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A Darker Path [Worm Fanfic]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Aug 27, 2022.

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  1. TheQwertyOne

    TheQwertyOne ЙЦУКЕН

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    I like this one, Ack, just like your other forays into "what if Taylor got OP PLZ NERF power" but...

    Uber and Leet literal "Deus ex Machina" status is becoming a bit tiresome and predictable. It is everywhere. As soon as someone needs something, its "Leet can make it, Uber can perform it" and BAM! - problem solved (I myself had used them in similar capacity... huh).
     
    0vrLrd71 and Ack like this.
  2. Impartial Panic

    Impartial Panic Not too sore, are you?

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    She's going to kill his make only one limit in exchange for him making what she wants and both U & L stop being a jackasses

    Faultline is probably already packed up and is just looking to sell the Club.

    Jack probably is just looking at this and going "This sounds like fun".
     
  3. Praetrunco

    Praetrunco Making the rounds.

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    I mean, they could have completely different powers, but then they wouldn't be Leet and Uber.

    If you're whinging about execution therein, that's entirely subjective. It's not like they're known for chronic underperformance, or anything, and handing that to a literal superior power means nothing.

    Or that even S/X-tier capes like GU, Eidolon, etc, can be brought low by a slung pebble.
     
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  4. kanatschnig

    kanatschnig Making the rounds.

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    need? no. but it sure could shave off some time and effort. And the casual insult to Armsy would be hialrious
     
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  5. Threadmarks: Part Sixteen: More Reactions
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    A Darker Path

    Part Sixteen: More Reactions

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

    Relevant Side Story
    (fleshed out a little for the actual narrative)

    Danny

    "Morning, Dad." Taylor said as he sat down to the table. The plate of bacon and eggs she put down in front of wafted odours only slightly more enticing than those drifting up from the freshly brewed cup of coffee. And right now, he absolutely needed that coffee.

    Danny made a non-committal grunt before taking a sip from the mug. His eyes opened wide as the extra-strength caffeine bulldozed through his taste-buds before opening a direct line to his hindbrain and announcing that all hands were needed on deck right now. Even as he sat bolt upright, he detected a faint hint of salt in there, which just sealed the deal.

    "Taylor," he enquired just a little plaintively, "when did you learn to make Navy coffee?"

    She shrugged slightly, and he thought he caught the hint of a mischievous grin. "I figured you'd want something a little stronger than usual after last night."

    He looked at the cup warily, then took another sip. It was still as powerful as ever, and he could feel his groggy neurons waking up and sparking to life. "I'm worried that it might dissolve the mug. You didn't just poison me did you? I heard about that super acid you used on Lung." Not the best morning joke he'd ever mustered, but he was still waking up.

    "No, Dad." Taylor said with a perfectly straight face as she sat down with her own breakfast. Tough room. "I'm guessing you have some questions?"

    Questions, yeah. Boy, did he have some questions. How did this all happen was at the top of the list, but after a couple of moments sipping coffee—god damn, but he'd missed a good cup of joe this strong, first thing in the morning—he pushed it aside for another one that was worrying at him even more.

    "I do." For a long moment, he hesitated while he debated exactly how to approach the topic. "That girl who died at school. Sophia. You killed her didn't you?" He wasn't quite sure if he wanted it to be true or not, given what he'd also figured out, but it was a good starting place.

    Taylor met his eyes. "Yes." Her tone wasn't boastful or regretful, just matter of fact. Yes, I took out the trash.

    The confirmation led him onto the next question. He wasn't quite trying to excuse her actions, so much as find reasoning for them. Some way to frame them inside the larger context. "She, Emma and that other girl Madison. They did something horrible to you didn't they?" Given the absolute mess Emma had been in, Taylor had clearly done something to her as well, but as Emma was alive, that was definitely a secondary concern.

    Again, the direct, forthright answer. "Yes." No anger, no pain. Yes, I stubbed my toe.

    Now was the big one, the sixty-four-million-dollar question. He suspected he knew the answer to this one, but he asked it anyway. "Would I have done the same? Killed her for what she did to you?"

    Taylor seemed to think that over, then shrugged. "Probably. They tried to kill me first after all. I did give Sophia plenty of warning though. She just wouldn't take the hint. Plus, it turned out she was Shadow Stalker, so I guess it's a good thing I killed her before she decided to do something even more stupid, like coming after you."

    Well, that was a thing. Danny blinked a couple of times, seeking to assimilate what he'd just heard. That this Sophia girl wasn't just some random bully, but a cape and an actual Ward … that was a body blow. It wasn't just that she'd been bullying Taylor with Emma's assistance, though that was bad enough. Neither did it help in the slightest that they'd done something that Taylor characterised as a murder attempt. And finally, Taylor's implication that Shadow Stalker would've gone after him if she couldn't beat Taylor … that was downright chilling. Did she take out Shadow Stalker to save my life?

    Also, what the fuck is the PRT teaching those little shits?


    Taylor was still watching him patiently. He took a breath, and tried to order his thoughts. "Finding out that one of the people who had been tormenting you for over a year was a Ward makes me feel very conflicted." That was more or less the understatement of the century, but he suspected she knew what he meant. That she'd been forced to kill the girl, potentially to save his own life … he wasn't sure what to think about that.

    She shook her head, looking thoughtful. "I honestly don't think the PRT really knew what was going on with her. Just goes to show how little they actually do. I mean, I've had powers for less than a week and all the villains in town are either dead, gone or hiding under the biggest rock they can."

    He had to hand it to her. Good zingers took talent to deliver, and that one had been perfectly on target. Still, as much as he would've liked to dwell on how badly the PRT had screwed up—and they had—there were other issues he needed to address, somewhat closer to home.

    Taking another sip of the coffee, still not sure how she'd managed to hit the exact balance of salt and sugar, he gave her a direct stare of his own. "You have managed to accrue a rather fearsome reputation very quickly, Taylor." By which he meant, holy shit, you killed five supervillains in as many days. But he figured understatement was probably the best idea there. Gibbering maniacally was probably not the ideal reaction, and might worry her.

    Now she raised one eyebrow slightly, looking just a little concerned. "You're not mad?"

    It was a good question. He felt maybe he should've been at least a little censorious about killing someone who was technically a superhero, but the whole 'to save my life' aspect kind of worked against that. Call him old-fashioned, but he didn't want to discourage her from keeping him alive.

    As for the others who had died, he figured they were only 'victims' in the broadest sense of the term. They had killed so many people and ruined so many lives that sooner or later they were going to die to someone's hand, be that another villain, a rival from within their own ranks, or a hero failing to pull their punch in time. Long story short, they had been the very furthest thing from peaceful innocents minding their own business. And as he'd reminded Gerry, it didn't matter how many times the big-name capes were arrested, they just busted out and kept right on committing crimes and hurting people.

    Not this damn time.

    He took a deep breath, committing himself. "On the one hand, you're a merciless killer. On the other, you're my daughter." And that was all there was to it. "I am wondering though, when you showed the detective your hands, they weren't bruised or anything. Is that part of your power?" He wouldn't have been in the least bit surprised. From everything he'd heard, powers were bullshit.

    She held up her hands, turning them one way and another. "Sort of, I'm not bulletproof or super strong or anything like that. I'm just the best there is at what I do." Folding her fist into a peculiar configuration, she feinted a punch that blurred through the air. Then, as if nothing untoward had happened, she went back to eating.

    He was reminded of a comic book character from his youth, but decided not to make a reference. For one thing, she probably wouldn't get it. For another, that character had had his butt handed to him more than once. Taylor was currently batting a thousand. As Lacey had put it, she was playing four-dimensional chess while the PRT was still trying to play Go Fish.

    Nodding in acknowledgement for the statement and the demonstration both, he gave her a querying look. "So... what now?"

    Now, she actually smiled broadly. "Today, I'm going to meet a fan. Curry some favor, so to speak, so Armsmaster and the rest of the Protectorate don't get any silly ideas. It's not like they don't know what I'm capable of, but some people just can't help but poke the bear."

    It probably wasn't a bad idea, at that, and if anyone could pull it off, it was Taylor. Though the idea of her having actual fans was kind of weird.

    On second thought, this was Brockton Bay. Also, Earth Bet. Endbringers had fans … so to speak. Someone who was actually taking down the gangs? I shouldn't have been surprised.

    Of course, there was something he needed to say. "Please try not to kill anyone today, Taylor."

    She raised her eyebrows and gave him a direct look. "I won't make any promises, Dad. If somebody decides they really want a Darwin Award, well..."

    Which was a perfectly good point. He pitied the gangster who picked on his daughter today, or any other day for that matter. Especially if she was meeting with a fan and wanted to make a good impression.

    "Would it help if I drove you there and back?" He regretted the offer almost as soon as he made it. She probably had her own plans, and jumping in with a half-assed suggestion might make her feel bad for refusing it.

    Instead, she gave him a beaming smile. "That would be really helpful, actually. There's no cars I can steal around the neighbourhood and get back without the owners noticing, at least during the day, so I was gonna take the bus or something. I could've done it, but it would've been awkward."

    "Stealing cars? Really?" He gave her his best raised-eyebrows Dad look. "I thought I raised you better than that, miss."

    "You totally did," she agreed. "Unfortunately, my power is ending things, not crossing the city in minutes. So I had to improvise. Which, by the way, is one of the several reasons I'm happy you know now. Because now I don't have to sneak out, and getting the occasional lift would also be helpful. It makes cleaning up the city so much easier."

    "And by 'cleaning up the city' you mean killing people?" He folded his arms. "Most of the villain capes are either dead, captured or gone. Is more killing really necessary?"

    "Well, no." She gave him a cheery smile. "My power isn't just about killing things. It's about ending things. For instance, once I decided that I wanted to end the Brockton Bay drug trade, I became aware of the location of every single stash of illegal hard drugs in the city, and exactly how to destroy it. I don't have to kill anyone … well, unless they really want to force the issue. But I'll probably only have to break a few bones."

    He blinked. "Every stash. Everywhere."

    "All of it." Her tone of assurance was rock-solid.

    "There's dealers from out of town supplying them …" he said uncertainly.

    "And I know who they are, the routes, the vehicles and the times," she rattled off. "I can bring the incoming supply to a dead stop. I can tip off the cops to upcoming raids on pharmacies to grab prescription drugs. And I'm going to end the corruption and incompetence within the BBPD and PRT that's allowing all this to go on."

    "And you can do all this without killing anyone?" He found that hard to believe.

    She snorted. "Hardly. Sooner or later, someone's going to try the hard way rather than the easy way. When I fight, I don't fight nice or fair. My power guides me into strikes or shots that will be lethal unless I pull the punch. But these idiots would otherwise just keep on doing what they're doing. Hurting other people for profit. Killing other people for profit. So, if I put a few of them down for good, the rest learn the lesson. But I won't be going out there with the aim to kill everyone who opposes me. That's just sloppy. Also, tedious."

    Her delivery was straightforward and logical; almost against his will, he found himself agreeing with her. Still, there were other questions he needed to ask. "What if the cops show up and try to arrest you?"

    She shook her head. "It won't be an issue. I can literally dodge bullets. I'd probably handcuff them to each other and steal their badges or something, then mail them back to the precinct for fun."

    "Heroes, then," he pressed. "They're harder to take down non-lethally than cops. Are you going to kill them?" He hated to ask the question, but she had been killing capes fairly frequently over the last few days. Villain capes, but still capes.

    "Like Shadow Stalker, you mean?" She rolled her eyes with a snort. "She wasn't a hero. But if one does show up who decides to defy the PRT's current hands-off order on me, I'll know not only that they're coming, but also how to get past their defences and take them down long enough to vanish."

    "… the PRT's got a hands-off order on you?" He stared at her. "How did you manage that? Are you somehow blackmailing the Director?"

    "Nope." She shrugged. "Somewhere between Kaiser and Lung, they decided all on their own that it was a bad idea to try to engage me face to face. Not entirely certain whether it's because they're terrified of me, or if they just want to see who I take down next, or whether it's a bit of column A and a bit of column B."

    "To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised whichever way they jumped," he admitted. "So, this 'going to meet a fan' thing. What were you planning on doing? Wow the tourists on the Boardwalk?"

    "No, actually." She shrugged. "She was going to meet me at the Westlake Park and hang out for a bit. Take a few selfies, stuff like that. Big crowds can get complicated, and I don't want anyone getting hurt unnecessarily."

    "Selfies, huh?" A memory stirred, and he raised a finger. "Wait one moment."

    "Okay." She took a drink of her juice and applied herself to her bacon and eggs as he got up and headed through the living room to the entrance hall.

    Upstairs in his room, he pulled out several drawers in his dresser before he finally located what he was looking for, the angular plastic case cool under his fingers. When he pressed the power button, the LEDs only glowed dimly, so he swapped out the batteries for fresh ones. Triumphantly, he bore his prize downstairs. "Here, you can use this."

    She stared at it. "Our old Polaroid camera. I thought that thing died years ago."

    Putting it on the table in front of her, he sat down again. "Nah, I just put it away one year and never took it out again." That was the year Annette had died, but neither one of them wanted to mention it. "Anyway, you can get a photo of yourselves, then sign it for her. It's fully loaded, which means you've got eight shots."

    Taking up the camera, she sighted through the viewfinder. "Wow, thanks. She'll love this."

    Leaning back in his chair, he basked in the knowledge that he'd gotten it right this time. "Hey, what are dads for?"

    He was entirely unprepared for her to get up and come around the table to give him a hug.

    Some days, he decided as he returned the hug, being a parent was just plain worth it.

    <><>​

    Leet

    The avatar on the screen lurked in the alleyway, crossbow at the ready. The bad guys were somewhere nearby, but if he could get the jump on them …

    "Holy fuck! Get here now!"

    Rodney jumped, his thumb slipping on the buttons so that the avatar lunged forward into the open air, where it was hit by three attacks at once. "Oh, come on!" he complained as the damage bar quickly mounted. "What the fuck?"

    "Get here right the fuck now," his best buddy insisted. "We're in the shit."

    Despite Rodney's best efforts, the onscreen character succumbed to the successful ambush, and he went into the death screen. "Fine," he mumbled, rolling his eyes. Discarding the controller, he got up and headed over to where Uber was reading through the PHO boards. "What happened? Did someone get Atropos?"

    It was the hottest thing that had happened on PHO for weeks. There were at least three discussion threads ongoing, apart from the ones she herself had started. After she took Oni Lee and Coil out, people started taking her seriously, though the 'vs' threads were still adamant that she wasn't all that great. Kaiser's death, followed by Lung's, had quietened some of her more vociferous opponents but raised some others to boiling point.

    "No." Uber rolled aside so he could look at the screen properly. "She got Skidmark. Turned him into a meat crayon. But that's not the worst part. This is the worst part."

    Leaning in, Rodney began to read out loud to himself.

    "So, this is what's going to happen from here on in. Life is going to go on … yadda yadda … give Faultline a little extra time to pick up her business and move it elsewhere … shit, Faultline's moving? That sucks … rest of the Brockton Bay criminal element, Imma leave them to the BBPD and PRT … pfft, not on their best day … I have faith in you … I don't … corruption and incompetence within the ranks of the BBPD … damn right there is … wait." He stopped and stared at the next line. Though his throat had suddenly gone dry, he read it out anyway. "Just by the way: Uber and Leet, don't go anywhere just yet. I need to have a word with you."

    His eyes flicked over the next few lines and found nothing more, then he straightened up and stared at his buddy. "What … what does she mean she needs to have a word with us? What did you do? Did you shitpost her? What have I told you about shitposting capes who can probably find out where we live?"

    "Me shitposting capes?" demanded Uber. "I thought you were the one who'd shitposted them!"

    "Well, it wasn't me this time!" Rodney yelled. "I haven't said word one to her!"

    "So why does she want to talk to us?" Uber jabbed one finger at the screen. "Because that pretty damn definitely means we've done something to get on her radar!"

    "I don't know!"

    "Do you think she wants to kill us?"

    Rodney stopped and thought about that. They were villains, and she definitely killed villains. But ... "Her list!" he said suddenly. "We're not on her list!" A pause as he tried to think back. "... are we?"

    Uber rolled back into place and started flicking through the threads. "I don't think so ... no, we're not. This is the first mention of us."

    Rodney started feeling the first stirrings of relief. "And she told everyone she killed to get out of town or die. She's telling us to stay put. Whatever she wants, I don't think it's to kill us. I hope."

    Uber nodded slowly, apparently accepting his logic. "So what do you think she does want?"

    "No fuckin' idea, dude." Rodney blinked, a horrifying concept occurring to him. "Shit, what if she wants me to make something for her and it doesn't work?"

    "Christ." Uber shook his head. "Don't go there, dude. Just don't."

    Rodney glanced at the door. "Maybe we should just make a bolt for it anyway? Like, right now?"

    Uber shook his head. "Bad idea. Really bad idea. She's got no problem with leaving town to deal with someone who's pissed her off. 'I can travel, I will find you ...'" He trailed off.

    "Right. So we stay in town and hope she doesn't ask for anything we can't deliver." Rodney shivered. "I told you we should've left town when she killed Oni Lee."

    "No, you didn't."

    "Well, I thought it."

    "Uh huh. Sure."

    <><>​

    PRT Building ENE
    Conference Room A

    Armsmaster


    Colin looked around the conference room. Every Protectorate hero was here, as were all the Wards; Gallant, Kid Win and Vista yawning and in street clothes with domino masks. This only made him wonder what emergency had made it necessary for them to show up on what was clearly their off-day. Balancing the heroes across the table were various high-ranking members of the PRT.

    One thing they all seemed to have in common, gauging from the surreptitious comments passed between them, was that nobody actually knew what this meeting was about. He began to wonder if Director Piggot had called it then fallen asleep before getting there. She'd been running herself ragged, trying to deal with the Atropos situation, and it was starting to show.

    The door opened and Deputy Director Renick entered. Crossing to the table, he took his position at the head but didn't bother sitting down.

    "Good morning," he said crisply. "Thank you for attending this meeting. I won't keep you long. This is merely an informational update, to keep you all in the loop as to the investigation into the death of Shadow Stalker. This is a strictly confidential discussion, and it will not leave this room."

    Colin sat up straighter, wondering where this was going. He'd seen the PHO posting from Atropos, claiming responsibility, but he hadn't yet had the chance to start checking into it.

    "Atropos got her ... didn't she?" That was Assault. "That's what she said on PHO." A murmur of voices agreed with him.

    Slowly, Renick shook his head. "Anyone can claim anything online, especially if they are seeking to double down on pre-existing notoriety. After consultation with Director Piggot, my conclusion is that the current theory of Othala granting Cricket an unrevealed Stranger or Changer power is more likely, and we will be holding to that one until further evidence comes to light."

    What? Even though he'd been the one to originate that hypothesis, Colin had been entirely willing to dump it in favour of 'Atropos did it' as the more likely, and he couldn't figure out why Renick and Piggot were dismissing the girl's own confession. It made no sense at all.

    "Sir, are you sure about that?" asked Battery. "She described Stalker's attitude pretty much to a T, you have to admit."

    Renick cleared his throat theatrically. "Battery, are you seriously suggesting that Atropos invaded Stalker's school and cornered her in a classroom, never having met her before, for the sole purpose of beating her to death? What kind of sense does that make?"

    "No, but what if Atropos was a student there?" Triumph called out. Colin couldn't really fault him on that, as the same question had surely been on everyone else's lips. Since the PHO post, that had become more or less the default assumption. "One that Stalker was picking on, like she said?"

    "I find that hard to believe." Renick should've been a star of stage or screen, from the way he delivered the line straight-faced. "I doubt very much any investigation would find even one student with a motive for harming Shadow Stalker at that school."

    That outrageous statement hung in the air for a long moment, the atmosphere charged with disbelief from everyone sitting around the table. And then, between one instant and the next, Colin got it. Anyone running such an investigation into students who might have had a motive to kill Shadow Stalker risked outing Atropos. From the murmurs around him, everyone else was getting the point as well.

    Given the events of the past week, nobody wanted to piss off the dark-clad assassin who could apparently stroll through the most strenuous of security and dance between the raindrops. She currently seemed to have no serious beef with the PRT, and everyone there absolutely wanted to keep it that way.

    Before making the post, there'd been the danger that the investigation of the students would connect Stalker's murder to one particular suspect, and thus in turn to her activities as Atropos. But by directly connecting herself to Stalker's murder, Atropos had killed the investigation deader than Stalker herself. In a sense, she was playing chicken with the PRT, and they had blinked first. It was a masterful move.

    It wouldn't make her popular, but she'd definitely won that round.

    Battery nodded slowly. "I see your point, sir. The Empire angle makes much more sense."

    "Good," said Renick, affording her a paternal nod. "Once again, the topic of this meeting is not to be discussed outside of this room. Is that understood by everyone?"

    Colin leaned forward and surveyed the table, then nodded to Renick. "Yes, sir," he replied.

    "Excellent." Renick clapped his hands together lightly, once. "Dismissed."

    As Colin got up and headed for the door, he mused that the truth would come out sooner or later. But by then, if Atropos had taken down the Slaughterhouse Nine in the meantime, nobody would care.



    End of Part Sixteen
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2022
  6. GasperVladi0

    GasperVladi0 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    How kind of you Ack to post update one of my favorites just as I refresh. Also that Taylor and Danny moment was just adorable.
     
  7. Highlord

    Highlord I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Finally, someone, and Armsmaster of all people, is starting to get it.

    The general population? The workers, teachers, the truck drivers and doctors and everyone in between...do not give a solitary flying fuck about legalities, precedents, high ideals or patriotic poetry. They care about their lives, the lives of their loved ones and friends, and the things that endanger them. Bureaucrats and academics clench their pearls and demand that the courts must be the arbiters, but most everyone else will only agree up to a point.

    If there's a threat, put it down. The nazis? The slavers? The drug peddlers and so-called "villains?" People don't give a shit about what the law says, because those scum already put themselves above it all. People don't care if someone kills them all, and would rather the Powers The Be have boots on the ground and going up asses instead of sitting in their high towers talking about necessary sacrifices and greater good bullshit. Atropos and people like her will be hailed as the real heroes, and all the other scored for turning a blind eye for so long as the people they supposedly protected suffered from inaction. Why should they care if gang bangers and "villains" die by the numbers? They're quietly law abiding people that just want to go to work and live their lives. So far as they're concerned, the murderous hordes of rapists and criminals are more protected and have more rights than actual people, and rightly see that as the real injustice.

    The majority of people in Brockton Bay (and everywhere else, honestly) would have no qualms at all if the Army rolled in, slaughtered the gangs wholesale, and kept the peace with superior firepower, or if Atropos keeps the peace by bare steel terror tactics. After all, they just want to live their lives in peace and have nothing to fear, so why should outlaws be allowed to do as they please?

    The people would be tickled pink if the gloves came off and the Federal Powers actually started to finally get on the bounce.

    And now finally, the "heroes" are starting to come to grips with that.
     
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  8. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    That's true, up to a point.

    That point comes when their lives are disadvantaged.

    If they have to pass through the same checkpoint, and be delayed so their vehicle can be checked for contraband, twice a day, every day, then tempers would fray and people would start protesting pretty damn fast.
     
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  9. Highlord

    Highlord I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Yep. It's a balancing act. On once side is legal paralyzation that allows the worst of humanity to run rampant, on the other is iron-fisted inefficiency. As in all things, balance is key. So long as it's remembered that sometimes the hammer has to come down, that power never used doesn't exist, and that wars are often as necessary as they are brutal.

    The second point is the most important. The PRTs power is a lie, because the enemy is quite obviously comfortable with not fearing it.
     
  10. Xyshuryn

    Xyshuryn Holder of Hands

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    Dealing with her bullies? Cake walk.
    PHO moderators? Easy peasy.
    Local villains? Not an issue.
    Dragonslayers? No sweat.
    Dad I murder the fuck outta things. A big relief.
    I guess she can end anything. Except my love for her sass.
     
  11. Threadmarks: Part Seventeen: A Walk in the Park
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    A Darker Path

    Part Seventeen: A Walk in the Park

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



    Cauldron Base

    Contessa


    Alexandria's voice echoed down the corridors. "Oh, what the fuck?"

    Fortuna didn't even bother using a Path on that one. She's read the PHO post.

    A moment later, Alexandria swooped to a halt in front of her. In her hand, gripped almost tightly enough to crack the casing, was a tablet. "What the hell is going on in Brockton Bay?"

    "Atropos is a Thinker," Fortuna reminded her, somewhat unnecessarily. "At least as good as me." That confession cost her the pound of flesh closest to her heart, figuratively speaking. "It looks like she figured out our feudal experiment, and how we were giving Coil free rein in the city. At least. She might know more."

    "And she's killed Coil, and straight-up told us that we're not welcome in her city. And more people are delving into the name Cauldron than ever, because we can't redact it!" In a cartoon, steam would've been leaking from Alexandria's ears by now.

    "On the other hand," Fortuna pointed out, "she's announced that the Nine are next on her list, and she's flat-out announced that she intends to kill the Endbringers when and where they show up. Not fight. Kill."

    Alexandria blinked. "Is she insane? Challenging the Nine as well as the other teams on that list? Calling out Valefor by name? They'll be falling over each other to see who can tear her head off first."

    "It's only insanity if you can't pull it off." Fortuna waited to see if Alexandria would take the hint.

    The black-costumed woman frowned thoughtfully. "You believe she can? Without assistance?"

    "Do you believe she can't?" Fortuna raised an eyebrow. "Since she started her operations, a grand total of twenty-three capes have either died, left Brockton Bay, or been captured by the PRT. Several more are planning to leave as we speak."

    Alexandria shook her head. "It's a whole different level of scale. She can't possibly think she can take them all on, and win."

    "The last time I underestimated her, I ended up looking down the barrel of her pistol. The one she took from Oni Lee's corpse." Fortuna shuddered. "It's a mistake I don't intend to make a second time."

    "But Butcher and the Teeth … the Fallen …" Alexandria shook her head. "They can't be beaten. Not conventionally."

    "Whoever said Atropos was conventional?"

    "Well, you're no help." Alexandria vanished again, flying up the corridor.

    Cookies, Fortuna decided. What I need is cookies. "Doorway to where I can buy cookies."

    Cookies, she understood.

    <><>​

    08:45 AM

    Taylor


    Dressed in my costume, complete except for the coat, mask, and hat, I sat in the passenger seat and peered intently ahead through the windshield. Instead of the black long-coat, I wore the white lab-coat I'd souvenired from the PRT building that one time; my accoutrements were in the black leather bag I had slung over my shoulder.

    "Westlake Park, coming up," Dad said, entirely unnecessarily. Like me, he was almost certainly suffering from nerves. "Do you want me to pull in and park?"

    "No." I put my left hand on my seatbelt catch, my nerves melting away. "That corner up ahead, with the bushes up to the sidewalk? Slow down all the way, going around it."

    "Uh, okay." He gave me a dubious look, but started slowing for the corner.

    I popped the seatbelt and let it retract, then put my hand on the door handle. As we went into the corner, I pulled on the handle and pushed the door all the way open against the resistance of the turn. Then I slid out of the seat and stepped onto the asphalt, clearing the car by inches. The last of the turn swung the door shut and it latched closed as I continued up onto the sidewalk and onward into the bushes.

    Once out of sight, I shrugged out of the lab-coat and replaced it with the long-coat, then took my glasses off and replaced them with my mask and hat. With the lab-coat and glasses in the bag—now slung over my shoulder—I strode out of the bushes, on track to meet with my current number one fan.

    <><>​

    Tenebrae

    If there was anything worse than Aisha when she was smugly certain about something, Brian decided, it was Aisha when she had the jitters. He was beginning to regret not insisting on danger pay. Much more of this, and he was going to go nuts.

    "Where is she, where is she, where is she?" fretted Aisha, fidgeting so hard Brian was sure people in Boston knew she was twitchy. "She said she'd be here. She said!"

    "Relax," he said automatically, though he knew it would do no good. "Are you sure you both agreed on Westlake Park?"

    "It was her idea," Aisha insisted, swinging her legs back and forth on the picnic table bench like a metronome on speed. "She said right here, nine o'clock."

    Brian automatically checked his watch. "You know it's still ten minutes oof nine, right?"

    "What?" she grabbed his wrist and stared at the clock face. "Can't be. Must be slow."

    "Nope. I set it to the time on my phone." He pulled out the phone to show her. The times matched, near enough.

    "Here, let me check mine." She dug out her own phone. The time on it was fifteen minutes ahead of his. "See?"

    Brian shook his head. "Aisha ... why is your phone set up like that?"

    She regarded it dubiously for a moment, then her expression cleared. "So I can remind myself not to be late."

    He sighed in mild aggravation. "Okay. Just saying? That's probably not—"

    "Excuse me?" The voice came from behind them. "Is this picnic table booked, or can anyone sit here?"

    Brian turned at the same time that Aisha did. Even as he opened his mouth to politely inform the newcomer that they were waiting on a friend, he registered who was standing there.

    Tall, slender, wearing a black long-coat, morph mask and hat. The coat flapped open gently in the gathering breeze, revealing a sheathed knife of some sort and a pistol in a shoulder holster. Brian felt his mouth go dry.

    Atropos had arrived.

    <><>​

    Taylor

    "Holy shit!" blurted the teenaged girl. "You came!" Leaping up from her bench, she took two rapid paces toward me then stopped short. In a display of what was possibly the worse acting I had ever seen, she strove to put on an air of nonchalance. "I mean ... 'sup?"

    "Hey, Aisha." I was grinning under the morph mask, which I knew they couldn't see, but it transferred to my tone of voice as I held out my hand to shake. "It's good to meet you, too."

    Grabbing it with both hands, she shook it vigorously. "Holy shit, it's really you." Her voice teetered close to fangirl-squee. "Did you really wreck all of Skidmark's shit? And make the wheels fall off Squealer's shitty-ass ride?"

    Holding up one finger, I reached into my pocket and produced one of the small remote transmitters I'd rigged up a few days ago. As she watched avidly, I made the finger-gun gesture, then clicked the button as I mimed shooting the 'gun'. Nothing else happened, of course. "Boom," I said cheerfully.

    Aisha's eyes were wide by now. "Holy crap," she breathed. "So when you did it there ..."

    "This was in my left hand, yeah," I said, then looked at Brian. "Feel free to tell Armsmaster that. It's nothing he won't already know."

    He was already looking apprehensive; now, he went paler than anyone I'd ever seen with his skin tone. "Shit," he muttered, curls of darkness beginning to waft out of his palms. "This isn't—I'm not—"

    "Jeez, relax," I said with a chuckle. "It's good that you're here. I know this isn't a sting or a bust. You're not here in any official capacity. Just to make sure Aisha's okay. I get it."

    The darkness went away and he lost some of the pallor, though there was a slight sheen of sweat on his brow after the fact. He stared at me, probably trying to make out my expression through the morph mask.

    "Yeah, Brian, unclench," jeered Aisha, rolling her eyes extravagantly. "My girl Atropos is chill. She's not here to hurt us. Are you?"

    "Not in the slightest," I confirmed. "And I'll go one further. I'm not going to hurt any member of the PRT, Protectorate or Wards, or any hero in town, unless they aggress on me first, and even then I promise not to kill them." Strolling around the table, I seated myself opposite them. "I don't promise not to embarrass the fuck out of them, though."

    Aisha cackled out loud. "See, Bri? This is why she's so damn cool." Hopping up from her seat, she grabbed up her phone as she rounded the table to me. "Get a photo of us, then I'll grab a selfie."

    Brian sighed. He still looked apprehensive, but not to the level that he looked like he was about to pass out. "I'm sorry, Atropos. Aisha's never really learned about personal boundaries, or that you're supposed to ask about that sort of thing first."

    I chuckled. "It's all good. If she bothers me, I'll just do this." Slipping one arm around her neck, I made sure not to apply dangerous levels of pressure to her carotids as I gave her a brief noogie.

    "Wha—hey!" Her squawk of protest was cut off as I released her, then she glared at Brian, who was chuckling. "What's so funny, asshole?"

    "Nothing. Nothing at all." He rubbed his finger across his lips. "Are you okay with me taking your photo, Atropos?"

    "Sure, but wait one second." Reaching inside the long-coat, I drew out the bodice shears. They gleamed in the sunlight, the edges glittering dangerously.

    "Whoa ..." breathed Aisha, staring at them. "Where did you get those from?"

    "Kaiser's personal collection, about eight hours before I killed Coil with them." I snipped the air a couple of times. "Careful, the outer edges are sharp too."

    Reaching out, Aisha ran one finger over the detail on the handgrips, then trailed it cautiously down the blade. "That is the most motherfucking badass thing I've ever seen," she declared, "and I once saw Lung set fire to an eighteen-wheeler full of booze and ride it into the Bay."

    "When did you see that, and why were you close enough to see it?" asked Brian, suddenly intent.

    She crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue at him. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

    "Mmm." He gave her a medium-level stink-eye. "Let's leave this family discussion for later. Did you want to pose with those shears for the photo?"

    "Yeah," I said, then opened them up behind Aisha's head so they stuck up like bunny-ears. Then, with my other hand, I made the 'live long and prosper' sign out of Star Trek. "Aisha?"

    "Hang on." She threw the horns with both hands at once then nodded, grinning with her whole face. "Do it."

    The electronic shutter on Brian's phone clicked once, then he turned it the other way and took another pic. "Okay, more pictures?"

    "Selfies!" Aisha picked up her phone.

    I put the shears away, then reached into my bag. "Sure, but then I've got a surprise for you."

    "Surprise?" Brian looked apprehensive again.

    I chuckled. "Don't worry. Nothing bad. Aisha's gonna love it to bits."

    "I am?" She looked at me like a kid finding an unexpected present under the Christmas tree. "What is it?"

    "You'll see." I leaned in toward her. "Selfies, remember?"

    "Right, right." It seemed the promise of a surprise had put her off her stride; it took three attempts to get the camera set up for the first one. But she managed it, and took a fairly credible picture with the park's small lake in the background, along with the two people who were feeding the ducks there.

    I knew who they were, of course, and what was about to happen.

    <><>​

    Panacea

    Amy hunched her shoulders into her hoodie and tossed a handful of oats onto the surface of the small lake. The few ducks that had chosen not to fly south, or got left behind, paddled over and started dipping their bills in the water, collecting the pieces. They didn't look thrilled, and she could sympathise with them.

    "I don't even know why I'm here," she groused, glaring at her sister's back. Vicky had chosen to show up in costume, for some incomprehensible reason. "You're the one who got in the shit with the PRT, not me."

    "If by that you mean I'm the one who called out the PRT for their weak-sauce attitude toward Atropos, then sure," Vicky sniped back. "Aunt Sarah sent me to feed ducks here until I figured out where I'd gone wrong. She sent you along to make sure I didn't just go off and spend the day at Dean's or something."

    "So, go," Amy invited. "I honestly couldn't give a flying fuck." She was lying, of course. But that wasn't exactly something she could tell the truth about. Spending time with Vicky was always something she was down for, but when Vicky had her nose out of joint it was a lot less fun.

    "I can't." Vicky threw a handful of oats at a bunch of ducks and scored a direct hit; they scattered, quacking in agitation. Once they'd settled down, they shook themselves to get the oats off their feathers and onto the water, where they scooped them up. "If Aunt Sarah asks you where we've been …"

    "… I'll say we were here." Amy looked around aimlessly. There was a group of people at a picnic table some distance away. One was dressed oddly, all in black.

    "You can't lie worth a damn." Vicky's tone held no censure. It was a fact of life. "She'll know, and then I'll be in trouble all over again."

    "So why did you even call them out?" asked Amy, peering across at the other group. "You had to know they'd complain to Aunt Sarah." The one in black was wearing a hat and a long coat, and either had close-cut hair or …

    Vicky threw some more oats to the ducks. "Because Mom's right, and all capes need to be held accountable for shit they do. And the PRT's all 'no, don't engage with Atropos because it might be dangerous' but she's a fucking murderer and punching beats Thinking in combat. Nobody can think straight with a busted nose, and if the Thinker wants to talk, I'll bust their jaw as well."

    "She seems to be pretty good at what she does," ventured Amy. "Even not counting Oni Lee, she managed to fuck up four supervillains pretty good. None of them saw her coming, and she took them down by the numbers."

    Vicky rolled her eyes. "Because she had time to prepare. Also, she murdered Shadow Stalker. Admitted to it, right there. But what's the PRT saying about it? Nothing. 'Cannot comment on an ongoing investigation', my muscular gluteus maximus!"

    And that was the trouble with teaching Vicky something. Amy had explained various parts of the body to her sister once, and Vicky had latched on to the name of the ass muscle forever after. "Well, maybe they can't."

    "Pfft, I don't see why not. We're affiliate capes, right? But even Dean's all, 'sorry, not allowed to talk about it'. If not to his own girlfriend, who?" Vicky froze, her gaze fixed on the picnic table. "Holy shit. Holy shit. Ames, you see that?"

    "Those people? What about them?" Amy knew damn well 'what about them'. But the chances of Atropos actually showing up at random in the same park she and Vicky had been sent to seemed minimal to zero. Also, there were two other people with the maybe-Atropos, and she hadn't had any associates that Amy had heard of.

    "That's Atropos, I'd swear to it!" Vicky pointed. "I watched her fucking murder Lung, and I couldn't do a damn thing about it. Well, now it's different."

    "Vicky, wait a minute. Let's just take a—" But Vicky was gone, rocketing across the park, bag of oats dropped and spilling on the ground. The ducks, sensing a feast, waddled out of the water, quacking loudly.

    "Fuck it. Enjoy." Amy dropped her bag next to Vicky's, and started running after her sister.

    <><>​

    Tenebrae

    Brian had no idea what was going on. Aisha was being her usual self, and Atropos was … playing along? Clowning around? For a terrifyingly effective assassin, she seemed intent on enjoying herself, even pulling out her own phone for a couple of selfies.

    It was not how he'd expected this to go.

    Then Atropos took the Polaroid camera out of her bag, and Brian grinned at the look of confusion on his sister's face. She peered at the admittedly odd-looking device, her head tilted to one side, for all the world like one of Rachel's dogs when it didn't understand a command.

    "Okay," she said. "What the fuck is it supposed to do?"

    "Prints out a physical photo," Atropos explained.

    "You're shitting me."

    "She is not," Brian assured her. "Those things have been around for years. Longer than I've been alive."

    "Yeah, right," jeered Aisha. "That thing looks like a Tinker threw it together yesterday. Out of spare parts."

    "Oh, ye of little faith." Atropos' voice took on the quality that made Brian think she was smiling. "Come on, I'll set it up to take a timed photo." Placing it on the table, she pressed a button and stepped back until she was standing directly in front of it. "Both of you get in the frame with me," she urged. "We've got about eight seconds."

    "Oh, this I gotta see." Aisha crowded up on one side of Atropos, so Brian naturally moved in on the other side.

    If sitting back and watching his sister clown around with a terrifying cape assassin was deeply weird, he didn't even know what to feel about standing so close he was shoulder to shoulder with her. There was an air of palpable danger about her, or maybe that was just because he knew what she was capable of. And as for her personal combat capability, she moved like the best fighters he'd known, always perfectly in balance with her surroundings. Except where it came to Aisha; Aisha, she let inside her guard.

    The Polaroid camera beeped once, then twice more. He forced a smile onto his face, because he didn't want Aisha grumping at him for screwing up the photo.

    beep-beep-beep-beeee—

    "Down!" shouted Atropos; at the same time as he felt the shove, his leg was kicked out from under him so he went sprawling. Distantly, he heard Aisha yelp in protest, but all that was overshadowed an instant later when something swept over them and the picnic table dissolved in a shattering crash.

    He rolled over and did a kip-up to get to his feet, looking around to see what the fuck had just happened. Thankfully, Aisha was okay, sitting up with her hair falling across her eyes and an indignant expression on her face. The picnic table had been demolished, and Atropos was already standing, left hand extended as though she'd just caught the camera that was now in her hand. In her right, she held the photo.

    Some yards beyond the wreckage of the table was Glory Girl, just now slowing down and turning around. "Stand still!" she shouted.

    "Nuh-uh," Atropos retorted flippantly. "Here, catch." She tossed the camera to Brian, then stood there waving the photo in the air.

    "Glory Girl, stand down!" Brian called out as he automatically caught it. "This is a really bad idea!"

    "It'll be a bad idea for you to get in my way." Glory Girl clenched her fists. "This is between me and Atropos."

    "Oh, for fuck's sake, why can't you just fuck off?" demanded Aisha. "We were having a perfectly fun day here, and you had to come in with your 'hurr durr me big hero' shit."

    "She's a villain," Glory Girl explained slowly, as though to a child. "And a murderer. I'm a hero. Stopping people like her is what I do."

    "You're a humungous twatwaffle, is what you are," declared Aisha impudently. "She's the hero. How many villains have you stopped this week? How many have you chased out of town ever?"

    Brian wanted to facepalm. Not only was his sister arguing with Glory Girl, but insulting her as well. He didn't even want to know where she'd gotten 'twatwaffle' from. "Aisha …"

    "Well, she is!" Aisha actually sounded upset now. "Atropos is cool! Because of her, there's barely any villains left in town!"

    "And there'll be one less in just a second," promised Glory Girl. Brian felt waves of fear pulsing out from her. It was never any less real, even when he knew where it was coming from. She lunged forward, gathering speed in an obvious move to punch Atropos as a fly-by attack.

    Atropos barely seemed to move, but she swayed aside just far enough to avoid the attack. Moreover, her hand darted out; when Glory Girl came to a halt, she was no longer wearing the tiara. She didn't seem to realise it for a moment, until Atropos tossed the headgear to Aisha. "Here. Souvenir."

    Aisha seemed to be one of those people who reacted to fear with defiance. She caught the tiara out of the air and brandished it like a weapon. "Hah! Score!"

    "What the fuck?" Glory Girl felt at her head. "Hey, give that back!"

    "Go away and I'll think about it." Atropos' voice was steady. If she was feeling the same level of fear as Brian, she was a master at hiding it. Her hand went into her pocket, then came out with a shiny quarter. She flipped it in the air, then caught it without looking. "Right now, you're intruding."

    "I'll show you intruding!" shouted Glory Girl. As her voice rose to a shout, she lanced toward Atropos again.

    The quarter spun into the air once more as Atropos did a perfect limbo twist to avoid the charging attack. Glory Girl, for her part, choked and grabbed her throat, then crash-landed in an ungainly sprawl beyond the wreckage of the table.

    What the fuck? Did she just flip that coin into Glory Girl's mouth?

    Brian hurried over, but Atropos got there first. She dropped with one knee into Glory Girl's stomach; the stricken superhero let out a loud hacking cough, and the coin was expelled upward with some force. Atropos caught it out of the air, then dropped it into her pocket and drew the shears again.

    "Hey," she said, and rapped Glory Girl on the forehead with the heavy blades. "Pay attention."

    Slowly, Glory Girl's eyes came back into focus, and she found herself with the tip of the shears an inch from her eye. "What … what the fuck?"

    Atropos hit her with them again, just hard enough to leave a bruise. "I said, pay attention. I know how to bring your power down. I know how to kill you. Do you understand?" Clack, went the shears

    "Wha—will you stop fucking doing that!" Glory Girl began to reach for the blades, then froze as Atropos used the very tip of the shears to snip off one of her eyelashes.

    "Yeah. It's inside your field. I can put it straight into your brain. It will kill you." Atropos' voice was implacable. "I can do this at any time. Do you understand?"

    "I … yeah, I understand." The admission was wrung grudgingly out of her throat. "Do you want me to beg for my life? Is that it?"

    "No." Atropos' voice never changed. She wasn't gloating or even admonishing Glory Girl; merely establishing a fact of life. "Next time, if someone tells you to back off … back the fuck off."

    Staggering footsteps and heavy panting heralded the arrival of someone Brian belatedly recognized as Panacea. "Please," she gasped. "Please … don't kill … her. Oh god … I need to do … more cardio."

    "Wasn't going to," Atropos said. "But your sister could've fucked up really badly just then. She could've hurt my friends here. So … a favour for a favour. I keep quiet about this, and you do something for me, later on. Deal?"

    Panacea blinked at her. "A … favour? What sort of … favour?"

    Atropos snorted and tapped Glory Girl's forehead with the shears again. "Nothing hugely illegal. Okay?"

    "Do I have a choice?" The New Wave healer looked at where her sister was still staring at the shears.

    "There's always a choice. Is that a yes?"

    Grudgingly, Panacea nodded. "Yes. You don't talk about this, I do you a favour later."

    "Awesome." Atropos sheathed the shears, then came to her feet and stepped back in a move so smooth Brian would've sworn it had to be rehearsed. "Sorry about the rough stuff, but some lessons need to have a point before people take them on."

    Aisha cackled out loud. "Well, that lesson certainly had a point!" She fitted the tiara on her head, sitting up at a jaunty angle.

    Cautiously, with one eye on Atropos, Glory Girl rose into the air. "I want that back. Right now."

    "Nope," said Atropos, before Aisha could even protest. "Call it an asshole tax. Take your sister and leave before anything else happens."

    "Yeah … let's just … go," panted Panacea. "Are you … okay?"

    "She stole my tiara!" Glory Girl pointed at Aisha indignantly.

    "No, I stole it and gave it to her," Atropos corrected her. "As I said, asshole tax. Now, fuck off before I decide to get creative."

    "Ooh, ooh, get creative!" Aisha urged. "I wanna see this!"

    Panacea shook her head. Making a wide berth around Brian and Atropos, she took Glory Girl by the arm. "Let's go home now," she stated firmly. "Before this day goes even further off the rails."

    "But … my tiara …"

    Atropos shook her head. "Not yours anymore. Bye."

    "We've got spares," Panacea stated. "C'mon. Let's go."

    Reluctantly, Glory Girl picked up her sister and lofted into the air. Pausing, she looked back at Atropos. "This isn't over."

    Atropos pushed her hat back and made a come-at-me gesture. "Anytime."

    It almost seemed as though Glory Girl was going to take up the challenge, but Panacea punched her in the shoulder and muttered something about "any more favours". Turning, the brightly clad teen hero flew away, gaining altitude until they disappeared from view.

    "Well, that was a thing." Atropos waved the photo—which she'd kept in her hand the whole time—in the air again, then looked at it. "Huh. Action shot."

    When Brian looked at it, the colours were still fading in, but it showed Glory Girl's face, charging at the camera, right at the moment when she'd realized her target was no longer in front of her, and that she was about to impact the table at speed. "Wow. Damn."

    "Lemme see, lemme see!" Aisha plucked the photo from his fingers. "Okay, that's amazing. The look on her face is classic. 'The moment when she knew she done fucked up.'."

    "It is pretty cool, yeah." Atropos retrieved the Polaroid camera from Brian. "Thanks. So, I'm thinking of taking a few selfies with this—signed, of course, for my favourite fan—and then … say, Brian, you brought a car, didn't you?"

    Brian nodded. "The PRT's letting me use a hire car to get around and take Aisha to appointments and stuff. Why?"

    He couldn't see the expression on her face, but he imagined it to be a calculating smile. "How would you like to help me put a really severe crimp in the Brockton Bay drug trade …?"

    Aisha's delighted whoop came as no surprise at all. His sister hated drugs. "Um … would you be needing me to do anything illegal? Because I'm not allowed to do that."

    "Nope." Atropos shook her head. "I just need transport from place to place, then you can wait outside while I do my thing. I'm not even going to kill anyone who doesn't try to kill me first."

    He glanced at Aisha. She nodded enthusiastically. "Say yes, Bri! Say yes!"

    Deputy Director Renick didn't tell me what to do in this situation.

    Shit … um … keep her happy while not doing anything illegal?


    With a sensation of stepping onto a tight-rope over a bottomless pit, he nodded. "Uh … yes?"

    This time, he knew for a fact that she was smiling under the mask. "Excellent."

    This is going to make for one hell of an after-action report.



    End of Part Seventeen

    [A/N: I'll be holding off on writing more on this for a couple of weeks, sorry. Other obligations.]
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2022
  12. Drkonecharlie

    Drkonecharlie A person probably

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    So Contessa was apparently running prove Alexandra isn't listening to me or is underestimating me cause seriously she told her the Taylor was at least as powerful as her and the response she got was on she ccan't kill the 9 without more resources like she could vary easily get them
     
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  13. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    She just tried to give Alexandria good advice. Let Atropos do her thing.
     
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  14. GasperVladi0

    GasperVladi0 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    God damn it Glory Hole can't you just not fuck things up for ten minutes? That being said that was very amusing and it's definitely going to end up on PHO
     
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  15. Oddboy

    Oddboy The Trash Cat

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    I wonder how she worded the Path that lead to this little slice of fun...

    Does she deliberately go out of her way to be dramatic/funny, or does her power just like her enough to do it for her? :p
     
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  16. poiu18894012

    poiu18894012 Beep boop, perverted robot.

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    I mean, the only reason Taylor has PTE is due to a 3rd entity wanting to fuck with the other two. So, yea, I'm like 90% sure that being dramatic, funny, and/or showy is required with her power.
     
  17. Drkonecharlie

    Drkonecharlie A person probably

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    Her power weighs two things when making her path the quickest and what would annoy the most parahumans i think we all know which it cares for the most
     
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  18. Vanbers

    Vanbers Experienced.

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    Luckily Alexandria's Thinker Power protects her from troublesome things like 'Masters', 'Strangers', 'Common Sense', and 'Good Ideas'.
     
  19. Gaemnomut

    Gaemnomut Experienced.

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    I really liked that scene with glory girl. Really cool.
     
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  20. Highlord

    Highlord I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    I disagree. Rebecca is on close and intimate terms with the Good Idea Fairy.

    I'd also like to point out that only Taylor agreed not to publicly embarrass Glory Girl, not Aisha.
     
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  21. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Pretty sure it's been mentioned several times that even Taylor's noticed that her power is an incurable showoff.

    It will absolutely go ham at the slightest opportunity.

    This is why she's wearing the costume instead of slinking through the shadows, unseen by all.

    (Also, because being recognisable will make several Paths easier).
     
  22. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    Well, we can certainly say that Ack is writing her in-character, since she pretty much was an impulsively-violent jackass at this stage in her life.
     
  23. Threadmarks: Part Eighteen: Drugs Are Bad, Just Ask Atropos
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    A Darker Path

    Part Eighteen: Drugs Are Bad, Just Ask Atropos

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



    Atropos

    Brian frowned as we neared the location I was giving him instructions to drive to. "That sounds kind of familiar …" he said slowly.

    "Yeah, no, duh, it's familiar, bro." Aisha, in the back seat, was having great fun playing with her new tiara. Between that and the Polaroids of me holding the bodice shears up behind her head like bunny ears, I was pretty sure that this was her best day in a long time.

    Which was kind of sad, when I came to think about it that way.

    "Wait." Having gotten the hint from his sister, Brian was putting two and two together. Impressively enough, he added it up to four all by himself. He turned and stared at me. "Are you taking us to Celia's place?"

    "Otherwise known as the Hellbitch Drug Ho," Aisha chimed in. I got the impression that she might harbour a little resentment toward her mother's substance abuse problem.

    "That's where we're going," I confirmed. "Now, as I understand it, she's a heroin user but not a heavy one, right?"

    Aisha shook her head, the spikes of the tiara rotating one way and then the other. "Not unless she's gotten a lot more into it since I left that ass-crack of a place."

    "Good." I smiled. I already didn't like Aisha's mother, and the thought of her having to dry out without the assistance of an addiction program was savagely satisfying to me.

    "How did you even know that?" asked Brian. "Have you been here before?"

    "Never in my life. Just pull over here." I indicated a parking spot right next to the building I needed to visit. "Whatever you two do, stay in the car. Do not try to come get me, do not call out. I'll be out shortly. Got it?"

    "Are you suure I can't come up and see her face when you take all her shit?" Aisha was good at wheedling, but fortunately I was immune to puppy-dog eyes. Unless I chose not to be, of course.

    "Certain." I looked at Brian and hooked my head toward Aisha. Don't let her get out. He nodded to me; the silent message had been received loud and clear.

    Climbing out of the car, I strode across the sidewalk and in through the front doors. There was supposed to be some kind of buzzer mechanism but it seemed to have been damaged beyond repair by previous tenants. Ignoring the elevator, I took the stairs at a steady trot.

    All around me, I was aware of tiny caches of illicit substances here and there, but I was only interested in one. Specifically, the drugs currently being held by Aisha's mother. Her habits—drug-taking and social—had screwed up Aisha's life for the longest time. Drug abuse while pregnant had left baby Aisha with a short attention span; it was manageable, but it could've been a lot worse.

    I reached the correct floor and strode along the corridor until I got to the right door. There were several options for entry, ranging from picking the lock (I would've needed lockpicks) to shooting the lock off (a waste of ammunition, in my opinion) to kicking the door in (hard on the ankles). I chose another avenue altogether; leaning in toward the door, I changed my voice to a pack-a-day masculine rasp. Knocking on the door, I called out, "Celia, babe, open up. I got the stuff."

    She unlocked the door immediately, of course. I put my shoulder to it and shoved it open, and I was inside before she realised what was going on. "What the fuck?" she demanded. "Who are y—urk!" The reason her question was cut short was because my hand had gone around her throat and pushed her against the wall.

    I nudged the door shut with my hip and snapped the locks over, then got the shears out and rested the tip on the bridge of her nose. "You may have heard of me," I said quietly. "My name is Atropos. I killed Skidmark last night, which is why Carl's left town and Troy is taking over for him. Carl was the smart one. Do you understand?" She was staring cross-eyed at the shears, so I lifted them until she was looking across them at me. "Do you understand?" I repeated.

    "Uh huh," she whimpered. "Please don't kill me." I smelled fresh urine, and noted that she'd pissed herself. It probably wouldn't be an uncommon reaction in this situation, going forward.

    "Not in my plans," I said, and pointed at a chair. "Sit there and don't move. If you run, I will catch you, and it won't be pleasant."

    Obediently, she sat. I picked up a crushed paper bag from the table and straightened it out. It had evidently been used to bring drugs into the apartment before now, so this was an appropriate use for it. Warily, she watched me as I moved around the apartment, zeroing in on every drug cache she had, ignoring the ones for weed. Each little baggie went into the paper bag, her face falling a little more with every loss.

    "So, who ratted me out?" she asked sullenly as I finished my rounds. Not a fraction of an ounce of white powder, pills or rocks of crack cocaine had been left within the apartment.

    "Nobody." I carefully folded the bag over, then moved to stand next to the door.

    "Oh, don't give me that bullshit." Given that I hadn't carved her up on the spot, she'd evidently decided that I wasn't going to hurt her. "You just cleaned me out of the hard stuff without looking anywhere else. Somebody who knew where it was had to tell you."

    I flicked the locks, pulled the door open, and yanked the aforementioned Troy into the room just as he was about to knock. As he was still staggering, trying to regain his balance, I locked the door again and moved in after him. "Afternoon, Troy," I said. "We need to have a chat."

    His butt came up against the table and he stopped short, staring at me. "Fuck!" he said. "You're her … uh …"

    "Atropos, yes." It was truly sad, the lack of education in the inner city these days. "Don't pull your gun and you'll be fine—"

    He pulled his gun. Which meant he wasn't fine. Throwing the bag I held in his face, I moved into close quarters. The bag made him flinch and blinded him for an instant, which was all the time I needed to secure his wrist and take the gun away from him. Of course, he needed to be reminded why it was a bad idea to pull a gun on me, so I dropped the pistol on the table, drew the shears, and nailed his right hand to the table.

    He screamed and dropped the bag he held in his left hand, almost the twin to mine, except for the fact that his was a good deal fuller. I took up his pistol and dropped the magazine out of it, then retrieved the last round out of the chamber. They were the same calibre that Oni Lee's pistol could use, and it wasn't like I could go to a gun shop and buy more ammo.

    "Now," I said to Troy, who was screaming a little less now that nobody was jolting the wound. "Do I have your full attention?"

    He glared at me, but a warning gesture with my own pistol stopped him from just grabbing the shears and pulling them out of his hand. "You're gonna die for this," he panted. "Nobody fucks with our crew."

    "I do," I informed him. "Now, one more time. Are you listening?"

    He gritted his teeth and sucked in a long breath through his nostrils. "… yeah."

    "Good. What I've got to say is simple. You won't even need to take notes. As of right now, you're out of the drug trade. If I catch you dealing drugs again, I will kill you. It won't be a fair fight, or even a fight at all. You'll just die. Is there any part of what I've just said that you don't understand?"

    There was a long pause, then he remembered to shake his head.

    "Good," I said, then my power flared.

    Something new had impinged on my awareness of danger. It appeared that my power now considered Aisha to be just as worthy of protection as my dad, because it had just told me that she was in danger.

    My reaction was immediate: Path to End the danger to Aisha.

    Troy screamed all over again as I yanked the shears out of the table and his hand respectively. Grabbing him, I spun him around as though we were dancing, but I made sure that he was always just a little off-balance, tottering around in a series of circles that inevitably led toward the window.

    Result to Troy, my power informed me when I queried it. Broken neck, crushed skull, broken spine. Death within minutes.

    That wasn't good enough. I'd promised Aisha that I wouldn't kill anyone who wasn't trying to kill me. Also, I'd told Troy that he'd die if he dealt any more drugs. I hadn't given him the chance to avoid dealing drugs in future.

    Turning slightly, I amended our trajectory, so that when I let Troy go and he went out the window, it was back-first, not headfirst.

    A moment later, I got the acknowledgement from my power: Danger to Aisha ended. Path complete. Result to Troy: broken arm, broken collar-bone, broken kneecap. Will live.

    <><>​

    Tenebrae

    "I wanna go up and see what's going on," whined Aisha. "The look on that bitch's face with Atropos giving her the good news must be fuckin' epic."

    "She said to stay in the car, and that's where we're staying." Brian was adamant on this. He didn't want to know what was happening up in his mother's apartment. If he didn't know about it, he didn't have to report on it.

    "Yeah, but—"

    Aisha abruptly shut up as a dark shadow loomed next to the car. A scarred leather-jacketed man, his entire demeanour shouting 'I'm a leg breaker' to any who cared to listen, leaned down and looked in through the car windows.

    The man looked at Brian, then at Aisha. "What the fuck are you two doing?" he demanded.

    Brian opened his mouth to give a de-escalating answer, but Aisha got in first. "Waiting for a fuckin' train. What's it to you, asshole?"

    Jesus Christ, Aisha! "Ignore her," he said hastily. "We're just waiting on a friend. We won't be here long."

    His heart sank as the guy paid no attention to him and glared at Aisha. "What the fuck did you say, you little bitch?" Leaning into the car, he made a grab for her.

    "I said fuck off!" she screamed, and yanked the tiara off her head, jamming one of the spikes into the back of his massive paw.

    "Cocksucker!" He jumped back from the car and reached around under the back of his jacket.

    Brian was reasonably certain that the asshole wasn't seeking to alleviate his back pain, so he prepared to flood the car with blackness. But before the gun even made an appearance, there was the tinkle of broken glass and a scream from above. The scarred enforcer looked up, just in time for another man to land on him; they both ended up on the sidewalk in a feebly moving heap.

    The other enforcer, who'd been standing back and watching the show, drew his pistol and ran into the building. Brian glanced at Aisha, then they both stared at the injured men. From inside the building, they heard the distinct sound of a shot.

    The doors opened again, and Atropos emerged. She was carrying two brown paper bags, as well as a bottle of bleach. Strolling across to where the car was, she opened the door and got in. "Drive," she said. "I'll give you directions."

    "Are you okay?" asked Aisha. "That guy who ran in there—"

    Atropos closed the door and put her seatbelt on. "Don't worry about it," she said. "I saw him coming."

    <><>​

    A Small Park

    Atropos


    Brian and I watched as a madly grinning Aisha poured undiluted bleach over the drugs I'd collected from their mother's apartment. The plastic melted under the onslaught, and the various addictive substances bubbled and fizzed as the bleach attacked their very chemical structures. It was quite interesting, in a scientific sort of way.

    "Die, you little pieces of shit!" Aisha cackled. "Die!" She poked at the mixture with a stick—a long stick, given that the fumes coming off the mess were fairly powerful—and watched with intense satisfaction as it all broke down into a formless mass.

    Brian turned to me. "I have a question."

    "I may have an answer." I knew what he was going to ask, but I preferred to let him keep his illusions of free will for the moment.

    "When we stopped at the convenience store, why did you have me buy string and road flares?"

    I grinned under the mask. "All things will be revealed in time."

    When the last of the drugs were gone—washed down a convenient drain with the application of more bleach—Aisha put the cap back on the bottle and turned to me. Her eyes were bright with tears and the hug she gave me was heartfelt.

    "How are you feeling now?" I asked her, ruffling her hair.

    "Fuckin' amazeballs," she said, her grin back to its full wattage. "Let's go fuck up some more drug dealers!"

    I nodded slowly, as though I was merely considering it, when in fact I'd already decided on my course of action. "I believe we can do that."

    "Fuck, yeah!"

    <><>​

    Half an Hour Later

    Tenebrae


    Atropos, Brian decided, was beyond terrifying. Not only could she and would she kill anyone who threatened her for any reason, but she also knew who threatened her and could deal with them before they were aware of her. More than that, when she set her sights on Brockton Bay's drug trade, she had somehow acquired the knowledge of exactly where all the drugs were. All the drugs.

    Case in point: the innocuous suburban two-story house before them. It bore all the hallmarks of belonging to a happy couple with two point three children and a dog, including a tricycle artfully displayed in the front yard, and a cutesy little sign saying, "Forget the dog, beware of the kids". Someone had put a lot of effort into making it seem even more normal than the neighbours.

    But as it happened, it was a major drug distribution hub for the south side of Brockton Bay. The dealers never came there, of course; the product was loaded into the late-model car (complete with BABY ON BOARD sticker on the rear window) and driven sedately to other locations, where it was handed out. Atropos had explained all this before she got out of the car and headed across the road.

    She'd said one other thing, as well. "Call the fire department. They're gonna need it."

    After a long few minutes, during which time he heard absolutely nothing, Atropos leaned out the door and beckoned to them. Brian definitely wanted to see what was going on, and so did Aisha; scrambling out of the car, they headed across the road. "What's the matter?" he asked. "Is it a bust?"

    "You might say that." He was pretty sure she was grinning under the mask. "Come on in. This is where the drugs that were supplying your mom would've come from." She had her shears in her hand, and seemed to be wiping them down.

    Stepping into the front room of the house still looked absolutely normal. Another doorway, not in a direct line with the front door, led to the back of the house … and his mind was blown.

    There was no kitchen, no bedrooms, no living room. Carefully hung curtains covered every window. Speakers played TV sounds, and the occasional noise of a baby crying. But the interior of the house had been gutted, and the resultant room was all made over to the division and packaging of drugs for supply to the population of Brockton Bay.

    "Holy fuckballs," whispered Aisha. "I'd never have known. This is where they're from?"

    "It's where they go through for this part of the distribution, yeah." Atropos sounded remarkably matter-of-fact about the whole thing. "There are other hubs, but I'll get to those in time."

    "So, where does this place get 'em from?" asked Brian. He tried hard not to look at the corpses lying on the floor and draped over the table. Several pistols lay here and there. There was rather a lot of blood. "And how come we didn't hear any gunshots?"

    Atropos shrugged. "A firefight in the suburbs is too dangerous. The walls are too thin, and bullets might've come your way. I decided not to let them start one." She finished wiping off the shears, and re-sheathed them.

    "So … we're calling the cops now as well as the fire department, right?" He eyed the various packets of white powder that lay on the table, and the further stack in the corner. "Because they're going to need to take all this into evidence."

    "Nope." She pulled a road flare out of her pocket. "Not all of it would make it into evidence. I'm trying to give them the best chance to kick their corruption, so there's no sense in dangling temptation in front of them. Come on, let's go. And it's time you made that call." She pulled the cap off the end of the flare, and struck it.

    Brian finished the call to the fire department as they climbed into the car again. Across the road, the first flickers of flame were showing in the front windows. Putting his phone away, he fastened his seat belt, then started the car. "Where to now?"

    Atropos put her hand on his arm. "Are you okay with this? Because if you're not, we can drop you off."

    He took a long, deep breath. "Before I say yes or no, is it okay if I make a phone call?"

    "Be my guest," she invited. He got the impression that she knew exactly where he was calling and why.

    Starting the car, he drove it around the corner and parked again, then pulled out his Wards-issue phone.

    <><>​

    PRT Building

    Deputy Director Renick's Office


    "Renick."

    "Sir, it's Laborn."

    "Is there a problem?"

    There was a pause. "Potentially. I think we've exceeded the orders you gave me already."

    "Explain."

    "After we left the park, Atropos had me drive her from place to place. She's injuring and killing drug dealers, and destroying the drugs. She just burned down a house full of drugs in the suburbs after killing everyone inside. I need to know what I should be doing right now."

    This time, it was Paul's turn to pause. "Is your sister still with her?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Is Atropos harming innocents?"

    "Not as far as I can tell, sir. She did throw someone out of a third story window to land on someone who was threatening Aisha, but he turned out to be my mother's drug dealer."

    Paul blinked. That wasn't a line he heard every day. "Did … did he survive?"

    "They both did, but neither one was happy about it, sir."

    "Alright then. Stick with her. If you can safely minimise casualties, do it. But do not—I say again, do not—actively interfere, unless she is specifically endangering you, your sister, or any other innocents. Do you understand?"

    "Yes, sir. I understand."

    <><>​

    Atropos

    I looked at Brian. He wasn't exactly thrilled right now, and I knew why. He'd never been comfortable with the concept of killing, and he'd been ordered to spend time with someone who killed as easily as breathing (but not casually; never casually). I'd set out to shut down one line of drug trafficking into the city, and the death toll along the way was starting to get to him.

    I didn't need to feel guilty about this, and I knew it. My promise had specified that I wouldn't kill anyone so long as they weren't trying to kill me. All the people in the drug distribution hub had been doing their best to end my existence; I just hadn't let them get as far as pointing a gun in my direction. It wasn't my fault that I was better at it than they were.

    And of course, there was the money aspect. Supplying illicit drugs to the population had always been a cash cow, and people were ever willing to defend it with lethal force. This meant that the farther up the chain we got, the more likely we were to meet people who were not only willing to kill, but were actually good at it. Which meant in turn that I would normally have had fewer options when it came to ending the fight without killing them.

    Not that this bothered me. If they were so eager to die, who was I to gainsay them?

    However, there was the extra twist of the report he was going to make to the Deputy Director. I had no doubt that Piggot and Renick would make their final determination about me using their own judgement, but such things could be influenced by reports like the one he was going to give. And if he could give the impression that I was someone who could use restraint when necessary (which I was) then it would be another step on the Path to Ending their institutional distrust of me.

    "So, Brian," I said, gesturing at the warehouse across the way. "You think you could fill that with darkness?"

    He blinked, then eyed the warehouse itself. As with the faux suburban house, it could've passed as being absolutely normal for its area. Except for a few minor details, of course. For instance, the guard in his little shack (bulletproof, with a code-locked door) was armed with illegally modified firearms. If he called for help, there were more guards within the building, ready to run out at a moment's notice. And inside, yet more guards were just there to patrol the interior of the building. It looked like someone was definitely willing to pay extra to protect their investment.

    It was so nice to be taken seriously by people I'd never met. I might almost regret having to kill them, if they refused to change their ways.

    "I … guess I could," he said at a moment's notice. "Are you going to kill anyone?"

    "Not if they can't see me," I said firmly. It was very much a gauntlet being thrown down. He could save the lives of every person in there, if he was willing to use his power to help me get what I wanted.

    "You realise that I'm the only one who can see through my darkness, right?" He eyed me as though unsure whether I knew about his abilities. "Nobody else can. To them, it's pitch darkness."

    I shrugged. "Meh. Sight is overrated." Which was funny, because although I could see, without my glasses I was near-sighted. My power just filled in details when I needed them, all in the name of completing the Path.

    We got out of the car and Brian approached the guard shack. What the guard couldn't see was that I was directly behind Brian, in the lovely great blind spot created by his muscular torso. The shack had a Perspex window with a small shelf on the outside to allow visitors to sign things—I was pretty sure this was a common configuration for these things.

    The downside of a setup like that was while Brian was leaning in close (keeping his hands in plain view) and asking for directions out of the local maze of back streets, it was possible for me to duck down and slither around to where I could reach up and enter the door code. Which I did. The guard reacted far too slowly, expecting one of his colleagues to be relieving him. Me swinging off the door-frame and bouncing his head off the far wall with not quite lethal force might have relieved him of anything resembling consciousness, but he probably didn't mean it that way.

    With the guard flex-cuffed (he had a store of these, which I appropriated) we moved on to a human-entry door. I'd lifted the guard's keys, and now I tapped the electronic reader with a particular fob and typed in a four-digit code. Not the same one as on the guard shack, I was pleased to see. These guys weren't stupid, just … well, drug-dealing assholes.

    "Darkness, now," I murmured. Brian obediently generated a cloud of the stuff around us.

    I opened the door in the secure knowledge that nobody would see a bright sunlit rectangle and two people entering. We stepped inside and I shut the door again. Then I prised off a cover, pulled two wires and touched them together, and shorted out the whole door-alarm system.

    With that taken care of, we started off around the perimeter of the warehouse. We lurked around the inside of the wall, travelling in our own little blot of darkness, until we were behind a pallet—of money, as it turned out.

    "Holy shit," he whispered. "This is more money than I've ever seen in my life."

    That got a dry chuckle from me. "Well, feast your eyes, sunshine, because that bad boy does not survive to the end of the movie."

    It took him a few seconds to figure it out. "But—"

    "We can't take it, if the cops show up it becomes evidence and helps nobody, and I'm not leaving it for some drug dealer to spend on more drugs." I shrugged. "It is what it is. Now, if we can have some darkness on the issue, please?"

    It didn't take him long to decide to play along. Darkness started rolling off him in great waves, washing through the warehouse and slowly rising like a horror-movie tide full of Things Man was not Meant to Eat. I heard the first shouts of alarm then, and headed off to start the cleanup.

    It was kind of weird, moving through the blacked-out warehouse, not being able to see a thing, yet knowing where I was and that there was a staircase directly ahead of me. Also, there was a guard feeling his way down the staircase, one cautious step at a time.

    Well, I was never one to look a gift horse in the teeth. I went up as he came down, then when I got close enough, I flipped him over the rail. His brief scream ended when he hit the concrete and knocked himself out.

    Trotting back down the stairs, I flex-cuffed him, then waved Brian over. "Get him outside," I said. "Far side of the road."

    "Got it." Brian grunted as he lifted the man in a fireman's carry. I could never have done that; then again, I lacked an extra hundred pounds of muscle, which probably explained it.

    The rest of the clearance went more or less the same way. Everyone was cautiously feeling their way around, while I knew exactly where they were and what they were doing. Brian even assisted in subduing a few of them, which sped things up considerably.

    When the last man was accounted for, I sent Brian to the door to wait for me. In the inside pockets of my long-coat, I'd been carrying several of the grenades I'd inherited from Oni Lee. I figured I might want to get some more later on, but right now, these were going to be used to send a message.

    Not In My City.

    Each grenade was attached to a pallet of drugs or of money; I didn't have enough of them to trap all the pallets, but I figured I had enough to make ready for the second stage. I worked the pin almost free from each grenade, and tied a length of string to it. Strings trailing through my hands, I strolled back to where Brian was waiting. He'd just moved the guy from the guard shack to where the others were, so that we were the only ones on the actual property.

    "Ready for the final act?" I asked, beckoning Aisha over.

    Brian hadn't been watching too closely, so he didn't know what the strings meant. "Final act?" he asked as Aisha approached. "What final act?"

    By way of answer, I handed half the strings to him, and the other half to Aisha. "Pull these when I say 'three'," I said. "One. Two. Three."

    They both yanked on the strings. At the same time, I pulled the cap off a road flare and struck it. It flared brightly, even though the sun was still out.

    "What's supposed to happen?" asked Aisha, looking at the strings. "And what's the road flare—"

    Inside the warehouse, the grenades went off. Being chemically fused, there was of course a slight variation between one and another, but they were close enough to sound like one big explosion. Smoke and powder began to billow out through the open door.

    "Run," I said.

    Aisha looked at me. "What?"

    Brian grabbed her arm. "Run." Dragging her with him, he headed off down the driveway. I turned and threw the road flare underarm toward the doorway, then casually walked after them.

    "Why are we running?" protested Aisha as she and Brian crossed the road.

    BOOOM

    I felt the heat of the explosion, as well as the shift in air pressure, on my back, but I didn't alter my steady pace. Brian and Aisha had dived behind a parked car, and were now peering over it as I strolled over to them. Turning to lean on the car, I surveyed my handiwork.

    The warehouse was still there, though there were now holes in the walls and roof. As we watched, parts of the roof caved in. An enormous mushroom cloud climbed into the sky. Smoke was still pouring out of the stricken building, and it was easy to see that fires were blazing within.

    "How the fuck did you do that?" demanded Aisha.

    "Flour bomb," I explained, then went back to watching the fire.

    "Huh?"

    "Flour bomb," Brian repeated, in tones of enlightenment. "Particulates suspended in the air can be made to explode, especially if they're flammable. And you just blew up pallets of …"

    "Heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamines, PCP and cash," I recited promptly. "Most of which will absolutely form clouds in the air, especially if some unkind person inserts a grenade where it'll do the most good. Cash is of course flammable in its own right."

    "And we pulled the pins," marvelled Aisha. "That was so damn cool."

    Brian's eyebrows rose toward his hairline as he looked over at the inferno. "That's … how much worth of drugs did we just destroy?"

    "Eight figures," I said cheerfully. "Tens of millions. And that's not counting the cash. And all of it comes out of the pockets of the drug dealers. That right there? That was the next few months' worth of distribution in Brockton Bay, as well as the last month or so of outgoing profits."

    "Holy fuckballs on acid," Aisha said happily. "They are gonna be so damn pissed."

    "That's the general idea, yes," I agreed. "An angry enemy is one who isn't thinking straight."

    "But … won't they just get more in?" asked Brian.

    "Why, yes." I actually went so far as to steeple my fingertips. "I do believe they will."

    Aisha stared at me. "You know where an' when, don't you?"

    I nodded, once. "And now you get it."

    Aisha was still laughing when we got back into the car.



    End of Part Eighteen

    [A/N: I am not overly well-informed on how much in the way of illicit drugs a large city will consume. If anyone has any better information than I do, I would welcome the chance to fix my numbers.]
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2022
  24. GasperVladi0

    GasperVladi0 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Aisha's going to be riding that high for weeks. Let it be known that blowing up a warehouse for a drugs is apparently better than do any number of lines.
     
  25. Nicohals J Westerberg

    Nicohals J Westerberg Getting out there.

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    When kill parahumans ability to use power.
     
  26. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    She will get there. She's just got a few steps to go.
     
  27. FictionPack

    FictionPack Making the rounds.

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    That was 9 figures worth of therapy for Aisha all in one day.
    Atropos has now left behind three very toxic fire locations in her wake.
     
  28. Diraniola

    Diraniola I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Two fires and a bunch of chemicals down the storm drain.
     
    One-who-reads and Ack like this.
  29. FictionPack

    FictionPack Making the rounds.

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    I'm counting the Lung pyre.
     
    Diraniola and Ack like this.
  30. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    That got neutralised with baking soda.
     
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