was so much taller than Victoria, having nearly four inches on the other girl. More than that she looked more imposing, her form carrying a hint of muscle, her bare forearms showing the subtle shift of muscle when she moved, her clothing accenting the improved physique her physical regimen had earned her.

It wasn’t just the physical appearance either, she carried herself different than Victoria. She considered her stance when next to Victoria, she looked at ease, confident in who she was in a way that the older girl couldn’t quite fake. She glanced over at Victoria and frowned as the girl studied her own reflection nervously. Taylor chuckled and nudged Victoria, grinning when the other girl perked up a bit. Before Taylor could comment on the point that Victoria was trying to make though, a blue-haired teen peeked into the room.

“Hey! You’re both beautiful. Stop primping. Vicky, your mom is heading out, Dad’s getting ready for the group exercises. He wants you to wait outside with us. Taylor, he wants to speak with you in the sitting room quickly."

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Victoria took a few moments to change into her New Wave Uniform, smoothing out the white and gold outfit and checking herself over carefully. Adjusting her tiara, she frowned as she considered her appearance in the mirror. With a subtle glance at the way the golden crown sat on her head she sighed and removed it, setting it on her dresser and heading out with the rest of her uniform intact. When she got outside, she headed toward the figures clad in white and blue and white and red.

When she’d gotten close enough, Victoria noticed the looks from her cousins when she exited the house. She watched as they stared at her like she was a live grenade that might go off. Part of her wanted to bristle at the looks but after a moment she sighed and flashed a comfortable grin at the pair that saw them relaxing. She had been a touch...sensitive lately, and she couldn’t really fault them for being cautious around her. She moved over and stood near them.

“So any idea what he’s doing in there with Taylor?” Her voice was curious and she watched as Eric shrugged nervously and Crystal huffed and backed up a step. Neil’s training exercises were often random, varied, and invariably much more fun for him than for them. The other adult members of new wave tended to be rather straightforward. Her father often worked individually with them on what they were having trouble with, dealing with specific issues with each younger member. Victoria’s mother often handled Power Control issues, while her Aunt Sarah dealt more with working in tandem with their powers.

When the door opened to emit her Uncle in full Manpower Regalia, Victoria swallowed nervously. When an entire rack of bouncy red dodgeballs followed him, floating of its own accord with Taylor standing behind it grinning impishly, Victoria took a full step back. She glanced at Crystal and Eric and found them equally concerned. It was the soft clatter of the ball cage dropping to the patio that drew everyone’s attention back to the pair by the house.

“So.” Manpower spoke softly, his powerful arms crossing over his chest. “Taylor’s seen Glory Girl fighting several times, and she had some interesting perspective.” Victoria stared at Taylor in betrayal, flushing at the amused sparkle in the girl’s eye as she moved to lean against the front of the ball cage. “She seemed to think that Glory Girls fine control of her flight wasn’t what it could be, and I agree, all of you are fliers and you could all do with a more subtle control of your flight.” When they started to speak as one, he held up a hand. “Argue all you want, but the bank that you ripped up is point enough on this one.” huffing Victoria shifted back and grumbled a bit but didn’t argue.

“So. I had a wonderful idea.” Victoria watched Crystal’s face paling and glanced with her cousin at Manpower. “Remember when all of you kids were super into those Harry Potter books when you were younger. It was adorable. What were your favourite parts again?” When no one responded, Taylor let out an amused chuckle and strode forward, the lid of the cage flying open behind her.

“Well, me? When I read the books. I always loved Quidditch.” Taylor smirked and suddenly two dozen balls erupted from the cage and begun to float ominously behind her. Victoria didn’t wait for any other comments, leaping into the air.

“No leaving the property!” Manpower shouted and then the balls rocketed past him and Taylor, diving toward the three movers. All three scattered and flew in different directions the red rubber balls splitting into groups of eight to chase them.

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‘Quidditch’ was a lot more stressful than it seemed. The balls were significantly faster then any of the teens could fly, and the fact that they were trapped on the lot meant that they couldn’t outrun Taylor. It’d taken the teens nearly ten minutes of getting smacked around by rubber balls before they figured out that if they worked together, they stood a better chance. Though it did take Laserdream and Shielder layering their shields together to keep the two dozen balls from battering them long enough for them to discuss strategy.

Manpower hadn’t actually given them an objective for this game, but hopefully, it was about more than just dodging balls constantly for several hours. Victoria did note that her uncle hadn’t said anything about them hunkering down behind the Laserdream and Shielder’s fields to discuss strategy, though Taylor’s weapons were raining constant loud, twangy thwacks against the shields to keep them from getting too complacent.

“We have to get to Taylor. She’s the master, the balls are her minions.” Victoria spoke and cut off the nervous arguing of the other two. When they glanced at her Victoria chuckled. “If we want to stop this, we need to focus on Taylor. Currently, she has all the balls focusing on us, right, but if you two start tossing lasers at her, she’ll have to bring them back in to defend herself.” Victoria frowned and shifted from foot to foot thinking.

“That’ll keep her from focusing on us all. If we split up, and weave around the house, when we come back, you two can go hard for her. She’ll use the balls to defend herself and then I can sneak up on her.” At the incredulous looks, she frowned. “She’s been training me in hand to hand, and she can take my hits. Just... it’s either this or we practice taking hits and dodging till your dad get’s bored.” The other conferred silently for a moment before they nodded grimly at her.

Victoria grinned at them and was happy to see matching smiles on their faces. “So. On three. You guys expand your shields as far as they’ll go, knock the balls back and then we all kick off. Stay low to the ground and go straight for the corner of the garage and duck out of sight. When we’re on the other side, I’ll fall back. You two split up to come back from different sides and focus your attacks on Taylor.” The other two nodded and Victoria got ready. Once everyone looked ready, she softly counted. On three the field around them exploded outwards, blasting the balls away and all three kicked off and shot away from Taylor and Manpower.

When they reached the relative safety of the front of the house, Victoria slowed and watched as Shielder cut back the way they came, Laserdream continuing around the other side of the house. She floated up and over, staying out of sight till she saw the flashes of light. She darted over the house, low to the roof, landing behind Taylor and her shield and she slid toward Taylor intent on tapping her in the back.

She barely managed to lunge to the side when Manpower landed where she’d been standing, grinning as he stretched up to his massive seven-foot height. He’d grin as he cracked his knuckles.

“If you want to get to the mage, you’ve got to go through the Fighter.” He’d grin at his joke and Victoria rolled her eyes. She stared at him a moment before neatly landing on the ground. This seemed to surprise him and she lunged forward with a jab, grinning as his eyes widened and he leaped back. He was fast, but Taylor was faster and Victoria pressed the assault, launching tight and precise punches and kicks, trying to corner her uncle.

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Taylor as she used the balls as a shield, blocking the continuous assault of Laserdream and Shielder. Taylor had clustered most of her weapons in front of her as a shield, though she occasionally blasted one ball out to send Laser dream and Shielder spinning if they tried to charge up more powerful blasts. Turning her attention back to Manpower, Victoria nearly shrieked at the fist coming for her, but she brought a hand up and smacked the attack aside, surprising both herself and her uncle.

Capitalizing on her uncle’s surprise, Victoria lunged in and crashed into him with her shoulder, pushing him back and off balance, following up with a pair of quick jabs to his chest. Her super strength matched up with his enhanced endurance and he grunted at the attacks that would typically send small cars rolling and then Victoria quickly spun in place, lashing out with a butterfly kick, frowning when her uncle’s hands came up and caught the attack the pair skidding back nearly a foot from the force.

“Hold! Hold!” He grinned holding up his hands and Victoria danced back holding up her hands warily. “Hold, you got me. Jesus. When she said that she’d been helping you refine your technique I didn’t think she meant like this. You’re faster then I expected, and I wasn’t sure how to deal with you on the ground.” He glanced over at Taylor and then back to Victoria. “She’s as good as you?” He asked softly, and Victoria snorted.

“Most of the time I get the feeling that she’s just playing with me.” She commented faintly. “I get the feeling that half the fun in sparring with me is how fast she can push me on. She’s not as strong as us, but she’s way faster.” She glanced over watching the amused smirk on Taylor’s face as she kept the shield in place. When she feigned a yawn, Victoria rolled her eyes and quickly darted over. She darted in behind Taylor, reaching out and covering the girl’s eyes with her hands causing Taylor to squawk indignantly.

Apparently, without a direct line of sight, Taylor’s control became less fine and the balls started jittering around in place, barely maintaining cohesion as a barrier. The combined firepower of Laserdream and Shielder disposed of the much looser shield, sending the balls scattering across the backyard and allowing both of the other teens to land opposite Taylor. Victoria released Taylor and quickly headed over to Laserdream and Shielder, grinning faintly as the three rounded on Taylor and Manpower.

Sadly, before the trio could rejoice in their victory, they’d all fall silent at a sudden shimmer of brilliant orange light followed a mere moment later by a thunderous roar, warm wind washing past them. Victoria felt her heart drop as she turned and stared in horror in the direction that she and Taylor had been looking, finding a rising plume of inky black smoke where the clustered tenements and the hospital had been.

Someone was calling her name but she couldn’t hear the words past the rushing in her ears. She took one step, and when a hand came down on her arm, she shook it off, turning and running toward the edge of the lot, suddenly leaping into the air and flying toward the cloud as fast as she could.

‘No. This can’t be. Amy… Amy can’t be...’ The words run around her head over and over as she flew faster and faster toward the expanding cloud. The wind whipped past her and she ignored it. She hit the thick cloud of smoke and ash doing nearly 60 miles per hour. She wasn’t sure whether it was the smoke or the unshed tears she was holding back that was causing the burning that she felt in her eyes and throat.

Her breakneck approach was cut off when she crashed bodily into something solid her form literally bouncing off a shimmering glow in the air. Smashing her fists into the energy did nothing but make it pulse, despite Victoria using her full strength. Glory Girl snarled as she struck the shield several times but it held and she backed off. Finally taking a moment to look the rush of relief that she felt was palpable, and she stared through the barrier at the fully intact hospital, numerous people clustered on the ground and the roof staring back at the barrier.

Victoria took a moment to seek out that familiar messy head of brown hair and the red and white robes but she found herself distracted by a sudden whooshing sound and she blinked as the cloud around her began to roil, the inky black cloud whipping away from the barrier suddenly and heading northwards in a single stream of pitch darkness. Victoria watched it, floating higher and noticing four more black clouds heading toward downtown from different portions of the city. Victoria took a moment to figure out the geography in her head, frowning. It was only her constant chauffeuring of Amy that let her put the pieces together.

‘They’re other hospitals, each cloud is leaving a hospital.’ Each cloud had left a glowing blue shield behind covering a hospital. Victoria watched as the clouds coalesced into a ball high above the center of the city, the black cloud expanding outwards and upwards to form a familiar bare-chested fand masked figure, though this time the sun wasn’t blotted out. Victoria sat there, staring at the five bubbles scattered over the city, 5 perfectly round patches of scorched barren land surrounding them. Lung stared back across the city at her. No words were spoken by the image this time, but the threat was clear. The image remained still for a moment before swirling up and forming into a flaming dragon that let out a thunderous roar before diving downwards into the middle of downtown. There was a flash of light among the buildings and nearly a minute later the faint sound of an explosion reached Victoria’s ears.

Victoria floated there watching the bubbles as they blinked out one by one across the city. When the one below her flickered out, Victoria turned, staring down at the hospital. Seeing Taylor picking her way across the scorched ring around the hospital, she flew down landing near the other girl and checking her over. The faint specks of white approaching from the south hinted that they’d have more company soon. She approached Taylor, frowning when the girl’s eyes widened as she stared past her. Before she could ask Taylor what was bothering the girl, a soft voice spoke from behind her.

“Victoria? What’re you doing here?” The words weren’t concerned though, they were harsh, almost accusatory and Victoria felt her shoulders tensing as she glanced back to see the angry brown eyes of her sister.

Chapter Text

May 4th, 2011 
Caine General Hospital, Brockton Bay

Amy stood by the reception desk, watching her aunt with wide eyes as the woman verbally dismantled an older doctor. They’d been at the hospital for less than ten minutes, and one of the more cantankerous doctors had made a disparaging remark about Amy’s ‘vacation’ being over to one of the nurses. The doctor clearly hadn’t expected her aunt to hear it, and Amy had watched with shock as Lady Photon strode over to the man and proceeded to have a very hushed and very terrifying chat with the poor man.

When the man came over and offered her a hurried apology, she forced a smile on her face and politely shook his hand, though she’d sighed in relief when he’d quickly made his escape after. The doctor had been the one responsible for arranging the patients that Amy would be seeing, so she and Aunt Sarah were left waiting by the reception desk until he returned to let them know that they were ready for them.

Rather than staring at the wall any longer, she drew out her phone and quickly checked her messages. Clicking through the menus to find her chat with Taylor, she skimmed past their earlier texts about what they’d be doing with their day, toward the texts from this afternoon. She’d been having an entertaining time watching Taylor melt-down about her wardrobe, but her cheeky responses had merely made Taylor huffy enough that she’d sent off a message about finding someone worthy of her grandiose presence before she’d stopped responding. Amy assumed she’d gotten wrapped up in something with her father, and switched the conversation over to the texts she’d been exchanging with Victoria.

{Mom said that we’re doing some training here at the house after school tomorrow, are you coming?} Victoria had asked the question last night, and Amy hadn’t had it in her to respond. She didn’t want to have another subtle argument with her sister about why she was avoiding her. She studied the message for a few moments, tapping her thumbs quietly on the keyboard and frowning. The voice speaking near her nearly caused her to shriek and toss her phone away.

“If you don’t want to be here we could reschedule. Or if we’re quick, we could get back there in time to join the training.” The words were spoken softly, and Amy glanced up to watch her aunt quietly, frowning softly before shaking her head. She shut her phone off, and slipped it into her pocket, straightening out her red and white robe carefully.

“Maybe next time.” The girl muttered faintly before turning and approaching the doctor as he came back. She had people to help. There’d be plenty of time to agonize about her dissolving relationship with her sister later.

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The healing had been going surprisingly quickly. Amy thought to herself as she sat in the small employee cafeteria, picking at a plate of something tangentially related to food. There was much less standing around and waiting as people agonized over if they wanted to be healed. There was less time listening to doctors tell people their options as they subtly tried to get them to stop being idiots and accept the aid. Apparently, her aunt and Mother had been dealing with the doctors and every room she’d entered this evening had had a sick person in it that smiled upon seeing her.

She’d healed them all and then paused when each offered her a heartfelt thanks. There were no detours for the doctors to try and convince her to cure individual cases, or nurses quietly suggesting that she check on certain people. The schedule had been set before she arrived and everyone followed it to a T under the strict observation of Lady Photon. Enforced breaks had even been included, as Amy’s lack-lustre dinner could attest too. The girl took her fork, carefully using it to lift the ‘Salisbury Steak,’ watching as it made a squelching suction noise as it lifted off the lukewarm gravy that kept it stuck to the plate it sat on.

Rather than try and choke down the food, Amy pulled out her phone, moving to check the missed notifications as she sipped at the bottle of water in front of her. She was surprised to see that Taylor and Victoria had both been silent this long. She’d expected Taylor to moan about something her father had done, or to whine about traffic in the city being insane, or to chime in with some little anecdote about her day. Amy appreciated the fact that Taylor saw her so clearly and made an effort to keep her engaged, to keep her talking. Even in text form the girl’s friendly tone and patent interest were often enough to help her open up enough to actually vent.

Turning her thoughts back from Taylor, the healer opened the only actual messages that she’d received, pulling up Crystal’s contact and reading the messages curiously. A large batch of compressed images was included with a half dozen texts beneath them. Before she began to read, Amy quickly set the file to download.

{We’re about to do Dad’s improvised training, but I missed you, so I figured you would enjoy these. I went on an adventure today, and kidnapped us a Taylor to train with! I can see why you’re so eager to keep her around. She’s pretty entertaining.} The tone was playful, and Amy found herself opening up the images, and checking them out before continuing to read. The file contained a gallery that documented her cousin’s efforts to locate and kidnap her new friend. When the first image snapped open Amy sucked in a breath as Taylor’s ‘Wardrobe trouble’ came to light. The first image was a candid of Taylor perched against the frame of what Amy assumed was her doorway, one of the girl’s hands rubbing at her forehead.

Flipping to the next, Amy laughed as she saw an oddly tolerant look on Taylor’s face, the typically serious girl doing her best to feign a smile as Crystal hung off her side, one arm held out to hold the camera in a classic selfie pose. Amy considered the image, and shook her head, moving to skip to the next, frowning at the sight of her sister. Part of her still felt wrong when the thunderous beating of her heart didn’t start up each time she saw Vicky's face. Pushing the thought away, she found herself studying the image carefully.

Taylor was laying over a couch in a unique pose; her back laid over the cushion, her legs up and over the back of the sofa, letting her lower legs hang off the back. Taylor was glancing up with a tired smile at Victoria who was staring back with a tiny smile of her own, though the slump of her form was visible. Amy felt a small twinge of guilt washing through her at what had almost certainly been upsetting Victoria. Rather than dwell any longer on it, she skipped to the next image, seeing a photograph of her Mother and Uncle Neil chatting, and one of Eric’s blue-haired features glancing up in surprise at the camera as his sister kissed his cheek. Smiling at the image, Amy paused, her expression shifting to a frown as the next picture came up.

Her Sister and Taylor were standing on the ground, squared off at each other both in ready poses. Taylor’s face was cracked with a broad grin, and Victoria had an expression of fierce focus and enjoyment on her face. Amy flicked through the next few images, seeing several shots from the same vantage point of Taylor and Victoria sparring, both of them clearly enjoying the exercise. A minor undercurrent of irritation washed through her as the images continued, some showing Taylor performing feats of incredible acrobatics, others focusing on the power behind Vicky's movements. The camera work was astounding, and one image even showed a shower of sparks emerging from one of Taylor’s hands as she caught one of Vicky’s more potent punches.

The irritation grew stronger when she saw the spar dissolving into a game of Aerial tag, with a final image showing Taylor and Victoria perched in a tree, evidently deep in conversation, Victoria’s form resting against Taylor’s side, their legs swinging beneath them. The pair seemed to be staring off toward the late afternoon sun and the clouds that dotted the western horizon. Amy stared at the image and frowned softly. She was suddenly struck with a wave of regret that she'd missed the training, considering the amount of fun that seemed to be going on. Holding her phone, studying that last image quietly, Amy tried to figure out what bothered her most about it. Giving up on it, she flipped out of the gallery, humming faintly and moving to read the rest of the messages.

{Vicky was pretty bummed that you didn’t show up. It was kind of awkward, but Taylor helped.}
{She can face off with Vicky, And she has her meditating? Dad saw them when he was getting water, and they were doing this Tai-chi like meditation. By the time I got out there, they were sparring though. Taylor can take her punches; I saw her actually catch one with her palm and Victoria just laughed.}
{She’s fast though. I thought she was quick when I saw them sparring, but when Vicky started flying after her, it was like she was made of water. She kept leaping out of the way of Vicky’s grabs, and dodging around her, shouting about cheating. It was pretty entertaining. I’m also super secretly impressed that she managed to keep that outfit of hers from getting stained up despite everything that Victoria tried.}

Amy read the messages carefully and frowned as she tapped slowly on the phone, considering if she should respond to her cousin. The latent flicker of irritation in her made her want to say something biting. Instead, she quickly typed out a comment about it looking like they were doing okay on their own, and that she hoped she could join them sometime. Putting her phone away, Amy slid to her feet and glanced over toward the table her Aunt had claimed, moving up to peer at the papers she was reading.

It seemed to be a contract of some kind. Before she could get through much of the first paragraph though, the floor shook slightly, a low rumble going through the building. Amy glanced around nervously, starting when the lights flickered twice before every light cut out with a tinkling of glass. Feeling the ground starting to vibrate under her feet, Amy moved carefully over to the window with her aunt at her shoulder.

Amy was able to glance out the window for nearly thirty seconds before a flash of light almost blinded her. As the building shook ominously, an explosive roar deafened her. Feeling the gauntlet of her aunt’s uniform slamming on her shoulder and dragging her back, Amy curled into the woman and tensed, waiting for the bone breaking shockwave to come. When it didn’t, she blinked the stars from her eyes, glancing up to see Lady Photon’s shocked expression. Turning to follow her view Amy stared in horror at the wall of fire that was being held back by a glowing shield.

For a moment she wondered if her Aunt had saved them, but the field’s colour was wrong, and it was far too big for Aunt Sarah to have done alone. She moved away from the older woman, watching as the flames slowly died down, a thick black cloud remaining to obscure the view beyond the glowing barrier. Glancing back at the other cape, Amy shivered when the woman merely shrugged at her in confusion. The sound of a heavy bass ‘thwump’ drew her eyes back to the Barrier seeing a smudge of white through the dark smoke, watching as something struck the field again, producing that same sound and a noticeable ripple.

The smoke swirling up and around the field and vanishing toward the north was a surprise, but Amy found her eyes fixated on the hovering figure in white that lifted above the barrier and stared out over the city. She stared for a few moments, that same flicker of irritation washing up inside her. As it coiled inside her, Amy turned, making her way across the cafeteria. She ignored her Aunt’s comments as she headed toward the stairs and descended them. Moving down the stairs was a challenge with so many other people doing it as well, but her modest height and slim build meant she could weave around most, and the white and red robes kept anyone from trying to stop her.

When she made it out the doors of the emergency room, she saw the barrier flickering and fading away. She moved out onto the grass, her eyes alighting on the snowy figure of her sister descending toward the scorched ring around the hospital. Amy followed the girl’s trajectory, seeing Taylor coming to a stop amid the devastation. Moving with as much haste as she could, she headed toward them.

She saw when Taylor noticed her approach, watching the girl’s eyes widen in concern, and she pushed down the voice in the back of her head that reminded her of Taylor, the voice that told her should stop, take a breath and think. Instead, she called out toward Victoria who had remained, floating and staring at Taylor.

“Victoria?” The word came out as a question, and Amy hesitated at the angry tone lacing her words. When the girl turned and glanced at her, those expressive blue eyes laced with concern, Amy felt her chest burning, and she sputtered. Part of her was waiting for that familiar wash of happiness to hit her, holding her wound tight as she waited to fight it off. “What’re you doing here?” The girl seemed to shift nervously in the air, floating back nearly half a foot before her feet touched down on the ash coated ground.

“There was an explosion, and I knew you were here. I thought you were...” The words were spoken softly, nervously and Amy felt a cruel little thrill in her gut at the tone. She glanced over at Taylor, seeing the girl bite her lip as she realized that Victoria probably could have only heard about that one way.

“And what? You were going to come over here and punch the explosion?” The words were cold, and Victoria seemed to flinch back at the comment. Amy watched Victoria closely; her entire body unwinding as she realized that the aura wasn’t smacking into her. No Fear, no awe. Nothing but a bitter fire in her gut as she glared at the repentant looking blonde.

“I…” Victoria seemed lost for words, and Amy glanced at Taylor who was staring at her with concern. The expression washed ice over her form and she felt that bitter heat was flickering. She turned her eyes back to Victoria, clinging to that angry sensation. “Ames.” The word slipped out soft, and her sister's voice was worried. Amy stepped back as it tugged at something inside her. “Why are you so mad? Is it about the PRT finding out about the accidents? I didn’t me-”

“The PRT? You think this is about the PRT?” Amy laughed bitterly. When a purple hand landed on her shoulder, Amy didn’t even look back, quickly shaking her shoulder to dislodge it and charging forward. “Do you think I’d go through all of this because of the fucking PRT and their reactions over you ‘little accidents’. You terrify me Victoria.” Amy glared, and part of her exulted in Victoria stepping back nervously.

“What…” She shifted in place, her form seemingly shrinking. “Amy, what’d I do?” The words were spoken in a tiny, horrified voice and Amy found herself chuckling darkly.

“What’d you do?” She glanced over as the rest of New Wave arrived, Manpower held between Laserdream and Shielder. Everyone was looking at her with concerned eyes and Amy stared at them all before turning to look at Victoria. “You wanna know why I didn’t come home? Why I’ve been staying with Aunt Sarah?” She growled when Sarah tried to speak to her left. “Taylor’s powers fucked mine up, let them work on me. I saw my brain. I saw what your aura had done to me.” She watched as Victoria stepped back and shook her head.

“No. That’s.” Victoria paused, swallowing. “That’s impossible. You’re immune to my aura, Amy. Everyone knows that.” Amy just snorted and glanced up when Victoria stared at her with horror.

“How would they know? How would you know?" The words struck Vicky like a slap and Amy rushed on. "I thought I was in love with you Vicky. You were the only good part of my fucking life, and I hated everything else. I hated healing people, I hated school and your friends, I hated Dean, and how he treated you, I hated our parents and how they clearly loved you more than, and over it all? I hated myself. I thought that I was sick, for feeling like that. But it was fake; I thought that I was desperately in love with you because the only times that I was happy were when you were there.” The words had lost their anger after the first question, merely spilling free laced with the horror and despair that Amy had felt.

Amy ignored the eyes on her, staring quietly at her sister. She saw Victoria’s face paling in horror as she backed away. She watched as her sister turned and looked at every other member of the family present, seeing the lack of shock or confusion on their faces. She watched as her sister turned and sprinted away, dodging around Taylor, and launching herself into the air and rocketing away at a speed that none of the others present would be able to catch her.

As Victoria’s form vanished into the distance, the anger and terror in her body quite suddenly winked out, her entire body instantly going numb. Staring after the vanishing figure, the healer dropped to her knees like a puppet with her strings cut. She slowly sank lower, resting her bottom on her legs, staring in horror as her entire form began to shake. The rest of New Wave crowded around her, unasked questions filling their eyes. The healer peered between them at Taylor and flinched at the grave and deep concern that limned the other girl’s face.

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Taylor quietly watched the PRT trooper as the lights of the street lamps washed over his face as they headed through the streets. Ralph had already been on his way to the hospital when she’d called, the older man having figured that that’s where she’d end up when he’d been informed of the detonations. Taylor could see the lines on his face, and her powers told her that he was conflicted. Knowing what she knew of the man, and who he worked for, she quietly shifted her gaze to the street as she tucked her legs up.

“Amy went into shock. She’ll be fine.” She spoke quickly, ignoring the quiet sigh of relief from the man next to her. “No one’s sure what happened but something about Victoria, probably her aura, interacted badly with Amy. No one’s actually certain what’s going on, but if I had to guess, I’d put money on some of Amy’s ‘repairs’ made it through my healing and the aura has an effect on her that’s inverse to it’s intended one. She got into it with Victoria, said some uh...unfriendly things, and then Victoria skipped out.” Taylor kept the explanation brief and vague enough that the Director would hopefully let New Wave handle it on their own.

Ralph didn’t respond, and Taylor savoured the silence, her thoughts drifting back to the shell-shocked expressions that the rest of the team had been sporting. Everyone looked at a loss over what had happened. No one had even thought to try and call Victoria until Carol had shown up. The rest of the team had split up after Amy had been admitted, Neil remaining with Amy, and the rest of the group splitting up to search for her. Carol had headed home, and the fliers had scattered to try and find where Victoria might have gone.

Taylor had stayed with Amy long enough to ensure that she didn't need any healing, but the sort of issues that the girl was suffering under were not the sort of things that her meagre healing could handle. Rather than bothering New Wave or her dad, she’d ended up calling Ralph, and the Trooper had swung past and brought her home. As Taylor watched the more familiar streets starting to slip past, she let out a tired sigh, quietly taking out her phone. Taylor found herself staring at the unanswered texts she’d sent off to Victoria, rubbing tiredly at her face as she considered the mess that she was currently in the midst of.

When the jeep rumbled to a stop outside her house, Taylor thanked Ralph before climbing out and heading up to the house. She’d been halfway across the porch with her keys in hand when she’d felt the familiar buzzing at the edges of her perception. Letting out a relieved sigh she unlocked the door, slipping into the house and glancing around. Walking past the living room saw her dad passed out on the couch, some old horror movie playing on the tv. Moving toward the kitchen, she spied a wrapped up plate on the table, and she skirted around it, grabbing something from one of the cupboards before heading back out.

Checking the door to the basement saw it dark, and pausing upstairs verified that the house was empty. She carefully removed her vest, grabbing a bag from her desk and glancing up the sound of something skittering over the roof. She headed out of her room and down the stairs, moving to walk out the backdoor of the house. Standing in her tiny postage stamp of a backyard, Taylor glanced up to see a splotch of white on the tip of the roof. Taking a moment to make sure no one was watching from the other houses around her, Taylor crouched before leaping up, landing on the edge of the roof. She slipped up the roof to find the familiar figure in white perched on the crest, legs up to her chest and arms wrapped around them. She moved toward Victoria with a sigh, pausing when the girl spoke.

“Did you know?” The words were low and hurt, and Taylor paused, frowning as she lingered a short distance away. She studied Victoria for a moment before moving up toward her and taking a seat near her on the crest.

“Know? Not really. I suspected that it was something to do with you though.” She paused at the hurt look from Victoria and reached up, pulling her hair tie free and letting her hair explode outwards. “I can’t read minds or emotions, but I suspected. The things Amy would mention discussing with her therapist, paired with what I’d observed painted a picture. I was waiting for someone to say something to me before making any comments though, didn’t seem fair to guess about people’s mental health.” Taylor frowned at the distant look Victoria got her eyes at the response, frowning as the girl shrank into herself.

“How could I do that to my sister?” She spoke softly, staring at the road ahead of her. “What kind of monster would I have to be to do that to her? I thought she was immune like the rest of my family.” The girl’s chin pressed between her knees, and she shuddered before speaking quietly. “I don’t even know why I came here. I should have just...found some ABB and helped deal with this stupid war.” Taylor frowned at the detached way that Victoria spoke, resting her hands on the roof and following her gaze toward the distant ocean that sat dark and flat beyond the inky silhouettes of the abandoned ruins of the docks.

“Do you think that would make you feel better?” Taylor spoke curiously and frowned when the girl looked at her with surprise. She watched those blue eyes studying her measuringly before Victoria turned back to the Horizon, her brow furrowing in the hazy glow of the streetlights as she seemed to consider the question seriously.

“No.” The word was soft and laced with regret. “It wouldn’t make me feel better, but it’d be useful. I’d be doing some fucking good for once instead of screwing everything up around me.” She tightened her arms and Taylor heard the cracking in her voice. “but I'm sure that I would fuck that up too. I’d fuck it up, and everything would be even worse, so when I ran, I just... I just came here.” Taylor blinked as she glanced at the blonde girl, observing her.

“And why did you come here?” Taylor watched as Victoria shrank as if terrified that she’d make her leave. She didn’t move to comfort her just yet, wanting to see where Victoria’s thoughts were going. “You had other friends that would have taken you in; you could have gone to Dean or one of your friends from school. You came here and sat on my roof though, why?”

“You’re different. You…” She frowned. “You don’t treat me like most people do. When we first met you just... smashed me into stuff. And when I attacked you, you nearly attacked me again; you were going to, I think, until I nearly started to cry. You saw how sad I was and then you just... helped me.” She gazed off to the side watching a car driving quietly down the street. “We’re friends I think, but it was harder, harder then most friendships I’ve made are, and…” The girl trailed off as she stared at the road silently, her thoughts failing her. Taylor sighed faintly and leaned back on her hands. ‘And it feels more real.’ Taylor thought to herself.

“Okay, so first off? You don’t ruin people’s lives you know?” When Victoria spun on her, she glared and watched the girl lean back. “What happened with Amy was a tragedy, but it’s not your fault. Near as I can tell that aura of yours never goes off.” She stared at Victoria when the girl looked as if she were about to cut in. “I can sense it. Even as high as you had it at the hospital it doesn’t affect me, the feedback from my powers makes it rather difficult for effects like that to overcome me. But I’ve always sensed it, Victoria, even when you were asleep, so it’s not your fault.” She watched Victoria, waiting for the words to sink in before the girl’s shoulders drooped. “I can’t promise anything, but we’ll see if we can figure out how to control that better? Meditation might help.” Taylor didn’t sound convinced, even to herself but Victoria nodded anyway.

“As for Amy, I don’t think that was all on you either. She was in a pretty terrible place, and everything just came to a head. She’s seeing a therapist about a lot more then what happened between you two.” Taylor spoke quietly and shifted closer, gently studying Victoria. The girl continued to shrink down at the words and Taylor rubbed tiredly at her face. Taylor sighed faintly. “We talk a lot, you know? Me and Amy?” She spoke faintly and watched as Victoria peered at her. “She still thinks of you as her best friend. She’s just scared, and she has to deal with that. I think seeing you, brought everything up again, and I think you might even understand where she’s coming from now.” Taylor spoke faintly, watching the slightly haunted look in the other girl’s eyes as she nodded. “Don’t think that you weren’t on her mind, though.”

Taylor took out her phone, skimming through her messages from Amy, pulling up one of the images that the girl had sent. Taking a moment to open it before nudging Victoria, she held it out, allowing the girl to see the detailed sketch of her own face on the screen. When Victoria grasped the phone and pulled it over, Taylor released it, watching as Vicky stared at the phone.

“Amy drew this?” She asked softly, tone laced with wonder. “I didn’t know that she could draw. I never really saw her doing anything but... “ She trailed off, and Taylor filled in the blanks.

“Her therapist suggested that Amy should find something like a hobby, something that wasn’t related to you, or healing, or her powers at all. We ended up talking about it, and she mentioned that she'd always wanted to learn to draw.” Taylor hummed as she considered the other girl, watching as Victoria peered at the glowing screen, the phone framed by her long blonde hair. “What about you, Victoria, do you have any hobbies? Anything you enjoy that isn’t being a hero?” Taylor spoke faintly and frowned when Victoria shook her head.

“What about the sports?” Taylor asked softly, blinking at the dry chuckle Vicky gave.

“I was always popular you know? The daughter of two known capes. Everyone expected great things from me, and I constantly pushed myself to live up to the image. I basked in the attention. I dressed well, I talked well, I played sports, and I was that popular girl. I dated good looking boys, and everything was this carefully constructed act where everyone, including myself, waited with bated breath for me to trigger.” Victoria’s voice was low and tired as she picked at the threads of her uniform.

“The longer it went on and didn’t happen, the more people began to talk, the more I began to worry. I got into more sports, and I did well because I used to do more and more dangerous things, hoping. Eventually, there was an accident when I did something stupid in a basketball game, jumped in front of someone to make a shot and got hit. Instead of breaking a leg I floated away, and that’s how history was made.” The girl’s voice was laced with subtle distaste, and Taylor let out a slow sigh.

“I read books,” Taylor spoke, startling Victoria, watching the girl glancing at her. “High Fantasy and Science Fiction mostly. My mom was an English professor, you know, and she taught me that books can be a great escape. Adventures you get to have from the safety of a comfy chair. The stories help me order my thoughts, and it’s nice. But, music has always been my happy place.” Taylor spoke quietly and blinked when Victoria shifted closer and studied her. Taylor chuckled. “Mom and Dad used to both love music. Mom was the better player, she had this flute…” Taylor trailed off, frowning at the roof beneath her. “She used to play. Dad had a guitar and he’d try but he was never very good. For a long time, I’d keep that flute around. I couldn’t play at all, but just holding it? It made me feel better.”

Taylor took a moment, drawing herself up out of the well of dark emotions that thinking about that always brought up. She took a breath before moving to draw out the bag she’d brought up with her. “Sadly I don’t have the flute anymore, but I do have this.” Opening the satchel up, she pulled out a pair of antique clamshell headphones and a large clunky walkman. “Should help.” She fiddled with the device for a moment before placing the clamshells on the confused Victoria’s head. Adjusting the cups carefully she fiddled with the walkman, smiling with the soft sounds classic Pat Benatar was audible even outside the headphones.

When Victoria didn’t pull off the headphones immediately and claim the exercise was stupid, Taylor set the walkman in her lap. She watched as Victoria closed her eyes, a smile slipping over her face as the tension started to melt out of the other girl’s form. Taylor sat quietly, listening to the faint strains of the familiar mixtape, supporting Victoria when the other girl leaned into her side and rested her head on her shoulder. As the music played, the pair just sat and watched the cars driving past, feeling that, for the moment at least, the world was small enough to handle.

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The ringing of her phone startled Taylor out of her light doze. She started, reaching for the phone and nearly losing it as she fumbled. Doing her best not to dislodge the lightly dozing superhero using her as a pillow she flipped the phone over, wincing at the familiar number on the face. She gently nudged Victoria who awoke with a start. Showing the other girl the phone, she sighed at the nervous wince on her face.

Making a decision, Taylor flicked the screen, accepting the call and holding the device up to her ear.

“Taylor, It’s Carol calling. Have you heard from Victoria at all? We haven’t been able to find her.” Sighing at the woman’s harried tone, she glanced at Victoria and she spoke softly in response, holding the phone closer to her ear.

“Yeah, She’s here. She’s uh. Pretty shook up about everything.” Taylor blinked when Victoria held out a hand and she coughed a bit. “She uh, wants to talk to you.” She reached out with the phone, offering it over. Taylor saw the conflicted look on the girl’s face and she quietly slid to her feet.

“I’ll let you two talk privately. You’re uh.” Taylor paused, glancing at Vicky. “You’re welcome to stick around long as necessary. I’ll let Dad know.” She spoke quickly and smiled at Victoria’s relieved look. She headed toward the rear of the house, dropping into the backyard. Moving to slip in the door, she peeked in the kitchen seeing her plate had disappeared during her absence. She moved over, peering into the living room to see her Dad watching the TV.

“You’re getting in late.” His voice was laced with sleep and she grinned.

“I’ve been home for almost two hours. Victoria was having a mental break down on the roof, so I was up there with her. She uh.” Taylor coughed. “She might need a place to stay for a few days, is that alright? There was a pretty big blow up with her family.” Taylor watched as her dad glanced over, giving her a strange look. He seemed as if he might say something but whatever it was, he ended up keeping it to himself.

Taylor moved over and dropped down on the couch next to him, curling into his side and watching the movie. It was nearly twenty minutes later that Victoria slipped into the living room and studied them. She still held the phone in her hand, glancing at Taylor’s father.

“My mom wants to speak to you.” She offered it out and Taylor watched as her dad stood and headed for Victoria. He took the phone and moved toward the kitchen. Taylor shifted when Victoria joined her on the couch, handing her the bag that she’d brought to the roof. Taylor peeked in seeing the old walkman and headphones within. When Victoria snorted, Taylor glanced up.

“What is it with your family and black and white horror movies?” Taylor glanced up, watching Victoria staring over toward the screen that showed Boris Karloff accepting a flower from a small child, and then joining her to ‘play’ beside a river. She grinned when Victoria frowned at the monster chucking the small child into the river.

“We appreciate the classics.” Taylor’s voice was soft and she hummed faintly. Taylor watched the movie as it continued, she’d barely gotten to the point where the mob had started to gather when Victoria grew tired of fidgeting and spoke up.

“I’m gonna stick around a bit. They all knew about it, you know? And I just. I can’t even stand the idea of talking to them right now. I was going crazy and they just…” Victoria frowned and trailed off and Taylor understood.

“It wasn’t their secret to tell, Victoria. But I get it. A chance to cool off can’t hurt anyone.” Taylor hopped to her feet. “Let’s get you settled. Unlike some people, you have school in the morning.” Taylor ignored the half-hearted glare as she headed toward the stairs, nodding at her dad who was sitting in the kitchen, quietly talking with Carol on the phone.

Chapter Text

May 6th, 2011
Hebert Residence, Brockton Bay

“What about... Zen? Or Shaolin, maybe?” Victoria spoke lazily as she removed one her headphones from her ear, glancing up from her phone to peer over toward Taylor. The other girl was reclined on her bed, her back supported by a pile of pillows, a massive book sitting in her lap that the girl was paging through casually. The painted image on the cover of the text showed Eidolon, Legend and Alexandria battling Behemoth, though the big bold words reading; ‘Parahuman Psychology’ seemed much less interesting than the image itself. Taylor had been re-reading a few books as she tried to puzzle out how Victoria might gain more direct control of her Aura.

“That seems culturally insensitive. I’m not exactly a monk or a Buddhist.” The words were drifted out absent-mindedly as Taylor flicked over to a new page. Victoria adjusted her pose, a duplicate of Taylor’s reclining position but reversed and, thanks to her flight, hovering in mid-air a short distance from Taylor’s bed. “I still don’t see why Tython is so disliked.” The girl muttered petulantly, and Victoria snorted, pulling her phone close and clearing her throat.

“Well, half the posters don’t even know what it means, and the other half keep talking about Greek mythology?” She glanced up, seeing Taylor glance her way and roll her eyes. “I mean, the PRT has assigned you a place-holder name. Reach? It’s not bad?” Victoria skimmed down the page, studying the other suggestions. Someone had started the thread when the temporary name had been assigned, and everyone took it as an open invitation to offer up cape names they felt would suit the new superhero. “Let’s see here; we’ve also got like… Serenity? Or uhm. Sentinel? Vigil isn't half bad either, and hm.” The girl skimmed down ignoring the obviously trollish names.

“Equilibrium is a bit of a mouthful, and uh. Revanche? Isn’t that French for Revenge? That doesn’t give off any dark vibes at all.” Victoria snorted to herself, shifting her gaze to Taylor who looked amused for some reason. “Scholar is okay, but I doubt that’d fit with our luck. There’s like three pages with people playing off Laserdream’s naming convention and mashing words together. Lightwave, Lightbreach, Wavestunt.” She hummed faintly as she read out a few of the more interesting ones, glancing over when Taylor spoke.

“Vigil is interesting. Reach is okay too. Your cousin is already insufferable; I shudder to think what she’d do if I took my naming convention from hers.” Taylor’s voice was laced with wry amusement, and Victoria found herself grinning quietly.

“She only bugs you cause you take it so personally. She enjoys the reactions, and the rest of us have learned to tune her out. Besides, when you were talking with Uncle Neil, she mentioned that she actually thought your style suited you.” Victoria had to admit that Crystal was right as she considered the casual refinement of Taylor’s wardrobe. Victoria wasn’t the only one that noticed either. With the burgeoning control of her aura, Victoria found herself in the unique position of not being the center of attention. During their morning runs, Taylor tended to garner much more attention then she did with her statuesque build and carriage, and Victoria found herself oddly comforted being in the shadow of someone else for once.

The non-commital grunt from Taylor amused her, though the gurgling of her stomach kept her from commenting on it. The blonde shifted, gently setting her feet on the ground. Taylor glanced up when she stood but didn’t say anything, returning to her book. Victoria had had the run of the house since she’d arrived, Taylor and her father seemingly unconcerned about her getting into things that she shouldn’t. Victoria slipped out of the room and took a moment to check herself in the bathroom, fixing her hair before heading down-stairs toward the kitchen.

As she descended the stairs, she considered the last few days she’d spent with the Heberts. It was like a balm to her frayed emotions. Oddly she’d found herself enjoying the early mornings more then she thought she would. Taylor had woken her each morning before the sun came up, and then she'd tiredly puttered around the house with the half-asleep Hebert clan. The morning runs and exercises ensuring that the hearty breakfast that they all worked on was quickly consumed. After eating, there was a bit of a fray around the bathroom with the three of them jockeying for their showers before starting their days. Generally, though, she and Danny were done in time for him to get to work, and her to fly to school. As was becoming common now, time spent at the school was somewhat stressful, but at least she’d stopped looking around constantly for her sister.

Afternoons spent with Taylor were usually more interesting. Sometimes they lounged around the house like they had this afternoon, but yesterday they’d gone out and discovered several mutual acquaintances. Sabah wasn’t someone that Victoria had ever spoken with, the girl wasn’t actually in her Parahuman Studies course at the university, but they’d passed each other in the halls a few times, the girl’s impressive fashion sense and skin tone making her stand out in Victoria’s memories. The girl had been a bit shy at first, but turning the conversation to fashion had opened her up. That this had left poor Taylor floundering at the entire discussion was merely a happy coincidence, especially when Sabah turned her critical eye on Taylor’s fashion choices and came out concluding that she’d accidentally stumbled into an aesthetically pleasing style.

The other mutual acquaintance had been less pleasant. They’d been at the mall with Sabah when Emma Barnes and Madison Clements had stumbled across them. They’d looked like they might say something to Taylor and Sabah, but when Victoria had returned with their food, the girls had seen her, recognized her and then turned up their noses and made their escape. Taylor had called it a stay of execution before she’d asked how Victoria knew the other two. Describing her experience with the girls on the set of a modelling shoot, Victoria was surprised when Taylor had merely let out a disappointed frown at Emma’s actions. It was only then that she’d put the connection together in her mind with what she’d read of Taylor. Sabah’s concerned look mirrored her own, and they’d changed the subject in an effort to distract Taylor, though the quiet weight had lingered around her shoulders over the remainder of the day.

Shaking herself out of her thoughts, Victoria wandered around the kitchen looking for something to tide her over to dinner, her eyes casually peering through the cupboards. Seeing a box of crackers in the closet, she snagged them, moving to grab the half a block of cheese in the fridge. Figuring that this would be enough for her and Taylor, Vicky set to work preparing the snack using a cutting board and one of the large knives that her father typically had her avoid. Not because she might hurt herself, but because of the risk of her destroying one if she accidentally hit her finger with it. Remembering how Danny had guided her in holding the knife and curling her fingers on the opposite hand, Victoria carefully began slicing the cheese into small cubes.

Danny and Taylor seemed to trade off in cooking meals, and Victoria had found herself surprisingly roped into helping both of them. Each of the Heberts seemingly enjoying the process of educating her in the workings of the various cooking apparatuses around the house. Taylor had a better fine skill with cooking, something she’d apparently learned from her Mother. She also knew more exciting recipes, but Danny was a better teacher, gentle and observant in a way that Taylor tended to fall short on. Victoria hummed as she set the crackers and cheese on a platter, and quickly cleaned up the cutting board and the knife before heading back toward the stairs.

As she passed the living room, she paused, slipping into the room instead of heading upstairs. She put the platter down on one of the tables and found herself staring casually at the guitar that had been hung on the wall. It was a fascinating decoration, a gift from Taylor’s mother to her father that he’d kept for sentimental reasons despite having little actual skill with it. As Taylor’s words about music drifted through her mind, part of Victoria ached to reach out and take it off the wall, to play with the strings. Instead, she quietly stood a short distance away and studied it carefully.

She was startled from her thoughts a few moments later when a large hand knocked it's knuckles atop her head gently. “Aura.” The gruff voice of Taylor’s father startled her and Victoria flushed. As she brought her power back under control, searching out that familiar feeling in her mind and pushing it back down. This was a new addition as well. She’d begun joining Taylor and Danny in their meditations in the morning, and Taylor’s father had proven able to detect her Aura as Taylor could. As Victoria wrestled her power back under control, she watched Danny slipping up next to her and moving to inspect the guitar as well.

“You like it?” He asked quietly, glancing at her and Victoria blushed quietly and moved to sputter out a denial.

“I wasn’t. I just. It’s interesting. Taylor mentioned that you and your wife used to play. Said that listening to her mother play would calm her.” She flushed at Danny’s wry smile, so similar to Taylor’s own, despite the different shape of their lips. He reached out, gently removing the instrument from the wall. He took a moment to dust it off, before handing it over to Victoria with a grin. “Annette would hate that it wasn’t being used.” Victoria gently accepted the instrument, holding it as if she might shatter it to kindling with barely a touch, which she admitted was a possibility. She watched in numb shock as Danny walked over to one of the bookcases in the room, carefully picking through the books on a lower shelf and coming back with a big yellow book. Victoria read the cover when he handed it to her, staring at the ‘Getting started with Guitar for Dummies.’

Victoria stood silently in shock as Danny glanced at her, and then turned, snagging some crackers and cheese from her tray and wandering off muttering to himself about the garage. She stared after him for a moment before slowly making her way upstairs. When she entered the room carrying the guitar and the book, Taylor gave her a raised eyebrow, but merely rolled her eyes before returning to her book. Setting the snack on the bed near Taylor, Victoria stared at the instrument. Still terrified about breaking it, she reached into her mind. She’d been using the exercises to control her aura, and she moved out, gently feeling for that warm tingle of her shield, gently grasping it like she did the Aura and pushing it down as well.

It felt odd, her powers fighting her as she tried to lower her defences, it felt like she didn’t really want to give up the protection they offered her. With focus though, she managed to push it away and her body suddenly felt a bit heavier as the shield disengaged. She staggered a bit, feeling the weight in her limbs that she always felt when her shield was broken. She glanced up, finding Taylor staring at her strangely. She was about to ask the other girl what was up when she spoke curiously.

“Your aura, it just fully shut off.” Taylor’s voice was laced with curiousity. Shellshocked, Victoria felt a tremor run through her as she glanced down at herself considering the implications.


Chapter Text

May 6th, 2011
City Square Park, Brockton Bay 

Sabah was surprised at what she saw when she arrived at the park to meet up with Taylor on Friday afternoon. Taylor hadn’t told her to expect anyone else, but when she’d found a blonde girl standing with Taylor when she walked into the park. The pair stood murmuring by the bench she usually sat on during Taylor’s meditations. Sabah initially considered backing off and arranging a different time to hang out, but Taylor's unique outfit choice lured her closer. She certainly didn’t look like she was attired for exercise.

As Sabah got closer to the two girls, the blonde caught sight of her, perking up and nudging Taylor. Sabah found herself studying the odd girl, a frown finding its way to her face at the familiarity of blonde. She looked too young to be attending her University, but there was something about the girl’s features that struck a familiar chord in her. When Taylor turned and flashed her a smile, Sabah sucked in a breath at the fascinating cut of the girl’s clothing. Taylor must have paid quite a bit of attention to her measurements to get garments that clung that well to her frame.

“Sabah! Hey, I was wondering if you were going to show up.” The self-conscious smile on her face made Sabah grin as she stopped before them, crossing her hands in front of her. She studied the outfit that Taylor wore, enjoying the way the younger girl fidgeted. Taylor was eventually saved by a cough from her friend, which started Taylor out of her self-conscious fidgeting. “Oh! Right. Sabah. This is Victoria Dallon.” She gestured to the girl and the name hinted at why she recognized the girl. Victoria Dallon was Glory Girl, a member of New Wave, and one of Taylor's soon to be team-mates. She’d looked them up after Taylor’s revelation on the night that the Empire attacked her.

“I’ve seen you around.” The girl's words were soft, and the shy smile she offered put Sabah at ease. When she slid forward and offered out a hand, Sabah studied her nervous tension. After a moment of studying her, she smiled politely and reached out, shaking the girl’s hand quickly. The confusion must have shone true on her face because the blonde ran a hand over her neck nervously before speaking. “I’m in a Parahuman Studies class at the University, and I’ve seen you in the halls. You’ve got a distinct fashion style.” She gestured toward her and Sabah peered down at the outfit she was wearing. A blush graced her cheeks at the compliment, but she nodded her head.

“I’m a Fashion Major, so thank you for the compliment. I’m rather proud of this shirt.” She fidgeted with the garment before turning her attention back to Taylor. She gave the girl an obvious glance over before peering over at Victoria, and a playful impulse washed through her. “I wish I could take credit for this, but I think Taylor’s just lucky.” She gestured Taylor up and down, offering a smirk to the blonde that saw her cracking her own shy smile and Taylor letting out an indignant squawk.

“Victoria’s been crashing at mine for a few days, when I mentioned that I was going to be hanging out with you today, she ended up tagging along. I figured we could do a pass on research and just uh. Wander around?” Taylor floundered quietly, and Sabah chuckled as she wondered if Taylor had actually ever just hung out like a teenage girl. After a moment she remembered what she read about the girl on PHO and she shuddered. Probably not. Instead of commenting, the dark-skinned girl turned her gaze on Victoria and smiled.

“So, Mall then? I could use a break from studying, and some window shopping could be fun.” The blonde girl’s grin and Taylor's subtle groan were both reward enough for the suggestion and Sabah found herself sidling up to Victoria as the girl headed off with purpose toward what Sabah assumed was the nearest mall.


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As she considered the food on her plate, Sabah was forced to admit that the window-shopping had been more fun than she’d expected. Victoria was rather charming when she relaxed, and she had chatted endlessly with Sabah on the subject of clothing and fashion design. She didn’t seem to have an actual interest in design, but she was curious about the process, and she seemed to enjoy hearing about things that Sabah enjoyed. Taylor had trailed after them, listening with half a smile on her face, chiming in one of the others addressed her, but she seemed content to merely enjoy the pleasant chatter.

They didn’t buy anything, merely pacing from shop to shop and briefly considering the wares on display. Sabah had allowed Victoria to rope her into teasing Taylor, the pair of them constantly holding different dresses and girly things up to the girl, commenting to each other on what suited the girl more. Taylor had appeared scandalized, and offended, playing up her irritation at them to the laughter of all. The teasing had only come to a stop when she and Victoria had found Taylor quietly studying a very subtle dress, fingering the fabric while she stared at it yearningly.

Victoria had breached the quiet and Taylor had muttered something about knowing someone who’d had a dress just like that they’d loved. The teasing hadn’t seemed as fun after that, and the trio had found themselves at the food-court.

Currently, Taylor was sitting opposite her, watching as Victoria chatted with a few young girls while waiting for her and Taylor’s order at the Italian food stall. Sabah had decided on the much less busy Shwarma stand, and she already had her food in front of her. After studying the wrap for a moment, she glanced up, watching Taylor studying Victoria curiously.

“She seems different,” Sabah commented faintly, and it struck her how much the charismatic blonde that was chatting with the young girls was a stark contrast to the thoughtful mischievous girl she’d been interacting with. The girl's wide expressive gestures and confidence were fascinating to watch.

“Part of the cape stuff, she has an ‘Image’ to maintain. Or at least that’s what she tells herself.” Taylor hummed, watching as well, and then paused, glancing over at Sabah. “Thanks for being so cool about her tagging along. Dad’s at work today, and I didn’t really want to leave her home alone.” Sabah glanced at Taylor, curiously tilting her head. “She’s been having issues with her family. I shouldn’t get into it more than that, but seeing her unwind around other people is good.” Taylor spoke quietly, and Sabah nodded.

“Oh my god, is that-” The voice was subtle and feminine. Sabah felt her shoulders tensing at the familiar tone and the hushed giggling, though the voice itself was unfamiliar. She glanced over her shoulder frowning at the unfamiliar faces. “Is she on a date.” The words were muttered, and Sabah narrowed her eyes at the pair. The brunette was the one speaking, her cutesy tone carrying despite the faux whisper she was doing. The girl looked scandalized, and Sabah wanted to glare back. Something else caught her eye though, and she found her attention drawn to the other girl by the brunette. She was shorter than Taylor, probably near the same age, with long red hair and ‘classic good looks’ that were ruined by the look of loathing she was giving Taylor.

Sabah glanced between the two before looking at Taylor who was glaring stonily at the table and refusing to acknowledge that she’d heard them. The faint slapping of shoes on tile became louder as the girls approached. Sabah turned her eyes back toward the girls, watching them stalking up to the table. The redhead’s friend was staring at her curiously, but the look of loathing remained fixed in place as she approached. When the girl came to a stop a short distance away and just stared at Taylor, Sabah felt awkward, especially since Taylor continued to stonily ignore her presence which seemed to irritate the girl more.

“Seriously, Taylor?” She spoke, her voice laced with disbelief and resentment, her eyes drilling holes into Taylor’s back. “After-” The words were cut off when the redhead glanced up, staring at something. Following her gaze, Sabah found Victoria weaving past the tables toward them. The look of concern on her face was stark, and she was holding a tray laden down with the food she and Taylor had purchased. Sabah watched Redhead back up, glancing nervously at her friend before looking back at Victoria. Rather than continue, she grabbed the brunette and dragged her off.

“What a hypocrite, after what she did-” The words faded into silence as the brunette was dragged off, and Sabah found herself staring after the girls before glancing back at Victoria. The blonde shrugged at her before glancing at Taylor curiously. Sabah followed her eyes, watching as Taylor continued to glare stonily at the table top. The girl seemed to feel her eyes on them and hunched up her shoulders quietly, shrinking into herself. She didn’t react when Victoria laid the food before her, staring uncomprehendingly at it and almost bracing herself.

“Was that Emma Barnes?” The words were laced with gentle curiosity, and Victoria shifted when Taylor’s gaze snapped up to meet hers. Victoria coughed and shifted under Taylor’s intense stare. “I met her and that brunette, Madison something, and a black girl at a modelling job I had.” She shifted nervously under Taylor’s focused stare and coughed. “We didn’t get along. Emma, she was kinda.” She trailed off and muttered softly. “She was kind of mean to this disabled girl that was there.” Victoria shifted when Taylor let out a weary disappointed sigh and rubbed at her face in disappointment.

“She used to be my best friend.” The words slipped from Taylor’s mouth reluctantly, drawing the container of pasta she’d ordered over and prodding it with her fork. Sabah watched quietly as Victoria pressed on carefully, speaking to Taylor.

“What happened? She seemed like she really didn’t like you.” The words caused Taylor to let out a worn out sigh.

“Honestly? I wish I knew. We were super close until right before high school. But something happened, certainly. I came back from summer camp at the beginning of Freshman year and she uh... She didn’t like me anymore. She had these new friends, and she started making my life difficult.” Taylor muttered softly quietly dragging the fork in her hand through the red pasta, her expression distant and thoughtful. Sabah was tempted to push, she could tell that the girls had done more than make her life difficult, but it was clear that Taylor would rather not speak of it.

Victoria quietly swooped in, like the hero she was, and changed the subject, bringing up some aspect of their joint training. Sabah watched as Taylor seemed to shift, closing her eyes and breathing. She watched in concern as the tension melted visibly off Taylor’s form. Taylor's expression became more serene as she breathed easier. After a moment she sat up and offered a gentle smile to Victoria, quietly launching into an explanation on the technique Victoria had asked about. Sabah watched curiously, tapping her fingers on the table in concern as she nibbled at her food.

The conversation moved on, but none of them ended up finishing their meals. Something about the interaction had soured their appetites.

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Sabah hadn’t expected to see Victoria again so quickly, but three days after the outing to the Mall, the tailor emerged from her classroom to find the blonde teen leaning against the wall outside the door. Victoria had leaned against the wall, headphones connecting her ears to her phone, and she was staring at something on the screen. Sabah paused and glanced around, looking for Taylor and finding no sign of her she slipped up, gently tapping Victoria on the shoulder.

The girl jumped and whirled, nearly dropping into a familiar ready stance before stepping back and pulling out her ear-buds. “Jesus. Don’t sneak up on someone like that.” She flushed a bit, glancing around to see if anyone had noticed and when she found that they were alone in the hall she shifted nervously.

“Sorry, you startled me. Uh. Is that cool? I got out of class, and I kind of didn’t want to go home. And since I’ve bothered Taylor enough lately, I figured you might be up for a chat?” She chuckled hopefully, and when Sabah tilted her head, Victoria rubbed at her neck. “She’d never say anything, but I get the feeling that having me around constantly is probably a bit of a pain.” The girl’s tone was shy again, and Sabah shrugged, waving for Victoria to follow her. She headed toward the exit of the building.

“It’s fine. I know a nice place for coffee; I could use a chance to unwind..” She smiled gently as she tucked her handbag under her arm, holding it in place and digging through her pockets for her bus pass as they exited the doors of the building. “How’d you find me anyway? You’re not in any Creative Arts courses; I don’t think?” Sabah glanced over and chuckled when Victoria glanced off to the side.

“I got out of my class and asked my teacher where the Art design courses were, and then asked around there if anyone knew you. Luckily I met someone who did, who pointed out that I was on the entirely wrong side of campus, and they sent me in the right direction. And then I just sorta peeked into each room till I saw you.” The girl’s voice was low, and Sabah laughed faintly.

“I’m flattered.” She smirked, ignoring the girl’s rolled eyes, as she made her way across the grounds, stopping near a bus stop. She grinned as Victoria perked up at the stop and fished through her pockets, presumably for change. “So why did you go to all that trouble instead of going home?” The words were curious, and Victoria paused in her change counting to let out a soft sigh.

“Things are...awkward.” She muttered faintly. Sabah glanced up at the girl’s conflicted face, and she did her best to emulate that look Taylor made that made you want to continue talking. It either worked, or Victoria was desperate to talk to someone.

“So you know that I’m a cape right?” She spoke softly. When Sabah nodded, the girl shifted and drop onto the bench behind her carefully taking a breath before the words spilled forth. “Recently, I’ve been…”

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Sabah felt her head reeling as she considered the words that the girl had said. The retelling took the entire wait for the bus, the bus ride itself, and halfway through a cup of coffee at the outdoor cafe. Taking a sip from her coffee, she glanced up to see Vicky’s nervous expression, and she shook her head before speaking casually.

“Well, that’s all kinds of fucked up. I can see why you might not want to go home.” The girl nodded faintly and rested her elbows on the table, leaning up to slurp awkwardly at her drink in the most inefficient way possible. Sabah found herself chuckling at the image. When Victoria looked at her in challenge Sabah smirked and spoke.

“I just imagined you in your uniform with that Tiara doing that with the coffee.” She smirked, ignoring the rude gesture that Victoria shot her. “I must admit, that I was always curious about the Tiara. It’s uh. A unique design choice.” She snickered as Victoria dropped her head to the table and groaned covering her head.

“I was fourteen when I designed that outfit. I was basically a super-powered princess.” She grumbled faintly before sitting up so she could drink her hot chocolate. “What about you, Miss expert seamstress. What would you make as a uniform for me?” She huffed, and Sabah paused to consider for a few moments.

“With your hair colour and skin tone, I’d have probably gone with Red and Blue; they’d bring out your eyes better. And no skirt or cape, a fitted body-suit that’s mostly blue with red gauntlets, boots and red accents on the suit. Perhaps with gold highlights, and a gold crest.” She hummed faintly as she quickly sketched out a design on a napkin, and flipped it over to show Victoria. The blonde stared at it and groaned as she flopped down again. She lay there face down on the table for a few moments as Sabah sipped her coffee, only perking up when her phone dinged.

She quickly drew it out and checked it. Sabah watched her read the message, watching her frown before tucking the phone away. When the girl caught her curious look, she shifted back and shift carefully on her seat.

“Was just my mom. Anyway. What’d you make the costume out of? Leather? Or something lighter?” Sabah watched the girl for a moment before quietly leaning in and speaking lazily. “Leather is stronger than cloth, but it restricts movement. I’d probably do the gloves and boots in leather or something more durable, keep the rest flexible. Perhaps with a ballistic weave of some sort for defence…”


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She’d briefly entertained the thought of bringing Victoria back to the shop to continue discussing costume options, the girl had seemed almost terrified about going home, but she didn’t entirely trust the girl like that yet. She’d kept her company for a couple of hours though, before watching the girl fly off toward the south.

When she’d made it to her shop, Sabah checked the log of commissions that she should have been working on but found herself drawn to the curtained-off section of the shop that she’d dedicated to housing her more impressive creations. Already a pair of Lions and a Pegasus stood in the space, entirely inert for the moment.

The pride and joy though was the creature that she’d stitched together from a description of the most terrifying creature that Taylor could describe to her. She’d asked the girl to invent something suitably dangerous. The animal she had dreamed up had been suitably impressive to Sabah, and this would be Sabah’s most massive defender for now.

Over Six feet tall, his plush nature robbed him of some of the intimidation factors, but his massive barrel-chest, powerful arms tipped in three fingers each with a claw, and the large spikes that arched back from its head and spine made it impressive looking. Tiny Eyes and a giant stitched on mouth covered in sharp teeth. Its cheeks held equally plush tusks that gave the creature the appearance of a delightfully wicked smile. Sabah reached out, setting a hand over its chest and reaching out with her power, filling ‘Terentatek’ with her ability, bringing the guardian to life.

Chapter Text

May 7th, 2011
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Melanie glanced up from her computer to take in Amy, studying how the girl sat and fidgetted silently, looking anywhere but toward her. They’d made a ritual of this in their first few sessions. Amy would arrive with Nick, and then she’d sit quietly until she was ready to talk. Up to now, Mel hadn’t had to broach the conversation with the young girl. But she’d already finished her paperwork and had gone through a whole game of Solitaire while waiting for the girl to speak, and Amy remained stubbornly silent. Shifting her position to rest her elbows on the table, Mel glanced at Amy, waiting till the girl’s eyes nervously flicked in her direction.

“So. Amy.” She spoke gently, watching the tension building up on the girl’s form. “You seem a bit more uncomfortable than usual. Perhaps we can discuss it?” She watched as Amy’s tense form as the girl curled into herself. Mel let out a soft breath, waiting till Amy peered out to continue. “You know that your Mother has told me about what happened with Victoria. If you don’t wish to discuss it, then we won’t, but something is bothering you.” The woman’s voice was patient, and she watched as Amy fidgeted before sighing and shifting closer. Amy sat in silence for nearly a minute, and Mel worried that she’d have to prompt the girl again, but she started to speak slowly.

“I attacked her. I said such hurtful things.” She spoke so softly that Mel barely heard it, and she leaned closer, listening as the words grew in speed and volume. “She came to save me from that explosion, and I was so angry. I charged down there and just started…” Amy trailed off, and Mel took a moment to consider the girl’s words.

“Why do you think you were angry?” Her voice was gentle, and she blinked when Amy looked at her with confusion. “Why do you think were you angry with her? What had she done to upset you?” Amy quietly rubbed her arm.

“I-” She trailed off and frowned at the ground. “I don’t know. I saw her floating there, and everything rushed back. She’d been pushing me about going to speak with her in person. She’d asked me if I was going to go to the training, and I hadn’t responded, and then suddenly she was in front of me.” Her voice was hesitant, and Mel hummed faintly in thought, watching as Amy mulled over her feelings carefully. “I felt guilty all day about avoiding her, but the first chance she had-” Rather than letting Amy dip off on a Tangent, Mel gently cut in.

“So it sounds like you were feeling resentment rather than outright anger.” She spoke and watched as Amy glanced at her quietly. “Resentment is usually characterized as a mixture of anger, disappointment, and fear.” She shifted up, moving to stand. When she had her feet under her, she gestured for Amy to follow and she took a seat on one of the couches, indicating that Amy should sit opposite. Getting comfortable she studied the girl.

“Let’s explore this line of thought for a moment. You’ve explained the anger. You were angry that Victoria had come to you even though you’d said you weren’t ready. Her intentions were secondary, you didn’t want her there, and she was. What about the other two emotions?” The woman’s voice was subtle, and she watched as Amy carefully mulled it over, gently picking apart her thoughts. She knew where this would go, but Amy needed to reach that point herself.

“I think. I was afraid of her, and I was disappointed in myself. I felt... guilty. I had been avoiding her; I’d been doing my best keep her away without having to outright tell her that I was afraid to be in the same room with her.” At this point, instead of interjecting, Mel merely indicated that Amy should continue, quietly watching the girl’s reactions. “She terrifies me.” She spoke slowly and curled her hands into fists. “Part of me is utterly terrified that I’ll look at her, and she’s flash me that familiar smile, and everything I’ve built will dissolve, and I’ll be in love with her again,” Amy muttered slowly, staring down at her linked hands. “Part of me wonders if that’d even be such a bad thing. I saw her, and all of that started roaring in the back of my mind, and I-” Amy paused and swallowed, her eyes focusing on the middle distance as she remembered.

“So you were afraid when you saw her. Why did you go down there? Why didn’t you let your Aunt tell her to leave?” Mel’s voice was laced with curiousity, and she studied the brunette as she thought.

“It was easier to be mad I think. To be scared and angry. I just stared at her, and I knew that this would be my life. She kept pushing and pushing, and I just wanted her to leave. I stormed down there to tell her to leave, and then I saw her, and I braced for that feeling, and instead of love or happiness I just felt bitter anger and rage washing through me.” Amy muttered with horror and Mel adjusted her glasses, coughing.

“Yes, well. On that subject, we’ve got some good news and some bad news. The results of your MRI and your PET scans came in. It’s difficult to tell with the resolutions we’ve had to work with, but near as we can tell while you were able to access your brain, you rewired several things. Taylor said that while she rebuilt much of you, she didn’t mess with your brain. You hadn’t developed growths there, and she merely rewrote the DNA markers to stop you messing with things. Our best guess is that you altered your perception of your sister’s aura to cause it to have the reverse effect that it should.” At Amy’s confused look Mel sighed.

“Basically, your brain inverses the feelings it’s supposed to get from Victoria’s aura. She had it ramped it up because she was in battle, apparently, and it caused a surge of suspicion. and condescension, the opposite feelings to awe and trust.” Mel watched as Amy let out a weary sigh and seemed to melt into the couch. “I doubt you’re in any risk of falling in love with her again with that constantly affecting you, though I shudder to think what it might do to your familial relationship,” Mel spoke softly.

“I’ve spoken with your mother about getting your sister help with her powers. There are several different psychologists with experience in dealing with parahumans, though considering the issue is with the expression of her powers, it might be a challenge. Until she learns to control it, you’ll probably find yourself forced to moderate your reactions to her.” Mel spoke gently, watching as Amy nodded at her. “You should probably let her know ahead of time what’s going on.” She blinked at the girl’s expression as it fell. “Is something wrong?”

“She’s not been answering my texts. She’s not really been answering anyone’s texts.” She muttered as she shifted a bit in place. “Mom let slip that she’s not been home in a few days either.” Mel watched as Amy shifted into herself and stared bitterly at her feet. Mel studied the girl quietly before speaking gently.

“Why does that bother you?” She spoke curiously, studying the way that Amy’s entire form tensed up. It took the girl a few moments before she responded.

“I’m pretty sure that she’s been staying with Taylor.” Her voice was clipped, and Mel tilted her head, her expression kept carefully neutral.

“Your healer friend with the... strong bedside manner? The one with the fascination with Parahuman Psychology? She’s sent me a few fascinating texts since you gave her my number. And you think that Victoria’s been staying with her? Why’s that?” She blinked when Amy produced a smartphone, flicked through it for a few moments and handed it over. She curiously checked the first image, chuckling at the girl on the screen. What a fascinating outfit Taylor was wearing. She flipped through the pictures and tilted her head. Studying the girl’s body language, Mel hummed as she considered the images quietly. Honestly, she agreed with Amy on her sister's likely location from these. She carefully turned off the phone setting it on the table.

“It seems like she and Victoria are becoming fast friends. Why does that bother you?” She studied Amy, watching the girl’s incredulous look. A part of her wanted to laugh at that look, the way it implied that it was obvious and why it was tragic was also completely obvious, but as Amy’s therapist that wouldn’t be appropriate, so instead she stared back until the girl finally responded.

“Taylor is my… friend and it was nice having something that was just mine, separate from Victoria.” Mel chewed her lip as she considered Amy. Deciding to play along with Amy’s assertion instead of confronting her she rested her hand on her knee and studied the girl.

“And you’re worried that Victoria might grow to dominate this relationship like every other friendship you’ve had?” She hazarded a guess and chuckled at Amy’s shocked look. “Has Taylor been texting you any less?” When Amy didn’t shake her head, Mel shifted forward. “Part of this friendship is on you, Amy. If you keep it up and Taylor’s invested in you as a friend, then I doubt that Victoria can come between you. As for Victoria staying with her, from what you’ve said, Taylor is immune to her aura yes?” When Amy nodded, Mel shrugged. “It must be a nice place to hide out after hearing what that aura had been doing to her whole family hrm?”

“I never thought about it like that.” Amy’s comment was accompanied by a guilty look that had Mel shaking her head. Teenage drama. She watched as Amy mulled the words over quietly.

“Your time is nearly up, and your dinner awaits. So I’ll give you your assignment, and we can see where my wayward husband has gotten off to so that he could see you home.” Mel moved over and collected a few scraps of paper off her desk, handing them over. “Nothing too difficult this time. I want you to draw me two images of memories that made you happy before your powers Manifested. We can discuss them in our next session.” She hummed as she glanced at Amy, considering a moment.

“If you’ll accept a bit of advice about your situation with Taylor and Victoria, I will say that if you’re this concerned about them spending so much time together, perhaps you should make your own efforts to spend time with her as well.” She smirked at the embarrassment-filled look that Amy gave her before she headed off to find Nick, leaving Amy to recover on her own in her wake.

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Curled up in her favourite nook in the sitting room, Amy considered her writing pad. Dinner had been an awkward affair. The family didn’t blame her for what happened, powers interacting poorly was a fact of life, but the kind of damage that she'd done was a bit above and beyond the time that Eric and Crystal had tried to combine their shields and had blown out every window on the second floor of their house. Fixing their relationship with Victoria would take a lot more time then replacing all those windows.

It was an odd feeling being part of the awkward feeling instead of having it happen around her or because of her, but she was sort of in the middle of this mess with everyone. She might have been the one to discover what Victoria’s aura was doing but everyone else had agreed to keep the secret, and it had grown into a huge mess. As her thoughts drifted, Amy glanced up to find herself quietly sketching another drawing of Victoria’s face, pausing as she’d been etching that betrayed expression into those eyes. She sighed faintly as she continued the image, fleshing out the memory. This wouldn’t do for the assignment, but the drawing soothed her.

Before she’d even really considered it, she’d begun to gently draw in an image of Taylor standing at Victoria’s side, reaching out to stop her inevitable flight. As she pencilled in that concerned look on the girl’s face, Amy found herself frowning and wondering who it’d been intended for, her or Victoria. Studying the girl’s face, Amy found herself frowning and contemplating her new friend. Things had grown so confusing around the mess that was her relationship with Victoria, and Taylor had been something simple and pleasant that was separate to all of it. Now that she was getting more and more drawn into everything in Amy’s life that was complicated made Amy nervous.

With a sigh, she set the mostly finished drawing down before scooping up her phone. Standing, she made her way to the couch as she quickly pulled up the internet. Logging into PHO she searched for Taylor or any accounts linked to her cape identity, and nothing popped out. Moving through Facebook and Myspace didn’t turn up any accounts either. Other things came up, and Amy settled on the couch as she began to read, her eyebrows furrowing as she considered the words on the pages.

Chapter Text

[[Music will occasionally come up in this fic, and so as to avoid actually dealing with timelines and stuff in terms of when shit was released, I've decided to imply that when I wrote this chapter the parts where Taylor and Vicky are musicing they're listening to stuff like; thisthis, and this (This last one is flat out what I was imagining Taylor and Victoria listening to as they sat on the bench in this first part.) But they're not actually listening to that directly cause it doesn't exist. Merely...similar stuff. ;) ]]

May 8th, 2011
Brockton University, Brockton Bay

Glancing up at the clock, Taylor considered the amount of time she had left and then turned her attention back to the surface of the desk she sat behind. Opening the answer booklet once more she drew the test close and moved to recheck all of her answers. The test itself hadn’t been terribly difficult, she’d known most of the solutions at a glance, and Jolee had known the few that she’d gotten wrong. Bastila had disapproved of the cheating, claiming that the placement tests were to test Taylor’s aptitude, and that using the Noetikon to cheat merely cheapened her learning experience. Jolee had casually rebuffed Bastila by claiming that using the Noetikon wasn’t exactly against the rules.

As she quickly dragged her finger down the answer booklet, she quickly read each question, double checking each answer and ensuring that all the scantron bubbles were entirely filled in. Only when she was sure that she’d done well would she close the booklet and glance toward the front. The room itself was nearly fully occupied, almost three dozen teenagers her age or older had been crammed into the room to take these tests in hopes of advancing into college classes to get a head start on their careers.

When she glanced toward the Proctor, the woman caught her eye, and she waved her down. Taylor grasped her booklets and her bag, descending toward the woman. The lady smiled at her and then glanced at the pamphlet.

“All done then? You can leave it here and head on out if you’re finished. We’ve got nearly an hour left, and you’ll probably be bored lurking around.” Taylor deposited the books on the table and nodded, pausing when the woman coughed. “We’ll do the scoring shortly, and you’ll receive the email about your scores within the next two to three weeks.”

Nodding at the woman before turning and slipping to the door. Careful not to make any noise, Taylor exited the room and took a moment to get her bearings. She headed toward the building’s exit, opening the door and striding out into windy spring morning. Taylor stood still for a moment, taking in the sunlight on her face and the pleasantly cool wind as it tousled her hair. When she opened her eyes, the sight of someone waving drew her attention. Blinking, Taylor took in the view of a familiar blonde head of hair being tossed around in the wind.

Confusion wafted through Taylor as she descended the steps. She watched the blonde hair dancing wildly around Victoria’s face. As she approached, she took in the girl’s form, inspecting the simple, comfortable outfit that Victoria wore. A hoodie wrapped around her shoulders, with the hood down, ear-buds peeking out of the neck. Beneath the loose sweater, aged jeans peeked out and ended atop simple sneakers. She blended in like this, merely another lazy college kid lounging around the quad. Everyone that walked passed ignored her and Taylor watched the fascinated look on Victoria’s face as she watched them all.

“So,” Taylor spoke when she got close, flashing smile down at Victoria as she took in the girl’s friendly grin. ”I was convinced that they’d send Crystal to get me again.” She considered the abashed look on Victoria’s face and offered up snort. “Volunteered did you?” Taking a seat on the bench, Taylor peered over at Victoria. “Still avoiding going home?” The playful tone faded out of Taylor’s voice, and she watched the other girl’s face in profile. Victoria didn’t respond, merely glanced off to the side quietly.

Rather than push, Taylor pulled up her sleeve and considered her dated watch. They had time. She shuffled closer and held out a hand. Victoria moved with practiced ease to pluck the bud from her ear, handing it to Taylor who popped it into her own ear. She leaned against Victoria and quietly hummed along with the tune, watching people wander past with Victoria. The words were surprising, but to be honest, they weren't all that surprising either. Taylor merely enjoyed the tune as she wasted time with her friend.

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They’d sat on the bench for nearly an hour, and then Taylor had dragged the girl to the bus, and they’d done much the same on the three connected bus routes it took to get from the University back to the Dallon’s neighbourhood. The music had only ended when they’d dismounted the bus at the base of the hill upon which the Dallon home sat.

Taylor watched as Victoria wrapped the headphones around her mp3 player and carefully tucked it away into the front pocket of her hoodie. Taylor’s hands found their way to her pants pockets, and she carefully watched the girl staring with trepidation up the hill. Taylor studied the blonde quietly before leaning over and nudging her. When Victoria glanced at her Taylor flashed a smile and held out her hand, snorting when Victoria took it. She shot a grin to the blonde before heading off up the hill, dragging the blonde along.

The hike wasn’t hard, the gentle slope of the hill made it seem like there wasn’t an incline at all and before long they’d be marching up the long gravel strewn drive-way, Taylor still humming one of the catchier songs that Victoria had been listening to. When they cleared the tree-line and started walking across the lawn, Taylor saw Eric leaning against a pillar staring skyward. She glanced at Victoria who looked back, and they both began to move as stealthily as the could, getting up close to to the porch and both turning to stare up at the sky.

“So. What’re we waiting for?” Taylor’s voice was lazy, and she offered up a grin when Eric -barely- managed to restrain a girlish scream, merely letting out a high pitched yelp, turning to stare at them. Taylor blinked at the man’s strange look. She initially wondered if the idea of Victoria walking anywhere was that unbelievable before she realized why he’d been staring as she felt Victoria’s hand tightening in her own. She glanced at Eric lofting an eyebrow before she moved toward the stairs, once again having to drag Victoria toward the house physically.

Eric let them past, and Taylor frowned when he moved to follow closely in their wake. Taylor walked into the house, walking through entrance-hall and heading toward the voices she heard. As Taylor slipped into the small sitting room, she found every eye on her, and by extension, quite literally, Victoria. She blinked when Victoria shifted closer to her side. Not actually hiding, but merely standing closer.

All of New Wave was present, and her father stood to one side. He’d evidently been speaking with Carol, though even he was glancing in her direction with a furrowed brow. Taylor briefly considered disentangling herself from Victoria, but the death-grip that the girl had on her hand hinted that her hand was probably the only thing that kept Victoria from fleeing. Taylor stood near the door with Victoria, watching as the rest of the room stared at them. When all the eyes shifted to one side, Taylor glanced over to see Amy standing there.

Almost like the spectators at a tennis match, the gazes swept from sister to sister, most of the group looking confused when nothing happened. Even Amy looked mildly shocked as she stared at them. Victoria took a breath and let out a sigh, moving to finally release Taylor before walking over to sit with Crystal. Eric followed them a moment later, and Taylor made her way over to her dad and Carol, smiling sheepishly at the pair.

“You took your sweet time; we almost started without you.” Taylor huffed at her dad’s teasing and rolled her eyes.

“We ended up riding the bus up; Victoria didn’t feel up to flying. Dad, I didn’t see your car outside, who carried you here, hrm?” She glanced at her father, smirking as he blushed. When he didn't answer, she glanced over at Carol, grinning at the woman’s amused expression.

“Crystal brought him, and it was rather entertaining seeing them land. Sarah’s been waiting for you though; you should probably go hunt her down. She’s got some things to talk with you about, and I think your uniform is here.” Carol nodded toward the kitchen and Taylor glanced through the door, looking at Carol for a moment before turning and slipping off.

As she crossed the rooms she felt eyes on her, and Taylor looked over, catching Amy’s focused expression. Pausing her trip, she tried flashing the girl a smile, that Amy didn’t entirely return. Rather than poke that bear right now, Taylor disappeared into the kitchen and found herself facing Lady Photon in full gear. She curiously inspected the woman, as she puttered around, fiddling with snacks.

“Lady Photon?” Taylor’s voice was soft and curious, and she’d do what she could to hold back a smirk when the poor woman jumped at the sudden sound. The woman turned on her and Taylor cracked a smile at the exasperated look she earned from Sarah.

“We really need to put a bell on you.” Taylor rolled her eyes, and Sarah shook her head before moving to stand taller. “So. Taylor, your father and I have agreed to a contract, and he’s already signed it, as have I. So that leaves your signature, and it’s official." Taylor blinked and moved over, staring at the two documents on the table. "There are two different contracts that you’ll need to sign. One is a private copy with your civilian name, and the second will be signed in your cape name, and that’ll be a matter of public record.” Taylor nodded and stepped over, carefully inspecting the contracts, skimming over the legalese. The private contract had her father’s signature, and the public one merely had an ‘X’ in the slot for ‘Guardian.’

Taylor studied it for a moment before penning her name onto one and then inscribing her chosen hero name on the other. When she handed them over, She frowned when Lady Photon read the second one. Taylor blinked at the confused expression on the woman’s face. “...What?”

“Your name, I hadn’t realized that you had changed it.” The woman hummed faintly, considering something before shrugging and setting the contracts aside. “It’s unimportant, and the name certainly suits you. We’ve stashed your uniform up in Victoria’s room. We took your crest design and your preferences for colour and ran with them. I hope you enjoy the uniform.” Taylor blinked and nodded. She slipped out of the kitchen, leaving the other woman to continue her efforts at the stove.

Taylor paused at the doorway when everyone looked at her. Shuffling nervously in place, she coughed. “I think it’s mostly official?” She offered faintly. “I’ve got a uniform to try on.” She blinked as the others all slipped to their feet. Glancing at them curiously, Taylor moved over and looked up at Victoria.

“We’ll be doing pictures for the press release, so we should all change. It’ll be a colourful barbecue.” Taylor chuckled at the wry comment, moving to trail after the other girl toward the stairs.

"They said my kit was stashed in your room,” Taylor commented before it got odd about her trailing the other girl, and Victoria merely nodded before continuing up the steps. Taylor paused at the door and leaned against the wall when Victoria went in first. She hummed in thought as she studied the wall, glancing down the hall to see Crystal emerge from Amy’s room in her uniform, Amy following a minute later in a robe. After a few minutes Neil, Mark and Eric passed her as well heading downstairs.

When the door opened, Taylor blinked, staring in shock at Victoria, tilting her head quietly. She stepped back and took in the girl’s appearance quietly.

“It’s uh. Definitely you.” She commented quietly, her eyes drifting over the modified uniform. The Crest on the chest was unique, but the colour scheme matched well. She carefully paced around the girl, reaching out and tugging on the sash with an amused grin. “So where did this come from? Sabah mentioned a coffee date, but I didn’t think she’d make you a uniform.”

“I didn’t think so either, but when I was at my class today, someone swung past and said that she had made this for me. There was a note in it that said that people that fly, really shouldn’t wear skirts.” Listening to Victoria, Taylor moved past the girl, opening the box on the bed, and staring at the armour, reaching out and tracing the material. It felt like leather, but it wasn’t quite right. Taylor glanced over, watching as Victoria stared at herself in the mirror. “Do you think I should go down in it? I uh. I’m unsure how well it’ll go over.” Taylor tore her eyes from her uniform, moving over and standing next to Victoria, staring at the figure in the mirror.

“The question is if you do?” She inspected the uniform quietly. It was close to the New Wave base while still being unique, but it seemed more mature more professional than her old outfit. “Would you rather wear this from now on? And why?” She studied Victoria quietly for a few moments watching the indecision war on her face.

“I… I want to be better.” She spoke quietly. “I don’t want to feel like a kid playing at being a superhero anymore.” She gestured to the other outfit hanging by the mirror. “That was the outfit of a kid playing cops and robbers. I never really thought about what I was doing. Do you know that it occurred to me that if I’d landed on the ground during that fight with Tattletale, that she wouldn’t have been fast enough to dodge me? But I kept flying around like an idiot.” She carefully adjusted her sash and the medallion affixed to it quietly, tracing the new crest. “I’m...I’m gonna wear it.” She nodded faintly before glancing back at Taylor. Taylor smirked and raised an eyebrow, and after a moment Victoria caught on and quickly scarpered.

Taylor followed to the door, locking it before heading to the kit. As she stood before it, she moved to undo her vest, loosening and removing her tie. It didn’t take long for her to slip on the white and brown bodysuit, the gloves and boots slipping on easily afterward. She ran a hand through her hair before approaching the mirror and staring at herself in the reflective surface. One hand moved over the crest on her chest, tracing the spread wings and the sword, humming in thought. As she considered the image she felt the warmth of approval washing down her link from Bastila and Jolee. Apparently, they approved of the design.

Once she was sure that her hair was cooperating, she gathered up her scattered clothes, folding them and tucking them into the box, before heading over and opening the door. She stood there, offering a nervous smile to Victoria. When the other girl flashed her a thumbs up, Taylor felt her smile growing more genuine.

“Alright. Let’s go knock their socks off?” Taylor smirked as she slipped past Victoria and descended the stairs.

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Victoria had drifted off as she headed through the house, ducking out of sight before her Aunt could catch sight of her. Taylor was left to Lady Photon’s mercies, and she found herself chuckling as the woman checked the fit out of the outfit, and made sure everything was correctly secured, living up to her title as Photon Mom. She endured the fussing and then she glanced at the woman when she nodded.

“Alright. Good to go. Ready for this?” She nodded easily, and Sarah grinned, moving to lead the way out the door. Taylor quickly fell in step behind the older cape, following her out onto the patio at the rear of the house. The rest of New wave, with the obvious exception of Victoria, was scattered across the backyard, her father tucked into a bench with Neil and Mark a short distance away, Amy, Crystal and Eric standing near to Carol who was glancing around. Sarah merely stepped up to the platform and spoke playfully. “New Wave, can I get your attention, please? It’s my great honour to introduce our newest member, Vigil.”

Taylor found herself blushing as the gather capes clapped eagerly, and her father let out a wolf whistle. Rolling her eyes she glanced around, watching as Sarah hopped down and headed toward the other adults. Taylor stared at the gathered capes, feeling their eyes on her and briefly, she considered attempting to say something inspiring. The thought lasted a moment, and after snorting to herself at it, she instead chose to clear her throat and speak casually.

“Thank you all for having me. Though, as I’ve got the stage and there’s no one here to stop me, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce an old face with a new look. And Glory Girl? Allow me to be the first to say that I find the new look quite eye-catching.” Taylor stepped to the side, and glanced back, watching as Victoria in her new fitted outfit stepped out the door and walked up to the railing of the patio, her sash whipping in the spring wind. Taylor watched Victoria glance around before smiling nervously.

When most of New Wave stood there gob-smacked, Taylor felt like wincing, but it was her father, bless his soul, that let out an equally enthusiastic wolf whistle that cracked up the two men on either side of him. The ice now broken, both men quickly chimed in their own approval. Taylor flashed her dad a thankful grin and then stepped back as Eric and Crystal descended on Victoria, eagerly discussing the new and improved outfit. Taylor hopped over the railing rather than try and squeeze past, heading toward the lit barbecue that Sarah and Carol were looming near with the uncooked food.

Taylor was surprised when Carol glanced at her and spoke. “Was that your idea?” She asked quickly, and Taylor shook her head.

“No, I was just as surprised. I introduced Victoria to her tailor, but I had no idea they’d do anything like that. the I think she just wanted a change. It suits her though.” She glanced over, smiling when both of the older women nodded and glanced over as well.

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It seemed like half of New Wave liked to cook, and they all rotated through, Taylor and her father even had a chance to do some grilling. As the sun set a bonfire was lit, and the group had spread out around it, small knots of people forming and spreading out. Taylor had somehow ended up sitting with Mark and her dad as they discussed art, and she’d been arguing with them about the artistic merits of Gustave Courbet’s Le Sommeil when she idly wondered why Amy wasn’t around backing her up.

Taylor let her gaze drift around the groups. Carol and Sarah were curled up in loungers by the fire, chatting faintly to each other. Neil, Victoria, Eric and Crystal were all clustered up around a log as they toyed with the guitar that Victoria had earned. To Taylor’s ears, it sounded like Victoria was painstakingly plucking out the chords to twinkle twinkle little star, but it could be any beginner song really. Finding no sign of Amy, Taylor slipped to her feet and excused herself, leaving her dad and Mark to discuss Monet in peace. She headed toward the house, collecting a few empty soda and water bottles on the way.

She ducked into the kitchen, disposing of the trash before carefully picking around the place, seeking out Amy. She found the girl curled up on a bay window in the den, staring out towards the fire with a sketchpad in her lap. Moving as quietly as she could she peered over the girl’s shoulder to see an image on the pad of Neil holding a guitar as Eric, Victoria, and Crystal stared on in awe. Only when she was this close did she notice that Amy had dozed off.

Briefly, she considered letting the girl sleep but instead, she reached out and nudged the brunette. When Amy started and glanced up before relaxing, Taylor cracked a smile. As Amy rubbed at her eyes, Taylor spoke softly.

“Mousy, half the fun in a party, is talking to people. Watcha doing lurking out here by yourself?” She took a seat on the edge of the bay window, studying the other girl. She watched as Amy stared back at her, feeling the girl’s eyes raking through her before Amy cut in with a question, not responding to Taylor’s at all.

“What’s going on with you and my sister.” Taylor blinked at the question and frowned softly, tilting her head to the side.

“You and Victoria are far more alike then either of you would care to admit,” Taylor responded with a tired sigh, shifting back.

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“You and Victoria are far more alike then either of you would care to admit, ” The words startled her, and Amy found herself frowning at Taylor. She opened her mouth to ask just what that meant, but Taylor speaking cut her off. “I’ll tell you what I told her. Victoria’s my friend. What makes you think that I’d done anything to her at all?”

“She’s…” Amy trailed off frowning. “She’s ignoring my calls, and not returning my text messages.” She spoke softly, and when Taylor smirked at her, Amy rolled her eyes. “Which is exactly what she said when she asked you about this before Lung’s big fight." Amy rubbed at her face quietly.

“I’ll tell you what I told her, Mousy. She’s upset. She found out something horrible about herself, and she needs time to deal with it. More than that, she needs space to heal. Give her those things, and she’ll come back to you. You’re really important to her, just like she’s important to you.” Taylor stared at Amy quietly. “And I know that’s it hard. Few things worth doing are easy though, you know?” When Taylor stared at her, Amy felt herself nodding carefully. Taylor shifted back and crossed her legs.

“As for Victoria and me. We’re friends. It was somewhat rocky at first, but I enjoy her company. When she’s not playing up that image of ‘Teen Hero Extraordinaire, she’s kinda fun. As for what I’ve been doing with her, I’ve been listening to her vent mostly. I was the only person there that hadn’t been keeping a secret from her. And she needed someone to vent to. So, dad and I gave her a safe place to process and recover. She seems a lot calmer now, so perhaps it did her some good.” Amy caught Taylor glancing out the window, and she followed her gaze. She watched Taylor’s father moving over to join Vicky, Neil and her cousins. Amy felt herself smiling as he took the instrument and crouched down near Vicky, showing her something with it. She was tempted to ask about that, but something else poked at her mind.

“There’s something else,” Amy spoke softly, glancing at Taylor. When the girl glanced over Amy shifted nervously and spoke softly. “I got curious about you and ended up looking you up on Facebook, myspace and so on.” She spoke and watched as Taylor’s expression turned guarded, frowning quietly.

“You probably didn’t find me. I don’t really do social internet. I’ve had… bad experiences in the past.” Taylor’s voice was quiet as she turned her eyes back toward the window.

“Yeah. I uh. I didn’t find anything by you, but I did find a facebook group.” Her voice was tentative, and she watched Taylor’s shoulders bunch up. “Is it…” She asked quietly, and she saw Taylor’s expression close down becoming stony as she stared at the fire.

“I had hoped they’d grown bored and allowed that to die finally.” Taylor’s tone was filled with resigned disappointment, and she shifted in place quietly. “You’ve known me for a bit now Amy. I think you could decide for yourself how much you believe what they said about me. Especially considering what we know about each other.” Taylor glanced over at Amy her expression guarded, her voice tense. Amy studied her quietly and considered the girl for a moment before sighing.

“It was confusing is all. I had wondered if you turned over a new leaf when you triggered but considering everything. I’m not sure I could see you doing the things that they claimed you did.” Amy spoke softly and watched Taylor’s shoulders uncoiling a look of shock and worry on Taylor’s face. “No one’s ever believed you before… have they?” Taylor glanced at her for a moment before turning and staring at the fire.

“I think they enjoyed that part the best, Emma and the rest. They’d keep the rumours down when new people came to the school. They’d wait until they met me, got to know me, even started to enjoy talking to me. They’d let me gain a little hope that I might have a friend, finally. and then the links would find their way to the new friends and it would be the same thing over again.” Taylor’s voice was worn out and tired, and Amy watched her quietly as she stared at the fire. “Part of me wishes that I’d kept playing that game. Falling for the trick because when I gave up on people and stopped trying to make friends. That’s when they escalated things.” Taylor’s voice was sotto and Amy, reached out, gently grasping the girl’s arm.

When Taylor glanced over and flashed her a thankful smile, Amy felt her heart racing. She shifted in place, moving to part her lips even though she was unsure what she’d say. Before she could work up the courage to do anything, the door at the back of the study banged open to reveal Eric. Her blue-haired cousin had a massive smile on his face.

“C’mon you nerds. We’re doing marshmallows.” Saying his part, he spun and stormed off, and Taylor would shift, her expression smoothing out and that friendly smile creasing her face once more.

“Come along, Mousy. Let’s go have some disgustingly sweet charred snacks with our loving families.” She hopped to her feet, offering Amy her hand. Amy grabbed it and allowed herself to be dragged to her feet, leaving her pad behind and following Taylor out into the dark night.

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Amy sat on the large wooden log, sleepily eyeing the fire. She had ended up sandwiched between her father and Neil, and she was currently using the gorilla-sized man as a makeshift pillow as she half dozed. She could hear Neil and her father talking about something, but the words were washed out, the low rumble of Neil’s words reverberating through his body making everything delightfully hazy as she hovered on the boundary between Morpheus and the waking world.

As she dozed pleasantly, Amy’s eyes drifted over her family, at some point they’d all changed out of their costumes, and everyone was dressed casually as they spread out around the fire. Amy found herself watching Sarah sitting with Eric and Crystal on a log, the trio poking at the waning flames while chatting softly. After watching them for a moment, her eyes drifted over to Danny and her mother sitting on the lounge chairs that her Aunt and Mother had been using earlier in the evening, the pair no doubt chatting in quiet tones about their wayward children. Thoughts of Taylor and Victoria had Amy glancing around, and she found the pair tucked in the shade of a large tree, talking softly to each other, dozens of fireflies flickering in the air above them.

Amy watched as the flickering firelight washed over both, taking in the earnest expression on her sister's face as she articulated something while waving her hands, the guitar strewn haphazardly over her lap. As her eyes gazed over to the amused expression on Taylor’s face the formal clothing she wore ruffled and loosened from a long day spent fussing at it, Amy wished that she had her pad in front of her and the motivation to draw. Part of her wanted to be jealous at the natural bond between the two, but at the moment she was just happy that Victoria had lost some of that pressing weight that had dragged her down for so long.

For once in her life, her sister didn’t look like she was continually searching for the first opportunity she could find to lift off and fly as fast and as far as she could. The natural, comfortable smile on her face lulled Amy into a restful sleep as she curled more fully into her uncle’s warm frame, letting the rumbles drifting through it soothe her like a lullaby.

[[So, That's a thing. Victoria ended up using the new costume since you folks super loved it, credit to nofacej for the recolor. I've created an art imgur to keep it all together, though currently, all it has are the recolors by him and... The wip from the character art I commissioned, displayed with permission from the person doing it. ETA is a bit off, but the preliminary sketches look neat~ Links for that is; here. ]]

Chapter Text

May 10th, 2011
Docks, Brockton Bay

Staring out the window of the PRT issue jeep, Taylor found herself tugging at the collar of her uniform. The fit was just as perfect as when she’d gotten it, but part of her felt nervous being seen out and about in the white and brown uniform. The lack of glasses on her face and her hair drawn back made Taylor nervous. The intention, Sarah had informed her, was to make her look more confident and focused, but the changes merely left her feeling more exposed. Watching the buildings slipping past as the PRT Trooper to her left drove them through a ruined section of the docks, Taylor turned to watch the Boardwalk taking shape beyond them.

From what Taylor could see, the Boardwalk was already in the grip of festival-like air. The ‘Re-opening’ was a joint PR stunt by the Brockton Bay Chamber of Commerce and the PRT. There would be a Press conference that would announce the new working relationship of the PRT and New Wave, during which Sarah had confided that they’d be announcing her place on the team, and then the Wards, along with the younger part of New Wave, would spend the evening Patrolling the Boardwalk and the docks while the Protectorate and the older members of New Wave patrolled the rest of the city.

“Do you know what this is about?” Taylor asked, once again wishing that Ralph hadn’t had a day off. He would have explained why it was so important that she come in even earlier than the rest of New Wave. The trooper remained silent, shaking his head and continuing to drive around the worst of the crowd building at the Boardwalk. It didn’t take long before the small commercial complex that the PRT had rented out came into view.

With the damage done to their main HQ, Ralph had informed Taylor that most of the PRT operations that weren’t operating out of the Rig were working out of this building now. The idea being that the proximity of the rig would hopefully keep any further attacks aimed away from the PRT. For the moment it seemed to have worked and Lung was happily waging his war with the other gangs, the ABB's resident dragon’s new game meaning that the other gangs had to play along or else lose face with their supporters. It’d been decades since the battles on Brockton bay’s streets had been handled with such professionalism and it was getting people nervous.

Startled from her thoughts by the car coming to a stop, Taylor unbuckled her seat, exiting the vehicle and following the silent trooper as he headed toward the building. Taylor was stopped just inside the door, and a soldier carefully searched her. When his hand brushed over the collapsed staff that she’d taken to securing against the bottom of her back, she watched his reaction closely, frowning at the concern. The guard took a moment to draw out his phone, consulting something on it before waving her through. He’d made a vague gesture to the arrows painted on the ground, and Taylor caught the gist about following the blue line.

The sound of excited voices drew her attention, and when she rounded a corner and found Crystal, Eric, Amy and Victoria all in costume awaiting her, she let out a relieved smile.

“Didn’t think we’d let you face these wolves alone did you?” The group approached, and Taylor smirked at them before glancing around. It was Eric that spoke and gestured off to one side.

“I asked my escort where to go. The Temporary Wards staging point is this way. They use this place to stage their patrols and debriefs, but apparently, most of the Ward's non-patrol logistics are still back out on the Rig. Safer to keep them out of the way.” Taylor hummed in agreement as she walked with the group. When the doorway swung open to reveal a small lounge that held the Wards in costume, Taylor chuckled at their startled expressions.

After giving the Wards a moment to process, most of New Wave split up, Crystal, Amy and Eric moving off to mingle. Taylor was left standing by Victoria. When Gallant’s armoured figure strode up, Taylor was surprised to see Victoria tensing. She glanced at the boy and frowned when he addressed them.

“Glory Girl, your new costume is fascinating.” The helmet’s glowing visor flashed in time with the words. Taylor rolled her eyes quietly and watched the boy staring at Victoria’s new outfit. That Victoria’s boyfriend Dean was Gallant was one of the worst kept secrets in the cape community. Partly, this was Victoria’s fault, and she’d already slipped several times before Taylor had called her on it during the weekend.

As the pair to her left talked about the costume, Taylor did her best to ignore the barely concealed scoff from the couch that held several of the Wards, and she glanced up when Gallant’s visor focused on her. “I was asked to keep an eye out for you, Taylor. There’s someone that wants to speak with you.” Taylor frowned at the boy, watching as Victoria did the same. Still, she didn’t see a reason not to nod and follow him when he clumped off.

The sable-haired teen following the heavily armoured one out of the lounge and down several different halls and Taylor wondered how the other kid managed to navigate the labyrinthine halls without the help of a map. When he reached a door and opened it, Taylor strode over to stand near him. At the gesture to precede him, Taylor slipped into the room, pausing inside when she saw the long table with several stony-faced figures sitting opposite.

Armsmaster, Miss Militia, and Director Piggot all sat on the opposite side of the table, arms crossed on the table and fingers laced before them. They stared at Taylor cooly, and the girl felt her heartbeat rising as she considered what she might have done to upset the PRT. Gallant closed the door in her wake, moving over and taking a seat on the other side of the table. Taylor floundered near the door for a moment before the Director spoke cooly.

“Reach. Please come and take a seat. We have several matters that need discussion.” A gesture toward the nearby chair accompanied the calm words. Taylor approached the table, speaking carefully.

“It’s Vigil.” Taylor dragged the chair back with a loud screech and then took a seat, glancing up to find the three figures opposite her glancing at each other curiously. It was the director that spoke again; her voice laced with confusion.

“Pardon?” Taylor blinked and shifted in her chair.

“My Cape name. It’s Vigil. Not reach. New Wave will be announcing it this evening.” She watched as Piggot glanced at Armsmaster who nodded before the group collectively peered at Gallant.

“I think that she is being honest. She’s confused and worried, but she’s not hiding anything as far as I can tell. No obvious nervousness or caution in her when she speaks.” Taylor listened, and a wave of ice washed through her as she stared at the armoured figure. Touching on the Force, Taylor shrank her presence in the Force and watched as the kid whipped his head in her direction. With her grasp on the Force firm, she quickly swallowed the wicked smile that wanted to form as she read the shock in his pose.

“Thank you, Gallant, you can return to the others. Tell Aegis that… Vigil will be joining you on Patrol this evening.” Piggot’s voice kept the kid from speaking, and after a moment he slipped to his feet clumping to the door and exiting. Piggot glanced at her, and as if suspecting her suspicion she spoke casually. “Before you get upset, Miss Hebert, perhaps we should explain. Are you aware of the Rogue that’s been operating near your house? Many folks suspected it to be you.” The woman’s voice was careful, precise. Taylor stared at her quietly, nodding after a moment.

“Yes. Lady Photon mentioned them, said that you suspected I was behind it. What’s this all about, Director?” Taylor frowned when, rather than answering, the Director picked up her briefcase off the floor. She cracked it open and rifled within, closing the case and setting a file atop it.

“Last night, the Rogue Cape attacked a couple on a date.” She opened up the file and drew out an image and slid it across the table. Taylor stared at the image, feeling a flash of dread and anger clawing its way through her. “They left this in their wake near the battered and burnt bodies of the boys.” Unable to resist any longer, Taylor reached out and grabbed the image and lifted it up, staring at the words seared into the wall in the picture.

“No sins are beyond my Reach. Degenerates Beware.” Taylor felt her blood run cold as she read the words. Memories flashed behind her eyes, and Taylor felt her throat tightening as she stared at the words burned into the wall. Hands tightened on the image, knuckles whitening as she considered the words. After a moment, she glanced up and stared at Director Piggot, ignoring the nervous shifting back from the older woman.

“The people they attacked. What happened to them?” Her voice was cold, and Taylor glanced at the file. Before anyone could react, a wave of her hand saw the folder spinning across the table to land before her. When Armsmaster surged to his feet, Taylor glanced over dangerously at him. The Director raising a hand saw him shifting back and taking a seat once more. Similarly, the gesture saw the glowing weapon in Miss Militia’s hand vanishing as well. Both of the capes were staring at her strangely.

“The boys were both badly burned and bruised. The doctors are concerned about nerve damage, and they’ve been relegated to the hospital, but their prognosis is good.” As she spoke, Taylor inspected the images of the Victims, releasing her hold on the Force as a familiar cold bitter sensation washed through her stomach. She glared at the images for a moment before quickly flipping past the scant reports. She quickly checked the doctor’s report, frowning when Piggot cut in. “Miss Hebert, I would recommend against trying to heal the boys, it might be seen as a sign of guilt or an attempt to interfere with an ongoing police investigation.”

“These are two kids that were attacked because it’d make me look bad.” Taylor’s voice was soft, and she glanced at the figures opposite her. She watched all three, observing their reactions. Part of her ached to reach out and grasp the Force, but the simmering pit of resentment and bitterness kept her disconnected. “I don’t care how it would look; I’m going to find them and heal them.” Taylor laced her tone with stubborn determination and watched the reactions across the table. Miss Militia nodded in agreement, and Armsmaster remained as outwardly stoic as ever, though the Director observed her as if trying to decipher her. She met the woman’s eyes and eventually, the director sighed, waving a hand in what Taylor took as an invitation to do what she wished.

“Do you have any idea who might be out to make you look bad?” Taylor frowned and glanced down at the file on the desk between them.

“It’s not exactly a short list. I’m sure that you’re familiar with what my school life was like before I triggered. There were several people that would love to do this.” Her voice was cool, and she watched as Miss Militia adjusted her pose quietly. She ignored the trio before continuing. “But my issues weren’t really the greatest kept of secrets. If the ABB or the Empire were setting out to discredit it me, this idea wouldn’t take long to come up with.” Her words were laced with weary regret, and she frowned when the Director nodded.

“Those were our thoughts as well. We’ve been observing your classmates, and keeping an eye on gang activity but with the troubles going on the in the street, direct reconnaissance is harder then you’d think.” The Director leaned down, crossing her arms and studying Taylor. Letting out a sigh, Taylor rubbed her face; she had a feeling that this was going to be a long chat. “Considering how this looks, Taylor, we’ll need to work together to discover who is behind this quickly, or else other people will start making the connection. Neither us or New Wave needs this publicity. If that drops, we’ll need to hit back hard. Team Leader Creighton‘s constant presence at your side is good, but...”

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The conversation had taken the better part of an hour, and Taylor left the meeting feeling drained, nursing a headache. She ended up ducking into a bathroom a short distance from the conference room, leaning against a wall and resting her forehead on the cold glass of a mirror. Taking a moment to breathe and clear her mind, Taylor let the force wash up around her once more, the warmth easily banishing the pain in her head. As her emotions settled, Taylor felt the tension along her front slowly uncoiling, and she stood taller, stepping back from the wall.

She shifted in place, straightening her uniform and releasing and retying her hair. She studied her face in the mirror, taking in the serious look on it. She tried to smile, but it seemed forced, and she released it with a soft sigh. Ducking out of the bathroom she headed back to the lounge, listening to the voices beyond. As she exited into the room, she came up next to Miss Militia.

“-could do that, Glory Girl. I understand that you might not want to work with Gallant, but It’d mean that we’d have to switch up another team.” His voice was soft and laced with a genuine apology. Taylor glanced around taking in the figures in the room, the tension almost palpable. She considered Victoria’s fierce expression, and before her friend could open her mouth and say something stupid, she chimed in.

“I’ll switch.” She spoke plainly, blinking when all the eyes swung toward her. She stood in place, tilting her head. Everyone watched her for a moment, and she wondered if she’d missed something, though another voice eagerly chiming in broke the tension.

“I’m fine to switch as well.” The youngest Ward spoke eagerly and then glanced at Gallant before flashing a smug look toward Victoria. Taylor considered the mocking laugh she’d heard the girl giving off earlier, and shook her head, wondering if the young Ward had a suicide wish. She glanced at Gallant, and her grip on the force allowed her to sense his reluctance. Before anyone else could speak, the woman to Taylor’s left chimed in casually.

“If Glory Girl and Vista wish to swap partners, that’s fine. Vigil you’ll join Glory Girl on the South Patrol. Gallant, you’ll be with Vista toward the center of the Boardwalk.” Truthfully, Taylor was relieved at this turn of events. She’d been placed in the thick of the crowd with the ‘cute’ Ward, and she hadn’t looked forward to all the attention. Actually watching for trouble with Victoria would be more appealing. Glancing over, she caught Victoria’s grateful smile, and she flashed a grin back before listening as Miss Militia quickly began explaining the patrol before they left.

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“Where were you all weekend? Your mom called me Friday night; she sounded pretty worried? And you didn’t answer any of my texts.” The question startled her, and Victoria glanced up from where she’d been curled up on the edge of the couch, listening to Eric and Crystal taking turns taking the piss out of Clockblocker. Current Eric was claiming that the reason Clock’s mask had no face was that he had no personality at all. She stared at Dean quietly as he held his helmet under one arm, staring at her silently.

“I stayed with a friend.” She shifted and got her feet under her, a small part of trilling in delight at the way his form tensed, the flicker of jealousy on his face appealing to her on some level. She briefly considered telling him that it was just Taylor, but instead, she gestured for him to follow her and lead him off to the quiet corner of the room. “Did you know about Amy?” She stared at him, her eyes boring into him watching him wince a bit before speaking.

“What about Amy?” He asked softly, and Victoria took a step back. She studied his face, and she had to physically back up to keep from slapping the boy hard enough to put him through the nearest couch.

“You knew. You knew what Amy was going through. Did you know that she was in love with me?” She spoke coldly, and she glared at him as he shrunk back a bit. When he didn’t flinch or looked shocked, she felt a growl growing in her throat.

“I… suspected. The things I sensed off of her were concerning. The lust, self-loathing and bitterness were hard to miss, and hatred toward me hinted at something. I tried to speak with her, but she reacted… badly. I was going to try again soon.” Victoria stood there and stared at the boy, her every instinct screaming at her to do something. She ached to hit him, to smash him into something for keeping this from her. She wanted to scream and then she glanced off, staring at Amy watching her from across the room and she backed up, swallowing and turning to Dean.

“Get away from me. Don’t bother trying to call me.” She turned and stepped away, clenching her fists and doing her best to keep her power under control, to keep the shield from slamming into place. When she felt a hand on her shoulder, she tensed, the words he spoke shattering the tenuous grasp she held on her powers.

“Victoria, we need to talk about this. I’m sorry I kept it a secret, but Amy deserved her privacy.” Victoria spun, her shield snapping into place and, with a snarl, she had Gallant, armour and all, suspended nearly eight inches off the ground. She gripped him by the center of his chest plate, staring angrily up at him. She stared at his shocked expression, and her eyes narrowed.

“Privacy?” She hissed through her teeth, keeping her voice low while constantly moderating her grip to avoid shattering the front of the boy’s armour. “My sister was filled with bitterness and self-loathing and rather than tell someone, anyone, about it, you decided to keep her privacy. She was considering letting people die, she was considering letting herself die, and you were more worried about breaking her confidence.” She watched the Wards starting to stand across the room, and she dropped Gallant, taking some small measure of delight when he ended up sprawled on his ass, the helmet rolling across the room.

“Did you know about my aura?” She spoke coldly, glancing up and watching Crystal holding Amy back, the girl’s expression darkening. Victoria reached out, pushing past the anger and savagely forcing her barrier down and off. When her weight crashed into her again, she watched the confusion wash over her sisters face. Turning her attention back to Gallant, she’d crouch down, staring into his eyes. “Did you know that it never truly went off?” She watched him coldly and watched as his eyes held hers only for a moment and then glanced off to the side.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” She stood up quietly. She took a moment to glare at Dean before glancing up at the wards that approached nervously. “We’re done here, I think. Sorry about the disturbance.” She strode around the shell shocked empath and headed toward the others.

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Victoria was aware that she could fly along and patrol easier, but part of her was having fun using her improved strength to keep up with Taylor by jumping from roof to roof. The pair wasn’t running and were moving at a languid pace, hopping from rooftop to rooftop, and watching the crowds from above. Occasionally someone noticed them and they’d wave, and smile for the cameras, though requests they come down to speak were politely declined by mentioning their duties.

“So. What was it that I walked into, earlier?” The question from Taylor startled her; the other girl had been unusually silent since she’d returned from her meeting, going through the needed motions of the pre-patrol meeting and the Press Conference with a political smile pasted on her face. She’d been rather quiet for the first part of their patrol, though Victoria nudging her had earned a brief genuine smile that’d soothed Victoria’s worries that her drama had upset the other teen. Snapping out of her thoughts, Victoria gestured to the next building hopping over and checking on the crowd before responding.

“Dean and I broke up. Aegis had us slated on the same team, and I wasn’t sure if I could restrain myself from punting him into the bay and seeing if he could swim in that armour of his.” She glanced at Taylor, watching as the girl raised her eyebrow. Victoria endured Taylor’s look for a few moments, chuckling as she mentally interpreted it to mean something like; ‘My, Victoria, that is certainly an over-blown reaction, whatever could he have done to upset you like that.’ Eventually, though, she offered a grunt and hopped to the next roof, speaking softly as she heard Taylor land next to her.

“He knew about Amy. She didn’t tell him either, he knew from his powers, and I imagine he’d known for a bit.” She ignored the hiss from Taylor’s direction and rubbed at her face. “Said that he was respecting her privacy.” She commented and glanced over, frowning when she saw a frown on Taylor’s face.

“I imagine that he senses a lot with his power that he doesn’t really feel appropriate sharing.” Taylor’s words were soft, and she leapt to the next building first, and Victoria followed. She watched the white form pause and glance at her, and she sighed faintly.

“I understand respecting people’s boundaries, but this is different, she’s my fucking sister, and she was torturing herself, and he fucking knew and all he did was to try and talk with her. He’s not a god-damned therapist or trained to deal with this.” Victoria growled and hopped to the next building ranting as the wind whistled around her. “What if you’d not encountered her? How long would it have gone on? What if she’d hurt someone, what if she’d hurt herself.” Her voice was low, and Victoria felt her heart clenching at the thought.

“Psychologists go to school for years for a reason Victoria.” The girl hopped up onto the front of the building and stared down at the milling crowd, flashing a smile and waving at a group that cheered at her, doing her best to hide her nervousness at the lights flashing in her direction. Victoria joined her and did a pose in her new costume, focusing on Taylor instead of the reactions. “A big part of it is learning how to use their knowledge ethically, how to deal with people in appropriate ways. Dean’s just a kid.” She hopped back and glanced at Victoria before heading toward the next building.

“He knew about my aura too,” Victoria commented faintly as she hopped onto the next building. Taylor chuckled at her side as she landed and Victoria glanced at her.

“Did he know that you didn’t Victoria? Some powers never go off; for all, he knew you were aware of it and didn’t enjoy talking about it. And if he had told you, what would you have done? You didn’t know how to control your Aura or your shield at that point, and it would have just made you paranoid about every relationship in your life.” Taylor hummed tiredly and hopped onto the next building.

“I would have rather known,” Victoria muttered tiredly and glanced over at Taylor as the girl continued to the next building. “What about you? You were gone for nearly an hour. What’d the PRT want?” Victoria frowned when Taylor tensed and glanced at her worriedly. She saw the girl contemplating lying before something seemed to wash through her and she began to speak softly.

“Someone attacked a gay couple on a date last night. They were found electrocuted, beaten and bleeding in the street not too far from my house.” Victoria glanced down at her clenched fist. Attacks like these had always bothered her, but now a small part of her imagined if Amy had been one of those kids and she felt the anger washing into her. She was about to speak when Taylor continued. “They left a message on the wall, claiming that ‘No Sinner was beyond their Reach.’.”

“What?” Victoria leapt after the other cape, following as Taylor landed and paced toward the edge of the building, glancing down at the alley between this building and the next, checking the few people clustered within. Victoria followed and glanced down, watching three young girls chattering eagerly over their phones. “They thought that you…” She scoffed and blinked when Taylor looked at her confused. “You’re literally the least hateful person that I’ve ever met. How anyone could think you’d do that to someone astounds me.”

“Yeah? You’d be surprised.” Taylor muttered quietly and glanced back down at the Alley before taking a few steps back to get a running start before leaping the gap. Victoria merely floated over, chuckling at the oohs and snaps of light from below. Check one for the skirtless uniform.

“What’re you going to do?” Victoria’s voice low and curious and she watched as Taylor bunched up her shoulders as she hopped the divider between this building and the next, dropping the few feet to the lower roof.

“I’m gonna go and find them later, see if they’ll let me heal them. Try and apologize.” Victoria frowned and watched Taylor, blinking when the girl glanced up at her and chuckled. “Someone hurt them badly trying to make me look bad Glory Girl. How do you think that makes me feel.” Victoria dropped down next to Taylor and sighed softly as she considered how she’d feel.

“I’ll come with.” She grinned when Taylor looked at her shocked. “I imagine having a bona fide hero with you, will help. And well.” She coughed faintly, glancing off the roof toward the ground. “Considering Amy, well.” She shrugged. Taylor’s amused chuckle startled her, and she quickly followed when Taylor crouched and jumped up nearly ten feet to land on the next building which had an extra story over the one they stood on.

“You know she might not actually be gay. Group triggers show that parahuman powers can overcome the natural sexual orientation of people.” Victoria blinked and frowned at that idea, the thought bothering her even more now. She sighed softly and followed after Taylor watching the girl hop across another alley. She lifted off again and floated across the gap, briefly entertaining the idea of asking Taylor which way she swung.

When she landed though, she found Taylor standing and staring across the broad road that separated this building and the next. She glanced at the street below, considering the much-diminished crowd.

“We really should head back; we’ve gone a bit further south then we needed to.” She frowned when Taylor didn’t respond, standing still and staring to the south-east with unfocused eyes. She moved up to the girl, following her gaze and frowning at the flicker of violet and blue in the distance. She frowned and reached up tapping her collar pip.

“Glory Girl to Console.” She spoke softly. She winced quietly, waiting for that familiar haughty voice to answer back.

{Glory Girl, you have the console, what can we do for you this evening?} Tattletale’s dulcet tones drifted over the headset, and Victoria wondered who’s genius idea this was. Instead of making the snarky comment that she’d been holding onto, she quickly spoke.

“Vigil and I are at the southern end of the boardwalk. Vigil’s frozen up, and she’s staring in the direction of a glow to the southeast.” Victoria kept her voice professional, and she was surprised when Tattletale responded in kind.

{That’s unsettling. Vista and Gallant are the closest to you, I’ve directed them toward you, I’ve also called in Lady Photon. She’s nearby and is heading in your direction.} Victoria sighed at the idea of Gallant coming in but before she could respond Taylor seemed to start out of her stupor, her expression suddenly darkening and she leapt off the building toward the light.

“Vigil’s snapped out of it, but she’s.” She’d pause, and frowned at the sound of a scream from the direction that Taylor was leaping. “There’s screaming. I’m going to investigate.” She released the pip and took off, shooting past Taylor easily and heading toward the light.

{Glory Girl, you’re authorized to scout the effect, you are not permitted to engage. Backup is on the way. Give me a report once you’re in position.} Victoria sighed and swooped down, and she cleared the building that had been blocking the glow. The glow itself had faded over the last minute as she approached, and when she caught sight of the street, she easily saw why. Landing on the edge of the building, Victoria stared down at scattered bodies on the ground. She considered the colours and frowned. Merchants. And judging by how still the gangsters were and the amount of smoke wafting off them the attacker hadn’t been gentle.

Victoria turned her gaze toward the only moving figure. Between her height and Taylors, the figure moved near the wall. The figure was dressed in a flowing purple cloak with a cowl that occasionally shifted to reveal armour covering most of the body. Victoria watched as a glowing hand pressed to the wall, the violet glow sparking as it was dragged over the bricks, leaving a black scorch mark in its wake. Reaching up, Victoria touched her pip.

“I think it’s the person that’s been beating up people near Vigil’s place. They’ve taken out an entire group of merchants, and they’re currently burning something into the wall. They’re dressed in a costume, black body armour, purple cloak. I’m going to speak with them.” She hopped off the roof and landed on the street. She removed the bud from her ears to cut off Tattletale’s complaints and headed toward the figure.

Victoria watched the figure as they burned a black ‘c’ into place after the a, e and the uppercase R, she casually crossed her arms and inspected the text.

“She actually goes by Vigil.” The words were cool, and she watched as the figure tensed. Watching the cloaked figure turn to stare at her, Victoria was surprised by the steel mask it wore with the glowing red eyes peeking out from behind it. She loosened her arms and stepped closer. “You-”

The figure didn’t give Victoria a chance to respond, didn’t wait to hear her comments. One minute she was staring at the glowing red eyes and the next the hands lifted and jagged purple and white Lightning slammed into her form, throwing her across the street. Victoria screamed in pain as she felt her shield shudder and collapse under the onslaught. The energy coursed through her, causing her to spasm in agony, her skin on fire as she was blasted into the opposite side of the street, pinned in place by the lightning.

No words were spoken, the figure advanced on her keeping up that onslaught of violent, painful lightning, and Victoria wondered why she hadn’t already passed out, staring at the purple arcs dancing over her form. Victoria let out a scream as the burning grew along her skin grew worse the longer the lightning was held on her, her body bucking against the wall ineffectively. After a few moments, the figure seemed to grow bored of her screams, and the power winked out, dropping Victoria onto the stones. She lay there panting, her skin on fire as the figure approached and ducked before her, staring down at her with those glowing eyes.

One hand moved to brush the blonde hairs from her eyes, and Victoria panted and muttered something. When the figure leaned closer as if they hadn’t heard her she coughed and then spoke softly.

“I should duck, bitch.” She watched the figure jerk back just in time for Taylor to slam one end of her bo staff into the side of their body, sending the armoured figure careening across the street. Victoria panted softly as she lay back. When Taylor moved toward her, she shook her head. “T-Take care of the crazy in the fucking cloak. I-I’ll be fine.”

Victoria fell back as Taylor rounded on the cape, watching as the cloaked figure staggered to their feet.

Chapter Text

May 10th, 2011
Docks Boardwalk, Brockton Bay


The odd feeling that had been niggling at Taylor for most of the afternoon grew worse as she headed south. She’d tried to ignore the feeling while Victoria had spoken with her, but as her feet touched down on the gravel of the roof, she felt a wave of -something- slamming into her. She came to a stop and glanced off in the direction that the feeling had come from in the docks. As she stood there, Bastila and Jolee flickered into view staring in the same direction.

The two spirits glanced at each other before glancing back to Taylor. “That was a disturbance in the force Taylor.” Bastila’s voice was cold as she glanced back toward the flicker of the light in the distance. Jolee chimed in, his voice laced with concern.

“Not quite the force, the feeling is...wrong. Like an echo of an echo.” His voice was confused, and Bastila nodded humming quietly in agreement. Distantly, Taylor heard Glory Girl speaking nearby, but she was focusing on the spirits and the feeling. Jolee’s voice continued coldly. “Whatever it is, it was used to do something bad. People are hurt. Potentially dying.” Taylor glanced at Bastila and Jolee, nodding faintly before moving toward the edge of the roof.

She started hopping from roof to roof, heading for the flickering lights. A flicker of white and gold out of the corner of her eye drew her attention. She blinked, glancing up to see Victoria streaking ahead of her. With a curse she redoubled her speed, leaping from building to building, intent on closing the distance. When the flickering lights ahead winked out, and Victoria vanished out of sight, another curse slipped from her lips.

{Vigil!} The shouted word finally drew Taylor’s focus back to the earbud hanging off her ear. She quickly slipped it back into her ear and pressed a hand to the button on her collar, activating the mic pressed against her neck.

“Console, this is Vigil. Glory Girl appears to have engaged an unknown cape. I’m still on approach.” Taylor’s voice cut in. She respected Tattletales professionalism when instead of a stream of beratement and curses she got a professional response.

{She said that she found a cape with several downed Merchants. Lady Photon and Protectorate support are inbound, Gallant and Vista are less than five minutes from you.} Taylor landed on the roof the Glory Girl had vanished over, and she sprinted across the roof, the sounds of Victoria’s screams egging her on. She caught sight of a figure in black and purple viciously electrocuting Victoria, stalking toward her.

“Glory Girl is under attack. I don’t have time to wait for reinforcements. If you can get them to hurry, do it, I’ll try to stop the attack.” Taylor moved along the roof. When the figure dropped the lightning and stalked over to Victoria, Taylor wrapped herself in the Force, leaping clear over the pair and landing silently behind them.

Drawing her bo-staff, she crept up on the figure as it approached Victoria. When Victoria muttered something, causing the figure to lean in, Taylor slipped close, the girl’s sarcastic comment was all the clue she needed, and as the figure lurched back and flinched, Taylor lashed out, hooking the end of her staff under the arm-pit of the figure. Using the force to augment her strength, she used the weapon as a lever, hefting the armoured figure up and over her head, sending them spinning through the air to land on the ground a short distance away.

Taylor surged toward Victoria, the sounds of her friend in pain setting her heart to racing. She paused when Victoria coughed and stuttered at her.

“T-Take care of the crazy in the fucking cloak. I-I’ll be fine.” Taylor paused and frowned, but she nodded at Victoria and turned to stare at the cloaked figure, pushing themselves to their feet. The figure was dressed in a simple black outfit, the matching tactical kit looking out of place on their modest frame. A heavy violet cape hung around their shoulders, with a deep cowl that was pushed back to reveal the steel mask they wore.

The eyes of the mask had been backlit by LED’s, the glowing red no doubt somewhat intimidating at face value. Taylor strode forward, bo staff in hand. She glared at the armoured figure, moving past the still bodies on the ground. Her eyes caught sight of the half-written ‘signature’ on the wall, and she called out.

“Who the hell are you and what do you think you-” The words were barely out of her mouth when the figure lifted both hands and twin streams of lightning shot towards her. Having seen what the lightning did to Victoria, Taylor was ready, spinning the staff in place and focusing her force deflection into the weapon. A thin barrier formed around the weapon and she used the end of it to catch the lightning.

Deep in the grasp of the force, Taylor saw the shock running through the figure, the growing apprehension. With a savage grin, she stepped forward, advancing on the figure as she held the weapon before her using it as a shield to stop the lightning-caster from hurting her. She’d made it nearly three steps when the figure ripped their hands away and turned, charging toward the nearest Alley.

“Oh no, not on my fucking watch.” Taylor snarled as she reached out a hand, grabbing the figure with the Force and slamming her down onto the ground. The sound of bones crunching was audible even from ten feet away, and she advanced on the figure, holding them down. “I thought you wanted my fucking attention. I show up, and you run? Gives a girl mixed messages.” Taylor’s voice was laced with anger, and she felt the warnings washing through her mind from the spirits, but she brushed them aside for the moment, moving around to stare at the figures mask.

As she held the cape down, she crouched, staring at the fake face and she heard the figure panting softly. She weakened her grip just a bit not wanting the other cape to suffocate before they could be arrested. The figure reacted, sucking in a huge breath. Taylor frowned, worried that she’d used too much force, but rather than continuing to pant; the figure started to scream.

Taylor didn’t have time to react, the sound slammed into her like a physical effect, blasting her off her feet and launching her back nearly five feet, as she skidded along the ground, she felt her grasp on the figure suddenly evaporate, the force acting as if she vanished. As she skidded to a halt, Taylor saw the cloaked figure rising to hover in the air. The screaming had shifted from an audible sound to something that Taylor felt more in her head then in her ears, the sound causing pain and pressure.

The figure shifted before Taylor’s eyes as it hovered a scant few inches off the ground, their form had become smoky and incorporeal, their appearance altering as well. BDU’s and Tactical gear transforming smoothly into darkened plate and chain-mail. The cloak they wore tightened around their form and lengthened to flutter in the breeze. The cloth became more coat-like wrapping around the torso and revealing the armour-clad arms instead of obscuring them. The hood elongated and deepened, the metal mask vanishing into it, leaving inky darkness where the head had once been.

That wail redoubled and Taylor gripped her head, dipping into the force to fight off the worst of the effects, staggering to her feet as the smoky figure surged toward her. Taylor barely spun out of the way, watching the thin trails of inky smoke trailing after the figure like thin tendril-esque wings. Taylor backed away further, keeping one hand to her head and trying her best to ignore the screaming.

When the cape rounded on her and charged toward her again, Taylor raised a hand, forming a haphazard shield that sent even more pain lancing through Taylor’s brain as it was struck, but it caused the intangible figure to bounce back. Taylor moved, carefully stepping to put herself between Victoria and the cape, her shield ringing like a gong each time the smoky Cape slammed into it, the wails growing more painful with each passing second.

When the figure drew back and began hovering dangerously at a short distance from the barrier, Taylor reached out with the Force. Her power grasped a nearby newspaper machine and lobbed it at the figure. When it merely passed through the Ethereal attacker, Taylor ended up cursing. She found that any attempts at Telekinesis also casually passed through the figure, and she found herself gritting her teeth in irritation.

The floating figure whipping around and staring off drew Taylor’s focus, and she swore as she saw the middle of the street warping around to reveal Vista and Gallant were arriving. The figure shrieked in rage and raised its hands, Violet energy sparking along its arms and over the fingers. Taylor watched as the sound washed over the new capes. Gallant staggered back before straightening, but Vista crumpled to the ground. Taylor charged forward and leapt forward, pivoting in the air as she came to a skidded stop before the Wards lifting her hands and catching the lightning as it arced toward the other heroes.

Reinforcing her shields, Taylor gritted as she felt the lightning blasting toward her, the glowing orbs in her palms grounding and capturing the energy. As she stood there, glaring back at the ghost, she felt something cold wash over her, a surge of light exploding over her shoulder and arcing toward the floating cape in breaker form. Something in Taylor shifted, and dread washed up, exploding up and wrapping around her mind. She watched the figure come to a stop before her something changing in how they held themselves.

The figure lowered to rest on the ground, the armour becoming less ornate, less armoured. Belts grew out of brown robes and looping into large rings woven into the heavy, Jedi style, robes that the figure wore. The cloak resumed its previous shape over the robes, everything shifting colour to dull browns, blacks and reds. As the mantle grew more loose and wavy, a mask emerged from the darkness of the hood, the rusted brown mask with its red elements and the black slit that concealed the eyes.

“So. You’re the child that they sought to replace me with. Guided by the hands of my wife, my friend and mentor, and a sith so terrified of what the idea of me could do that he and his compatriots tried to have me completely excised from the histories of his people.” The words were mocking as he strode up and around her, his robes whispering as they dragged over the stones. Taylor felt her heart racing and, despite the thunderous pounding of her blood in her ears, she heard every sibilant word that the figure whispered as he walked around her.

“They all cling to the image of you saving this broken world, and yet, Taylor Hebert, you know the truth. You know that nothing you can do will stop what is to come. That’s the reason that you refuse to look beyond the now.” His voice was cold as it emerged from that mask and he paced around her casually, walking around to stand before her.

The dark lord reached a gauntlet-clad hand outwards, the finger moving toward her forehead. Taylor stared in horror at the gloved hand approached, her heart beating so fast that she feared that it’d leap out of her chest. She stood there as the spirit's finger touched her head and everything faded to darkness.

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It was almost like what Taylor imagined the surface of the sun to be like. The flames towered miles into the sky and danced around her, the entire ground an ocean of fire that didn’t burn her as she walked through it. Occasionally, images erupted from the flames, bubbles forming and showing places, people before bursting and fading.

One flicker showed Victoria in her new outfit, her form radiating a golden glow as she traded blows with a golden figure. In another, Amy faced off against Lung, Massive hulking abominations surrounding her and protecting her from the growing dragon. Taylor glanced around moving through the flames and watching the images dance into view and fade, everything burning brilliantly. 

Feeling drawn in a particular direction, she walked through the towering flames, coming upon a massive pillar of emerald fire. Taylor touched the pillar and it exploded, the fire washing outwards over her. When the flames passed, they left her standing in the ruins of the Dallon house. Half the front had been ripped away, and Taylor was surprised to see a metallic figure was trying to drag another version of her battered body through the back door.

“Concerned Observation: Mistress, this is not a safe place to be. We must make our escape with haste.” The battered Taylor looked exhausted. Barely healed bruises covered her form, and her hair was freshly wild from sleep. She wore Pyjamas, and despite all that, she was struggling quite fiercely with the metallic figure, and she ripped her arm free.

“Run if you have to HK. I can’t leave Victoria there to fend for herself.” She reached out, and a section of the floor exploded upwards, a staff whipping out to land in her hand. With a gesture, the top half ignited into a glowing violet blade that hummed ominously as the other Taylor leapt out of the shattered facade of the house. 

Taylor moved to follow her double, staring in horror at the long gouge that went through the earth leading past the house toward the water. In the distance, massive flashes of energy were discharging, and Taylor watched her double bounding with surprising ease toward the light show.

The world dissolved into green flames and when they cleared Taylor was stood in her father’s bedroom. Another Taylor stood silently in the doorway of the room staring at the empty and unmade bed. Her face was stony and silent, and she just stared at the bed as if furious at it. Her entire form trembled with a barely contained rage as if any moment she might lose herself and storm the room to destroy every last broken memory that it dared to hold.

Instead, the door creaked open further and a pale hand gently rested on the other Taylor’s shoulder. Taylor stepped closer, and as the flames rushed up to wrap around her, she heard a familiar voice telling her to come back to bed. When the fire cleared again, Taylor frowned. 

She was in a bar, standing before a table. Around her Victoria, Amy, and Sabah stood in costume, silent and wary, standing behind several empty seats at the table. Arrayed around the table were other faces. Lung sat casually with Oni Lee and Bakuda beside him. Across from him sat Kaiser, Purity, and Alabaster. Next, to the other Taylor and her group, she saw a figure in a black bodysuit with a snake coiling around it. A tall figure dressed as a scarecrow looming behind him. This image was still and silent, and no one moved, no one spoke.

“Taylor.” The flames came again, but as they wreathed her, Taylor saw something icy blue in the distance. She pushed toward it, and the fire cleared, and she saw icy blue eyes. She heard words whispered over the flickering flames.

“...breathe Taylor… Look into my eyes.” The words penetrated her foggy mind and Taylor felt the burning in her chest, the savage beat of her heart and she suddenly lurched forward, the flames vanishing as she inhaled deeply.


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Agony. Everything was agony as that scream slammed around her head. Victoria rolled on the ground, gripping her head as she snapped out, desperately snatching her power and slamming her shield back up, feeling the warmth of the barrier as it crashed up around her. Victoria could feel the strain her shield was under, but as she savagely held it up, she felt the pain from the scream diminishing to irritating background noise. She flopped back panting as she tried to catch her breath.

The sound of a bell pealing drew her attention, and she glanced over watching as the shadowy cape slammed her form into the barrier over and over, Taylor’s form shuddering with pain with each strike. Victoria staggered to her feet, grabbing the earbud and slotting it into her ear.

{...hear me Vigil. Glory Girl? What’s your status.} Victoria blinked in surprise; Tattletale seemed legitimately concerned. She pressed a hand to her neck, keeping one hand against the side of her head as she tried to ignore the pain the cape was causing.

“This is Glory Girl. Vigil is keeping the other… Fuck it. Vigil is keeping Reach off us. Reach is apparently a breaker on top of a blaster. You mentioned something about backup?” Victoria spoke quickly and peered through her eyes as the floating cape drifted back and stared at them.

{Vista and Gallant will be at your position in a moment.} A momentary surge of Dread washed through her.

“You told them that she’s a blaster, right? They’re coming in at a safe distance?” She spoke, though horror washed through her as the street distorted a short distance away, Vista and Dean suddenly emerging from the effect. The wail slammed into them both, and Gallant staggered back before recovering, but Vista went down hard, curling up on the ground. Victoria tried to scream, but the other cape was already spinning on them. Lightning was leaping from their hands.

Taylor moved in a flash; suddenly she was between the shadowy cape and Dean and Vista's fetal form, her hands held up before her. There was no glowing shield-wall like when she’d been blocking Victoria; instead, the lightning slammed into Taylor’s hands, occasional arcs blasting off it and leaving scorches along the cape’s uniform. Victoria frowned when small burns started appearing on Taylor's cheeks as the arcs grew wilder. Surging forward with a snarl, Victoria suddenly paused when Dean lifted a hand and pointed at Taylor.

A wave of inky purple light washed out of his hands, washing around Taylor, skimming over her shoulder and past her neck, and careening off into the other cape. Taylor remained frozen in place. The shrieking intensified as the energy crashed into the breaker and the figure spin around staring upwards in horror. Victoria glanced up in time to see her Aunt Flying in a figure holding a staff and wearing a flowing cloak zipping along in her wake. Before she could call out, the figure floating pulsed with brilliant violet light, the scream tripling in volume as the glow exploded outwards in a wave.

Victoria saw the light wash over Taylor’s shielded form, highlighting the barrier around her before moving on. The light slammed into Gallant and Vista and sending them both rolling along the floor bodies wracked with convulsions. The barrier slammed into Victoria next, shattering her shield once more and throwing her back into the wall. As she slumped to the ground, her eyes watched the field smashing into her Aunt, the figure in the cloak using his staff shield himself before swooping in to catch her Aunt Sarah. As darkness crowded around the edge of her vision, Victoria watched the cloaked shape suddenly blasting off and out of the area with the agonizing shriek fading as it went.

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“Glory Girl.” The words were soft, and Victoria started sitting up with a sudden sharp gasp. She sat against the wall, straining against the white hands that held her down. “Glory Girl. sit still you took several bad hits.” Victoria ignored her aunt, her barrier snapping into place. She pushed the woman aside as gently as she could surging to her feet.

“Taylor.” She turned and stared in horror at the image of Taylor standing completely still where she’d last been, hands held up in the splayed gestures she’d been using to catch the Lightning. The cloaked cape stood with Gallant, and they both were murmuring to each other as they stared at Taylor's statue-like form. Victoria ignored her Aunt’s words, striding past her toward the pair.

“...all I can sense is horror and fear. Most people don’t react like this to my power.” Gallant’s voice was laced with regret, and that was the only thing that kept Victoria from backhanding him into the wall.

“Her powers are fucking emotionally actuated, you simpering idiot. Is it common practice on the Wards to use your gifts through your allies?” She growled as she came to a stop a short distance away. Gallant flinched back, but the cowled figure turned, allowing Victoria to see the shadows gathered under the hood and the beard peeking out. The man seemed to shift in surprise.

“Glory Girl. Glad to see you back on your feet, you took quite a hit. Should you be standing.” He glanced past her and Victoria growled at him till he looked back. “Er. Right. Your team-mate. Miss Hebert seems to be protecting herself. We can’t get to her.” Victoria watched as he demonstrated, reaching out to poke her with his staff, the action causing a spark to lance out at him. He backed up and shrugged at her.

Victoria moved around, stepping up and studying Taylor through the shield. Her eyes were wide, and her face was slack with horror, the girl’s pale skin was unsettling, as were her short, panicked breaths. The clenched fists and the vicious tension that hung off Taylor like a coat weren’t all that great either. Victoria took a breath, reaching out with a hand. When her hand came into contact with Taylor’s shield, she felt her own shield surge violently and then wink out, but her hand wasn’t shocked. She frowned before reaching out.

“Vigil.” She spoke, drawing Taylor’s chin up to peer at her own. She watched the girl’s unfocused eyes. She spoke again. Taylor. That caused a reaction, the girl’s shoulders shuddered, and her eyes started darting around in panic her breathing becoming even more panicked. Victoria spoke again. “Taylor, breath Taylor.” She gripped the girl’s shoulders. “Look into my eyes and breath.” She watched as Taylor jerked, their eyes locking and Taylor sucked in a lungful of air. The girl continued to shudder as she glanced from Victoria to the others and back, her lips pressed together brutally, her face stony despite the terror visible in her eyes.

“Taylor. Taylor! Ignore them. I’ve got you. Focus on me” She called, forcing the girl to focus on her. “That’s right. Look at me. Breathe in. Count with me. In. One. Two. Three. Out. One. Two. Three.” She watched as Taylor started to moderate her breathing, keeping their eyes locked. When Taylor’s breathing was less dangerous, Victoria spoke. “Tell me the names of the six positions of the First Path of the Matukai.” She spoke firmly. Taylor stared at her in confusion until Victoria shook her.

“There’s the Standing Ursine, Then Poised Feline…” The girl continued, listing each form. Victoria continued to ask questions, forcing Taylor to focus, until the girl’s breathing settled and her form relaxed. She gently released Taylor’s shoulders once she’d started talking normally, leaning back.

“What the hell was that.” The girl’s voice was unwelcome, and Victoria used every ounce of self-control she had to keep from spitting a nasty comment at Vista. She glanced over to see the younger girl staring at them incredulously.

“Grounding. It’s how you pull someone out of a panic attack.” The cloaked cape spoke the words, and he seemed to be staring appraisingly at Victoria. Everyone was looking at her, and she found herself turning back to Taylor who merely flashed her a thankful smile. The awkward silence dragged on for a moment until Vista chimed in again.

“Fascinating. But I was talking about the fucking Banshee.” Victoria glanced over and watched as Vista turned to stare in the direction the shape had gone. “Console told us it looked like you were fighting Shadow Stalker, similar costume, but that sure as fucking wasn’t shadow stalker.” Victoria frowned again at language, but the girl’s observations were right.

“She’s a breaker, that’s for sure. She seems to turn intangible. Alters her shape too.” Victoria jumped, startled when Taylor spoke at her side. “I tried to use my TK on her, and she didn’t get affected by it, or by the things I threw at her. She couldn’t fly past my shields though. The way she was coming at us, I get the feeling that she’d have no issues hitting us though.” Taylor spoke softly. “That’s of course on top of the fucking Lightning. And whatever that scream was. It felt like she was digging into my head.”

Victoria nodded quietly and glanced back at Myrddin and her Aunt, watching them conferring quietly and touching their communicators. When the pair moved off, Victoria sighed and stared around at the cooling bodies of the Merchants. She frowned as she briefly considered checking on them.

“They’re dead. I’d feel if they were alive.” Taylor’s voice was deceptively calm, but something about the set of her face, the way her shoulders were just a bit too high told Victoria that it bothered her that someone had done this much killing to get at her. Victoria frowned as she glanced at Taylor. She watched the girl stared at each body as if committing their faces to memory.

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The adrenalin had long since worn off, and Victoria felt all of her many aches. The weight against her side wasn’t making anything better, but she couldn’t find it in herself to dislodge the burned, scorched and exhausted girl that was using her shoulder as a pillow. Victoria consoled herself with the thought that she would eventually use this as blackmail to get some healing out of Taylor. She considered Taylor’s outfit quietly, noting the scorches and the burns, frowning as she looked at her seemingly untouched outfit.

She briefly wondered just what Sabah had done to this outfit; it was far heavier then it should have been. Furthermore, somehow it’d kept her from taking the worst of damage from the lightning the cape had used. She'd gotten minor burns to much of her body from heat, but none of the actual electricity had passed through her body. With a sigh, she considered finding a suitably thankful gift for the Tailor. She’d probably saved her life with the suit, according to Taylor.

When the girl in question shifted sleepily against her shoulder and muttered something about there being a schedule to who got the Armsmaster pyjama’s, Victoria found herself smiling at the younger girl, shaking her head. Eventually, Taylor settled, and Victoria glanced back up at the door to the conference room. She and Taylor had already had their turns before Piggot, Armsmaster and Miss Militia giving their reports. When the door opened and disgorged Vista and Gallant, the latter carrying his helmet under his arm. Both young capes paused in the doorway to study them, and Victoria found her cheeks darkening at the strange look that Dean gave her.

Rather than glancing away, Victoria returned his look with one of Taylor’s stony expressions. The face-off lasted for a minute before Dean sighed and muttered something about texting her before striding off. Victoria ignored the strange look that Vista offered her as she quickly stalked off in the empath’s wake. If Vista wanted him that badly, Victoria wished her luck, it was just what Dean deserved. When the door opened again, she glanced up to see her Aunt emerging. The woman stopped and snorted at the pair before moving to draw her phone from her pouch.

“Sarah, come on!” Victoria cried, her face no doubt a mess of bruises and burns, but the woman merely moved to line up the shot.

“It’s her first Post Mission pass out; we have to document it.” Victoria sighed, and glanced down at Taylor, waiting for the tell-tale flash. She glanced at her Aunt as if to say ‘Finished?’ and when the woman put her phone away, Victoria gently nudged Taylor.

“Taylor. C’mon. Unless you want to spend the evening sleeping on a bench in the PRT offices, we should get you home.” Victoria snorted when the other girl gripped her arm and asked for five more minutes. “You’ll be able to sleep plenty once you’re home. C’mon. Up and at them champ.” There was a whiny groan, but Taylor slowly wobbled away from Victoria, sitting up and swaying in place as she rubbed tiredly at one eye.

“Why’re you both in my bedroom?” The sleepy question came, and Victoria laughed as Sarah glanced around.

“What a fascinating and long bedroom you have Taylor.” Tayor, confused, glanced around at the empty hallways and frowned.

“Where...oh.” She grunted wearing and slipped to her feet. Victoria glanced at the girl as she glanced around in confusion and she slid to her feet.

“I’m gonna take her home.” She commented faintly, glancing at her Aunt. She watched her Aunt consider arguing, saw the look in her eyes as her forehead creased. She was surprised when after a moment the woman just waved a hand.

“Everyone else has already headed home. Try to fly safely?” Victoria grinned and nodded before trailing after Taylor who’d begun to wander sleepily toward the exit. She caught up with the girl, following her. Taylor continued the zombie march until she reached the doors. When she strode out, the wave of cold Atlantic air slamming into her face suddenly startled her awake.

Victoria loomed back, watching as Taylor came to a stop in the parking lot and looked around. She sidled up as the girl stared around in confusion and felt her lips curling into a smirk.

“Looking for your lift? Cause I’m right here.” Taylor seemed to perk up and glanced at her before snorting tiredly.

“You’re just as exhausted as I am, dude. If you drop me, I’m gonna be pretty upset.” Despite the words, Taylor stepped closer, and Victoria easily hefted the taller girl into her arms. Lifting off gently, Victoria glanced around as the buildings quickly shrank away below them. She felt Taylor’s arms looping around her neck as they got high enough that even Taylor would be in trouble if she fell.

Victoria could have had them at Taylor’s house in fifteen minutes, but she moved lazily, drifting up high enough that they were level with some of the sky-scrapers toward downtown, even if they were a fair distance from them. She allowed the wind to carry them westward, watching the lights drifting below them as the burned out factories turned into houses and residential neighbourhoods.

Neither cape spoke, but the silence was companionable enough, and Victoria kept an eye on Taylor to make sure that she didn’t drift off again midflight. She knew from personal experience that waking up in freefall was a pretty shitty way to end a nap. When Taylor’s house came into view, she drifted down, landing in the small backyard to preserve some of Taylor’s privacy, gently setting the other girl down.

“So. Thinking about giving up Caping yet?” Victoria’s voice was laced with teasing, but she was genuinely curious. She smiled when Taylor merely looked at her and rolled her eyes.

“Who have you ever heard refer to it as ‘Caping.’” The air quotes were a bit much, but Victoria shrugged her shoulders. After a moment Taylor’s smile dropped away, and she shook her head. “Honestly? No. I… I’ve got this power, and I couldn’t stand to see other people suffering.” The girl moved over and opened the door. She paused in the entryway and glanced at Victoria.

Victoria shifted in place, considering the invitation. Truthfully she wasn’t in the mood to go home just yet, and she slipped in the doorway, following Taylor toward the kitchen. When the light flicked on in the kitchen, she was surprised to find two wrapped plates on the table, and she glanced at Taylor who offered a shrug. Unwrapping the dishes saw some meatloaf and potatoes on each plate, a fair sized portion for each of them. Victoria took a seat and watched as Taylor, apparently not looking a gift horse in the mouth, scooped up the plates, and placed one in the microwave to warm it, handing it to Victoria once it was done. When she had heated her own plate up, Taylor joined Victoria at the table, handing over a bottle of water.

“What about you?” The question startled Victoria who’d been picking at the food. She considered the plate quietly for a few moments before shifting over and taking a seat closer to Taylor. She drew out her phone, removed her headphones and offered a bud to Taylor. She watched the girl’s reaction as the music began to play and When Taylor nodded understandingly at her, she felt herself smiling as she turned her attention back to the food, eating it quietly and letting the warmth of the home surround her.


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[[ Danny’s such a Dad. I’ve not written him much but he’s got a whole bunch chapters coming up soonish, and I sorta enjoy like, playing with other characters. =] Also, Kids fighting in battles where people die can be rough. The song that Victoria listens to with Taylor isn’t; this, but it’s similar in theme, and style, and is basically it. =] Also, the inspiration for Mysterydoodordoodette’s Breaker state is uh. Malthael from Diablo. Sort of.]]

Chapter Text

May 11th, 2011
PRT Temporary HQ, Brockton Bay

Sarah hummed faintly as she idly tapped her pen against the table, listening with half an ear to the report from Triumph.

“ we can tell. The actual fighting has dimmed as most of the gangs pull back their assets and defend them more fiercely. Lung’s efforts have redrawn much of the borders, and the ABB picked up quite a bit of territory. The Merchants appear to have been subsumed entirely. The ABB got most of the freed up territory, but small patches were taken by the Empire as well as they sensed weakness.” The young man adjusted his Lion helmet, frowning. “As of yet we’ve seen no signs of any of the Merchant’s Capes, they all vanished at some point, and the Gang itself has been falling before the more organized ABB, and the Cape-heavy Empire.”

“Everyone seems to be playing by Lung’s rules for the moment, and they’re excluding civilians from their fighting unless we interfere. Every time that we try to break up a fight, the civilian casualties skyrocket. I’m honestly surprised that the news hasn’t been reporting on it. Mostly we have to deal with rumours. When it gets out, the public will tear us apart.” The figure in golden armour smoothly tapped his polished nails on the wooden table, his lips curled into a worried frown.

“That will not be a concern.” Sarah blinked, glancing over a Myrrdin, watching the robed man as he shifted forward. When other eyes settled on him, he glanced at Piggot who nodded at him. “Watchdog is here to do more than find the bomb and disarm it; they’re also on hand to keep the news from getting out. Almost a half dozen thinkers are sitting on important executives around the united states ensuring that the news affiliates aren’t running constant updates on the Brockton Bay situation. Part of that is keeping the news here focused on other things.”

Sarah found herself frowning at the idea, wondering how many times the PRT had used this particular discretionary power in the past. “That can’t work on everyone.” Lady Photon, found herself saying and she blinked when Myrrdin merely chuckled.

“It doesn’t, those that go around us do report the situation, but the silence from the major news outlets soon silences them, and the people go back to worrying which celebrity is sleeping with which.” The cape rested his elbows on the table, resting his beard on the laced fingers, seemingly staring across the table at her. “Most people, if given a choice, would rather not worry about the possibility of someone getting a lucky shot here, and putting half of North America back to the stone-age.”

The words hung in the air and eventually, Piggot coughed quietly, drawing everyone’s attention and changing the subject.

“Yes, well. Last night, there was a bit of a disturbance.” The director crossed her arms on the table and glanced at Lady Photon. “Perhaps Lady Photon can lead this report since she was there?” Sarah shifted quietly and then moved out of her seat, swapping places with Triumph, taking a seat at the head of the table. When all the eyes settled on her, she crossed her arms quietly.

“As most of you know, the Wards and the second generation of New Wave both were patrolling the Boardwalk after the Director’s speech at the Boardwalk’s Reopening. Vigil and Glory Girl were patrolling toward the southern end of the boardwalk when they saw…” She paused, blinking when the Director held up a hand. She glanced at the others before nodding at the woman.

“From what I understood, Vigil and Vista were to patrol together in the center of the docks, and Gallant and Glory Girl were to patrol the south.” The words were curious, and Sarah blinked when Miss Militia chimed in.

“There was a falling out between Glory Girl and Gallant. Tensions were running high, and she ended up politely requesting to switch partners. Vigil offered to switch with Gallant, and Vista agreed. I said that it was fine, focusing on improving the team’s synergy, rather than forcing the pair to work together.” Sarah blinked, rubbing at her forehead. She could guess what this was about and she hoped that her niece hadn’t done anything crazy this time. Piggot seemed to consider for a moment before gesturing at Sarah and nodding for her to continue.

“They’d reached the end of the boardwalk, and when they were about to turn back, Vigil sensed something with her powers.” She watched as several people perked up at this, though most people reacted oddly when Taylor ended up displaying another power. “Near as she could tell, she could sense someone using lightning a short distance away. As she was trying to figure out where it was coming from, Glory Girl caught sight of the visual effect and took off.” Sarah frowned and adjusted the folder before her, carefully checking the pages.

“Glory Girl arrived first and found a Parahuman and several bodies, Merchants apparently. She assumed that the Parahuman, who we’ve taken to referring to as ‘Reach’ since they’ve donned the name, had killed the gangsters.” The woman frowned when one of the others coughed. She glanced up, and found Battery was staring at her with an odd expression. She waved a hand inviting the woman to speak.

“That’s concerning, isn’t it? This cape, Reach or whatever, seems to be escalating. From the hate crime earlier this week to outright murder now. It doesn’t bode well for the direction that this cape is going.” She glanced off to the side at Assault who’d offer a nod in agreement.

“We believe the assault was provoked. After a fashion.” The voice came from one side, and Sarah glanced over finding a young woman with long black hair standing at Myrrdin’s shoulder. She was dressed in an almost casual black outfit, with a lab-coat over it; her hair pulled back into pig-tails. She stood quietly by the cape holding a folder in her arms. “We examined the bodies found at the scene. Nine of the bodies were downed by lightning, and we’re fairly certain from their tattoos and drug use that they were merchants. The other two bodies were not.”

“What do you mean?” Sarah spoke slowly, frowning as she studied the grim-faced young woman. After a few moments, the woman casually opened the folder and reviewed the papers.

“Two of the bodies found at the scene weren’t merchants. There were no signs of drug use on them, and no tattoos. They were also fairly young. We haven’t IDed them yet, but one was probably barely past eighteen, and the other was closer to twenty. They weren’t electrocuted, near as I can tell they were kicked and stomped to death. If I had to wager a guess, I’m assuming that this cape of yours found the Merchants kicking these two to death, or standing around after.” The woman’s pale features curled with a mixture of distaste and understanding. She glanced at the cloaked figure who’d nod up at her.

“Thank you, Abby. Considering what happened, and it’s more understandable that they might escalate. Most of the crimes that they’ve interfered in up till now were petty crimes, and they’ve been seen as overly harsh. Stepping up the crimes they interrupt, might step up their response. Them being a Breaker makes things more complicated. Breaker powers tend to affect the self-control of the Parahumans that have them.” Myrrdin’s voice was soft, and Sarah glanced at the others seeing them nodding. When the conversation drifted to a halt, she continued.

“Glory Girl arrives and sees this cape burning ‘Reach’ into the wall, and she descends to confront them.” When she saw the others moving to speak she held up a hand. “Yes, she’d done so against Console’s direct orders, and she will be getting spoken with for this later. Upon speaking with ‘Reach,’ the other cape immediately turned on her and attacked.”

“Were they provoked? Glory Girl can be a bit temerarious.” The voice was amused, and Sarah glanced over at Armsmaster quietly. Part of her wanted to be offended, but she merely shook her head.

“I imagine that as they were attempting to frame Vigil, she might have done so if given a chance, but she barely had time to utter a sentence before the cape attacked with their lightning. They used it to pin her to a wall for a minute or two…” The confused hum from ‘Abby’ startled her, and she glanced over.

“You said she was attacked and held under the effect for minutes? Near as we can tell that lightning attack that they use is extremely lethal. The victims that they didn’t kill were probably held under the effect for less than ten seconds; we figure it’s lethal once contact passes thirty seconds considering the likey voltage and its curious effect on nerves. How did she survive?” Sarah was tempted to attribute Glory Girl’s survival to her shield, but considering that troopers might be facing off against this cape, she was more forthright.

“Glory Girl’s new uniform was crafted for her by a friend, and they wove a faraday lining into it. Considering Vigil’s potential powerset, something to keep her from getting electrocuted was seen as helpful.” The woman seemed to nod at the comment, quietly thinking things over in her head. Sarah shifted back into place back resuming her narration.

“This is when Vigil arrives.” She taps a button and an image from a button cam on Vigil’s uniform showed the cape holding Victoria against the wall with energy. She clicked through images, watching as Victoria drops and Taylor sneaks up on the cape and separates them.

“Is that?” Assault speaks up suddenly, and Sarah glances at him, but it’s Piggot that speaks up.

“No. Shadow Stalker was with her team in Austin last night, her mentor there was with her training well past when this started. There’s no way. She claims to have no idea who this is.”

“Vigil assumed the cape was a blaster and attempted to put them down, and then they revealed the breaker state.” The image flicked to the blurry image of the hovering form. “From what Vigil observed, the Breaker state is semi-intangible, since she couldn’t attack it, but it attempted to attack her physically. It also proved unable to pass through energy fields. They seem to have access to their blaster power in and out of the breaker state, and when in breaker state, their movement is significantly increased.” She nodded over toward the other cape and Myrrdin chimed in.

“When we arrived, they loosed an explosive attack, and as I was distracted keeping Lady Photon in the air, they shot off toward downtown. They had vanished around the buildings at the edge of downtown within a minute or two. They were doing at least sixty miles per hour.” He glanced at Sarah. “There was an auditory effect to, some sort of wail or scream,"

"Near as we can tell, the breaker state is invariably accompanied by a disorientating screaming. The success of this aspect is limited, and it’s entirely auditory, not a psychic progression like Simurgh.” The looks of relief were mixed with curious looks. She waved a hand as she explained. “Most of us managed to get around it. Glory Girl’s shields and mine both lessened the effect; Gallant bypassed it entirely by shutting off his audio feeds. Vista was disabled, and Vigil managed to force herself through it by sheer force of will. The effect isn’t perfect, but it could be devastating in battle.” When no one commented, she moved on.

“Vigil managed to hold her off until back up arrived, though it was a close thing when Vista and Gallant arrived too close to the battle.” Several images from Gallant’s armour showed them arriving, Vista’s form slumping to one side and Taylor leaping between the cape and them and catching the lightning she tossed. She flicked through the rest of the images. “Gallant managed to hit them with a blast and the fear it engendered convinced the cape to back off when myself and Myrrdin arrived.” She didn’t elaborate on Taylor’s reaction to Gallant’s attack and no one pressed. She carefully waited for any responses, but everyone seemed to be mulling it over. Eventually, Piggot chimed in once more.

“Alright, now onto everyone’s favourite part of the meeting, Budgetary reports. So…”


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Sarah rubbed at her head when she finally escaped from that room. Some of them had hoped that Piggot’s improved health would improve her disposition; the woman had proved them all wrong by being over more hard-assed and exacting. Even Sarah dreaded those meetings, and she was currently the most budgetary conscious department in the ENE considering the reduced wages most of New Wave got. With a sigh, she saw Miss Militia emerging from the conference room, and she straightened up.

“Lady Photon. I’ve been informed that the Wards and New Wave are awaiting our arrival at the Ward’s conference room. Shall we?” Sarah shifted into a more professional pose, nodding casually and gestured the other woman on. She followed in the taller woman’s wake, letting her lead them toward the elevator and down. The ride was silent, but Sarah imagined that Miss Militia was mostly enjoying the calm before the storm.

When they reached the oak door that concealed the Wards conference room, they opened it. Miss Militia entered first, and Sarah followed her in. The leader of New Wave frowned at the palpable tension in the small conference. Sarah found herself quite suddenly struck by the idea of how difficult integrating the two teams would be as she stared at the way they'd arrayed themselves in the room. Along the left side of the table, the Wards all sat in full costume. Closest to her and Miss Militia near the head of the table was Kid Win, with Clockblocker on his other side, Browbeat, Vista, Gallant and Aegis finishing off that side of the table.

On the opposite side of the table, there was an empty chair for herself, next to which she found Eric, the boy grinning up at her. Next to him sat Amy, followed by Crystal, Victoria and Taylor who sat opposite Aegis. All of the members of New Wave were in their civilian clothes, Taylor sporting a rather formal suit with a jacket that was a fair match to the figure who sat at the far end of the table. The odd figure was reclined in her chair; her violet pant-suit was a bit ruffled as she was ‘off the clock’ and she seemed to be watching both sides waiting to see if the tension would erupt into outright conflict.

Waiting until Miss Militia sat at the head of the table, Sarah took a seat in the chair and glanced around at the room. She watched everyone staring at each other before all eyes drifted up to Miss Militia when she coughed faintly.

“Wards. New Wave. We’re here to discuss the altercation that happened last night. Last night on their patrol, Glory Girl and Vigil encountered a new cape, upon interacting with the cape a battle broke out. Mistakes were made all around.” The sound of movement drew her attention, and she glanced down the table to see Victoria sitting up, but Taylor’s hand on her arm stilled her. Victoria tilted her head when Taylor muttered something, and then she lowered herself petulantly back into place. When Victoria turned her attention back to the head of the table, Miss Militia continued. “Rather than discussing it immediately, we’ll review the footage we have from the camera’s and then speak on it afterwards.” When the leader of the Wards nodded at her, Sarah shifted.

“We’ve got feeds from Vista, Gallant, Myself, and Vigil, so we’ll miss the beginning of the battle, but it’s only a minute or so, I’m told, so we should be okay without it,” Sarah spoke as she slipped from her seat. She quickly logged into the computer by the wall, bringing up the relevant footage and preparing it all to display.

“Why isn’t Glory Girl’s footage up there.” The question came from Clockblocker, and Sarah hummed as she worked. The screen to one side lit up, divided into four squares, one of which showed the edge of a roof. She grabbed the remote and moved back over toward the table.

“A different tailor built Glory Girl's new uniform than we typically use, and we haven’t had a chance to slot in a button cam like the rest of New Wave uses, it’s on the schedule, but she’s had the outfit for barely two days at this point. We’ll start with Vigil’s perspective, and the rest will come in as they line up.” With a glance at the rest, she tapped a button, and the lights dimmed, and the footage began to play.

There was a hiss when the image panned down to show Victoria suspended by energy and shrieking in pain, though there was no sound from the footage. Everyone watched with rapt focus as the view dropped to show Taylor sneaking up on the figure. Victoria’s efforts to distract the cape and Taylor’s strike received an amused chuckle from Clockblocker, though he stilled when the figure stood up.

“Is...Is that. Shadow Stalker?” Sarah frowned when Clockblocker glanced at Taylor, every other ward quickly doing the same after a moment. It wasn’t one of them that chimed in; it was Tattletale that did.

“No.” Everyone stared at her startled, and she rolled her eyes. She slid to her feet and walked over, holding out a hand for the remote. When Sarah offered it out, she fiddled with it, spreading Taylor’s view to the whole screen and zooming in on the figure.

“Look here. The underclothes look like BDU’s but they’re not, costume pieces I think. This ‘Tactical Webbing’ is modified climbing gear. The cloak is the wrong colour, and that mask is very different. Shadow Stalker's was more stern, condescending. This one is almost serene. Zen. It’s an imposter.” She frowned as she backed up.

“Shadow Stalker is in Austin. She was verified to be there. Though they’re considering changing her name, considering how suspicious it’d be for her civilian identity.” The woman spoke casually, and Sarah watched the Wards relaxing with a suspicious look in her eye. As she glanced down the table, she saw more than one matching look on the New Wave side.

“The powers were similar but different.” Gallant’s voice drew her attention, and she studied the armoured figure. She nodded at Tattletale, and the girl smoothly ducked back, resuming the footage casually, tapping something that made the three black feeds return but shrunk down, the view from Taylor still holding most of the space.

Everyone winced when Taylor reacted to the cape turning and running by snagging them with telekinesis and slamming them into the ground. When she walked around and tried to speak with them, everyone gasped as the figure seemed to explode, Taylor’s view showing the sky for a moment until she got her feet back under her.

“The breaker state is different.” It was Kid win who spoke. “Shadow Stalker never transformed, just became intangible; this one is a full transformation.” They discussed the footage as it pushed on, the Wards chiming in with questions as it came along. When Vista appeared with Gallant in tow, their feeds suddenly lit up and expanded to join Taylors on the screen. The Wards watched Taylor leaping in to block them.

Taylor’s view showed clawed hands in front of her catching the bolts of lightning, a few flicking off here and there, Vista’s view of her knees wasn’t useful. Dean’s view was fascinating as he remained close behind Taylor, leaning out once and nearly taking a bolt to the face before ducking back. He tried once more before dancing back. Gallant’s gaze focused on Taylor’s back, watching her form tensing and shaking.

The armoured hand came into his view, moving to focus on the right side of Taylor’s back, a dull glowing forming around it. Several people glanced at Gallant who remained stoically watching the screen. Everyone frowned when he shifted his arm to the side, her whole body leaning over and an arc of energy lanced out toward his view, and he released a blast of light before diving out of the way of the spark, energy washing over Taylor’s shoulder and causing her shield to flare, before flying forward toward the floating cape.

The light smashed into and through the intangible spirit doing no physical damage, but the image seemed to slacken and shrink back, glancing around suddenly. When the cape spun and stared upwards, Gallant’s view followed her, seeing Myrrdin and Lady Photon streaking down toward them. The cape seemed to revolve in place before her form clenched up into a ball and then a wave of violet crackling light exploded outwards, each view going dark when the light slammed into it, though Gallant’s picture showed the sky for a moment as he was tossed arse over tea-kettle.

As the feeds wound to a stop, the lights came back up, and the entire room sat in eery silence, everyone glancing from Taylor to Gallant and back. Aegis was the one to break the silence, turning to Gallant and speaking seriously.

“Gallant… What were you thinking?” His voice was low and filled with concern. And, like that the floodgates spilled open. Eric and Crystal surged to their feet, their expressions hard. Victoria joined them a moment later. Amy remained in place, her expression shell-shocked. Everyone tried speaking over each other, though nothing intelligible made it out. Sarah and Miss Militia glanced at each other, preparing to cut in over the teenagers but someone beat them to it.

“He thought that if I fell, we’d all be dead.” Taylor’s voice cut over the tumult. The girl's face was paler than normal, her eyes rimmed in dark shadows. Her words were quiet, and she stared quietly at Gallant. She ignored the dark look that Victoria was giving her. “I was barely keeping that lightning at bay, and it was starting to overcome my shield. We didn’t exactly have a lot of time on our hands. Someone had to do something, and no one else was in a position to do much. I rely on my telekinesis too much, and Victoria was having trouble getting to her feet. He made a judgement call, and he was right.” Taylor spoke quietly and nodded at Gallant.

“I. Yes. That was it basically.” The boy’s voice was filled with nervousness, and he glanced around before staring back at Taylor. “I am sorry that it affected you like that. My powers don’t typically cause such strong reactions, and I tried to keep from hitting you, but I was aware that there was a risk.” His voice shifted to hold a tone of regret and Taylor nodded quietly.

“I understand. It’s a hard choice, but you made the right one.” She jumped, all of them did when Victoria’s hands slammed on the table.

“Bullshit.” Her voice was short and filled with irritation. She shoved her chair back with a screech and stood. “That is fucking bullshit. Just because Taylor doesn’t give a rats ass about keeping her skin intact, doesn’t mean that I don’t, Gallant. You don’t fucking shoot your attacks through or near to fucking allies. That’s a dangerous fucking precedent to set. Aegis doesn’t feel pain, does that mean we can shoot holes through him with Kid Win’s lasers to down villains. They’d never fucking see it coming.” Victoria was glaring at Gallant from across the table. Clockblocker shifted in place before chiming in with a half-hearted joke.

“I mean. Are we going to take advice on limiting collateral damage from-” Then the time-stopper stopped talking as Eric and Crystal both pointed at him, their fingers tips glowing with blue and red lights. Swallowing nervously, Kid Win slowly edged his chair away from the time stopper. Vista glanced between Clock and Gallant before strumming up her courage and moving to speak.

“He saved your life too, Glory Girl, he didn’t just do it to save his skin, sometimes the needs of the many-” She cut off suddenly when Victoria turned and moved as if to lunge, though Victoria didn’t even make an inch before she froze in place.

“Enough.” Taylor’s voice was low and firm. She glanced at the others, staring at Eric and Crystal who were half out of their seats. “Everyone sit back down.” Taylor sat there, glaring at everyone on their side of the table until they all resumed their seats and she watched them all quietly.

“This isn’t about us. We’re here to protect the city, and that means that we need all the help we can get.” Sarah watched the girl, something dark in her eyes as she watched them all. “He’s apologized, and I’ve forgiven him. Even if he’d actually hurt me, it’d have been worth it to save the rest of you.” She said this, but her eyes remained on Victoria before she turned back to the table. “If you can work with Tattletale, Glory Girl, then you can tolerate the rest of the Wards. We don’t have to like each other, but we’ll god-damned well respect each other.”

Sarah watched as Taylor glanced over at Aegis. The leader of the Wards glanced down his side of the table. Every one of the Wards nodded quickly at Aegis' look before he turned and nodded quietly back at Taylor. She let out a soft sigh and then shifted back into her chair. The peace was tentative and tense, but at least the brewing brawl had been averted.

"That is a sentiment that I can certainly appreciate, Vigil.” The words startled Sarah, and she glanced over, staring quietly at Miss Militia who’d leaned forward. “I appreciate that you’re willing to work with us, and I appreciate your understanding in this situation. That being said, I cannot, in good conscience allow this to pass. The Protectorate has rules about these kinds of things for a reason.” The flag-wearing cape stared at Gallant quietly.

“Gallant you’re off the active duty roster effective immediately. Expect an updated time-table in the next few days that’ll cover your new training regimen. It should never have even occurred to you to let someone else take the hit so you could make the shot, whether they were a Cape or not.” Miss Militia glanced quietly from one side of the table to the other. “You’re heroes, not soldiers. That means that no one gets left behind. No one gets sacrificed.” Sarah frowned at the intense look in Miss Militia’s eye, wondering what she was thinking of as she said those lines.

“Joint Patrols will continue.” Sarah cut in, glancing at Miss Militia who nodded. “We’ll begin rotating partners out. You all need to get used to working with each other. As Vigil said, you don’t have to like each other, but you’re all here for the same reason. I’d personally prefer it if I never had to see you all preparing to battle like that again. Understood?” She stared at everyone, get