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Flesh is Weak

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Friday, Jan. 14th

Carol Dallon sat in her home office, repeatedly tapping the end of her pen on her desk as she read through the notes of her latest case. Even after all her years as both a criminal lawyer, and as the super hero known as Brandish, Carol couldn't help but cringe at the particulars of this case. Several days ago, Taylor Hebert, a teenage girl only a little younger than Carol's own daughters, was found half-dead and mutilated within her school locker.

A preliminary investigation revealed that Taylor had been trapped within her locker the previous day alongside a veritable biohazard consisting of used bathroom trash, namely tampons and sanitary pads, alongside dozens if not hundreds of insects. Despite the fact that several students eventually admitted to seeing the incident occur, no one stepped up to inform any teachers or staff about Taylor's imprisonment.

According to the ER's on-call doctor, he believed that Taylor had broken her left arm and left leg trying to escape, lacerating her limbs, eventually causing her to pass out from pain and blood loss. Now immobile, Taylor was helpless as the insects within began feasting upon her. Infection and eventually sepsis set in from both her wounds and the insect bites. Taylor was left in this condition until she was found the next day by a janitor who smelled something rotting within her locker.

Taylor had arrived in the early morning to Brockton Bay General, early enough that Carol's step-daughter Amy, the world famous healer Panacea, was not there to provide treatment for her. As such, doctors had to treat her the old fashioned way. By the time Taylor was brought in, necrosis had set on her limbs. Both legs and her broken arm had to be amputated, while Taylor's left eye had apparently been eaten out by the bugs. Doctors had also found extensive damage to Taylor's vocal chords, which they surmise occurred due to an infection eating away at the tissue. All in all, Taylor had barely survived her ordeal, and had only come to consciousness this very morning.

Taylor's state prompted a massive investigation by both the police and the PRT. And when confronted by law enforcement officers, many of the bystanders folded and gave up the primary perpetrators, a Madison Clements, Sophia Hess, and Emma Barnes. All three had been arrested and are currently being charged with attempted murder, criminal harassment, and felony assault.

Under most circumstances, Carol would've read about their arrests in the morning paper, snorted at how her fellow lawyer and colleague Alan Barnes apparently raised a sociopath, and gone on with the rest of her day. But when the newspaper was delivered to her home and she read up on the details of what occurred, at how Madison, Sophia, and Emma all but kidnapped and tortured Taylor, Carol couldn't help but feel some internal desire to see the three attackers crucified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

And so, despite the fact that Mr. Daniel "Danny" Hebert had no way of paying her for her services, Carol volunteered to represent both him and Taylor in pressing criminal charges against the girls and against the Brockton Bay School District, only taking a part of the settlement should they win.

With that, Carol had finished reviewing her notes and glanced at the clock. It was currently 7:35 am, and she had planned to meet Danny and Taylor at the hospital along with her daughters at 8 am so they were going to have to leave soon if they wanted to be punctual.

"Girls, are you ready to go?" Carol called out of her door, her powerful voice carrying out her office, down the stairs, to the kitchen below.

"Yeah Mom! We're just finishing up breakfast!" Vicky, her real daughter and super-heroine Glory Girl shouted back up.

"Good." Carol called back. "Don't forget to bring your school work. After Amy heals Taylor you'll need to fly over to your school on your own."

"Yes Mom." Both Vicky and Amy drawled out.

Friday, Jan. 14th

Danny absent-mindedly rubbed his eyes as he sat beside his daughter. He didn't know how long he'd been awake, standing silent vigil over his daughter, but he felt his body crying out for sleep. Sighing, Danny couldn't help but feel like this was all his fault. He knew that ever since Annette died, he hadn't been there for Taylor, not in any way that mattered. He didn't even know that she was being bullied until Taylor never came home that fateful night and was found in the locker the next day. Danny stared at the bandages that were tightly wrapped around the stump where Taylor's left arm had once been, as well as the bandages wrapped around her head, covering her now missing eye. He felt himself grip the rail of Taylor's hospital bed hard, letting all of the impotent anger and frustration out on the innocent plastic.

"Mr. Hebert?" A voice called out from behind him, snapping Danny out of his brooding.

Danny practically shot out of his chair as he turned to face the speaker, an attractive woman with short-cut blonde hair wearing a power suit, quickly recognizing the form as Carol Dallon, his lawyer for the upcoming case.

"Mrs. Dallon, it's good to see you." Danny greeted, straightening out his blue-collared button down as he tried to make himself presentable. Disheveled as probably an understatement for his current appearance, but he's had more important things on his mind. "And please, call me Danny."

Mrs. Dallon gave him a professional smile in return. "Then you can call me Carol. May we come in?" Carol asked, revealing the two teenage girls behind her. While Danny wasn't the most up to date on Capes within the city, even he quickly recognized the two as Carol's daughters Glory Girl and Panacea, just out of costume.

"Oh, yes of course." Danny gave a weak chuckle as he moved his chair to give some more space for the Dallon family. He then turned to face the two daughters and extended his hand. "I'm Daniel Hebert. Taylor's father. You can also call me Danny."

"Good morning Mr. Hebert." Panacea automatically responded, giving his hand a half hearted shake, not really paying attention to him as she grabbed Taylor's chart. "I assume I'm here to heal your daughter?" she brusquely asked.

Danny felt a flood of relief at Panacea's words. He didn't even really care if she was somewhat cagey about it. If anything, Panacea looked…bored. But none of that mattered at all. Danny couldn't help but wonder who was looking out for him when he learned that the lawyer who was working with him free of charge also turned out to be the mother of the strongest healer on the planet. When Carol offered to bring Panacea in to heal Taylor, Danny leapt at the chance.

"Yes, please." Danny practically had tears in his eyes as he spoke.

It was then that Danny heard some rustling behind him as Taylor began to stir in her bed. Slowly awakening, Taylor's remaining, unbandaged eye flickered over her Dad, then to all of the strangers in the room.

"D… Dad?" Taylor rasped out, her voice strained and barely audible, almost sounding as if she were a chain smoker rather than a 15 year old girl.

Danny was immediately back in the chair and at his daughter's side. "Hey there Kiddo." He whispered to her. "Look, it's Panacea! She's here to heal you!" Danny tried to sound excited as he pushed some of the hair out of Taylor's face.

Panacea approached Taylor's bed, looking her up and down, and to Danny's surprise, gave a low whistle. "Damn, those bullies really messed you up. I rarely see anyone this bad outside of an Endbringer fight." She then put down Taylor's chart and walked to her side. "Miss Hebert, do I have your permission to heal you?"

Taylor paused to look at Panacea with a blank stare. Then, to everyone's confusion, the stare morphed into a scowl, and then to a full blown snarl.

"No…" Taylor growled out, grinding her teeth together as her brows knit together.

Everyone stared at Taylor in confusion. Panacea especially seemed to be taken aback, mouth opening and closing with no words coming out as she tried to process the sudden, almost hateful rejection.

Danny similarly had no idea as to where this was coming from. "Taylor, honey." He started as he grabbed her hand, causing Taylor to snap her glare towards him. The viciousness of her gaze shocked him, but he wouldn't be cowed by his own daughter. "Panacea can heal you. She can fix everything! Your eye, your voice, even your limbs!" Danny looked pleadingly at Panacea.

But the heroine seemed to be at a loss, head glancing back and forth between Taylor and Danny. It made some sense to Danny that she'd be taken off guard by this, after all who actually rejects free Parahuman healing?

"I… said… no…" Taylor wheezed out again, this time directed towards her father.

"Taylor plea-" Danny tried to plead.

"Get… out!" Taylor screamed, uncaring about the damage to her vocal chords.

"Taylor!" Danny cried out once more.

"GET! OUT!" Taylor was snarling savagely at all of them while thrashing in her bed, her heart monitor spiking, causing a doctor and several nurses to rush into the room.

"What's going on here!?" The doctor shouted. Seeing the flailing Taylor he turned to one of the nurses, "I want a sedative on her, now!" He then turned to Danny and the Dallon Family. "I need all of you to leave!"

"But… she..." Panacea mumbled out, her voice a lot smaller than when she first entered the room.

The doctor cut her off. "Amy, if you are not here to administer healing, then I need you to leave until Miss Hebert has calmed down. You are all causing the patient unnecessary stress!"

Panacea moved to make some kind of retort, when Carol put her hand on her daughter's shoulder. "Of course doctor, we'll be leaving right now." Carol said, looking at both her daughters and at Danny.

While Danny wanted to argue that he should stay, he could tell he wasn't going to win a fight against both a doctor and a lawyer. Not to mention his presence seemed to be doing more harm to Taylor then good. With a resigned sigh, Danny exited the room alongside Carol and her daughters.

As they all entered the hallway, Danny heard Panacea whisper to herself, "I… don't get it. Why did she react like that?" she sounded shaken by the whole episode.

Carol sighed. "Amy, Vicky, perhaps it's best if you two head off to school now. I need to stay here and speak to Danny."

Glory Girl nodded her head. "Yeah, sounds good." She then moved over and took her sister by the hand, "Come on Ames, let's get out of here."

Panacea, no, Amy, just silently nodded her head as she let her sister drag her away.

"I'm… sorry for all the trouble." Danny said as he faced Carol. He wasn't sure if that was the right thing to say in this situation, but nothing else really seemed to fit. "I… didn't think Taylor would react that badly."

Carol shook her head. "It's alright Danny. Taylor has been through a… traumatic experience. It makes sense that she'd be distrustful, if not manic after everything she's been through. We can try again later, maybe after the hearing, when she's in a more sound state of mind."

Danny exasperatedly moved his hand through his hair. "Doesn't my authority as a parent override Taylor here? Maybe we could have Panacea heal her while she's unconscious if I consent to Parahuman healing?"

Carol rubbed her forehead, calling up what she knew about medical consent. "Taylor's not an emancipated minor, so technically she does not have the right to consent or refuse medical treatment." She then locked eyes with Danny. "But I would caution thinking very carefully before making such a decision. Taylor's mental state appears very fragile, and having healing done against her will ruin any relationship you have with her. Hell, she could probably sue you, Amy, and the hospital if she felt strongly enough that she was wronged."

"Right. So I guess we should wait then and try to convince her later." Danny dumbly nodded his head before looking at Carol apologetically. "I hope this won't affect your willingness to work on the case."

"Of course not. I only brought Amy in as a favor to you and your daughter. The fact that Taylor rejected treatment does not change the fact that together we are going to nail Winslow and those bullies to the wall." Carol let out a small smirk that made Danny feel a little better.

"Sounds good to me." Danny said as he and Carol walked to the waiting area and sat down. "So, what more do you need from me?"

Carol smiled as she pulled out her files and a notebook as they began to prepare for the upcoming trial.

Taylor glared at the wall in front of her. The sedatives the nurses injected into her calmed her down, and now she was waiting for the embrace of sleep once more.

While she felt the medicine taking effect, Taylor could still feel the residual anger burn within herself. How dare they? How dare her father and Panacea try to give her back her weak, human body?

They may not comprehend why she rejected them, but she did not need nor did she want their understanding. Taylor has seen the truth. Felt the truth carved into her. As her world descended into blackness, the sedative taking effect, she repeated the truth to herself one final time. Her flesh was weak, and she would never be weak again.

Friday, Jan. 28th

Two weeks had passed since Taylor first woke up in the hospital and rejected Panacea's healing. Despite continually rejecting the healing whenever her father or Mrs. Dallon offered it up, Taylor continued to recover as the doctors and nurses of Brockton General did their due diligence in treating her.

As such, Taylor was now considered fit to leave the hospital and was discharged. She would still require a consistent flow of antibiotics and pain medication to deal with her injuries, as well as months of physical therapy, but at the very least she wasn't in danger of dying in her bed.

Once they arrived at their house, her father pushed her down their driveway in the wheelchair provided to her by the hospital, moving forward with Mrs. Dallon and Taylor until they reached the porch.

"Ah, right." Her father sighed to himself as he looked upon the stairs. "Our house wasn't exactly built with handicap accessibility in mind."

Mrs. Dallon returned a polite smile to her Dad. "That's fine. Taylor, do you mind if your Father carries you in? I can take your chair."

Taylor lazily flicked her gaze to Mrs. Dallon, before she gave a slight nod. Her Father then moved to scoop Taylor out of her chair and carried her inside as Mrs. Dallon followed with the chair. Once Taylor was settled in, the two adults moved to stand in front of Taylor, obviously getting ready to talk about the trial. A preliminary hearing had already occurred while Taylor was still in the hospital, and the court had scheduled the trial to occur once Taylor was discharged.

"So Taylor." Mrs. Dallon began. "Today is the day of the trial. As you are still a minor, Danny is the one filing the case on your behalf, which means that technically only he and I need to be in court as the plaintiffs. However, I do believe it would help to sway the jury if you were to make an appearance during the trial as well. But this would only be if you are comfortable with going to the courthouse and making a public appearance."

It didn't take long for Taylor to respond. "I'd… rather… stay." she rasped out.

If Mrs. Dallon was disappointed, she didn't show it. "That's fine Taylor. Don't worry we'll make sure that the school and those bullies are all charged to the fullest extent of the law."

Taylor gave a non-committal nod. At this point she didn't really care what happened to the trio or the school. Not anymore. She just needed her father and Mrs. Dallon out of the house.

Danny gave Taylor a weak smile as well. "The judge seemed to be on our side at the preliminary hearing, so hopefully we'll be back soon."

Taylor only nodded again.

"Well then Danny, we should get going. We don't want to be late, lest the judge think we're no shows and dismiss the case." Carol said as she moved for the door.

Danny gave Taylor another hug and a kiss on the forehead. "We'll be back soon, Taylor."

After Taylor gave a grunt of affirmation, her father finally let go and moved back outside with Mrs. Dallon. Taylor watched as the deadbolt turned and locked the door, then listened to Mrs. Dallon's car start up. She waited until she heard the car drive off to make her move.

She started with the living room TV, a large CRT TV that would be considered out of date by the average American. Then she moved onto disassembling her old computer, a dinosaur of a laptop that still did its job when she needed it for homework. When she realized she needed larger materials like chunks of metal, pipes, and pistons, Taylor let herself fall out of her wheelchair as she dragged herself down the garage stairs and began ripping parts off of her father's pick up truck.

With the assembled parts, Taylor crawled back into her wheelchair and went to work. It didn't even take half an hour for Taylor to finish building her first invention, a bionic left arm. It was a crude thing to Taylor, skeletal in appearance, looking like a prop out of a Terminator movie. It also lacked much of the superhuman capabilities that Taylor knew her augmetics could provide, but for now it would suffice.

Placing the artificial limb on her lap, Taylor then rolled herself over to the kitchen. She drew a large, stainless steel kitchen knife from its storage block, and then turned on one of the stove top burners. She placed the blade on top of the burner, allowing the purifying flames to sterilize the knife. While the knife heated up, she pulled out some rubber tubing she found in the garage and began wrapping it around what was left of her left bicep, turning it into a homemade tourniquet. This was the most important and the most dangerous part of the procedure, she couldn't risk passing out due to blood loss now.

The tourniquet in place, Taylor moved to unwrap what bandages she had around the stump of her left arm. The amputation had removed her left arm just above her elbow, leaving only about half of her upper arm left, and the end of the stub was sewn shut by surgical stitching. Turning back to the stove, Taylor grabbed the sterilized knife and let it cool for a few seconds.

Gripping the knife tightly, Taylor took a deep breath in as she pointed the blade at the stump of her arm. This was going to be painful, she knew that. But she greeted pain as an old friend now. After all, pain was weakness leaving the body, and she would not be weak. With that final thought, Taylor then stabbed the knife into her flesh, grateful that her damaged throat kept her from screaming too loudly.