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A Darker Path [Worm Fanfic]

Worst of all, people applauded her for it. She was a self-confessed serial killer, yet among the ordinary citizenry of Brockton Bay, she had an actual fan club, and more people on top of that who simply approved of what she was doing. (Well, in fairness, she had taken out the Nine … and Butcher and the Teeth … and several other capes who had been perennial thorns in Emily's side … but that shouldn't matter. Murder was still murder.)

My, Emily, it's almost like context matters. Who would have thought?

(also, it's kinda icky how Piggot uses "but they ran away" as one of her primary reasons to dislike capes, when Endbringer battles are a thing, where capes knowingly walk into near-certain death to fight godlike monsters)
(also, it's kinda icky how Piggot uses "but they ran away" as one of her primary reasons to dislike capes, when Endbringer battles are a thing, where capes knowingly walk into near-certain death to fight godlike monsters)

Well, it's more like a one-in-four chance of death against Leviathan, on a good day. Which still supports your point: ordinary troops absolutely will break and run at casualty numbers lower than that.

Thing is, this portrayal of Piggott's damage is very realistic. Trauma survivors absolutely will reorder their understanding of the traumatic events to build a more soothing it-wasn't-my-fault narrative out of it. It's why 'stab in the back' stories sell so very, very well.
Part Forty: Farewell, Bastard Son
A Darker Path

Part Forty: Farewell, Bastard Son

[A/N: This chapter beta-read by Lady Columbine of Mystal.]

Relevant Side Story

8 AM Saturday Morning

Laborn Residence

Aisha's phone pinged as she and Riley sat side by side on the sofa, eating cereal (carefully, so boring big bro wouldn't yell at them) and trading barbs about the cartoons they were watching. Putting her bowl down on the coffee table, on top of one of the coasters he had pointedly placed there for them (again, so he wouldn't yell at her) she dug the phone out of her pocket. Her day brightened right up when she saw the text that had just come through.


Just popping over for a quick visit with my loyal fans. Didn't want either of you dropping your cereal.
See you in a sec.


"Cool!" she exclaimed. "Atropos is coming over!"

"Wow, really?" Riley looked impressed. "Does she visit you that often?"

"Not really," Atropos observed from the kitchen doorway. "But I was thinking we could go down to the Boardwalk next Saturday. The Brockton Bay Rogues' Guild will be putting on a show there from about one onward, every weekend from now on."

Aisha was proud that she didn't jump. She tilted her head, trying to place the name. "I don't think I know that one."

"They only formed in the last few days." Atropos strolled over and sat down in Brian's armchair. "A couple of new local capes asked Parian if they could work for her. A Tinker called Salvage and a kinetic manipulator called Bastet."

"Okay, yeah, that's kinda cool," Aisha acknowledged. "Wanna help me badger Brian into going down there after he gets off-shift, Ri?"

Riley's grin was getting better all the time; in a week or two, Aisha judged, she'd be full-on smartass, firing on all cylinders. It was a lot better than the timid little smile she'd had when she first arrived. "I think I'd like that. Isn't Parian the one with the dolls?"

Atropos nodded. "That's the one. I'm really proud of her for stepping up and helping out the other two."

"So what's Salvage do with their Tinkering?" asked Aisha. "Do they take old stuff and make it look like new, or something?"

"Not quite." Atropos tilted her head. "More like, he takes stuff that would be worn out and no good to anyone else, and he builds something worthwhile out of it. It's actually pretty cool."

Riley nodded. "Yeah, I guess it would be."

Aisha could tell that the phrasing had hit her cousin right in the feels, so she put her arm around Riley's shoulders and squeezed. Riley leaned her head against Aisha's shoulder in a way that made Aisha want to fight the world just to keep her safe.

"So anyway, how are you two doing? Settling in okay?" From the tone of her voice, Atropos hadn't noticed a thing. Aisha didn't trust that for a second. Her girl Atropos noticed everything. Which meant she was deliberately not calling attention to it, so Riley wouldn't be embarrassed.

Damn, she's cool.

"Um, well, yeah," Riley ventured, sitting up slightly but not pulling away from the protective circle of Aisha's arm. "It's really nice here, and Aisha's amazing, and Brian's doing his best for us too. I mean, he's a bit strict but only when we don't pick up after ourselves or stuff like that. And they've nearly got my costume done. I'm debuting on Monday as Miss Medic."

Aww, you're amazing too. "Yeah, the costume's pretty rad," Aisha agreed. "They're gonna love her." She lowered her voice in her best attempt at a menacing growl. "They better love her."

Riley leaned into her, giving her a shoulder-nudge. "You're just saying that because sister support." But the tone of her voice was playful.

Mentally, Aisha fist-pumped in triumph. Yess! She's finally making jokes, not dumping on herself! "Well, yeah," she agreed. "I'd say it anyway. But this time, I mean it."

Atropos nodded encouragingly. "I look forward to seeing it. You're gonna do a lot of good out there, I can tell."

"Thanks—wait a second!" Riley sat all the way up, shrugging off Aisha's arm. "That stuff you wanted me to make. Did you need it right now? I've got it curing in the bedroom. It's going to need another hour before it's good to use, though."

"Oh, I don't need to use it for another few hours. Would it cure just as well if I took it with me?" Aisha was sure Atropos knew the answer, but chose to ask the question anyway.

"Sure." Riley popped to her feet. "It just needs to mature a little. There's no more prep needed. I'll go get it now."

Aisha watched her vanish into the bedroom. "She's pretty brainy with that stuff. Smelled a bit funny when she brewed it up in the bathroom sink, though."

"And Brian didn't mind?"

Aisha shook her head airily. "He might have most people bluffed with that growly tough-guy act, but he's a big marshmallow underneath. Never yells at Riley, and he always tries to say stuff that's encouraging." She gave Atropos a sideways warning glance. "I'll totes deny it if you repeat this, but him getting grabbed by the PRT and doing the hero thing is the best thing that coulda happened to all three of us."

She was pretty sure Atropos grinned just then. "My lips are sealed."

"Yeah, just make su—"

"Here it is!" Riley burst out of the bedroom, bearing a small plastic container with a screw-on top. "Just smear it on whatever you want to apply it with. Guaranteed non-toxic and non-allergenic."

"Thanks." Atropos stood up as well, and accepted the container. "I really appreciate this."

Riley shook her head in negation. "No, I owe you so, so much. You saw me inside Bonesaw and got Panacea to pull me back out again." Impulsively, she moved forward and hugged Atropos. The city's most dreaded cape hugged her right back, holding her tightly.

"All you have to do to repay me is be you, the best way you know how." Was that a hint of roughness in Atropos' voice? Aisha couldn't be sure. Then Atropos turned her head toward Aisha, and this time there was absolutely a grin under the mask. "And keep being a good influence on Aisha. She needs it."

"Hey!" But Aisha couldn't keep the grin off her face. It wasn't like Atropos was wrong or anything.

"I'll see you guys later, then." Atropos let Riley go, then leaned over and ruffled Aisha's hair. "Toodles." And just like that, she flipped up a little panel on the device wrapped around her arm, pressed a couple of buttons, and ... vanished.

Riley shook her head wonderingly. "That will never not be awesome."

"I know, right?" Aisha patted the sofa cushion beside her. "C'mon, there's more cartoons we haven't eviscerated yet."

Riley sat down again and picked up her cereal. "Is it just me, or are the big bad evil guy's plots always too stupid for words?"

Aisha tilted her head. "Are you talking from experience?"

"… maybe."


Just a Little Later


Amy had music playing in the background as she checked over the inhabitants of her terrarium. The mushroom baby in the pot was gently swaying as it danced a little jig—from the waist up—in time with the melody. It actually had pretty good rhythm, and she was starting to consider how she could help make it mobile. True, a tap-dancing mushroom kid would probably send Carol into hysterics, but Carol didn't have to know.

The ones in the glass box were also doing fine, and the lizard—a rather handsome male bearded dragon that Vicky had dubbed Smaug—was dozing under the sun lamp. Smaug opened his eyes a little as she gave him a gentle scratch alongside the neck, just where he liked it. Amy wondered if her power wanted to enhance Smaug as well, though she suspected that turning him into an actual fire-breathing dragon might be a little beyond her. She was also dubious about giving him wings, not least because this would no doubt confuse him horribly.

Just then, her computer pinged to let her know she had a private message in PHO. Frowning, she gave Smaug one last skritch then slid the top of the terrarium back into place. Winged or otherwise, she didn't want her dragon escaping.

Seating herself at the computer, she clicked on the notification.


To: TheRealPanacea
From: Atropos
Subject: Need a favor

Is it okay if I drop in for a chat about a potential favor? Nothing illegal, nothing harmful. You might even get a kick out of it.



Amy frowned. What the fuck? What kind of a favour does she want from me? She took in a calming breath and let it out as she thought about her dealings with Atropos. As she did so, she got up and closed her bedroom door.

At the start, things had been fairly rocky (and, to be fair, she'd been stressed out by basically everything, but now she had her mushroom babies, and her stress levels were way down). However, she'd done an objectively good thing by reverting Bonesaw back into her younger self. Atropos' advice had led to the mushroom babies, which had to be a good thing, especially since Atropos herself had been quite taken by them.

Amy read the message again. If there was one thing she could count on Atropos to do, it was to be brutally honest. If she said, 'nothing illegal, nothing harmful', she meant it. Though Amy had no idea what the whole 'might get a kick out of it' could be about.

And if I don't want to do it, all I have to do is say no. She figured she had a good enough read on Atropos by now to be confident about that. Moving the mouse, she clicked on the 'answer' icon.

Okay, come on over, she typed. No promises until I hear what it is. Then she clicked the Send icon.

Behind her, she heard her mattress creak. For a long moment, she froze, then she deliberately took a breath. "You're sitting on my bed, aren't you?"

"Mm-hmm." It was Atropos' voice. Swivelling the chair around, she saw what she expected: the black-clad villain, casually seated on her bed, with her head tilted in an expectant pose. "In fairness, I did my best not to give you a jump scare this time."

"True, and I appreciate that." Amy leaned back in her chair, trying to look more relaxed than she felt. "So, what can I do you for today?"

"I want to create a particular effect, and I thought of you. A powder or dust or something similar that changes hue on a specific command, then dies or drifts off or whatever. The command being …" Atropos lifted her hand and snapped her fingers.

"Um." Amy blinked as her imagination was suddenly off and running with ideas for how it could be achieved. This is my power, isn't it? I think it is. "I have … ideas. Any other specifications?"

Atropos nodded. "It needs to be able to cling to cloth and leather and be harmless to the human body, even if inhaled or swallowed. Also, unable to reproduce. That's about it."

Amy tilted her head as concepts unfolded in her mind. She narrowed ideas down to about half a dozen, then picked the one her power seemed to favour. "Yeah, I can do that. Just one question. Why? What's this for? Are you going to graffiti something halfway across the city?"

"Now that's a use I hadn't thought of, but no." Atropos chuckled. "So, a little background. Bastard Son of the Elite is coming to town, and his name really doesn't do him justice. He currently thinks I'm dead, so what I want to do is …"

As she spoke, Amy grinned wider and wider, then broke down into laughter.

Atropos had been right. She did get a kick out of it.


10 AM, Eastern Standard Time

Somers Rock

"Okay, so what do you think?" Sabah turned her open laptop to show the other two the website she'd designed.

"Daaamn, girl, you're some kinda computer whiz." Bastet looked and sounded seriously impressed. "You put all that together in a couple days?"

"What she said," grunted Salvage. "That looks pretty slick to me."

Sabah blushed behind her mask. She was no expert, but it wasn't hard to throw together a fairly basic website from online tools, especially with the help of a few of her friends in college. They hadn't known what it was for, of course, but their advice had been useful all the same. "Thanks. So, uh, I put those ideas into a costume for you, Bastet, and some, um, accessories for you, Salvage."

They watched as she dug into her bag and came up with a wrapped bundle for Bastet, and a smaller one for Salvage. She handed them out, and the two capes before her opened them with rather more enthusiasm than she'd expected. With an expression like a kid on Christmas morning, Bastet stood and held the costume up in front of her. "Hot damn," she said, looking down at herself. "I gotta go try this on!"

Without even needing to be prompted, the guy behind the counter pointed toward the restrooms, and Bastet hustled in that direction. Salvage, on the other hand, looked over the cans of metallic-flake paint and the sharp conductor's cap that Sabah had been able to find for him. Also in the bag was the best-quality toolkit she'd been able to find him on her limited budget.

"Jeez," he said, his mechanical gauntlets handling them as though they were the crown jewels or a Fabergé egg. "You buy all this for me?"

Sabah shrugged awkwardly. "If we're going to be working together, we should all be at our best, right?"

"Right." He nodded. "Yeah." Carefully, he fitted the cap into place. It had a flexible leather mask sewn into the brim that could drop down over his face; leaving it up, he pulled his goggles into place under the bill of the cap. "How do I look?"

"Like a goddamn million bucks," Bastet said as she sashayed out of the restroom. "How cool does this look?"

Sabah nodded approvingly. Bastet had made good use of the basic hygiene kit Sabah had included in each bundle, and she did look a lot more like a serious cape rather than someone who'd snuck in by the side door. "Very cool indeed. So, let's talk about what we're actually going to be doing as the Rogues' Guild."

She was taken aback, and somewhat daunted, by the sudden attention this garnered her. What am I doing? I have no idea how to lead a group of capes.

"Keep talking, boss-lady," Bastet urged. "You know what you're doing. We don't."

"Okay, then. Okay." Sabah took a deep breath, then let it out again. It seemed she was indeed the leader, however little she was prepared for it. "I usually go down to the Boardwalk and do shows, like you saw. Until we can line up paying work for both of you, I'm thinking you could be a part of the show. Bastet, your costume's good for this. Salvage … maybe you could bring some scrap along and build toys for the kids while they watch? Toys that are safe for them to play with?"

"With these tools, hell yeah," he said immediately. "I can make 'em safe as you like."

Bastet lifted her chin. "And you think I should do that fire dancing thing you were talking about?"

"As a finale, yes." Sabah found herself reaching for ideas. "Do you have any other suggestions?"

"Yeah, actually." Bastet twirled her finger in a circle. "How about little cloth birds? You make 'em, I make 'em fly around me?"

"I can do that." Sabah nodded. "So … what do you think? We meet up at the Boardwalk, where I did my last show, at about one? The inaugural show of the Brockton Bay Rogues' Guild."

Bastet and Salvage looked at each other, then Salvage shrugged massively. "Well, my calendar's free."

"Mine, too." Bastet held out her hand to Sabah. "Let's knock the goddamn socks off this town."

Sabah shook it, then shook Salvage's gauntlet much more carefully. "Okay, just give me a second and I'll actually put that in here as an event. The site should automatically crosspost it to PHO and other local social media sites. With any luck, we'll get people showing up out of pure curiosity. Come for the hype, stay for the show."

Bastet grinned. "Works for me."


1:15 PM, Eastern Standard Time
Outskirts of Brockton Bay

Bastard Son

The limousine was as comfortable as ever, and he was feeling damn good after the night's sleep in Boston. The van holding his latest crew had caught up with him there, and he'd spent the next few hours instilling in them their new attitudes, values and skills. They'd come to him as loyal employees of the Elite and he'd turned them into lean, mean fighting machines, fanatically dedicated to him and him alone.

Just the way he liked it.

Over the hour's drive north to Brockton Bay, he'd casually flicked through the news and the PHO boards, hoping to find out if Atropos' body had been taken anywhere special. But there was no mention of her death at all. The explosion of the car had made the news, and the hostages were apparently already back with their family, but of Atropos there was nothing. It was like she'd suddenly ceased to exist between one day and the next.

It was the PRT, he realised. It had to be. Their pet boogeyman had gotten herself killed, and they were desperately hiding that fact while frantically scrambling to figure out what to do next.

Too bad, so sad. I'm already here, and I'm going to be running this dump by the time I'm finished.


With the van following behind, the limousine threaded its way through the streets of Brockton Bay. He'd decided that he would swell his ranks with the newly formed so-called Brockton Bay Rogues' Guild before assaulting the PRT building, because having capes on call made so many things much easier. According to a notification that had popped up a few hours ago in the 'local events' section of PHO, they would be down at the Boardwalk for most of the afternoon, performing a show for passers-by. While the Boardwalk was by all accounts quite lengthy, the notification included a handy map location for reference.

It didn't take long to get to the location. There were no parking spaces available on the street, but that didn't matter. The driver knew to find the closest available parking spot, then return when needed.

Pulling his latest mask on, a masterpiece of sneering contempt, he opened the door as the limo slowed to a halt and stepped out onto the road. Behind the limo, the van swerved sideways and stopped, blocking the whole damn road. The driver cut the engine, set the handbrake and got out, ignoring the honking from the car he'd just cut off.

This was deliberate. He wanted outrage. He wanted attention. People needed to see him in action.

Seven more men climbed from the van; as one, the eight crossed the now-blocked road to where he waited. He'd trained them all, instilling them with unbreakable loyalty and the willingness to do anything he told them. Unlike the weaklings who had declined to attack Atropos, these men would've done just that if she'd survived the night's action.

That was fine; it meant they were perfectly willing to go after lesser targets.

Each of the eight had been given a nickname, based around the weapon he'd picked out for them. Shaver held a straight razor, Handicap a golf club, Strike a pair of bowling pins, Chairman a folding chair, Sweeper a broom, Shark a pool cue, Bookworm a heavy encyclopedia and Snips—chosen before Atropos' untimely end—two pairs of sewing shears. The latter weren't as long as Atropos' bodice shears, but in his experience, two pairs of blades beat one any day of the week.

Parian and the other two rogues—Bastet and Salvage, going by the website—were now staring at them as the surrounding crowd backed away. Phones, previously recording the show, were now aimed at him and his men.

"Good afternoon," he said, grinning under the mask. "I'm Bastard Son, and you three just volunteered to join the Elite, heh."

"Uh, no." Parian gestured, and three large stuffed animals, previously dancing for the audience, moved forward to block the way. At the same time, she waved at the crowd. "Away!" she shouted. "Get away!"

He didn't even have to give orders; that was how much in tune his men were with him. Shaver and Snips darted forward, moving in perfect unison. Each dodged a clumsy blow from their respective targets—a six-legged horse and a purple gorilla—then retaliated with precisely timed slashes that left the stuffed animals in shreds on the ground. The third one, a rabbit with boxing gloves and an eyepatch, got off a single punch, expertly avoided, before it joined its compatriots.

Bastet began powering up some kind of telekinetic whirlwind, while Salvage just stomped forward, clenching his metallic fists. "Come on!" he yelled. "Come on! I can take you!"

It wasn't even a contest; Handicap vaulted up and over his unprotected head, knocking him to his knees with a single well-timed tap from the golf club. Bastet lasted a little longer as she fed gravel and ground trash into the high-speed vortex around her, but Sweeper hooked his broom around her ankles and pulled her off her feet. Winded by the fall, she stopped struggling when Sweeper put his broom across her throat.

"Well, that was the Rogues' Guild, heh." Striding forward like a conquering hero—or villain, rather—he latched his hand onto Parian's shoulder and surveyed the shocked crowd. "Good thing they aren't trying to be heroes. Well, that's—"

"Aren't you forgetting something, Bastard Son?" The words cracked like a whip across the silent crowd, cutting his incipient speech off at the knees.

He looked around, recognising the voice but not believing what his ears were telling him. There, just on the other side of his men, stood Atropos, but transformed. Instead of midnight black and grey, her costume was pure white from head to toe, and she wore a sword slung across her back. Standing there in the sunlight, she was dazzling.



He stared at me, his jaw working a few times. "N-no," he protested weakly, then his voice gained strength. "No! You died! You're dead! I killed you!"

I shook my head slowly, gently, almost mockingly. When I spoke, my voice held an ethereal quality. "I am Atropos the White, now. I have passed through fire and death, and now I …"

I paused and shook my head again, then snorted.

"Sorry," I said in my normal voice, barely holding back a chuckle. "I thought I'd pull the 'back with more power than ever' schtick, but that's too pretentious even for me." Holding up my hand, I snapped my fingers, and the bio-dust Amy had prepped for me turned from pure white to dead black, then fell away in a cloud, drifting downwind with the breeze. "As the saying goes, the reports of my death were greatly exaggerated. Now, just so you know, you're already on two warnings. Does anyone here not know what that means?"

Dead silence answered the question. If anyone hadn't known, they'd either figured it out from context or they were saving the question for later.

"Yeah, I know what it means." It seemed Bastard Son had gotten his head back in the game. "It means you're standing right there in front of me, and right now the odds are eight to one, heh."

"Eight to two," grunted Salvage as he climbed to his feet.

"Three," Bastet corrected, also getting up.

"No," I said. "This isn't about you three anymore. Thanks for the offer, but I got this."

"I'll be sure and put those words on your headstone." Bastard Son gestured at his minions. "These are my people you're facing now, heh. You don't—"

The one with the pool cue came at me first, twirling it like a quarterstaff. I feinted a kick to his knee; while he was reacting to that, I gave him the novelty-sized eight-ball that I'd gotten from the joke shop to the middle of the face (big pockets are so handy). He went over backward, and I caught the pool cue out of mid-air.

As part of the same movement, I snapped it over my knee, deflected the golf club with the skinny end and whacked its user on the funny-bone with the heavy end. Fanatically loyal or not, neural responses override mere intentions; his hand sprang open and dropped the club. I caught it before it had fallen two inches, reversed it, and tapped him precisely on the temple with the business end. He dropped like a hole in one.

Bastard Son was still monologuing, turning in a slow circle to take in the crowd's reactions as he did so. "—stand a hope in hell against—"

Now I had two on me; the broom guy to my left and the one with the straight-razor to the right. I pulled my shears, deflected a simultaneous attempt to brain me with the broom and slice open important parts of my anatomy, then whacked both implements at just the right angle to snap them off short.

The minion on the left had clearly been trained in full-length broom use, not short-broom-plus-broken-piece-of-handle (a glaring hole in his education, in my opinion) and I used the opening to disarm him of the larger piece, then tripped him with it. He fell headlong and got the wind knocked out of him. At the same time, I let the shears hang off my pinky finger while I twitched the handle of the razor out of right-hand guy's grip, wrapped my fist around it, and slugged him solidly across the jaw. His eyes rolled up in his head and he collapsed.

"—just one of them, let alone—"

Three of them came at me all at once, with the fourth one coming around toward the back, trying to hit me from the rear quarter. Front guy had a folding chair (really? Wow), the new left-hand guy had a pair of bowling pins, the new right-hand guy had a book. It looked like volume E of the Encyclopedia Americana, but I could've been wrong.

A sheet of paper, torn from the book, came spinning at me with enough speed and power to slice my jugular. I deflected it with the end of the broom (losing a few bristles on the way), then used the same movement to hit the chair just right as it came at me. If he'd been using a regular chair, he might've been okay, but the folding mechanism was a fatal weakness. It came apart in his hands, and once again he hadn't been trained in using the pieces of his weapon.

Bowling pin guy hadn't been idle in this time, spinning his weapons in a deadly ballet of grace and skill. I swayed aside from a strike that would've caved my ribs in, and deflected the other with the butt-end of the straight-razor handle. Discarding the latter, I grabbed the back leg section of the now-defunct folding chair and hooked it between bowling pin guy's hands. One of the pins ended up in my hand—I didn't need the broom anymore—and I used it to brush aside another deadly paper missile then hit the open book solidly, crushing all his would-be paper missiles to uselessness.

Almost as an afterthought, I rapped him over the knuckles, causing him to drop the book. I threw the pin at chair-guy, who was still trying to figure out how to hit me with something that wasn't a folding chair anymore, and he folded up himself. With my hand now free, I caught the book and smacked its previous owner with it, then spun and used it to shield me against a solid drive with two pair of shears. I mean, the nerve of the guy. Shears, against me?

"—all eight, so you might as well—"

Bowling pin guy was still up, though he had some holes in his defence due to being reduced to just one pin. He came at me again and I brushed his attack aside with the book, then smacked him in the middle of the forehead with it. Going cross-eyed, he sat down suddenly.

Flipping the shears back up into my hand and dropping the book, I gave my full attention to shears-guy, who was coming in again. Gliding in myself, I let one attack hiss past my ear while I deflected the one aimed at my gut. This gave me the chance to kick him in the groin, which I did, then disarmed him of both his weapons while he was distracted. Collecting both pairs of shears in the same hand, I smacked him upside the temple with them, then stepped past him as he collapsed.

"—give up now." Bastard Son jolted in surprise as I stopped in front of him and dropped the two pairs of shears at his feet. My own shears, I spun once and returned to their sheath. "The fuck? How did you—?" He scrabbled for the pistol in his shoulder holster.

He stopped talking again, mainly because I'd drawn the sword that was still slung across my back, and flicked the weapon from his hand. The point came to rest, hovering just in front of his adam's apple. He swallowed convulsively.

"My turn now," I said conversationally. Even the few birds around had stopped chirping. Everyone was listening. "Do you know what this is?"

He jerked his chin, carefully. "It … it's a sword, heh."

"Not just a sword." I smiled behind my mask and pitched my voice to reach the crowd. "It's a hand-and-a-half sword, commissioned by Louis the Fourteenth for the infant child of one of his mistresses, before the kid was legitimised. I was gifted it by Kaiser's boy. Or, to put it another way, it's a bastard sword from the Sun King, made for a bastard son, given to me by the son of another bastard." I chuckled and tilted my head slightly. "Technically, Kaiser was a legitimate birth, but everyone who knew him would agree that he was a total bastard in every other sense." Sliding the blade back past his ear, I flicked his mask off. "A fitting weapon to End the career of someone called Bastard Son, don't you think?"

"I—" he began.

"I wasn't asking you," I snapped, flicking the sword at his eye, so close that he blinked and stepped back and tripped, landing on his back. "I warned you not to come here."

Taking the sword in both hands, I slashed at him, carving the shape of a kite shield on his torso. The front of his business suit fell away, as did most of his tie. "Fuuck!" he screamed as blood began to flow down his chest. It wasn't bad; I'd only cut about an eighth of an inch deep.

"In antiquity, the bastard children of nobility had a particular device added to their coats of arms," I said conversationally. "This was called a bend sinister. Basically, a stripe that went from upper right to lower left. Like … so." One more slash, leaving a bleeding diagonal line across his torso, and I put the sword up. "Any last words before I finish this?"

"Yeah." He grinned through the pain as he scrambled to his feet. "My men are getting up, heh."

I glanced back over my shoulder. "So they are. But do you know what I just killed?" Taking a cloth from my pocket, I cleaned the length of the blade before I re-sheathed it.

He shook his head in confusion. "… what?"

I grinned inside my mask. "Your powers." The substance Riley had cooked up for me had done the job it was meant to. Applied to the very tip of the blade, it was now in his bloodstream. Some had already reached his brain, where it was meticulously severing all links to his corona pollentia. No neural signals would reach it, no blood vessels would feed it. It would die, and his connection to his powers with it. "And your men are now aware that you just ordered them to attack me. Whoops."

Bastard Son stared at his ex-minions. Some still appeared a little dazed from my rough handling of them, but I'd made sure not to do any permanent damage. None of them were looking at me. All of them were glaring at him. Courteously, I stepped aside.

"You … bastard," one of them growled. I didn't think it was a reference to his cape name.

Abruptly, he turned and ran. Shouting in rising anger, they bolted after him.



"Uh … thank you," Sabah said, cautiously approaching Atropos. "You … you saved us."

"Not a problem. I actually like your puppet show, and the Rogues' Guild is a good idea." She tilted her head. "Hey, next month there's going to be a charity show for the oncology wing of Brockton General. If you wanted some great publicity, there's your chance. Oh, and you might want to get Salvage to move that van out of the way."

"Oh. Um … sure." Wow, she thinks it's a good idea? Tentatively, Sabah gestured toward where Bastard Son and his pursuers had disappeared down the street. "Should … should you be doing something about that?"

"Mmm, true." Atropos sighed, her voice taking on an overly melodramatic tone. "Otherwise, he'll get away, and come back with ever more elaborate schemes, and I'll look bad for having not killed him in the first place, and there'll be so much drama." She leaned in close and dropped her voice to a whisper. "You can't see it right now, but I'm totally rolling my eyes. Anyway, nice meeting you. Toodles."

And then, between one instant and the next, she vanished.


Bastard Son

His breath was ragged as he staggered up to the limo. It had taken him far too long to shake his pursuers and then to locate the damn car using the tracker on his phone. For some reason, the driver wasn't answering his.

Wrenching the back door open, he fell into the cool interior, then pulled it shut and engaged the lock. "Thank fuck. Get us out of here, heh." When he came back to Brockton Bay, it would be with serious forces next time. Actual capes under his power. Atropos would … why wasn't the car moving? "I said, drive!"


In the Front Seat of the Car


I wouldn't get a better prompt than that. "As you wish, sir." I dropped the screen between us, slid the sword up and through, and drove the point into the middle of the bend sinister I'd carved into his torso. It went straight through him, and a foot into the seat cushion beyond. He gasped, dying, scrabbling at the blade.


I shook my head. "I told you I'd kill you. People just don't listen these days."

Leaving the scabbard lying on top of the unconscious driver, now sprawled across the front passenger seat, I opened the limo door and got out. I pulled out my phone and typed out a text to the PRT, with the address appended. Cleanup in aisle six. Finally, I leaned back in and activated the comms system, sending a live (so to speak) feed to every member of the Elite with a screen.

I was pretty sure they'd get the message.

End of Part Forty
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Wooo! Awesome chapter! The only thing is that BS continuing talking while Taylor beats up all of his guys seems unrealistic, even with how quickly it would have taken.
He was watching the crowd, enjoying their reactions, and giving the monologue mostly on autopilot.
Fun chapter, as always.

"Not really," Atropos observed from the kitchen doorway. "But I was thinking we could go down to the Boardwalk next Saturday. The Brockton Bay Rogues' Guild will be putting on a show there from about one onward, every weekend from now on."

"I'll see you guys this afternoon."

It seems like at the start of the scene Atropos is talking about the coming Saturday, and by the end of the scene she's talking about today?
He was watching the crowd, enjoying their reactions, and giving the monologue mostly on autopilot.

That wasn't clear. I had the same reaction that the other poster did, that he was talking to Taylor and would've interrupted himself once the action started. If you intended for him to be facing away and watching the crowd, it didn't come through in the text. It felt mildly unrealistic to me as well the way it was written.
Fun chapter, as always.

It seems like at the start of the scene Atropos is talking about the coming Saturday, and by the end of the scene she's talking about today?
Originally I was going to have them show up, but decided to cut that. Good catch.

That wasn't clear. I had the same reaction that the other poster did, that he was talking to Taylor and would've interrupted himself once the action started. If you intended for him to be facing away and watching the crowd, it didn't come through in the text. It felt mildly unrealistic to me as well the way it was written.
He had a more or less prepared speech, which he was delivering partly to her and partly to the crowd. What he could see of the fight was a bunch of his guys crowding around and obscuring his view of Atropos (because she's not any taller than them).

And the fight went fast. By the time his conscious mind registered that what he absolutely knew was going to happen was not, in fact, happening, he'd just about finished his speech. His brain had given the orders and his mouth finished saying the words.

Sometimes it takes a few seconds to realise that what you expect to happen is not, in fact, happening.
He had a more or less prepared speech, which he was delivering partly to her and partly to the crowd. What he could see of the fight was a bunch of his guys crowding around and obscuring his view of Atropos (because she's not any taller than them).

And the fight went fast. By the time his conscious mind registered that what he absolutely knew was going to happen was not, in fact, happening, he'd just about finished his speech. His brain had given the orders and his mouth finished saying the words.

Sometimes it takes a few seconds to realise that what you expect to happen is not, in fact, happening.

That's fine, and to you that makes sense, but to at least two readers it felt off. We didn't see what you intended us to see. It wasn't enough to make a huge deal out of it, so I didn't say anything until another reader did, and then I backed them up. What you saw in your head isn't what I saw in mine when I read it. Or at least, it didn't make sense to me as it did to you because something felt like it was missing.
That's fine, and to you that makes sense, but to at least two readers it felt off. We didn't see what you intended us to see. It wasn't enough to make a huge deal out of it, so I didn't say anything until another reader did, and then I backed them up. What you saw in your head isn't what I saw in mine when I read it. Or at least, it didn't make sense to me as it did to you because something felt like it was missing.
I'm going to add one more visual aspect, that he's turning in a slow circle as he monologues, fully expecting Taylor to be down and/or dead by the time he's facing front again.
I'm going to add one more visual aspect, that he's turning in a slow circle as he monologues, fully expecting Taylor to be down and/or dead by the time he's facing front again.

I think that would help a lot! That's the piece that was missing, and solves the whole situation.
Just caught up Awesome chapter!
"Carry on Fare thee well my bastard son, there'll be peace now you are do-ne"
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Just caught up Awesome chapter!
"Carry on my bastard son, there'll be peace now you are do-ne"
There have been so many references to that song.

I'd never even heard it before I started the Bastard Son arc.
It got entrenched in geek culture when Supernatural used it as their theme.
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Part Forty-One: Taking Care of Business
A Darker Path

Part Forty-One: Taking Care of Business

[A/N: This chapter beta-read by Lady Columbine of Mystal.]

Relevant Side Story: Severance, Longing

Relevant Side Story: Caught Red-Handed 1

Relevant Side Story: Caught Red-Handed 2

Relevant Side Story: Caught Red-Handed 3

Relevant Side Story: Caught Red-Handed 4

Protectorate Headquarters, Armsmaster's Lab


"Hey, did you hear? They found Bastard Son's body, right where Atropos said it would be."

Armsmaster barely grunted in response, which Ethan had kind of expected. Leaning over his keyboard, he seemed to be glaring at lines of code on the screen. As Ethan watched, he inserted a blank line then typed a bunch of code that probably made sense to Armsmaster, but not to anyone else.

"They also got something else …" Ethan added, leaving the tag-end of the sentence hanging.

Armsmaster didn't bite.

"… footage of Atropos in hand to hand with eight opponents at once."

That got a reaction.

Ethan knew Armsmaster wasn't a Mover of any kind, but somehow he got up out of the chair and across to the door of the lab before Ethan had a chance to react. "Where?" he demanded.

"We're, uh, just setting it up to run on the big screen in the rec room." Ethan hooked his thumb over his shoulder. "I hear it's pretty impressive."

But he was already talking to Armsmaster's back.


Ten Minutes Later


"How?" demanded Armsmaster.

"What do you mean, how?" Assault spread his hands and grinned. "She kicked their asses with power and precision, that's how."

"No, how did she react to each one in time to beat them without leaving herself open to the others? She was guarding against attacks that hadn't happened yet, and setting up attacks on openings that weren't there yet." Armsmaster was wearing a headset with a flip-down eyepiece, and he was pointing at the screen like it had personally offended him. "She's not a speedster … is she?"

Robin shook his head. "No. All her movement is within human norms. I checked. It's just that it's all on the upper edge of human norm. She doesn't slow down for a second. The kind of focus that requires is … insane."

"Send that file to my lab." Armsmaster stood up. "I want to see how she does it."

"Already done," Assault said. "We're just going to watch the show out here on the big screen again. Atropos got some moves."

Robin went to grab another pack of party pies. This looked like it could go on for quite some time.


PRT Building

Director's Office

Emily blinked as the scuffle with Bastard Son's minions came to an end. It had barely even been a fight. Atropos had looked like she was following choreographed moves, the whole way through. Still, for that many opponents, it was kind of impressive.

She watched as the sword came into play, rolled her eyes at the recounted provenance of the weapon, then waited for Atropos to kill him with it. But she didn't.

If any of Emily's troopers had been guilty of showboating like this, Emily would've busted them down to traffic duty before they tried it with the wrong cape and it got them killed. But somehow, Atropos just kept getting away with it.

And then Atropos explained what she'd actually done, and Emily spat out her drink.

Grabbing up her phone without bothering to wipe off her computer screen, she stabbed numbers with her finger. "Get me the Chief Director."


11:17 PM, Saturday Night, January 15, 2011

Janice Templeton

All was not yet lost.

Returning to her computer with a glass of wine, Janice sat down and surveyed her computer. She didn't consider herself a bad person, but she had bills to pay and expenses to meet, and the poor and homeless in Brockton Bay had been getting along just fine without stimulus checks so far. And they'd probably just waste the money on booze or something.

Besides, she wasn't taking all the money, just making sure some of it slipped through the cracks. It wouldn't even be stealing, really, just making sure that the money ended up in good hands. Specifically, hers.

As a member in good standing of the B3C (as they were beginning to call themselves), she had admin-level access to the financial network that had been established to handle the frankly ridiculous amount of cash that had been funnelled their way. She wasn't going to try anything so blatant as to grab too much at once; that would be stupid and counterproductive. But the stimulus money had already been accounted for and transferred into the accounts, so nobody would miss it.

Leaning close over the screen, she scrolled down the master list, clicking the mouse occasionally. With each click, a name went dark, indicating that it had been deselected from the stimulus program. She made sure to select people with foreign names; if they were illegals, they might not even know they were supposed to get a stimulus, and they certainly wouldn't raise a fuss if they did. Even then, she wouldn't take too much. About ten thousand would be about right. Chump change, really.

Her preparations were almost complete; she'd already made sure that the unclaimed cards would be funnelled to a drop-box that she had access to. All she had to do was click the save icon, and the new configuration would replace the old. Nobody would ever know the difference, and she would be on the way to being ten thousand dollars richer.

She clicked it.

Her computer screen froze, then blanked. When the picture emerged again, she was looking at … herself? Why is the webcam on? As if in a nightmare, she saw Atropos on the screen, stepping into view from behind her.

She spun around, to confront—

Nobody. Nobody was there. Her study was empty.

She looked back at the screen. Atropos was looming closer and closer, reaching out …

There's nobody there. Somebody's just trying to scare me.

And then the gloved hand clamped onto her shoulder. "Hi."

Shrieking and flailing, Janice knocked her wineglass over and nearly fell out of her chair.

Atropos dug her thumb and forefinger into the nerve points of Janice's shoulder, sending jagged pain lancing throughout her upper chest and rendering her arm useless. "Sit. Stay."

Heart rate accelerating from resting rate to hypersonic, Janice did her best to comply. "Why—how are you here? You only go after supervillains! Capes!"

"Really? Who told you that?" Atropos' featureless mask was right alongside Janice, now. "I gave you warnings about trying to skim money. You chose to ignore them."

"I-I can fix it! I can put it all back!" She knew she was babbling now, but she didn't care. A warm wetness was spreading across the seat cushion under her, and she didn't care about that either.

"No, see, here's your problem." Atropos' voice was softly chiding. "I give people a chance sometimes. And that's only if they had no idea what they were doing. You knew what you were doing. So now it's time for your next role in this little story."

"Wh—what's that?"

Atropos gestured at the webcam. "Cautionary tale."

The last thing Janice saw was the flash of light on the blade of the shears.


11:34 PM

Paul King

One good thing about driving around late at night was that parking was easy to find. Paul brought his SUV to a halt, set the handbrake, and killed the engine. Leaning across and reaching into the glove compartment, he took out his holstered nine millimetre, then climbed out of the car.

A click of the fob locked the vehicle, then he lifted his shirt and clipped the holster onto the back of his pants, in the small of his back. He wasn't anticipating trouble, but the best way to avoid it was to be prepared. While the Brockton Bay crime rate had dropped significantly in the absence of the gangs, this didn't mean it was zero. Case in point: the people he was going to talk to.

The number of people in Brockton Bay who were willing to commit violence for money was somewhat less than it had been two weeks ago. Some had hung up the knuckledusters and taken up more law-abiding pursuits, while others had just plain left town in the wake of the capes who had previously employed them. He'd gotten the contact number for these guys from a friend of a friend of a very shady friend, and they'd promised results.

And so they should have, for the amount of money he'd paid them. But they also should've delivered, and that was something they'd conspicuously failed to do. If the money was going to be pulled out of the drug rehab program, with a few rounding errors ending up in his pocket, then the rehab program needed to be seen to fail. There needed to be disruptions, and there hadn't been any.

Over the phone, when he demanded an explanation, the spokesman of the group had said that they'd just had a bad feeling and backed off. He was there to provide good feelings again.

Which was why he was coming to talk to them in person, and why he was bringing a weapon. He had some money, in case all they needed was a little extra incentive, and he had the gun to disincentivise them from just robbing him.

Descending a short flight of stairs to just below street level, he thumped the heel of his hand on the metal door at the bottom, then looked up at the security camera covering the door niche.

This had once been the hangout for a bunch of guys strongly affiliated with shaven heads and Aryan tattoos; when the Empire Eighty-Eight pulled up stakes in the aftermath of Kaiser's death, most had left as well. Those that remained were the ones who hadn't really cared about the Nazi ideology, but liked drinking beer and beating up people who didn't look like them. Taking money to trash a few drug rehab clinics had been right up their alley … until they hadn't actually done it.

A moment later, the door latch clicked, and he was able to push it open. Stepping through, he pushed the door closed behind him then shoved his way past the blackout curtains that were supposed to prevent light from spilling out even when the door was open.

The place had been messy enough the last time he'd visited (which was also the first time) but there'd been a certain amount of organisation. Now, it looked like a bomb had hit it. Tables were tipped over, the pool table was lying on its side, a few broken chairs were scattered here and there, and the actual members were draped over the wreckage. Some were groaning, while others were ominously still.

"What … the fuck …?" He stared at the scene of devastation. Fifteen minutes ago, he'd called them and said he was on the way over.

Had there been some sort of argument while he was in transit? Because right now, they didn't look capable of interrupting a game of bingo at an old folks' home.

The guy he'd spoken to was called Nicky, and he took no shit from anyone. Paul headed farther into the room, looking for Nicky. If anyone had answers about what had happened here, it would be him.

"Hey." It was a girl's voice, behind him. He half-turned, opening his mouth to ask a question, then froze.

Atropos stood there, leaning negligently against the wall, her arms folded. There was a pair of shears dangling from her left hand. Even as relaxed as she appeared, Paul could feel the menace rolling off her.

"Uhh …" he croaked, his throat suddenly dry. "This is not what it seems. I didn't—"

"I know you didn't." Her tone was derisory. "I kicked their asses. You were already coming here, so two birds, one stone, you know how it goes."

"M-me?" He hated how his voice hit a much higher register than normal. The gun clipped to the back of his belt was like a lead weight. It was a poisoned chalice; offering salvation, it would surely spell his doom if he gave in to temptation. "What do you want with me?"

She unfolded her arms and began to walk toward him, one measured step at a time. Light gleamed off the long, sharp blades of the shears. "You were warned, more than once, not to try skimming off funds. You tried to skim off funds. You know what comes next."

Terror-fuelled adrenaline surged through his system, and he clawed for the pistol holstered at his back. By the time he got it up and pointed, Atropos had her own pistol aimed at him, the silencer making it look altogether more ominous. There was a brief half-second pause while he tried to figure out why he was still alive, then he thought fuck it and fired anyway. Atropos fired at the exact same instant.

Nothing happened. He looked down at himself, but there was no blood from suddenly-appearing bullet wounds. She missed!

He fired twice more, but by the end of it his ears were ringing so badly he could barely hear anything. On the third shot, the pistol jolted extra hard, nearly spraining his wrist.

Still no pain. So far, if she'd been shooting, every shot of hers had missed him. But nor did she show any signs of having been hit, either.

"Missed me!" he shouted over the ringing in his ears.

She shook her head and pointed at the floor between them with the tip of the shears. Lying there, gently spinning, were three misshapen lumps of lead. He couldn't see them quite clearly enough to be certain, but somehow he knew each one was formed by two bullets colliding in midair.

Even one was a miracle … and she'd done it three times.

Still, all she had to do was miss once. He aimed his pistol at her again.

She shook her head, not bothering to raise her weapon. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."

"Why not?" Holy shit, I've actually got the drop on her. A moment later, he decided not to wait for the answer, and squeezed the trigger.

The gun exploded in his hand, the breech blasting itself open and pieces of metal flying everywhere. He staggered back a step and fell to one knee, clutching the injured hand. It didn't hurt too badly right then, but it was going to in just a second.

A black boot stepped into his line of sight, and he looked up to see Atropos standing over him. When she spoke, her voice was pitched just loudly enough for him to hear. "Because I fired four shots."

She played me the whole time.

Even with that realisation, he didn't see the shears coming until it was far too late.



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♦ Topic: Bye Bye Bastard Son
In: Boards ► Brockton Bay ► New Capes ► Atropos

(Original Poster) (Banned) (You Wish) (UnVerified Cape) (Can Actually Kill Anything) (Yes, Really) (Watch Me)
Posted On Jan 16th 2011:

Good morning to the delightful people of Brockton Bay, and also the rest of you (I kid, I kid. I like you all.)

So, things got interesting yesterday on the Boardwalk, where our very own Rogues' Guild had their inaugural gathering. I totally approve of the Guild, by the way. Not every cape's got it in them to be a hero (I certainly don't; mwahahaha) but they're doing the best they can with what they've got, and they're doing really well with it.

But before we get into what actually *happened* yesterday, I'd just like to give a shout-out to our tireless and hardworking PRT troopers, up to and including their boss, Emily Piggot. They're also doing the best they can with the crappy hand they've been dealt. (And a specific thank-you to @Reave, for helping out the night before last. Totes professional, a credit to the service.)

So, what happened yesterday? Well, I may have mentioned Bastard Son's name a time or three. He knew damn well he was on his second warning. So he showed up anyway. Now, if you're not sure about his capabilities, he was kind of what you'd get if Teacher and Jack Slash had a kid and kicked it out of the house because they were sick of its attitude. He could give people an insane level of skill in basically anything as a weapon ... but at the same time he also pushed an insane level of loyalty (to him, duh) onto them.

So when these guys showed up, they were actually being Mastered into doing what they did, which is why they're not decorating hospital beds or morgue slabs right now. (Just in case you're wondering: one's given himself up to the PRT, and the rest have skipped town).

So, BS wanted to open up a location in BB for the Elite to put down roots. As such, he did his best to kill me first. I might have let him think he'd succeeded, just for the look on his face when he Found Out.

What? That look of 'oh shit, I have totally fucked up' is one of the perks of this business. Tell me it isn't.

Why he was on the Boardwalk is simple. One of the Elite's strategies is to either recruit, chase off or kill any rogues before they move in. I wasn't going to let that happen, for several reasons.

For those who weren't there, footage can be found here, here and here. Many thanks to those who posted it up; you just saved me about a page of making bad jokes about people bringing a folding chair to a knife fight.

In case anyone's not sure what I said to BS after the fight, I carved a bend sinister into his chest with a hand-and-a-half sword, commissioned by Louis XIV for the son of one of his mistresses before he actually legitimized the kid. Its last owner was Kaiser, who was a *bastard* in all ways but birth, and it was gifted to me by his *son*.

And today you learned something!

And just in case you're wondering why I let him just run off like that, I wanted him to get to his limo (where I would be waiting). In the back of that limo was a high-end comms setup, including video links to his buddies in the Elite. After I killed him with the sword, I turned on the comms, so they could all see what happened to him when he came to BB against my specific recommendation.

I'm sure they'll get the point.

*He* certainly did (mwahaha).

(Showing page 1 of 27)

►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
That happened.
The other day, we learned what would happen if Atropos decided to kill someone's credibility. Yesterday, we found out what happens if she's up against a bunch of people she really doesn't feel like killing.
Pro tip: It's not just guns or shears she's good at using.
I have zero doubt that if she'd decided any one of those people was supposed to die, they would not have gotten up again. That was her *holding back*.
I'm not even going to ask where she got the oversized eight-ball from. We know she got the sword from Kaiser's kid (who freely admitted that she asked for it and he told her to keep it if she wanted).
Oh, and just by the way, the Rogues' Guild is legit. They've been checked out due to their encounter with Atropos (standard operating procedure) and they're totally on the up and up. Also, they've got the Atropos seal of approval, which would actually be less weird if the PRT also didn't have it.
I would also like to personally thank Atropos for keeping the gore down to a minimum this time around.
So there you have it, folks. If it was any more wholesome, it would be a Hallmark movie.

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
Here lies bastard son, he was too damn stupid to live

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
Like a motherfuckin' BOSS! That fight was awesome! You won't believe how much I laughed as Atropos kept knocking Bastard Son's minions with their own weapons!

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
the guy wanted to make a show. she made a show of him. it is a fitting end.

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
I can't believe nobody's talking about how Atropos depowered Bastard Son. I mean, that's a really big deal. That has to be a nightmare for a LOT of people. Many of which are powerful, even if they can't harm Atropos.
Though it would be a dream come true for others, like some Case 53's, at least.

►Reave (Verified PRT Agent)
Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
Instead of asking Atropos to come in to the PRT building (we know she won't), I would like to say something else.
The night before last, I got to meet her face to face.
I've been up against villains before. I've faced them, I've fought them, I've even been injured a couple of times.
This was nothing like that.
Lives were at stake. She was the first responder. People lived because she made the specific choice for that to happen.
Just like she chose to save the Rogues' Guild from Bastard Son.
We're still not *thrilled* that she's out there, but I think I understand her better now.
@Atropos - you know where to find me if you ever want to talk.

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
@GleamingGlare - about the depowering thing. In some animated shows, the bad guy can destroy someone's life energy by hitting them with a 'death blow'. Just a touch, but it drains or destroys their special martial-arts energy. I'm wondering if this isn't similar, but using a blade.

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
@GleamingGlare - with how public it was, she wants people to know she can kill powers. This is going to make capes a lot more cautious about tangling with her.
Also, that whole color change thing. How did she do it? Was it for intimidation (btw, it worked) or was it just for the Gandalf joke?
@XxVoid_CowboyxX - Normally I'd dismiss that out of hand. With Atropos, I can totally see it.

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
Holy crap, how far in advance did she have to plan to have that sword and that oversized eight-ball on her yesterday? For that exact circumstance?
I'm going with Thinker: Yes.
End of Page. 1, 2, 3 ... 25, 26, 27
(Showing page 2 of 27)

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
It would not be such a bad thing to consistently and safely depowered a parahuman actually.
It can be considered a humane (inasmuch life sentence is (generaly considered) more humane then execution) solution for evil cape.
Its akin to cutting of a thief's hands so he can no longer steal, so your miles might vary..
I mean.. if the alternative is the birdcage ...

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
Is this really a thing? Can Atropos actually kill powers?

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
Oh, yeah. I was there, in person, I saw what she did to Bastard Son. I heard her. Watched it happen.
It's real.

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
Okay, after the 'Atropos the White' skit she pulled, memes are suggesting themselves.
"One does not simply walk into Brockton Bay ... if you are a villain."
Anyone? Anyone?

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
Ooh, ooh!
"You can have my sword, and my bow, and my axe, and my shears."

►Atropos (Original Poster) (Banned) (You Wish) (UnVerified Cape) (Can Actually Kill Anything) (Yes, Really) (Watch Me)
Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
You guys are total nerds, and I love it.

►Mouse_Protector (Verified Cape) (Veteran Member) (Independent Hero) (Verified Atropos Fan)
Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
I got one!
A picture of Atropos holding her shears up.
"Myyy Precioussss ..."

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
And another one bites, 'nother one bites, 'nother one bites the dust!
I don't know much about the Elite, but if this keeps them out of the Bay, all the better.

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
She totally had me with the history lesson.
Who knew serial killers could also be educational?

Replied On Jan 16th 2011:
*puts in an order for more popcorn. Dis is gettin gud*
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To: Atropos
From: GstringGirl
Subject: Please don't be mad

Im … its really hard to just say this straight out but im a csse 53.
And I hate my ppwers.
Is there any way I can get you to kill them for me like you did witj bastard son?
If you cant or wont its okay, I understand.
I just wanted to ask.


To: GstringGirl
From: Atropos
Subject: Re: Please don't be mad

Hey, Sveta!
You're in luck. You caught me in between killing sprees (not killing Spree, I already did that). I can totally murder your powers for you.
However (relax, this isn't as bad as it sounds) if we do this, Imma be volunteering you for a friend of mine to experiment with her powers in ways she's really not used to doing. This is my way of dragging her out of her shell, kicking and screaming all the way.
So, here's the dealio. If you can convince the staff at the asylum (try Mrs Yamada, I hear she's a total sweetheart) to transfer you to Brockton Bay, I'll come visit some dark night (because that's how I roll) and End your powers for you. Then I'll turn you over to my friend, so she can get you back on your feet. Or pseudopods, or flippers, or whatever she leaves you with. Mwahaha.
So, what do you say?


To: Atropos
From: GstringGirl
Subject: Re: Re: Please don't be mad

Thank you so much. Anything wld be better than this.
Ill talk to mrs Yamada.
Thank you again.


To: SilentWhispers
From: TheRealTenebrae
Subject: Really?

Great. Just great.
Now half the city thinks I was in a relationship with all of you at once.
Aisha only stops laughing about it to make bad jokes.
I am never going to live this down.
Thanks a BUNCH.


To: TheRealTenebrae
From: SilentWhispers
Subject: Re: Really?

The look on your face.
Totally classic.
Still, I'm glad you're doing well.
Keep up the good work, hero boy.


To: SilentWhispers
From: TheRealTenebrae
Subject: Re: Re: Really?

Not funny.


To: TheRealTenebrae
From: SilentWhispers
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Really?



Sunday, January 16


"Good morning," I greeted Cherie as I came downstairs. "That smells nice."

"Thanks," she called from the kitchen. "I thought I'd cook breakfast, earn my keep around here."

"Well, you don't have to, but it's definitely appreciated." I strolled through the living room and into the kitchen. "How are you this morning? You look happy."

"I am." She gave me a beaming smile, then put down the pan for a moment to give me a heartfelt hug. "I just wanted to say thank you."

I hugged her back, then leaned against the table and watched as she took up the pan again. "You're welcome, but if you're talking about the roof over your head, that's more Dad's doing than mine."

"No, not that." She sprinkled a touch of salt onto the scrambled eggs. "I saw footage last night about a robbery by the Red Hands gang. Regent, Tattletale and Hellhound from the Undersiders must have joined them after leaving Brockton Bay."

"While Grue rebranded as Tenebrae and went into the Wards, yeah." I nodded to show I was keeping up. Cherie hadn't met Brian and Aisha and Riley yet; the less she knew, the less she could let slip.

"Uh huh." A grin lurked on her lips as she made sure none of the eggs were sticking to the pan. "So, when he showed up with the Protectorate to the crime scene, the Red Hands were still on site. They came out to delay while their teammates were still inside. I wasn't there so I can't tell how serious they were, but Regent showed real, actual emotion while he was talking to Tenebrae. More emotion than I've seen him show in literally years."

"Regent's your brother, yeah?" I started getting plates out of the cupboard. "If he was as bad off as you were when I first met you …"

"Worse." She shook her head. "A lot worse. When I knew him, he couldn't have faked the emotions I saw on that clip if you paid him a million dollars. But now … he's better. Because you helped him. And I want to thank you for that, and for the rest of my brothers and sisters."

"Well …" I laid the plates out on the table. "You're welcome. And you've helped me out a lot since you came here, so it hasn't all been one way."

Cherie nodded firmly. "Good. I'm glad."


PRT Building

Director's Office

Emily leaned back in her chair and surveyed the multiple callers on her (now clean) screen. All PRT Directors, their level of unhappiness measurable in direct relation to their proximity to Brockton Bay. Front and centre, of course, was Chief Director Costa-Brown.

"Good morning, all." The Chief Director managed to look impassive and pissed at the same time, which was a good trick. Emily had only ever managed to look pissed. 'Impassive' was something she was still working on. "I hope you've all viewed the footage that was sent on to you." If they hadn't, the implication went, they might not have their jobs in a few minutes.

A wave of nods spread across the screen. It seemed everyone was anxious to retain their jobs.

"Good. That incident happened yesterday afternoon. Director Piggot?"

Emily nodded and sat forward again. "We've had our best techs analyse each frame of all the footage for any hint of data manipulation. Nobody found anything. Likewise, chemical analysis of the sword that was used to kill him, and his bloodstream found nothing that could be pinpointed as the cause of his power loss." If she'd found it, she would've had it bottled.

Armstrong, in Boston, raised his head. "So, all you've got to go on is Atropos saying that she killed his powers, with no hint of how it was done."

"Correct." Emily eyed her fellow Directors. "Before anyone suggests that we bring her in and question her, that is a terrible idea, especially considering that we have strong evidence that she is either allied to a teleporting cape or has access to a Tinkertech teleporter. Also, her Thinker rating is such that she will see such an attempt coming. Right now, we have the equivalent of an armed détente with her, that she is choosing to maintain. We don't really have any leverage in the matter."

"So, no change there," observed the Chief Director. "Director Pritchard, how are the Elite reacting in San Francisco to Bastard Son's death?"

Pritchard held up her hand palm down, tilting it from side to side in a 'so-so' motion. "I've put out feelers, but the vast majority of what I'm hearing is that he poked the hornet nest all by himself. The Elite have apparently been warned that Brockton Bay is off-limits, and this just underlined that. I suspect the 'killing powers' section was what really grabbed their attention."

Emily would not have been surprised in the slightest, especially given that the Elite were specifically an organisation made up of capes. She just hoped that none of their young bloods came to Brockton Bay to 'handle' the threat of Atropos, because that would just lead to more bodies on her kill count, and stress on Emily's PRT officers.

Hearthrow, in Chicago, half-raised his hand to get attention. "If we had nothing else to go on, I was wondering if this new ability to kill powers might be somehow related to her already-noted claim to be able to kill Endbringers."

Emily snorted silently. As far as she was concerned, it all fell under that bullshit PHO banner of 'can actually kill anything'. Though, she was careful to note, if Atropos did manage to take down an Endbringer, it would go a long way toward Emily actually approving of her. Emily was only human, after all.

"Not as far as we know," the Chief Director said. "Watchdog still refuses to have anything to do with her. Director Piggot, you're still trying to reach out to her?"

"Yes, with limited success." Read: zero success. "However, she did speak with one of my officers the other day. The encounter was cordial on both sides, and it seems she came away with a positive view of our organisation."

"Yes; I read the PHO post." Costa-Brown raised an eyebrow. "Do you actually have any villains in the city anymore? Apart from Atropos, I mean?"

Emily shook her head. "No, but we have a bunch of new rogues, some of whom I suspect used to be extremely minor villains before Atropos made her mark. And of course, we have Tenebrae in the Wards. Despite a recent hiccup, he's integrating very successfully."

"Yes. I saw that too." Emily wasn't quite sure if Costa-Brown's lip had just twitched, or if it was a trick of the light. "If there is nothing more for anyone to add about Atropos' new ability, I'm calling this meeting to a close." There was silence for the next few moments, as everyone waited for someone else to say something. "Very well. Meeting is over."

Emily clicked the mouse button to cut the call, and sat back in her chair. Welcome to the madness that is my job. It wasn't like the other Directors could do anything about it, but aggravation shared was almost the same as aggravation halved.

Getting up, she poured herself a cup of coffee, then sat back down at her desk. Meetings were all well and good, but sometime actual work had to get done.

End of Part Forty-One
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"Do you actually have any villains in the city anymore?

Kinda need a time skip to that long promised Endbringer fight. The street level stuff is played out. No villains left, and even imported ones got slaughtered. This could go on forever, sure, but it's getting old.
Enjoyable as always. :)

...I kind of hope Taylor shows up at Reave's office with some coffee or something and makes some small talk, just for the hell of it. xD

I'm curious where this will go from here, who even has the balls or insanity to try Atropos' patience now? The Three Blasphemies? Sleeper?

Or will we get to see an Endbringer showdown?
Part Forty-Two: Just Another Manic Monday
A Darker Path

Part Forty-Two: Just Another Manic Monday

[A/N: This chapter beta-read by Lady Columbine of Mystal.]

Relevant Side Story

(Still) Sunday Morning, January 16

Danny Hebert

"So, what are your plans for today?" Danny asked, after finishing off the scrambled eggs Cherie had apparently made. They were quite good, actually. "Is there anyone else currently causing problems for the city, or can you actually relax and take a day?"

"Problems are at a minimum." Taylor leaned back in her chair and stretched. "There's going to be a couple of things out of town in the mid-afternoon, but before that I was going to take Cherie to the Lord Street Market so we could pick out a few new outfits and browse for anything else she wanted. Afterward, maybe the Boardwalk and a movie."

Both Danny and Cherie looked at her. "A couple of things out of town?" asked Cherie. "Why haven't you told me about this yet?" She paused. "Just by the way, the market and movie sound like great ideas. But back to the other things."

Taylor rolled her eyes. "It's nothing, really. Some dealers from Boston got the bright idea to set up a pop-up of all things, exactly one mile outside the Brockton Bay city limits. They figure that means they aren't dealing inside Brockton, and can thus get away with it. At least, with me."

Danny raised his eyebrows. "That seems to be remarkably risky. Is this an Accord thing, testing the waters?"

"Hah, no." Taylor snorted. "Some freelancers, looking to make the big time. I'll just show up, destroy their stash, and explain to their customers that anyone who tries to pull this loophole to buy drugs isn't welcome back in my city. They want to keep feeding their habit, they can go elsewhere to do it … and stay there."

"If the dealers put up a fuss about you destroying their drugs, are you going to kill them?" Cherie didn't seem dismayed by this concept, merely curious.

"Only if they come at me with lethal force." Taylor shrugged. "Otherwise, it'll be a 'kneecaps are a privilege' situation."

"And the other thing?" asked Danny. "You did say 'a couple' of things."

"Yeah." She rolled her eyes. "Gesellschaft got told by Bastard Son that I was dead. One of them hasn't got the memo that I'm still alive. He's scraped together all the drugs he can from other contact points in the country, and it's all shipping together in one eighteen-wheeler. It'll be coming through just about the time I finish up with the drug pop-up idiots."

Cherie nodded sagely. "Right. So, nothing to worry about then."

"Not so as you'd notice." Taylor held up a finger. "Oh, and there is something else, Dad."

Danny eyed her cautiously. "Why do I get a bad feeling when you use that phrase?"

Taylor smirked. "Superior pattern recognition? Anyway, you're about to get a phone call from the police. It's about Paul King and Janice Templeton. Last night, I caught them trying their shit again, so I made examples of them. They're alive because you didn't want me killing them, but they are in the hospital."

"Do I want to know what you did to them?" He really didn't, but he supposed he should ask anyway.

"Well, it's unpleasant enough that nobody else on the Committee will be even tempted to try anything themselves, but it's survivable." She shrugged as she got up. "I'll let the cops fill you in. Help me with the washing up, Cherie?"

"Sure." Just as Cherie stood up and started stacking the plates, the phone rang. "I think that's for you, Mr Hebert."

Danny rolled his eyes, though he was secretly pleased that she felt comfortable with making jokes like that. "Thank you for that, young lady." He handed her his plate on the way to the phone.

Heading over to where the phone hung on the wall, he picked up the receiver. "Hebert residence, Danny Hebert speaking."



Wrist-deep in suds, I scrubbed at the pan, enjoying the mindless effort. There was no second or third guessing, no juggling of the probabilities. It was either dirty or clean. The binary choice appealed to me.

"So, what'd you do to them, and who's calling your dad about it?" murmured Cherie beside me as she wiped a plate dry.

"Blinded them with my shears, then cut off their right hands with the axe I took away from Hatchet Face," I said, scrubbing away. "Then I left a packet of material beside each of them and called emergency services. The packet lays out exactly what they did, so once they get medical attention—and their eyes get fixed, just as soon as Panacea gets around to it—they can stand trial for attempted fraud and suchlike. The reason the cops are calling Dad is because I left his name as a primary contact, by way of the Committee. That way, he can plausibly know about it before Monday, and have enough material to ensure nobody else tries to pull this shit."

"Geez." She shook her head. "You'd think they would've learned by now."

I shrugged. "As my maternal grandfather used to say before he passed, some folks just gotta pee on the electric fence."

It took her a moment to get it, then her eyes widened, and I could see her struggling not to laugh. "He did not!"

"He totally did."

She was still giggling by the time we finished drying the dishes.


Monday Afternoon


Sabah looked around the picnic table at the rest of the Brockton Bay Rogues' Guild and wondered when her life had become so complicated. First Bastet and Salvage, then Emily (possibly Spitfire) and Dinah (possibly Oracle) had shown up, and they were all looking at her for leadership. Well, maybe not Dinah. She was just looking for a responsible adult.

"Well, we got a good take on Saturday," she began. "People seem to like the Guild. We're nice, soft, fluffy, safe capes. But we can't depend on public goodwill to pay our way all the time, so I've been looking at job opportunities for everyone."

"I can probably help with that," Dinah piped up. "Give you the percentage chance of getting a particular job, so you don't waste your time where people are already set against you."

Sabah blinked. Dinah had already explained her power, but that was an application she hadn't considered.

"Huh," said Salvage. "If you can do that for us, kid, it'll help a ton."

"Totally." Dinah beamed. "I just have to be careful with my questions."

"Uh … guys?" Emily spoke up tentatively. "There's someone coming this way, and he's got PRT with him."

Along with everyone else, Sabah turned to look at the newcomer. Wearing a suit and tie and holding an electronic tablet, he was indeed flanked by an armoured (and armed) PRT trooper, who was carrying a large briefcase. As they got closer, she realised that the briefcase was chained to the PRT trooper's wrist.

Standing up, she went to meet the two men. "Good afternoon," she said politely. "We aren't bothering anyone, I hope?" Nobody had expressed any particular problem with their presence, but that didn't mean someone hadn't complained anyway.

"Oh, no. Quite the contrary." The man in the suit held his hand out. "I'm Harold Whittaker, and this is Trooper Kendall. I'm quite pleased to meet you. Your show on Saturday was inspiring."

Cautiously, she shook his hand. "I'm Parian, but you probably knew that already. What's this about? Are you a process server or something?"

He beamed at her. "Well, I do work as one, but this is different. If we can have the use of the table for a moment, I'll be able to show you. Trooper Kendall?"

With the air of someone who'd already done this a thousand times before, Kendall strode over to the table and placed the briefcase on it. Whittaker tucked the tablet under his arm and leaned over the briefcase for a moment. Sabah heard the clicks as the combination was entered, then he flicked the latches. "Now, your colleagues would be Bastet, Salvage, Spitfire and Oracle, correct?"

Sabah eyed the briefcase suspiciously. "Those last two might be subject to change, but yes. Why?"

Deftly, Whittaker removed five small envelopes from the briefcase before snapping it closed again and passing them out. They literally had faces printed on them, Sabah realised. More to the point, hers had her mask printed on it, while Emily and Dinah's envelopes had their current domino masks. "I've been employed by the Brockton Bay Betterment Committee. These contain your stimulus cards, plus the relevant bank details for the accounts. Each card has a PIN attached to it. Memorise this, then destroy the sticker. Each card has one thousand, two hundred dollars on it. You may also use it as a standard savings card. Further stimulus payments will go into the same card. Any questions?"

"Uh, yeah." Salvage left off staring at the picture of himself in his improved armour. "I'm pretty damn sure I'm not in the system. Howcome I'm even getting this?"

Whittaker shrugged. "Someone put you into the system. I've learned not to question this sort of thing."

"What sort of thing?" asked Bastet. "And how did you know we were going to be here, in costume?"

"That's the sort of thing I'm talking about," Whittaker confided. "This morning, we each got a list describing exactly where to find everyone due to receive a stimulus card, and when they would be there. Including pictures." He retrieved his tablet and tapped the screen. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment with a gentleman just down the way."

Sabah watched them go, then slowly sat down again. "Did … that just happen?"

"It just happened, alright." Salvage opened his envelope and examined the card within. "Damn, this is sweet. What's this Betterment Committee and stimulus thing all about, anyway?"

"It's Atropos," Sabah explained. "She's funding improvements to Brockton Bay with the money from the Slaughterhouse Nine, and apparently the money is part of it."

"Awesome." Salvage looked at Bastet. "Go you halves on one of them fancy motel rooms, with the room service and stuff?"

She grinned and high-fived him. "You're on."


Around the Same Time

Brockton Bay Betterment Committee

Danny was standing at the head of the table as the other committee members filed in. By the time everyone he expected was there, two seats were still empty.

"Good afternoon," he greeted them. "Before we get started, I have a few announcements. First, the stimulus payment rollout started this morning, and is on track to be finished within schedule. Well done, people."

There was a light smattering of applause, which he allowed to die down before he continued.

"Second, the drug rehab clinics are still working well. People are coming in and getting treatment, and everyone is behaving themselves. God willing, this will continue."

"You mean, Atropos willing," snarked one of the union men in the committee, sparking a wave of laughter.

Danny grinned as well. "I don't care who's in charge, so long as it all keeps working. Now for the third thing." He tapped the two Manila envelopes on the table in front of him. "This is a bit more serious, and it involves Janice Templeton and Paul King."

"Yeah, where are they?" asked one of the women from the Mayor's office, looking around. "They should be here for this."

"They can't be here for this, because they've both been attempting to skim money from the fund." Danny spoke bluntly, bringing all eyes back to him. "I suspected it, then Atropos brought it to my attention."

"Geez, you talked to her?" It was the union man who'd spoken again.

Danny nodded. "I did. She came to my house and said that something was going to be done about them if they didn't stop trying. I asked her not to kill them, and she agreed. But they did keep trying. So …" He took up the envelopes and opened them. "She acted."

From each envelope he pulled a colour glossy eight-by-ten, and a sheet of letter-sized paper. The photos he dropped on the table. Those closest to him leaned over to look, then recoiled violently.

"Christ, what did she do to their eyes?" demanded the union guy, looking on the verge of retching. "And their hands?"

He'd already looked at the photos; forewarned, he was able to maintain his equilibrium. "The medical reports say their eyes were surgically removed with an extremely sharp instrument. She also hacked off their right hands with, I suspect, an axe. Emergency services were called immediately afterward. They are both in Brockton General Hospital, in a stable condition."

"Okay, we get it. Put those away." The woman from the Mayor's office closed her eyes and waved in the general direction of the photos. "You've got proof they were trying to skim?"

"The police say they do." He slid the photos back into their respective envelopes. "As soon as they're well enough to stand trial, charges will be laid." Pulling out his chair, he sat down.

"If Atropos had proof, why didn't she just take it to the cops and let them deal with it?" demanded Dawson Stansfield, one of the other committee members. "She didn't have to do that to them as well!"

"Because she's not a hero." Danny's voice was quiet, but everyone shut up and listened. "She's not here to be nice and wave to the crowds and save kittens from trees. Her aim is to make Brockton Bay a safe place for everyone to live, and she doesn't care who she has to hurt or kill if they ignore her warnings along the way." He tapped the closest envelope with his fingertip. "Janice and Paul forgot that. Let's not make the same mistake."

From the looks on the faces of the other members of the Committee, it seemed a few of the others had let that slip their minds, and the reminder was not to their taste.

"Goddamn, you're a cold one, Hebert." That was Stansfield again. "You can't sit there and tell me you approve of this."

Danny shook his head. "No, I don't. But I don't pretend for a second that I can actually prevent it from happening, either. If I hadn't advocated for them, they would've died, I'm certain of it. As it is, they'll have some sort of life after all this. Also, she can be reasoned with, just not tricked or gotten around. Which I have to admit is a step up from a few of the people I've faced across the negotiating table in the past."

The union guy nodded in grudging agreement. "So, what's her endgame? What does she get out of this?"

"You're asking me?" Danny shrugged. "My best guess is, exactly what we see. A safer, more prosperous Brockton Bay. Lower crime, more jobs, reduced poverty, no drugs on the streets, improved infrastructure, maybe enough money to do something about the ferry and the Boat Graveyard at some point. It's not like she's been secretive about her goals. We even got a literal guideline for how to get it done." He slapped the table lightly with both hands. "So, we've wasted enough time second-guessing our not-so-mysterious benefactor. We're going to need to put out feelers for replacements. Bring me suggestions at the next meeting. Just make sure they understand that playing by the rules is essential."

"Yeah," muttered Stansfield. "No shit."


Monday Evening


"So where are we going again?" Cherie straightened up from where she was leaning against Dad's car beside me, and looked around. "And where is your dad, anyways? We've been waiting forever."

I grinned, knowing it irritated her. "One, you'll find out. Two, he's about thirty seconds away. Three, we've been waiting four minutes and thirty seconds."

She rolled her eyes. "It feels like forever. And why are we dressed up?"

I could understand her distaste for 'dressing up'—the only time her father had put pretty clothing on her was to parade her for men he wanted something out of—but while we were at the Market I'd made sure to steer away from the types of revealing outfits he'd forced her to wear. This time around, I knew she understood there were no ulterior motives going on. "Because we're going out in public, among a lot of other people who will also be dressed up, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to draw attention."

"Ah. Okay." Not being in the public eye was something she was definitely fine with. "And you're not going to tell me what's going on?"

"I'm curious about that, too." Dad rounded the corner of the building and came toward us. "Hi, Cherie. That's a nice outfit. What's the occasion?"

She rolled her eyes. "Well, if you don't know, and I don't know, then the only one here who knows is Taylor. Who won't tell me."

"Don't look at me." He spread his hands. "All I know is that Taylor asked me to be finished by seven."

If the hint had been any broader, it could've served as a landing strip for a 747. I cheerfully ignored it. "And now we need to head to Arcadia." I gestured at the car. "Teleporting might draw too much attention. So, shall we get going?"

"Arcadia? What's at Arcadia?" But he was already unlocking the car.

I got in the back seat with Cherie. "You'll see."

All the way to Arcadia, they tried to wheedle it out of me. Cherie told me I was mean and she wouldn't be my friend anymore, and Dad threatened to just drive us both home, but I held firm (though highly amused).

When we pulled up in the Arcadia parking lot, Dad's eyebrows rose when he saw all the other cars already parked there. Then Cherie spotted the purple-striped vans and it stopped being funny for her.

"Taylor," she said carefully. "What's the PRT doing here? And why are we here, where the PRT are?"

"Relax," I said airily, passing her a cloth cap I'd bought her. She hastily stuffed her hair up under it, including the red-dyed lock. "They're here for site security, nothing more."

"Yes," Dad chimed in. "But site security for what?"

I sighed. It seemed the time for secrets had run its course. "They're debuting a new Ward. Because Arcadia already has a security setup for the Wards who attend here, they let the PRT use their auditorium for this kind of event as well."

"Oh." Dad looked enlightened. "But why are we here?"

"Well, I thought I'd bring Cherie along because it could be fun, and I'm bringing you along so you can see a positive outcome for something you helped me out with, a while ago."

He frowned. "A Wards debut? How did I help you out with that? And what have you got to do with it?"

I kept my voice down as we joined the crowd moving in through the doors. "Remember the passenger we took away with us, the day Jack came to town?"

It took him a few seconds, then his eyes opened wide. "She's the Ward? How ...?"

Cherie was looking between us like a spectator at a tennis match. "What passenger? Who's Jack? What are you two talking about?"

I leaned in close to her. Even though she was older than me, I was taller, so it wasn't hard to get my mouth close to her ear. "Before your time. But the new Ward's name is Miss Medic."

We managed to claim three seats next to each other, and sat down. Arcadia's auditorium was nicer than Winslow's, but that was kind of a given. Cherie's expression was intensely focused, as she thought over the hints I'd given her. Just as Director Piggot of the PRT finished up a short speech—I got the distinct impression she wanted to be anywhere but there—Cherie sat bolt upright in her seat, her eyes widening in the same way Dad's had.

"You have to be shitting me," she hissed as we stood and applauded briefly.

"Does this look like the face of someone who's shitting you?" I retorted, just as quietly, once we were sitting down again. Armsmaster was now at the podium, giving his own speech. Where Piggot's subtext had been 'oh god get me out of here', Armsmaster's was 'I once read a book about giving speeches'. I was about ninety-five percent sure he was reading it off the HUD in his helmet, and ninety percent sure he hadn't actually written it.

"But B- uh, her?" Her expression was that of extreme disbelief. "How does that even work?"

"You'll see." I stood and applauded with the rest of the audience. When we sat down again, Armsmaster walked offstage (I fully expected to hear his bike leaving within seconds) and Miss Militia came on, escorting Riley.

I had to admit, they'd done a damn good job with her costume. Nowhere to be seen was the Alice dress, or any hint of one. Even Vista, the most powerful Shaker on the hero side, had been stuck with a skirt, but with Riley they'd bolted in the opposite direction.

They'd settled on 'combat medic' as a basic theme, but softened the camo uniform with pastel colours to remind everyone there was a kid in there, and kind of make them look like scrubs. She had a military helmet, kid-sized, with flower decals on it, with a tinted visor to act as a mask while still allowing her broad smile to be seen by one and all. And boy, was she smiling. We were all standing and applauding as Miss Militia shepherded her to the podium, the parallels between the two costumes clear for all to see.

Miss Militia took the microphone first. "Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for. Allow me to introduce our newest Ward: Missss ... Medic!"

We applauded, of course. While that was happening, Riley climbed up onto a step that was hidden behind the podium stand, and Miss Militia adjusted the height of the mic for her. I got the impression this wasn't the veteran hero's first rodeo, when introducing Wards.

"Thank you, Miss Militia," Riley said, and those of us still clapping fell silent. "Thank you, everyone. It's great to be here. It's great to be a hero, so I can help people who need it."

She paused for breath, so of course we clapped again. Cherie took the opportunity to learn over to me. "She means it. She wants to be a hero!"

"Uh huh," I replied, but then the applause died down again.

"When I was younger," Riley went on, "we travelled around a lot. There was no place I could call home, nowhere I could put roots down. We'd just get somewhere, and it seemed we had to move on again. But now I'm here, and I feel more welcomed in Brockton Bay than I ever have before. I want to be the best darned hero you wonderful folks have ever seen!"

We applauded again, and I couldn't help grinning at the double meaning of her speech. Sneaky, Riley. Very sneaky.

Miss Militia stepped forward and took over the mic in what had to be a rehearsed move. "And that's our Miss Medic, ladies and gentlemen. We'll take a few questions before we wrap this up."

Predictably, the first few were softball questions, seeded into the audience to give Riley some confidence. What are your powers, how do you like the Wards, do you think you'll ever work with Panacea, and so forth. Someone asked if she and Miss Militia were related, and Riley raised a laugh with, "No, but I've been meaning to ask her about her stance on adoption."

Then came a question that I suspected they'd been waiting for: would the two of them be teaming up together? Miss Militia fielded that one by saying, "It's always good to have a medic handy, but Miss Medic will be working with all of us. Beyond that, I can't talk about our tactical dispositions in the field."

That was when she started wrapping it up. There would be a supervised meet-and-greet with the press (which we weren't), but I'd seen what I needed to. Riley was officially a Ward now, and the brain work Amy had done on her was holding up just fine.

"Okay, we can go now," I said, getting up. Dad and Cherie were okay to leave as well, so we made it to the exits before the crush.

Nobody spoke much on the way to the car, but once we'd gotten in and the doors were closed, Cherie turned to me. "What the fuck?" she demanded. "What the absolute fuck? If that was Bonesaw ... I mean, I've seen just how bullshit your powers can be, but how in the ever-living hell did you pull that shit off? If I hadn't known, if you hadn't spoon-fed that to me ... there's no way I would've ever picked it. Not a hope in hell."

I leaned back in my seat, now more satisfied than ever. Cherie's patent incredulity was the icing on the cake. "Same way I stopped those guys from mobbing the drug rehab clinics," I hinted, watching her face.

"But you didn't stop them," she protested. "I stopped ... them ... from ..." She stopped talking. "Oh."

I nodded encouragingly. "Exactly. I got someone who was not me to do something I needed doing."

"But who?" She frowned again. "Couldn't be Panacea, for two reasons."

I batted my eyes innocently at her. "And what two reasons might those be?"

"Two reasons I'm all of a sudden not so sure about." She mock-glared at me. "Everyone knows she can't do brains, unless she can and isn't telling anyone. And I was damn sure that whatever you asked her to do, she'd do the exact opposite out of spite, but now you're smiling in that way that says I'm missing something important."

"Mm-hmm." I grinned. "So, you know how I've got a fan club?"

She nodded. "Which is still not the weirdest thing about this town, but yeah."

"Okay, then. Back before the Nine came to town, I was meeting with the head of my fan club and her brother in a park ..."



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♦ Topic: Finding Out
In: Boards ► Brockton Bay ► New Capes ► Atropos

(Original Poster) (Banned) (You Wish) (UnVerified Cape) (Can Actually Kill Anything) (Yes, Really) (Watch Me)
Posted On Jan 18th 2011:
Hello to the citizens of my favorite city!

(Brockton Bay, if you were wondering).

So, this is only going to be a minor post. I have not killed any villains in the last few days. In fact, I haven't killed anyone. Though there has been a large amount of grievous bodily harm, so I suppose you'll have to be satisfied with that.

Who have I performed grievous bodily harm on?

Well, let's see now. There *were* some people who decided they would open up a loophole by setting up a drug dealing point outside the Brockton Bay city limits. I paid them a visit, explained that why yes, I *can* actually travel outside the city, then torched their stash. And their car. And their shoes (I made them take the shoes off first, because I'm nice like that).

One of them actually pulled a knife on me. My good friend Mr Pump Action Shotgun then had a brief conversation with him about how Kneecaps Are A Privilege. He might walk again someday. I hear they're making great strides with artificial knees. (Pun totally intended).

There were also a few would-be customers hanging around. I explained to them that if they wanted to come out of town to buy their drugs, then they could just keep on going. They buy drugs, they're not welcome back. I did not go to all this trouble to get rid of the illegal drug trade to have shit like that happen.

After that, I waylaid an eighteen-wheeler full of Gesellschaft drugs. It shortly thereafter became a furnace full of drugs. The drivers didn't put up a fight. They even stopped when they saw me. It's like people are learning or something.

Gonna have to do something about that idiot in Stuttgart Sud, though.

And then there's Janice Templeton and Paul King. They aren't villains. Hell, they didn't even have police records before yesterday. But they *were* doing their best to skim money out of the Betterment Committee, by sabotaging the drug rehab and stimulus programs.

This and this happened to them, on Sunday night.

I am *not* playing, folks. These people were entrusted with the well-being of Brockton Bay as a whole, and they betrayed that trust. The only reason they're alive is that the chairman of the Committee politely asked me not to kill them, after I had a chat with him about their second warning.

(I also may have beaten the crap out of a bunch of Mr King's criminal associates, but that hardly counts.)

On the upside, I understand that the stimulus program is kicking along really well. Someone had the bright idea to ask Director Piggot to assign PRT troopers to assist with security in the matter, and what do you know, it worked. So that's a plus.

Oh, and I've got one more name for my 'not allowed in Brockton Bay' list: March.

I'll get back to you when I've got more thrilling news to recount.


(Showing page 1 of 27)

►Bagrat (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied On Jan 18th 2011:
... huh.
She's right. It *has* been a quiet couple of days. The stuff she mentioned? Barely even got the PRT's attention.
I almost miss the days when you couldn't go twenty-four hours without hearing about some villain's hilariously ironic death.
The last two weeks have basically been an insanely accelerated demonstration of natural selection in action.
Kind of reminds me about an old joke I saw floating around online, with a new punchline:
"Evolution is a fallacy. What we have today are the creatures Atropos has only given two warnings to."
Anyway, like Atropos, I'll get back to you when I've got something to report.

►CBDR (Constant Bearing Decreasing Range)
Replied On Jan 18th 2011:
Committee members skimming?
In a normal world, it would be seen as business as usual.
Too bad for them, it's not a normal world anymore.

Replied On Jan 18th 2011:
Did you see why the gun exploded? Because I think Atropos put her last bullet *up his barrel*.

Replied On Jan 18th 2011:
@5051rice - after she shot his previous three out of the air.
That wasn't a fluke. That was *precision*.

Replied On Jan 18th 2011:
Did she have to blind them and cut their hands off? Really?

Replied On Jan 18th 2011:
Is it just me or is that punishment more than a little Biblical?
Matthew 5:29-30: "If your eye offendeth thee, pluck it out/if your hand offendeth thee, cut it off".

►Atropos (Original Poster) (Banned) (You Wish) (UnVerified Cape) (Can Actually Kill Anything) (Yes, Really) (Watch Me)
Replied On Jan 18th 2011:
It's more Atropos 1:1.
"If thou screweth with Atropos, she will make sure you can never do it again."
End of verse, end of sermon.

►Reave (Verified PRT Agent)
Replied On Jan 18th 2011:
I'm pleased to see you left them alive.
The offer to talk still stands.
No recruitment, just an exchange of views.
The lady and her son are doing well, by the way.
You did good.

End of Page. 1, 2, 3 ... 25, 26, 27


Relevant Side Story

End of Part Forty-Two

[A/N: There's going to be a few minor timeskips over the next few chapters. Just so you know.]
Last edited:
Eeeeeeeeeee what a delight, two updates in a single week. Fun ones too. As lil miss bagrat mentioned there's certainly a lot less murder going on but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. In fact I'm quite fond of these little moments of character interaction. Though I'm curious to see if Miss Medic becomes relevant to any future Situations™.
Eeeeeeeeeee what a delight, two updates in a single week. Fun ones too. As lil miss bagrat mentioned there's certainly a lot less murder going on but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. In fact I'm quite fond of these little moments of character interaction. Though I'm curious to see if Miss Medic becomes relevant to any future Situations™.
Miss Medic will be around.
Rather surprising they went with Miss Militia sidekick as the costume theme. Missy will be jealous....that's a lot of Misses at the PRT actually, and led by a former Lady no less.

Miss Militia
Miss Medic
Missy Byron

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