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What's the Frequency, Madison? [Worm, Time Travel]

Damn, before I realized it I already caught up!

This has been enjoyable so far! Peggy Sues and Time Travel aren't usually my thing, but I'm glad to say that this has caught my interest. The alt powers are pretty cool, but the main selling point is definitely the brand new connections. Mads and Taylor is expected, but them meeting the Dallons early on like that will definitely shake things up. I can't wait to see how all this develops!
05 Aftermath
I was overwhelmed by the fact that nothing was simple.

When you watch an episode of Chicago Wards or Protectorate 911, they don't dwell on exactly how traumatized you have to be in order to get powers. Honestly, I doubted that the writers of those shows really understood it in the first place, and even if they were, I was certain that they wouldn't want to put that on screen.

Shows about government sponsored parahumans were always… clean. That was a good word for it. Episodic was also a good word for them. People got injured or upset and it was all wrapped up in an hour. If it was a two-parter, it might take two hours while they milked it for ratings, but it still got resolved pretty fast.

People on those shows didn't fall the fuck to pieces in their bedroom while one of the people that they had shared the traumatic experience with clung to them doing the exact same thing. On the rare occasion that they did hint at something like that, they would cut away and it was mostly better by the time the camera was on them again.

In real life? Not so much.

I had been… I could barely begin to untangle the mess of emotions within me. There was disgust with myself for not being more useful during the attack. Helplessness at the randomness of it all. Terror at how close I had come to getting myself killed trying to save Taylor. Anger at those assholes for causing the situation in the first place. A general sense of disgust with the world because no one had swooped in to save us.

I realized that the last of those was unfair both because of the danger that an ill-timed attack could have put everyone in, and also the fact that the Protectorate had moved in with as many capes as they could bring to bear at the first opportunity. That didn't stop me from feeling that they should have come in sooner… even if it wasn't logical.

All of that and a bunch of other stuff I couldn't identify came bubbling out as I hugged Taylor who was shaking and crying quietly, too. The hug helped, a little, but the weight of what had happened was so great that it just wasn't stopping.

We were still like that an hour later when my dad came to check on us.

"Madison can you-" he'd started as he opened my door. Then he stopped to stare at us in confusion. Then he must have realized how much of a crying heap we were and he came to put a hand on my back. "Girls… what's wrong?"

Taylor didn't say anything. She wouldn't look at him or me, really, she just kept her eyes on the floor. I started to talk for the both of us.

"Did you see on the news? The thing at the mall?" I ventured.

"Were you two…" he started, but our faces must have made the answer clear. "Oh, no."

"Yeah, we were in the middle of it. The-" I edited myself out of habit since swearing around dad usually got me rebuked "-guy tried to kill Taylor. I got hurt a little, too, but not so bad." More details spilled out, though nothing about powers. I still barely knew what my real power was and if I admitted it to him, the next step would be admitting that I had no idea what to do with it. Not in the 'how to use my powers sense' which I also didn't know, but in the 'how to be a person with powers who does things' sense which seemed like a bigger question.

Dad, bless him, just let me talk and when I was done, the first thing he said was "What can I do to help?"

"I should call my dad," Taylor said after a while. She sounded small and lost, which made me hug her tighter.

"Taylor, right?" dad asked and went on when I nodded. "You can use my phone or get Madison to let you use hers. We don't have a landline because-" he paused and thought better of it. I knew the story. There was an issue with the wiring in the house. The phone company wanted too much money to straighten it out so we didn't have a landline until we either paid for that or dad got a chance to straighten it out himself. In the last timeline, it had still been unresolved when we moved away, but It was neither the time nor the place for those kinds of details. "We both have cell phones."

"Okay," she said softly and some time later I was awkwardly repeating the slightly sanitized version of events in our living room to her father who had rushed over and my mom who had just gotten home from work. They were both equally horrified and there was much sympathetic crying and hugging to be had.

It was nothing like how they introduced a new character on Chicago Wards, but it was probably the best I could have hoped for.


I was feeling a little better the next day. I wasn't better by any means, but I felt more human. Taylor had gone home on Saturday night and we'd met up on Sunday afternoon for a while, but we didn't really do much. There was a very small conversation about powers and a little discussion about next steps.

Taylor lost Amy's power when she went to sleep on Saturday night, though she was able to get it back with a moment of concentration on Sunday morning. She was rightfully wary about trying to copy my power because of how much it messed me up when it first appeared. I was quickly getting used to the massive amounts of input it fed me and I was starting to get a very vague idea of what the various lines correlated to, but I had to be careful not to get overwhelmed.

My first experiment with actually using my power to manipulate the lines resulted in a small disaster which set a hairclip on fire. Apparently the lines I chose to adjust had been temperature or thermal energy because when I 'turned them up', it made the thing burst into flames. After that, I decided that I would only be doing experiments outdoors and only on entirely disposable targets. I just hadn't found much motivation to do that yet.

The only other thing I had really tried was pricking my finger with a sewing needle which resulted in the tiny wound vanishing after a couple of seconds. It was admittedly nice that the regeneration stayed around and even if it turned out to just be a weak healing effect, I was very happy to have it. It was a rare person that would turn down anything that made them heal faster.

We talked about those power effects, but more importantly, we talked about what our next steps were going to be as people. As capes.

"We're going to need to tell someone," I suggested. I wasn't really thrilled with the idea, but it needed to be said. I didn't trust myself to keep Taylor accountable. I had seen what she could become and that possibility terrified me. I also knew exactly what I could become, and that wasn't any better.

"Do we have to?" Taylor asked weakly. She was still just as shaken by the incident at the mall as I was and seemed especially bothered by loud noises. I supposed that was natural.

"Not immediately," I hedged. "But do you want to just sit around forever and not use… them."

She frowned. "No, I don't… we could do a lot of good stuff. Even if all I could do is copy Amy's healing, that's a good thing to be able to do."

I nodded. I had been thinking about it a lot, too. Parahumans were notorious for getting into fights. It was almost a stereotype, but everything I saw in the other timeline told me it was an earned one. Even the capes that weren't physically violent tended to be fiercely competitive in other ways. I didn't know if it was because the powers themselves pushed to be used or if powers only went to people that were going to use them in the first place. The last time I had triggered, I hadn't hesitated for a moment, so it could have been either.

Finding a path for Taylor that wasn't becoming an all-powerful warlord and ruling the city with an iron fist was now one of my life goals. Worse, I had decided that I was responsible for her to the point that if she did go that way… I'd have to be her chief minion. I felt responsible for the whole mall thing. It had been my idea, and I should have done… more to keep her safe. I knew it was irrational, but I was never especially rational.

"I think…" I stopped because I knew this one was going to be hard. "I think we should tell our parents."

Taylor went still and I was afraid I had made her mad or traumatized her more or something. "I don't want to." It wasn't an argument, just a statement of fact. It was also a weak statement like one makes when they know that they should do a thing but really dislike it.

"Me, either," I admitted. "But I think we need to." The idea of sneaking around with powers would probably have appealed to me the first time I was fourteen, but now it made me sick to my stomach. I knew how bad my decision making could be and how quickly I could fall under the sway of a bad influence. I was paranoid that the girl that could have become the warlord would be just that.

Taylor didn't answer, she just grunted. I kind of agreed with that in spirit.

"We should talk to Amy's mom, first. Her mom's a lawyer and part of a parahuman team that isn't the government. I bet she knows our options better than anyone." It had been a topic of conversation in my limited texting with Amy after the incident. She was just as out of sorts as we were - more, probably, since she was dealing with it without one of us to lean on. Given her family, I had expected her to have it more together, but getting powers sucked universally, even if you grew up around them. "Not because I think she'll tell us not to tell our parents, but because if we present a plan when we tell them, they're more likely to let us do things the way we want."

"I… alright. Yeah, that's probably okay."


No one showed up to haul us off to prison for being secret capes by the end of the weekend and we - the parent-child collective - decided it was safe enough for us to go back to school on Monday. I wasn't sure I was up for it, emotionally, but the idea of sitting at home alone - or even alone with Taylor - seemed like it would be much worse.

If nothing else, it would provide a distraction. Hopefully, it would also allow us to gain valuable intel on the situation in the form of the rumor mill that ran throughout the student body.

There were videos out on the internet of the incident at the mall, but they were all shaky footage taken with shitty cell phones or really poorly angled security cameras. The guy with the best view of Taylor's attack had been one of the gangba- members and seemed more interested in making Screamer look like a badass than getting a good shot of his victim. As soon as the Protectorate assault had started - several seconds after Screamer zoned out - he'd whipped his camera around to that and promptly dropped it.

If you didn't already know that Taylor was the victim and that there were a bunch of people getting powers by blacking out to some degree, it seemed really unlikely that you could guess that from the videos. The fact that people that already had powers seemed to get hit with the same effect that had knocked me all the way out was an interesting factoid I filed away for another time. That seemed like the kind of thing that could cause a problem later.

In any case, going to school on Monday was hard. For one thing, the more people I could see moving around, the more waves I had to be disoriented by. For another, Emma was being Emma and my temper was in tatters. I had a feeling that making my debut as a cape by setting her hair on fire was probably a bad thing, though the idea did help keep a smile on my face as I waded through her bullshit.

I was pretty sure that I couldn't affect the waveforms directly inside living things since I couldn't see them, but I was pretty sure I could affect the lines that were really close to their skin and I'd recently figured out which ones related to thermal energy. That just made me wonder what insane reason my power had for that specific limitation. What was the real difference in setting someone on fire and setting all of the air around them on fire? It seemed arbitrary.

In any case, I managed to avoid a lot of conversation that day by simply saying that I was at the mall on Saturday and that it was really bad. I leaned into my 'cutesy' look out of necessity, but it had some fringe benefits when I needed to look vulnerable and upset. Not that I was acting, at all. I had been at the mall, and I also really didn't want to talk about it.

The fact that I could use that to make Emma look even worse for picking on me than normal? That was just a bonus.

After school, Taylor and I went to my house. My parents and her father had all offered to take some time off and let us stay home from school to recover, but we'd declined because somehow school was better than being alone with our thoughts, even if we were alone together. Being together did help, and our parents felt like us hanging during the period of the afternoon where no parents were home from work was a good thing.

It was definitely nice to have some company, but we mostly used that time for plotting.

"Sophia's a cape," Taylor announced as soon as we were in the relative security of my room.

I turned to stare at her with wide eyes. "How can you tell?"

Taylor shrugged. "I can just kind of feel capes, I guess. Not so much if they aren't using their powers, but she must have done something with them in the hall while I was in class and it stood out like a neon sign. After that, it was easy enough to figure out it came from her."

"Wow, that's-" I paused as I fumbled for a word. Powerful? Convenient? Dangerous? "Be careful who you tell. A lot of capes would literally kill you to keep their identities quiet."

Taylor nodded like she'd already realized that. "I'm just telling you, not everyone."

Another thought hit me. "Did you try copying her power?"

Taylor shook her head. "I was in class or in a crowd every time she was close enough. I was worried that it might be obvious if I just grabbed it, and I think I have to be pretty close to copy a power. The first time, at least."

I was glad Taylor was so restrained, I supposed, though I would have liked to know more. I really wanted to experiment, but the melted hair clip reminded me that I should be patient.

Somehow, we ended up with Taylor sitting at the little bench in front of the cheap silver vanity I kept my makeup on. It had a big mirror and good lighting, but more importantly it had a backless stool which let me walk around her easily. I used that freedom to brush her hair out rather thoroughly. It was a little weird and a little intimate.

"My mom used to do this," she admitted as I worked the brush through her long, dark hair. Even at the height of our bullying in the other timeline, she might have been apathetic toward her clothing and makeup, but she had always taken care of her hair. I'd always kind of wanted to run my hands through it and now that I got a chance, I found that it was even silkier than I had expected.

"Is that bad?" I asked. The repetitive motions were soothing to me. It was really nice to feel the occasional locks of it brushing against my fingers.

"No, no, it's… comforting. It reminds me of good feelings."

I made a humming noise. My hair was limp and fine, not really worth brushing like this. In fact, if I had an extended brushing done to me, half of my hair would probably get yanked out as it tied itself into knots at every opportunity. "Well, you have amazing hair for this," I said and put down the brush so I could shamelessly run both hands through it.

Taylor blushed, but she didn't stop me.

I smiled at her in the mirror and started weaving ribbons into her locks. It kept my hands busy and helped keep me distracted from things I didn't want to think about.

"After dinner, dad's going to take us over to Amy's," I noted as I worked. "Her mom knows we're coming, but not why, exactly."

"Okay," Taylor said softly. I could tell that she was nervous about talking to an adult about this, but we needed to understand our options.

Personally, I was the kind of coward that would hide away forever if I could, but that wasn't really an option anymore. I was responsible for Taylor, and I was going to make sure she didn't do something dumb. Amy, too, while I was at it. I couldn't remember what she'd done to get into so much trouble the last time, but I was pretty sure I could help her, too. I just really hoped that someone could help me not be so dumb, too.

As someone pointed out in a comment, last chapter didn't really end with the appropriate amount of trauma for trigger events. That was because they were in shock. Here, we see the shock wearing off. Plus Madison has some lingering trauma from her other life that's messing with her, too.
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Author-san, are you going to make Madison, Amy and Taylor have a Kill/Kiss dynamic since they had their trigger event together?
06 Now Kith
What's the Frequency, Madison?

The fairly limited texting I had done with Amy Dallon had been awkward. I definitely didn't want to admit to having powers over a conversation that was being recorded under my name on a cell phone provider system somewhere, and there was only so much apologizing I could do for being high as a kite during the fighting. That left fewer topics than I would have liked.

In person, things were awkward for different reasons. One of those was that Glory Girl was hovering - both literally and figuratively. She insisted that we call her Victoria since she wasn't in costume or anything, but that didn't mean we needed her intruding when we really needed to have a private talk.

"So, Amy never mentioned how the three of you met…" the blond said sweetly. We were piled into Amy's room, which was smaller than I imagined but quite a bit bigger than mine. There was a little bench in front of the window with a disheveled pile of stuffed animals beside it that Taylor and I claimed while Amy sat on the bed. The animals had most likely lived on the bench until just before we arrived and Amy realized her lack of seating options.

The Dallons were securely middle class, which was something of a rarity in the Bay. They lived in a modest four bedroom house in one of the old 'nice' parts of town which was now much faded after more and more people with the means fled to the safer suburbs. It was a lot nicer than where I lived - and where I assumed Taylor lived - but it certainly wasn't a sign of the kind of wealth that 'lawyer' conjured up in my mind.

It was kind of sad that little things like street lights that all still worked and a general lack of burned out cars on the side of the roads was all it took to mark it as a good part of town. That was just the way urban decay worked, though.

"No, I didn't." Amy rejoined. It was a complete sentence the way she said it and we stayed quiet as we watched the interplay between the two sisters.

"So, how did you three meet?" Victoria asked as though that was the perfectly natural thing to ask after having her previous angle shut down. Amy looked like she was going to double down, but I decided to defuse the situation as best I could. I didn't know what was going on between the sisters, but Amy looked exhausted and frazzled.

"It was at the mall. We shared a hiding spot during the fighting. She took care of my broken nose and checked out what happened to Taylor." It was nice and neutral and true, after a sense.

"Oh, shit, I'm sorry. I think I remember you now. I was… distracted at the time," she said sheepishly. She'd been distracted with the whole 'dying from a gunshot wound' thing, as I remembered it. "Oh, wait, were you with her when she took out those two guys?"

"We helped," I declared. This had been a very minor topic in our text exchanges. Amy was claiming 'credit' for knocking those two guys out to hide the fact that we had powers. If she was going to be 'out' that would take the attention off of us. Taylor hadn't cared since our role had been minor in the grand scheme of things, and she was still afraid of having her dad find out before she was ready to tell him. "One of them didn't see me and totally tripped over me. He fell flat on his face."

"A win is a win," she said and gave me an exaggerated wink and a cheesy thumbs-up.

"We're going to talk for a bit before Carol gets home," Amy declared and pointedly looked toward the door.

"What are we talking about?" Victoria asked innocently. I couldn't tell if she was trying to be a jerk, was worried about leaving her sister alone with us, if she was just teasing her sister, or if it was multiple of those at the same time.

"The three of us are going to talk. Without you," Amy clarified, emphasizing the second word.

"Alright, alright. Just scream if they try to murder you," Victoria held her hands up in surrender and left. Amy shut the door behind her and turned the little locking knob which was almost certainly more symbolic than functional with a super strong sister involved.

"Sorry, she's been… I think there's something about invulnerable capes that get hurt. They take it really, really personally, and she hasn't wanted to let me out of her sight since then." Amy collapsed back on the edge of her bed.

"I think she's worried about you," I said, still looking at the closed door.

"Yeah, but it's still annoying. I'd almost take Carol-" she stopped, her eyes closing as she took a deep breath. "Never mind. I'm just tired. You didn't come here to listen to me bitch."

Taylor and I shared a look and stood up together. We stepped closer to Amy and separated a bit. "Can we hug you?" It was a sudden urge, but it felt right.

For a moment, Amy looked confused, but then nodded stiffly. The pair or us settled on either side and arms shuffled around for a moment before we found something comfortable.

It was nice. Tension I didn't even know I had seemed to flow out of my body as the three of us hugged each other. It felt warm and safe and wonderful. I almost melted into the girl beside me. The girl I had talked to for maybe five minutes in my life.

"This isn't normal," I said after I started to realize exactly how strange this situation was. I didn't release the hug.

"I'm aware," Amy noted from beside me as she also made no move to disentangle herself. "I've been researching and… apparently mental changes are common with multiple-triggers."

"Multiple-triggers?" Taylor asked from the other side.

"Yeah, sometimes, when multiple people get powers at the same time, they get kind of mixed up. The big obvious thing is the multiple powers," Amy noted. "But there are a bunch of studies that indicate that there are some mental changes, too. Mostly it's weird bullshit like a nonsmoker suddenly getting a craving for cigarettes while the heavy smoker suddenly doesn't care anymore. Most of them are pretty benign, but there are enough important changes for the studies to claim it's statistically significant."

"I don't have multiple powers," Taylor said, but I had a feeling she was just trying to distract herself from the scarier possibilities. I wasn't exactly eager to think that one, either. "Not that I've experimented much."

I could feel Amy shift beside me and I found myself nuzzling into mousy brown hair. "Sometimes they're really distinct - like my sudden ability to mess with people's insides and the disintegration thing - and sometimes it's more subtle. Sometimes, it's just that one person's power gets some tweaks because of the others. Sometimes, there are more powers than people - at least, as far as anyone knows. It's only a tiny fraction of parahumans that get this kind of thing so it's all case studies and anecdotes."

Amy really could use some of whatever conditioner Taylor used. Her hair wasn't quite as fine as mine so it had some potential, but I had a feeling she didn't take as much care of it as she could. It smelled nice, though.

I froze and very carefully stood up.

"I think we can worry about the powers later. I'm… I…" I stared at the other two as I lost my ability to form coherent words. They looked like they were pretty close to each other. Like, 'we're about to make out' close.

As I stared, they seemed to realize it, too, and split apart.

The three of us spread out as much as we comfortably could.

"Well, it could be worse?" Amy offered weakly after a moment of awkward silence. "At least whatever it is appears to want us to be… friendly?"

"There are other options?" Taylor asked, her voice somewhat distant as she wrestled with whatever she was feeling. I was having to remind myself that no, I didn't want to fall into a cuddle puddle with those two right now. Taylor was somewhat understandable - I had been obsessed with her for years in the future - but I had only just met Amy and knew almost nothing about her.

"Yeah, something like half of the clusters studied had at least one attempted murder within the first year of the triggering event. The… opposite was only like a quarter."

"It's… manageable," I said. "I'm upset about the fact that I'm not upset about how natural it feels, but that's… It still feels natural."

Taylor sighed heavily and I could see something shift. There was a signal that I hadn't picked out before, a faint thing back behind the normal noise of reality that radiated from each of us and stretched to the other two. There was a ripple in the signal and suddenly I felt a bit of pressure release as it faded away.

"What did you do?" I asked, staring at her. Amy looked at me and then seemed to realize that something had changed as well.

"I just… thought really hard about how it was too much? That we were going to be good friends, but pushing us together so hard was actually going to make it more difficult for us to work together? I don't know what happened after that." Taylor seemed just as confused by it as the rest of us.

I tried to relax and look at the other two in turn. I still felt a confusing mix of emotions with Taylor - but that was nothing new. I had a generally positive feeling toward Amy, but it no longer felt like I was being forced toward her like I had before. I couldn't find that signal anywhere in the background noise.

"So… do you think that it's a hidden master power or something else?" I asked in confusion. Neither one seemed like a great option. "I could see it, but only after it started to go away. Maybe I just didn't know what to look for, but whatever that was, it's gone now. I'm pretty sure I'll know if it comes back."

Amy nodded from her side of the room. "That's good. Great, even. I, ah, I still feel like you two are great and everything but it's a lot more… normal now."

"But… what the hell was that?" I asked nervously. "It wasn't just from one person. It was like we were all three radiating it toward each other."

"I can research more," Amy offered. "Twinned powers happen, too, but they're usually treated as separate from multiple-triggers. Or it could be something else entirely. There are all sorts of theories about powers and where they come from. There are too many data points that point to some sort of intelligence behind them to dismiss the possibility entirely. Maybe… maybe you asked the intelligence and it agreed?"

Scion. I remembered the golden light. The devastation. Scion was supposedly the source of all powers and maybe he was the one Taylor had just - for lack of a better word - prayed to. Why would he want us to work together, though? It didn't make sense, but none of this made sense.

Compared to the other timeline, Taylor seemed to have a more potent power. She'd done something huge last time that no one would talk about. Some people I had talked to hated her for it. Some had respected her. Some had just been sad, but it had always been short on details. How someone with bug control - even if she was the equivalent of a Biblical plague - could do something to help win against the creature that had all of the powers, I had no idea, but she had.

Panacea had been a big deal last time, too, but she hadn't been able to disintegrate inorganic matter with a touch. It seemed almost like a strategic upgrade so that physical barriers could no longer stop her from touching you. That implied a degree of intelligence in the selection of powers.

As for me, I wasn't a Tinker anymore, but I hadn't ever really explored my Tinker powers in that other timeline. I built one thing - which was admittedly amazingly impressive considering that it had managed to successfully send my memories back in time several years - and it was far beyond any other accomplishment I'd heard of in Tinkertech. My powers were definitely different now, but they still seemed to deal with fundamental forces in a way that seemed like it would turn out to be at least as strong as it had been before.

Something - Scion or something similar - was watching over us and that was too terrifying to say out loud. What made it even worse was that knowing was almost useless because we didn't understand why we were being pushed together. Was it to our benefit? Our detriment? Without more information, it wouldn't help anything to worry about it.

"Unless we can figure out a way to test it, I'm not sure that it matters right now," I suggested in order to divert the conversation. I really didn't want to have an existential crisis on top of everything else. "As long as it stops trying to play matchmaker, we can play along until we know more. I don't… I won't object to having another good friend."

Amy blushed lightly and nodded. "Yeah, that's… I guess that's alright. I don't have any reason to doubt your motives - I know Madison wasn't faking at the mall and Taylor isn't a good enough actor to pull that off."

I laughed lightly as I caught sight of Taylor's pout. Again I found myself trying to match the mental image of my friend Taylor and the terrifying Warlord Skitter I had heard so much about and coming up short. How had that even happened? Had the bullying we had done really changed her that much? That thought sobered me up and I stopped laughing. "We should, ah, we should talk about what we want to ask your mom. Maybe you have some ideas we've missed. I think we should tell our parents, but I don't want to just drop it on them and let them decide. I kind of want to know what our choices are before we do that."

Amy nodded, looking relieved to be talking about absolutely anything else. "Aunt Sarah runs New Wave, but mom does more of the advocacy stuff. I'm the third New Wave kid to trigger, so it's kind of assumed that I'm going to join the team, but you two are in a really different situation."

With the conversation on a much safer topic, we talked for another half hour or so before Carol showed up.

Shards are bad at people-ing. Shards are like "I want you guys to work together really closely, so..." mashes faces together "get to doing gross biological things or something."
Sooo... I don't know if you did an info post or maybe I accidentally skimmed over the part of the story that explained it and missed it, but what even is Taylor's power? Mad's is Stilling, Amy's is upgraded Shaper, but all I remember Taylor doing is using Amy's power, which... is a really normal thing for clusters? So what's her actual, genuine, belongs-to-her power that isn't a result of cluster mechanics?
Sooo... I don't know if you did an info post or maybe I accidentally skimmed over the part of the story that explained it and missed it, but what even is Taylor's power? Mad's is Stilling, Amy's is upgraded Shaper, but all I remember Taylor doing is using Amy's power, which... is a really normal thing for clusters? So what's her actual, genuine, belongs-to-her power that isn't a result of cluster mechanics?
I don't even get what Mad's power is supposed to be.
I don't even get what Mad's power is supposed to be.
It's Stilling. You know, Scion's golden light of entropy? Except, the golden light is literally just a cosmetic that he adds to it in order to better fit the crafted image of a deific figure. The squiggles and lines that Mad's sees are entropy, and by twisting them further or flatlining them totally she can increase entropy (her causing the plastic brush to spontaneously combust) or reduce it to nothing and completely stop said object from changing in any way from how it currently is. Hence, "Stilling". She would have to actively or passively maintain that object at zero entropy for it to stay that way though, because the very nature of entropy means that as other things and forces interact with it, it would gain some of their entropy the same way heat transfers to areas of low heat.
It's Stilling. You know, Scion's golden light of entropy? Except, the golden light is literally just a cosmetic that he adds to it in order to better fit the crafted image of a deific figure. The squiggles and lines that Mad's sees are entropy, and by twisting them further or flatlining them totally she can increase entropy (her causing the plastic brush to spontaneously combust) or reduce it to nothing and completely stop said object from changing in any way from how it currently is. Hence, "Stilling". She would have to actively or passively maintain that object at zero entropy for it to stay that way though, because the very nature of entropy means that as other things and forces interact with it, it would gain some of their entropy the same way heat transfers to areas of low heat.

Now I'm reading stilling, then looking to my left (specifically the Wheel of Times book series sitting at a bit over arm's length from me). Seriously, stilling really makes me think of that series, I know the meaning in there is way different, but I can't help to
I don't even get what Mad's power is supposed to be.
It gets explored more in the story. At the start, it kind of hits her with a sensory overload whammy like canon Taylor suffered from.

You know, Scion's golden light of entropy?
Scion uses it that way, but it does a lot more than just entropy. Basically, anything with a wavelength can be manipulated (including the bonds between molecules). Thermal energy, powers, anything. Hero used the same shard to be a virtually unlimited Tinker, which is why I assume it doesn't just turn stuff down.
Really enjoying this so far, partially because of my shipping goggles and mostly because peggy-sues are a deep guilty pleasure. This specific mix of such is basically Taylor-made for my enjoyment.

Also, Madison's shard being Stilling is just hilarious to me. Like, it makes me think that it just jettisoned itself off of Scion's corpse after he died thinking "holy moly, that was totally rad. I got to fight so many powers and got so much data, woohoo! Now I just gotta show it to Dad." Then Stilly zips back into the past.

Or, considering how much shards seem to imprint on their Hosts in Ward, it might have genuinely wanted to change things. Of course, Madison wants to help Taylor because she feels guilty, but Stilly might just want to help Queen because the aftermath of 'The Most Epic Battle Ever' led to the Titans, which was unideal. So Stilly goes back in time to help Queen get a cleaner victory, and presumably set up a more friendly QMHub for shards.

Shards in Ward: "This sucks. I keep killing my hosts."
Stilling: "Listen guys, I have a plan."
*Stilling has left the server*
Stilling: "Alright guys, here's the plan."
Shaper: "Literally who?"
Queen: *Happily breaking all the rules to make Taylor safer*
Scion uses it that way, but it does a lot more than just entropy. Basically, anything with a wavelength can be manipulated (including the bonds between molecules). Thermal energy, powers, anything. Hero used the same shard to be a virtually unlimited Tinker, which is why I assume it doesn't just turn stuff down.
Well, to be fair, "anything with a wavelength" is pretty much encompassed under entropy as a concept. Entropy isn't just the ability to do Work, it's also the distribution of energy. It's not just the distribution of energy, it's heat. It's not just heat, it's light. It's not just all of those things, it's the particles that are intrinsic to those phenomenon and etc., etc. Entropy basically encompasses everything that falls under that description. I gave the very barest of bare bones explanation of Mad's power because that is both the most direct and understandable explanation to a layman and also the limit of what Mad's has used it for so far.

In reality, the statement "but it does a lot more than just entropy" should be flipped to "but it does a lot more than just manipulating wavelengths", it's just that manipulating wavelengths narrows down "entropy" into a relatively much easier to understand scope. Manipulating wavelengths is more or less just an emergent property of manipulating entropy.
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Yeah Taylor getting Power Copying from QA is quite logical considering who the other two Shards in the mix are, jury-rigged communications from Stilling and understanding of Gemmas from Shaper. The Only Shard more fitting would have been Broadcast and that leads a very different fic which the community has seen a few iterations of.
That went surprisingly better than expected, but Amy and Taylor both are in better headspaces now than they would have been. I'm definitely looking forward to learning their plans!
Whoops, missed an update. Yeah, that was better.

Madison gets to identify Taylor's distrust of her father. Victoria's issue with being not invulnerable.
Even Amy being worn out, if not specifically as such.

But maybe not the new flaws she has gained. Inclination of distrust of authority? Or is that picked up from Taylor like what Amy mentions?

Odd that just hugging Taylor didn't trigger the Kith, buuut the two are already hanging out together - additional motive is only really needed for Amy.

(I expect Sophia casually messing with people's lockers is going to bite someone. But it was't Taylor, so who? Could place letter "from Madison" to someone's else's belonging.)

Speaking of which, the fact that Taylor could just casually do this adjustment, when before even vague feelings with passengers were late-story things, suggests the shards are taking more active role here.
Well, at least QA is, and if QA is so is Madison's. No idea about Shaper, but at the very least that suggests seeing more 'unprompted power usage in future'. I suspect Taylor always being able to copy Shaper/Stilling despite distance is what she gets from cluster.

You've written Victoria as somewhat socially oblivious. That's neat to see, don't really see that much before. Hints that being year and half younger than canon matters in skills learned.

The ultimate resolution here is satisfying, but short-lived if they don't stick together. If they go to separate teams now shards gonna get snippy.
Amy blushed lightly and nodded. "Yeah, that's… I guess that's alright. I don't have any reason to doubt your motives - I know Madison wasn't faking at the mall and Taylor isn't a good enough actor to pull that off."
But just how does she know that? Timetraveler from another non-canon timeline?
07 Lawyer'd
"So, in summary," Carol Dallon said as she wound down from our rather lengthy discussion of the possibilities. "I agree that you need to tell your parents, and I want to emphasize that you should not, under any circumstances, attempt to 'fight crime' without the support of an appropriate team. The risks are simply too high for it to be worthwhile."

I fidgeted nervously. We had been a bit vague about the situation - leaving out the whole 'our multiple trigger make us into snuggly bunnies but also maybe mind controlled us' thing - but Ms. Dallon was a font of useful information, anyway. She'd even agreed to term our meeting as a consultation, which would attach some attorney-client privilege to it in the unlikely event that such a thing would be useful in the future.

"In the Bay, there aren't a lot of appropriate teams for teenagers to join, unfortunately. I assume that since you had the good sense to talk to me before doing anything, you aren't considering a life of crime, which cuts the possibilities to just two. Of those, New Wave isn't a good fit for a number of reasons, the big one being that we don't have the resources or skills required to keep our member's identities secure. While most capes won't target a hero in their private life or go after their families, that is just a social convention. The truth is that some capes will do that and worse as long as they think they can get away with it, or they are the type that doesn't care about the ramifications of getting caught."

I remembered that New Wave had lost someone a few years back. A sister, maybe? The story I had heard was that Kaiser himself had killed the guy as a peace offering afterward, but Carol was right. Even if it was true, Kaiser had only done that much after they'd gone to all-out war against his cronies, and even then, killing that guy hadn't really fixed anything. No amount of retaliation brought back a lost loved one, and I didn't want to think about what I'd do if mom or dad got caught up in this mess because of me.

"There are a few small mercenary outfits that might be options, but parahuman mercenary work isn't exactly legal in the first place. Add to that the fact that the kinds of people that hire mercenaries usually don't want you doing good things and you can see why I don't recommend that, either. Any group that would hire teenagers… well, it's just a bad idea to put yourselves into that position. Nothing good will come of it and you'll just end up right back in the government's hands but under worse circumstances."

Carol sighed and took a drink from the sparkling water she'd opened when she sat down at the desk in her study for this talk. "That leaves the only real option that's workable - in the Bay, at least - that being to join the Wards." It almost seemed like it pained Carol to admit that fact. "New Wave works with the Protectorate and Wards on occasion, and while they have a lot of restrictions on what they can do, they are generally very competent at their jobs. It is far and away the safest option and they take the protection of identities very seriously. More importantly, they have the resources and skills to actually allow you to function while maintaining two identities."

"What if we don't want to use our powers?" Taylor asked. The question surprised me after what I knew about other-Taylor, but it made more sense when she clarified. "Or, I mean, what if we don't use our powers to fight people?"

Carol considered that question for a moment. "Well, there are two questions there, so let's break them down. Having powers means being constantly tempted to use them. I know you said that Taylor copied Amy's powers at the mall… and if you knew that you could help people in an emergency by doing it again, would you really pass up that opportunity? The level of responsibility you are showing by coming to me for advice leads me to believe that you likely couldn't."

Taylor and I shared a look. "You're right," I admitted. As attractive as it sounded to just forget about the whole thing, I didn't think I could hide under a rock if I could really help in an emergency. I remembered those days right after Leviathan in the other timeline, before my parents and I had moved away, and I would have had to help out if I could have.

"That's the first question answered, and I think you're being honest with yourselves by admitting that you will end up using your powers on at least some occasions. The second question is whether you can keep your power use to a minimum and not endanger yourselves. In the Bay, there are always groups looking to recruit capes, and some of them won't take 'no' for an answer. Whatever you decide to do would have to be far enough removed from your real identities that Thinkers couldn't put the pieces together… and Thinkers are annoyingly good at doing just that."

"What about if we became rogues? People that use their powers to make and sell stuff and don't fight?" I asked. Parian had yet to open up her shop in this timeline, but I remembered her as being pretty alright. I think she'd ended up a minor warlord in the aftermath of Leviathan, but the list of capes that didn't do that was pretty short.

"Unfortunately, there are a number of laws that make it difficult to use powers for commercial purposes. It isn't absolute, but the only way to be entirely safe from lawsuits is to sell your services to the government as a contractor, which has many of the drawbacks and few of the benefits of directly joining a Protectorate or Wards team." She sighed heavily and sat back. "Even New Wave has to jump through a number of hoops so that we can accept donations, including some restrictions on what we can volunteer to do for free."

I frowned. "That sounds like a mess."

Carol nodded. "It is a mess. My advice is that you should talk to your parents and then have them talk to me about your next steps. You shouldn't just march down to the PRT building and ask to sign up if you want a good deal. There is a lot of room for negotiation, so long as you don't do anything stupid and need to make criminal charges disappear. They have a lot of leeway in the specifics of the contracts, and I'm sure that you can find something you can live with."


"Everything okay?" Amy asked when we were finally free of the lawyer's den. She seemed more anxious than she probably should have been, but I had picked up on some in-family tension earlier that probably had something to do with it. It was also possibly related to the whole mind control thing from earlier. Being Mastered was disconcerting, even if it was presumably our own powers doing it.

I nodded. "Yeah, your mom basically wants us to join the Wards."

Amy sighed a little. "I had kind of hoped she'd have a way for you to join New Wave…"

My heart fluttered slightly but I forced the feeling down. I didn't feel like I was being forced to have a thing for her, but the lingering affection it had left behind was a little annoying. "This is like being in an arranged marriage," I blurted as soon as the thought popped into my head like an idiot.

Amy went still and then slowly nodded. "Yeah, I guess it is. Kinda."

"At least it's better than trying to kill each other, right?" Taylor chimed in, and it was a good point. This wasn't the best situation but there were positive aspects to it. It certainly could have been worse.

"Do you ladies need a ride home?" Victoria interrupted as she stepped into the room and jingled a set of keys at us annoyingly.

"I think Taylor's dad is coming to get them in a bit," Amy returned and waved her sister off.

"Aw," Victoria pouted as she pocketed the keys. "You ruin all of my fun."

Amy let out a heavy sigh and turned back to us like her sister wasn't even there. "Someone just hit the six month mark on her license and now she can have other teenagers in the car with her. She's been dying to subject more people to her driving for the last few weeks."

"Is it bad?" I asked Amy, also ignoring Victoria which earned an indignant squawk from her.

"She drives exactly like someone that spends most of her time invulnerable and flying."

Taylor giggled at the description and I had to try hard not to laugh, too.

"She's exaggerating. I am a very safe and conscientious driver and I look forward to helping my dear younger sister learn when she is of age." Victoria could pull off indignation very well. "In any case, how did your meeting with mom go? Care to clue me in on the big secret?"

Amy seemed to weigh the possibility for a moment, then turned to Taylor and me again. "If you want to tell her, it's probably fine. She's good at keeping a secret, despite appearances."

I looked at Taylor who shrugged at me. After a second's hesitation, I nodded. My talk with Glory Girl had been a very important event in my last life, and I knew she wasn't as vapid as she appeared on the surface. In fact, my future-conversation with her had indicated that she was extremely mature and responsible, no matter her reputation. In just a few short interactions with her in the present time, I had decided that people most likely mistook her enthusiasm for a lack of intelligence, when it really wasn't.

"Let's go to my room for a bit of privacy," Amy said after another brief hesitation.

No sooner was the door closed than Victoria demanded, "Alright, talk!"

"Ah, well, we said we met each other at the mall on Saturday, right?" I started before Taylor could get started. I figured that I'd be able to give a more concise version. "When Amy got her powers, we got powers, too. We took those two gang members out together - though my only contribution really was that one of them tripped over me. My powers were pretty disorienting at first - they still are, but I'm coping better."

Victoria gave an emphatic nod. "That was my first guess, anyway. You guys aren't very good at hiding the fact that something is up… and really, this is the least bad thing it could have been, considering you wanted to meet with Mom." I didn't entirely follow what she was hinting at, but it was probably either criminal or dirty. Or both. Victoria wasn't done talking, either. "So, what are your powers? Are you going to join New Wave? Join the Wards?"

"I can copy powers," Taylor said, breaking in. "I've only copied Amy's so far, and that was kind of an accident, but it seems to work pretty well. There are… probably a bunch of rules to it that I don't understand, yet."

Victoria's jaw dropped. "Even if it's really restrictive, that's a big deal. Power copiers aren't the rarest thing in the world, but they're still pretty rare. Being able to copy a healing power like Amy's just makes it even better." She looked in my direction and raised an eyebrow.

"I'm not actually sure, to be honest. I can… see all sorts of forces and manipulate them as long as they aren't inside people. I tried messing with a few the other day and set a hair clip on fire so I'm resisting the temptation to practice in case one of the things I can affect makes things explode. I can also do the disintegration thing." I had a feeling I was underselling exactly how vast the forces I could control were, but I really was afraid to touch them without taking some serious safety precautions.

"Disintegration thing?" Victoria asked and I made the mistake of looking at Amy. She grimaced.

"Yeah, I might have left that out," Amy declared and picked up a stubby wooden pencil from her desk. "Behold…"

Over the course of half a second, the pencil turned gray and floated away as particles of dust that faded into nothing within another half second. This time, I was in my right headspace and saw exactly what Amy did to accomplish it. Those forces were definitely things I could control.

"I thought your-" Victoria started.

Amy cut her off. "We're a multiple-trigger. A cluster. It's where you get a bunch of powers kind of spread around several people. Each person usually gets a primary power and then some weaker ones that correspond to what the others get. Maybe. It's pretty rare from what I was able to find on the Internet, and it varies a lot between cases."

Victoria nodded. "Ah, I see. So you all got extra stuff, too?"

I nodded. "I can heal fast. I don't know how fast, but it fixed my broken nose at the mall. I also poked myself with a needle and it closed right up, too, but that was mostly just to confirm that it was still there."

Taylor was less certain. "I haven't noticed anything else, yet, but Amy says that they can be subtle. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually."

"Oh, wait, you copy powers, right? Want to copy mine?" Victoria asked, suddenly excited again.

"Ah… sure?" Taylor said, not sure how to deal with enthusiasm on that front. I'd expected capes to be more territorial, but maybe that wasn't going to be universal?

Fics are all over the place on the subject of capes and secret identities. Most of them just kind of hand-wave it and assume that a couple of teenagers can stick on domino masks, patrol in a circle around their home, and no one will ever suspect anything if they don't get unmasked in a fight or something. Some go the entirely opposite angle. This story doesn't take an extreme take either way, but it does try to realistically point out what the options would be. New Wave, for instance, hasn't tried to maintain secret identities in a decade and really doesn't know how to do it for teenagers. That really just leaves 'going independent' and 'Wards' as options and there's no way a lawyer is going to recommend illegal vigilantism as the best course of action.
That really just leaves 'going independent' and 'Wards' as options and there's no way a lawyer is going to recommend illegal vigilantism as the best course of action.[/spoiler]
... except vigilantism is explicitly not illegal in canon. It's looked down upon by the government teams but vigilante laws were adjusted for heroic parahumans to be able to fight the villains since the villains way outnumber them in the first place.
... except vigilantism is explicitly not illegal in canon. It's looked down upon by the government teams but vigilante laws were adjusted for heroic parahumans to be able to fight the villains since the villains way outnumber them in the first place.
Is it? Or is it a matter of like the prohibition where on paper it's still illegal, but it is largely unenforced?
Is it? Or is it a matter of like the prohibition where on paper it's still illegal, but it is largely unenforced?
There's no "largely" about it. IF it was somehow still illegal on paper, it does not matter, because it is entirely unenforced at all, everywhere. Brandish herself wouldn't actually say anything against it either because the BBB was also a team of vigilantes back in the day. If it was still "illegal", it would be so in the same way it is to play Scrabble while waiting for a politician to speak in Connecticut. Yes, I'm not joking, that is technically a thing.

But yeah, no, vigilantism isn't illegal in the Wormverse. Even with vigilante heroes, heroes are outnumbered. If they tried making that shit illegal, the public would likely literally kill the politician trying to do so. Instead, the government frowns upon it and looks for slip ups in order to pressure them into joining ranks under government oversight like what was supposed to happen with Sophia.
But yeah, no, vigilantism isn't illegal in the Wormverse.
I'll buy that. I'll also buy that it's one of those things where it is legal but it's so easy for your specific actions to be considered illegal that vigilantes basically function only so long as the government allows it.

Basically, you can legally do X, but if you piss off the wrong person, they'll find a way to claim that your version of X is actually illegal for reasons. I can't imagine that the Worm-verse is any better about that than the real world.

There's also the whole "you have to figure out how to product your identities and earn money on your own" aspect of it.
What Carol didn't answer is why aren't Victoria and Amy in the wards. Or New Wave exists at all, really.
Public identities, sure, but I'm noticing she's downplaying mercenary and business options too.
Especially odd when professionals have a tendency to expect the average person to know more about the basics of their field.
(Also, ironically: Carol: "The wards can totally protect your identity from Thinkers." Coil, E88, etc.: "You don't need to be a thinker to have eyes in place." - The wards would be guaranteed leak, after all.)

Though the bit about how to keep safe from lawsuits suggests it is the government doing the suing.
Curious, that, seems like an own goal. Not that wormverse doesn't have few of those.

+Get told you should go to Wards & shouldn't sign the first contract possible.
-Carol and Victoria Dallon now know your identity, and the former would break into your home.

More minuses than plusses, really, considering Madison expects Taylor to go supervillain.
Anyway, her missing the whole reason Panacea went to birdcage makes her not realize that the two years spent introspective was hugely important for arrival of Antares.
We've already had a hint that Glory Girl is missing some of what that silver lining gained her. Oblivious time traveller is quite the rare combination - dare I even say, novel in this fandom afaik.

Vicky driving is amusing, heh. I imagine she wants a flymate, especially when she doesn't know Brandish shot the New Wave down.
Of course, I now wonder how much she knows about cluster triggers. It might be that Carol is trying to keep her family away from the mess here.
(Also, ironically: Carol: "The wards can totally protect your identity from Thinkers." Coil, E88, etc.: "You don't need to be a thinker to have eyes in place." - The wards would be guaranteed leak, after all.)
It's less "protect identities from tinkers" and more "protect identities by threat of extreme retaliation" (though "protecting the identities from non-thinkers and lower-end thinkers" is still an importsnt aspect as well). Also I really doubt that E88 know identities of Wards, this kind would be heavily compartmentalized on need-to-know basis, and people who know it would be under much heavier scrutiny.
But yeah, no, vigilantism isn't illegal in the Wormverse.
Neither is it illegal in RL. The issue (in RL) is that
1)It's very easy to go beyond what is legally permitted when performing a citizen's arrest.
2)You do not have legal protection from lawsuits that cops enjoy when acting in good faith.

There's no reason to believe those issues aren't also true in Worm, and while 2 is partially mitigated by cape identities, the end result is still that no responsible lawyer would advise a client to go that route unless they had no other choice.
What Carol didn't answer is why aren't Victoria and Amy in the wards.
There are probably a lot of factors involved. For one, they're already targets for people trying to get at their parents, so them being known capes actually makes them more safe. For another, having them in the Wards would essentially hand over a huge amount of influence on New Wave to the government, something they don't want. There are probably other reasons, too, but those are the ones off the top of my head.

Though the bit about how to keep safe from lawsuits suggests it is the government doing the suing.
Ah, are you familiar with the (extremely stupid) concept of Qualified Immunity in US law? It basically says that if a law enforcement officer does something horrible and illegal, they cannot be sued unless a court has previously ruled in a very similar case that they cannot do that? Certainly, you can sue their boss (the police department), but you can't sue them as individual. Add on to that the fact that prosecutors are very biased toward cops and often don't prosecute them for blatantly illegal actions, and that's kind of the same situation here.

You have two heroes that screw up and get a bunch of people killed. If it's a vigilante, they are going to get sued and very well may get criminal charges. If it's a Protectorate cape, they're probably going to get reassigned and some administrative penalties while the Protectorate settles the lawsuits.

Also I really doubt that E88 know identities of Wards
Probably not, and even if they did, messing with them is the kind of thing that gets the Triumvirate to make a visit to your city and remove your gang from existence.

I don't even recall Coil messing with them, but I may just not be remembering that.

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