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Weaver of the Dead.

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Taylor didn't survive her first night.

Ill equipped, unprepared and outgunned, she's forced into a confrontation with Lung and Loses.

Badly.

Armsmaster comes across the scene in time to see her die and avenges her death with the capture of Lung.

But with the Death of her mortal body, her Master power takes on a whole new level as she's saved, at least in mind, by the swarm. Strung out across all the bugs she was controlling at the time of her death she's unheard and unseen, trapped in the hive consciousness...

That might have been the end of it had something truly strange not happened as a result.

Armsmaster could see her.

Visible to the only other person present at the exact time of her death, something in her had reached out to him, anchoring to his mind and leaving the ghost.

The Older Hero honestly thought that he was going insane, the guilt catching up to him as the specter of his failure hung in the air around him at all times. Blank, vacant, like a puppet that had been left strung in the window frame waiting to be picked up again. No one could sense her presence, hell, not even dragon's most advanced and refined sensors couldn't tell she was there....

Colin told no one.

Who would believe him?

 

-----

 

By the time the ghost gained some semblance of consciousness the incident had been put from most people's minds as a sad ending to a hopeful youth.

A picture of the girl had been released, hoping someone would come forward and tell them who Lung's victim was. The answer came in the form of a Distraught Danny Hebert who yelled and screamed until he was sedated in the PRT headquaters. A discreet scan before the body had been taken and interred told them that the girl had been a parahuman.... but what abilities she'd had remained a mystery.

Clearly, Daniel Hebert hadn't known, and no one had told him in the end, allowing him to think that his daughter had died a victim in a more mundane way then outing her and ruining the memory.... after all, the only one who might ever know what Armsmaster himself... and telling anyone how he knew would get him laughed out as crazy.

He'd unmasked himself to the ghost. After all, who possibly could she tell? He'd become comfortable with her presence in his life. The specter a constant companion that floated by his side at all times.

 

-----

 

He knew the moment the specter woke up, because he could feel her gaze. Constantly.

She watched him fixedly for two solid weeks and in that time he had to learn to live with her all over again. She turned her back when he needed privacy, watched his surroundings with a vauge eye, but she watched him the most. Silent and unrelenting.

He wondered if she hated him.

But he spoke to her. In the privacy of his workshop, during the weeks that had lead up to her awakening he'd talked to himself, or at her ghost, telling her about the day he had, the breakthroughs he'd made, about the people that he met and interacted with, his progress against the villains. His complaints and aggravations with his power, with Piggot, with his responsibilities.

He supposed by the end of the first two weeks, she knew even more about him than even dragon.

 

-----

 

He didn't have an inkling as to what her power had been though, until the bugs started to show up.

A fly here, a roach where it shouldn't be, and a spider in his workshop that had surprisingly refused to die.

It was on a dark night, pursuing Bakuda while other sections of the protectorate did a sweep for the ABB that the bugs gathered en masse and pointed the way to the tinker, allowing him to capture her and disable her bombs at the last second.

The action of the swarm of bugs had saved his life more than once in the night and he realized, that whatever the story behind his ghost.... she had his back.

He wondered if this was what it felt like to have a partner... to have a friend.

So when he asked what he'd call her, to credit the capture too along side himself, he was surprised to find a response waiting for him in his workshop. The spider in the corner of the room having spelled out the word 'WEAVER'.

It was a surprised audience of the internet that noted that the capture of the mad bomber was credited to Armsmaster and his new partner The Mysterious Weaver.

Rumors started after that.

 

-----

 

People slowly noticed the bugs. At first he'd got so many jokes about his smell, mostly from Ethan. People thought he was just going bug crazy, that he'd finally cracked. He found new bugs for his ghost, and the ghost improved in leaps and bounds. He made a computer that could be controlled by the movement of insects and set up a voice synth program and for the first time he got to hear the ghost actually speak.

*"Thank you"*

Her first words were a thanks. For giving her a voice at last.

She told him her story. It was slow going as she learned to use the device, they spent an entire night tweaking and tampering until she could speak almost as fluently as a human. She was so clever. Not a tinker, but certainly a thinker. She noticed, saw and even felt, things that went over Colin's head. She saw the bugs eye view of the world, saw everything from within her swarm....

She told him of her childhood, her mother and her death. Of her father before his own passing during her vacant silence, and of her trigger....

It would be a near thing for Shadow Stalker. He was enraged. If the girl hadn't tormented Weaver, she might never have triggered. she would have been safe. She would never have died.... but at the same time Armsmaster might never have met his Best Friend.

So Sophia Hess dodged a bullet only by the virtue of the fact that the deed was already done... but he wouldn't let her get away with it. She would forever be looking over her shoulder for him as he took personal interest in ruining her life in the most mundane, passive aggressive ways he could.

 

-----

 

People noticed the changes in Colin too.

His exposure to Weaver gave him insight. A look into the way people worked. While his truth program never really failed him, the voice of Weaver playing over his headset frequency often gave him context to go with the readings and the number of incidents he found himself involved in dropped dramatically.

So the internet speculated.

And eventually he made a notice that Weaver was indeed his partner. But Weaver was unable to interact with the outside world except for with her powers (not unlike Dragon). It was true enough. Piggot almost hammered him to a stake for not telling her about the Parahuman. For working outside of the PRT with an independent cape.

So he'd introduced her to Weaver's voice computer.

The Director had an odd look on her face as the robotic female voice introduced herself from the form of a crab and then told her she was actually dead.

Unable to comprehend... or maybe unwilling. Emily Piggot had left it alone. She often gave him silent, speculative looks when she thought he wasn't looking. (but Weaver was).

 

-----

 

He went through standard Master/Stranger testing. But was given a clean bill at the end. Weaver stayed with him the entire time. Her ghost silent, her bugs sealed out, but present in a comforting way none the less.

It was during that week of introspection that he'd had time to really think about his relationship with the deceased cape. Although she'd been young when she died, age didn't seem to matter any more to the dead. She was a hive, a mind spread across millions of bodies and brains, made up of a collective conscious of dragonflies, beetles and other invertebrates.

But she was the most human parahuman he'd ever met.

And more than that.

She made him feel the humanity that had been slipping away from him under the never ending calculations of his powers.

But, before he could resolve his thoughts on the topic of his partner the worst came about.

Leviathan attacked.

They fought hard as Brokton Bay went under the waves. Fighting and eventually doing enough damage to drive it away, but not until the message across the armbands that had almost destroyed Colin's world.

*"WEAVER: DECEASED"*

He'd been right behind Leviathan when the notice came and his world had tilted on it's axis. The bugs around him had fallen or flown away, scurrying, uncontrolled, to flee the battle and the raging torrents of water.

At first he'd been in shock, Denial strong, as Miss Millita had found him and shaken him awake. The world had rushed back into a multicolored torrent but the sudden sharp pain in his heart was almost unbearable. Somewhere along the line Weaver had become a constant. A consistent variable that had encouraged his efforts, helped him even when he didn't ask for it. Understood that he didn't always understand and always seemed to know the answer to the human questions that went right over his head.

Grief was a powerful motivator.

And Collin knew, just how Danny Hebert had felt that day, raging in the lobby of the PRT building... he understood the powerful flood of emotion that had driven him to take his own life.

Armsmaster lead the charge. Halberd in hand. Roaring his grief as they finally gained the upper hand and drove the Endbringer away.

It wasn't until he was safely ensconced in his lab that he let himself fall apart over the silent computer and the spider that no longer weaved in the corner.

 

-----

 

The next year was a long one.

It took nearly two months of moping before Colin realized something.

The spider in his Lab was still alive.

Normally it wouldn't have lived so long, even in the environs of his lab, but he'd carefully introduced it to a terrarium and kept it fed. Even before that though, it had been an old spider. But with the realization it was still there came an unexpected flicker of hope....

...and so he began the long hard process of dragging himself out of his rut.

Indeed, it had surprised more than one person when he appeared in the Cafeteria for a lunch period after so long avoiding it. Clockblocker had made an obscene fuss over how he must have been dreaming. In his memory, Weaver would have snorted disercively and commented how he was actually relieved to see him there as much at the red head joked about it.

It was the first thought of his missing companion that didn't hurt.

 

-----

 

Healing was slow. Slower than he even anticipated. Heart's, Hannah said one evening as they sat quietly in the aftermath of a Behemoth attack about six months after the loss, Hearts were the hardest thing to mend. There was no needle and thread, there was no medicine, Panacea or Tinker Machine. They healed the hard way, often leaving parts of themselves behind to find the strength to move the next day.

But it was a year later. As they stood under the Wings of the Simurgh that Colin's patience was finally rewarded...

A truly Gigantic flood of Butterflies filled the air, almost physically acting as a buffer between the defending Heroes of the World and the Smallest Endbringer.

Colin had found himself the perch of dozens of fireflies that spun slow eddies around him in the middle of the battle and he'd been convinced it was a hallucination until the link in his com crackled briefly and fell silent.

But the insects stayed.

And something that had been missing all that time finally clicked back into place.

Buoyant, almost to the point of floating he'd rallied. More of the insects filling the air around him. Dragonflies came close and a control bug that he was intimately familiar with, planted itself firmly onto the side of his visor.

"WEAVER: ACTIVE." His armband chirped via his armor interface and the rush of joy nearly swept him off his feet.

"Lets go..." He murmured. And the Butterflies swarmed the Simurgh.

_______________