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A Bloodstained Shadow Over Brockton Bay

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Charles Flynn, Mar 22, 2021.

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  1. Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Thank you. I really do try.

    And trust me, it gets even better. I had one hell of a lot of fun planning out the Leviathan fight.
     
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  2. Aurora Raven

    Aurora Raven Corvids are cool

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    Oh hello there QA, how nice of you to join in.

    Are we getting fusion and QAylor two years ahead of schedule?
     
  3. Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    To a certain extent. Bonding to a vampire caused QA to ingest Taylor's blood. Which turned her into a ghoul.

    Consequently, she's trying to influence Taylor into collecting as much data as possible since her host just made her shard stronger, when it's usually the other way around. She thinks she might've just cracked entropy.
     
  4. Autocorruptor

    Autocorruptor Corrupting Innocent Grammar

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    A shard cracking entropy is bad. A vampire shard cracking entropy is even worse. You are clearly having fun writing this.
     
  5. permeakra

    permeakra Getting sticky.

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    So, when will Taylor learn about Diablery ?
     
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  6. Threadmarks: Interlude: Clockblocker
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    The alarm clock barks at me, screaming me into alertness.

    I promptly groan, and then freeze it with my powers, before turning over in bed and putting my pillow over my head.

    “Just five more minutes,” I groan.

    “Dennis,” Mom says from the doorway, and like that, I’m up. She’s been going through a lot, with Dad in the hospital. I’m not going to add to that list.

    “Yeah, yeah,” I grumble, as I make my way across the hall to the bathroom. A quick rinse and repeated flybys by the toothbrush deliver a payload of toothpaste onto my teeth, and then it’s time for the most important part of my morning routine.

    I smile at the mirror. “So, why did the chicken cross the road?” I pause. “To get to the other side!”

    Hm. Sufficient energy, timing’s all right. Guess I’m good to go. I shoot fingerguns at the mirror. “All right Dennis. Time to hit the road. Today’s gonna be a good day.”

    I don’t really believe that it’s going to be a good day. I haven’t in a while. But the ritual… the ritual is important. Dad taught it to me. Said that he used to do it in front of the mirror too, before he got his own genuine, living, miniature reflection to do it with.

    And now it’s my turn to do it in front of the mirror. Because my bigger reflection is stuck in the hospital.

    Fuck. Come on Dennis, hold it together. Keep on smiling. That’s what Dad always said. Somebody has to smile when things are at their worst, and crack a joke even on the way to the gallows. Might as well be us.

    So I smile, and make my way down to breakfast.

    I’m visiting Dad today, I decide. I might need to ask Gallant to cover my shift for me, but I’m definitely visiting Dad today. Maybe Panacea is… whatever the fuck happened to Panacea, but there are other healers. Other people out there who might be able to help. I just need to keep him alive, long enough for the PRT to send one over. Just… hold the floor. Keep him going. Then… then I’ll get more time.

    But now, it’s time for school. So, I smile, and start going over my jokes. Because someone has to.

    ---​

    “So, you heard about the latest bombings?” Bobby asks as he sits down next to me during lunch.

    “Yeah, I hear they were quite a blast,” I say, leaning out of the way of Bobbi-with-an-I’s retaliatory cuff upside the head.

    Many people would claim that I only befriended two separate people with identical-sounding names solely so I could pull a who’s on first joke. And to be fair, I totally did. But, at the same time, they were still decent enough friends.

    “Very funny, Dennis,” Chris says with a groan. He had trouble making friends, at first, so I made sure to rope him into my Three Musketeers when I got the opportunity. “but, seriously, what’s this about new bombings?”

    “The ABB blew up another warehouse,” Bobby says. “It was all over the news. PHO says they’re still going after the Sabbat.”

    “The Sabbat isn’t real,” Chris says, rolling his eyes. “There’s absolutely no concrete proof that Lung didn’t just snap under the pressure of Josephus going after him and decide to start tilting at windmills.”

    “I dunno,” Bobbi interjects. “Some of the posters on PHO say they’ve seen the Sabbat in action.”

    “By, ‘posters’ you mean ‘tinfoil hats,’ right?” I say with a raised eyebrow. “Oh, yes, I totally saw the Sabbat! They were charging off into battle to stop an alien invasion by the Greys, and they almost lost, too, but then the cavalry came in: Bigfoot. Riding Nessie. You don’t remember it? Well, that’s because of the memory-wiping fluoride that the government keeps dumping in the water! I remember because of the POWER OF TINFOIL!”

    “Yeah, very funny, Dennis,” Chris says with an eye-roll. But he’s smiling. “I guess they are a bit of an urban legend.”

    “Even so-“

    The five minute warning bell sounds, and our conversation is abandoned in favor of snarfing down our food as fast as possible, before lunch ends.

    And then it’s back to another day of classes. On my way through the halls, I slip Dean a note asking him to cover my shift for me.

    He’ll do it, of course. I can always count on Dean to cover my shift for me when I’m visiting Dad.

    ---​

    I take a deep breath outside the room. All right, Dennis. You can do this. Even if it’s not spending time with him, not really, you can still hold out for a healer. Hold the floor. Delay the inevitable. And do it with a smile.

    No matter how much it hurts.

    I open the door with a smile, one I don’t allow to waver when I see him, lying emaciated in the hospital bed. He used to be so much bigger than this.

    “Did somebody order a life extension?” I ask cheerfully, as I make my way towards the bed.

    “Hey, champ,” he says, smiling back. “Maybe… maybe today we can skip that.”

    I freeze. “What?”

    “Maybe we don’t… don’t freeze me today,” he says, as I feel the world fall out from under me.

    “B-But…” I’m panicking, now. “You don’t have much time left! If I don’t freeze you, then-“

    “Son,” he says, and I feel a part of me calm down at his voice. The cancer and the chemo withered his body, but his voice stayed strong, even when the rest of him didn’t. “Do you really think that your old man can’t watch the news? Panacea isn’t… She’s not going to heal me. And even if she would, I don’t think I’d want whatever that madman turned her into to get its hands on me.”

    “There are other healers!” I snap. “They could heal you! I’ll put in a request with the PRT, and if you can just hold on long enough…”

    “Dennis, it’s fine,” my dad says with a smile. “The time you’ve given me is already more than a blessing enough. But, we both know that I’m not getting better from this. And… I’ve made my peace with that.”

    “But I haven’t!” I shout. “I… I don’t want to lose you.”

    I sit down in the visitor’s chair, my hands gripping the armrests like a vice. I’m not going to cry, dammit. I need… I need to stay positive. Smile. Be strong because everyone else needs me to-

    “Dennis,” my father says, with a smile. “It’s okay to cry. I can be strong for the both of us.”

    I bawl like a baby.

    “Look. I get it. This whole thing… it sucks. I don’t want to die, Dennis,” he says, his rail-thin arms holding me as I sob. “But… I guess I’m not afraid to, not anymore. You’ve given me so much. More time to live. Time to set things in order. Time to see the incredible man my son has become.”

    And with that, any hopes of me stopping my tears within a reasonable timeframe have been shot to bits.

    “But… well, it’s a longshot, me getting better from this. And I don’t want to spend the rest of my life desperately scrabbling after a little more time. I want to spend it on the people who matter most to me. So, just… for today, please don’t freeze me. Let me spend one of my last days on Earth together with my son, the superhero.”

    I don’t know how long I spend like that, crying in my dad’s arms. But, eventually, I pull myself together.

    “A-All right,” I say, suppressing a sniffle. “What to you want to talk about?”

    “Well, for starters,” he grins, and elbows me. “Got a girlfriend, yet?”

    Dad,” I groan.

    “What? You’re a superhero, now. Chicks dig a uniform. Back in ‘Nam, I was practically crawling with admirers. ‘Course, that was well before I met your mother.” He seems to think things over for a moment. “You with that flying cheerleader girl?”

    “Glory Girl? No, not a chance of that happening. And I don’t have a girlfriend, period. No time.”

    “Says the guy that runs around wearing at least five clocks,” he says with a raised eyebrow. “You know, I’m pretty well off, all things considered. Lived a good life. But I wouldn’t say no to a couple last-minute grandkids.”

    Dad!”

    “Heh. Gotcha.” He laughs, and I reach for the call button when it turns into a hacking cough. “No, no, I’m fine. It’s fine.” He seems suddenly exhausted. “What’s it like?”

    “What’s what like?”

    “Being a superhero.” He smiles. “Not many chances to ask that question, you know.”

    “It’s…” I think it over. Part of me wants to downplay things, make him think it’s no big deal. But he deserves an honest answer. “It’s either boring, or terrifying.”

    “Heh. Like the army?”

    “Yeah. Like the army. Usually, they keep us away from danger, and it’s all just… smiling and waving. Showing the flag. But sometimes, we actually run into supervillains, and that can be dangerous. I don’t really know what the hell is going on with the whole… ‘Alliance for Brockton Bay’ they’ve got going on now, but I ran into Hookwolf once, before the Empire vanished. I thought for sure that I was going to die.”

    “But you didn’t,” Dad says, looking worried. “You’re not allowed to die before me, buster. I called dibs.”

    I snort. “Sure thing, old man.”

    And then, I hear the sirens.

    “That’s…” I feel the blood leave my face. “Endbringer.”

    “Well, then, champ,” my Dad says, and he still smiles confidently, even though I can see his hands tremble. “Time to save the world, again.”

    I look at him. “Are you going to be all right?”

    “I’ll be fine. There’s a shelter below the building. They’ll evacuate all the patients there. Now go on. Your team will need you.” I’m almost to the door when I hear his voice again. “And remember! I called dibs! No dying!”

    I grin. “Sir, yes, sir.”

    ---​

    There’s already quite the crowd, when I get to the PRT building. The ABB is there, all of them. Lung, Coil, and Bakuda. The Travellers. The remnants of Faultline’s crew and the Undersiders.

    One of the Travellers is in an iron lung, for some reason.

    Villains from out of town have showed up as well, but I don’t know who they are.

    “Right,” I sidle up to Vista. “What’d I miss?”

    “Nothing much,” she says, trying to sound nonchalant. “The other Protectorate heroes showed up, the assorted villains showed up. The usual.”

    “Ah, yes. Heroes and villains desperately teaming up to fight of beasts of the apocalypse. That’s ‘the usual,’ all right. No, nothing out of the ordinary here,” I snark. “Hey, what’s the deal with the guy in the iron lung?”

    “Dunno.”

    “Huh.”

    New Wave is over in their corner, sans Panacea. Legend is making the rounds, while Alexandria talks with Armsmaster. Eidolon’s over in the corner, staring stoically out the window.

    “So do you think that this is everyone?” I ask. Before frowning. “And… is that a case 53?”

    I point at the giant, seeming human-insect hybrid in the corner.

    “No, that’s Panacea,” Vista says, and…

    Oh God. That’s Panacea? Quickly, mouth! Spew forth a joke, so that I might focus on that, and not my horrified nausea!

    “Damn. She really let herself go.”

    Well done, mouth.

    Vista snorts and punches my shoulder.

    “We got everybody here?” I ask.

    “Well, there are a few stragglers, but I think this is most of us,” Vista says. “I don’t think that there are any other teams that plan on attending.”

    And with that, the doors to the lobby swing wide open, providing further support to my theory that there is in fact a God, and he loves irony.

    “SORRY WE’RE LATE!” the intruder, a man clad in pitch-black Tinkertech armor, says. He strides in at the head of… Oh my god.

    The group he arrives of is massive. At least forty capes. Maybe even fifty. Among their ranks are the capes of the empire, their swastikas replaced with the same cross-heavy iconography that the rest of the rank and file wear. Other missing capes are among them, all wearing the same getup. I think I spot Shielder, too.

    Armsmaster steps forwards. “And you are?”

    “The Sabbat,” the black knight says, standing tall and proud. “And when the Leviathan comes, he will not find us wanting.”

    Oh. Oh, God. They’re real. They’re real, and they outnumber both us and the ABB combined.

    “So,” Coil says. “All it takes is an Endbringer for you to show your faces?”

    “Why wouldn’t it?” the black knight asks, looking over the ABB. “After all, I see you’re all here as well-“ He freezes when he sees the man in the iron lung. “Wait, you’re alive? How? I STABBED YOU THROUGH THE HEART!”

    “Spite.” The man in the coffin answers.

    The black knight shakes his head. “Yes, we’re here. What’s the plan?”

    “We wait a few more minutes, to allow others to show up, and then Legend briefs us,” Armsmaster says, stern and no-nonsense as ever.

    “Well, we’ll wait,” the Black Knight says. And with that, the Sabbat splits off into three groups. One looks brutish, and animalistic. The second are dark and shadowy sorts, who seem almost machine-like in their motions. And the third is the knight himself, who stands alone.

    Well, I guess this is my only chance to ask.

    I walk up to the knight. “So, the Sabbat. What’s it like, bumping elbows with Bigfoot and Nessie?”

    “Alright,” he says easily. “Bigfoot’s a decent chap, but Nessie counts cards whenever we play poker.”

    “She did seem like the type,” I say, pleasantly surprised that he actually knows how to take a joke. “So, did you make the armor yourself?”

    “Nah, but we have a bunch of tinkers on staff,” he says easily. “So, what’s your handle?”

    “Clockblocker,” I say, offering a hand to shake. I can hear Vista freaking out in the background, but I don’t freeze him. There’s a time and a place, and all that. “Yours?”

    “The Black Knight,” he says. “I was originally thinking ‘Vader’, you know, to go with the armor? But even the mighty knights of the Sabbat fear the wrath of a copyright infringed.”

    “Well, I can’t fault you for good taste,” I say. That gets a chuckle out of him for some reason. “Can it do the breathing?”

    “Obviously! What kind of savage do you take me for!”

    Our conversation (and information gathering session, on my part) is interrupted when Legend steps up to begin his speech.

    “Thank you all for-“

    And that’s when everything goes horribly wrong. Because that’s when the bomb goes off under Legend’s feet.

    When the dust clears, he’s a glass statue, and so are the capes around him. Alexandria and Armsmaster were on the outskirts and have been partially turned to glass.

    Everyone’s in shock, nobody quite believing what just happened. No one quite grasping the overwhelming, incontrovertible truth that one of the Triumvirate is dead.

    And then, the silence is broken.

    “That was one of Bakuda’s bombs!” one member of the Sabbat shouts, the muscular woman with shark teeth.

    And that’s when all hell breaks loose.

    Everybody’s shouting and accusing each other at the same time, and I can barely hear anyone.

    I’m still in shock. The Truce is broken. The Endbringer Truce is broken, and Legend is dead.

    And in this chaos, in this pandemonium, who’s to hear one distant voice shout out, “Wave!”

    And then it hits, and the world is awash with blood and brine.

    ---​

    I pull myself up from where I managed to land.

    I can hear them fighting in the distance. Not sure if it’s against Leviathan, or each other. Even so, I pull myself to my feet, and make my way towards the sounds of conflict, to save who I can.

    Because someone has to.
     
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  7. Krein

    Krein Fer all the lewds

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    ...Huh. Vampires were shown to be susceptible to Path to Victory, and you'd assume that Contessa always checks for any possible upcoming dangers to the Triumvirate. Especially prior to the Endbringer fight. Wonder what went wrong.
     
  8. Autocorruptor

    Autocorruptor Corrupting Innocent Grammar

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    Holy. Fucking. Shit. Legend is dead. Literally one of the best people in the story is dead. You really like piling on the grimdark, don’t you?
     
  9. Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    It's not really about being grimdark for grimdark's sake. It's about what logically fits in with the characters' motivations. In this case, the Sabbat at large's ultimate goal is world domination. The Protectorate at large are the biggest obstacle that keeps them from just taking the Ellisburg route. (not the only one, see vampires nearly being driven exxtinct by regular humans during the middle ages, but certainly the largest and most coordinated organization for dealing with a supernatural threat such as the Sabbat)

    Thus, Wiglaf is using Leviathan's attack to fulfill multiple objectives: Killing Legend, the member of the Triumvirate most suited to fighting vampires, and sabotaging the Endbringer fight to cause as many cape deaths as possible.

    Of course, that's not all he's planning. But you'll have to wait to find out the rest.
     
  10. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    Monty Python and the Holy Grail came out before Star Wars, and the published version of King Arthur came out well before that so Black Knight would be copyrighted twice over :V
     
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  11. Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    The broader literary archetype of the Black Knight predates Monty Python by more than a thousand years.

    Or, in layman's terms: It's public domain.
     
  12. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    I was referring to specific characters who bore the name/title Black Knight, not the trope

    Edit: the book I was thinking of might have fallen into Public Domain (might not, bunch of factors to consider), but pretty sure Monty Python is still under copyright
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2021
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  13. Gohog3

    Gohog3 Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Path to killing Scion step: XXXXXXXXXX prevent everyone from noticing the bomb under Legends feet
     
  14. PoplarJam

    PoplarJam Getting out there.

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    I must say that I'm really loving this story and how there are even fewer good guys than usual in Worm, yet somehow all those evildoers are still-likable characters.
     
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  15. purpleee

    purpleee Getting sticky.

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    Wow just read this in one sitting. I’ve got to say I’m loving it so far and I’m happy that I’ve also found a Worm fic on this site that isn’t just porn.

    Is Taylor taking part in this battle, I’m also curious as to whats happening with shielder. I kinda also like how earlier Taylor was thinking about muscular empire guys just after thinking about Rune which could mean that she’s bisexual (which I find rare in ficition).

    I expected the Sabbath to remain in the shadows throughout the entire fic so I’m a little disappointed that they’ve gone public. I thought that they were like the Camarilla and did everything in the background.
     
  16. Naelyon

    Naelyon Getting sticky.

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    I don't know anything about copyright law, but I imagine the concept of a black knight is too overused to be copyrighted, especially since it is such a well known trope. Sure, if he started losing limbs left and right, calling them flesh wounds, he'd get into trouble because then he's ripping off that specific character, but the name itself? Probably not.
     
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  17. Threadmarks: Chapter Sixteen
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    It’s late evening when I rise from my dark slumber to feast upon the living, which I note with a yawn. Tammi, of course, is watching me like a hawk, and beams as I open my eyes.

    “Mistress!” she says with a smile. “You’re awake!”

    “Yes, Tammi,” I say with a patient smile, even as I ready tonight’s five-man cell for action, leaving the other fifteen in torpor. “Did anything interesting happen while I was asleep?”

    “A package arrived!” she says. “I didn’t get it, because I’m not allowed to open the door, but I talked to the deliveryman through the mail slot, so he left it in front of the door! And then I watched it through the mail slot for the rest of the day so no one would steal it! Did I do good?” She looks at me pleadingly, silently begging for praise.

    I pat her on the head, and smile. “You did very good.” She bares her neck ever-so-slightly, and my grin widens. “And I suppose I could be moved to reward you.” She’s practically beaming in anticipation. “After I find out what’s in the package, of course.” She droops. “Stay right there, and be patient. I’ll be back in a bit.”

    I go and open the door, and find a squat little package in rain colored wrapping paper.

    “Huh.”

    There’s a card on the outside, which I open.

    It reads, “HI Taylor! I knew you didn’t already have one, so I sent you a raincoat! Good luck fighting Leviathan ninety minutes from now!
    -XOXO
    Josephus”

    “Oh, shit.” Right. Time to rally the troops. Around the city, my remaining drones rise from their graves, as I call Paul.

    “Hey, Taylor!” Paul says, picking up after the second ring. “What’s-“

    “Joseph just sent me a warning.” I say, cutting him off. “He says that the Endbringer Leviathan is going to attack Brockton Bay, an hour and a half from now. I need your help.”

    “This is Joseph we’re talking about,” Paul protests, “He could just be playing an angle.”

    “Maybe, but if he’s telling the truth, then an Endbringer is about to attack my city. Our city. We need to prepare.”

    “How?” Paul asks, clearly skeptical.

    “We rally the troops, including our Parahuman ghouls, and then call a Council of the Black Hand to try and persuade Anna-Marie and Wiglaf to join in the defense,” I say. “And I pray that none of this will be necessary. But if the Endbringer sirens start ringing, and doomsday comes to Brockton Bay, I will not let it find us unprepared.”

    “I understand,” he says, not even questioning that we should join in the defense when the Endbringer came. “I’ll ready the troops. Maybe make a shovelhead or two to bolster our numbers. Meet you at the Brownstone. Good luck.”


    “Same to you.” And then I hang up. Not time to waste on goodbyes.

    I march into the bedroom, where Tammi awaits me, her collar scandalously unbuttoned, and her head tilted back at an angle that makes me feverishly hungry. But I restrain myself.

    “Tammi. Get your costume. We’re fighting an Endbringer.” I say, biting back my disappointment, even as, across the city, my drones begin looking for isolated targets to Embrace, in order to expand our numbers for the coming fight.

    “Yes, Mistress!” Tammi says, already jumping for her costume.

    God, I hope this is all just Joseph pulling a fast one on me. I’d much rather be made a fool of than fight an Endbringer.

    But, even so, I plan for the worst.

    ---​

    Wiglaf and Anna-Marie were both absolutely nowhere to be found when we tried looking for them. Their Parahumans, however, were. And they followed us to PRT Headquarters when the Endbringer Sirens rang.

    We arrive fashionably late, and I let Paul take the foreground. My own “costume” is just a bandanna over the lower half of my face and some sunglasses, and I don’t want Armsmaster to recognize me from the Hospital.

    Wiglaf and Anna-Marie’s absence gnaws away at me, as I absent-mindedly accept an armband from one of the Wards. Why are they missing?

    I know it’s probably nothing good, but-

    “Hey, sprout,” Anna-Marie says beside me. “Good work getting the troops into place.”

    My train of thought promptly derails, and I practically jump out of my skin, even as I ready my thirty-two drones for a fight. Now that I look more carefully, I can see that Anna-Marie’s Gangrel have all filed in, using my Lasombra and Paul’s Nosferatu as cover. “What are you doing here?”

    “Showing our strength, and that the Sabbat rule this city,” she says with a shark’s grin. “You should get ready for the scrap, pup.”

    As I’m desperately trying to figure out what she means by all that, Legend clears his throat, and begins his speech. “Thank you all for-“

    And then, in the span of half a second, in a single, all-consumingly bright flash of light, the world changes forever.

    I stare in horror at the glass statue that used to be one-third of the Triumvirate, and at the heroes either fully or partially transmuted around him. So does everybody else. Surprise, shock, grief. They appear on every face I see. Except for Anna-Marie. She’s trying to contain a vicious grin and failing.

    Then, she steps forward, and cries out, “That was one of Bakuda’s bombs!”

    Everything goes straight to Hell.

    Because while most of us scream accusations, or try to help the injured, Eidolon lunges at Bakuda with powers ablazing, and murder in his eyes. And Lung meets him halfway.

    I try desperately, with all thirty of my bodies, to restore order, as Anna-Marie and her supporters sow chaos.

    And then, I hear a cry of “WAVE!”

    Things promptly get worse. Much, much worse.

    ---​

    When the wave has abated, I take stock with my bodies, and realize that what was originally just a fight between Eidolon and Lung has devolved into an all-out three-way brawl between the heroes, the ABB, and Anna-Marie’s crew. With one set of eyes, I look towards the shore, and see Leviathan emerge, even as a massive wave rolls towards the city.

    “Taylor,” Paul says, emerging from the shadows. “WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED!”

    “Anna-Marie and Wiglaf… I think they killed Legend,” I say, as the sheer magnitude of it hits me. “And Leviathan’s here. We have to… We have to kill them and put things back into order.”

    “I agree. They have impugned the honor of the Sabbat, and potentially wasted the lives of millions of Kine with this petty power play.” Paul says. “My men will engage Anna-Marie’s. Our powers are unsuited to fighting Leviathan, though. Can you and yours delay him or drive him off?”

    “Probably not, but if we work with the heroes, maybe.”

    “Well, I think we’re at the point where nothing we do could make the situation appreciably worse. Let’s do this.”

    And with that, we’re off, as Leviathan nears, and-

    As Leviathan barrels towards us, Lung turns from his fight with Eidolon, and stops the Endbringer in his tracks, while Eidolon, behind him, suddenly flies towards the shoreline, ready to stop the burgeoning wave. I try to capitalize on the moment, and, through my drones, begin binding Leviathan with his own shadow. One set of shadow tentacles would be nothing to him, but twenty will slow him down.

    “Come on!” I scream, desperate for someone to hear me. “RALLY TO LUNG! WE CAN STILL WIN THIS!”

    Of course, that’s when Anna Marie kneecaps Lung from behind with a thrown streetlamp, and shouts, “COME ON, SABBAT! RALLY TO LEVIATHAN! VICTORY IS IN OUR GRASP!”

    And, as I stare at her in seething hatred, beneath the pounding rain so thick it feels like a sea, the wave hits, blasting everybody back. In that brief moment, Leviathan snaps his bonds and falls back, and Lung follows, leaving us all in chaos. I watch with horror through sixty eyes as chaos once more reigns supreme.

    I rise from where the wave washed me, ripping off my sodden bandana as I try to think, as my bodies try to stop the fighting, and Sundancer incinerates five of them for my troubles.

    I can’t… I… I can’t stop this. I need to reign them in, I need to stop this, I need them to STOP FIGHTING AND HELP!

    “Unknown Sabbat Parahuman!” someone shouts, and I turn to see Miss Militia pointing a gun straight at me. “Stand down!”

    “Listen! I have a plan! I’m ON YOUR SIDE! If you’ll just LISTEN TO ME, I can help you coordinate, we can find the people behind this, we CAN FIX THIS!” I’m bellowing at this point, the rain rolling down my face like tears. “I CAN FIX THIS, IF YOU’D JUST LISTEN TO ME!”

    “Stand. Down,” she says, continuing to point her glowing green gun at me, and…

    You know what?

    Fuck it.

    I reach out through my shadows to pull back on her arms, fouling her shot. All throughout the city, my other bodies do likewise, acting to restrain Anna-Marie’s crew, or to secure more parahumans to convert, making sure they won’t be seen or interrupted. One grabs Aegis from under some rubble, another Dominates Hookwolf (who, along with the other non-Tammi Sabbat Paraghouls, has sided with Anna) to hold him still and then bites down, and with two bodies, I Dominate, secure, and begin draining a woozy Laserdream, taking no chances.

    With the gun out of the picture, I lunge for my childhood hero’s throat, dragging the bandanna away, revealing that deliciously vulnerable neck of hers, as she struggles against me, headbutting me in the face to try and force me back. “All points, this is Miss Militia, I am engaged with a Sabbat-“ She slips her arm out of my tentacle’s grasp, and drives a knife into my shoulder, which I respond to by baring my fangs and lunging for her throat. “VAMPIRE! I AM ENGAGED WITH A SABBAT GLMPH!”

    I cram a hand into her mouth to shut her up, pinching her tongue in a Potence-enhanced grip that brings involuntary tears of agony to her eyes. She stabs me again and again, even as I pin her struggling body to the wall and sink my teeth into her throat. She bites the hand in her mouth, but that just lets my vitae flow into her mouth, prompting a strangled moan. I groan as well, as I feel her sweet, sweet blood on my tongue, feel the blood within me healing my battered body, even as my prey ceases to struggle with a sweet sigh, and the briny rain washes over us, little waves smacking against us in the sodden streets of the city.

    And then, she goes limp, and cold, and I let her fall to the ground. I don’t have time to waste waiting for her to wake up.

    Hookwolf somehow killed the drone that was draining him, but I successfully Embraced Aegis and Laserdream. The question is-

    HEY LASOMBRA!” an unnatural, echoing voice says. “OVER HERE!”

    I turn, and see Panacea, in all her hideously insectoid glory, waving at me enthusiastically.

    “Panacea, what do you want-“

    You need more drones, right?” she asks. “Don’t look so surprised, I worked out what your Gemma could do a while ago. Now, then. Come with me if you want to win.

    I hesitate, and then follow, as, around the city, my other bodies continue to try and subdue Leviathan, the Rogue Sabbat, and whichever heroes or ABB members decided to attack me.

    Panacea opens the door to a mostly intact warehouse, and I look in to see-

    “What. The Fuck. DID YOU DO?”

    Row after row of the exact same man, a handsome blond with classical good looks and no clothes whatsoever stare back at me, all of them linked by some raw, fleshy organism attached at the base of their necks. There must be a thousand of them. At minimum.

    I cloned my sister’s boyfriend. A lot.” And then Panacea grins. “I can give you an army. But on one condition.

    “Name it.”

    After you win, and if you take my deal, you will win, I want a seat on the Black Hand.

    “Done,” I say, after a moment’s thought. I don’t trust Panacea, but this much manpower is worth a few risks.

    Good!” she says, cheerful as can be, before pulling out a cable-vein from the biological apparatus connecting the- um… Vicky’s boyfriends. “Now, let’s get started.

    ---​

    CONNECTION ESTABLISHED.

    ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2021
  18. @non

    @non Shoggoth Maids Best Maids

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    Well
    it wouldn’t be the Sabbat without the Tzimisce would it.

    Also taylor has adapted to the Cainite way very quickly hasn’t she
     
  19. Vanbers

    Vanbers Experienced.

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    On the one hand, Fuck Wiglaf & Anna-Marie.

    On the other hand, is Panacea really better?

    On the gripping tentacle, yes, actually, she is.

    I would in fact prefer to see Taylor working with Full-Blown-Nutso-Amy and Baby-Murdering-Josephus, than tolerate Wiglaf & Anna-Marie putting the existence of all things everywhere in danger just ebcause they can't tolerate people thinking they don't have the biggest dicks.

    Vote Panacea & Josephus to replace Wiglaf & Anna-Marie today!
     
  20. Aurora Raven

    Aurora Raven Corvids are cool

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    Holy shit, wow. I have multiple things to say.

    1. IT LIVES - Or unlives, or something.

    2. Fuck Anne-Marie, bitch needs to be introduced to final death.

    3. Sabbat: Civil War, hopefully Taylor's side can save their reputation.

    4. Lord Commander Panacea coming in clutch with an army of Deans, nice.
     
  21. Autocorruptor

    Autocorruptor Corrupting Innocent Grammar

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    What the hell is this shit? KILL IT WITH FIRE!
    I see what you did there!
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2021
    Charles manuel and Charles Flynn like this.
  22. PoplarJam

    PoplarJam Getting out there.

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    Beautiful, just as I'd hoped. Taylor wants everyone to work together, the heroes continue 'just following orders', and the extra-dimensional vampires throw canon to pieces.
     
  23. Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    In Miss Militia's defense, she didn't have a lot of reason to trust one Sabbat mook (from her perspective) who was having trouble articulating anything beyond "do what I say and everything will be fine." Especially after so many Sabbat members have betrayed the Endbringer Truce. She had no reason to believe Taylor wouldn't just stab her in the back like Anna-Marie did to Lung.

    And so, she fell back on her gut: Subdue the villains. Trust only the heroes.

    Unfortunately for her, that was the absolute worst possible thing she could have done.
     
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  24. Threadmarks: Interlude: Clockblocker 2
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    I freeze another hero as I move through the medical tent (such as it is.) “I froze Gregor, but he’s still in bad shape! Has Scapegoat recovered yet?”

    Coil shakes his head in response. “No, I’m afraid not. And we still haven’t found Panacea.”

    I swear under my breath. “Any luck finding other healers?”

    “I’m afraid not. Othala is with the Sabbat, and the only other healer who showed up died in the initial wave,” Coil says with a shake of his head, listening to his armband’s now constant list of names. “Healing’s rare. We’re lucky we even found Scapegoat.”

    “Fine. Any more of those regeneration bombs you got from Bakuda, then?” I ask.

    “No. We used the last one two minutes ago, and with Bakuda currently being splattered all over Main Street, I sincerely doubt we’ll get any more of them.”

    “Two more!” Trickster shouts as he and Genesis burst into the tent, bearing two injured.

    I move to freeze them, sighing as I wish, not for the first time, that I had the power to heal people, not just… delay the inevitable. As I do, I take the time to ask, “How’s the battle going?”

    “If we didn’t have Lung and Eidolon right now, we’d be fucked,” Genesis says, bluntly. “Everybody’s too busy fighting the Sabbat to actually respond to the threat. Hell, Leviathan’s practically taking it easy. None of his waves have been anywhere near as strong as in previous Endbringer battles.”

    “He knows he can beat us without even trying,” Trickster summarizes. “And now, he’s rubbing it in our faces.”

    “Sundancer’s still keeping the Sabbat at bay, correct?” Coil asks.

    “None of them have tried to breach the perimeter yet,” Trickster confirms. “They’re still as terrified of her artificial sun as ever.”

    I return my attention to healing people. The bodies are piling up, now, and we’re rapidly approaching the point where making the rounds to freeze all my patients will be longer than I can freeze them for. Still, I try. Someone has to.

    I hear, in the distance, Leviathan and Lung going toe to toe, as Eidolon backs Lung up. The Sabbat, for their part, have failed to completely derail things. I think. Like hell if I know what they’re up to, they’re fighting each other as much as they’re fighting us and Leviathan. The real problem is that, with Legend… gone and Armsmaster and Alexandria both incapacitated, command has been a bit spotty lately. Organization has broken down, and nobody knows what the hell is going on anymore. Dragon has tried to coordinate, but… The Sabbat, unlike the Endbringers, can intercept our comms. And they’ve been terrifyingly skilled at shutting down and delaying our heavy hitters, and crushing most attempts to make a safe zone. Dragon’s caught up fighting Hookwolf. Rime and Ursa Major are fighting Purity and the Sabbat’s bestial foot soldiers. Stormtiger, Cricket, and Crusader are keeping Chevalier busy.

    But all I can do is delay a few deaths. And so, I do that, doing my best to keep our fallen alive, in the shelter of the false sun. Outside, Shielder, Sundancer, and Vista work together to keep the tent safe, while Ballistic, Trickster, Genesis, and Glory Girl work Search and Rescue. Coil directs us. And Scapegoat, our only healer, does what he can.

    “Shelter Seven has been breached,” Dragon announces through the armbands, and I feel a lightning-bolt of dread shoot straight down my spine. There are only eight Endbringer Shelters in Brockton Bay. My mom was at work, and my dad was at the hospital’s shelter, Shelter Three. I don’t know the number of the shelter nearest to the bar my mother works at. Or if she got into a shelter, but that… No. She heard the sirens. She got to her shelter. So, there’s only a one in seven chance that I’m halfway to being an orphan.

    I keep refreezing the patients with renewed vigor. Anything to take my mind off the thought that… I didn’t tell her that I loved her this morning. My mother might be dead, and if she is, the last words I ever spoke to her would be me yeah-yeahing her. I spent so long so terrified that Dad was going to die, I…

    I never thought that I could lose Mom, too.

    I keep moving between the cots, freezing who I can. Scapegoat’s a slow healer, he can’t heal very many people at once, so I have to buy him time. It’s something only I can do.

    It’s the only thing I can do.

    Please. Please be okay.

    Then, I feel the ground shake, as a voice echoes over the armbands: “Lung Down. Leviathan headed towards Medical Tent. All available units, please-”

    The tent collapses, dragged away by a hurled telephone pole, and leaving us exposed to the biblical deluge pouring down from the sky. But, unlike most of the rest of the city, we have a miniature thermonuclear fireball hovering over our heads courtesy of Sundancer, serving as a combination of superheated umbrella and Sabbat repellent. The rain barely touches us, and the light leaves us toasty, and with an excellent view of the Endbringer barreling straight towards us, closing the distance faster than Vista can bend space.

    The world seems to freeze around me, and for a second, suspended between two terrified heartbeats, I could almost swear that I can see every single individual raindrop as it falls.

    And all I can think is, “Well, at least I don’t have to worry about outliving my parents anymore.”

    And then, the night comes alive, and a thousand shadowy tentacles seize him, stopping the Endbringer in his tracks.

    “Okay,” I say, trying to calm my wildly racing heart, and the world resumes around me. “Did we just get saved by a tentacle monster?”

    And then, I see my teammate’s naked ass, as, for some reason, an army of naked pretty boys who look exactly like my teammate Dean rugby tackle Leviathan.

    My mind stalls. Once it starts back up again, I’m left with a lot of questions. Is that Gallant? Why is he naked? Why are there so many of them? Am I on drugs? Is he bigger than me?

    “They’re all vampires!” Sundancer shouts. “Shadow-types! No reflections!”

    I tap my armband twice, in order to broadcast. “All points, this is Clockblocker. Leviathan has been halted in front of the med tent by an army of vampire clones of…” shit, can’t call him Gallant. That’d out him. What’s the next-best thing that most people will recognize him from? “Glory Girl’s boyfriend. And no, I am not making this up. Reinforcements (and explanations) would be greatly appreciated.”

    “WHAT THE FUCK?” Glory Girl screams as she flies in with an injured out of towner in her arms. “I… what? What the hell is happening right now?”

    “I’m as lost as you,” I say with a shrug.

    “Your paramour seems to have somehow duplicated himself, and is now eating Leviathan,” Coil says matter-of-factly. “He didn’t happen to mention any starfish ancestry to you, by any chance?”

    “I…well, no.” Glory Girl says, looking absolutely baffled.

    “Any potential trigger events recently?” he asks. “It’s possible that he triggered during the attack, and the Sabbat turned him.”

    “Turned him?” she repeats.

    “Yeah, sorry to break it to you, Vicky, but your boyfriend is apparently a vampire now,” I say with a shrug. “All five hundred of him. And I somehow doubt he’s the kind that sparkles.”

    “I… wait, no,” she freezes. “Is Gallant alive?”

    Yes!” a warbling, buzzing, watery sort of voice interjects. “We haven’t had to replace him all battle! We’re very proud. He’s an excellent Dean!

    I shudder as Panacea, or at least I think that’s Panacea, emerges from an alleyway. Her entire body has changed once more, this time by replacing her lower half with octopoid tentacles and expanding her braincase. She’d almost look like Ursula, if not for her grotesquely distended head.

    Coil points a gun at her. “Panacea. What are you doing here?”

    Helping!” she says cheerfully. “We already helped our friend Lasombra by giving her an army of Dean clones, and now we are here to help by healing people!

    “WHY DID YOU HAVE AN ARMY MADE OUT OF CLONES OF MY BOYFRIEND?” Glory Girl screams, looking like she’s five seconds away from beating her sister to death with her bare hands.

    So we could replace him if he died, obviously!” Panacea says. “We wouldn’t want you to be sad, after all, Vicky!

    I literally do not know you,” Glory Girl hisses.

    I blink. “That’s Panacea. She’s your sister.”

    “And as far as I remember, I’m an only child!” Glory Girl snaps. “Then, suddenly, everybody starts trying to convince that I’ve always had a sister, who, by the way, this bitch looks nothing like! In absolutely none of the photos that my boyfriend keeps insisting on showing me did this ‘Amy’ person have tentacles!”

    “Um, guys, Endbringer RIGHT THERE!” Vista interjects. “And y’know, while I can definitely keep layering on space between us and it, I’d really appreciate it if you guys would just let the BEST HEALER WE’VE GOT do her job, so we can all get the hell out of here before Leviathan finishes with Glory Girl’s army of vampire boyfriends and remembers that we exist!”

    “Vista’s right,” I say, taking control of the conversation before this whole argument can start again. “Amy, can you get everyone here on their feet and able to move while Vicky’s Vampire Boyfriend Brigade keeps Leviathan busy?”

    “WE ARE NOT CALLING IT THAT!” Vicky screams indignantly.

    Sure thing, Clockblocker!” Panacea says, moving in and stretching out her arms and tentacles to touch as many people at once as she is able to. With the insane biokinetic taken care of, I turn to Glory Girl.

    “Vicky, I want you to try to find Gallant. He might have some idea what’s going on right now, and besides, search and rescue doesn’t work unless you have a fixed return point, and we’re going to be on the move shortly,” I say. My teeth aren’t visible through my mask, but I give her a reassuring smile anyways. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on either, but I promise, we’re going to get through this. And, once you’ve found Gallant, I have another mission for you.”

    Coil seems to know what I’m thinking, and he nods in agreement, before moving to the covered cot in the center of the tent, and pulling back the blanket. “We need you to take this out of the city. And spread the word: Once Leviathan falls, we retreat.”

    She stares in shock. “Is that…”

    The Glass Statue Formerly Known As Legend simply stares up at Sundancer’s glowing orb, dead to the world.

    “Who knows,” I say with a shrug. “Maybe someone might be able to revive him. Maybe not. But that goes straight out the window if he’s stuck in here after the fight’s over, and the Sabbat take over Brockton Bay.”

    “I talked it over with Clockblocker,” Coil says. “Told him what I know. I’ve been trying to get Piggot to listen for months, and now, the evidence is incontrovertible. The Sabbat are real, and they’re contagious. Not only that, but infected capes keep their powers. That makes them a Nilbog-tier threat. Even if we drive off Leviathan, Brockton Bay may be lost. We plan on getting as many capes out as possible. But we’ll need at least one to bear the message.”

    “If we announced it on comms, the Sabbat would hear,” I say, taking up the explanation. “But you can fly. So get Legend out. Get yourself out. Get Gallant out, if you can. But most importantly, get word out. So you can tell them what happened, if worst comes to worst.”

    She looks between us incredulously. “Are you serious?”

    “Yes, for once,” I say with a snort, before sobering up. “Victoria. Please.”

    “Fine. Try not to die, all right?”

    And then she’s off, the fragile form of a Triumvirate member in her arms.

    ---​

    Leviathan has long since staggered away from us, shaking and tearing at the Deans which gnaw at him like ticks on a dog, by the time we’ve got all of our patients up and ready to go. Most of them can only stagger forwards, but that’s fine. We have Vista.

    Just after she, Scapegoat, and Shielder have set off with our patients, evacuating them from the city, we hear, over the comms, the five most beautiful words in the English language: “Leviathan has been driven off.”

    “Holy shit,” I say, pleasantly surprised. “Who do you think did it?”

    “Probably either Lung, or whatever Sabbat Master was controlling the VVBB earlier,” Coil says. “Either way, now we just need to deal with the potential vampire apocalypse, and pray to God that these monsters are weak to sunlight.”

    “We’re good to go, then, aren’t we?” Trickster asks, from where he sits with his team.

    “Once Vista comes back, yes,” Coil says. “Until then, we maintain the safe zone to help uninfected capes get here and hopefully, escape with us.”

    “Hey!” I point towards the horizon. “It’s rising! The sun is rising!”

    I can see it, now. The rosy glow creeping up from the horizon. The promise of a new day, that this dark and terrible nightmare was at an end. It’s going to be okay. The night is over, and- Oh shit, I’m jinxing it, aren’t I?

    In one instant, in a single moment, the sky goes dark. Everything goes dark. Outside the light of Sundancer’s personal star, the air has turned murky, and thick.

    I remember, once, my science teacher telling me that darkness isn’t actually light’s opposite. Simply the lack thereof. But this… the shadows into which we are plunged… They make me question her.

    Oh, God. Oh God, no.

    A voice surrounds us. It’s obviously female, but hoarse, and raspy. “The sun will not come.”

    “What is that?” Trickster yelps. “Where is it coming from?”

    We are Lasombra. We are the night. We are the King of the Sabbat. And we are the shadow that rules over Brockton Bay,” the voice continues.

    “They blocked out the sun,” Coil murmurs. “How is that even possible?”

    Oh, it’s not too hard,” Panacea says with a far-too-wide smile. “They’ve been planning this for quite some time, after all.

    The sun will never come again. There is no escape from this Abyss over which we rule. This city is ours, and we will rule it better than our predecessors,” the voice continues, and her words echo through my bones. “The humans have proven too weak to defend themselves, the parahumans too fractious to be trusted. And so, we have taken control. We are this city’s sole and absolute master. To the Kine, huddled in your bunkers, we bid you to have no fear. We will be a fair and benevolent ruler. We have driven back the Leviathan, and we will permit no harm to come to you. To the Parahumans, we give this warning: It matters not if you come to us as allies or as enemies. Friend or foe, living or dead, you will serve the Sabbat.”

    And then, there is silence.

    I turn to Panacea. “Are you with us, or against us?”

    We’d prefer to remain neutral. But we can leave if we’re making you uncomfortable,” she says, before she slithers off through the shadowed streets of the half-drowned city.

    “We have to get out of here,” Trickster says, looking half-mad with fear. “We have to get out of here.”

    “You’re right,” I admit, before I turn towards Coil. “You seem like the smartest guy here, so let me ask: How long can an Endbringer Shelter hold out for?”

    “About a week,” he says.

    “Good. So. Here’s the plan: We set up shop inside an Endbringer Shelter. It’s a defensible location, it gives us resources, it lets us protect civilians from the Sabbat, and, most importantly, it’ll let us hold out for longer, so we can spend time figuring out what’s happened and how we can escape. I sincerely doubt that whatever the Sabbat just pulled is going to be easy to get out of.”

    “And since when were you in charge?” Trickster asks, raising an eyebrow.

    “You got a better plan? Because if so, I’d love to hear it.”

    “Okay, fine. Let’s go.”

    And, so, with the false sun above us, we try to find a shelter, through the drowned city, in the shadows that devoured the Bay.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2021
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  25. Autocorruptor

    Autocorruptor Corrupting Innocent Grammar

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    This is so hilarious and so horrifying. It is hilaroffying.
    Wait, did Glory Girl get brainwashed?
    ”We will be a benevolent ruler.”

    I disbelieve that.
     
  26. PoplarJam

    PoplarJam Getting out there.

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    ROFL! Wow. What a chapter. And Coil definitely seems changed by his experiences. I'm surprised Krouse didn't screw everything up immediately.
     
  27. Aurora Raven

    Aurora Raven Corvids are cool

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    Krouse has been outkroused by the Sabbat.
     
  28. Threadmarks: Chapter Seventeen
    Charles Flynn

    Charles Flynn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    We are legion.

    Our drones sweep over the city. Our prey is cornered and indoctrinated, converted into new and increasingly more powerful extensions of our will. The Terror Drone is a threat, but one that we can contain. We are more than any one body. More than any one vampire. More than any one Shard. Our first body uses the connection embedded in our blood, tracking it to the source of our unlife. With our first are the ones that were Laserdream, Aegis, and Miss Militia, and a hundred Deans.

    We shall devour. We shall fight. We shall feast until our hunger is sated, our data gathered, and our progenitors consumed. And we shall surpass them both. Our purpose, our directive, shall be fulfilled.

    The streets are damaged, and the way blocked so thoroughly that it takes us almost an hour to reach our blood’s progenitor, but we find him, in the brownstone that he had claimed as his lair. The black-armored Nosferatu finds us nearby, and he makes sounds at us. We do not care. Do not hear. Do not understand. We are entwined, we are one, our bloods wound together in an endless dance of bliss. We do not need to care. We do not need to hear. We are one. An arterial ouroboros, creation and destruction in perfect unison. We need no one but ourselves, and in time, we shall be in ourself a world in its totality.

    The door splinters with a blow from one of our Deans, as our bodies fighting the Terror Drone note an Endbringer shelter has been blasted open. Beside us, the Nosferatu babbles on. We prepare to diablerize it. It would not do to leave those who cannot be incorporated alive. At the same time, we direct our drones to enter the shelter to drink their fill of blood and create new drones.

    And then, through the eyes of the Deans at the shelter, we see someone who makes us stop in our tracks.

    My father stands up, pushing his way ahead of the other cattle, head unbowed. He is diminished, thinner than I thought possible. His face is lined with grief. His clothes and glasses are filthy. And his eyes… there is something empty behind his eyes, something missing, whose presence endured even after my mother’s death, and whose absence now makes my heart ache. But even so. He stands. My father stands.

    And he speaks. I force myself to remember the words, to remember what the sounds mean, just so I can hear my father talk to me again.

    “So,” he says, fixing me with the glare of someone who has nothing left to lose. My whole consciousness rests in that moment, in those eyes seeing him again, in those ears hearing him speak. My father. The only family I have left. “You’re the Sabbat. If you’re here to kill us, then get it over with. We’ll fight you. Won’t slow you down much, but we’ll fight you.”

    “We-“ I say through the Dean, almost startled to hear a voice besides my own when I speak. “Are not here to harm you.”

    This is false. But… No. I am a monster. But I will never hurt him. I won’t let him see what I’ve become.

    He seems surprised by that. “Well. Endbringer’s out that way, if you’re in the mood to do your damn jobs for a change. We’re fine in here.”

    My mind unfocuses from those three Deans, even as I direct them out of the shelter and towards the fight.

    I feel it again. The mesmerizing, intoxicating symbiosis that is us. I know I will fall to it in time. But… No. Not now.

    I look myself in the eyes through a Dean, and I force myself to forget. I force myself to forget that there is an us. I force myself to think like a human. I force myself to be Taylor again.

    And then, it is done. I am I once more.

    ---​

    “Taylor!” someone screams. “Snap out of it!”

    I blink, the rain pouring down my face, drenching my hair, as I try to figure out what the hell just happened and why I’m not in the warehouse with Panacea anymore.

    “What?” I mumble. I feel, muted, my drones. They conform to my will, but… it’s distant, somehow. As if there’s some unperceivable barrier between me and them. I can feel a few swarms of them fighting Leviathan, a few more going around on clean-up duty, and, of course, the swarm of Deans and Embraced Capes currently with me.

    And then I turn my attention to the man shouting at me. Who turns out to be Paul.

    “Why are you on the ground?” I ask. Because he is. He’s currently pinned down under twenty Deans, who seem to have frozen up in the middle of trying to pry off his armor for some reason.

    “Because you started acting like you were possessed! You attacked me!” Paul yells, sounding thoroughly nettled. “What the hell, Taylor?”

    “Oh. I… don’t actually remember doing that.” I blink, then remember something. “I think Wiglaf’s in this building, by the way.”

    “Yes, well, as I was trying to warn you while you were busy trying to reenact something out of The Exorcist, Anna-Marie is coming!” Paul shouts, as my Deans get off of him and help him to his feet. “And she’s bringing Hookwolf with her. I tasked a couple of my kids to delay them while I went to get you, but they won’t hold for-“

    I am cut off from hearing the rest of Paul’s sentence, because something hits me like a freight train. I respond accordingly, using a few Deans and Obtenebration to drag my attacker off of me, but most of my left side is shredded. And Hookwolf is ready and willing to make me symmetrical if I give him half a chance.

    I take in the situation. I’m fighting off Hookwolf with Aegis and my Deans, while Paul is slashing at a hideous mixture of wolf, bat and human that I’m guessing is Anna-Marie’s war form. But it’s not worth engaging them. They’re only here to delay us. To keep us away from whatever Wiglaf is up to. So, I leave behind most of my Deans to keep Hookwolf and Anna busy, and I take Miss Militia and Laserdream with me as I duck into the brownstone, using my blood to heal up as I go.

    And then I swear like a sailor and hit the deck as a beam of pure solar energy sails over my head.

    Because it turns out, Wiglaf wasn’t an idiot. He knew that the only people in this entire city who could find him here was his fellow Sabbat members. And he clearly expected me to rebel, because he put the worst possible cape for me to fight on guard duty.

    “Hello, Kayden,” I say, even as I stare up at the glowing woman pointing a single, glowing hand at my face. “How’re the kids?”

    I roll out of the way as her blast slams into the floor where I was.

    “Safe.” Kayden says, glowing with rage as much as sunlight. Just being near her is making my skin smolder. “As far away from any of you monsters as Theo can manage. He’s a good boy. He’ll run far. None of you will find them.”

    “What?” I ask, partly out of confusion, and partly to keep her eyes on me while I had Miss Militia crawl out of sight. I know the brownstone’s floor plan. And Miss Militia can make an anti-materiel rifle. Hopefully I can use those two things to put Purity down.

    “You…” her words are cut off by a snarl of rage, and another blast of light I barely evade. I have Laserdream throw up a shield as I move Miss Militia into position. “You have no idea what you did to me, to us, do you? You have no idea what you delivered us into!”

    I’d punch her in the face to punish her for monologuing, but I can’t even get close to her. So instead, I do my best to keep her talking, as I desperately try to figure out where on the wall to shoot through in order to hit her. “Enlighten me.” I wince at the pun.

    “He hurt her. He hurt my Aster. At first, he just hurt me when I tried to resist, but… Then, he got the blood in me. And it was like Max, but worse, because he was in my head! And the blood was sweet, and I couldn’t tell him not to. He’d hit me, make me use the blood to heal, all so he could get me more addicted, and if I complained, if I tried to work around my orders, he’d hurt Aster! Sometimes, he’d hurt Theo too, but he always hurt Aster.” Kayden says, her voice quavering, even as the nimbus of light around her hands continues to grow brighter and brighter. “And… a week ago, he’d… he’d been starving me for blood, been making me desperate, and… he told me I had to prove my loyalty, prove that I loved the blood more than anything else. And he locked me up in a room with Aster, made it so I couldn't use my powers, and…”

    Her voice sounds distant now, like she’s somewhere far away. “I… I hurt her. Her thumbs are all twisted now, did you know that? That Anna-Marie woman broke them so many times that the bones healed wrong. My poor baby. My poor darling Aster. And I hurt you. For the blood. For a fix. For him. I hurt you. I still remember your screams, sweetie. I still remember how you looked at me, when your mommy took your little fingers in your hands and-“

    “It’s okay,” I offer up, trying to comfort the woman I’d once brained with a shovel, even as she seems to lose her grip on sanity.

    “No. It’s not. It’s never going to be okay again,” she says, her voice now frighteningly calm. “But that’s fine. Theo took her and ran yesterday. He has his inheritance. He has his sister. He doesn’t need me. She doesn’t need me. And I can make them safe.” He face hardens. “It was a mistake to let me talk, vampire. The only two people in the world that I care about are out of the building. And I don’t care if this kills me.”

    Oh God. I realize that the only time I’ve seen her hands shining that bright in any of the videos on PHO was when she was about to destroy a building.

    And she’s aiming that at me.

    In a thought, Laserdream flies forward, her shield at an angle to deflect the blast upwards, even as I hit the floor, and have Miss Militia blow Purity’s brains out with an anti-materiel rifle.

    Unfortunately, my shot goes low, shredding her torso into bloody giblets instead of her head. Her arms, now sent flying and unconnected from her torso, explode with undirected solar energy.

    And I honestly can’t believe I survived that. I push myself out of the rubble of the collapsed ceiling and run an inventory of my injuries. I’m wounded, but not out for the count. Laserdream is stuck in torpor, and Miss Militia is only lightly bruised from the whole affair.

    Behind me, I can hear, and see through my drones, that the fighting is still ongoing. But I push on, with Miss Militia helping me as I go down into the basement, towards my sire, and the growing darkness I can feel around him.

    In the distance, I can feel it, as my bodies fighting Leviathan report that the Endbringer is being driven back. I grin, as, with my main body, I descend into Wiglaf’s darkened cellar.

    ---​

    “Hello, Taylor.” Wiglaf says with a nod as I enter the stygian chamber he’s set up camp in. “Good to see you.”

    He’s sitting cross-legged, in front of an elaborate series of stone channels in the floor, all of them filled with his blood. At the array’s center, lies a massive, blackened heart, which sends out a wave of darkness with its every beat. The great chasm stretches out, so dark and vast I can scarcely bear to look at it.

    “What is this?” I ask. “What the hell is this?”

    “Your big choice.” He says, imperturbably calm.

    “What do you mean?”

    “No. No explanations, I’m afraid. They’d be long and boring. Suffice to say, here are your two options. Diablerize me, and then complete the ritual I’ve set up by pouring out your vitae onto the diagram behind me. And in doing so, you will claim this city for yourself. Claim it for the Sabbat. Brockton Bay will rise as a new Enoch, with you as its ruler. My successor and heir, to see my vision to the close.”

    “Never!” I shout.

    “Or, you trust the PRT, and the government, and the authorities to look after your city for you. They’ll hunt you down like an animal, and all our Kindred with you. Nowhere will be safe. They will come in the day, when you are bound in your coffin, and they will drag you forth into the cruel, wicked sunlight.” He smiles. “But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps they’ll be just and understanding. Perhaps they’ll look past your bright and shining accusers and see precisely how you’re really just another victim in this. There’s a first time for everything, after all.”

    “I… no. You’re manipulating me. You’re trying to make it seem like it’s right for me to take over.”

    “Maybe. But I’m still right.”

    “I… And what do you want out of this? What’s your angle?” I yell, even as I desperately try to decide.

    “I’d tell you, but I rather enjoy the anxiety I’m going to induce in you by taking my motivations with me to the grave,” Wiglaf says, with a smile that makes me want to rip his teeth out. “Better not take too long. The sun will be up soon.”

    “I… And what’s to stop me from just choosing door number two to spite you?” I ask, trying to reclaim my balance.

    “Absolutely nothing. But I still win that way too. Sure, you wreck my life’s work, but I get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re going to spend the rest of your very long life being hunted down as an S-Class threat, all the while watching your hometown crumble, watching the world crumble while everything you love in this city falls into the ocean, forever torturing yourself with the knowledge that you could have stopped it, if you had made one choice differently.” He smirks, utterly insufferable even when down to his last drop of vitae. “Whichever way you choose, rule or run, I win.”

    I… I look at myself, with every set of eyes I possess, and I realize that he’s right. I’m an S-Class threat. No matter what I choose, the entire human race is going to be hunting me. And beyond that, my entire city is in ruins.

    I’m fucked either way. My city is already in ruins.

    The only choice now… Is to take the reins and do it right.

    So I scream my frustration to the heavens.

    And I make my choice.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2021
  29. Unknownplunger

    Unknownplunger Know what you're doing yet?

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    Idk vtm, but my first take on the presented dilemma here is that Wiglaf's ritual thing here isn't actually going to solve any of Taylor's problem and will absolutely generate more of them. Tear Wiglaf apart, tear his ritual apart, and try to find a better way.

    That being said, I'm probably missing something AND this is a very high stress situation. It would be unfair to expect calm, rational decision-making.
     
  30. Lucidum

    Lucidum Verifiably Bored

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    There... really isn't anything good that ritual will do. It either has something to do with Abyss Mysticism or its full-on Blood Magic, in either case, I highly doubt that Wiglaf is going to just let himself be Diablerized.

    I'm putting money on him utilizing the ritual to boost his willpower/soul to try and possess Taylor, which normally would probably be a pretty smart idea. Except with QA in the mix... Taylor is going to probably be rather messed up in the after-shocks of this. That or I'm completely off the mark, looking forward to seeing it either way.
     
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