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Commander Emily Piggot hated her chair.

 

She didn't hate her chair because it was uncomfortable, quite the contrary. As she let her body fall into it, she could feel it shift and adjust to her height, weight, and overall body shape. Everything to become as ergonomic, comfortable, and supportive as possible. It was fantastic work; Emily knew from experience she could get a full night's sleep in one of these things and feel completely rejuvenated, or that she could sit in a six-hour meeting and get up feeling better then she did when she started it.

 

Like this damned table, Piggot thought, glaring at her reflection in the glossy black surface.

 

Looking back at her was a woman the middle of her life, and could probably have been considered "beautiful" by some men, a couple decades ago, if they'd had a few beers too many. Now she had her fair share of wrinkles, and four very unfair lines of scarred flesh cutting down the left side of her face. One of them went right through her left eyelid, another twisting her lips into half an angry sneer. Piggot had never been a particularly vain woman, but she'd happened to be somewhat attached to her face.

 

At least she'd killed the bastard that did it.

 

Still, that'd been a long time ago. While she couldn't say she'd really gotten over it, or that she ever would, she'd adjusted. Piggot accepted the woman she had become.

 

The table, however, pissed her off. A glossy black hexagon stretched out until it was at least twice as long as it was tall. The whole thing looked like it was made of a solid piece of some fancy high tech material Piggot couldn't identify, an odd blend of plastic, glass, and metal. It held emblems, flags, and symbols for the PRT, the Protectorate, the ENE, and the United States, all in some kind of glowing blue holographic display that looked like it was lying just beneath the surface of the table.

 

Said table was the centerpiece for the meeting room, and shared its aesthetic with it and much of the PRT ENE HQ itself. Lots of gloss, black, white, and blue. It helped the PRT go for that advanced law and order vibe that the people in PR seemed so concerned with. However, right now most of it was shrouded in shadows. The lights were off for the meeting, meaning almost all attention was forced towards the lone bright spot in the room, the oh so pretty and advanced table and it's occupants.

 

Which was part of the problem. It was all too cushy, to advanced, too shiny. It all felt wrong to her, like someone had spent hundreds of thousands making sure the "feng shui" of the room boosted productivity, instead of actually solving the problems the country was faced with. Much like how PR would spent millions of taxpayer dollars making sure their precious "heroes" looked flashy and cool.

 

Piggot spared a glance at them for a moment. The senior heroes of the Protectorate ENE in their colorful outfits and costumes sat across from herself while the heads of the local PRT's departments and branches in their muted and monochrome suits and dresses sat opposite alongside herself. Given the somewhat chaotic nature of the city and parahumans, as well as the fact that she was the commander of all PRT troopers and was expected to lead from the field, she was the only PRT member the table still in her dark blue fatigues.

 

At the head of the table stood Director Holt, a man with midnight skin and close-cropped white hair. Piggot had once heard his resting expression described as "an unimpressed grandpa."

 

She couldn't really dispute that.

 

Deputy Director Renick sat closest to the head beside her, while the leader of the Protectorate ENE, Miss Militia, sat opposite him. Staring across from herself, Piggot looked at Armsmaster, the second-in-command of the Protectorate.

 

Piggot remembered the controversy that had surrounded the previous head's retirement and determining who got promoted. Armsmaster was favored for a while, but certain actions Miss Militia had taken during the Nilbog campaign had distinguished her enough to earn her the promotion, especially in light of the changing role the PRT was being forced to take in the modern landscape. It helped that Miss Militia being given command left Armsmaster free to spend more time for tinkering and research instead of managing people and paperwork, both things he seemed far less invested in. That didn't stop Armsmaster from occasionally grumbling about it, but Piggot was glad that it was enough to satisfy his classic parahuman ego and get him to cooperate.

 

Truth be told, Piggot actually thought both Miss Militia and Armsmaster were more or less on equal footing as far as leadership went. Miss Militia might be more caring and better with people, but Piggot had a certain respect for Armsmaster's ruthless drive and the way he could adapt and overcome anything when given the proper motivation. The only problem she had with it was that Armsmaster, like many parahumans, tended to have a sense that he had to be the one to do everything. Piggot was certain it was a trait that would tweak her brow to the end of her days.

 

Fortunately, he and the rest of the Protectorate answered to her on the field. Being the PRT Commander, the unofficial 'cape wrangler' of the ENE, had its many perks.

 

"Now that we're all here, let's get started with today's meeting," said Director Holt.

 

A three-dimensional hologram of the entire city of Brockton Bay appeared, bathing the room in blue. It rotated slowly, allowing each person sitting at the table to view it. The hologram appeared to be emitted from the table, but she'd once heard that there were actually concealed holo-emitters placed all throughout the room

 

"Yesterday, Commander Piggot assisted in the apprehension of two parahumans wanted for a number of crimes revolving around their little rampage that cut a swath through downtown and ended in Matriarch Memorial near Sanctuary." Then he nodded in Piggot's direction, "She successfully engaged both parahumans despite only being armed with the most basic of equipment, in addition to being caught by surprise on her day off. For this, I must offer thanks and commendations."

 

A round of cheers went around the room. Some hollow, others genuine. Miss Militia actually seemed happy—possibly even relieved—something that irked Piggot given their history. Armsmaster was hard to read, but if Piggot had to guess he was respectful of the accomplishment but largely indifferent. Director Holt, despite his relatively blank face, was clearly proud of her actions, as he had made clear in an earlier discussion. The only two who really seemed to resent her were Challenger and Ursa Aurora.

 

"Now," Holt said, raising a hand in warning. "The problems."

 

He pressed a finger to the table and the hologram shifted to zoom in on the section where the incident had happened. All the damage in the resulting fight with the two parahumans was illuminated in a bloody red against the otherwise calm blue.

 

"While the fight was relatively light, compared to fights with Lung, the Empire, and the Teeth, the fact is that in the eyes of the public, this whole fight was sloppy," Holt said, his displeasure coming through in his flat baritone. "It's entirely possible that without Commander Piggot's involvement that it could have turned into a hostage situation. That is unacceptable."

 

"I'm working on a new training regimen with my 2nd in command for the troopers right now, sir," Piggot answered Holt's unspoken question. "I'm hoping to coordinate a joint session with Protectorate capes, and possibly even independent heroes in the bay area. Something to help the new squads get used to high activity environments and assist the veterans in solidifying ways to deal with parahuman abilities and personalities, while also allowing the parahumans to train in dealing with hard combat."

 

"Good," Holt nodded. He gestured at Miss Militia and Piggot with a remote in his hand. "You two, get on it. We'll need to schedule it in line with the upcoming Analog Drill."

 

"Could we have it at the same time?" Armsmaster proposed. "It would be an efficient use of time and produce a more trying and productive training exercise."

 

"Possibly," Holt considered. He turned to a young brown-haired man, no older than his early thirties, wearing a black suit with a blue tie. "Samson, thoughts on combining the exercises?"

 

Samson chewed his lip for a moment. "While it seems easy enough on paper, there's usually at least one dumbass in town who considers the Analog Drill a good time to do something under the radar. If all the muscle is distracted doing a training drill, then that limits the speed and effectiveness of our response."

 

Samson was the head of DT, or the Digital Technologies department, which meant he was in charge of organizing the drill that effectively shut down all his operations.

 

"If we did it in the city it could increase response times," Hindsight Bias suggested.

 

The Protectorate Thinker was one of many additions that had been transferred from New York in the past five years. Wearing a hooded white cape, set of boots and gloves, along with ivory belts and straps keeping all his gear attached to his thick black bodysuit, he capped it all off with a dark full face mask with a bulky tinker tech visor.

 

He was only able to avoid PR's oppressive hold, of course, by having a bombastic and theatrical personality in the field that tended to overshadow his appearance as some kind of paramilitary assassin. Fortunately for all involved, he was a complete professional when it mattered.

 

"It would also mean any collateral damage from the exercise hits the city, which we'd have to pay for," Piggot pointed out with a hard voice.

 

"Both in PR and expenses," Adams, the plain woman in a suit and skirt who headed of Public Relations, added. "The people wouldn't exactly welcome the government coming in and wrecking downtown just for a training exercise."

 

"Speaking of," she continued, folding her arms together and leaning over the table, "Sanctuary is pissed that we burned down half their forest."

 

"That wasn't exactly us," Challenger pointed out, "and it was only a few trees."

 

"Dryad doesn't see it that way, and she's pretty pissed about what happened. She might not be the head of the local Sanctuary branch, but she's got enough pull and support to paint this whole event as an enormous failure in the eyes of the public."

 

A number of faces frowned, and more than a few grumbled about ungrateful civilians.

 

"It was a failure," Piggot spoke up.

 

The whole room turned to her, most confused, though Director Holt seemed to know where she was heading given the way he nodded in agreement.

 

"Just because we caught the bad guys doesn't mean we won," Piggot clarified through gritted teeth. The fact that so many seemed to think it did, especially the capes, made her blood boil. "We're here to protect and serve. That doesn't mean 'beat up villains', that means 'keep the public safe'. If 500 people die on the way to capturing one man, that's not a victory."

 

"Weren't you part of the Nilbog campaign?" Ursa Aurora asked.

 

The bear-themed master in neon purple and black had been another transfer from New York after the Christmas Eve Massacre. She'd been understandably disgruntled, to say the least, but after 5 years she'd managed to integrate well enough with most people. Piggot was not one of those people.

 

"Yes," Piggot sneered, knowing her scarred mouth only enhanced the expression, "And it was the second-worst failure in all of the PRT's history. Possibly in the history of the United States. If you'd been there, then you'd know that."

 

Miss Militia opened her mouth to respond at the same time Hindsight Bias held up a hand to throw in his own two cents and a tan man in a black suit and turban on her side of the table spoke up. The room was on the edge of dissolving into chaos when Director Holt raised his voice.

 

"Let's," he began loudly, his voice once more cutting through the static, "Table that discussion for later. More importantly," he gestured to Piggot, "You mentioned in your report that you had certain suspicions regarding the way the incident yesterday was...resolved."

 

"I think there may have been parahuman involvement," Piggot responded, "one from a third party, not the tinker tech in the park."

 

"For those of us uninformed as of yet about the details, why don't you enlighten us?" Holt said, gesturing to the rest of the room. The Director had, of course, read her report already. Piggot figured Miss Militia probably had as well. This was just to bring everyone else up to speed.

 

"A number of the civilians we interviewed for the after-action report mentioned hearing someone telling them to run and lights guiding them out and away from the fires. One girl was even saved from burning to death by this unknown third party." Piggot paused and took in a sharp breath through her nose, "More than a few claim that… 'the bugs' saved them."

 

"Matriarch," Challenger whispered, a thoughtful frown in his voice.

 

Challenger was one of the few locals in the room. Most people had been transferred in from one place or another over the years. While Piggot, Miss Militia, and Armsmaster had been familiar with her from their time in the city, Challenger had grown up with Matriarch as a household name.

 

While she was alive her career had been, to put it mildly, polarizing. Some hated her, found her to be a weakening, corrupting, and even seditious influence on Brockton Bay and the United States as a whole. She certainly had her fair share of enemies in the PRT given the legitimacy she helped give to the idea of parahumans not working under the thumb of the government. By that same notion, however, she had an enormous following of supporters. In many ways, she was demonized by the country just as much as she was idolized by it.

 

After her death, however, it became more or less political suicide to do anything less than put her on a pedestal for her civil service and self-sacrifice.

 

Piggot had her own mixed feelings on the matter, and she hadn't really known the woman in person too well before she died. She seemed to be serious and passionate about her ideals, which was more than Piggot could say for most capes and politicians, but Matriarch's goals and motivations sometimes put her at odds with what Piggot thought was best for the country. Plus the woman could be too damned stubborn for her own good.

 

Still, Piggot supposed she could admit to herself she at least respected Matriarch, even if she didn't particularly like the woman.

 

All this, of course, made this whole situation all the more...uncomfortable.

 

"Are you suggesting that Matriarch had a hand in this?" Hindsight Bias questioned.

 

"That's impossible," Mr. Mir, the tan man in the turban that headed up the Intelligence branch of the ENE said, "We know for a fact she died. Her death’s a matter of public record, is it not? We have her remains and everything."

 

“You mean what’s left,” Challenger crumbled.

 

"We do," The Director clarified before anyone else could cut in, "We also have confirmation from Lustrum and other verified sources that Matriarch did, in fact, die that day."

 

"Indeed," Mir nodded. His voice only had the barest hint of Indian accent, something Piggot believed he either left in or created on purpose. It gave his voice an exotic flavor that made him stand out as a distinct person, something aided by his turban.

 

Piggot wasn't sure why he did it, but she tried to stay away from cloak and dagger operations as much as she could, so she figured there was some kind of underlying spook logic to it that she just didn't get.

 

"So what other conclusions can we come to? This is a clear indication of something we didn't know before; we just have to put the pieces together and follow the trail to the truth." Mr. Mir continued.

 

"Is it possible the tinkertech that pacified the insects in the area also controlled them?" Armsmaster suggested, "Directing them to mimic actions Matriarch could or would have taken?"

 

"That was the initial working theory, yes," Holt answered, "But the Tinker in question says that that function is outside the design parameters for their device."

 

“Is it Archon?” Samson asked the obvious question, fear creeping into his voice.

 

It was the question on everyone’s mind. Now that it’d been spoken, the tension in the room felt like a physical thing pressing down on them. No one wanted to imagine that possibility, but it was slowly becoming all too real. The air itself felt oppressive, the once perfectly climate controlled and immaculately organized room felt tight and claustrophobic.

 

“I mean-”

 

“Doubtful,” Mr. Mir countered, “While the basics sound similar, using a pawn to save lives doesn’t fit his MO. If he had Matriarch, she would have been used by now to cause chaos on a scale hitherto undreamt of.”

 

“Yeah, this whole thing sounds more like what the woman herself would do, not some puppet,” Challenger added.

 

“Well, how else do you explain it?” Ursa questioned.

 

“At this point, we have little in the way of probable conclusions,” Armsmaster admitted, “but we already have protocols for dealing with Archon. It’s best we look into and rule out any other alternatives before we get too fixated on any one idea. That way we won’t be blindsided if the truth comes from an unexpected angle.”

 

The assembled group grudgingly acknowledged his point. Archon was dangerous, yes, but he was far from the only threat out there. That didn’t make the room any less tense.

 

"So...what? we have a Matriarch clone?" Hindsight Bias said, leaning back in his chair. "How's that possible?"

 

"She managed to 2nd trigger and live on through her power," Adamant, the ferrokinetic New Yorker grunted, "wouldn't be the first time."

 

"Wouldn't be the first new biotinker either," Piggot suggested.

 

For a moment, there was silence as they all contemplated that horrifying thought.

 

"...ah, shit," Challenger whispered.

 

Piggot raised a brow.

 

"Anything you care to add, Challenger?" Director Holt asked.

 

"Right...well...everyone knows about the New Wave?" Challenger slowly began, looking around the room, "The, uh, original team, anyways.

 

"Yes?" Adams said impatiently, "And?"

 

"Yeah, and you know how they're basically the flying textbook for second gen capes, right?" he added.

 

Piggot noticed the way Miss Militia's eyes suddenly widened and got a bad feeling about what was coming next.

 

"Yes. Their family dynamics have been the subject of more than a few case studies," Director Holt said. "What of it?"

 

"Right right," Challenger nodded, rolling a hand. "So, uh what if...you know…?"

 

"Oh no," Deputy Director Renick sighed, lowering his head into a waiting hand. "Second-gen capes."

 

"What about them?" Armsmaster pressed, a hint of irritation tingeing his voice.

 

"There were a lot of ideals that Matriarch rallied and advocated for in her day. In spite of how broad and varied they could be, they tended to revolve around a set core of themes." He explained with a weary face, "One of her favorites was that she was a proud mother."

 

Oh, Piggot realized.

 

"There was a stint in the '90s where she was visibly pregnant and she actually stopped appearing," Renick explained, "And afterward she would gush about her daughters pretty much every chance she got."

 

"There's a reason she was called the mother of all," Miss Militia muttered, connecting the dots herself.

 

"Yeah, yeah," Challenger nodded, "So, you know, what if one of her kids triggered?"

 

"Then we could be looking at the second coming of Matriarch," Renick huffed in exasperation, "With all the good and bad that comes with that."

 

Quiet filled the room again.

 

"Well fuck," someone voiced all their thoughts.

 

Piggot could already feel the headaches coming her way. The PR meetings, the sensitivity training, the flag-waving. Ellisburg, as bad as it had been, was in her element. This could be political hell.

 

Director Holt's face shifted into a fractional frown, "Well, it won't do to make baseless assumptions."

 

Challenger opened his mouth but Holt cut him off with a sharp hand gesture, "We have rumors, speculation, and circumstantial evidence. We're not going to start running around like chickens with our heads cut off just because we might have the daughter of one of the largest political headaches in recent memory coming into her powers."

 

"That being said," Holt leaned back ever so slightly, "I probably have a long and unproductive discussion with Lustrum ahead of me."

 

"We have a long and unproductive discussion ahead of us, Director," Adams added with a strained smile of commiseration.

 

Piggot noticed the way Miss Milita shifted in her seat. Narrowing her eyes, she was about to ask the woman about it before Holt spoke up again.

 

"Indeed," he nodded, cutting through the distractions. The Director rapped one knuckle against the table, as if to punctuate the end of the topic, and pressed a button on the remote to change the display.

 

"On to larger matters."

 

The image shifted again, now showing a blue satellite image of the northeastern United States. Most of it was blue, but one section was a deep bruised purple. A grid overlaid the whole landscape, dividing the territory into sections. The Director highlighted that section and zoomed in. Piggot felt a chill go down her spine and what was left of her stomach twist itself into knots as a familiar fog that filled the field.

 

"Our satellites and aerial patrols have detected large movements through the miasma of the region."

 

Piggot saw large red clouds forming through the haze and felt dread bubbling up again. They popped in and out of existence, denoting each sighting. Though scattered and unfocused, it was undeniable that each movement invariably sent it further and further east.

 

"Analysts say it's likely that it is one of the larger aberrations. We don't know which kind yet—it could be an Ogre or two, it could be a Gestalt — the miasma is too thick in there to tell," the Director explained. He pressed a button and the display zoomed out. The holo-table lit up with several dotted lines leading from the Plaguelands outwards, displaying projected destinations, routes, and arrival times.

 

"The fog's too thick to do a pinpoint airstrike on it, and we've only got a rough 5-mile radius for it. We've tried a few probing strikes but we haven't had much luck yet. We're basically striking blind."

 

"As such," He continued, "Brockton Bay, Boston, Philadelphia, Syracuse, Albany, Toronto, and Montreal have all been put on alert, as well as all North American Coalition forces in the region. The Plaguelands miasma ends a few miles from the nearest military outpost and several dozen miles from the nearest populated town. We should be able to get eyes on the aberration well before it gets to a populated area."

 

Hushed whispers fell over the whole table. More than a few frightened glances were sent Piggot's way, all of which made her grind her teeth. That so many of these people heard of her actions in the Nilbog campaign grated on her. Not specifically because she disliked the fame, though she could do without it, but because it felt like they were all ignoring the sacrifices made by everyone else who fought in that campaign. Like all the people who'd fought and died alongside her hadn't mattered, that somehow Piggot had magically solved everything by herself.

 

The only thing that pissed her off more was Miss Militia's worried glance.

 

"The good news," Director Holt spoke up, cutting through the static once again with his loud baritone, "is that the United States Second Fleet will be moving a carrier group to be stationed offshore of Brockton Bay and Boston, and another one near Philadelphia. Combined with the rest of the Coalition assets both here and in Canada, we'll have more than enough firepower to bury whatever comes out of that hellhole in its own lead coffin."

 

"That said, one of the major reasons the fleets are moving isn't because of some aberrant sighting in the Plaguelands." The Director pressed another button and the display changed again.

 

This time an image of the northeastern American continent came up, the Atlantic Ocean taking up the right side of the map, Canada the upper left, and the US the lower left.

 

"Archon has been making moves recently, and it's got the boys upstairs nervous," Holt explained. As he did, a massive red region lit up, encompassing much of the northern section of the map. "As such the N.A.C is reorganizing fleets in preparation for another attack like Bloody Valentines or the Christmas Eve Massacre."

 

An uncomfortable feeling a dread filled the room. As worrying as an aberration from the Plaguelands was, it was old news compared to the Bloody 14th.

 

Speaking of Archon had a way of doing that to people.

 

"In such an event, we will have immediate naval support from the carrier group offshore and military installations inland," Holt said, the map above the table highlighting the numerous fleet and military base locations in blue. "Intelligence is concerned that this may be in response to the recent efforts made by the Navy to keep up and overtake Archon in our arms race."

 

He clicked another button and the view shifted again to the docks of the city.

 

Piggot had heard that for a while the docks of the city had been neglected. The appearance of Leviathan had been the death knell for many coastal cities across the globe. After Hero killed the beast in '04, the tide had turned. Combined with the recent power vacuum in the nation's economy and the growth of the city's tech sector, it seemed like the docks of Brockton Bay couldn't grow fast enough.

 

It still surprised Piggot to see all the sprawling harbors, slipways, and drydocks that took up nearly a quarter of the whole city.

 

"The Navy has recently ordered a new set of warships, some of which are slated to be built here. These new ships are going to be packed full of the latest and greatest tech out of Ladon Industries."

 

"What happened to buying from the lowest bidder?" Ursa Aurora remarked.

 

"When there's only one bidder selling railguns and laser point defense grids, it doesn't really matter what the lowest guy's selling," Daniels, the Kentucky born manager of the ENE's purse commented in his notable drawl, "They might be expensive, but they're worth it."

 

"Not surprising given it's all tinkertech," Adamant all but snorted.

 

"Which," Director Holt cut in, "is why we need to be on high alert."

 

He highlighted several warehouses in the area, "Ladon is going to have to store the equipment that will be installed on the vessels in several high-security places. They plan to ship most of it to the docks just before it can be installed, but they'll still need to store it for at least a day before it can be put in place. That's a window of vulnerability that can be exploited."

 

"Our job," he continued, "is to make sure that none of the parahuman led gangs get anywhere near them. These are highly valued objects, there's nothing on the market like Ladon tech, and I wouldn't be surprised if Lung or Kaiser would sell their own mother for a chance to get their hands on this stuff, either to sell or to use for themselves."

 

"Remember," Samson said, "this is Ladon tech, so even if it's tinker tech it's post Kharkov Limit stuff. That means any random schmoe with the right training and equipment can maintain it."

 

"Equipment that is also being stored in those warehouses," Armsmaster guessed, "and would also sell quite well."

 

"Correct," Holt nodded, "and I don't want to be the one to tell the Navy or Hero that I lost their brand new plasma railgun battery to a bunch of punks chasing after an outdated ideal we beat over half a century ago."

 

"I'd be more worried about Dragon," Adamant remarked over crossed arms, "girl knows how to pout."

 

A few people chuckled, Piggot snorted, Challenger rolled his eyes, and Armsmaster looked like he was smiling only because he thought he was "supposed" to.

 

"Piggot," he continued, "I'm going to need you to set up airtight patrols with Miss Militia and Mr. Mir."

 

Piggot, Miss Militia, and Mir all nodded in agreement.

 

"You'll all be working with Naval, Ladon, Police, and a litany of other groups to make sure the site is secure. I'll be sending each of you files on the project for you to examine," Holt explained, pressing a few buttons on the table, "Moving on…"

 

The meeting went on for another two hours after that, nothing surprising to Piggot. While most of it mattered, it either wasn't in her wheelhouse, or she already knew it. The only real news that struck her was that Lung's other pet enforcer was back in town from her little excursion with his thinker out in the badlands.

 

When all was said and done, the Director called an end to the meeting. As everyone began shuffling out of the conference room and back to their departments, Piggot decided to ask one last question.

 

"Director," Piggot began, grabbing the dark-skinned man's attention,

 

"Yes, commander?" he asked, though the look in his eye said he already knew where this was going.

 

"Do we have any more information on the potential biotinker threat that attacked the merchants?" she asked.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Miss Militia sigh.

 

"Armsmaster and our forensic scientists have concluded that there was no aberrant biomatter at any of the scenes," Holt explained. "Although there are signs that unusual drugs did significantly alter their brain chemistry. Possibly tinker drugs."

 

"But no unusual biological samples?" Piggot pressed.

 

"No," Holt shook his head. "I can understand why this issue hits close to home with you, but so far the evidence we've gathered is leading us to believe that rather than some manner of infection or virus, that this was an act of smoke, drugs, and mirrors. A potent combination as old as time."

 

Piggot grunted at the answer, getting out of her seat along with the rest of the staff, "I have my doubts."

 

"You don't believe the results?" Armsmaster pressed, "I can vouch for how thorough we're being."

 

Piggot brushed off the concern. Armsmaster had been in the Nilbog campaign, he'd seen the same things as her, even fought beside her once. Armsmaster understood the horrors of a biotinker, of how dangerous this could be, of that Piggot had no doubt.

 

"No, I believe you," she said as she walked towards the door of the conference room. "I just have a bad feeling about this."

 

"Emily." Miss Militia called out.

 

Piggot stopped and leveled a half-hearted glare at the woman. The Protectorate Veteran shrugged it off this time.

 

"I know what this means to you."

 

Piggot's glare sharpened.

 

"You know what it means to us, too," Miss Militia pointed out, gesturing to the four of them.

 

Piggot nearly sneered at the insinuation. Some part of her wanted to claim that even if they'd been in the campaign, they didn't know it like she did. The rest of her knew that after months in hell, things like that stopped mattering.

 

So instead she nodded at the woman with grudging respect. "I do," She ground out.

 

Miss Militia took a breath and glanced at the director. He nodded back in a way that implied they'd already talked about this, or at the very least he knew where she was going with this.

 

"I'll look into it, Emily." The gunslinger promised. "I've got time you don't. I can use it to look into this personally. Whatever else may be between us, you know you can trust me on this."

 

Piggot gave Miss Militia a hard, icy, gaze. She looked at the woman's emerald eyes, trying to find even the slightest hint of wavering purpose or ulterior motive.

 

"I'll hold you to that."

 

 

 

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