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Hope Through Overwhelming Firepower

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Taylor was halfway home with her new phone before she realized something. That it was very possible she was being tracked through it. At least, she thought so. She wasn't entirely sure, as she hadn't had much to do with cell phones since her mother died. Eventually she decided it wasn't worth the risk. The question at that point became, what to do from then?

She very briefly thought of hiding it in her locker at school, before discarding the idea for obvious reasons. Other ideas, such as hiding it somewhere near her house, hiding it somewhere far from her house, mod*(&^ng I*&, and a few others were all mentally “cast off”. Before Taylor thought of an alternate idea.

Taylor turned the phone on, and spent the next fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to use the thing. Using vague bit of information gleaned from what little she had seen her classmates doing, Taylor finally navigated to the contacts list. As she had suspected, the names of all the Wards were listed in there.

Hoping it would call him, Taylor pushed the box with the name “Aegis” in it.

Hearing the tone she associated with calling people, Taylor held the phone up to her ear.

A click, and a voice over the phone. “Hello? Is that you Buster?”

“Ah, yes.” Taylor responded.

“Good, so I see you finally worked out the new phone. I'm sorry about leaving so early, but Clockblocker...”

“No, It's fine. I understand. Is he okay?”

“Perfectly fine, nothing more than a “power induced headache” as they called, which is apparently a common, but not dangerous, phenomenon typically associated with mentally straining powers.”

“Oh, that's good.” Taylor sighed with a bit of relief.

“Don't worry about, I expect he'll already be making jokes about it by tomorrow.” Aegis offered.

“He did seem like that kind of guy.”

“Indeed. Anyway, is there anything else you need?

“Um, yeah. I don't know of this is possible, but is this phone tracked or something...”

“Tracked? Why would it be... Oh! You don't know about the rules yet, do you?” Aegis replied with understanding.

“The rules?”

“It will be easier to explain in person, that is, if you're willing to try this again later...” Aegis trailed off at the end.

“I... Think so.” Taylor responded with some hesitation.

“Good. Anyway, I'll explain them in more detail then. But suffice to say, no. Your phone is not tracked. Doing so to an independent hero would be such a stupidly massive PR scandal amongst the capes if found out, that you can be assured that they wouldn't do it for that reason alone.” truth

Taylor didn't know why, but she believed him without hesitation.

“Alright, I believe you I guess,” Taylor voiced her thoughts.

“Really? I suspected I would have to convince you more than that.” He appeared to be vaguely surprised. “Well, I appreciate the trust nonetheless. Will that be all? It's nice speaking with you but, as the leader of the Wards, I do have work to do.”

“No, that's it, thanks.”

“My pleasure.” He hung up.

Taylor lowered the phone from her ear. And looked at it.

She could see why they were so popular, it was incredibly convenient.

-

“...And then I froze my costume, and her machine just broke. Like, completely fell apart when it rammed into me.” Clockblocker chuckled. “She was not happy.”

“I'd imagine so, it sounds like Tinkers have to put a lot of work into their craft,” Taylor replied.

“We really do,” Kid Win piped in. “I have to spend hours of time just to make my puny laser guns, and Armsmaster doesn't do anything but design new things, train with them, and patrol. And I mean that literally.”

He did seem to be quite the workaholic when she saw him, but to that extent? “He really does deserve his reputation than.”

“Yeah. He not only works hard, but he has such an incredible specialty,” Kid Win stated. “He's thought of as second only to Dragon by a lot of people.”

“What's his specialization?” Taylor inquired.

“Miniaturization. Because of it he can carry an answer to almost anything he can think up, whereas other Tinkers have to decide what to bring ahead of time.” Kid Win sighed. “And I'm stuck with just ray guns. I suppose it's better then nothing, some powers are just plain better than others.”

“Ah, sorry.” Taylor sensed some history behind this, but a few hours of talking did not a friendship close enough to ask personal questions like that make. Retreating from the awkward subject, Taylor turned back to Clockblocker. “So, what happened to... Squealer, was it? After that.”

“Well,” Clockblocker began, “There's not much more to it than that. She got caught, and then was let out by Trainwreck breaking into the prison.

“Why didn't they just send her to that one inescapable parahuman prison, then?” Taylor questioned

“The Birdcage? It was only her first offense, and she hadn't done anything worthy of immediate imprisonment in there.” Clockblocker finished with a shrug. “Remember the rules?”

“Ah, yeah, that.” The Unwritten Rules. Taylor still wasn't sure about how she felt about them. They were still criminals. But she supposed she understood them to a point. The Endbringers really were more of a threat than anything the average villain did. But still, the practical sanctioning of criminals left a poor taste in Taylor's mouth.

“Hey, no one really likes them, but we do what we can to survive as a species,” Gallant spoke up.

“I guess...” Taylor responded, still kind of unconvinced.

As Gallant shrugged in response, Taylor thought over recent events.

Literally the very day after, Aegis had called her, proposing a meeting on the next day. Apparently, the Director had not been happy with them just leaving like that. Taylor didn't have anything planned for that day, not that she ever had plans really, so she accepted. And... it wasn't as bad as she expected. Aegis remained professional, yet friendly. Clockblocker was genuinely entertaining at times, although he tried to hard more often then not. Gallant, after he had gotten over not being able to sense her emotions, was nice enough, although a bit unnerved by her. Kid Win was fairly friendly, but she got the feeling he had a huge inferiority complex. Vista spent the most time out of them all trying to get her on the team, the idea of having a girl who was not Shadow Stalker around apparently exciting her. Speaking of, Shadow Stalker had barely said two words to her since showing up. She had asked Clockblocker what Stalker's problem was, but he had responded that Shadow Stalker was incredibly out of character yesterday, and he guessed that someone powerful enough to take on Lung had gotten a usually reserved part of her out in the open. Finally, there was Browbeat, who had joined the Wards yesterday after the Clockblocker event, and managed the incredible feat of being even more awkward around the group then she was.

Taylor's musing was interrupted by Aegis' phone ringing.

Picking it up, he talked into it. “This is Aegis here, what is it you need, Director? ...What? Very well, we will be there shortly.” Hanging up Aegis turned towards the Wards. “The Undersiders are stepping it up. They just hit the Bay Central, and the main Protectorate forces are tied up elsewhere. The Director wants us to step in and apprehend them.”

“The Undersiders? Means Grue will be there. Hell yes, I'm going!” Shadow Stalker suddenly spoke up.

“Glad to see you're so enthusiastic,” Aegis replied dryly. “Now, I want you all to-”

“Hey,” Clockblocker began to speak, “Why don't we bring Buster along? The Undersiders are like, the least dangerous villains around. And considering she already fought Lung...”

“Hmm.” Aegis mused. “He has a point, the Undersiders follow the unwritten rules to the letter. There really is no likely danger to showing up. Do you want to come?” He finished with a question towards her.

“Um...” Fighting alongside the Wards against villains? “...Yeah, sure.”