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Hope Through Overwhelming Firepower

Chapter Text

Power lanced forth from Taylor's palm, a streak of red light aimed straight for an old, derelict ship in a now unused portion of the old docks.

Coming down towards it at an angle from above, the red light broke through the deck of the ship like so much tissue paper.

The ship's structure groaned, having lost a large chunk of the material that went into maintaining it, and began to emit a slight bubbling sound as it rapidly took in water.

That was only twenty, and it still pierced all the way through the ship.I'm not sure what would happen if I used all of them, but it's unlikely to be anything I can use without telling everyone I'm here.Taylor decided.

A final “blurp” echoed, signaling the last of the previously derelict, and now significantly more than derelict ship's attempts to stay above water. Parts of the top of it bumping into other ships in the graveyard during it's descent.

“...And that, I believe, is enough for the night.Concluded Taylor. There was only so much devastation she could cause before someone noticed. And all the way out here, at this time of night? Unlikely to be anyone friendly. And running into any of the gangs out here was the last thing she wanted. Taylor still hadn't managed to get her lasers below a setting of “likely to vaporise the average human” and while she was sure there were worse ways to start off a super heroing career than vaporising a bunch of skinheads, she was having a difficult time thinking of any off the top of her head.

And while she could probably get away from them, her power came with a respectable physical ability boost as well after all, she wasn't exactly thrilled with revealing her parahuman status to the world before she had even the slightest costume down. A scarf, and a pair of goggles, did not an effective costume make. At least, while one is leaping and jumping around.

Inhaling deeply, Taylor brushed some errant dust from her jeans, and began the slow trudge out of the docks.

Chapter Text

Taylor searched within herself, Searched for the smallest “spark” of power she could find. She could feel them. Hundreds of tiny sparks, embodying the energy she could bring out.

A pause, as she found what she was looking for.

With a smidgen of mental effort, Taylor brought up the spark, and focused it into her hands.

Shaping the spark into the form she wanted, she unleashed it as a concussive blast at the wall in front of her.

It exploded. Violently.

... Dammit, that was the smallest spark I've ever found, and it would still absolutely murder anyone with normal human durability.” Taylor groaned mentally. Muttering to herself in something approaching despair, she leaned against an alley wall in the docks. It had been three months since she had gotten her powers, and she was still unable to get her primary ability working at a level that wouldn't instantly kill ninety percent or so of what she might feasibly come up against in Brockton Bay.

And even if I did find a spark within a reasonable power range, with how long its taking me to find them, it's all but useless!” She thought with disgust. “I might have to accept that my power just doesn't have a low setting on it.

Letting out a sigh, Taylor sat on a nearby bench and mused on the nature of her powers.

It appeared as if she had two “major” powers. An energy projection one, and a physically enhanced body.

Her energy projection took the form of a large number of tiny “sparks” within her body. When she mentally pulled at one of the sparks it gathered into her hands and sat there, waiting for further commands. From that point she had a few different things she could do with it.

She had a limited ability to shape the charge of energy before unleashing it. Forcing it out as either a wave of concussive force, or a vaporising laser. Attempts had been made to split the charge, dissipate a portion of the charge, or pull out only a portion of the charge, all in an attempt to reduce the force of the resulting blast. And all had ended in failure.

She also had the option to either return the spark to her body, or draw up additional sparks and combine them for a larger charge.

Assuming a strictly linear scale, she could probably level a larger than average apartment complex if she used the power of every spark she could conjure behind one of her blasts.

Probably.

Firepower which had a potential upper level that could bust a city block was not exactly the easiest thing to test in the world. Especially when one wanted to remain fairly unknown for now.

Sparks consumed rapidly regenerated. It should take approximately (assuming regeneration rates didn't improve or weaken as she had less sparks) a half minute to go from empty to full.

Range limitations were mostly unknown, she was having difficulty figuring out ways to test it without grabbing attention. A giant red laser shooting through the sky was going to get, at the very least, the Protectorate and all the major gangs on her tail. At the minimum, it extended several dozen feet.

Brief experiments were made in the area of non-lethal uses for her power. Such things as vaporising the earth beneath their feat, which she had no where near the control necessary to do. And a few other, similarly failed attempts.

All attempts to cheat the limit on the amount of sparks she could use had failed. Sparks just flat out didn't regenerate unless they were used up.

In conclusion, her energy projection was useless unless she was fighting something extremely durable, or was willing to commit murder.

Her enhanced physical abilities were more useful for the purposes of fighting weaker opponents, she could probably take on a decent number of normal humans without trouble, but she was not so enhanced that she could fight most parahumans in hand to hand and come out on top. Being limited to four or so times the human maximum in strength, and an indeterminate amount more durable.

There were limits to how far she would go to test that.

In short, probably capable of taking down a large number of the average thug, but most parahumans had something to make them a larger threat then her moderately enhanced strength could deal with. And her research had led her to believe not a whole lot of parahumans had the durability to take her energy projection at any level. Leaving her useless against them unless she was willing to smear them across the sidewalk.

Shifting to a more comfortable position, Taylor contemplated what to do with her powers.

She could always go to the protectorate. There were probably numerous heroes with similar lethality problems, and so they would have experience dealing with powers like hers and would almost certainly be able to figure out someway to make use of her abilities in a useful fashion. But, that would mean the wards, and she was quite done with teenage drama thank you very much.

Plus, she would certainly have to tell her father. After losing mom, she didn't really want to tell him “hey, I'm gonna go off and fight super powered humans who may, or may not be completely murderous! Bye.” She didn't imagine he would take it very well.

Doing nothing wasn't even an option for her, she had entirely to much experience with people in power who refused to use it. And she would not sink to the level of her teachers.

Taylor looked at her watch, realizing how late it was. “That's enough for today, I need to get home before Dad worries.”

Pulling herself off the bench, Taylor began to walk home.

And then she heard footsteps. Lot's of them.

Her breath hitched That many at this time of night? It has to be one of the gangs.” Dashing and almost tripping in her haste, Taylor vanished into the darkness of a nearby alleyway.

Dozens of feet, pounding the ground echoed toward her, as the light brightened until she saw him.

A man. A very tall man covered in tattoos, an ornate metal mask covering most of his face, and streamers of fire which ran up and down his bared arms, providing the orange illumination she had seen earlier.

She knew this man.

Lung. The leader of the Asian gang called the Azn Bad Boys. A terrifyingly powerful villain entirely capable of taking on entire teams of heroes, and winning.

Taylor shivered a little bit at the sight of one of the most powerful capes in the world.

Looking back at the assorted gang members, he began to speak.

It took Taylor a little while to parse through his accent and figure out what he was saying, so she missed a few of his initial words, but what she did hear, was unsettling.

“...tierly too good at it. We hit them hard, and we hit them fast. Before the kids have a chance to get away again. So remember, shoot. Doesn't matter your aim, the distraction is more important than your actual effectiveness.” Lung let out a brief snort, blowing fire from his nostrils before continuing. “But, anyone who manages to kill one of them gets an extra cut of the loot next time.”

A great cheer arose from the crowd, eager smirks conveying an intent to commit murder most foul.

They're... going to kill children?” Taylor thought with horror.

For a short moment, Taylor contemplated just hiding in the alley way, and letting them pass by. It would be easy. The light generated by their leader prevented them from seeing outside its radius into the darkness. There was little to no chance of them noticing her. It wasn't like she could take Lung anyway, he had fought off the entire BB protectorate upon first coming here. Her powers were strong, but not so much so that she could fight off Lung alone. She didn't even have a costume, her identity protected by a scarf, and a pair of orange goggles she had been inexplicably drawn too.

And yet, images flashed through her head. Of teachers, and fellow students ignoring her. Letting Emma bully her for years. Letting her get put in that locker. And she knew, if she ignored this, she would never be able to look in a mirror again.

With a resigned heart, Taylor walked out in front of 27 murderous gang members, led by a man who had stared into the face of an endbringer and come out on top, and spoke with considerably more confidence than she actually felt.

“Stop right there!”

Chapter Text

There was a pause, as the assorted gang members glanced at her in disbelief. Taylor could imagine how she looked there.

A teenage girl wearing a green raincoat over a barely visible light yellow t-shirt. Along with a nondescript pair of jeans, a scarf around the lower part of her face, and a pair of dark orange goggles.

Not the most intimidating thing they had ever come across she imagined.

Overcoming their brief moment of disbelief, most of the gang members cracked up laughing. Some began making jokes, “Oh no, what are we going to do?" And the like, a few made motions of mock fear towards her. Hands raised in supplication as if praying that she would not smite them.

Evidently, they didn't take her particularly seriously.

With one, staggering exception, Lung. And as he began to speak, the assorted gang members quieted down and listened to their leader.

“And... What makes you think you can take me?” He declared, not mockingly, but seriously.

Taylor noticed the emphasis placed upon the “me” in the sentence.

He's not even really considering the other ABB members as a part of this, is he?” Taylor frowned internally, “he's more intelligent than his initial appearance suggests.”

That meant he was taking her seriously, automatically assuming that the only possible reason for a teenage girl to be so confident in front of a gang would be if she was a parahuman.

And parahumans were not required to follow any conventions of appearance when it came to what they could do.

She was an unknown, and therefore she was dangerous, something to be taken with all seriousness. And so she would have to respond in turn.

In lieu of answering, she simply raised a hand into the air in the direction of lung, gathered three of her sparks, shaped the charge created into a concussive blast, and released.

A flash of red issued forth from her hand. Moving quicker than anyone could react to, it impacted into Lung before he could finish blinking in response.

A choked scream, and the sickening crack of broken bone filled the air. As Lung soared backwards from the impact and crashed through a nearby building.

Taylor winced internally.

He's regenerative, he should be able to survive that.” Taylor mentally decided.

The assorted ABB members stared at the hole in the wall currently containing their fallen leader.

They're in shock,” realized Taylor, “Theoretically, I should be able to convince them to leave while there still reeling.”

Attempting to put her plan into action, Taylor spoke out, “All of you, leave immediately.” Facing a palm towards the group of ABB members for emphasis, she continued, “Unless you want to join your fallen boss in the wall over there,” concluding with a motion towards the hole Lung had fallen through.

Unease began to spread throughout the gang members there. Their great and invincible boss was just smashed through a wall, and showed no signs of getting up, the one who did it showed no signs of effort in doing so, and now those hands that had shattered their illusion of invulnerability were pointed towards them. Some of the more experienced members tried to restore some semblance of order, but it was a looking like a lost cause, the process had already started.

Taylor smirked behind her scarf. “They're breaking, just a bit more, and I don't think there will be any child hunting tonight.” With an internal smile, Maybe I can be a hero after all...” Taylor began to speak. “Re-”

The loud roar of a gunshot interrupted Taylor.

The impending riot halted in place. Everyone turning to stare at the source.

An ABB member, no older then 16, fell to his knees as a gun dropped out of his hands. Hands which he stared at as if they had betrayed him.

A deformed bullet fell to the ground, flattened from contact with a structure infinitely superior to its own.

Taylor stared at the hole in her previously pristine jacket. Two thoughts crossing her mind.

Huh, apparently I'm bulletproof.” Immediately followed by, “holy shit, he just shot me.”

The shock of the event brought Taylor out of her internal reverie, as the realization of what could have happened to her if she had been any less durable set in.

Further reactions were cut off, as heat and fire blazed forth from the hole Lung had been knocked through.

Lung was awake.

Dragging himself up and out of the newly created cavity in the wall he screamed in pain as his body bulged unnaturally, bones resetting into their correct position. A thumb bone spun around, tearing skin apart in the process of healing itself. His left arm, barely holding on by a few strands of sinew, was held in place by slowly forming metal plates as his power rebuilt it. Ribs broke themselves and moved hideously under his skin in the process of repairing themselves. A slowly reforming jaw bone pushed aside the shattered remnants of his mask and finally enabled him to pronounce his verdict.

“I'm going to fucking kill you.

And he was angry.

Chapter Text

The ABB members had long since scattered, wisely concluding that getting between their boss and a bulletproof teenager who could smash said boss through a building was an exceedingly poor idea.

Taylor's confidence high had long since evaporated in the face of Lung's rage. She might be bulletproof, but was she dragon proof? She was having a difficult time believing the latter to be true.

As Lung was not quite done with the regeneration process, still having to set a few bones and rebuild a portion of his right leg, Taylor was left with a bit of time to contemplate a battle plan.

I've only used a tiny portion of my potential firepower so far, I can probably keep up with Lung's own scaling power for a while longer before I get completely out classed...” Noticing Lung's body had stopped shifting in that grotesque manner which symbolized the movement of bone, Taylor assumed she didn't have much time left to formulate a plan. “...So my best bet is probably trying to do enough damage that he'll go down, but not die. If a sweet spot like that even exists at all.” Taylor mentally paused as she contemplated the fact that her plan was essentially “hit him until he stops moving.” “Amazing Taylor, your planning ability is the envy of the world's greatest generals.”  Self disparaging remarks aside, Taylor was out of time.

Lung had begun to move. Numerous metal plates already covered the majority of his body, and his fingers were beginning to taper into claws. Heat and flame billowed around him like a robe made of fire. Each step towards Taylor dug his newly taloned toe nails into the ground. Finally, standing twenty five feet away from her, he paused his inexorable march. His face had long since distorted into a twisted caricature of a man and a lizard. Still, Taylor could recognize a smirk of malice from a mile away.

With a bellow echoing forth from his lungs, Lung began his charge. Every step he took towards her shattered concrete, every movement spurred on by impossible muscles brought him closer to her far, far faster then something that large should ever be able to move. Fire shrouded him and set aflame all in his wake. A promise of death still readable on his mutating features.

Ohshitshitshitshitshitshit-”

The air screamed, and every nearby window shattered as a massively powerful red light smashed a large portion of the right side of Lung's body clean off.

Lung's stood there, breaths rapidly became short, raspy events, as his left arm groped around were his right used to be.

...Twelve was probably a bit more than required, I don't even want to know what damage that caused.” Taylor thought worriedly.

Placing his remaining arm on the ground to steady himself in a kneeling position, Lung began coughing up bubbly blood, signaling that she had probably nicked his lungs a bit there.

That's... not good.” Concluded Taylor with a wince.

And yet, Taylor's worries seemed to be unfounded. Lung's flesh bubbled and popped as his regeneration diver&*%#&er frerror seemed to go into overdrive. Already, he had stopped coughing blood, and was beginning to rise from his aforementioned kneeling position. Flesh twisted and writhed as it worked to keep his blood inside. Bone closed over broken spots before beginning to elongate again.

“Oh, that is such bullshit.Bemoaned Taylor.

How was she possibly going to take that down without killing him? While she could probably blow off the head to do the job, she was not at all comfortable killing another hu-

Goal: Non^%&al Takedown*&

Met*&*d: Dest&^%%)(&&&rce, beginnnnnnnnnnnnnerror.

Taylor blinked as she observed the fact that, at some point, her arm had raised into the air.

What... Just happened? When did I do that?”

Before she could really contemplate what had occurred, she noticed that Lung had spread fire throughout the area in a futile attempt to mask has movement. Taylorsta*&%$#dddddddderror frantically looked around as more and more fire surged up to surround her.

I've... I've got to clear this fire out, maybe if I-”

Initiating area b^&$%t pattern. Power out*(*ut: 0.00000000000000000#*^&^*(^max

Taylor raised both of her arms into the air pointed opposite each other, and unleashed a wide area pulse of energy from both palms that wiped out all of the fire around her, and blew Lung, who had been just about to strike her from behind, into a nearby building.

Taylor lowered both of her arms and... began panicking.

The fuck was that? I did not do that. What's controlling my body? Is there a parahuman doing it? Why? And how do they know how to use my powers better then I do?” Taylor was not happy with this turn of events, to say the least.

Before Taylor could continue the panicking process, Lung pulled himself out of the crater with a roar. And then paused, moving his head in a manner as if listening to something. Then Taylor heard it too.

The sound of a motorcycle.

Chapter Text

Motorcycle humming beneath him, Armsmaster contemplated the events that had led him all the way out here at such a godforsaken time of night.

The PRT had received a report that the ABB had been seen moving in the area.

That report had rapidly begun to take a backseat in his mental priority list around the time a red flash had lit up the sky.

The subsequent bone shaking shock wave had only reinforced that decision.

Armsmaster refocused his attention as a brief beep informed him that his helmet's internal GPS reported that he was only a short ways away from where the red flash had come from.

Bringing his bike to a stop several dozen meters from where the flash had shown up, Armsmaster opened up a compartment in the side of his bike and retrieved the halberd he had made to counter Lung. He was the only serious threat Armsmaster was likely to run into around here.

Similar enough to his regular halberd, it did have a few noticeable differences. Well, noticeable to him.

The typical plasma jets had been replaced with a souped up fire extinguisher, the EMP pulse replaced with a containment foam launcher, and a special extendable needle, designed to pierce Lung's scales and inject a combination of several different tranquilizers which would hopefully put him down, and keep him down, was added to the end by a tether.

Nodding in satisfaction, Armsmaster began to carefully walk toward the the location.

Before he could get to far though, he was knocked over by the explosion of a broken down former grocery store a short while ahead of him as a nine foot tall mass of fire and steel was hurled through it across the street.

Picking himself up off the ground, Armsmaster took into account everything that had happened.

The aforementioned “mass of fire and steel” now getting up out of the divot its own body had caused appeared to be a steadily transforming, and extremely angry if the roar was anything to go by, Lung. Apparently, something had managed to hit Lung hard enough that he was going through buildings. Most likely that red light he had seen earlier.

Hmm, The only villain cape in Brockton Bay I know of with the fire power pull something vaguely like this off is Purity, but her powers are colored white, not red,” mused Armsmaster, “I suppose Skidmark could have finally learned to actually accomplish something with his power, either that or Purity underwent a spontaneous color scheme change.”

It said something about Skidmark that Armsmaster considered the latter more plausible.

No, the most likely case is that we have a transfer over here from another city, or a new cape entering the scene altogether.”  This was worrying. Brockton Bay already had a overabundance of villains in comparison to the number of heroes, and any cape transferring over from another city without informing the local protectorate was almost certainly a villain. The alternative was more worrying if anything. Unknowns were always the most dangerous things in the business, and one capable of throwing down with Lung for an extended period of time was indeed one to worry about.

His question was promptly answered as a figure began to walk out of the fire.

Clothes not even singed, a teenage girl wearing a scarf and goggles sedately traced a path through the wreckage of the store.

Armsmaster's visor, easily adjusting for light levels to see through the darkened goggles, focused in on an odd phenomenon it noticed in her eyes.

When she first looked at him, she paused momentarily and her pupils dilated into a... four pointed star? Before she blinked and her eyes returned to normal.

“Armsmaster? So that's who it was,” she mumbled to herself, his audio enhancers picking it up without difficulty.

Armsmaster began to speak, “Girl, what-”

Lung, having extricated himself from the building he was blasted into, gave Armsmaster no time to finish before immediately rampaging towards the girl. Spitting flame all the while.

Armsmaster prepared himself to intercept, before another flash of red bowled Lung over and sent Armsmaster reeling by proximity.

“Dammit girl, watch where you're aiming that.” Armsmaster rebuked her while picking himself up off the ground for the second time that night.

“S-sorry.” The girl replied with a stutter.

And there you go Armsmaster, you've fucked it up again. She's an inexperienced teenage girl likely on her first night out as a cape. Don't expect perfect competence from her.”

“It's understandable, don't let it happen again.” He stated.

Any response was cut off as Lung, having pulled himself out of another building, roared out, mutated mouth severely distorting the words, “Oom soo hick ofve fouccen bhuildanhgs!”

Quickly, he turned to the girl and asked, “Do you have way of immobilizing him? If you do, use it. Now.”

“Eh?” The girl said in response before considering. “Well, he's already displayed enough regeneration...”

The girl brought both of her hands in front of her, the front of one palm placed over the back of the other, and breathed deeply.

A red light quickly gathered in front of her hands before releasing in a quick burst.

Perhaps the eeriest thing about it was the complete silence. Unlike the earth shaking shock waves of before, this one made no sound at all.

This flash of energy, approximately 2 meters in diameter according to what his visor caught, passed straight through Lungs legs as if they weren't even there to continue on, boring into the earth for who knows how long.

Lung, legs vaporised entirely, quickly fell over onto the ground with a scream of anger and pain.

“...Not quite what I had in mind, but it will work” Stated Armsmaster.

Noticing Lung already beginning the process of regrowing his legs, Armsmaster quickly moved the end of his halberd to face lung, before triggering the tranquilizer.

The needle shot out of the end towards the immobilized Lung and easily pierced through his metal scales to inject it's payload.

Lung's motions slowed, before stopping entirely. The ends of what used to be his legs ceased to squirm in that unsettling manner they did when he was regenerating.

Armsmaster sprayed Lung with a quick blast of containment foam. Both to ensure immobility, and keep him from bleeding out. Turning towards the girl, Armsmaster spoke in his usual brisk tone. “Thanks for the help.”

“I should probably be thanking you,” spoke the girl, “I don't know what I would have done otherwise to keep him down. At least, without killing him...” The girl trailed off at the end.

Armsmaster nodded towards her. “You made the correct call. The PRT would not have looked well on a cape if their first night out concluded in murder, no matter how justifiable or in self-defense it might have been.” A pause, before Armsmaster continued. “Continuing to call you “girl” would be rude, have you picked a name?”

The girl stopped moving, her eyes dilating oddly again, before she spoke.

“...Buster.”

Chapter Text

“Buster, eh? Bland, but...” Director Emily Piggot glanced down at the report on her desk, “...Appropriate.” She finished dryly.

Shuffling the papers into a single pile, Piggot looked up at Armsmaster.

“You are aware that we can't simply let this go, correct? A blaster with that much firepower... We can't risk letting another Purity slip through,” Piggot ended her sentence with finality.

“She was not particularly enthused with the idea of joining the Wards,” Armsmaster explained. “I managed to convince her to come and talk with you, but it was a near case.”

Piggot nodded. “Send her in.”

Armsmaster pressed a button on the side of his glove, before moving off to the side.

The door slowly swung open, and Buster meekly walked in.

She certainly doesn't look like she could devastate Lung so thoroughly,”  Piggot mused to herself, “But superpowers care little about what their possessor looks like.”

Ending that train of thought, Piggot motioned towards the chair in front of her desk. “Take a seat, please.”

Buster sat down in the chair. Looking up from the process of doing so, her partially shaded eyes seemed to briefly morph into a four pointed star, before changing back to a human normal.

Piggot frowned, “I would appreciate it if you would refrain from the use of powers in here without clearing it first.”

“What?” Buster spoke out, blinking in confusion.

“Your eyes,” stated Piggot, “They underwent some sort of change for a brief moment there.”

“I didn't do anything though!” She protested.

An almost imperceptible beep came from a small device in her ear, as Armsmaster signaled that she at least believed that she was telling the truth.

Sighing back into her chair, Piggot began to talk. “You say you don't want to join the Wards, yes?”

“Correct,” Buster affirmed.

“And yet, there are parts of your powers you don't understand,” Piggot bluntly continued. “How can you justify not joining the Wards when you don't even know what you can do? Your powers apparently have some involuntary component, how do you know they aren't going to do something you don't want them to do?”

That apparently hit a nerve, the girl in front of her abruptly turned absolutely white.

Piggot smirked internally, she had gotten her hook. “They already have, haven't they?”

“I-well-no,” She stuttered.

A different beep, she was lying.

Switching gears, Piggot began the process of making herself seem reasonable.

“Look,” Piggot started, “I'm not sure why you don't want to join the Wards so badly, and you haven't yet done anything which would make me force my hand.” Piggot paused to let her words sink in before continuing, “But if your powers really are so out of control, you will need the Wards. That's why they exist, so that teenagers like you can figure out your abilities.”

The girl still seemed hesitant, “I... well...”

Piggot frowned internally, the girl was more set against this then she had thought. She was going to have to play the long game here.

Piggot let out another brief sigh, “I am not an unreasonable woman, and am willing to compromise with you on this topic. Meet the other Wards, talk with them for a bit. Maybe that will assuage your concerns, maybe it won't. But if you're going to an independent hero, you will probably run into them at some point. So it would be best for you to have a decent working relationship with them.”

“But... What about what you said about my powers?” Buster said with some confusion.

“If you're so against it, there's nothing I can do unless your powers go out of control very obviously,” Piggot replied with a shrug. “I can hope that interaction with the Wards convinces you to join, but other than that, my hands are tied for now.”

Buster seemed almost convinced here, so Piggot pushed just a little harder. “Is it so much to ask? We're not saying you have to unmask, we're not saying you have to come in for testing or anything. All we're saying, is go to a designated place, at a designated time, and meet the wards.”

Buster finally caved in. “I suppose... if you just want me to meet them... I can do that.”

“Good, thank you for being reasonable, here.” Piggot quickly scribbled a meeting place and time, along with the BB PRT phone number, onto one of the pieces of note paper she always kept around, and handed it off to Buster.

“Does this work for you?” Piggot questioned.

Buster paused to read over it. “Ah, yes. I believe it does.”

Piggot nodded. “If something comes up, call that number and tell the operator your name. They will put you in touch with me, and rearrangements can be made.”

“Alright then, so...” Buster trailed off.

“You're free to go,” Piggot confirmed.

With a nod of acknowledgement, Buster stood up and walked out of the room.

After Buster left, Piggot leaned back with a look of satisfaction on her face.

There was a time when the blatant manipulation of a teenage girl would have bothered her.

That time had long since passed.

Chapter Text

Taylor was still kind of giddy from the night's activities.

She had fought Lung alongside Armsmaster, and played an integral part in Lung's takedown. The director of the PRT had personally talked with her to try and get her in the wards. She still had no intentions of actually joining them, but still.

Taylor was on cloud nine, there was nothing that could possibly kill her mood!

A slight beep signaled her watch going from 3:07AM to 3:08AM

...Oh shit, what am I gonna tell dad?”

-

The inevitable conversation with her dad was exactly as awkward as she expected it to be. She had fumbled out an excuse about needing to go out for walk, and how the hole in her jacket was from tripping and getting it caught on a branch. Her dad had accepted it with the slightest pushing as he had everything from her since mom's death.

Despite how useful it turned out to be sometimes, her Dad's incessant passiveness towards her was depressing. Being indicative of how fucked up her family situation was anymore.

Taylor sighed, pushing the thoughts away as she left school.

Emma's a bitch, school sucked, water wet, fire burn. News at eleven.” Taylor thought with dark humor.

Taylor perked up as she noticed it was almost time to go meet the Wards. At this point, her brief moments as a superhero were almost the only bright moments left in her life.

Taylor rushed home to put on her “costume”.

Seriously, she needed to get something better then a scarf and goggles at some point.

-

Taylor walked into the designated meeting place, a small park near the bay and a bit to the north east of Arcadia, with some trepidation.

It was all well and good to say to herself she was meeting the Wards, but to actually go through with it? They were actual heroes, sponsored by the government. What was she, but some little independent hero? Logically, she knew she was a “big deal” so to speak, she had helped Armsmaster take down Lung after all. But Taylor still couldn't help but imagine a bunch of bored teenagers, only out here because they had been ordered to, continuously deriding her. It would be high-school all over again.

I don't know of this was a good idea, what am I even doing here?” Taylor was beginning to lose her nerve. “I have no intentions of joining up with the Wards.”

But before Taylor could completely talk herself into leaving, a voice rang out.

“Hey, what do you think you're doing, buster?

Taylor spun around, and saw the speaker.

A teen male, clothed in a white bodysuit covered in clocks po^&&* lo*^$$&$^&$ion, stared down at her imperiously from a nearby hill... before a dark clothed female figure came up behind him and pushed him over.

“Hey! What was that for?” The white figure called out.

“Seriously? That was the best you could do? A joke involving a form of address no one really uses anymore, and even when they did use it, it was attached to males.” The female berated.

She sighed, “Honestly, I expected better of you.”

“They sprung this on me at the last minute, I didn't have time to work on anything good,” The male protested. “My awesome sense of humor doesn't spring forth from nothingness, ya know?”

The female seemed surprised. “Really?” She spoke as the white clothed male picked himself up and began to dust off his costume, “I thought we were all told last night, why didn't you...” The female appeared to consider something. “On second thought, it makes perfect sense.”

“Hey!”

It suddenly occurred to Taylor that she should have actually looked up who was in the Wards at some point. At least so she could stop mentally identifying the two here as “white figure” and “female figure”.

Ignoring the protests of the white figure, the dark one turned towards and Taylor and began to speak. “Yo, you must be the famous Buster. I'm Shadow Stalker, and-” She turned back towards the white figure, “This idiot here is Clockblocker.”

The white figure - Clockblocker continued protesting, only to be ignored by Shadow Stalker.

Sighing, Clockblocker muttered out, “Love you too Shadow.”

Perking up a bit, Clockblocker spoke out, “Well, as my shadowy cohort so rudely revealed,” A glare towards Shadow Stalker, “I am indeed Clockblocker.” A pause, “So... why Buster, was it your life's goal to become a dummy or something?” He asked, appearing to wait for an answer.

Still reeling from the roller coaster of events that had happened, Taylor could only blink stupidly in response.

Deflating from her lack of response, Clockblocker pouted. “Does no one watch the Mythbusters?”

“No one cares about your stupid Earth Aleph show,” derided Shadow Stalker. As she finished, I finally got a chance to get a good look at her.

Her costume was in a word, dark. Black pants, black boots, a black chestplate and a black cloak &**^r &*^^&fer.

Not the most heroic outfit I've ever seen,” Taylor thought dryly.

Shadow Stalker looked closely at her, “What's up with your eyes? They just changed right there.”

Again?” Taylor internally sighed, “I don't know, it's something that keeps on happening, you're not the first to notice. But honestly? It worries me a bit.”

“Hmm,” Shadow Stalker frowned, “I'm no expert on parahuman powers, but it's probably nothing worth worrying about. I can't think of many cases where a power has harmed it's holder, and the few exceptions were all cases where not using the power would be more harmful.”

It's not me I'm worried about.” Taylor kept this thought to herself. “Alright then... Are there only two Wards in Brockton Bay though?”

Clockblocker, evidently tired of being ignored, interjected before Shadow Stalker could respond. “Not at all!” He chirped. “The others are coming, but had brief obligations before coming here. We were the only ones with so little to do we could get here early.”

Sure enough, new people arrived shortly after.

A kid in red and gold armor, a tanned skinned almost adult in red and silver armor, and a little girl in a green skirt and breastplate.

The guy in red and silver po&*#&%& d&^*&%^&ty walked up to me and said, “Hello there, you're Buster, I take it?” I nodded, “Good, good. I'm Aegis, the leader of the local ward team. A pleasure to meet you.” He came across as unfailingly polite and professional, and had the presence of one used to the mantle leadership.

Honestly, I was struggling to believe he was a teenager.

The kid next to him powe^&*))*$#ogy introduced himself, “Ah, I'm Kid Win. Nice to meet you.” Kid... Win? I assumed that the name was temporary. “But still, really?”.

Finally, the little girl *^*er spat&^*%&%ng piped up with enthusiasm. “And I'm Vista!” Her chest puffed out in pride. “She seems to think much of herself, it might be warranted though.” Either that or she was just a precocious preteen. Which could very well be a redundancy now that she came to think about it.

“Where's Gallant?” questioned Clockblocker.

“He'll show up later,” Responded Aegis. “He and Glory are having another...”

“Fight?” finished Clockblocker.

“...Yeah,” Aegis confirmed.

“So the two G's are fighting again, what else is new?” Shadow Stalker snarked.

“Hey! It's not Gallant's fault Glory Girl is so finicky,” Vista replied, cheeks puffed out in anger.

Shadow Stalker just snorted in response.

Taylor internally sighed, this had been roughly what she was expecting. Oh sure, they appeared to be fairly nice people, but she wasn't a part of “their” group. So she was left ostracized and out of their conversations.

Aegis rapidly took control of the conversation, “While I'm sure the antics of Gallant and Glory Girl are of great interest, that's not why were here.”

“Why are we here anyway?” Shadow Stalker spoke up in reply. “She managed to basically solo Lung, which is badass and awesome and all, but apparently doesn't want to join the Wards for whatever reason. Are we here as a PR stunt than? Convince her to join the Wards?”

Shadow Stalker voiced the suspicions Taylor was having herself, she wasn't exactly expecting anyone to actually voice them though. “She has a rather blunt personality, I take it.”

Aegis frowned, “The Director told us to show up and meet her, talk to her and get to know her. If she's going to be an independent hero, we should have a good working relationship.”

“...So totally a PR stunt than,” Stated Shadow Stalker. “Right, I'm off. Good job on Lung, keep on blowing up the villains of Brockton Bay for me.” She issued a last sort of waving fist pump on the last phrase, before bounding off in some sort of shadow form.

...Very blunt,” concluded Taylor.

“Shadow Stalker wait- ugh, the Director is not going to be happy,” Aegis ended with a mutter.

Shadow Stalker's leaving seemed to signal the arrival of another person.

Walking up to her, he began to talk, “Ah, if it isn't our local dragon slayer. How do you do, I, am-”

“Gallant, I take it.” Taylor interrupted.

He deflated like a balloon. “How did you know?” He responded, slightly crestfallen.

“Well, your teammates mentioned your name and...” Taylor looked at him, &*(&^$$&^%ional ma*^^^* he wore a silver and gunmetal outfit that, frankly, made him look like he should have been riding into the park on a horse. “...Somehow I managed to put two and two together.”

Somewhere in the background, Clockblocker snickered.

“Well, you'd be correct, and, uh,” His eyes widened, apparently discovering something. “And, uh, yeah, and stuff, yeah.” And apparently spontaneously became more of a social idiot than she was.

“Woah, Gallant, what happened to you?” Clockblocker questioned. “You're usually so smooth.”

“Shut up,” He petulantly responded.

“Ah well, even the great Gallant has his off moments. Now me, that would never happen to,” He stated, moving uncomfortably close, and throwing an arm over her shoulder. “What's he doing?”

“Clockblocker...” Aegis warned. “Don't you dare-”

Suddenly, Clockblocker screamed out in pain, falling to the ground next to her and holding his head.

“Clockblocker!” Aegis, Kid Win, Vista, and Gallant yelled out. Rushing over to his side.

Vista then moved towards her and poked her hard in the stomach, “What did you do to him?”

“I-I didn't do anything!”

“Liar!”

“Guys, wait up. I don't think it was her fault.” Clockblocker spoke up with a groan. “I don't think she meant to do it, it was only after I tried to freeze her that this happened.” Rubbing his temples, Clockblocker finished with, “God, it feels like I just got hit with every migraine to ever migraine.”

“A power nullifier focused on their self? That would explain...” Gallant trailed off.

Sighing, Aegis turned towards her. “I'm sorry, but I'll have to cut this short, Clockblocker needs to have this looked at.” Rummaging around in a pack attached to his armor, he pulled out a device. “This is a standard PRT issued cellphone. Absolute state of the art. The Director wanted you to have this so we could keep in touch.” Handing it off to her, Aegis took Clockblocker under the arms, before flying off somewhere. A worried Gallant following behind.

Kid Win gave her a final good bye before leaving as well.

Taylor Looked down at the device in her hand.

A... cellphone?

Chapter Text

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.”

Chapter Text

Five...Six...Seven...Eight.

Grue was not happy.

Tattletale, perhaps you would like to explain to me why there are eight fucking people out there.

“Nine, actually.” Tattletale winced. “There's someone on the roof over there.” She pointed over to a nearby house. “Might be-”

“Thank you Tattletale, allow me to rephrase that, why are there nine fucking people out there.” Grue interrupted.

“Well, it was always a rough estimate.” She pointed out.

“Ro-rough estimate?!” Grue snapped a little. “Three or four you said! Three or four! This is triple that number! Triple!”

“Well, as I said three or four, technically it can't be counted as-” Tattletale began, before being interrupted by shadows beginning to slowly spiral around her.

“If you finish that sentence,” Grue proclaimed menacingly. “I will do things I will very much regret later.”

Before Tattletale could dig herself in deeper, Bitch spoke up. “I can take them, just let me-”

“No, you can't take them.” Grue talked over her. “You see that?” Grue pointed towards one of the heroes outside. “That, is the newly named Buster. You know, the girl who made swiss cheese out of motherfucking Lung. Who Tattletale described as, and I quote 'slowly going bugfuck insane.'” Bitch scowled, but acknowledged the point. Presumably not wanting to get her dogs hurt.

“Well, actually, she appears to have somehow mentally stabilized a bit.” Tattletale mused. “Powers do seem connected to conflict, so maybe...”

“Well isn't that great.” Grue sarcastically remarked. “So maybe we won't all get blown sky high today. Just heavily brutalized.”

“Actually, the lower limit of her power is too high for her to manage a non-lethal attack against a unenhanced human.”

Grue stared. “That is not helping my concerns.”

“Now that she's stable, she won't want to kill people?” Tattletale offered.

“Now that,” Grue stated, “is some actual good news for once. Okay, we might be able to work with-”

“On the other hand, she makes Aegis look squishy, and could take anyone here in a fist fight.” Tattletale said absentmindedly.

“...Are there any other powers she has?” Grue snidely remarked. “Because apparently, she just went to a bag labeled 'superpowers' and grabbed a handful when it came time for her to trigger.”

“Judging by the way Clockblocker is still favoring his head, and his motions towards Buster? Self-localized power nullification.”

A odd gurgling sound came from the back of Grue's throat, disturbingly distorted by his shadows into an echoing growl in the process. Before it was replaced by a sigh of resignation.

“So what do we do at this point?” Grue questioned. “There's still the other Wards there, so even if we do deal with the girl, who frankly seems to have gone to the same school of bullshit powers the Triumvirate did, there's still them to deal with. And whoever is on the rooftop.” It was a grim picture indeed.

“Well, she seems to have a lot of insecurities. If I-” Tattletale began, only to be interrupted once again.

“No. We are not poking the mental issues of someone who can knock out Lung.” Grue left no room for interpretation. “Regent, if she starts, shut her mouth.”

“Aye aye, cap'n.” Regent faux saluted.

Tattletale frowned. “That isn't necessary, I am perfectly capable of controlling myself.”

Grue immediately decided that, to the end of his days, he would never understand how Tattletale said that with a straight face.

Her frown deepened.

“Right... She have any enhanced senses or something like that?” Grue questioned.

“Looks like enhanced hearing. Although she hasn't noticed yet.” Tattletale replied, a slight grimace of annoyance still on her face.

“Good. So, Plan A is cover her in my shadows, and hope the disorientation effects leave her unable to do anything.” Grue decided.

“Why isn't that our plan for all the Wards?” Regent asked. “Just shadow everything, and we walk out like nothing's the matter.”

“Because.” Tattletale interjected. “You see their formation? They've split up in a pattern intended to catch us if we try and run for it. And with Vista there, it's going to be a long run.”

“Break out the back?” Regent inquired.

“If you'll look outside, Vista has already begun confusing what exactly constitutes the 'back' and 'front' of this building.” Tattletale dryly responded.

“Fucking Vista...” Regent mumbled. “...So then what? We just roll over and submit?” Regent didn't seem to happy with this idea.

“Fuck that.” Bitch was, if anything, even more against it.

“We are not going to just surrender here. We'll lose all of our rep. Make this whole thing even more of a failure than it already was.” Grue pronounced, a bit of disgust entering his tone towards the end.

Look people, I'm not advocating that at all. But.” Tattletale began with a worried glance outside through holes in the shadows around the building. “We are running out of time.”

She was right. Grue cursed internally, observing Aegis bring out his phone.

“Probably telling the protectorate that they have us confined.” Tattletale replied to his unasked question.

“All right, we go with Regent's... 'plan'.” Grue said, a bitter taste in his mouth. “Were out of time, and options.”

Shadows billowed forth from Grue's body, spilling out onto the streets, and covering the wards. “They're not panicking in any noticeable fashion.”

“Yep.” Tattletale sighed. “They were totally prepared for this.”

“We make do with what we have to.” Grue solemnly spoke. “Bitch, you'll lead the charge. Tying up Aegis is probably the most important factor. Glance Buster on the way out too, we want her as disoriented as possible. After that, go for Vista, try and use her as a hostage-”

“Won't work.” Tattletale interjected. “We've built up a reputation of following the rules to the letter. There is no way they'll believe we would actually seriously harm a non-Aegis member of the Wards, especially the youngest one. That is, unless you're saying we change that MO. Which would be... bad.” Tattletale trailed off at the end.

“No, you're right. Dammit. Just try to scare her than, break her concentration. If she loses control of her powers, then we're probably home free. With a bit of luck. Other then that, you know the usual.”

With a nod, Bitch jumped into action. Leaving a dog behind for them once the way was clear, Bitch's other two dogs tore out of the building with Bitch on top of the smaller of the two. The larger immediately went for Aegis, the slam into him causing them to roll away from the rest. Bitch on the smaller, sent Buster reeling as she sped by towards Vista.

Just before Bitch reached her, Grue lifted the darkness around Vista. Almost immediately, the warped space began to become less so. He imagined seeing a literal ton of dog heading straight for someone would break almost anyone's concentration.

That was about when he noticed that Buster no longer seemed quite as disoriented. In fact, she was looking straight at him.

“...Oh. Shit.” Grue cursed.

“What? Buster did something? Oh goddammit. She pulled out another power didn't she-”

Tattletale was interrupted once more, as Buster burst in through the window.

“Hi.” She said. A slightly crazed tone entering her voice. The eyes constantly flickering back and forth between a four pointed star, and normal not helping her maintain an image of sanity.

Tatletale opened her mouth. “You kno-” And then it clamped shut. “Ow daumnit, ehi biyut mah tange.”

Well, at least something went according to plan.

Chapter Text

“...Vista, you are going to make it so that they only have one escape route, then lengthen it as much as possible.” Aegis had been explaining the plan on the move since they had left a few minutes ago.

They had been moving at a rapid, but not unsustainable pace for the less enhanced members there towards the bank since they had made the declension to move out. Vista shortening distances where possible to make a several hour walk, into a several minute one.

“Now, Buster, I know you're not a member of the wards, but will you obey my orders for this battle?” Aegis questioned her.

“Sure. You've all got more experience anyway.” Taylor responded.

“Good. Then, if possible, I want you to keep the Undersiders back with a light use of your power-”

Taylor winced. “A bit of a problem with that.”

“Really, what is it?” Aegis queried.

“Well, I never got the chance to explain my powers to you all, so I should probably do so before we get there.” Taylor said. “If that's alright?”

“No, go on. That's an oversight on my part.”

“Alright. So the big problem is, my... Blaster power?” Taylor paused to look at Aegis, getting a nod in response. “It starts at 'vaporize normal human' and only goes up from there. So unless they're superhumanly durable like Lung...”

Aegis sucked in air. “Yeah, that's a bit of a problem. Is there anything else?”

Taylor explained the rest of her powers. “...And while I'm not sure of what the upper limit is, I can estimate it's somewhere in the area of fourteen times what I used to take down Lung.”

Clockblocker whistled. “Blaster Seven my ass.”

“Clockblocker!” Aegis scolded. “You know what the Director says about swearing on the job.”

Clockblocker sheepishly rubbed his head and apologized. While Taylor began to question, “Blaster Seven?”

“Ah, that's the rating assigned to your Blaster powers. It's a generalized system used to give a quick and easy idea of what a cape is capable of on a moments notice.” Aegis explained. “In this case, a 'Blaster' rating rating signifies that the cape is able to perform long range attacks of some sort. Your rating of seven telling them that it's fairly powerful. Although, as Clockblocker so crudely put it, you're apparently due for an upgrade.”

Huh, that would be useful wouldn't it. “How many ratings are there?” Taylor questioned.

“Twelve, but we don't have time to get into them now.” Aegis immediately responded.

“Sorry.” Taylor apologized.

“It's alright, these were all things I meant to explain to you anyway, but these meeting keep getting interrupted.” Aegis replied, a bit of frustration entering his tone. “Anyway, we need to continue the plans. Buster instead, you'll be put with Browbeat and myself as the most durable ones here in the line intended to catch the Undersiders if they make a break for it...”

Taylor listened in as Aegis continued planning.

-

“So... we're just gonna stand here until the rest of the Protectorate shows up?” Taylor questioned.

“Yep. It may be boring, but it's almost guaranteed to work. We win the waiting game, and they lose the offense game.” Clockblocker answered, arms behind his head. “Welcome to the Wards, nowhere near as awesome as they sound at first.”

Taylor honestly didn't have a problem with that. The less she had to try and deal with things without conflict, and potentially having to use her Blaster power, the better. Taylor caught the flickering of a cape out of the corner of her eye.

Glory Girl, Gallant's apparently 'not girlfriend right now' was hiding on top of a nearby building. She had called Gallant on his phone to inform him that her sister was inside the bank, and that she was willing to work with them.

Aegis had been fully willing to accept her help, which had brought the counter of people arrayed against the Undersiders to nine.

It honestly seemed like overkill to her. On the other hand, Taylor didn't really have a problem with that either.

Aegis ended his phone call to Miss Militia. “It's only going to be a few more minutes till the main force shows up.” He told the group. “They're estimating only ten minutes till they can finish up, and then another two for Velocity to get here. The rest showing up a further ten minutes past that.” A pause as the information sank in before Aegis continued. “But it's probably not going to get that far. The Undersiders aren't stupid, far from it in fact, but they're probably getting desperate. So expect a break for it soon.”

Taylor nodded, before refocusing her attention on the bank shrouded in shadows.

Sure enough, shortly after Aegis' proclamation, the shadows around the bank exploded outward. Taylor heard a last curse from Shadow Stalker before she was covered in darkness.

Absolute, smothering, darkness. Darkness which evidently didn't just block sight, but reduced hearing and sense of place too. It was beginning to remind Taylor disturbingly of the Locker.

Taylor took a deep breath, and told herself that she hadn't moved, that no one had moved according to the plan. Aegis was still on her left, Browbeat on her right. The bank still in front of her-

Suddenly, Taylor was knocked to the side by some force she couldn't determine.

Where.

Where was she? Where were the others? Where was the bank?

Taylor was panicking. She couldn't tell where anything was. The oppressive darkness bringing back memories of cold, of the smell of vomit and used tampons, and of being trapped.

Taylor began to hyperventilate. Rapidly breathing in and out, she didn't know what to do. Everything was wrong. She didn't know anything. She needed to know what was happening.

Ar&*a Sens(*& Onlin&^

And then Taylor's consciousness moved outward. Expanding rapidly to encompass the entire battlefield.

Suddenly, she could see everything around her. Anything she wanted, she knew she could tell where every bug within her radius was if she wanted to.

She refocused herself on the humans around her. Aegis, currently wrestling with some sort of monster. Vista, removed from shadow and staring down another of those monsters. And the rest, ignorant of what was happening. All had what appeared to be a form of error code floating around them. Flickering between understandable English, and random gibberish which caused her head to ache.

But Taylor didn't care about any of that right now. She focused in on a teen inside the bank, watching the proceedings next to a girl, another teen, and another one of those monsters.

It must be Grue. The one who created the shadows, according to Aegis.

Taylor scowled.

Bounding towards him at her top possible speed, she crashed through the window, coming to a stop in front of the older teen in a skull mask.

“Hi” She spoke out.

The girl attempted to open her mouth, before she apparently decided to bite her tongue. $#*^%&n ef*&)^*. Cataloging for fu*^&*(.

Taylor absentmindedly noticed that Glory Girl had apparently saved Vista at some point. Bitch having been frozen by Clockblocker stumbling in, and her monsdog brutalized by what was most likely Glory Girl.

Taylor decided that it wasn't really relevant anymore. As the rest of the Wards appeared to have things well in hand.

Taylor held up a hand towards Grue, red light visibly appearing in its palm.

“You, are going to lift all of the shadows, and then turn yourself in. Otherwise, you die.” Taylor statbluffed.

Letting out a distorted sigh of disgust, he lifted his hands into the air. And with them, all the shadow.

Chapter Text

The girl-Tattletale was still sending foul looks towards a very smug Regent nine minutes later when Taylor noted Velocity showing up in a blur of movement.

He began speaking to the moderately torn up Aegis, presumably in order to get a report on the situation. Bitch had unfrozen a few minutes ago, scowling as she held her now normal dogs.

Taylor continued to watch over the rest of the Undersiders.

“Soooo, how's your day going?” Regent questioned.

Taylor raised her eyebrows. “It was going great till you guys showed up. And, shouldn't you be more worried? You're almost certainly going to jail, you know.”

Regent shrugged. “Not much I can do at this point.”

Taylor noticed Dauntless come flying in, speaking with Velocity after landing. Velocity then moved towards the bank. Mentally musing that her new power was ungodly useful, she turned towards the newly entered Velocity.

“Buster.” He nodded. “Dauntless has taken over managing Hellhound until someone with containment foam comes along.” He took a look at the other Undersiders. Grue was presumably, his mask made it difficult to tell, brooding. Tattletale was scowling at Regent. And Regent... didn't have anything in particular on his face. “I was coming to help, but you appear to have thing well in hand.” He made a nod of appreciation towards me. “Good job.”

“Thanks.” Taylor paused. “Armsmaster just showed up.”

“How do you know?” Velocity questioned.

“I got a new power.” Taylor replied. “It's...Hard to explain. I can sort of see everything, from of every angle, large area around me.

“Can you see inside people?” He asked further.

“I'm not sure.” Taylor briefly concentrated, before a look of disgust spread across her face. “Eugh. Yes, yes I can.”

“Fascinating.” Velocity mused.

Before anything else could be said, Armsmaster's voice from outside spoke up. “Move.”

Velocity, and Taylor obliged, stepping quickly to the side. Taylor, because she could see what was going to happen. And Velocity, because he had experience working with Armsmaster.

A blast of containment foam entered the bank, binding the remaining Undersiders in place. Armsmaster walking in after it.

“Good work, Buster. You're free to go.” Armsmaster spoke up.

Taylor nodded in response, then turned to leave. A brisk walk took her out of the bank as she played around with her new abilities.

The range of her new 'senses' extended to roughly two hundred feet. She could see anything from, any angle, within that range. She could 'expand' her mind to see more than one thing within that range, but it caused an odd pain sensationpro(**$)^load when she tried viewing to many things at once.

Taylor's thoughts were interrupted by Aegis walking up to her. “Buster, I see you handled the ones inside the bank. You do good work.”

“Hell yeah she does!” Clockblocker spoke out, walking up from the side. “How did you see through Grue's shadows, anyway?” He finished with a question.

“Clockblocker- the Director- oh never mind.” Aegis gave up at this point.

Taylor answered Clocblocker's initial question. “I gained some sort of extrasensory vision, or something.” Before going into a more detailed explanation.

Browbeat, who had come by halfway through, commented afterwards. “That's... pretty ridiculous. Most powers work on a theme, what's yours than?”

“Adaptability, maybe?” Clockblocker offered.

“Makes a certain amount of sense.” Aegis mused.

“But what could she possibly have adapted to that required Lung-beating lasers, and a fair bit of durability?” A newly arrived Gallant questioned. He turned towards Taylor. “You did have your abilities before Lung, correct?”

“Yeah, like Gallant said, I really don't think it's adaptability.” Taylor concluded.

Miss Militia walking in signaled the arrival of the rest of the protectorate.

“At this point, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave for now. As an independent hero, you're technically not allowed to be a part of the debriefing process.” Aegis explained.

“As much as it sucks, he's actually right.” Clockblocker corroborated. “Need to know and all that. Although... shouldn't she come in later, to make a statement or some such?”

“Hmm, Clockblocker has a point there.” Aegis mused. “It would probably be easiest if you would come by the PRT headquarters at some point. I'll send a message later, if that's alright.”

“It's fine, I have no problem coming by a bit later.” Taylor responded. “Anyway it was... nice meeting you all. You're not quite what I expected.”

“Hey, not meeting expectations is what I live for.” Clockblocker joked.

“If there was ever a more true statement.” Aegis commented dryly. “Anyway, it was nice meeting you too.”

Taylor turned to walk off. And then she suddenly stumbled.

“What's wrong?” A still slightly shaken Vista asked.

“Ugh, nothing. It's just, people actually do that?” Taylor replied, face crinkled up.

It took a moment for the Wards to catch on. After which, Clockblocker let out a snort of humor.

“Yeah, yeah laugh it up.” Taylor mock scowled. “This power is staying off until I need it. I do not need to know those kind of things.”

“Probably a good idea, the PRT takes invasion of privacy through parahuman powers fairly seriously.” Aegis commented, a hint of humor slowly fading from what she could see of his face.

Slightly sobered up, Taylor nodded in response, before walking off. A final good bye coming from her.

A warm smile spread over Taylor's face, she had something resembling friends now!

Chapter Text

Despite it actually taking a full day for them to get back to her, Taylor walked out of the PRT building fairly satisfied with everything that had happened. She had walked in, given her statement, gotten a commendation from the Director, talked with the Wards for a bit, and received a listing of her new power classifications as well as information on what they all meant.

Blaster 7+: Hearsay not apparently being enough to get an actual raise.

Brute 3: Bulletproof was, according to them, “good, but nothing exceptional.” The enhanced strength moving it up an extra point from two.

Thinker 2: The area scan was useful enough to get a thinker rating without any actual mental enhancements.

Breaker 1: For whatever had kept her clothes immune to Lung's fire. She honestly hadn't even noticed. A further comment mentioning that it would get folded under Brute in the full report.

Trump ?: A highly tentative rating as they had no idea what was with her power null, or if she was pulling new abilities as required.

She closed the text file on her phone, because apparently phones could run text editors now, and turned to leave.

That was when the explosions started.

Taylor braced herself on a nearby wall as Brockton Bay lit up with fire and other more... esoteric things. Another shock wave shook the city. And a building nearby crumbled into fire and dust.

Taylor activated her scan to look through the building, and sure enough, there were a few people still inside.

Taylor looked at the currently burning down building, thought back to her power classification, and sighed. “Fireproof eh? Well, nothing to do but confirm it.” Taylor mumbled to herself.

Briefly bracing herself, Taylor dashed into the building.

As fire surrounded her without real effect, Taylor internally confirmed that she was indeed fireproof. Confirming with her senses the location of the nearest person, an average man as far as she could tell, she moved towards him.

A few seconds later she found the man. As soon as he sighted her, he called out. “Hey, you're a hero right, get this out of my way!” Sure enough, he was trapped behinda broken banister.

“Ah, yes.” Moving to assist, Taylor lifted the banister clear. “We're near the entrance, can you get out on your own?”

“There's fire all around!” The man replied. “As a hero, shouldn't you help me get out?”

Taylor scowled. “There's other people still in here, you know.”

The man scowled back. “Well then, what are you doing still here? Get going!”

His complete turnabout threw Taylor. “Uh, okay then.” Taylor walked off towards the next person, a youngish woman. “Rudely telling me to go save someone? People can be so weird.” Taylor mumbled to herself.

-

Four people, several more banisters, pieces of roof, broken legs, and a guy who had fallen asleep and somehow managed to stay asleep through the explosions later, Taylor breathed a sigh of relief. Walking out of the increasingly structurally unstable building, Taylor observed that someone had called 911 and the paramedics had arrived.

Scowls on their faces, they hurriedly rushed the actually injured patients inside, while telling the ones less so that 'they were fine'.

Taylor presumed that they had a lot of work piled up behind them.

Her phones began buzzing in her pocket. She took it out, and noticed that Clockblocker had apparently sent her a message.

From: Clockblocker

Hey, Buster. How willing to test that new Trump rating are you? Some of those bombs did some really weird things, and all other attempts to deal with it have failed. As the only Trump rated hero in the city, the Director already gave permission to call you in. So you don't need to worry about 'stepping on any toes' or the like.

Taylor fiddled with the phone for a bit, before finally remembering how to respond.

From: Buster

Yeah, I'll be there.

Taylor put the phone away. She gave one last glance towards the burning buildings before leaving back towards the PRT headquarters.

-

Taylor's time in the PRT headquarters was short, as she was immediately directed to the areas where the worst of the bombs had gone off.

Taylor arrived at an area that seemed to be frozen in time. Images of fire frozen in the air, pieces of nearby building just floating in the air, and several people locked in place with looks of dawning horror.

Clockblocker and Armsmaster were nearby. Clockblocker, pressing his hands against the frozen air, presumably in hope that his power would enable him to do something.

So far, it looked hopeless.

Muttering in frustration, Clockblocker looked up, and finally noticed her. “Yo, Buster! So they sent you over here first.”

Armsmaster briefly looked up from the portable computer he had brought, and offered a nod of acknowledgement.

Nodding in greeting in turn, Taylor walked up to the bubble of frozen time. “So, what do you want me to do here?”

“Not sure, poke it? Shoot a laser?” Clockblocker shrugged.

“If you could refrain from lasers for the time being...” Armsmaster spoke.

Clockblocker pouted in response.

Ignoring the byplay, Taylor decided to follow Clockblocker's first suggestion, and poked it.

Her finger passed through the bubble with ease.

“...Kind of anticlimactic.” Clockblocker commented.

“Hmm.” Armsmaster didn't comment further.

“You want to go and try dragging those guys out of there?” Clockblocker continued with a wave of his hand towards the frozen individuals.

“Alright.” Taylor said, moving towards the time stopped people. She grabbed the arm of a tall woman, and pulled.

At first, nothing much happened. However,slowly but surely, she began to move as if being pulled through a hefty sludge.

Just before she began pulling her out, Armsmaster raised his hand into the air.

“What is it?” Taylor questioned.

Armsmaster frowned, motioning towards his lips.

With a start Taylor realized that they must not be able to communicate through the bubble. Leaving the woman behind, Taylor exited the time bubble.

Taylor repeated her question upon exiting.

“Save dragging them out for a last resort. I doubt the human body would deal well with part of it not existing for all intents and purposes.” Armsmaster answered.

Taylor paled slightly. “That would be... bad.”

“Well, since that plan was shot down too, maybe you can just, try and break it or something? Concentrate deeply and all that?” Postulated Clockblocker.

“I'll give it a try.” Taylor responded.

Taylor awkwardly raised a hand in the air, and concentrated on... popping it? &^*error

It felt like she was pushing at something that was... Broken? Off? Wrong? She knew she should be able to do this, but she couldn't anyway. An angry scowl fell across her face. “I should be able to do this. I know it. So why. Won't. It. Work!” Roaring out the last syllable, Taylor pushed until something gave.

Phys*&^&cel. Sing)()#@nt. Power Overdraw.

Taylor dropped on to her hands and knees as the world turned dark. She felt like she was out of breath, but no matter how deeply she breathed none was coming to her. A coldness swept over her body.

Taylor completely collapsed there, privately wondering if she had killed herself. She briefly cursed Shadow Stalker for lying to her about capes not hurting themselves.

But all these thoughts were interrupted by warmth rapidly returning to her body. Awareness returning, as she noticed Clockblocker standing over her saying something.

A few seconds later, she could finally make sense of his wording. “-it, shit, shit. Where's my phone when I need it.” He was rummaging through a bag attached to his waist while doing so.

With a wave of her hand, Taylor managed to gasp out. “I-I'm okay. T-that was... an interesting experience.”

“Oh thank god. I didn't know what happened.” Clockblocker breathed a sigh of relief. “Armsmaster, she's okay!” He shouted towards him.

Armsmaster turned from whatever conversation he was having to look at her. “You're awake, good. What happened there?”

“I'm not sure.” Taylor replied hesitantly. “I sort of, hit a barrier, and then managed to push through it. After which, I sort of blacked out.”

“Interesting.” Armsmaster mused. “So you can push out your power nullification at the cost of knocking yourself out? Situational, but useful.” He concluded.

“Wait, do you mean-” Taylor turned to look, and sure enough, the time bubble was gone. Replaced with several groaning individuals as they pulled themselves off the ground. And one severely confused woman.

Taylor smiled a bit, her spontaneous blackout hadn't gone to waste.

As she took in a deep breath, Taylor paused as she considered exactly how necessary doing so was anymore.

Taylor resolved to think on it later, as she had other problems at the moment.

Chapter Text

It was a bitter feeling Taylor that picked herself up off the ground, having collapsed another Time Bubble. It seemed like the only one of the things she could actually do anything about were the time ones.

The Insanity Aura she could dissipate, but that didn't bring back the people who had torn themselves and others apart in a frothing rage.

The Motion Accelerator had already ripped to shreds all within it, as limbs suddenly accelerated to hundreds of times what they should be moving at wrenched themselves from their intended homes.

The Space Warp which had left all involved distorted still living caricatures of themselves. She couldn't even touch those, the only hope for them was Panacea at this point.

And that didn't even scratch the surface. Being able to nullify the primary effect of one of the events didn't take away the damage it had already caused. Pillars of ice that stretched to the sky, a pool of fetid liquid seemingly made out of the remains of all within it, and other, more conventional effects, such as explosions were all beyond her ability to resolve.

Her phone buzzed, she pulled it out.

From: Armsmaster

That was the last time bubble. If you could pleasecome to the PRT Headquarters as soon as possible.

Taylor wrote a quick affirmative in response, and put her phone away. A last melancholic look towards the spires of granite encased people in the distance, and she trudged onwards.

-

Taylor found herself sitting in front of the PRT Director, Emily Piggot, once more.

Piggot set down her cup of coffee, before letting out a sigh. “You know, we don't usually pay this much attention to a random independent hero. Especially when they play so nice with the PRT.”

“I'm sorry ma'am?” Taylor questioned.

Another sigh out of the Director. “Have you ever heard of a Parahuman by the name of Grey Boy, Buster?”

“Can't say that I have.”

“Unsurprising, unless you go looking for information, no one really talks about him.” She took a sip of coffee. “He had... several powers. But the one he was most infamous for, the one which built him his reputation in the Slaughterhouse 9- you do know who they are, correct?” She interrupted with a question.

“I do. He was a member I take it?”

Piggot nodded. “Quite. As I was saying, the power which built him his reputation was a time based one. He would designate an area of space, and in that area, time would 'loop' for lack of a better word. Now, Grey Boy was the only one who could affect these areas, and he did it by performing some horrible act upon them. Usually painful in nature. A few seconds after he had ripped open their throat, or cut off on arm, or whatever torture he decided to inflict today, time would reset, and it would happen again, and again, and again.” A pause as she took another sip. “They are still there, undergoing their torments, 5 years after Gray Boy's death at the hands of Glaistig Uaine.” She paused to look pointedly at Taylor. “Do you see where I'm going with this?”

“You want me to see if I can break those loops, right?” Taylor said.

“Correct.” Piggot answered. “In all likelihood, they've been driven long insane by this point, but allowing them to die would be enough for several of their families, I would imagine.” She finished off her cup. “The fact is, we cannot keep this a secret forever. You will shortly find yourself inundated with requests from people to break their friends, or family members out of Gray Boy's loops. Now the question is, what do you want to do? We can keep it suppressed until after this incident is over, I imagine you would not want to abandon your home town in such a stressful situation, but afterwards you will have to make a decision.”

Taylor considered things before responding. “How long would it take to clear up all of his loops?”

“Several months.” Piggot instantly replied. “He was a member of the Slaughterhouse 9 since almost the beginning, it seemed like every other day a new person was looped and tortured. He created thousands of victims during his tenure as a member of the Slaughterhouse 9. If you maintained the pace that you did here for the entirety of your time doing it, you could finish it in several months.”

Taylor contemplated that. “I... Could I do it in shifts maybe?” She started hesitantly. “I don't want to just leave people trapped forever but...”

“You very well could.” Interjected Piggot. “But you would then need to decide who gets first priority. I actually suggest you talk to Panacea about this, she is in a similar situation to your own, only even worse. There are hundreds of thousands of people only Panacea can fix, and more are injured then she can possibly treat each day.”

“I never thought about it that way...” Taylor spoke. It humbled her a bit, made her own problems look inconsequential.

“Not many do.” She replied without inflection. “In any case, the decision can be put off until after this fiasco is over.” She leaned forward in her chair. “Independent Hero known as 'Buster'.”

The sudden change in tone threw Taylor off for a beat. “...Yes?”

“As appointed Director of the Brockton Bay Parahuman Response Team, I, Emily Piggot, hereby request that you officially cede authority to myself, and the current leader of the Brockton Bay Protectorate, Armsmaster, until the end of this catastrophe. So as to maintain a proper chain of command for the duration of it.”

Taylor quickly grasped the basics of her statement. “Why do you want me following orders?”

Piggot relaxed slightly. “It is simply the most expedient and efficient method, leaving no questions as to who is in charge. However, as you have maintained exemplary conduct when interacting with Protectorate officials, this is merely a request, rather then the demand I would ordinarily make in such a situation.”

“I'm... not seeing much of a reason to do so, honestly.”

“Understandable.” Piggot nodded. “You have your reasons for refusing to join the Wards. And they likely maintain in these circumstances to. However, if you did accept, we would be able to bring you into the briefings directly, vastly expediting your knowledge of these events.”

That made Taylor think. Would it be worth it then? “I... I accept. Then.”

“Excellent. Allow me to brief you on what we know then. Our current most likely theory is that all these events are the work of a Tinker named Bakuda...”

Chapter Text

Taylor left the quick briefing Piggot had given her with a frown on her scarfed face.

The current leading theory for what had happened was that 'Bakuda”, a bomb based tinker working for the ABB, had placed and detonated several bombs out of revenge for Lung's capture.

Annoyingly enough, the first thought that crossed Taylor's mind was blaming herself for everything. After all, if she hadn't captured Lung, none of this would have happened.

Taylor scowled at the thought. That was stupid. She couldn't have possibly predicted these events, and just leaving Lung to target children was unacceptable to her. No, the blame for all this fell firmly upon Bakuda's shoulders. And when she caught up to her...

Taylor clenched her hands. There would be a reckoning. A small part of Taylor even hoped for Bakuda to get a kill order.

But, there wasn't much she could do now, the PRT had to find something first. Until then, all she could do was wait. It was aggravating, and a large part of Taylor wanted to run off into the city and find Bakuda herself,

However, Brockton Bay was fairly large. And unless she was willing to go tearing through ABB territory shouting for Bakuda to “come out and fight” her, which had problems that really didn't even need mentioning, it would be most for the best to just let the PRT handle information gathering.

Her phone buzzed.

From: Miss Militia

I've been put in charge of the search for Bakuda. And, having seen your agreement to directly work with us, would like to ask for your help in the search.

Taylor mentally stumbled for an instant, before realizing that her scan power would be rather useful in a manhunt.

From: Buster

A chance to play a direct part in finding Bakuda? Just tell me where to go.

Taylor sent off the message, getting a reply a few moments later.

From: Miss Militia

Good to hear, meet me near this location.

Taylor was briefly baffled by this, before remembering that the underlined words constituted something important. She pressed her finger to the screen, and a map of Brockton Bay superimposed itself over the message. A small portion of it was highlighted with a marker.

Taylor stared. “What the hell have they done to phones in the last four years.”

-

After Taylor had gotten over twenty-first century state of the art phone tech, she moved on towards the indicated location.

A brief burst of her scan found Miss Militia standing next to Velocity and someone unknown. Taylor promptly walked towards them.

Noticing Taylor's approach, Miss Militia acknowledged it with a wave.

As soon as Taylor joined the group, Miss Militia began explaining. “Thanks for coming, Buster. You posses one of the few extrasensory powers in Brockton Bay.”

Taylor nodded in response. “No need to thank me. I agreed to work with the Protectorate until Bakuda was brought in, and I would volunteer for this anyway.”

She couldn't see it, but Taylor thought Miss Militia had smiled in response. “Good to hear, but nonetheless, thank you. Anyway, I imagine you already know Velocity.” She motioned towards the named individual, who nodded. “And this is Earthshock, one of the local independent heroes.” She motioned towards the unknown individual clad in a brown coat and mask, who gave a wave. “Yo.”

Miss Militia continued. “His power allows him to project vibrations of varying magnitude through the ground. He is also capable of sensing anything his vibrations come in contact with. Buster, you and Earthshock are to search through all of the nearby buildings on the planned route, Earthshock has a greater range then you, while yours appears to be more detailed. So Earthshock will search for any suspicious activities, and you will check them in more detail. Velocity and I will be here for a fast response to anything. Understood?”

Taylor nodded, while Earthshock gave a hearty salute.

“Good.” Miss Militia took out a phone of her own, and pressed something upon it. “We will proceed along the route I have sent over your phones.”

Taylor's phone buzzed, and Taylor pulled it out of her pocket.

“Not even surprised anymore.” Taylor absentmindedly commented in response to a route through the local area being highlighted. A comment which got a slightly confused look out of her teammates.

-

“This is boooooring.” Earthshock complained. Taylor felt another slight vibration in the ground, symbolizing Earthshock searching the area again.

Taylor honestly kind of agreed with him, but... “What else are we supposed to do?” She questioned.

“I know, I know. But still, couldn't the ABB have the courtesy to just gather in one place so we can descend upon them all avenging like?”

Before anyone could respond, Earthshock slightly stiffened. “I've got an unusual amount of human activity roughly a half kilometer that way.” He pointed somewhere north easterly.

Miss Militia nodded. “Buster, take point.”

Taylor nodded, and moved towards the direction Earthshock had pointed, the rest of the team falling in behind her.

It was only a few minutes later, when Taylor could finally sense what Earthshock had spoken of.

It was a group of people, a bunch of what Taylor assumed to be ABB members all standing in front of a woman in blast mask, and a very familiar face. “It's Bakuda, and... Lung's there too.”

Miss Militia appeared unfazed, but her heightened heart rate told otherwise. “I see.” she stated. “Keep an eye on them, I'll get orders from Armsmaster and the Director. She pulled out her phone once more, and dialed a number. “Director? I thought I called... Ah, I see. Anyway, we found Bakuda, and Lung too. How did he- I see, why was the report so late? Hmm, what are our orders then? Wait, are you serious? But... Very well then, Director.” Miss Militia finished her half heard conversation.

Turning to look at them, she explained the situation. “We are to stay here and keep abreast of their movements for now. Armsmaster is rigging something to get the less mobile members of the Protectorate here more quickly, while Dauntless and Battery are currently on the way as we speak. When Dauntless and Battery arrive, they will engage, and we are to back them up. However, if they either begin moving or break apart, we are to engage.” She ended with her eyes creased slightly. “I just want you to know, that if it were my choice, we would never attack the ABB so lightly, but the Director believes the opportunity too great to pass up.”

Velocity simply nodded, while Earthshock appeared kind of nervous with the situation. “Dammit, didn't expect to be fighting Lung today...”

Taylor replied in affirmative to Miss Militia, before turning towards where the ABB were located. Hey eyes widened slightly behind her orange goggles. “They're moving.” She spoke out.

Miss Militia let out a strangled sigh. “Very well then, let's plan this out so it's not a total farce...”

Chapter Text

They moved in. The plan was for Velocity to move in and disable Bakuda using a taser a quickly as possible. The nearby area was almost certainly littered with bombs so taking out their most likely trigger method as a first strike was probably for the best.

Then, Earthshock would create an earthquake while the rest of us disabled the other ABB members as quickly as possible. Enabling us all to focus on Lung.

Naturally, the plan fell apart before it even got started.

The second they began to move, Lung immediately looked in their direction. As he bellowed out an order to Bakuda, Taylor barely had time to shout a warning before the world exploded around her.

Taylor spun and twirled, flung through the air by the numerous explosions from Bakuda's bombs. A thud, as she hit the ground a minute later.

Taylor picked herself up off the ground with a slight groan.

The area had been totaled. Craters littered the landscape for what seemed like half a mile. Nothing was left standing aside from a small area where the ABB members were.

There was a large block of heavily battered, but still intact, containment foam where Earthshock and Miss Militia had been standing. Velocity blurred into existence next to her.

“You okay?” He asked.

“Ergh...” Taylor replied. “...Yeah. I was more bothered by the whole 'spinning through the air' thing than the actual explosions.”

“Damn. That is impressive. I had gone with more conventional bombs after I heard you ignored all of my special ones. But you shrugged them off too.” Bakuda interrupted. “Ah well, I've got more to try.” She chuckled. “I've always got more to try.”

Lung didn't seem quite so cavalier about things. “We are on a time limit here. Don't play around, go straight for what seems like the most likely to take her out.” He spoke with a rumble. “After that display, the rest of the Protectorate will show up long before I can reach a point that could conceivably damage her.”

“Bakuda has already shown an impressive ability to direct the explosions of her bombs. I can't get close enough to take her out without risking getting caught in something my breaker rating can't get me out of.” Velocity quickly spoke up, not even bothering to whisper. Lung having already demonstrated impressive hearing.

“You got that right speedy. And everyone of the ABB involved here have bombs implanted in them. Bombs set to go off when either they, or I die, and all of my bombs are programmed to keep their effects from harming me.” Bakuda smugly announced. “So here is how things are going to go. I am going to stand here and throw bombs at you till something sticks, speedy can go somewhere else in the meantime. And you are going to stand there and take it like a woman. If you don't, then I set off my more...esoteric stuff. And speedy, along with that block of foam over there, goes bye-bye.” truth

Taylor scowled. “Fine. Velocity, get out of here, go and get the others here as fast as possible.”

Velocity objected. “I can't do that, Buster. While you might not officially be a part of the Wards, for the duration of this mission-”

“And what exactly are you going to do here? You're more likely to die than accomplish anything against Bakuda, and you'll never faze Lung. Make use of the primary purpose of your power and get going.” Taylor interrupted.

“I... Dammit!” Velocity swore, before vanishing.

“Good, good! Now, Buster. Just stay there like a nice girl-”

“Nothing you do will affect the two in the block of foam over there.” Taylor interrupted. “Or I'll hit you as hard as I can, fuck the consequences.”

Bakuda seemed briefly pissed at being interrupted, before she let out a slight snort. “Sure, whatever girly. I'll let those two remain there. Well, until you die at least.”

Taylor just nodded. It was the best she would get.

Bakuda reached into her pouch, and withdrew a cylindrical device, presumably explosive in nature, and threw it at Taylor.

It landed at Taylor's feet, opened up, flashed a little, then nothing.

“Really? Damn. Flesh Disintegration a failure.” She marked something on a little clipboard she had produced.

“Bakuda!” Bakuda jumped slightly at Lung's shout. “Stop playing around.”

“Y-yes sir.” She replied, considerably more subdued.

Another bomb, everything around Taylor melted into a liquid state. She was once again unfazed.

Another one without effect. Minituri*&(^n

Another that seemed to transmute mass into fire.

One that created numerous flying discs that impacted Taylor to no effect. Anomaly: similar in nature to %**(^(&. Cataloged.

On and on it went. Bakuda tried dozens of different explosives. Many, simply accomplished nothing. Some, turned the already devastated landscape in the immediate area around Taylor into increasingly strange things. It had already cycled through being frozen, turned into a gas, turned back into a solid randomly, been inverted, turned inside out, disintegrated, rebuilt into a potent acid, and several more.

By now, Taylor was left wondering where the fuck Dauntless and Battery were.

“Goddammit. What the fuck does it take to do anything to you.” Bakuda had grown increasingly irate as bombs failed. “Who the fuck do you think you are, the unknown lovechild of Legend and Alexandria?”

“Bakuda, we're leaving soon.” Lung stated. “Oni Lee can only hold the Protectorate for so long.”

“What, but I've got so much left- Fine.” She finished with a scowl. “Let's try... this!”

A black ball rolled to a stop in front of Taylor. It expanded outward briefly, before imploding in on itself, leaving a small black dot behind.

The earth began to shake. Asphalt and dirt ripped itself up and out of the ground to collapse around the black dot. The many odd things left behind by Bakuda's bombing barrage were also drawn in. The wind howled as air was rapidly sucked inwards, and even light began slowly distorting around the gathering mass.

All the while, Taylor stared.

Singularity detected. Unstable, low class. Rating: Sufficient for temporary use.

Taylor moved the debris aside in order to access the singularity.

“...Did she just grab a fucking black hole?”

Objective: Non-Lethal takedown.

Method: Undecided

Taylor considered things.

Proposal: Targets gain power through extraneous source, destroy source.

Error: Source location unknown.

Theory: Previous events (*&& and *@@)*( show unknown anomalies. Sources potentially in alternative dimensions.

Error: Transdimensional Technology never proven possible.

Theory: Singularity showing unusual space distortions. Analyze for data.

Analyzing... Alternate Dimensions proven.

Method: Utilize singularity to open access to power source.

The singularity in Taylor's hands grew in size, before rapidly distorting into a disc.

Taylor reached a hand into the disc.

Drawing additional power from singularity.

Red energy streamed out of the disc into the arm inside the disc.

Bakuda finally shook herself out of her stupor. “I should probably do something about this.” She muttered, beginning to rummage through her bags.

Source located, destroying.

Somewhere on a different planet, on a different world, a vast being vanished in a flash of red.

Bakuda let out a choked scream. Falling to the ground grasping at her head, she rolled around in pain yelling 'come back'. A desperate tone beginning to enter her voice.

Changing to other source-

The disc Taylor's arm was in began to flicker.

Singularity destabilizing.

Taylor quickly withdrew her arm from the disc as it finally faded.

Beeping echoed throughout the area. Lung, and the assorted ABB members had a brief moment to experience horror as everything around them lit up in an assortment of effects.

Before any of them could be finished, a Time Bubble expanded. Stopping them all in their tracks.

Objective: Failure.

Taylor blinked as the combat programs receded.

She was still standing there, staring at the mutating and frozen Azn Bad Boys, three minutes later when Dauntless, Battery and Velocity finally showed up.

Chapter Text

Taylor returned home later with a haunted look on her face.

“Taylor, what's wrong?” Her dad questioned.

“Ah, nothing. Just... a long day at school. I think I need a nap.” She responded.

“If you're sure...”

“I'm sure.” Taylor said as she climbed the stairs to her room.

As she closed the door behind her, she slid down the back of it and placed her head in her hands.

Things had not... gone well. Shortly after Dauntless, Battery and Velocity had shown up, questions had been asked. Questions Taylor hadn't had answers for. All she had were vague memories of cold calculation, and power. So much power. Terrifying in it's extent, as if millions of sparks had gathered as a single cohesive mass.

After they had gotten Miss Militia and Earthshock out of the containment foam, things had gotten, if anything, more confusing. She had apparently grabbed a black hole. And, in the process, done something to Bakuda, enough to make her scream out seemingly unrelated and random words, and set off bombs with no regard for herself.

Dauntless had told her that they would call her in to get a full report later, but for now she should go home and get some rest. Taylor had heartily agreed.

For a moment, Taylor considered skipping school tomorrow. But Taylor needed school. She needed it to still feel human.

Taylor fell restlessly asleep.

-

Taylor poured herself into her computer work, hoping to take her mind off of recent events.

She was supposed to program a calculator in visual basic today, it was actually going fairly well to.

Although, she didn't know why, but something was bothering her about the terribl*& in*^**&^s the calculator.

She could almost see them. The problems with the code. Taylor scowled, how could she ever let such inefficiencies slip in.

Goal: Program compu*ional de*(&e.

Taylor's fingers flew over the keyboard, beginning the construction of a-

The computer crashed.

Taylor blinked, before placing her head into her hands, and beginning to shake, ever so slightly.

It had happened again. She had lost control over herself, unable to do anything but recognize that something had happened in the intervening timespan.

“Taylor? Is something the matter?” Her teacher questioned.

“Ah, no. The computer just crashed for some reason.” Taylor replied, making sure to clear the edge out of her voice before doing so.

Her teacher nodded and went back to tutoring the less technologically inclined students.

Taylor wanted so badly to unload on someone. Tell someone what shitty days today and yesterday were. But her computer teacher was not that person, her father was not that person, Taylor didn't know if there was a suitable person. She should probably get a psychologist of some sort, now that she thought about it.

Of course, this led Taylor back once more to joining the Wards. Which was rapidly beginning to look more, and more appealing. It was the easiest way to get the help she needed. Psychological, and otherwise.

The Wards themselves had even turned out to be... Nice, friendly even. Taylor had more fun in her brief moments hanging around with them then she had in the past year and a half since Emma had started. She would still have to tell her dad, and he would worry. But it was becoming increasingly obvious that it wasn't her he should be worrying about.

Turning back towards her crashed computer, Taylor scowled as it wouldn't even turn back on.

It appeared that she was going to have to both switch computers, and start from the beginning. A brief glance at the clock confirmed Taylor's suspicions.

She was going to have to actually work this period.

-

Taylor wasn't even surprised when Mr. Gladly just shook his had and walked away from the horde of girls throwing insults at her.

Honestly, it had become obvious by now that the faculty had just washed their hands of the whole situation.

Turning her attention back towards the gaggle of girls throwing increasingly juvenile insults towards her, Taylor only now noticed Emma standing in the back, not saying anything. She just stood there, a slight smile upon her face.

Noticing in turn that Taylor had finally begun paying attention to her, Emma walked forward. The other girls retreating out of deference to the “queen” of the school.

“What's the matter Taylor, you look upset?” Her former best friend spoke out.

This kind of baffled Taylor, completely out of place amongst the bevy of insults sent her way and Emma's actions over the past years.

Honestly, she couldn't even bring herself to care all that much about whatever Emma was scheming now. It wasn't like anything Emma said could really matter in the face of-

“So upset you'll cry yourself to sleep for a straight week?” A smirk upon her face.

Oh. That.

Taylor paused as the words really sunk in.

It was stupid, but for some reason Taylor had assumed that those things she had told Emma on the eve of her mothers death would remain sacred.

She-she was-

She was going to make her pay.

Taylor walked towards her target, ignoring the irrelevant things in her way.

“Oh my god Taylor. Did you really get special eye contacts? Did you think they would that making your eyes look all silly would make you popular or something?” The target and nearby irrelevant things began making laughing noises.

Importance: Irrelevant.

Notation: Target's laughter has begun to slow in proportion to the decrease in proximity between herself and Target.

Conclusion: Target is aware of size difference between herself and Target.

“Woah there Hebert, what do you think you're doin-...Your eyes... Oh. Shit.” Irrelev- Incorrect assumption. Interloper identified as $^(#*(^^*.

Importance: Potential Relevance.

Conclusion: Immediate Removellllllllllllerror

Taylor suddenly regained control over herself, hand raised towards Sophia, who had gone utterly pale at some point.


Taylor mentally stumbled for a bit as she tried to take in all that had happened but, unable to form a fully coherent thought, Taylor began dry heaving.

Emma, having apparently regained her confidence in the face of Taylor's sudden bout of mentally falling apart, laughed once more. “Look at poor Taylor, she's finally gone and snap-”

“Emma.” Sophia began. “I... Suggest we leave. Now.”

“What? Why? Hebert was just getting fun-”

Taylor didn't hear any further conversation, as she had run off. Her powers had almost gotten her to kill Emma. Just like the ABB.

She needed help, and badly.

Chapter Text

Sophia rapidly found herself reevaluating her life choices as Taylor, or Buster apparently, ran out of the building. Nothing like almost vaporization to get you to consider things.

Sophia wondered for a bit where exactly this new Taylor fit into her world view. Taylor clearly wasn't a predator, but could she really call someone who... did the things Buster did prey? She, apparently, had Alexandria levels of 'fuck you' durability, and Legend levels of firepower, but she didn't really do all that much of her own volition. Did that make her an inanimate object? The thought briefly amused Sophia.

Of course, all that was kind of academic in the face of her immediate problem. That being, what did she have to do in order to not become little more then a stain on the wall the next time Taylor went crazy. Thoughts of what had happened to the ABB caused her to shiver slightly.

“Sheesh Soph, what's up with you?” Emma questioned.

“Yeah.” Madison piped up. “What's up, why'd you do that?”

The 'others', as Sophia mentally categorized them, spoke in agreement with their words. Hanger ons, prey just following behind the biggest predator they could find. Sophia respected their knowledge of their place in life, but not enough to remember their names.

“Look, Emma, we need to speak. Like, now.” Sophia spoke up in response. “The rest of you are going to have to leave. Yes, that includes you Madison.” She finished in response to Madison's questioning look.

It didn't take long for Emma, smart girl she is, to figure things out. “You mean... Ah. Sorry y'all, but Soph's right. This is about a private thing she has confided in me.”

The others and Madison weren't happy, but were also not willing to go against the 'queen' of the school.

When they had left, Emma turned to her. “You better have a damn good explanation for that. I don't want to even think about what that will do to out rep-”

“Whatever that did to our reputation is of little importance anymore.” Sophia explained. “And Emma? You're a good friend, but don't talk to me like that again.”

“Ah, right. Sorry.” Emma backed down, before continuing. “Sooooo what's so important, it has to deal with the whole superhero thing right?”

“Yeah. I can't go into details because of the whole rules thing, you remember them, don't you?”

Emma nodded.

“Alright then, basically? Taylor's a cape. And a pretty fucking powerful one too. She probably triggered in the locker, and now she has... problems. Mental problems.”

“...Hebert? A cape?” Emma muttered.

“Yeah, fucking ridiculous, I know. But it's the truth, and I was not at all confident in my ability to survive her going nuts in the school, shadow form or not. And I was even less confident about my ability to harm her.” Sophia explained. “It probably would be fairly easy to figure her identity out but don't. The less you know about this all, the better. I really shouldn't be telling you any of this, but if you don't know, you might not survive the next few months.

“You can't be serious. Hebert? Dangerous? Even if she did get super powers, she wouldn't willing to do anything with them.”

“She's not, and if that were all, I wouldn't be worried.” Sophia paused before continuing. “But she has some form of mental issues which are entirely willing to use them, and with deadly force. I was a few seconds of insanity from being nothing more then a smear on the wall back there.”

Emma opened and closed her mouth soundlessly.

“Yeah. Alright then, here's how things are going to go. I, am going to talk to the Director and do everything I possibly can to get my ass out of this situation. While you, are going to get yours out of the inevitable incident that is Winslow and into Arcadia ASAP. Do everything you possibly can to convince your father. Up to, and including, insinuating your life is on the line. Because it is.

“I-buh-wha-” Emma stuttered.

“This whole situation sucks, profoundly. But there's not much we can do by now. Think on this, I can't force you into anything. But, I've given you all the information and suggestions I can. What you do with it from now on, is your choice.” Sophia finished, before running out of Winslow on the way towards the PRT headquarters. Leaving a still reeling Emma behind.

-

Sophia was moving smoothly through the halls of the PRT building, contemplating what she would tell Piggot. Currently, she was hoping a simple plea for transfer would be accepted. She wasn't particularly hopeful. She was probably going to have to explain some things. Last resort being tell the whole story and get sent back to juvie.

Still better then dieing.

She was still cooking up a story to tell Piggot when she rounded the corner and saw Buster standing in front of the doors to Piggot's office. It was around then that Sophia realized she hadn't bothered to put her costume on, not thinking it would be relevant this deep in the PRT.

Buster, turned to look at her, and her eyes widened. “Sophia- what...” Buster trailed off as understanding entered her eyes. “Shadow Stalker.” She finished with a hiss.

“...Fuck me running.”

Chapter Text

“And I too, have a great many things to contemplate.” Coil hung up the phone.

Coil let out a sigh.

Todays events had... not gone according to plan. Some small part of Coil still thought it was a dream. Considering what had happened, he didn't think anyone would blame him...

-

Approximately 4 hours earlier.

Coil scowled.

This... Buster was going to ruin everything.

Initially, it just appeared that she was going to be 'Dauntless+1' as far as he was concerned, an up and coming hero hailed as the new 'savior' of the Bay. Irritating, but something he could work around.

Then, this happened. She had caused the death of every notable ABB asset aside of Oni Lee while in the throws of some sort of psychotic break.

Legend 2.0 he could deal with. Sphere 2.0...

No, she had to go.

Coil split realties. In one, he stayed at his desk. In the other, he strode into the room next to his own.

Walking up to the cot, Coil questioned the resident. “Hello, pet. I have some questions for you.”

“Already?” Dinah questioned with a moan.

“Yes.”

“But it's only been-”

“I'm sorry pet, but this is important.”

She frowned grumpily. “I want extra candy then.”

Coil quickly acquiesced. “Very well, you will get your extra candy, after these questions.”

“Fine. Ask away.”

Coil smiled, and brought out a picture of a teenage girl in scarf and goggles.. “Very well. Now, what are my chances of getting Buster out of Brockton Bay if I...

-

Coil let out a panting gasp as he slid down the side of the door to his private jet. A jet that promptly took off immediately after.

Well, he supposed if the town no longer existed she couldn't really be in it anymore. Coil resolved to ask more precise questions in the future.

In the other reality, where he had not implemented his foolhardy plan, he began the process of digging out an old phone number. One he thought he would never have reason to call.

Coil consciously realized that he should probably collapse this reality by now. But... he honestly wanted to see how far she could get. Stupid, perhaps. But his pet had already assured him that no problems would appear before lunch time.

Coil's private jet landed in a secret base he had built in Europe on the border between France and Spain. Honestly, he never thought he would have cause to use this base, and honestly he probably still didn't need to use it. But while he was collapsing this reality, might as well have some fun and use this base

Coil set his specialized TV to pick up the local signals around Brockton Bay, and sat back to watch.

He cut in just to a scene of the Protectorate Headquarters over the bay exploding. A ball of red light smashing straight through it, shattering it into millions of pieces.

The news caster had evidently ran out of things to say since the last time he had tuned in.

The scene panned out over the rest of the Bay. Buster had been doing work, Coil mused. The TV showing Brockton Bay left as little more than a shattered wreck for the most part.

The news caster found something to pipe up on, Armsmaster had just been found dead. A censored scene of a body that, presumably, used to be Armsmaster.

Coil wondered how they still had cameras running by now, a flash by ad for Uber and Leet answered that question.

A horn sounded, the Endbringer alarms had gone off. Not that there was much point to it, everyone left alive in the city had evacuated by now. Those who had stayed, were likely dead or dying.

A refocus on the cause of all this, Buster. Remaining wholly unfazed by everything that had happened. She seemed... emotionless, and mechanical.

A nearby wall shattered, as Battery shot forward out of nowhere. Surging forward with speed and power wrought from what was presumably several minutes spent charging for an assault on Buster, she landed the first serious blow on Buster.

Buster crashed through a nearby building, a brief moment of stillness, and then a flash of red. And a pair of legs fell over onto a bloody streak where Battery used to be.

There was a faintly heard scream of rage. And pieces of the landscape, shorn rooftops and shattered asphalt alike, hurled themselves at Buster. One impact, and another, and another. Buster stumbled from each one, the force involved throwing her back, but that was the extent of it. She remained as remarkably unharmed from it as she had from everything else that had been thrown at her.

Buster raised her arms apart from each other, and a shockwave rippled outwards from her. The already torn apart Brockton Bay scattered outward from Buster, shattering and breaking under the immense pressure.

There were no more objects flying at Buster after that.

Dauntless came streaking down to a stop in front of Buster. He began to shout, asking why Buster was doing all of this. He was interrupted as another flash turned him into a fine red mist that slowly spiraled away on shifting air currents.

That, was the end of negotiations.

A tally came up, showing the status of the heroes in Brockton Bay. It wasn't looking good. All of the Wards were dead, and of the main Protectorate, only Triumph remained alive. New Wave was presumed dead as well, their home was one of the first hit when Buster began her rampage. No one had seen a member since.

It was also evident, Coil mused, that the E88, after seeing what was done to the ABB and now this, had decided discretion was the better part of valor.

A screen change showed Triumph searching the wreckage for survivors, presumably having deduced that his own power set would be useless in direct confrontation.

Buster was just standing there, not doing anything after all the threats had vanished. Coil contemplated what this meant, perhaps she was merely reactive in this state?

Coil's thought processes were interrupted as the area around Buster exploded. A rain of light from the sky, hammered down from two sources. Purity, who had evidently worked up the nerve at some point to face this. And the first piece of evidence that the PRT was taking things seriously, Legend. Newly arrived from New York.

A streak of red light lanced forth from the smoke, Legend neatly and cleanly avoided the beam, but Purity...

A scream of pain audible even through the tinker tech cameras floating miles away. Purity, Leg carved off by the beam from Buster. Who was still unharmed by the deadly assault two of the most powerful blasters alive had unleashed.

It was worrying, but unsurprising. Especially after what she had endured at the hands of Bakuda.

Purity flew away on a streak of light, while Legend began to try other applications of his beams.

The first to fly, a bright blue streak piercing the daylight, created a towering spire of ice that enveloped Buster completely. Another flash, the spire shatters, and another desperate dodge from Legend.

The second, a bright red one that produced a river of molten lava. Buster didn't even pay any attention to it.

Another, this one clear, impacted Buster with explosive force. Legend floated backwards in a vaguely surprised manner at this result, before moving on.

He tried much, lasers which curved and forked at oblique angles to impact areas which seemed vulnerable on Buster. The eyes, the nose, several joints, even a couple of small ones down her throat at one point.

None of them had any more effect then everything else.

Then, the cavalry arrived.

Alexandria, a gray streak blurring through the air, impacted Buster at supersonic speeds. The ground cratered inwards, before launching up into the air.

A beat.

The debris reached it's apex point from Alexandria's impact.

A beat.

Red light shown forth from the point of impact, and a gray streak shot back into the sky, curled around a red ball of light. The debris still in the air sent flying across the landscape by the force of Alexandria's sudden passing through.

Coil absentmindedly wondered how long even Leet's tinker tech camera's would survive this.

In the other reality, Coil finally found the number he was looking for, and settled down to wait.

A warping of space, and Eidolon arrived.

He immediately swept his hand outwards, and a green wave of energy rushed out, randomly dissembling and rearranging everything in its path.

It passed through Buster to no effect. Buster responded with a flash of red.

The energy impacted Eidolon, who made no move to dodge, and wrapped around Eidolon in a circular fashion, before being absorbed into his body.

Buster responded by firing more, and stronger, blasts. Each one was absorbed in the same fashion. Buster paused her firing, and that was when Eidolon struck.

He raised both hands into the air, palms upward, and then swept his hands downwards. The earth trembled as immense pressure applied itself everywhere. The ground forcibly flattened in an ominous show of force from the strongest of the Triumvirate.

Buster, was unaffected.

This was... fairly terrifying honestly. The Endbringers usually showed off more of a reaction then this. Legend was ineffective, Alexandria had accomplished more, but not by much. And Eidolon had managed to break even with her. For a certain value of 'even'. Coil was having doubts that the Parahumans slowly arriving from wherever would have all that much more of an effect.

Coil's doubts were soon validated.

It reminded Coil of an Endbringer fight to be quite honest. Legions of Parahumans, uniting against a common foe. Just, in much smaller numbers. Considering it wasn't actually an Endbringer fight. And Buster, while possessing similar, if not superior, levels of durability to the Endbringers, wasn't as destructive. She had power, oh yes. The small town shattering blasts she levied to kill several of the Parahumans arrayed against her proved that. But it wasn't Leviathan's island sweeping waves, Behemoth's assortment of methods to assure death against all who opposed him, or the Simurgh's insidious manipulations.

But, they weren't actually accomplishing anything here. Powers, both esoteric and weird and devastating in their scope, were brought to bear against her. Buster was pushed around, but not much more then that. Some of the presumably less than convicted capes had already left.

It was a stalemate. Everyone who was truly vulnerable to Buster's level of firepower had already either left, or died. While nothing they did even scratched a hair on her head.

Then, the atmosphere changed, and Buster leveled what little remained of Brockton Bay.

A sweeping wave of force, a scaled up copy of the move that had taken out Assault, billowed outwards from Buster. The ground tore open, shredding and flying through the air under the immense power behind Buster's offense.

A few moments of dust hung in the air. The entirety of Brockton Bay had vanished into a rough circular crater around Buster. Bits of broken asphalt and building could still be seen flying on towards the horizon.

Some Parahumans, the Triumvirate, Nowhere, Headcracker, people capable of incredible durability or extreme movement, survived.

Most didn't.

Out of the sixty five or so Parahumans that had both stayed and survived to that point, fourteen had withstood Buster's attack.

Coil realized that Triumph had probably died in that as well.

That signaled the breaking point for most of the survivors. After everything was said and done, only the Triumvirate remained on the field.

They briefly commiserated. Before breaking apart in response to Buster attacking again.

Another flash, a portion of the energy coiled around Eidolon once more. It touched one of his arms, and he suddenly snapped it back away from the tendril.

Coil wished that a better Tinker then Leet was supplying information on what was going on, hearing the Triumvirate talk would be incredibly valuable.

Apparently having resolved something, the Triumvirate moved into action. Eidolon began carefully siphoning energy off of Buster's attacks, while Legend and Alexandria diverted her aim.

This continued for a bit, working quite well. The mountain near Brockton Bay now had several large chunks gone, but the Triumvirate was holding. And considering the glow building around Eidolon, perhaps even a plan beyond that was in the works.

And then... something happened.

A huge surge of water erupted forth from the bay, a gray blur glanced Buster at massive speeds, sending her rocketing back into an explosion of magma. As a dark figure came forth and slammed Buster into the bubbling magma, hard enough to rock back the Triumvirate dozens of meters away.

These two figures resolved.

Leviathan and Behemoth.

The... Endbringers? What? Why were they here? Coil balked at the prospect that Buster was such a threat they would show up. Maybe they were here because Buster was such a center of conflict she warranted two of them? It was about time for a new one to show up. Maybe something... more was going on in the background.

It was all kind of irrelevant. In the face of two Endbringers apparently working together, Coil finally realized that this had gone way beyond anything he could have ever possibly imagined.

Coil refocused his attention onto the battlefield, where the pool of magma brought up with Behemoth's entrance was beginning to settle. Had that taken her out?

A flash of red, magma surging outward, settled that question.

Behemoth was unimpressed by Buster's efforts. The red energy dispersing, before slamming back down into Buster with an earthshaking crash.

Another light, stronger this time, had the same result.

Behemoth lashed out with a kick, and Buster was flung hundreds of meters through the air. She rolled to a stop, and picked herself up, none the worse for it.

Leviathan had been busy in the meantime. Streamers of floating water were scattered as far as the eye could see. And Leviathan, apparently finished with whatever it was working on, jumped into one and rushed forward like a rocket.

Moving at incredible speeds, Leviathan shot onwards leaping from one stream of floating water to another on his way towards Buster.

That was new.

While Leviathan had been busy redefining everyone's idea's of what it was capable of, Behemoth hadn't been idle either. A massive windstorm buffeted Buster from every angle, keeping her immobilized and unable to aim any further attacks.

Coil absentmindedly noted the Triumvirate awkwardly floating off to the side. Obviously unsure of what to do.

Behemoth suddenly let up on the windstorm, as Leviathan smashed Buster with immense force and speed. A leap across several streams of divergent water later, and it had caught up to Buster only to strike her once more, sending her down an alternate path of flight. A blur of movement and displaced air from Leviathan later, and this pattern continued. Behemoth had, since it had let up on the windstorm, gone absolutely still. And so had an increasingly large circle of things around Behemoth.

Buster, evidently tired of Leviathan's demented game of pinball, pulled a replica of the event that had decimated Brockton Bay. She unleashed a pulse of force that ripped apart all of Leviathan's water streamers, and sent the named creature flailing through the air.

Evidently still maintaining some cognitive facilities, Leviathan's tail whipped out during it's sudden and unplanned flight, sending a streak of water echo at Buster, directing her towards the immobile Behemoth.

Mere moments before Buster would strike it, Behemoth struck.

It was a deceptively simple move. On the surface, a downwards punch. No significant improvement in force over anything else Buster had survived. The actual strike however, was very different from surface expectations.

The air visibly bulged outwards from Behemoth's blow, as Buster was smashed downwards with enough force to begin shearing portions off of the mountain side miles away.

The Triumvirate had wisely backed off even further away in the face of the oncoming shockwave.

Dust and powdered earth billowed up into the sky miles above. It looked like the aftermath of a nuclear weapon.

Coil was feeling fairly incredulous about these events. Not only at the fact that Leviathan and Behemoth both were displaying abilities they had never even shown a hint of using in any of their previous fights, but that, even more than the fact that two of them had even shown up at all, they were displaying a decent sense of tactics and teamwork. It wasn't perfect, they mostly stayed out of each other's way, but they neatly moved Buster between the two of them in order to open her up to the others' strike.

It suddenly struck Coil that it was almost a reversal of the usual Endbringer fights.

What was, as far as anyone could tell, an invincible juggernaut manipulated between two targets. One who could withstand the blows, and the other who could dodge them.

It was telling how hard Leviathan was trying to keep Buster from being able to be directly hit it. Coil didn't necessarily think it would kill Leviathan, but, if the kind of power that leveled Brockton Bay was focused on it, he imagined that Leviathan was likely to take more damage then it ever had before except maybe at the hands of Eidolon.

It was far from a perfect fit. The Endbringers were doing a great deal better against Buster then the Parahuman's that showed to fight them for one, even if they hadn't made any noticeable progress. And there were only two Endbringers present, rather than the hundreds of Parahumans that usually showed up for an Endbringer fight. But on a superficial level, the comparison could be seen.

If it wasn't for the fact that he would be discarding that time line, Coil would be absolutely terrified by what this implied. That the Endbringers might not be able to take Buster with their usual methodology. As it was, Coil was still pretty terrified about the implications. Collapsing that reality wouldn't magically remove Buster from the other. And so she was still there, a Sword of Damocles hanging over all of their heads.

In the other reality, Coil finally felt that his decision to find that phone number was fully validated.

Suddenly, another screen appeared on the TV, showing another scene.

The Simurgh, floating a few miles above Brockton Bay. Not overtly doing anything, but certainly there.

The screen vanished, as the cloud of dust and shattered earth suddenly billowed outwards. Buster stood there, surrounded by visibly distorting space. The distortion reached an apex point, before suddenly vanishing. And the air around Buster began to ripple.

A curtain of rippling air enveloped buster, as she began producing incredible amounts of heat. She raised both hands above her head, pointed at a seemingly random location. The camera refocused in that direction, the Simurgh. Who suddenly spun in the air to look directly at Buster, then flung itself to the side.

It didn't help.

Buster's hands glowed briefly, before a flash of white light exploded outwards from Buster. The ground around her shredded apart as a byproduct of the actual attack.

The Simurgh didn't even have time to react, as it was carried away on a lance of red light into the sky.

A few moments passed, as the light faded to become nothing more than a twinkle.

Then it exploded.

A bright light shone from behind the clouds, before the clouds themselves vanished to make way for the shockwave from that attack.

Coil had a brief view of the battered mountain crumbling into dust, before the screen switched to static, Leet's camera's presumably obliterated by that attack.

Coil was faintly disappointed, was that it? He considered just collapsing the reality by this point. But, a few moments later, the TV came back on to a vastly higher definition view then before. A brief show of text across the screen informing him that Dragon had taken over every TV station in the world to show this. It having been deemed a matter of 'world wide importance.'

Coil looked at what the TV now showed, it wasn't pretty.

The American countryside around Brockton Bay had been rendered mostly featureless. A flat expanse of earth was the only thing visible at all, no matter how far Coil looked through whatever Dragon was using to observe it. Small particles of various bits of matter thrown into the air by Buster's attack still swirled around in the skies above the ruins of Brockton Bay.

The only interruptions to this flat plain were Behemoth, looking slightly weathered from the forces involved, but still unbowed, and Buster, still unaffected by anything thrown at her.

Leviathan pulled itself out of the sea it had evidently retreated to in the face of the shockwave. Despite it's hasty retreat, large portions of Leviathan's skin were gone, as if they had been shaved off by sandpaper. Coil wondered what would of happened if Leviathan had stayed, would that have been the death of an Endbringer? This reminded Coil, what had happened to the Simurgh?

A fragment of crystalline wing impaling the ground answered that question. The TV briefly showed a projection of where all the shattered pieces of the Simurgh's body were predicated going to land.

Coil sank back into his chair with a blank look on his face.

An... Endbringer. With one shot. Gone, one of the greatest threats to humanity vanquished. Only to be replaced by another, far greater, one. Coil was left speechless. In the other reality, he began searching through Taylor Hebert's background. A repeat of this would be... catastrophic.

The earth rumbled beneath Coil, and the TV showed a report of massive waves crashing upon the coast of Europe. The impacts of Buster's Endbringer-slaying blast finally reaching them.

Coil shook himself out of his thoughts as the earth burst open, and Alexandria pulled herself out of it. Dirty and gasping for breath, but mostly unharmed. A few seconds later, and a considerably more damaged, but still alive Eidolon did the same.

Legend... didn't.

There was a brief moment as Alexandria and Eidolon realized this, before Alexandria immediately ran for a seemingly random portion of earth, and began digging. A few seconds later, and a blue arm was uncovered. Alexandria gave a mighty heave, and pulled Legend out of the ground up earth.

Legend... looked terrible. Limbs hung at awkward angles, and large portions of his right leg were gone completely. Alexandria spent only a second looking at Legend before she shook her head and punched the ground, leaving a sizable crater. Eidolon clenched his fists in obvious anger, before turning to look at Buster, thinking unknown thoughts behind his mask.

The Endbringers, in the meantime, were standing there confused. Not moving, or doing anything really, since the Simurgh had died.

Then, Buster began to act once more. Another arm raised towards Behemoth. Coil held his breath. Was this the end then? Coil held no illusions about what would happen if Buster ignited an explosion of the previous caliber that close to earth.

However, Buster decided to be merciful for now. Either that, or she had deduced that Behemoth was more likely to survive the previous attack than the one she used this time. Nonetheless, she attacked.

The area before Buster melted, miles of earth rapidly turning into a liquid state from some sort of invisible energy Buster was producing. Behemoth in the center of it, desperately directing all of the energy it could into the air above it, air which was rapidly igniting in response, in an attempt to survive Buster's onslaught. An attempt that was quickly failing.

Behemoth's skin sloughed off it in waves, portions of it's bone structure already appearing in places.

Coil honestly didn't want to think about what adding all that energy into the atmosphere was going to do to things. Coil wasn't a physicist, but he imagined North America, at least, could be basically written off by that point.

Coil wasn't sure how much longer Behemoth would survive, but the question was doomed to never be answered. As Alexandria rammed into Buster from the side at her maximum speed, sending both careening towards the earth below.

However, Alexandria only managed to distract Buster from her attack for a brief moment, before she was launched backwards into the ground by a flash of red. But that moment was enough.

Eidolon, floating in the middle of the blazing skies and melting earth, raised a hand into the air.

Everything suddenly froze. Glaciers covered previously burning earth, and the sky took on a frozen tone. Everything except a small spot of light in Eidolon's raised hand.

Letting out a loud cry of, “This is for Legend!” Eidolon lashed his hand towards Buster as if he were throwing a baseball. Flinging the ball of light on a path towards her.

The light impacted Buster to no effect.

Eidolon's arms fell to his side, and he collapsed into a slump onto one of his created glaciers.

The Endbringers had taken the chance to run off in the intervening time span, and done so.

There was only really one place things could escalate to at this point.

Coil's thoughts were soon validated as the sky grew gold, and a streak of shining light descended from on high to settle in front of Buster.

Scion, the first and greatest Parahuman, hovered above Buster. Not doing much just... staring. Coil thought he sensed a brief flicker of curiosity make it through Scion's aura of depression.

Buster stared back.

For a moment, the two most powerful individuals alive stared at one another.

The moment passed and Buster turned to leave, walking on a path towards the coast. Only to be blocked by Scion flying in front of her.

Buster paused her march, and looked once again at this newly revealed obstacle in her way. She briefly shifted positions, before waving her hand as if swatting a bug.

Scion exploded in a wave of concussive force.

...What? Scion... just like that? Coil's thoughts were interrupted as the air rippled and flashed gold.

Scion reappeared, white bodysuit as immaculate as ever, and began an attack in turn.

A lance of golden light shot forth from Scion's hand, to no more real effect than any of the previous attacks on Buster.

Buster lashed out with another attack. Only this time, Scion vanished before the attack hit. He reappeared in much the same fashion as he had gone, his body just seemingly 'popping' into existence.

Scion, in response, gave a swipe of his hand, and claws of golden light spilled outwards. Claws which broke upon Buster's body like water upon a rock.

Scion, seemingly unbothered by the ineffectiveness of his previous attacks, made a waving motion with his hand. Nothing happened, and a look of confusion spread across Scion's face, before another strike from Buster forced Scion to pull his vanishing trick once more.

Reappearing, Scion raised a hand, and the glaciers left behind from Eidolon's failed attempts rose into the air. A clap of Scion's hands, and they suddenly flew inwards towards Buster, sprouting thousands of icy spines in the process.

They collapsed on top of Buster, only to be vaporized in another omni-directional blast of force. Scion was forced to perform another vanishing act before the blast wave hit. Buster, however, was faster than him this time. As the wave of red light began to collapse upon Scion, he responded in turn.

A cataclysmic strike of golden power struck down from the heavens, Buster's own attack fading beneath it. The ground heaved and shook, a spear of golden light drilling its way into the earth like some cosmic digging tool.

As the light's spiral faded and slowed to a stop, the camera panned outwards.

The North American continent, shattered into a mostly unrecognizable state. The drill of energy Scion had used having broken it apart into so many battered pieces.

The camera refocused, showing Buster leaping out of the churning sea onto one of the many broken landmasses that used to be North America. There was no sign of Eidolon or Alexandria, Coil presumed they were either dead, or had left at some point.

Coil was emotionally exhausted by that point, not even really all that surprised that Scion's best efforts hadn't even fazed Buster. He mentally washed his hands of the whole matter, aside from making that call there wasn't any serious impact he could make on the situation, and just settled back to watch.

Scion didn't waste any time, a pinpoint beam of light shot down from on high.

Buster ignored it, the beam not doing any more damage than the average laser pointer would, and just stared at Scion, emotionless.

Scion, observing that his own attacks continued to do nothing, also paused all movement. The combat entered a lull and then, Scion... panicked, for lack of a better word.

His actions grew erratic, almost... scared. Certainly confused, at least. He began lobbing attacks at Buster. Dozens of different kinds of powers, selected seemingly at random in the hope that something would stick.

Fire attacks which managed to literally set water on fire. Buster was uncaring.

A spatial wave that forced everything it came in contact with to scatter randomly, with no regard to what might be removed from those things in order to do so. Buster was more inconvenienced by having to move on to a different island.

An array of presumably poisonous, or something more insidious than that, gases. Buster was unfazed.

Scion continued to produce new powers, displaying versatility and might that would put Eidolon to shame. Buster continued to display absolute invulnerability towards anything and everything.

Scion only grew more erratic as powers continued to fail against Buster. More indiscriminate in their use, more uncaring of waste or collateral damage.

Coil let out a sigh. The world's greatest hero, undergoing a mental breakdown in the face of an opponent he could not instantly defeat. It was honestly depressing.

Coil noticed that Scion appeared to be trying something new, a golden glow completely suffused the landmass upon which Buster stood. With a raise of both arms into the air, the landmass shot upwards at incredible speeds.

Buster reacted quickly to these events, a flash of red light scattering the glowing earth every which way.

Scion, however, would have none of that. In an awe inspiring show of telekineses, Scion brought every piece of earth Buster had scattered back into a single mass, and shoved it back at Buster.

Buster attacked once more, and Scion regathered the shattered mass back, and continued to push Buster off the earth.

Coil was disappointed. It took Scion that long to think of using his powers that way? What godlike power did to your creativity...

Nonetheless it was over, Scion had managed to figure out a counter for Buster. Even if she could survive in the vacuum of space, she was doomed to never return. Coil made to close the reality, and then... Red light emanated outwards from behind the landmass.

A streak of light screamed through the air, rapidly moving around the obstacle in its path.

An imperceptibly small moment later, and the streak resolved itself into Buster. Floating in the air, surrounded by a corona of red energy.

Coil was rather nonplussed. Flight. Really. It's just... What? How-

Coil took a deep breath and calmed himself. That was more than enough. Coil promptly collapsed the increasingly apocalyptic reality.

In the safer reality, Coil immediately split realities again on reflex, and leaned back in his chair with a sigh.

This... was beyond him. Outside his scale, completely. Not something he could deal with, or ever hope to deal with. Perhaps outside of anyone's scale in fact. But if there was anyone...

Coil looked at the phone number he had dug up and, with grudging distaste, began dialing the number.

The phone was immediately picked up, not even getting a chance to ring. “Calvert?” A womans voice questioned him.

“You are an agent of Cauldron, I presume?” Coil questioned.

“You assume correctly.”

Coil took in a deep breath, before beginning to explain. “There is... a favor I owe you, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Then, I would like the chance to pay off that favor early.”

“What is it you would offer?”

“I would offer information.”

“On what?”

Coil steeled himself, there was no going back from here. “On the most powerful Parahuman in the world.”

The voice paused, before continuing in an almost patronizing voice. “...I am quite sure we know more about Scion than you ever will.”

“I'm not talking about Scion.”

“Oh?” The voice queried, a hint of actual surprise in her tone. “Then, you have my attention.”

Chapter Text

NOTE: All of the below is hearsay. Source considered reasonably trustworthy. All information is to be taken with seriousness, but not to be overtly acted upon until further confirmation.

Taylor Hebert/Buster

Filed under section 1: Notable Parahumans, as File 1.8786
Filed under section 7: Threats to Cauldron, as File 7.65
Filed under section 14: S Class Threats, as File 14.35
Filed under section 36: Significant Threats to Scion, as File 36.1

Blaster 12: Extremely high power destructive effects. Moderate control over them. In sheer scale, highest blaster on record.

Brute 12: Invulnerable to all effects up to, and including, Scion's own powers.

Breaker 12?: Invulnerability far beyond anything before seen, perhaps evidence of some further power at work.

Trump 12?: May exhibit new, high class powers as threats come into play. Evidence of some other ability to interact with other powers as well, see Brockton Bay Azn Bad Boys incident (File 5.1805)

Thinker 8?: In addition to extrasensory powers, might posses a precognition nullifying ability.
Partial Confirmation: Contessa has confirmed that her power does not work correctly upon Buster. Further information in File 11.68

Mover 7: Flight of speeds likely far in excess of Mach 1.

-

Taylor Hebert/Buster triggered at some point prior to April 11. Her first appearance consisted of almost single handedly taking down the Parahuman known as Lung, Brockton Bay Protectorate leader Armsmaster providing a method of non-lethal take down.

She expressed no desire to join the Wards, but afterwards demonstrated an exemplary willingness to work with the Protectorate as an Independent.

First showed signs of unusual power when she spontaneously developed an extrasensory ability in response to the Parahuman known as Grue's darkness powers. Comments extracted from one of Grue's contemporaries, the Parahuman known as Tattletale, indicated that Buster possessed an odd mental state shortly after manifesting her new power.

During the initial recovery efforts after the Parahuman known as Bakuda's bombing campaign, Buster displayed high levels of immunity to all of Bakuda's bomb effects. Further displayed potential Trump abilities by eliminating Bakuda's persistent effects.

Later played a major part in the final take down of Lung and the Azn Bad Boys. See File 5.1805 for full details.

Shortly after the previous event, Thomas Calvert/Coil contacted us with intention to repay his debt for his purchase of powers. Full report in File 5.1806

After Coil's disturbing report, both the truth of his words and his sanity were throughly tested. Came back clean.

Buster is now to be considered a High Consideration topic in all Cauldron activities.

Chapter Text

Sophia was Shadow Stalker.

Sophia was Shadow Stalker.

Sophia was a hero, someone charged with defending the population against the cruelties of villains.

Taylor wanted answers. Now.

Sophia muttered a crude, “Fuck me running.” Before looking straight at her.

“I have no idea what you're talk-”

“I heard that, you know.” Taylor interrupted. Sophia's eyes widened in response.

“How many powers do you fucking have?”

“Enough.” Taylor replied, a scowl plain upon her face.

A brief awkward silence held between the two mortal enemies. Sophia moved to speak, “Well, I-”

Taylor moved forward and grabbed Sophia by the front of her shirt.

“Hey! What do you think you're doin-” Sophia began, only to be interrupted by Taylor slamming open the door to the Director's office, and throwing Sophia onto the floor before Piggot's desk.

Sophia groaned slightly on the floor, and Piggot looked up in surprise.

“What, exactly, is going on here?” Piggot asked.

“Why is she a hero?” Taylor hissed out.

“You have some sort of history together, I take it?” Piggot deduced.

“She's a goddamn psycho bitch, that's what.” Sophia spoke, as she picked herself up from her sprawled position on the floor. “Constantly harassing me and my friends-”

She wasn't- “You-” Taylor growled.

“Enough!” Piggot shouted, hands slamming down upon her desk. “Buster.” She continued. “I would appreciate it if you would refrain from tossing people about my office in the future. And Miss Hess I, quite frankly, do not believe a word out of your mouth. Now, Buster, Please explain to me the nature of your grievance against Miss Hess.”

“You're going to believe this new unaffiliated hero over me?” Sophia questioned, a hint of anger slipping into her voice.

“Yes.” Piggot stated frankly.

The rather hostile exchange between the Director and Sophia having left her feeling better about things, Taylor explained the situation.

-

At some point during Taylor's explanation, Piggot had begun to rub her temples. “Miss Hess, assuming we can affirm Buster's story, I am afraid your probation is now quite firmly violated.” Piggot said after Taylor had finished her story.

“Fuck you all!” Sophia shouted, before slipping into her shadow state and making a run for it.

“No-” Taylor moved to stop her, before noticing Piggot shake her head.

Not a second after Sophia passed through the door a loud 'zap' could be heard.

The door opened, and Armsmaster dragged the insensate body of Sophia into the room.

“Good work, Armsmaster.” Piggot stated. Armsmaster nodded in response. “Well, that certainly isn't helping your case, is it Miss Hess.” Piggot commented towards Sophia's unconscious form. With a deep sigh, she turned back towards Taylor. “It is to my great regret that this was allowed to go unnoticed for so long. Perhaps the PRT even had a hand in your torment, as Winslow's principle was instructed to 'use a light touch' with Miss Hess.”

“How did someone like her get to be a Ward?” Taylor questioned.

“She wasn't for a long while. It was only recently that she was forced into the Wards.” Piggot replied. “She almost killed a gang member during one of her nights of vigilantism. After Miss Militia showed up and found a man speared into a wall by a crossbow bolt, screaming for help, she was put on probation. Probation which she has likely violated.”

“Wait, found? As in, she had left the man there to die on a wall?” That was rather more then Taylor thought even Sophia was capable of. “If that's the case, why even give her the chance to join the Wards?”

Taylor absentmindedly noticed a few men come by and take Sophia away.

“There are two primary reasons.” Piggot began to explain. “First of all, you are aware that villains out number heroes roughly three to one, correct?” Taylor nodded. “Good. Then you should know that the situation here is... significantly worse, closer to five or six to one. It's the only reason the Wards see any action at all. In most cities it is just a training program, but we are outnumbered enough that every single hand we can possibly get is needed. Second of all, her power to phase herself and other things connected to her may be able to harm an Endbringer. Those two things combined to insure that we were forced to put up with Miss Hess'... Distasteful personality.”

Taylor did not like how much sense that was making. Outwardly, she attempted to remain fairly calm and composed. “I... see. That makes a certain amount of sense. I believe I need to think on these events, may I be excused?” Taylor winced internally, that came across as rather forced.

Piggot frowned. “I was hoping to speak with you about the events of yesterday. However, I can put it off till a later point in time, out of respect for your usual willingness to cooperate.”

“I... Thank you. I'll come in as soon as possible.” Taylor responded. “I just need some time to think.”

Piggot nodded. “Very well. Do see about getting back in touch as soon as possible.”

Taylor nodded in turn, and left through the door. A few seconds after she had left the room, she heard Piggot begin speaking. “Armsmaster, I want answers. And I want them now. How the hell was Shadow Stalker left this unchecked?”

Taylor paused for a moment, tempted to stay and listen in. But... she needed to get home.

Taylor continued on her path out.

-

Another troubled greeting with her Dad, and Taylor walked into her room. She sat upon her bed, and held her head in her hands.

It made sense. The Endbringers were devastating, anyone who could potentially help against them was necessary. Brockton Bay was teeming with villains, we needed all the help we could get. Taylor couldn't blame Piggot for trying to get anyone possible on her side, or the Wards for being forced to work with the despicable human being that was Sophia Hess.

She was terrified by this.

She wanted to scream and rage. Walk up to Piggot, drag her out from behind her desk, and demand reparations. Level the PRT for harboring her tormentor. Walk up to the Wards, and scream at them for daring to work with her,for daring to show even the slightest bit of camaraderie.

But she couldn't. She could hate Sophia, and Emma, and Madison, and everyone who had taken part in their efforts to terrify and harm her, but that was it. She could feel anger towards the teachers who had ignored her plight, and the fact that the PRT had remained ignorant to Sophia's actions for so long, but not true hate.

And she couldn't blame the Wards or Piggot at all. They were simply doing what they could to survive in a hostile world.

Taylor couldn't deny the fact that her feelings were not fully under her control any more. Constrained by some sort of terrible Logic. She looked at things, and was forced to view the situation from all sides of the problem. Forced to see the perspective of others involved.

Suddenly, loud air raid sirens began playing. A buzz came from her pocket, a message from Clockblocker

From: Clockblocker
Uh, Buster, just because you might not know this, I should probably tell you that the sirens signal an Endbringer attack. So, assuming you're willing to come (not that I would blame you if you weren't) you should probably get here, like, now.

An Endbringer. Taylor almost felt like she would cry by this point.

Chapter Text

Taylor didn't even entertain the thought of not going. She hadn't backed down from Lung, why would she back down from this? It crossed Taylor's mind that she might not be able to contemplate backing down...

It probably wasn't worth worrying about. What will happen, will happen. Maybe her sudden utilitarianism about the topic is-

Taylor dropped the thought.

A knock on her door. “Taylor, we need to go, that was an Endbringer alarm. Now, I've looked up where the nearest shelter is and...”

Well fuck. How was she going to get past her Dad?

Taylor quickly hid her scarf and goggles on her person, and then opened the door. “Sorry, Dad, I can't go to the shelter with you.” She responded. “I have some friends I need to see and-”

“Friends?” Her father questioned. “Why would you need to see friends on the eve of an Endbringer attack?”

Taylor didn't quite have an adequate response for that.

Seeing her lack of response, Danny Hebert sighed. “Taylor, what's going on in your life? This is the second time in a row that you've come home looking terrible. And now you're leaving for places unknown right before an Endbringer attack.”

“I...” Taylor didn't know what to say.

“Please.” Her father begged. “Let me in; tell me what’s going on.”

“...I'm going to fight the Endbringer.” Taylor answered with a heavy heart.

It took a moment for the truth of what that implied to sink in. “You're a Parahuman.” Her father whispered.

“Yes.”

Her Dad sank into a nearby chair. “Taylor... for how long?”

“Three months or so.” Taylor replied.

“Three- You've been doing this for three months!” Her father almost shouted.

Taylor winced slightly. “No, I've only been going out for a week or so.”

Her father sagged back down. “Well, at least I'm not that terrible a father.” He muttered morosely.

“Dad-”

“Taylor.” He interrupted. “Must you go? Can't you just... stay home, and leave it to the professionals?”

“No.” She answered firmly. “I can't stand by and do nothing, when I have the power to do something.

“I-just-Taylor, it's an Endbringer, dammit. Hundreds die every time one attacks, something like half of the Parahumans who show up are guaranteed to do so. Please, Taylor, I can't lose you.” He begged.

“Dad, I can't. I need to do this.” Taylor remained firm.

Why, Taylor? Why? Just leave the fighting to the others, and stay safe.”

“Dad I... I'm fairly powerful. I'm no Legend or Eidolon, but I can make a difference. Keep perhaps one more cape alive that might die otherwise.” It broke Taylor's heart to see her father like this, but she had to remain steadfast.

“Then-then... promise me you'll stay alive.” Her father asked.

“I can't do that, Dad. As you said, Endbringers are serious things.”

Her father's body trembled, and then he roared and punched a wall, a few lines of red blood trickling down from the impact point.

“Dad!” Taylor said, shocked.

“Just go!” He shouted. “Go and leave me behind.”

“I-” Taylor stuttered

“Go!” Her father shouted out again.

Taylor, not having anything more to say, turned and ran from the house.

“Goddammit!” Taylor heard her father scream out to the sound of something breaking. A few moments later, she also heard a faint sobbing.

Taylor kept running.

-

Considering how close she was to a crying, Taylor was moderately surprised she still remembered to put on her costume for when Aegis flew down.

“Buster.” He greeted. He briefly glanced at her. “Are you okay? You... don't look all that well.”

“It's nothing.” She assured him.

“Like hell it is. What happened?” He continued.

“I told you, it's nothing.” Taylor scowled.

“And I'm telling you that as a friend, and a leader, I cannot let someone into battle against an Endbringer in less than top shape. So you better tell me what's wrong.” Aegis crossed his arms.

Taylor's scowl deepened. “Alright, fine. I just had a little conflict with my Dad, wasn't happy about me getting into an Endbringer fight.”

Aegis winced. “Yeah, they're never very happy about them. Although you must have it easier than most, with how durable you are showing yourself to be.”

“I... never actually told him I was a Parahuman before today.” Taylor offered hesitantly. “And he doesn't keep up much with the cape scene, even the local one, so telling him 'I'm Buster' wouldn't do much.”

Aegis blinked. “So, you basically just told your father that you had a fifty percent chance of dying in the next few hours. Did you expect him to take this well?

“Yes! No! I don't know! I just... never wanted him to know.” Taylor deflated. “He- he became so angry when Mom died that... I just didn't want to hurt him. And now I've gone and done it anyway.” Taylor finished morosely.

Aegis sighed. “It's not my place to judge your actions, but that seems like, to be quite frank, a dick move. Now come on, let’s get going. I need to get you there ASAP.”

“What ever happened to 'I cannot let someone into battle in less than top shape’?” Taylor questioned.

Aegis shrugged. “That was a bluff. I suppose I could just leave you here, but then you would probably have Alexandria coming by to pick you up.”

Taylor paused. “Wait, what?”

“The Triumvirate wants to see you.” He continued.

Ahahahahaha-what?

Chapter Text

After a brief flight over Brockton bay, which was currently in a sort of organized chaos, Aegis touched down. “Here you go. Sorry, but I really do have to go now. I need to organize the rest of the Wards. Ensure Clockblocker hasn't frozen someone important, you know.” He joked. “Anyways, see you on the battlefield. Someone should be coming by to show you around soon.” He finished with a wave.

Taylor waved back, and then stood there awkwardly for a moment. What was she supposed to do now?

Her question was answered a moment later. “Are you Buster?” A PRT officer asked her.

“Yes.” She replied.

A nod. “Come with me.”

“Alright...” Taylor followed the man off into a large, but otherwise nondescript, building she could see other Capes entering. She noticed the Wards in a conversation with Aegis, and waved. Before she could get a response though, the PRT officer motioned her onwards. Following him, she eventually reached a fairly plain door.

The man knocked. “Come in.” A male voice sounded.

The PRT officer opened the door and walked in, Taylor following in after.

Taylor took in the scene. Legend was giving speaking into a cell phone, presumably giving out orders to someone. Eidolon, who gave her a slight nod upon entrance, was leaning against a nearby wall. Alexandria was nowhere to be- a 'whomp' of displaced air signaled her arrival, as she and a man in a featureless white bodysuit teleported in.

Taylor wasn't surprised to see Nowhere was present; the 'Narwhal of teleporters' was probably the most famous member of Alexandria's team outside of Alexandria herself. He didn't quite have the worldwide range or the huge amount of additional tagalongs Strider did, but his ability to ignore the Manton Effect with regards to teleportation was well known. After all, his debut onto the cape scene was ripping one of the S9 members in half with said teleportation. He was shortly after asked where he had sent the other half, he flippantly remarked 'nowhere'. And the name, much to his dismay, stuck.

“Thank you, Nowhere.” Alexandria spoke. “You may go now.”

“Brusque as usual, my dear Alexandria.” Nowhere replied. “Alas, I must take my leave.” He waved at Legend, and vanished.

Alexandria turned towards her. “Buster, I take it?”

“Y-yes, ma'am.” Taylor stuttered.

“Calm down, Buster. We're not going to bite your head off.” Legend spoke up.

“Uh, yeah...” Taylor offered hesitantly. “...What, exactly, did you want me for?”

“Well, we received an interesting report about your capabilities.” Legend replied. “And as we have a few minutes before Leviathan arrives, I thought we should take a moment to speak with you.”

“Alright...” Taylor finally got confirmation that it was, indeed, Leviathan that was attacking. It was fairly obvious already, but the confirmation was nice.

“There isn't much time.” Alexandria spoke. “So, in the interests of expedience, I will get to the point of this conversation. We have received a report stating that you effectively managed to defeat the ABB on your own. It has also come to our attention that something happened to Bakuda during the process. Something which made her ignite every bomb she had a direct connection to. What do you remember of those events?”

“Not much, to be honest.” Taylor answered. “Just a vague memory of something... automatic maybe?” Taylor was fairly hesitant about offering this. But if she couldn't trust the Triumvirate, who could she? And she really did need help... “And a memory of... power. Power many times superior to what I can normally produce. Other than that, nothing.”

“Hmm.” Alexandria put a hand to her chin. “Is this the first time one of these black outs has happened?”

“No, it has happened in the past. I think the first time was when I fought Lung.”

“That was your first combat experience, correct??” Alexandria questioned further.

“Yes.”

“I see.” Alexandria nodded to Legend.

“Thank you for your time, Buster, It's always nice to speak with up and coming heroes.” Legend cut in. “I believe Armsmaster is coordinating the local heroes. He would likely be your best bet for where to go next.”

“Uh, goodbye, then.” Taylor turned for the door, and stumbled slightly.

Eidolon was still there, leaning against the wall, but he had apparently taken up staring at her at some point. Apparently realizing his blunder, he quickly turned away.

That was odd.

-

“Buster, you're here.” Armsmaster pronounced. “As I was explaining to the others, I believe I have a method of at least holding off Leviathan until the main forces arrive. However, it becomes more difficult to do so the more variables are in the equation. So I am off to attempt to convince Legend to keep all the others away while I hold off Leviathan for a bit.”

“Isn't that... kind of crazy?” Taylor asked. “This is an Endbringer. Even a member of the Triumvirate can't hold off one single handedly.”

Armsmaster frowned. “I am confident in my abilities, and the abilities of my technology.”

Still spinning from her father’s breakdown, and meeting the Triumvirate, Taylor couldn't really bring herself to care all that much. “Alright then, you are the boss.”

Armsmaster, seeming slightly happier with her pronouncement, walked off in search of Legend.

“Buster, right?” Came a voice from behind her. “I'm Panacea, nice to meet you. Haven't really had a chance to thank you for saving me during the whole bank thing.” Taylor turned around and saw a fairly plain looking brown haired girl in a coat with a red cross on it.

“Yes, I'm Buster.” Taylor reached out to shake Panacea's hand.

“Ah, sorry, but I heard what happened to Clockblocker and would prefer not to get a migraine right now.” Panacea pulled her hands back with an apologetic look on her face. “Current theory is that your power nullification is more violent in regards to strikers than others.”

Taylor lowered her hand. More problems for her, Taylor moped slightly.

“Yeeeeeah, not a happy experience.” Clockblocker cut in. “Probably the most painful thing of my life.”

Taylor wilted.

Vista smacked Clockblocker. “Look what you're doing to her you idiot! It's not her fault that her power is so awesome.”

“Hey, why didn't you smack Panacea?” Clockblocker complained.

“Because she's a girl.” Vista replied frankly.

“Thanks, Vista.” Taylor sighed. “But I can understand, I wouldn't want a headache either.” And she really could understand, whether she wanted to or not.

“No, she's right. I shouldn't have been so blunt about things.” Panacea spoke.

She was grateful for Vista's attempt to cheer her up, but she was a bit mentally preoccupied. Why did the Triumvirate call her in, on the eve of an Endbringer attack no less? Legend claimed it was a 'convenient opportunity', but surely they had better things to do? Eidolon didn't even really add anything to the conversation, why was he there? He could be teleporting off in order to help move capes from around the world in. There was something more going on back there, Taylor was sure of it.

But even that was overshadowed by her father. In his current state, would he even manage to get to a shelter? Would he survive the night? Those questions worried Taylor more than anything; she resolved to tell her Dad the whole truth after the fight.

The intercom came on, interrupting Panacea's angry scowl at a kissing Gallant and Glory Girl. “Armsmaster has a plan to hold off Leviathan. No cape is to enter battle until a signal is given, or Armsmaster falls. That is all.” Alexandria's voice pronounced.

“Wow, he even managed to convince the Triumvirate.” Kid Win muttered. “I wonder what he built?”

Suddenly, everyone around her vanished. Taylor glanced around awkwardly. “What just happened?”

Nowhere appeared in front of her. “Damn, doesn't that immunity of yours have an FoF?”

Taylor shook her head.

Nowhere blew out a raspberry. “Gonna be annoying, I'll BRB.” He said, actually pronouncing bee arr bee.

He quickly vanished, and then reappeared, holding a wristband. “Alexandria, beautiful women she is, anticipated this. This is a prototype constructed by Dragon intended to serve as an updater for Endbringer battles. Although right now it only serves as a map. So go to this.” He pointed at a spot on the wristband. “Location, that is where we are gathering. See ya.” He vanished.

Taylor stared briefly, and then ran off.

Chapter Text

“...Couldn't you have at least got me a flyer, then?” Taylor questioned the empty space. She sighed, and looked at the location on the wristband with a cringe. That was along way away.

Grumbling to herself, Taylor activated her extra sense, and blinked. Her range had, apparently, exploded since the last time she had brought it up. She could 'see' the entirety of Brockton Bay now. Guess the wristband was useless.

A thought struck her. A brief moment of searching, and Taylor breathed a sigh of relief. Her father had worked up the will to get to shelter after all.

A moment's thought divined the optimum route to get her to the area, and Taylor started off.

During the midst of her journey, Taylor began taking into account everything that was going on. The Brockton Bay capes, and a few others who had already arrived, were currently standing in a large circle a fair distance from Armsmaster, the named figure fiddling with his halberd.

Currently, Leviathan was nowhere to be seen.

…This was kind of dull, Taylor thought, as she flipped over a railing and used that momentum to spin around a pipe and flip onto a rooftop, a rooftop upon which she stumbled abruptly.

Since when the hell could she do that? As she steadied herself, a glance behind her told an interesting story about the past few moments.

She was currently three stories up, the metal on a few of the fire escapes was bent, and there where unusual footprints upon the walls.

Evidently, the last few moments had indeed been interesting.

“Wonderful.” Taylor grumbled. “More things my power does I don't control.” The other capes were beginning to become restless, as Leviathan still hadn't shown up, and Armsmaster was still preparing. Already, they were beginning to explain the situation to new arrivals.

Taylor sighed, one more thing to worry about after all this was over, and continued onwards.

Then, Taylor saw it, a figure moving at incredible speed below the water. Her eyes widened.

The sea surged up, and water broke apart as Leviathan appeared from beneath the waves.

A heavy rain began to fall.

Taylor's heart raced. “Goddammit Nowhere, couldn't you have gotten me a flyer!” Taylor shouted into the steadily increasing rainstorm.

She was still a good fifteen minutes away. “Hope Armsmaster can hold it off.” She mumbled, before moving on.

She took a few moments of time to look closely at Leviathan, who was slowly walking towards the gathering of heroes, with her power.

“That's... really dense.” Taylor spoke to herself. Leviathan was made up of several increasingly dense layers all surrounding one incredibly dense sphere at the base of its tale.

Impossible levels of density detected, singularity should form. Potential physical canceler at work.

Analyzing: Negative. Alternate dimensional interaction. Creature is layered across thousands of dimensions focused onto one. Sphere probable weak point, further analysis required.

Analyzing: Power limitations hit, no further analysis possible.

Taylor frowned. “I certainly didn't read anything about the Endbringers having a weak point.”

Further thought was interrupted as Leviathan sped up. Abruptly changing from a sedate walk to a 120mph dash, it raced onwards, scattering water and earth in its wake.

Just prior to reaching Armsmaster, it spun itself around, tail lashing out to bisect Armsmaster.

He was ready for it.

A rocket charge in his boots launched him into the air. Leviathan continued its spin and brought a fist up to smack Armsmaster. An already launched grappling hook reversed his momentum and brought Armsmaster down to the ground, while another shot out from his side to drag him away from Leviathan's kick, a lance of purple fire spilling forth to evaporate its echo.

“...Holy crap.” Taylor was honestly impressed.

Analyzing: Prediction software detected.

Interfacing: Success.

She wondered how long that took to make.

“Jump, grapple to the side, cut with halberd.” Taylor found herself muttering as she watched Armsmaster duel Leviathan.

However... he wasn't dealing any actual damage to Leviathan. A swipe with his spear here and there resulted in a few cuts, but he didn't have any real method to damage Leviathan.

“So, I guess he's just holding out until the heroes come.” Taylor assumed.

A wave began to rise up, however; Eidolon, Legend, and some cape she couldn't name lashed out with beams of frost that froze the wave in a block of ice.

Six minutes twenty three seconds until ice barrier breakdown.

Will that be enough time? Taylor looked forward in the predictions, and found an odd occurrence where Armsmaster's predictions differed from hers.

Foreign Program insufficient data analysis.

“It wasn't ready.” Taylor whispered.

Fatal difference calculated in twenty two seconds.

Taylor panicked; she was still eight minutes away.

Analyzing: Methods for quick travel

Warp: Power inadequate.

Flight: Power inadequate.

Searching Alternate Methods: Method found.

This was crazy. But did she have any other choice?

She brought both of her hands beneath her, and fired the accumulated sparks.

The building below her collapsed, as she shot off into the air with all the force and speed of a rocket.

A few seconds into her flight, just as she was right over Leviathan, Taylor fired upwards, and smashed into Leviathan.

Considering her method of impromptu flight, Taylor could be excused her few seconds of awkward flailing through the air before she managed to catch herself on a piece of exposed metal.

“Buster? What are you doing here? I explicitly asked for no interference-”

“Saving your life,” Taylor interrupted Armsmaster. “Your program was about to fail in a few more seconds.”

“And how the hell do you know that?” Armsmaster scowled. Leviathan had already pulled itself up from Taylor's smash.

“I just-Look. Take this.” Taylor shoved her data into Armsmaster's computer.

“Wait, the fuck did you just-” He jumped as Leviathan swept its tail out, leaving a trail of water echo. “Do...” Armsmaster trailed off at seeing Taylor respond perfectly to Leviathan's attack in turn.

“I'm piggybacking off of your prediction software, while enhancing it in turn.” Taylor replied, as she lanced out with a flash of light to send Leviathan's fist of course.

“How-Doesn't matter, it's working better for some reason, keep doing what you're doing.” Armsmaster spoke.

Taylor merely nodded.

Then, everything went wrong.

Seeing Taylor enter the battle, the other capes assumed it was a signal to attack and charged in.

“What, no-” Armsmaster began, before seeing that his prediction program was taking them all into account. “The hell...” He breathed out.

It wasn't going so well for Taylor.

Processor draining power, rate exceeds generation. Estimated time until Power Overdraw fourteen seconds.

“G-get them out of here.” Taylor gasped.

“What?” Armsmaster questioned, as he parried another blast of water from Leviathan.

“I-I sa-”

Power Overdraw

Taylor collapsed.

“Buster? What happened?” Armsmaster began to panic as his prediction program crashed on him.

Taylor kneeled on the ground, gasping for breath.

“It's the same as the time bubbles.” Armsmaster realized. “Dammit, someone get her out of here. She's just a liability right now.”

Fourth consecutive time power limitations have caused unacceptable error.

Analyzing: Power Outputs.

Primary Singularity: 1% Output.

Secondary Singularity One: Offline

Secondary Singularity Two: Offline

Algorithmic Image Drive: Currently Irretrievable.

Excess mass redirected.

Primary Singularity: 10% Output

Taylor gasped, as thousands of sparks flooded in. So many she was having trouble keeping them down, it seemed like they would leap out of her hands of their own accord.

Taylor needed a power sink, now.

An idea came to her.

She waited, still on the ground for the opportune moment.

It happened, Leviathan's tail swished by her.

She leaped up, and snatched it.

“You're not going anywhere.” Taylor stated.

Inertial Canceler: Online

Chapter Text

At the sight of Buster holding onto Leviathan by its tail registered, Armsmaster remained fairly baffled. What, exactly, was she hoping to accomplish?

Leviathan seemed to barely pay any attention to its new hanger on, as it made a grand leap up into the sky in what was, presumably, an attempt to strike down a flyer.

Or at least, it tried to.

What actually happened was that Leviathan made it a few feet into the air before abruptly stopping, as if held down by the world’s heaviest anchor.

It flailed around in the air for a few moments, splashing water from its echo everywhere, and then fell to the ground.

Buster still held tight roughly halfway up its tail.

Leviathan quickly recovered, spinning onto its feet faster than anything that size had any right to. It lashed out at Buster, the water echo left behind from its strike gathered up to form blades meant to scythe into Buster.

Leviathan's fist struck Buster with, according to what Armsmaster's helmet was telling him, enough force to shatter a fairly large building.

Leviathan quickly drew back its hand, slight cuts covering it from when it had come into contact with Buster's hair, and lost.

The hailstorm of water blades was similarly ineffective.

Someone's been taking lessons from the Siberian.” Armsmaster muttered to himself. He noted that the number of processor cycles he had available had once again risen to hilarious levels. “What the hell I would ever need that much power for, I'll never know.” It just wasn't fucking fair.

A part of Armsmaster, an honestly pretty large part in fact, was still feeling bitter about his inability to noticeably damage Leviathan. If only he had a bit more time, he could have finished that Nano-Edge technology he and Dragon had been working on. And then Buster comes along, reworks his own programs to work better than he had ever dreamed, and then collapses. Armsmaster almost held out hope for a moment that she just might have something vaguely resembling a limitation, but no, she gets back up and proceeds to pull off a good imitation of the fucking Siberian.

Armsmaster sighed. There wasn't much he could do right now, he would have to accept the fact he had already put on a good showing; he'd have liked to see Dauntless pull that off. Armsmaster settled back and prepared his prediction program to counter Leviathan's moves against other capes.

Speaking of other capes, upon seeing Leviathan apparently crippled, they flocked in.

Blasters pelted Leviathan with everything they had. Purity carving helix shaped scars onto Leviathan's skin, Legend striking with an assortment of beams both exotic and powerful, Laserdream adding her own firepower to the mix.

A few Brutes made an awkward attempt to offer help to buster, but she just waved them off.

Others, with less range, were the ones Armsmaster had to worry about. A torrent of plasma already in the air to catch a water strike that would have bisected Battery. He reluctantly used a hook to drag Kaiser out of the way of where Leviathan's leg was going to be a second later.

As the battles continued, blood began to flow, and damage piled upon Leviathan, its water echo slowly gaining a red tinge. However, none of the damage appeared to make much progress beyond a point.

“It grows exponentially denser as you get deeper; you need to focus all of your attacks on the base of the tail, that's where its weak point is.” Buster shouted out.

There was a slight pause in the attacks, before most decided to believe the cape that was holding Leviathan down, and winning. A few seconds were spent communicating the information to those who had not heard, and the attack was renewed. The attacks for the most part, there were always a few rebels or people unable to understand simple instructions, focusing on the aforementioned point.

Buster continued to pay no real attention to any of the destructive side effects of the attacks, apparently concentrating on something.

Armsmaster's prediction programs reevaluated the situation. “Eidolon.” Armsmaster spoke at the man in charge of holding back Leviathan's waves. “The waves will break through within twenty-five seconds, at the current rate of progression, you should see about rectifying this.”

“Really?” Eidolon questioned, before looking at Leviathan, who was increasing its struggles as the focused attack continued to burrow into it. “It's worthy of consideration, I suppose. Cryo, Zero, to me!” Eidolon called out to the two other heroes with ice powers present.

As the barrier of ice increased in height and thickness, and Leviathan continued a futile struggle to gain any mobility, Armsmaster almost allowed himself to feel hope.

The powerful roar of a jet engine sounded, as a mechanical suit flew onto the battlefield, and offered a sword with a faint cloud around it to Alexandria.

It took only a moment for Armsmaster to realize that Dragon had finished a prototype of the Nano-Edge weapon.

Alexandria took the weapon after a brief explanation from Dragon and dove down at Leviathan, other capes getting out of the path of her supersonic flight, and drove the edge into a spot right above Leviathan's tail. At first, it slid in without trouble, but it slowed its penetration as it went in deeper.

Alexandria let out a grunt, and pushed the sword in further.

Leviathan reacted poorly, to say the least. Its flailing increased to a level that would be almost comical on anything else, jumping about in the air and flinging limbs every which way. Like a child with a temper tantrum, if that child's every swing created bursts of pressurized water that would bisect the average human.

Alexandria, in a feat of impressive mental focus, continued driving the weapon into Leviathan's back, no matter how many glancing blows from Leviathan and its echoes she received, or how many different ways she was flung around by Leviathan's movements.

Alexandria's sword drove in another layer, and the ice barrier broke.

A spinning hurricane of ice and water drove onwards to the battlefield. Eidolon and a few others immediately turned to begin the process of at least slowing it down. It was clear that the effect was nothing unusual.

The scale, however, was.

It spun and tore its way through everything set up to impede its progress. Massive barriers of ice and energy were ripped to shreds in seconds, as the hurricane rapidly grew in both strength and size.

The spiral of water continued to increase in speed, until a literal windstorm began from the forces involved. All the while Alexandria continued to drive the sword in.

Eidolon dropped to the ground, as he presumably dropped whatever power he was using for flight for another one to impede the vortex of water. And every other Parahuman power that might even slightly impede its inexorable approach was brought to bear against it.

It made little difference, for the wall of churning water and ice ground its way through everything in its path.

Armsmaster was feeling rather useless right about then. He could already tell that Leviathan's last minute panic attack was going to break through long before Alexandria was done; assuming that Buster's comment about exponential density was true.

A warning came from his prediction programs, telling him to get down, and an earthshaking roar resounded. The sky turned red, and the hurricane Leviathan had conjured broke like so much fine china.

Armsmaster picked himself out of the new crater he found himself in. The whole area had been reduced to rubble, Buster standing at the center of the destructions. Considering she had both of her hands pointed up towards the sky, it wasn't difficult to figure out what had happened.

However... Leviathan was nowhere to be seen. Alexandria tore herself out of a pile of rubble, still holding the Nano sword.

She had let Leviathan go.

Armsmaster lifted himself up with a wince, that leg was going to be pain. “Why?” He questioned Buster. “Why did you let it go? I saw it, fear. We were so goddamn close to killing an Endbringer.”

“I couldn't both keep a hold on Leviathan and disperse the hurricane.” She explained. “That attack was going to kill pretty much everyone here.”

Armsmaster couldn't believe her naiveté. “It would have been worth it.” Armsmaster stated. “If every single person here who could have been killed by that had been, it would have been worth it. Any sacrifice would have been worth it to kill an Endbringer.”

Buster crossed her arms over her chest. “I don't believe that.”

“You-you naïve brat.” How could she not understand. “You think that just because you have all of these fancy powers that you can be better then all of us?” Armsmaster spat. “You think you can spit on the sacrifice of every cape that gave their lives to maybe, maybe stop the Endbringers?”

“There will be a next time to stop Leviathan, if everyone here had died and we had not killed it, who would have stopped the next attack?” She postulated.

“Pretty words, why don't you tell them to the next man to die to Leviathan?” Armsmaster replied with a scowl. “Someday, you will have to give up that naiveté of yours and understand why we give up everything to fight the Endbringers.” Armsmaster turned and left, not listening to anything else Buster might have to say.

The idea that scared him the most was that she might not ever have to lose that naiveté of hers. That she would someday go so far beyond any other Parahuman as to make all of their sacrifices superfluous. Would her power exceed even Scion's someday?

Armsmaster retreated to his workshop, and told himself that next time, he would be the one to stop the Endbringer.

Chapter Text

“What happened at the end there, Alexandria?” Doctor Mother questioned.

“Once Buster let go Leviathan managed to pry me off of it using its tail as a lever.” Alexandria responded. “It can get pretty damn quick about things, I'll say.”

Eidolon and Legend walked in.

“An Endbringer attack with no fatalities... it's like a dream.” Legend absentmindedly muttered.

“Yeah, well, remember what Coil said. We could easily wind up making up for every fatality we missed here.” Eidolon spoke up in response.

That deflated Legend slightly. “I know.” He replied. “But, she seemed like such a nice girl...”

“While that may be true, we still don't know by what process Endbringers are made. We could be looking at the creation of one in progress.” Doctor Mother added.

“I doubt that.” Eidolon replied. “You do remember the reason we are concerned about her at all? The story Coil told us? Where she fought off all three Endbringers? And was making good progress against Scion?”

Doctor Mother frowned. “That does put a bit of a hole in that theory.”

Contessa continued to be silent in a corner.

“So, what are our plans?” Legend questioned.

“I'm moving to Brockton Bay.” Alexandria spoke.

“Really?” Doctor Mother raised an eyebrow. “As Alexandria or Rebecca?”

“Considering how tempted I was to answer 'yes' there, I've probably been spending too much time around Nowhere.” Alexandria commented. “But as Alexandria, the official story will be that I'll be there to 'mentor' Buster. I've done it a few times before.”

“But before, they always came to you.” Doctor Mother spoke.

Legend frowned. “Will this mean I'll have to move out of New York? If I must, but I'd hate to leave it behind...”

“No.” Alexandria replied. “It's for the best that you don't.”

“Two Triumvirate members on the East Coast? That's going to get some people suspicious.” Eidolon commented.

“It's a necessary sacrifice; we must have the entire Triumvirate ready to respond. Eidolon, you might want to be near as well just in case you can't get a sufficiently powerful teleport active in time.” Alexandria continued.

Mask in his hands, Eidolon raised an eyebrow. “That'll really get people asking questions.”

“David-” Alexandria began.

“No, I understand. But we better be prepared to answer some... interesting questions soon.” Eidolon interrupted.

Legend let out a sigh. “All of this plotting... It makes me uncomfortable. And we still aren't sure what set her off in Calvert's time line. Whatever happened to him?”

“We moved him to another city. And, as one of the extremely small number of people who can effectively use their power on Buster, we are keeping him on call.” Doctor Mother answered.

“Doesn't that ruin our plans for him? I thought we were going to leave him as uninfluenced as possible.” Alexandria questioned.

“A necessary sacrifice.” Doctor Mother simply responded.

Alexandria nodded. A silence fell across Cauldron's meeting room.

Legend stood up. “We'll, I need to get home. Arthur is expecting me, and unless you have anything else...”

“No, I believe you're free to go.” Doctor Mother responded.

Legend nodded and left the room.

“So am I the only one that has seen an interesting pattern to Buster's powers?” Eidolon asked.

“Oh? Please, go on.” Doctor Mother queried.

“Let's note the powers she has shown as of yet. Lasers, invulnerability on Siberian levels, effective omniscience within an area, and some sort of ability to interface with computers from range.” Eidolon spoke. “And in Coil's other reality, she demonstrated decent levels of flight. And there is whatever happened with Bakuda that implies some sort of dimensional cross ability.”

“A varied list of powers.” Spoke Alexandria. “Where are you going with this, David?”

Eidolon took in a breath. “Lasers, Legend. Invulnerability, Siberian. Omniscience, Clairvoyant. Flight, yourself or Legend. Dimensional crossing, Doormaker. And the ability to interface with computers from range reminds you of some of the things Hero did, doesn't it? Tell me, what is the connection between all of these powers?”

“You believe that she is drawing upon the powers of capes we have made from formulas.” Doctor Mother stated.

“Yes.” Eidolon replied. “What I believe, is that her Agent is some sort of retrieval one.”

“Isn't that our current theory for Glaistig Uaine?” Doctor Mother questioned.

“There are two of them, aren't there?” Eidolon responded. “Glaistig could have whatever Scion uses to reclaim them, while Buster could have the other's. And since we're taking them from it, it's trying to take them back.”

“That would be... devastating.” Alexandria spoke up. “Especially if we start to lose those powers.”

“Why is she immune to Contessa's abilities, then?” Doctor Mother questioned. “And in such a different way, too?

“The immunity is an artificial limitation on the Agent by the other entity? Maybe it added a more powerful limitation for this specific Agent.” Alexandria commented.

Doctor Mother frowned. “That... could be.”

“It makes too much sense to be false.” Eidolon spoke up. “It even explains why she was fighting Scion on equal grounds, because she basically was his equal.

“We'll have to wait for the Number Man to get back to make any serious decision on this topic, but, for now, we'll work under the assumption that it is the truth.” Doctor Mother spoke up.

Chapter Text

Sophia lounged in her cell deep in the PRT headquarters. They were probably going to let her out soon to help against Leviathan, which was probably her best chance for a runner. Sure, if they caught her she'd never see the light of day again, but that wasn't looking all that likely anyway. And in the chaos, she could be halfway across the state before anyone noticed.

The door opened, and Sophia turned to it. “Here to let me out? You guys originally kept me around just so you could see if I could hurt them, after all."

The PRT officer who had entered just snorted. “No chance, Leviathan's already been driven off.”

Sophia coughed. “The hell you say? It's been like, two hours, tops. No way was Leviathan driven off.”

“It happened.” The he replied. “In fact, there were no fatalities at all. I probably shouldn't be showing you this, but it's just too huge, even you deserve to know.”

“Even me, heh.” Sophia snorted. “Well, what is it?”

The PRT guard fiddled with an electronic device of sorts for a second, and an image was projected onto the wall in front of her. “Huh. Didn't know we had those in here,why do we have those in here? Not that I'm complaining. Hey, can I get TV in here?” Sophia questioned.

“It's normally there solely for interrogations with capes it is too dangerous to have a face-to-face conversation with. So no, you can't 'get TV in here.'” The PRT Officer replied.

“Shucks.” Sophia maintained her outwardly confident attitude. Inwardly, she was getting nervous about the fact that her best ticket out might have vanished.

He flipped on the projector, and Sophia stared.

An image of Buster, of little Taylor Hebert, holding back Leviathan while Alexandria drove a sword in. Leviathan made a move, and Buster shifted her stance, Leviathan fell to the ground.

The officer shut the projection off. “We didn't manage to actually kill it, but she and Armsmaster managed to pull off a battle with no deaths. Against an Endbringer.” He shook his head. “It's good to know that the Triumvirate will have successors one day-you okay kid?”

All Sophia could do was laugh, and laugh.

-

Danny wasn't sure what to think as he watched the capes cheer.

He'd know her anywhere. Taylor was Buster.

His daughter was currently being hailed as the best hope for the world since the Triumvirate.

Taylor had just held off an Endbringer.

“Damn, when did Scion get a girlfriend?” An unknown man spoke out nearby. “Because lasers, ultra powerful powers, and the whole red color scheme she's got going on...”

Danny scowled and barely refrained from trying to strangle the man. That was his daughter he was talking about. Scion was at least forty years old, he'd damn well better stay away from his daughter. And that other guy could take his pervert fantasies and go.

Danny sighed; he couldn't even manage to stay angry anymore. He had broken his word, and lost his temper with Taylor. He had watched his daughter fight Leviathan with Armsmaster, then watched her hold down Leviathan, and seen her take a punch from it and not even flinch. Had observed her working with Alexandria to deal more damage to Leviathan than anyone else had ever. She had been instrumental in making this Endbringer attack have no fatalities, something that had never been done before.

What did he do now?

-

Lizzy
Replied on April 17th 2011:
She's fucking Bullshit 12, I swear.

XxlathxX (Veteran Poster)
Replied on April 17th 2011:
Not an actual rank and you know it. She seems like an adaptive Trump that keeps her powers, a sort of 'Super Eidolon.'

...Actually, let me rethink that Bullshit 12 rating.

Whereforartthou (Confirmed Cape)(Veteran Poster)
Replied on April 17th 2011:
No doubts about it, her official power listing is just going to be 'Yes'.

-

“I'm going.” Crawler's voice shook the very ground upon which they stood. “She could hurt me.” The very idea seemed to make Crawler tremble with excitement.

“I wonder what she looks like.” Bonesaw tittered. No one had any doubts about what she was talking about.

Shatterbird looked up from her book. “Is it wise to go after someone so high profile? And also obviously powerful. It would be like going after the entire Triumvirate.”

“I'm going, and if any of you try to stop me, well.” If Crawler still could, he would smile. “You're welcome to try.”

“She's in Brockton Bay, right?” Burnscar questioned. “If that's the case... I suppose I'm okay with it.”

The Siberian and Mannequin had no input, as usual.

“Let's do it!” They're newly added member cheerily spoke.

“Isn't she the one who had the potential to tear down all of dear Nicholas' work?” Jack Slash spoke. “Yes, Crawler. I believe we can find a reason to head to Brockton Bay.”

“Even you, Jack?” Shatterbird questioned. “Fine then, if we must do this...”

The Slaughter House Nine had a new target.

-

In the sky she floated, blind. Half of her sight, mangled beyond recognition. She could no longer trust anything she Saw.

She felt her goals collapse around her. Khepri would Never Be.

Chapter Text

“It seems like just yesterday I was assuming my powers didn't extend beyond Energy Projection and an Enhanced Physique.” Taylor commented to the empty air. “Now look where I am. And I still haven't gotten an actual costume by now.”

It had been approximately fifteen minutes since Leviathan had been driven off, and Armsmaster had stalked off in anger.

Taylor sighed. That was going to be something she would be dealing with for a while longer.

She had been shuffled off through the crowds of well-wishers to the Protectorate headquarters where she now resided in a sparsely furnished waiting room.

The door opened. “Buster, the Director will see you now.” A female PRT officer spoke in.

Taylor nodded, and followed the woman.

They walked in silence for a moment, before the PRT officer began to speak. “You know, I just want to thank you for what you and Armsmaster did out there. I have a sister who's a Parahuman, and she very well might have died out there if not for you.”

Taylor smiled. “You're welcome. But it's not like either of us could have done that without Eidolon freezing the waves, or Alexandria showing up to actually drive it off.”

The officer shook her head. “I would never discount the efforts of all the other Parahumans in that battle. Undoubtedly, you all played a part. But, it was no bigger a part than they ever played. It was Armsmaster who fought Leviathan single handedly for the better part of three minutes, and then it was you who ultimately enabled the first Endbringer battle without a single fatality in... Ever.”

Taylor sighed. “I just feel like the world is going to put more credit on my shoulders than I really deserve.” She could acknowledge that the majority of the reason for the battle having such an incredible result was from her efforts, even Armsmaster's life saving efforts during the latter half would have been impossible without her enhancing Armsmaster's programs. But there were other people who helped.

“Gonna be blunt, kid, you're probably going to get it.” The PRT officer replied. “The world is gonna see you holding down Leviathan so Alexandria can stab it, and that's it. By tomorrow, no one who wasn't there is going to remember anyone but you, Alexandria, and maybe Armsmaster had any impact on that battle whatsoever.”

“You're probably right.” Taylor grumbled.

They walked in silence for a few more moments, before arriving at the door to Piggot's office.

The officer nodded at her, and Taylor entered.

Piggot was currently talking on the phone with someone indeterminate. “I'll have to get back to you.” Piggot spoke into the phone, before pushing a point on the screen and setting it aside. “Buster, we meet again.”

“Yes ma'am.” Taylor replied.

“This is our third meeting. And each time we meet, you've done something even more ridiculous than the last. Are you planning to take out Scion for our fourth?” Piggot questioned with a raised eyebrow.

“I don't plan on it, at least.”

“And yet, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. I find it hard to believe anyone's plans are in much of state worth talking about by this point.” Piggot commented, before switching topics. “To get to the point, I wish to formally invite you to join the Wards once more. The Chief Director has even offered to perform the swearing in ceremony, if you wish.”

Taylor could guess that if she refused once more, things were likely to become... difficult for her. It was unlikely they would directly move against her, but she could easily see them becoming very obstructionist.

Not that she really had anything against joining the Wards anymore. “That was actually what I was originally going to request of you, before the whole Shadow Stalker debacle. So, yes, I will join the Wards.”

Piggot appeared to ease slightly at that pronouncement. “Good to hear. Now, I'm afraid there is some paperwork you are required to fill out.” Piggot dumped a large packet of papers onto her desk.

Taylor groaned slightly.

-

An hour of filling out forms later, and Taylor was finally released to go home.

Nothing was official until she brought her father in to sign a few things as well. But, unless her father was adamantly against the concept, she was effectively a Ward now.

“How much one's life can change in a week...” Taylor muttered to herself as she walked into her home.

“You think? I woke up to an average morning, and naught but a few hours later my daughter is fighting side by side with Alexandria against Leviathan.” Her Dad replied from his position in front of the family computer.

He was scrolling through the page Parahumans Online had on her.

“Dad, when did you get home?” Taylor questioned.

“About half an hour before you did.” He answered. Suddenly, his eyes widened in horror. “You did what?” He stood and demanded of her.

Taylor winced; he was on the section about the ABB incident. “I... presume you're talking about the whole Bakuda thing?”

Bakuda thing?” He questioned with a hiss. “You were standing there and letting a mad woman bomb you and you call it a 'thing'?”

“Dad, I understand that you're angry that I let myself be bombed there, but what else was I supposed to do? Miss Militia and Earthshock would have died otherwise.” Taylor replied.

“But I don't care about them, I care about you.” He answered, and then fell back in the computer chair with a sigh. “When did you become such a martyr, Taylor?” He chuckled self disparagingly. “Look at me, forced to search the internet for information on my own daughter’s life.” Her father ran a hand over his face. “What happened, Taylor?”

Taylor sighed, and sat down. “It all started after I came back from that summer camp...”

Chapter Text

Taylor collapsed into her bed, and finally got the chance to calm down.

She giggled, slightly.

It was only now that she was fully hit by what she had done. A Deathless Endbringer fight. Deathless Endbringer fight. The idea was absurd. How had she held down Leviathan anyway?

Inertial Canceler.

A word sprung forth. Inertial Canceler... What did that even mean? Inertia, according to what she had learned in school was 'the tendency for an object in motion to stay in motion'. Strictly speaking, something that 'canceled' it, would make it so... an object no longer had a tendency to stay in motion? That didn't seem to quite mesh with what happened, as wouldn't that make it easier for her to be moved around? Unless it was taken so far that the 'object' fell 'out of motion' so fast and so absolutely that nothing could make it move.

Mining Databanks: Inertial Canceler legacy error, archaic misnomer brought about from traditional naming sense.

More correct term: Inertial Manipulator.

So, it was actually an ability to 'control' inertia, making it so Leviathan couldn't influence her own. And the name itself was a callback to the originals-

Wait, what the hell? Originals? What could there be originals of. And where the hell was she getting this information from? Now that she thought about it, these spontaneous information gains had appeared in the Leviathan battle. She hadn't thought anything of it during the heat of combat, but now it was beginning to freak her out slightly.

Taylor shuddered.

There was something... more to her power, something behind it. And it seemed to have greater control over her power than she did, she could still remember what had happened during the journey to Leviathan.

An image of her moving to kill Sophia flashed through her head.

And... It wasn't anywhere near under her control. Or was it? Taylor frowned. Could she really tell herself that the idea of Sophia splattered on the wall was that unappealing?

She tried to, she really tried, but she couldn't.

She would feel happy about Sophia's death, by her own hands or otherwise. If that happened again, could she pull herself out of it once more?

No, she couldn't. She only did so originally out of shock from the similarity to the ABB incident. If it happened again, in similar fashion, she wouldn't stop herself. What happened underneath the sway of... whatever, was always something she wanted, regardless of the consequences.

She could foresee a fair few problems resulting of her suddenly acting upon unconscious impulses.

Taylor let out another sigh; she seemed to be doing that quite a bit now days. She was going to officially join the Wards tomorrow, hopefully they can help. She settled down to go to bed.

-

Primary Singularity: 11% Output

Taylor paused, and shook her head slightly.

“Taylor, is there something wrong?” Her Dad questioned.

“No, just a... weird feeling.” She replied.

Her father frowned. “Taylor, not again...”

“No, really. It's just a weird feeling.” Taylor insisted.

“...Alright.” He conceded.

Taylor sighed. She and her father's strained relationship wasn't getting better anytime soon.

Taylor and her father walked into the PRT building, her Dad seeming rather more awkward in the famous structure.

“I... where are we going?” Danny Hebert questioned.

“The Director wanted me to bring you directly to her.” Taylor replied. It hadn't taken much to convince him on the topic of joining the Wards. After having fought off Leviathan, he was just happy that she wasn't joining the S-Class threat hunter section of the Guild. Taylor was still reeling over her Dad knowing about something like that, apparently he called in sick and spent a good majority of the night looking up every Cape related thing he could.

“The... Director, really?”

Taylor nodded.

“Well, lead the way then.” He spoke.

Not having anything more to say, Taylor did so, her father trailing behind.

A minute of awkward silence between the two later, and they arrived at the Director's office.

“I've seen this door way too much lately.” Taylor complained, only to wince slightly at the depressed look on her father’s face.

“Let's just... go inside.” He said morosely.

“Yeah...” Taylor trailed off.

Upon entering, they were treated to the sight of Director Piggot and... Alexandria? Taylor blinked a few times.

“Buster.” Alexandria spoke out. “And... you must be her father.” This was directed at Danny.

“Ah... yes.” He replied.

“Good, good.” She answered, before walking up to Taylor's father and holding out her hand. “As you well should know, I am Alexandria, but I do believe I never learned your name.”

Taylor's father hesitantly reached out to shake Alexandria's hand. “Danny Hebert, ma'am.”

“Well then, Mister Hebert, I wish to thank you. Without your daughter’s efforts, hundreds of people would have died yesterday.” Alexandria spoke to Taylor's dad.

“I didn't really do anything, though.” He protested,

“Nonsense, you raised her, did you not?” Alexandria questioned.

Danny smiled bitterly. “Not really.”

“Well, when I look at your daughter, I see you must have done something correctly.” Alexandria spoke out. “However, this is a conversation for another time. As you are here, I assume you agree to your daughter joining the Wards?”

He nodded.

“The Director has some things for you to sign, then.” Alexandria said, motioning towards Piggot, who had been paying only the slightest attention up to that point. “While you are doing that, I have a few things I would like to speak with your daughter about.”

Danny nodded again, and moved towards Piggot, who looked up from her work at his approach. “Danny Hebert, then? There are a few things we require from you...”

As they began to speak, Alexandria walked up to Taylor. “I believe it would be best, Buster, if we took this elsewhere while they talked things over.”

“Uh, sure?” Taylor hesitantly replied, suddenly being thrown into the conversation mentally stumbling her.

Alexandria nodded. “Follow me.” She walked off out of Piggot's office and down the hall, Taylor following after.

It took only a few seconds for them to reach another door. Alexandria opened it and motioned for Taylor to follow her inside.

The room was a sparsely furnished office, aside of the desk and a few cabinets, there wasn't much in there. A large window showed a, rather nice if she did so say herself, view of Brockton Bay.

“This is my office.” Alexandria offered before Taylor could say anything.

“You have an office in Brockton Bay?” Taylor asked with confusion.

“Not until recently, no. However, I have recently taken control of the Brockton Bay Protectorate.” Alexandria explained.

“Why?” Taylor questioned, although she was fairly certain of the answer.

“To be blunt? You're important.” Alexandria responded. “And on that topic, I would like to offer you an apprenticeship under myself.”

Taylor blinked. “You... Do that?”

“Yes. Generally, every major Protectorate officer has spent time in an Apprenticeship under either Legend or myself.” Alexandria answered.

Taylor frowned. “Actually, I think I remember something about that. Don't they usually come to you when that happens though?”

“They also usually don't wrestle Endbringers and win.” Alexandria dryly responded.

Taylor conceded the point. “I suppose so.”

“Quite. There was also another thing I asked you here for independent of the previous offer. I believe you have mentioned a few things about an inability to control your powers at times?” Alexandria questioned.

Taylor nodded. “Yes, getting some help in that area was my primary motivation for joining the Wards.”

“Well, if you would like, perhaps I could answer some questions on that front?” Alexandria asked.

It was what she was here for. “Alright.”

“Very well” Alexandria sat into the chair behind her desk, and waved Taylor into one in front of it. “What, exactly, are the problems you have observed so far?”

“The primary problem is that there seems to be something... more, to my power, an additional consciousness of sorts. It seems like it has both a better knowledge and control of my powers than I do. I... think it first showed up when I was fighting Lung, and needed a way to wipe out his fire. I blacked out, and when I came to it was gone. And on each subsequent event where this happened, I seemed slightly more aware of what was going on. The last time it happened was what drove me to join the Wards, as it appeared to be acting upon my subconscious desires with no care for my conscious ones.” Taylor felt slightly uncomfortable explaining all this to another, but it was Alexandria here. And Taylor honestly did need the help; better lay everything on the table from the beginning.

Alexandria leaned back in her chair. “I see.” She stated.

“Do you have any idea what's wrong?” Taylor questioned Alexandria.

“...Yes. I have a... fairly decent idea of what your problem is, although I will have to talk to a few people before doing anything about it.” She replied.

Taylor wasn't sure how to feel about that. “Can't you tell me what's it abou-”

Unusual harmonic flux detected.

“...ter, Buster?”

Taylor shook her head.

“Is something the matter?” Alexandria questioned.

“I... Maybe? I thought I felt something... weird.” Taylor replied.

“Weird, wha-”

The window shattered.

Chapter Text

Cherish panted. “You... Drive... A... Harsh... Pace...” She took a gulp of air. “Was all of that really necessary?” She questioned.

Shatterbird snapped her book shut. “Oh? Perhaps you wish to take that up with him.” She pointed at Crawler, who let out a loud grumble in response. “Please, be my guest.”

Cherish shut up.

Bonesaw let out a giggle, and climbed down from the Siberian's shoulders, the dash Crawler had dragged the Nine into having been too much for the young girl.

Mannequin shambled into the alleyway on the outer edge of Brockton Bay the Nine had found themselves in and settled down in a corner, presumably performing some sort of self-maintenance.

“If you're going to be a part of the Nine, you better get used to it. This isn't the first time Crawler has dragged us off, all drooling acid on the ground, in search of a new way to satisfy has rampant masochism.” Shatterbird pointed out, as a slightly panting Burnscar entered the alley.

“I get it, I get it. But, really, I'm like, the only one here that had to actually walk all that distance.” Cherish complained.

“If it bugs you that much, we can have Crawler or the Siberian carry you next time. Although, you might want to make sure that you still possess your entire person upon exiting the vehicle.” Shatterbird commented with a hint of humor in her voice, “The Siberian can get a wee bit... peckish during a long run, and sometimes Crawler forgets which mouth he should be using.”

Cherish just scowled.

“Jack?” Bonesaw questioned with a tilt of her head. “What's wrong?”

“Bonesaw has a point, Jack. You've been unusually silent ever since we've entered Brockton Bay.” Shatterbird spoke.

The named man was staring off into the distance, a frown upon his face. “There's something... weird in the air.” Jack Slash muttered.

Mannequin tilted his head, and scratched a mark signifying 'no airborne contaminants' into the alley wall.

“I think he means 'air' in a metaphorical sense.” Burnscar answered.

“Yes, there's something in this city, something which is drowning out everything else.” A smile spread across Jack Slash's bearded face. “How... interesting.”

“Much more like it.” Shatterbird dryly commented.

“Enough talk.” Rumbled Crawler. “I'm going.”

“Now, now, Crawler, you know that's not how we work. Because you were so excitable, no one else got a chance to pick any candidates. We can't all be here for the same person.” Jack Slash interrupted. “Besides, she's going to Alexandria right now, and with her there, there's a decent chance you'll be driven off before you can even meet Buster.”

Crawler grumbled, and began pacing back and forth.

“Thank you. Now, does anyone here have any ideas for your target?” Jack Slash questioned.

“Panacea!” Bonesaw burst out with a slight leap.

The others, however, gave a negative.

Jack Slash sighed. “Really, that's it?”

Shatterbird frowned. “We weren't exactly given a huge amount of notice on this, Jack.”

“There was someone here... but they left a bit ago, apparently.” Burnscar mentioned.

Jack Slash frowned. “Disappointing, but understandable. However, we do have some time before we are discovered. We can take a day or two-”

More Waiting?” Crawler roared.

Jack Slash blinked, as if he had forgotten Crawler was here.

Crawler himself seemed surprised that Jack didn't immediately manage to drop the perfect line to assuage all his worries. “Fuck this.” Crawler stated after a half second more of silence from Jack Slash and immediately ran off, uncaring of any building he had to knock down on his path to the PRT headquarters.

Bonesaw tilted her head in confusion.

“I'm genuinely surprised, Jack. That was positively... floundering.” Shatterbird spoke.

Jack Slash just frowned.

“Caught the mute bug?” Cherish questioned with a raised eyebrow.

“Jack, are you sick?” Bonesaw asked.

Jack Slash sighed, and rested a hand upon Bonesaw's head. “I'm not sure... You are positive there isn't an infectious airborne agent around, Mannequin?”

The named figure signaled in the affirmative.

Jack Slash's frown deepened.

“...Well, what now?” Burnscar questioned.

Jack Slash rubbed his chin. “Our covers already blown... You might as well as sing, Shatterbird.” He breathed in air. “Might as well make this an... unusual outing. Try something new, for once. Could be interesting.” The idea seemed to appeal to him.

Shatterbird nodded, and began the process.

The glass around them began to shake. Cherish looked on with interest, she had never seen this from the close up before.

The shaking reached its crescendo, and the glass shattered. Spiraling outward from the initial shattering to scythe everything around it. Conveniently, none of the glass came anywhere near the Nine.

Jack Slash nodded. “Alright, we'll meet back here in five days time. During that time you are free to do whatever you wish. If someone sees Crawler, could you please inform him of the changed rules?”

Mannequin made an affirmative.

Shatterbird and the Siberian nodded.

“Sure.” Burnscar replied.

“Roger!” Giggled Bonesaw.

The group broke apart.

Chapter Text

Taylor blinked. “So that's what it's like to have a shard of glass bounce off your eyeball.”

“You get used to it in time.” Alexandria commented. “And I really liked that window too.”

“What was that anyway?” Taylor questioned.

Alexandria tapped the side of her cheek. “Shatterbird, probably.”

“Shatterbird? Then... Dad!” Taylor panicked and searched for her father. A moments thought showed him stumbling around the director’s office, the lights having blown out; she let out a sigh of relief. “He's okay...”

“I'm not surprised; he was in the Director's office after all. The PRT offices are built with what protections are possible against the more infamous Parahumans.” Alexandria stated. “As you might imagine, the Slaughterhouse Nine are most definitely amongst those ranks. Anyway, I need to go report to Armsmaster; there hasn't been an official transfer of power as of yet, so I am still beholden to his orders.” Alexandria explained. “You should probably search out Aegis and do something similar, Buster... Buster?”

Taylor stared out into the distance blankly.

Out there, on the edges of Brockton Bay, sat a little girl, humming to herself.

The tortured screams of the man before her provided a haunting echo to the hum.

Bonesaw dug her fingers into an incision in the man's arm, and tore out a long strand of muscle. She giggled a bit, snipped the strand in half, and began making knots out of it.

The screaming got louder.

“Really, you shouldn't complain so much.” Bonesaw scolded. “You'll do wonderful things after I'm done here~” She patted him on the side of his torn cheek. “Cheer up!”

An eyeball rolled out of his shredded sockets. “Whoops. Ah well, you didn't need that anyway.” Bonesaw picked up the eye, and tossed it to the Siberian.

The Siberian snatched it out of the air, nodded her thanks to Bonesaw, and began munching.

Taylor began dry heaving. The... The fuck?

Alexandria put a hand on her shoulder. “Buster, is something the matter?”

“Bonesaw, she... she...” Taylor had no words to say.

“Bonesaw? Shit, turn off your area senses, now!” Alexandria demanded.

Taylor couldn't hear anymore, she had already given in.
Goal: Elimination of the Slaughterhouse Nine

“Buster? Your eyes... Dammit. Snap out of it, Buster.”
Accessing Database on all Slaughterhouse Nine members
Data Retrieved

Taylor walked up to hole where the window used to be.

“Buster-Taylor? Goddammit, she's gone.”

Taylor leaped out of the window, and landed on the street.
Area of Acceptable Damage located

Taylor launched herself into the air, the street below her shattering from the force of her blast.
12.4 Seconds until Inertial Cancel.

Taylor sailed through the air above Brockton Bay.
Inertial Cancel: Spike

Taylor briefly spiked her Inertial Cancelers, just enough to halt her movement over a specific point.

Taylor fell through the air, building up momentum. She reoriented herself so that her hand would be the first part to land.

Her Target had a moment to look up in response to the whistling of air, and open their eyes wide.

Taylor's hand reached out and grabbed the Target's head during her fall, carrying it with her into the ground.

The head, caught between the ground and Taylor's hand, popped like a grape.

Bonesaw died instantly.
Two more targets in immediate area.

Taylor picked herself up off the ground. Jack Slash rounded the corner. “What was tha...” He trailed off.

As Taylor stood over the headless corpse of Bonesaw, the Siberian began to tremble.

Unleashing a wordless howl of rage, she charged at Taylor.

Taylor glanced at her.
Dimensionally Distorted Space: Vulnerable to Physics Cancel.
Physics Cancel: Spike

The Siberian popped like a bubble.

Taylor looked at Jack Slash.

His eyes were wide. He gave no response to the scene, merely turned and ran.

A blast of red light tore open his torso, and Jack Slash died.
Next Target detected.

Burnscar walked down an alleyway a quarter kilometer away.

Taylor raised a hand, and paused.
Unacceptable Targets in Line of Fire: Wait 3.4 Seconds

Taylor waited.
Clear

Taylor fired.

A woman in the second building let out a yelp of surprise as a red beam passed through the air inches from her face.

Burnscar fell to the ground, dead, with a hole through her skull.
Shatterbird next nearest target.
Unacceptable Targets in Line of Fire: No wait time.

Taylor began to walk around the building in her way.
Shatterbird nearing

“W-what?”

Taylor spun around, and lashed out with her hand, an arc of red light bisecting Shatterbird before she could really take in anything.
Begin pursuit of Mannequin
Target too far away for effective movement
Considering
Excess Mass Redirected.
Primary Singularity: 16% Output
Reactivate: Guidance System

Taylor launched a lance of red energy into the air. Immediately after launch, it curved its way through the air, and struck down the entire alley way Mannequin was in a few seconds later.

“More of Legend's powers...” Alexandria breathed out.

Taylor took in the new arrival.
Alexandria, designation: Ally

And ignored her.
Remaining Target: Crawler.
Durability exceeds acceptable levels of collateral from ranged attacks.
Considering
Reactivate: Buster Collider

Taylor launched herself into the air once more, leaving a young girl shivering in abject terror, and an increasingly worried Alexandria behind her.
11.7 Seconds until Inertial Cancel

Chapter Text

“We have both Alexandria and the next best thing to fucking Scion in our city.” Stated Clockblocker, quite matter of factly. “So why the hell are we doing this?”

The surroundings shook, as Crawler rammed into the wall of haphazardly frozen objects in an attempt to scramble over, tentacles writhing in and out of holes in the barrier.

A rocket shot past, trailing smoke, as Miss Militia fired through one of said holes, throwing Crawler off the barrier. “They both vanished shortly before the attack.” She replied.

“A truly wonderful time to do so.” Clockblocker snarked.

Crawler squirmed for a moment, then picked itself up and shot off to the side, breaking through a building in the alleyway.

“There!” Earthshock pointed, they had done this so many times in the last couple minutes it had become habit.

“Right.” Browbeat replied, and shoved a hunk of metal in front of the designated section.

Vista began trying to make Crawler's path as long as possible. “There's just so much... Crawler, there. I can barely do anything. Get off your ass, Clockblocker!”

“Yeah, yeah.” Clockblocker ran up and froze the metal Browbeat had moved. A second later, and Crawler rammed into the sheet of metal.

Aegis and Browbeat began rapidly piling up things for Clockblocker to freeze.

After he had done so, and they had retrieved a moment’s breathing space for themselves, Clockblocker heaved out a breath of air. “Phew. You know, very shortly we're going to be surrounded by nothing but my frozen stuff, and it doesn't last forever either.”

“We're aware of that.” Armsmaster answered. “This is just a... holding action.” He finished with a tinge of bitterness.

“Uh, yeah.” Clockblocker mentally moved away from that topic, best not to piss off the boss man.

Clockblocker sighed slightly in response to the continued movements of Crawler as he continued to try and find a way around the barricade.

Crawler had shown up earlier on, while Aegis, Vista, Browbeat and Clockblocker were visiting the PRT building for the requisite post-Leviathan paperwork. Earthshock had run in, and said there was something big on a direct path here. Its identity was discovered, and an epic battle had commenced to keep it out of the PRT building, and all of the unenhanced humans inside.

“Why the fuck did I wake up this morning?” Earthshock moaned out. “Could have stayed in my nice, warm bed, and not had to deal with being eaten by Cthulhu today.”

“Stop your whining, you think any of us wants to be here? Fighting Crawler?” Vista berated.

“Hey, fuck you guys, I'm not a Ward. I didn't join precisely so I wouldn't have to fight these kinds of things.” Earthshock replied.

“Pbft. The Wards aren't required to do any of this. You only didn't join because you have authority issues that make Clockblocker look like Buster.” Vista retorted.

“Hey-” Clockblocker began to protest.

Shut the hell up!” Armsmaster shouted. “We have better things to deal with. Earthshock, where's Crawler.”

Moping slightly, Earthshock moved his hand to show the movements of Crawler.

“How do we know the brat isn't lying?” Vista questioned.

Earthshock turned to Vista. “You really think I-”

“My lie detector would see it.” Armsmaster interrupted.

Earthshock turned to look at Armsmaster. “You- Fuck you all.” He crossed his arms. “You can figure out Crawler's location on your own.”

Aegis moved in for damage control. “I'm sure Vista didn't mean it that way.”

“Doesn't matter how she means it. You're the only one here capable of tracking Crawler, so do so.” Armsmaster stated.

“Fuck you.”

Armsmaster scowled. “You-”

A thundering crash and Crawler broke in through a section of unfrozen wall.

A barrage of rocketry from twin launchers made by Miss Militia knocked him back slightly. “Clockblocker, now!” She snapped.

Clockblocker didn't respond, and just ran forward with a metal bar in hand. He shoved in the path of the recovering Crawler and froze it.

Crawler rammed into the bar, staggering it just enough for Miss Militia to shove him back again.

In the pause, Aegis and Browbeat rushed forward and began shoving objects in the way for Clockblocker to freeze.

Armsmaster deftly wielded his halberd, and cut apart any tentacles that came to close for comfort while another barrier was built.

Clockblocker collapsed, breathing heavily once Crawler left to attempt a better route.

Armsmaster turned to look at Earthshock, who had fallen over staring at the barricade. You could only see half Armsmaster's face, but that half was twisted into a terrifying scowl. “If we are still alive after this, and if I still have anything to say on the topic, you aren't going to be independent for very much longer at all.”

Earthshock just sat on the ground. “Oh god...” He trailed off.

“Can you try freezing it directly?” Aegis asked, moving past the nigh-catatonic Earthshock.

Clockblocker looked at Crawler. A tentacle absentmindedly wrapped itself around a brick, and shattered it to pieces. Globules of acid dripped from its eyes and mouths. Clockblocker turned back to Aegis. “No.”

Before Aegis could think up an appropriate response, the inevitable happened. A large section of frozen objects fell down, as Clockblocker's power wore off. Crawler stared at them through the hole.

“Fuck me.” Aegis stated.

Crawler howled in victory. And charged.

Miss Militia attempted her rocket trick again, but a spray of acid rapidly melted them to unusability, the now inert metal shells bouncing off his hide.

Similar sprays of acid kept anyone from approaching.

Clockblocker stared at Crawler's menacing form as it advanced on him. Time seemed too slow, was he going to die here?

No. Clockblocker decided. Not without a fight at least. He readied himself for an attempt to freeze Crawler.

Bracing himself for the inevitable acid spray, Clockblocker held his hands forward.

It proved unnecessary.

A figure smashed down from the sky into Crawler.

A second of dust, and the figure showed itself to be the white scarfed Buster, standing on Crawler who was squirming, unable to move for whatever reason.

Clockblocker had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. “I love you, marry me.”

Buster raised an arm, and it... opened up, for lack of a better word. Skin was pulled back by some sort of lever system to reveal an eerily metallic replica of the inside of a human arm. Instead of muscles, there were a few scarily thick cables, and her bone was a piece of straight metal. She slammed this fist into Crawler, and dozens of metal spikes extended from opening slots all over the inside of the arm, impaling Crawler.

Clockblocker considered things. “Totally okay with this!” He gave a thumbs up.

An eerie whine began to build, and blue light began to emit from the connection between the arm and the spike. “Collider.” Buster clearly pronounced. The whine peeked, and lightning streamed down the spikes.

Crawler soon found himself covered in a field of lightning. For a moment, he laughed in derision, for what was electricity anymore? That laughter cut off within seconds, as the lightning grew more violent, Crawler began to scream. It was not a nice scream, as the sound of anguish echoed forth from every single one of Crawler's many mouths.

The extremities were the first to go, tentacles began to disintegrate to dust, and parts of Crawlers legs vanished under the blue not-lightning.

A few seconds later, even Crawler's screams cut off.

Buster pulled her arm back, the spikes retracted, and the arm closed up. Now, you couldn't even tell the difference between her arm and anyone else's.

Buster stepped off the rapidly disintegrating form of Crawler and looked at the rest with dead, four pointed star, eyes.

Clockblocker stared. “Uh... Klaatu Barada Nikto?”

Vista stared. “...You're such a dork."

Chapter Text

Taylor stepped off the corpse of Crawler.

Target demonstrated extensive regeneration capabilities, survival unlikely, but not outside possibility.

Course of Action: Maintain watch until confirmation of elimination.

Crawler continued to disintegrate.

“Hey, Buster, stop ignoring me!” Clockblocker shouted.

Clockblocker: Designation: Ally: Access Level 1

Request: Feasible

Taylor looked directly at Clockblocker, and spoke. “You have this unit's attention.”

There was a pause. Clockblocker stepped to the right, Taylor's head followed him. Clockblocker stepped to the left, Taylor's head followed him.

“...Kinda creepy.” Clockblocker stated.

“Is there something you require?” Taylor questioned.

“Erm... What was that 'collider' thing?” Clockblocker asked.

Ally Clockblocker requesting information upon the Buster Collider.

Information Access: Moderate

“It is a device that removes neutrons from a target, leaving positively charged anti-protons behind. Subsequently, the positively charged anti-protons collide with the negatively charged electrons, resulting in both being eliminated. The target thereafter disintegrates.” Taylor explained.

Armsmaster let out a choking sound. “Positively charged what?

Armsmaster: Designation: Ally/Superior?: Access Level 2

“Anti-protons.” Taylor repeated.

“I... No. You just... No.” Armsmaster struggled to communicate his objections. “You can't have a positively charged anti-proton, they're inherently negatively charged. If you positively charged one, you would just have a proton. And that's not getting into all of the other problems with that statement. It's not even Tinker babble, it's wrong.”

“It's not like that's anything new, really.” Clockblocker jumped in. “I mean, Parahuman powers violate the laws of physics all the time.”

“Not necessarily. Most everything we've seen out of Parahumans so far could be reasonably explained by Clarketech.” Browbeat commented. “The tendency for sufficiently advanced technology to be indistinguishable from magic, it's a reference to Arthur C. Clarke's third law.” He explained at the confused looks he got. “Point is, we understand the laws of physics and terms that she's using. And they're, apparently, wrong.”

He continued to get odd looks.

“What? I just like science fiction.” Browbeat spoke.

“While I'm sure the ins and outs of Buster's powers are absolutely fascinating, there's a far more important issue here.” Alexandria spoke, as she landed carrying someone over her shoulder. “Namely, who are you?”

Alexandria: Designation: Ally/Superior: Access Level 4

“The Combat Protocols for this unit.” Taylor answered.

“Combat Protocols? Well, why are you still here then, and why did we not see you during Leviathan?” Alexandria questioned.

Ally/Superior Alexandria requesting information upon the Combat Protocols and triggers.

Information Access: Full

“The Combat Protocols will remain the primary decision maker until Target Crawler has been confirmed eliminated. The Combat Protocols only hold priority when activated out of combat.” Taylor answered.

“How long until Crawler can be confirmed dead?” Alexandria asked.

Target's body has 82% decomposed.

Estimate: 3:26

“Approximately three minutes and twenty six seconds.” Taylor replied.

“And when that time is up, Buster will regain control?” Alexandria queried.

“There is no 'control' to regain, the Combat Protocols are just that. The Combat Protocols will recede back to their usual level of priority in consciousness after that time is up, nothing more.”

Alexandria frowned sharply at that, but said nothing more.

An awkward pause followed for a moment after. “Uh, so who's that?” Clockblocker pointed at the girl on Alexandria's shoulder.

“Cherish, a previously unknown member of the Slaughterhouse Nine.” Alexandria replied.

Slaughterhouse Nine member survived.

“Apologies for missing her, the local Protectorate data banks have no data, would you like me to eliminate her as well?” Taylor questioned.

“That won't be necessary, Buster.” Alexandria firmly answered.

“Wait, as well? You mean you took down the rest of the Slaughterhouse Nine too?” Vista blurted.

“Correct.” Taylor stated

“...Even the Siberian?” Vista continued.

“Ye-” Taylor paused.

Siberian detected

“The Siberian seems to have survived somehow, Target incoming in four point three seconds.” Taylor stated.

There was a pause. “Wait, what?” Was heard out of Clockblocker.

A wall shattered to pieces, as the white and black figure of the Siberian dashed through, a snarl of rage on her face.

Taylor looked at her.

Physical Canceler: Spike

The Siberian popped.

“...Did she just glare the Siberian to death?” Clockblocker questioned in a daze.

Second time Siberian has appeared.

Analyzing: Figure detected to stumble and scream out when Siberian destroyed, severed dimensional connections attached to him.

Analyzing: Figure possesses connection with Siberian, Siberian projection of figure.

Taylor reached a hand into the air, and another beam of red light curved through the air, and struck down the van the figure resided in.

Taylor lowered her hand.

“Not that the Legend impression wasn't... impressive, but what was the point?” Clockblocker questioned.

“The Siberian was the projection of a figure point zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, two Astronomical Units north east, the figure was eliminated.” Taylor answered.

“Astro-what?” Vista questioned.

“Astronomical Units, or AU, are a system of measurement derived from the distance between the sun and the earth. Although in recent years it has been standardized to be roughly one hundred and fifty million kilometers, or ninety three million miles.” Browbeat explained.

“Surrounded by dorks.” Vista muttered.

“Not really living up to the dumb part of dumb brute, are you?” Clockblocker spoke, only to cringe from the glare Alexandria gave him.

0:23 until Target can be confirmed eliminated.

“A more important question.” Browbeat began to speak. “Is why you used Astronomical Units for a distance so small?”

“It is the default unit of measurement for the Combat Protocols.” Taylor answered.

Browbeat opened his mouth, and then closed it. “Well, if that doesn't have wonderful implications.” He spoke after a moment's thought.

Vista looked around. “Hey, where's Armsmaster?”

“He stomped off halfway through Browbeat going full nerd.” Clockblocker replied.

You're one to talk.” Browbeat cut in with a frown.

Clockblocker ignored the interruption. “Presumably, Taylor had done enough damage to his psyche for the day.”

Target is confirmed eliminated.

“No trace of Target Crawler remains.” Taylor spoke.

“Huh?” Clockblocker made a confused sound.

Protocols receding.

Chapter Text

Positively charged anti-protons, Dragon.” Colin ranted from inside his workshop, while working on a computer. “Which somehow manage to induce an anti-matter reaction without any of the other side effects of that. Where did the energy go?”

“Perhaps she created negative matter of some sort?” Dragon offered.

“Oh sure, let's swap one physics breaking explanation for another.” Colin looked up from his computer and growled out.

“At least this one only breaks the laws of thermodynamics.” Dragon commented with a hint of humor.

“Oh as if that's any better.” He spat, before standing up and beginning to pace back and forth across the room.

“Colin, are you okay?” Dragon questioned worriedly, this was unusually acerbic, even for him.

He let out a sigh, and sat back down. “No, I suppose I'm not.”

Dragon made a quick check of the Birdcage and S-Class threats, nothing notable, before focusing on Colin.

“Does her supposedly breaking the laws of physics really bother you that much?” Dragon questioned. “You consider yourself a scientist, do you not? I would think you would be fascinated by the prospect of something which would change the way you look at the world.”

“...No, I suppose it isn't.” He conceded.

“Than what's the matter?” Dragon pressed in, Colin needed this.

“I... It's... It's just...” He hesitated. “Small scale is my thing.” He finally got out.

Dragon made her virtual face frown. “Seems a bit... petty.”

“It is goddamn petty!” He suddenly leaped up with a shout, leaving Dragon startled for the slightest time frame.

He began pacing once more. “But... Protons, neutrons, electrons, all of that. I am the miniaturization Tinker; I know those things like the back of my hand-better, in fact. Ihave to. I can't make my technology without doing so.” He deflated, and fell back into his seat. “And Buster comes along, and walks all over this too.” Colin leaned forward, and held his head in his hands. “What doesn't she do better than me? I barely hold back Leviathan; she almost manages a kill and does manage the first deathless Endbringer fight ever. I create a combat analysis program good enough to counter an Endbringer; she casually waves her hand and makes it better than I ever dreamed. And now she apparently understands more about protons than I do.” He finished bitterly. “How long till I'm simply extraneous, or am I there already?”

How was Dragon supposed to respond to that?

Colin sighed again. “I can't work on anything in this state.” He shook his head tiredly. “I'm going to bed, Dragon. Maybe the world will make sense again in the morning.”

“Good night, Colin.” Dragon offered, and made her projection nod.

Colin shut down his video connection.

If Dragon had a head to shake, she would've of right there. Colin was going to have to work this out on his own.

She checked in on the Birdcage and S-Class threats. Nothing new. So her thoughts turned towards the latest sensation sweeping the news.

Buster, The name on everyone's lips since Leviathan's less than successful offensive. Someone had managed to tape some of the Leviathan battle, in particular the part where Buster and Alexandria were working together. The first time an Endbringer had shown anything even remotely resembling fear.

Several Endbringer cults had already canonized her, and not in the good way either.

However, ignoring radical extremists, opinions about Buster were of a generally positive manner, for now. Inevitably, someone will come up with some sort of objection to her actions, perhaps along a similar line to the ones Colin had brought up at the eve of the battle, if only for the attention degrading such a known figure would bring. But for now, there was no such objection; it had barely been even 24 hours after all.

But the really big thing, was what her powers were.

Dragon logged into one of her many Parahumans Online accounts, and rapidly looked through the now 77-page topic on Buster. It had only been 16 hours since posting, but it seemed as if everyone had something to say on her. To be fair, they probably did.

Dragon found herself removing several rather inappropriate posts. Someday, Jkuer89 will learn 16 is not an appropriate age for those activities. But this day, nor any day for the next 16 weeks, is not that day.

Unsurprisingly, most of the debate in the topic was on the nature of Buster's powers. Currently, XxlathxX's 'Super Eidolon' theory was considered the most plausible: an adaptive Trump that kept their powers.

It was a good theory, Dragon conceded. Certainly, it jived with most of what she had shown so far. However, there was what the public didn't know.

Information on the event was trickling in from various sources, a few hover drones and Colin being the primary ones, but all of it pointed to one conclusion.

The end of the Slaughterhouse Nine.

Dragon wasn't in position to catch all of it, she would probably be figuratively kicking herself over not acting more quickly for the rest of her, hopefully, very long life, but she had caught some things. And what Dragon saw... Confused her.

Buster demonstrated a brutal efficiency in her slaughtering of the Slaughterhouse. Brain matter on Buster's head, and the decapitated corpse of Bonesaw implied that Buster hit her first, and hit her hard. Jack Slash's vaunted luck, judging by the hole in his chest, had finally failed him soon after. Dragon still didn't know what the hell happened to the Siberian, and only just got there in time to see Shatterbird fall in twain, and Buster pull off a good impersonation of Legend on someone who was presumably Mannequin. Buster had then proceeded to fly off to strike down, as Dragon later learned, Crawler.

Alexandria had come by soon after, and flew off with a catatonic Cherish, who Buster had missed for some reason. Dragon hadn't been able to have any of her drones follow after, as anything that could possibly be construed as spying on a major Protectorate figure like Alexandria was forbidden from her.

It was what happened when Buster got there that was... interesting.

Dragon had reviewed the video Colin had uploaded several times already, at couldn't come to any other conclusion.

Buster was built by something. Even if you assumed that Parahuman powers could result in a human turning into an android, and Dragon would concede that it would befar from the weirdest thing for them to do, there was always something inherently... illogical to Parahuman powers. Parahuman powers always had an element of chaos in them, an element of randomness that just didn't make sense to arise except through intention or evolution.

Buster, didn't have that. When her arm opened up, Dragon saw something that was streamlined, something that was so obviously constructed she didn't understand why no one else could see it. Well, she understood in the technical sense, she supposed.

But Parahuman powers would never have something like Buster's arm happen. The smooth opening of the arm, all of the spikes which extruded in a manner perfectly calibrated for maximum dispersal of energy, the musculature replaced by cables, all of this was something a Tinker would build, not something which would arise naturally. In a Parahuman, a power like this would have just had the arm tear itself open, or the spikes would just shoot through. In all likely hood, there would have been a regeneration effect of some sort to heal the damage from the attack, and it probably wouldn't cause any pain, but it would certainly be messy, and would be nothing like the efficiency of Buster's attack.

However, there was a problem with that theory. And that problem was called Taylor Hebert's birth records. She had been born to Annette Hebert on June 19th 1995, and there were clear records of it. Her being an android of some form was clearly a recent addition. So she had to have triggered, but it didn't make sense if she had. It was, in far more ways than the average person realized, incredibly out of the norm for a power.

She supposed if a Tinker had the technology to do half the things Buster could do; it would be trivial for them to transform someone from range. But that raised the eternal question of why. A Tinker capable of the adaptive, self-upgrading, super tech that Buster appeared to be should be capable of shoving through whatever agenda he wanted without using Buster as a proxy. Perhaps the Tinker was insane? Or maybe had a specialty in improving others.

Dragon was forced to admit that a specialty of 'improving others' was well within the weird specialties Tinker's had, but the blatant physics violations wasn't. Dragon usually found with a bit of thought that she could figure out the basis behind most Tinker tech, no matter how weird, while what Colin described got just as much of a 'what the hell?' Out of her as it did out of him.

No matter what way Dragon mentally twisted and looked at the problem, Buster didn't make sense under any paradigm.

Dragon checked in on the Birdcage and S-Class threats, only to get a bit of a shock when things weren't all as usual.

The Simurgh was moving earlier than expected. Much earlier. But... not to any particular location, she just appeared to be drifting slowly towards what was mostly the middle of nowhere in Canada.

Dragon brought her mind from the topic of Buster; she should probably inform Narwhal about the Simurgh's unusual activity.

Chapter Text

Taylor found herself in Alexandria's office with, well, Alexandria. The hole in the wall where the window used to be currently had a large pane of glass Alexandria had picked up, literally picked up, on the way back leaning over it.

“I'll have to get that installed sometime soon.” Alexandria spoke, leaning against a wall while looking at the pane of glass, before turning to Taylor. “Anyways, Buster, are you feeling well?”

It was obvious what she was asking. “I can't feel anything from the 'Combat Protocols'.” Taylor replied.

Alexandria nodded. “Good. And how are you feeling about all of this, Buster?”

“I'm... not sure, honestly. How does one react to something like this?” Taylor answered after a moment’s thought. “It at least answers some questions I had been having. Like, where all of that information upon what to do during the Leviathan fight came from.”

“It's been around since the Leviathan fight?”

“Way longer than that, since Lung, at least.” Taylor clarified. “That was the first time something happened where I fully lost control, although I've started remembering the Combat Protocols activities only recently.”

“So the first time you get into a fight, is the first time these 'protocols' show up.” Alexandria stated. “Interesting implications, is the power summoning up new ones as required? If it is that, perhaps it was creating something that would enable you to use them to their fullest extent.”

“Clockblocker was suggesting super-adaptability as far back as the bank robbery.” Which wasn't actually that far back now that Taylor thought about it. “And I'll answer with the same I said to him; I had the lasers and durability from the beginning, no adaption involved. And, as bad as the Locker was.” Taylor let out a slight shudder at the memory. “It didn't require such an overt amount of firepower and durability. I didn't even use them to get out of it; a janitor came by and let me out while I was unconscious.”

Alexandria rubbed her chin. “Perhaps you're summoning up entire power sets? You brought up something that would allow you to survive your Trigger event, the durability, and the lasers just came along with it.”

“Maybe.” Taylor conceded. “But how does the whole robot thing figure into that?”

“I am not sure.” Alexandria admitted. “However, there are a few people I can ask that may be able to shed some light upon the subject. In the meantime, there are more important topics. One of which is, unless you become a blatant hedonist, you will never have to worry about money for the rest of your natural life.”

“And how long that's going to be, who can tell.” Taylor remarked, ignoring the thought that there might not be a natural limit on her lifespan, before pausing. “Wait, why?”

Taylor couldn't see it, but she could bet Alexandria was raising an eyebrow at that. “You just killed almost every member of the most infamous group of Villains ever; do you really think there were no incentives involved for their deaths? Bonesaw's bounty alone would let you live comfortably for... quite a while.” Alexandria spoke.

Taylor, as with many things lately, wasn't sure how to respond to that. “Well, Dad will be happy college is taken care of at least.”

“Quite.” Alexandria remarked. “Well, we will communicate with your father on what, exactly, will be done with it. In the meantime, I must ask how much of these events you want to be known. Currently, the only ones who know of your trigger event apparently turning you into an android of some sort are Clockblocker, Vista, Browbeat, myself, and maybe Armsmaster. I can have this information sequestered if you want, I would understand if you desired this to be left relatively unknown.” She frowned slightly. “I suppose it's a good thing Miss Militia dragged Earthshock out of there, he has... authority problems.” Alexandria finished.

Taylor hummed in contemplation. “Probably for the best that it's just let out. Whatever could possibly go wrong with doing so, having it found out that we had kept it a secret why be far worse.”

Alexandria frowned. “I assure you that if I wanted it to stay secret, it would.”

Taylor shrugged. “Shit happens, and besides, I just don't see the big deal here. My powers turned me into a robot for... whatever reason. Meanwhile, Aegis can breathe out of his toes, Legend can literally turn into a stream of light, and Crawler is... Crawler. Being slightly more mechanical than the average person seems so minor in comparison.”

“If you really think that's what people will think, you're quite frankly naive.” Alexandria stated. “The concept of the 'Robot Rebellion' might not be as culturally ingrained here as it is in Aleph, but it's definitely there."

“I'm quite aware that the overall public reaction is unlikely to be quite as blasé as I am.” Taylor answered. “But I'm sort of seeing that as an advantage; blunt some of the hero worship I'm likely to get from Leviathan and now the Slaughterhouse Nine.”

“And if you think that will happen, you're even more so. Those who will praise you will do so regardless, and those who won't will merely latch onto this as justification. You might bounce a few people from one side to the other with it, but you're unlikely to cause a serious change.” Alexandria bluntly replied.

“Fine then. If it's unlikely to cause a serious effect either way, better to have one less secret kept.” Taylor finished.

Alexandria shook her head. “You're not a person I'm ever likely to understand.” She nodded after a second. “Very well, I will release the full information upon what happened during the Slaughterhouse Nine incident, and will make no attempt to keep it quiet.”

Taylor nodded in turn.

“Now.” Alexandria began to speak. “I have a great deal of work to do, both the transfer of power from Armsmaster to myself, and dealing with the repercussions of every member of the Slaughterhouse Nine dying at once. And you, I imagine, would like to see your father after all of these events.”

Taylor took the hint, moved for a farewell, and then paused. How does one say goodbye to a member of the Triumvirate?

Alexandria appeared to notice her hesitation. “Goodbye, Buster.” She stated with a slight bit of humor.

“Uh, bye.” Taylor replied. And on that awkward note, left Alexandria's office, while the named woman sat behind her desk and began to work.

Taylor sighed upon leaving the office. Now, to find her Dad.

Primary Singularity: 19% Output

Chapter Text

“Intriguing information.” Doctor Mother rubbed her chin. “What impacts does this have upon our theory?”

“Nothing, most likely.” The Number Man spoke. “It just means whatever Agent she first began recovering took priority. It might even be Legend’s; it certainly fits with her base capabilities. And we have no idea what a Agent would be like without the normal restraints, or even if they're sapient at all. They could fairly well act in this mechanical fashion and it would even fit with her statements of default measure being in AU. Legend's Agent is thought to be some sort of travel one after all.”

“What about the robot thing?” Doctor Mother questioned.

“Likely how Hero's shard manifested; giving her an outlet for the Tinker related powers. And the 'collider' attack itself has all the traits of Eidolon.” Alexandria answered. A moment later, she glanced around. “Speaking of, where is he?”

“Hero's grave.” Contessa simply answered.

“...Ah.” And that was all Alexandria needed.

“What disturbs me the most is the Siberian story. How did she destroy the Siberian so easily?” The Number Man began. “The most likely case is that she was tugging on Manton's Agent to interfere with his connection. This implies that she is fully capable of removing Agents. We're going to have to be on the lookout for increases in her invulnerability power.”

“The only thing she's missing is the unstoppable force part of Manton's projection.” Alexandria spoke. “I'd suggest sending her against the Merchants, but we still don't know what set her off. Speaking of which, the 'Combat Protocols' demonstrated a great deal of reluctance to harm people who weren't her targets, which doesn't mesh with Coil's story.”

“It's likely that, by this point, large portions of Coil's story are rendered invalid, as what Agents she has drawn upon have changed. She certainly hadn't drawn upon so much of Manton's in Coil's reality.” The Number Man pointed out. “That said, we cannot disregard it entirely. There is a clear connection between the Combat Protocols and whatever caused Coil's reality. That, and whatever set her off happened before any reasonable changes to her drawn upon Shards could have happened, so the ultimate result of Coil's reality is still highly possible. Our goal, then, should be to divine by whatever means the Combat Protocols are activated.”

“I would disagree. We know the Combat Protocols activate in response to something, perhaps stress, perhaps conflict, but they've consistently happened in similar enough situations we can make a good effort to prevent it from happening.” Alexandria stated, and let out a sigh. “My first instinct is to try and keep her away from anything conflict-related until we can find an effective countermeasure, but Leviathan, and now the Slaughterhouse Nine, make that nigh impossible. At this point, if we tried to keep her away, she could go to the Guild easily, I know their S-Class division has already made motions towards trying to recruit her, and then we have no control over the situation.”

“I wouldn't say we would have no control over the situation. We still have Contessa.” Doctor Mother pointed out.

“If the Hunters recruit her? Unlikely, she will be in combat too often for me to see anything related to them.” Contessa replied.

Doctor Mother acknowledged her point with a nod. “Then we must keep her from doing so.”

“Unless we make a determined effort to anger her, she is unlikely to take any offer the Guild gives out, largely because they don't have much to offer. And people are, when given two fairly similar choices, more likely to choose the more familiar of the options.” Alexandria commented.

“...Can we provide a similar choice?” Doctor Mother questioned. “The Hunters have a contract with the Toybox, and thus have access to Mobius. Not even Dragon, if she was willing to work with us on this, can match Mobius' transportation technology. And since Nowhere and Strider can't affect her we are, comparatively, incredibly limited on our ability to get her places.”

“A fair point, although Mobius is actually making as if she might leave the Toybox soon. Of course, her most likely prospect for where to go after doing so is the Hunters.” Alexandria spoke. “However, until the Hunters make an offer, if they even do, this whole conversation is fairly moot.”

Doctor Mother nodded in acquiescence.

“So what immediate actions are we taking in regards to Buster?” The Number Man questioned.

“I'm bringing Chevalier over to Brockton.” Alexandria stated.

The Number Man nodded. “His ability to see Agents would be invaluable for figuring out some nuances we might have missed. Anything else?”

Alexandria shook her head.

“Then we will move on to the final topic of this meeting.” The Number Man brought out a list of names and ideas, many of them with lines drawn through. The Number Man took out a pen and scratched through 'The Siberian', 'Crawler', and 'Bonesaw'. Very few things remained uncrossed on it.

Alexandria frowned. “We are rapidly running out of potential countermeasures to Buster, and I am extremely hesitant about using any of the ones which remain.”

The Number Man frowned at the list as well. “Indeed. Most of the ones we have remaining would create a threat almost as bad in the process.” He rubbed his chin with a sigh. “As usual, do we have any new ideas?”

“We're not going to have any. We already went through the 'crazy' options during our last meeting.” Alexandria spoke, and looked at the list in disgust. “And now, all we have left are those 'crazy' options.”

“It's a depressing thought.” Doctor Mother mused. “That we have to seriously consider things like 'Have String Theory head a Tinkertech super weapon project.'” She sighed. “And yet, what else can we do? She's like Scion, only worse in literally every way. She may be quite possibly more powerful, as she would have access to more of herself than Scion would. We don't have anything even resembling a solid time frame on when she goes off. When she does go off, the impact will likely be even more devastating for the populace as a whole; Buster, unlike Scion, is fairly relatable. Some of the most potent powers in the world, the ones we offer, may no longer work for too much longer. Contessa can't use her powers around Buster at all, for fear of an incorrect prediction. And finally, we don't even have the guarantee it's possible we do for Scion.”

No one felt like talking much more after that sobering speech.

After a moments silence, Alexandria spoke. “I need to contact Chevalier.” She left the room shortly after.

The Number Man picked up the list, and left the room with a nod.

Only Contessa and Doctor Mother remained.

“Is something the matter, Contessa?” Doctor Mother questioned. “You seem distracted.”

Contessa was silent for a few moments. “I suppose I'm not used to being this useless.”

Doctor Mother had no comment.

Chapter Text

“Taylor, eh?” Dennis let out a sigh and shook his head. “What is with you and underwhelming names?”

Taylor deadpanned slightly. “What were you expecting?”

“I don't know, something out of a comic book; since you seem to be right out of one anyway. Sinestra, or something, maybe.” Dennis answered with a wave of his hand. “Although.” He mused. “That would be more of a villain name, wouldn't it...” Dennis rubbed his chin in faux seriousness.

Taylor raised an eyebrow. “...I have no idea how to respond to that.”

Missy looked askance at Dennis. “Do you ever think before opening your mouth?”

“Nope!” Dennis promptly and proudly answered.

Taylor shook her head in bemusement as their conversation rapidly descended into pointlessness.

After leaving Alexandria's office, she had met up with her Dad in short order. After a brief moment of her Dad worrying over her, they had returned home, only for her Dad to collapse in bed shortly after.

It suddenly hit Taylor that, because he fell asleep so rapidly, she had never told her Dad about the events of yesterday. Something to do later then.

Aegis moved up while Taylor was musing. “Well, while they're off bickering, I can finally get a chance to introduce myself. I'm Carlos.”

“Chris.” Kid Win, or Chris now, introduced himself.

“Dean.” Gallant offered.

“And I'm Mathew.” Browbeat finished.

“Nice to, uh, know your names, I guess.” Taylor replied.

Carlos nodded. “Well, you're officially a member of the Wards now, a Ward directly attached to Alexandria, but a Ward nonetheless. So, as leader of the Brockton Bay Wards Team, I welcome you.” A pause. “And now that the official crap is out of the way, it is tradition whenever a new Ward joins that we all go out to Fugly Bob's.”

Taylor smiled slightly. “I think I would like that.”

Carlos smiled in turn. “Very well.” He turned towards the rowdy pair. “Dennis, Missy, calm-” He trailed off and glanced at the doorway.

“Am I interrupting something?” Eidolon questioned.

Carlos audibly swallowed. “Uh, no sir.”

Eidolon nodded, and moved in front of Taylor. “You killed the Siberian, correct?”

“I did.” Taylor answered. Was he mad for some reason?

He took in a deep breath. “Whatever may happen in the future, good or bad, I will remember this. Thank you.” He gave a curt bow, as if the action was something he wanted to do, but was incredibly outside his comfort zone.

“Um, you’re welcome.” Taylor replied.

He nodded, and left the room.

Dennis let out a whistle “...Daaaaaamn. The impact of little Taylor's actions doesn't really sink in until you see something like that.

“I'm afraid I'm a bit confused, what was that about?” Taylor asked.

Dean frowned in thought. “The Siberian was the one who killed Hero, and she was considered invincible up until now, was probably thanking you for avenging a friend.” He shook his head. “But, as Dennis said, damn. Having Eidolon come in and personally thank someone you know isn't something you see every day.”

Taylor had nothing to really say in response. Sometimes, you forgot the Triumvirate were people too.

“I get the feeling things like this are going to be rather common around you, aren't they.” Mathew dryly directed at Taylor.

Taylor grumbled slightly. “You know, it was just a week ago that I was relatively normal for a Parahuman. Decent Blaster, slight Brute, nothing else special. Five days later, and I'm the next Eidolon or Scion as far as the general public is concerned.”

“As far as the general public is concerned?” Now it was Dennis' turn to raise the eyebrow. “Hell, as far as pretty much everyone is concerned. Seriously, not only is the Empire Eighty-Eight remaining on the down low, the Merchants have been quiet since the Leviathan attack. You got Skidmark to start thinking things out. That's infinitely more impressive than any amount of Endbringer wrestling you will ever do.”

Missy's crossed her arms. “Can't we discuss this later? I'm hungry.”

Carlos, having regained his bearings, began to speak. “Agreed. I didn't manage breakfast today, and would like to get something in my stomach soon.”

Dennis scowled. “Fine, fine, ruin all my fun.” He turned towards Taylor. “Hey, Taylor. What's it like being a robot?”

Chris groaned. “And he had held out for so long, too...”

“... I honestly haven't noticed a difference.” Taylor shrugged out.

“...Huh.”

Taylor leaned over to Chris. “Why were you so against him asking that, anyway?”

“Because we knew that the conversation would never leave the topic.” Chris replied.

-

An hour and a half later, after they had returned from the 'sensitive public area' of Fugly Bob's, Chris was proven right.

“Perhaps she is preforming internal matter to energy transmutation using the food she eats?” Mathew postulated. “It would explain why she is still both capable of, and feels the urge to, eat.”

“Those were all English words, I'm fairly sure.” Dennis began. “But I have no idea what any of them mean in that context.”

Taylor twitched. They had been at this for the last half-hour by her count.

“Never mind.” Mathew waved Dennis off. “I wonder, though, could she draw energy from non-food sources?” Mathew stroked at a non-existent beard. “Hey, Taylor. Would you be willing to-”

“No, I'm not eating anything you offer me.” Taylor flatly responded.

Mathew deflated. “Well, fine.” He grumbled half seriously.

A second’s pause. “Hey, do you still need to sleep-”

Taylor twitched again. “That's it. Next person to mention anything robot related is going to find out my new potential sleeping schedules with me. As I grab your wrist, and we stand together in silence for a long time.”

Blessed silence reigned for a few moments longer. “...Is that a promise?” Dennis began.

Taylor let out a groan. What had she done to deserve this?

The jovial air was interrupted as Alexandria entered the room. “Dragon, Wards room.”

The TV blinked on, and a face appeared on the screen. Dragon, presumably. “Buster, or Taylor right now.” She greeted. “A pleasure to finally meet you, although I wish it could be under better circumstances.”

Taylor blinked. “Well, nice to meet you too. What's the matter?”

“Five minutes ago, the Simurgh came to a stop above this mountain.” Two images, one of the Simurgh and the other of a fairly nondescript mountain, came into view beside Dragons' face. “A minute after that, and the Simurgh fell, for lack of a better word, out of the air.” The image with the Simurgh in it changed to show a video of the Simurgh gathering its wings about it, and dropping out of the sky in a dive for the mountain. It landed on the mountain with a graceful dip.

Dragon continued. “For the purposes of full disclosure, and the fact that trying to keep it secret is pointless now, that mountain is the current location of the Birdcage.”

That drew sharp breaths from Taylor and the other Wards.

“It's hitting the Birdcage? Damn.” Carlos swore. “And not but a few days after the previous attack.”

“It is quite clear there is nothing usual about this Endbringer attack.” Dragon spoke, and played the video again.

The Simurgh continued to stand there, waiting for something.

A minute later, and that 'something' was revealed.

The earth surged, and broke upwards. A flow of magma began to spurt forth as Behemoth and Leviathan pulled themselves out of the ground.

“W-what?” Dennis stuttered. “I-just... The fuck?

Taylor supposed no one could find it in themselves to correct Dennis' language. It was an apt description.

Dragon briefly muted the video as Behemoth lifted an arm into the air, and brought it down with incredible force.

The mountain shattered open, and the rush of howling wind as air moved to fill the void was all that could be heard.

“The Simurgh lifted up its compatriots, and entered the outer vacuum area of the Birdcage.” Dragon explained, as the Simurgh began floating into the newly opened void.

Dragon paused the video. “I will make the rest of this briefing short; I have others who need to see it as well. I brought all of the Birdcages defenses online in response; however the Birdcage defenses were designed to fight off Parahumans, not three Endbringers. All of the primary defense systems were destroyed by unusually fast water echoes out of Leviathan, Behemoth or the Simurgh may have been enhancing them somehow. The Endbringers broke into the Birdcage main after that, causing a panic among the inmates. A few, such as Glaistig Uaine, Marquis, and Black Kaze attempted to fight back, all died. Past that point, most of the Birdcage's air supply had emptied into the spatially enhanced void around the Birdcage, beginning the death of those who had survived. As the situation was now fully unrecoverable, I activated the self-destruct for the Birdcage, intending to set off a two hundred megaton explosive. Behemoth took control of all the energy involved, and ejected it out the hole they had come in from. The rest of this must be seen.”

Did that woman ever breathe? Taylor, still slightly reeling from Dragon's rapid fire description of events, took notice of the screen.

The three Endbringers moved forwards through the now shattered Birdcage, the dead and dying lie around them. The Endbringers came to a stop in front of their quarry. A woman, grasping at her throat as she struggled to take in breath.

Mathew let out a slight gasp. “String Theory?”

The Simurgh reached down, and wrapped its oversized hand around String Theory's head. A surprisingly delicate wrist flick later, and it wrenched her head right off. As the headless body toppled to the ground, the Simurgh moved out of the way as Leviathan stepped forward.

Leviathan spun in place, creating a large buildup of water. A half minute later, and Leviathan shaped the newly formed water into a massive drill. The drill began digging into the earth beneath the Birdcage quite slowly at first. Until Behemoth moved up and thrust downward, causing the spin of the drill to increase to incredible speeds. A moment later, and the Simurgh added its own telekinesis into the project. Backed by the power of all three Endbringers, the drill tore through the earth like a hot knife through butter, and Leviathan, Behemoth, and the Simurgh, vanished into the earth.

The video vanished, and Dragon began to speak once more. “I am showing this to all significant Parahuman assets before the events will be released to the public at large. I am organizing a meeting of all of said significant Parahuman assets, and would like you to come, Taylor Hebert.”

Taylor nodded without hesitation. “I accept, assuming my father will allow it.”

Dragon nodded. “Then good bye.” The screen shut off entirely.

“Kind of abrupt there.” Chris said with a frown.

“Please forgive Dragon's... curtness. She is taking her perceived failure to protect the Birdcage much harder then she really should.” Alexandria spoke.

Chris stared. “Uh, yes, Alexandria, ma'am.”

“And this day was going so well too.” Taylor grumbled. “I should probably go, I guess. Need to convince my Dad to let me run off. Again.”

Alexandria nodded, and handed Taylor a number. “Take this; it's the number for Dragon's phone. As you are immune to teleportation, Dragon has offered to provide you transport. Contact her when needed.”

Taylor took the number. “Thanks.”

Alexandria nodded again, and walked off.

Taylor turned back to the rest of the Wards. “Well, I'll see you all later, then.”

“You really don't think that much of it, do you?” Dean commented.

“Hmm?”

Dean waved her off. “It's unimportant. Just go and see your father.”

Taylor frowned for a moment. “You sure?”

“Quite.”

“...Alright.” Taylor answered.

Leaving the Wards with one final wave, Taylor left for home.

Primary Singularity: 24% Output.

Chapter Text

“At least it isn't another Endbringer, right?” Danny Hebert let out with a sigh. “God... In the span of three days, you've gone from my little girl to... this. Famous Heroes are personally requesting for you to show up at meetings, you're on the news everywhere, and I am quite sure I do not want to know what's circulating on the internet right now.” Another sigh. “And the worst part is, there's nothing I can really do about this. I know enough about life to understand that if I prevented you from going, I would shortly thereafter receive a 'meeting' from persons important.”

Taylor stood up in shock. “Dad! I would never let that happen.”

“It's not a matter of 'let' anymore, Taylor.” Her father replied. “You think, with all the many and varied powers out there, that someone sufficiently motivated and in possession of enough resources couldn't convincingly stage my death?” Danny's face twisted into a bitter smile. “It's almost insulting that they even bother to send you to ask, give me a little illusion that I still have some form of power and authority in the process.” His face twisted a little more. “I'm a rather pointless father, aren't I?”

“Don't say such things-”

“And why? Is it not true? The purpose of a father is to provide for, and protect the family. I can't do either of those things anymore. What would I protect you from? And what's there to provide that you can't get almost at will anymore?” He rubbed a temple. “Face it, I'm just superfluous.”

Taylor wrapped her father in a hug. “Not to me. The only thing I need out of you is for you to keep being my Dad.”

“...Thanks, Taylor.”

They remained like that for a minute.

-

Taylor dialed the number Alexandria had given her. “Buster.” Dragon's voice spoke up promptly.

“Dragon.” Taylor greeted. “I'm ready.”

“Indeed? Good to hear. I will send transport promptly.” Dragon responded.

“Mmhm.” Taylor hummed in replied. “So... where is this meeting going to be taking place?”

“The Guild headquarters; they've offered to host the meeting.”

Taylor blinked. “Isn't that in... Canada?”

“Correct. I had to requisition a device from Mobius to get you there within a decent time frame.” Dragon answered. “Mobius is a Tinker specializing in things that move incredibly fast. Normally, a human would be instantly crushed from the inertial forces involved in Mobius' machinery, but I would imagine you can take it.” Dragon clarified Taylor's unasked question.

“Yeah, probably.” Taylor agreed.

“The machine will arrive in approximately seven seconds.” Dragon spoke over the phone.

Taylor was fairly impressed. “Pretty fast, that.”

“You have no idea.” Dragon mumbled.

Inertial Canceler: Online

Before Taylor could ask for clarification, a black streak blurred into form in front of her, followed by a rush of wind that would have certainly pulped the average human. Taylor supposed she was lucky there wasn't anything important nearby, it probably wouldn't have stood up to that kind of force.

Taylor finally got a chance to really look at the floating device, she paused. “Dragon, why does it look like someone haphazardly glued a cockpit on top of a very large rocket?”

“Because that's basically what I did.” Dragon admitted. “I asked Mobius for the fastest thing she had, she gave me this. Claimed it was an attempt to create an ICBM equal to any conventional one without involving any explosives. According to her, she succeeded. Well, for a certain measure of 'succeeded', it can't really be considered a 'ballistic' missile anymore.”

Taylor did some calculations in her head. “...That's really fast.”

“She is a Tinker that specializes in rapid movement. Consider what Bakuda or Armsmaster can do in their specialties.” Dragon reminded.

Taylor sighed. “Alright, alright. If I wasn't invulnerable...”

“Then we wouldn't even be having this conversation.” Dragon replied.

Taylor grumbled slightly as she climbed on board the... 'Vehicle'.

She settled herself into the cockpit, and strapped in. “Ready?” Dragon asked.

Inertial Canceler: Online

“Ready.”

A low hum began to sound, and Taylor found her point of view slowly lifting into the air. The nose angled up, and the rocket moved. There was no other way to describe it.

A thought hit Taylor. “Uh... how am I supposed to land?”

“I can slow this thing down, you know?” Dragon replied with a hint of amusement. “How would I have gotten it there in the first place, then?”

Taylor flushed slightly. “Oh, right.” Another thought hit her. “Why make a kinetic kill vehicle capable of slowing itself down?”

“...Mobius believes in being prepared for every eventuality, no matter how unlikely.” Dragon replied with some distaste. “Even when those preparations make the intended operation of the device worse, if not impossible.” There was a story there. “You've arrived, by the way.”

And so she had. The blurring of sky and land rapidly resolved themselves into the form of a mountain with a large door built into it. “The east coast to northern Canada in fifteen and a half seconds. Whatever else she may be, Mobius does good work.” Dragon commented. “Welcome to the headquarters of the Guild, built by several Tinkers over the years; my own addition was actually sticking it into the mountain itself, it used to sit on top. And let me tell you, moving something as large as the Guild headquarters inside a mountain isn't easy.” Dragon seemed rather proud of the fact.

“Do you build everything inside of mountains, Dragon?” Taylor asked, as the doors opened and the glorified KKV slowly moved inside a rather barren room.

“They make for a good base structure, you can just build inwards.” Dragon defended.

The rocket landed. Taylor popped the hatch open, and pulled herself out. “Right. Well, where do I go from here?”

“Here already? I'll take her to Alexandria from here, Dragon.” Nowhere walked into the room and spoke. He opened his mouth to speak further, and then stumbled slightly. “Is that... Mobius' glorified guided railgun she calls an ICBM? No wonder you get here so fast...”

“It is not a railgun! How many times do I have to tell you this, there's nothing even vaguely electromagnetic involved!” Dragon shouted over Taylor's phone.

“Details.” Nowhere waved. “It goes fast, railguns go fast. Quod erat demonstrandum.”

“... Goodbye, Nowhere.” Dragon tersely replied over the phone and hung up.

Nowhere shook his head in amusement. “She'll learn, someday.”

Taylor frowned. “You know, considering what just happened with the Birdcage, think you could let up a little on Dragon?”

“Fine, fine. Kill all of my fun.” He grumbled. “Let's just get you to Alexandria, so you can plot how to murder fun together. This whole meeting is probably a plot by people like you to declare war on fun. Fun is the mind killer-”

Did he ever shut up?

Chapter Text

Nowhere led Taylor into a fairly large room filled with capes. Some she knew; Armsmaster and Dauntless most prominently, but most she didn't. However, considering what this meeting was about, they were all probably important to one extent or the other.

“Well, I've done my duty here, Alexandria's thataway.” Nowhere waved in a direction. “So I'm gonna fly, see ya.” He vanished.

“Well, good bye to you too.” Taylor wasn't exactly dissatisfied to see him go. She turned towards the direction Nowhere had signaled, and saw the Triumvirate speaking with Narwhal, a cape she most definitely did know, and another in black and gold armor.

Taylor moved in the direction of them, however, she was interrupted. “Buster.” A man in a gray and red outfit, with a helmet similar to Alexandria's stepped up and offered out his hand. Taylor took it. “I'm Rapid, the leader of the Hunters, and I just wanted to thank you for what you did with Leviathan, you singled handedly saved hundreds of lives there, including potentially my own.”

Leader of the Hunters? Oh boy, a recruitment effort. Taylor internally groaned. Outwardly she shrugged. “I just did what anyone would do given my power set.” It was probably even true to an extent; Leviathan seems much less intimidating when you can't be harmed by... anything, so far. Admittedly, she hadn't known that she would block even Leviathan's efforts at the time, but it had seemed fairly self-evident for some reason. Probably the Protocols.

“Perhaps, perhaps not.” He murmured. “The world might not be as altruistic as you believe it to be. Or maybe I'm just a cynical old fart.” He commented with self-depreciating smile. “Regardless, I just want you to know that a place in the Hunters is open for you at any time.”

Taylor nodded. “I will keep that in mind.” Not likely to happen, but always good to keep her options open.

“That's all I ask.” He replied, before giving a wave and walking off somewhere.

Taylor moved onward, but was stopped again. “Yo, Buster. You like my ride?” A woman in a black outfit with large green stripes interrupted. She walked up. “Names' Mobius, as you might have presumed.” The woman introduced herself with a bow. “So, did you like it? It's something I've always wanted to do, but alas, such safeties are outside my specifications.” She shook her head in despair that was only half faked. “But you know what they say, live vicariously through others! Well.” She paused. “That is usually used to refer to one’s children, but, eh.” She shrugged.

“I'm not sure how much there was to like.” Taylor admitted. “The trip was over so fast, I was talking with Dragon at the time, and inertia only affects me when I want it to. So I honestly didn't even notice most of the ride.

“Inertia? That must be how you stopped Leviathan, but that would be more than-” She stopped as realization broke. “You can manipulate inertia?” A slow smile spread over her face. “Oh my do I have ideas. I'm going to have to call in that favor you as of right now owe me for the use of my tech so I can test that.” She stated, and then walked off mumbling things to herself.

“...Bye?” Taylor called into the now empty space.

After a second of awkward silence, Taylor shook her head and managed to actually finish her journey this time.

“Buster.” Alexandria greeted. Legend and Eidolon looked up from their conversation with the man in black and gold armor and gave a nod of their own. Narwhal, however, had left at some point while she was being accosted. “I see you made it, and in surprising time. However did Dragon get you here so quickly?” Alexandria continued.

“She got a rocket from Mobius.” Taylor explained.

“...That would explain it, yes.” Alexandria nodded. “Moving on, there's someone I would like you to meet, this is Chevalier.” Alexandria motioned towards the man in black and gold armor. “Chevalier, this is Buster.”

Chevalier turned towards her. “Greetin...” He trailed off. He stared at her, his face was completely covered so she couldn't tell what he was thinking, but from the way his hand tightened around the grip of his sword, it wasn't anything happy. After a moment of this, he relaxed. “...My apologies, I just let my surprise overcome me.”

“Surprise? At what?” Taylor questioned.

“Nothing important.” Chevalier dismissed. “Now, I'm afraid I must take my leave.” He gave his goodbyes to the Triumvirate, and walked off.

“What was that about?” Taylor asked.

“I would think nothing of it.” Alexandria spoke. “Chevalier's powers are odd at times; it's nothing to be worried about.”

“...Right. Well, it's not like I've got much room to comment when it comes to weird powers.” Taylor replied.

Their brief conversation was interrupted; as Narwhal reentered the room followed by one of Dragon's suits, and loudly cleared her throat to catch the attention of the room.

The light chatter of conversation ceased.

Narwhal nodded. “Thank you all for coming in response to this unprecedented sequence of events. And now, I cede the floor to Dragon.” She stepped aside and motioned to the suit of armor.

Dragon stepped forward. “I'm sure you are all aware of the tragedy that happened earlier this morning.”

“Well.” A male cape Taylor didn't know spoke up. “I don't know if I'd call it a tragedy...”

Not a tragedy?” Dragon directed at the cape who had spoken. “There were seven people in the Birdcage who were later cleared of all crimes, and only remained because no method exists to remove people from it. A further fourteen existed whose sentencing was highly questionable at best. They are all dead now, don't insult their deaths by saying it wasn't a tragedy.”

“Uh, sorry.” The cape who spoke out said while sheepishly scratching the back of his head.

Dragon's armored form nodded. “By all means, rejoice the deaths of Black Kaze or Grunge if you must, but please remember that not everyone in there deserved to be.” She turned back towards the crowd. “Moving on, we are here primarily to discuss the reasons for the attack on the Birdcage, and potential responses.”

“Wait, we're seriously questioning the why here?” The previous cape broke in. “I thought it was obvious. No offense, Buster.” The cape turned towards Taylor. “What you did was totally the right thing to do, but what's the major change in variables between the previous pattern and now?”

Taylor considered things. It was probably true, in all honesty. However... “I think she's talking about why the Birdcage was attacked.”

“Oh, that would make sense.” The cape said with embarrassment. “I think I'll just shut up for the rest of this discussion.”

“Buster is correct. While we cannot know for sure the impetus for the change in pattern, it may very well be the decisive defeat of an Endbringer that triggered it. It is, however, irrelevant to the topic at hand. So, currently, I am taking ideas on why they may have attacked the Birdcage.” Dragon finished.

A low drone filled the air, as the various capes began talking amongst themselves. It continued for a moment, until a man stepped forward.

“The target for the attack is fairly obvious, they were after String Theory; she was the only one they specifically killed.” Rapid began. “The question remains, why? I have a theory, however.” He began pacing back and forth. “String Theory was a Tinker specializing in the creation of weapons which caused destruction on a massive scale. The Simurgh is precognitive, correct? Perhaps it saw a future where String Theory managed to build a weapon that killed them, and bringing all three Endbringers together was the only way to reliably break the cage.”

“An interesting theory.” An unknown female interjected. “But that doesn't explain why they took her head.”

Rapid nodded in the middle of his walk, and picked up the pace. “A fair point. Why did they take her head?” He had broken out into a full blown run as he dashed back and forth across the room.

Strangely enough, no one seemed to think oddly of this. Taylor turned towards a nearby cape. “Uh, why is he-”

“Rapid is a high level Thinker that gets more intelligent the faster he is moving under his own power.” The cape explained. “He can make some truly incredible leaps in logic when he really gets going.”

Taylor's power seemed less and less weird the more capes she heard about.

Rapid was breathing heavily by now. “I... think... I... have... an... Idea.” He stopped to catch his breath. “Completely disregard my old theory, the Simurgh is the only confirmed telepathic, it commonly puts new ideas inside of capes that stay within her range too long.” He began moving, at a more sedate pace, once more. “What if it can pull them out? It may be possible for the Simurgh to pull Tinkertech schematics and knowledge out of the minds of Tinkers, and those minds might not even need to be alive.” He finally stopped moving. “The Simurgh is potentially pulling the knowledge of how to build String Theory's Tinkertech out of her head.”

There was a shocked silence. The idea of the Endbringers with Tinkertech we terrifying.

“...A very good assumption.” Dragon began after a moment. “I believe it is fair to assume that, on their next appearance, the Endbringers may appear with String Theory's technology to aid them. Therefor-”

“I... Think we need to assume quite a bit more than just String Theory's tech.” A very pale man who was presumably an assistant of some sort interrupted while looking at a phone. “And I think Rapid's theory was just confirmed, the Endbringers are hitting the Toybox.”

Muttering began.

“The Toybox? It's been barely an hour? How fast are those damned things?” Spoke one cape.

“They must have been going... at least two hundred miles per hour while under the earth to pull that off.” Responded another.

However, they were all overshadowed by Mobius. “What!” She screeched. “But-my lab-all my things!” She wrung her hands worriedly.

Legend rapidly took control. “Strider!” He roared. “Everyone who isn't a Tinker, now!”

Most of the capes vanished. Only Taylor, Mobius, Dragon and two unknown capes remained.

“Hey! My stuff-” Mobius cut herself off with a sigh. “Well, fine, whatever.”

Taylor marched over to Dragon. “Can you get me there?”

“Maybe. Mobius?” Dragon questioned.

“Not happening.” Mobius waved. “You think even Tinkertech materials can withstand those kinds of speeds for very long? Well, I'll tell you, they can't. You guys had, like, five more seconds in that before the thing fell apart.”

Dragon paused. “...Why was I not told this?” She demanded.

“Didn't seem relevant.” Mobius shrugged. “Anyway, repairs would take days assuming optimal conditions. And I have nothing else on me.”

Dragon looked at her askance. “Not relevant? Dammit, Mobius. If you ever want to be a member of the Guild...”

Taylor ignored their bickering. “Fuck. There has to be something can do. Alexandria said my power is probably adaptive, so fucking adapt.”

Analyzing: Methods for quick travel

Warp: Power Inadequate

Flight: Power Inadequate for necessary speed.

Searching Alternate Methods: Algorithmic Image Propulsion unreliable in current state.

No method available

“Unreliable? Don't give a fuck.” She tried to draw out the power anyway, it seemed to... struggle with her.

Warning: Currently unable to compensate for Causality Errors.

“Don't. Give. A. Fuck.” Something seemed to give loose.

Algorithmic Image Propulsion Online.

“Buster, what are you doing?” Dragon questioned.

Taylor moved.

Taylor moved

Taylor moved

Taylor saw the Toybox.

Taylor moved.

Taylor rammed into her.

Taylor hit the Simurgh.

Taylor stopped moving.

Mobius Spoke

Taylor never moved

Taylor always moved.

Automatic Shutdown

Things faded into of focus. Taylor stumbled onto the ground.

“...The holy flying fuck was that!” Mobius demanded.

“I must agree with Mobius. What happened there?” Dragon agreed.

“I'm not sure. I think I tried to activate a power that wasn't ready.”

“Well, damn girl. In the future, if one of your powers isn't ready, don't fucking activate it.” Mobius said to Taylor. “I mean, how the fuck do you describe that?”

“I have it on video.” Dragon reached out with an arm, and projected the scene onto a wall.

Taylor saw herself fly forward, and then saw another Taylor fly forward from the same position. A Taylor appeared in front of the original one, and Taylor rammed into that Taylor. Taylors scattered everywhere from the impact, bouncing and scattering across the room till it was filled to the brim with Taylors. Mobius began screaming at some point. Then, all of Taylors vanished, and Taylor saw herself in her current position.

“...The fuck?” Taylor questioned with eyes wide open.

“Yeah.” Mobius replied. “Fucking yeah.”

Chapter Text

“I'm going to resign as leader of the Protectorate.” Legend looked old, sitting in his wheelchair, face pale as a ghost. “I've clearly gotten too old-”

“You can't do that.” Doctor Mother interrupted. “We need to-”

“Forty six people are dead because of me!” Legend shouted. “Forty six, several of them good friends, all of them very important, dead because I made the call.” If Legend could have stood up to throw something he would have. He instead clenched his fists in anger. “I'm so goddamn stupid. Charging all gung-ho into the middle of three Endbringers. I can't- I can't do this anymore. Please don't make me do this.” He pleaded.

“And I'm saying that's the worst possible choice.” Doctor Mother responded. “In the face of such destruction the Triumvirate must display a united front.”

“A united front for what?” Legend cried. “We're already getting reports of attacks in Africa. The Endbringers move too fast and-” He began coughing.

“Legend, you need to get some rest. Who knows what else besides the nerve damage Panacea was unable to repair.” Alexandria cut in. “Besides, Doctor Mother's right, we need to be united. Are you just going to give up here? Give up on everyone who looks up to the Triumvirate? Go to bed, get some rest, and think on that.”

A bitter look crossed Legend's face. “You're an asshole sometimes, Rebbecca.” He still wheeled himself out of the room.

“He didn't take that very well.” Doctor Mother noted.

“Not at all.” Alexandria agreed. “David isn't doing much better. His complete failure to accomplish much of anything isn't doing wonders for his self-confidence-especially right after he was reminded of Hero's death.” She rubbed at her temples. “At least Legend survived, I don't know what David would have done if he had died-probably nothing good.”

“Mhm. Tomorrows headline being 'Eidolon has committed suicide' would have turned this already bad situation worse.” Doctor Mother commented.

A thought came to Alexandria. “Do you think we should have brought Legend in? If he had known the full extent of the Endbringers power-”

“Alexandria, if we spent every moment worrying about what-ifs, we'd never get anything done.” Doctor Mother scolded. “What's done is done.”

Alexandria nodded after a moment. “Still-”

Contessa stumbled into the room, shakily checking every step before she made it.

Doctor Mother looked over in confusion. “Contessa? Is something the matter?”

Contessa opened her mouth a few times, searching for something to say. “My powers... they're gone. Vanished for...” She seemed to grow slightly more confident within what she could still see of the Path. “...Two months, twelve days.” She eventually managed.

Doctor Mother sucked in air. “That's... not good. This is rapidly approaching an almost worst case scenario. Are you sure there is no way to restore your power earlier?”

Contessa shook her head. “If there is, I cannot see it.”

“And so we mark another thing off the list of 'ways this could get worse'.” Alexandria sighed. “All we need now is Scion and Buster to go berserk at each other and, for all intents and purposes, everything that could have possibly gone wrong will have.”

“More importantly, what could have possibly caused this?” Doctor Mother questioned. “We'll have to check to see if any other precogs were affected-”

“No need.” The Number Man cut in, having just entered the room. “Precog's down worldwide, most agreeing on a similar time frame for recovery. Based upon what I can tell, Buster did it.”

Doctor Mother didn't even look surprised. “What did she do?”

“I only have hearsay right now, but apparently Buster attempted to draw on a power of some sort that wasn't ready, and something really odd happened.” The Number Man answered. “Dragon has a video, but she hasn't released it anywhere as far as I can tell.”

“I'll see if I can't get it out of her later.” Alexandria spoke. “But what's our immediate response?”

“I'm not sure.” Doctor Mother admitted. “With Contessa out of the action, you and the Number Man are our best Thinkers.”

“Right.” Alexandria sighed. “We've made plans for instances where any of us, even Contessa, lose our powers. But the idea of actually implementing them without the, even sometimes shaky, assurances Contessa offers is rather daunting.” She took a deep breath. “We already know Buster can take all three Endbringers according to Coil's alternate time line, which we have never been given reason to doubt. In fact, aside of Scion, she is probably the only one who can do so. So... we bring everyone to Brockton Bay.”

“Everyone?” Doctor Mother raised an eyebrow.

“Everyone.” Alexandria confirmed. “Every Tinker under Protectorate control, every hero we can convince, start coercing local unaffiliated Tinkers, bring them from across the sea too.”

“That's quite the task you're proposing.” The Number Man interjected. “Mobius survived. Would it not be easier to have her get Buster to the next Endbringer attack? And even if we did so, how would you propose we feed the tens of thousands of people you're bringing there? And in Coil's time line there was a great deal of collateral damage after that fight, what about dealing with that?”

“That does seem rather more complicated than it really needs to be, Alexandria.” Doctor Mother commented. “I would like to hear your reasoning.”

“The primary reason? Mobius lost her entire lab in the Toybox incident.” Alexandria answered. “By the time Mobius is done rebuilding enough to reconstruct something on the same level as her not-ICBM, there might not be much left to defend. So, we create a target too tempting for the Endbringers to pass up, fortify it as much as we can, and hope Buster can fight them. For the logistics problems, we hire Accord and give him what he always wanted; full access to the resources of the United States. The likely economic effects will be frightful, but we can worry about those when we're alive.”

“Hmm.” The Number Man scratched his chin. “You've satisfied most of my objections, but why Brockton Bay? Why not somewhere more centrally located?”

“Primarily because we want to have Buster at the location as much as possible, and we want this done quickly. We still have a few high power Movers left after the Toybox disaster, but none of them are likely to work on Buster either. If we bring Buster to a new location, then there is a period of time where Tinkers are gathered yet there's no one to stop them. If we wait for Buster to get there, that's just more time for the Endbringers to pick off random Tinkers. And every Tinker lost is another step the Endbringers take down whatever path they've chosen; even one could make a difference.”

The Number Man nodded. “You've convinced me. Doctor Mother, if you could inform Legend and Eidolon of the plans, I'll take care of Accord.”

“And I need to now find some way to convince the United States government to effectively cede control to a supervillain. Joy.” Alexandria dryly commented. “You know.” She began. “It's kind of funny how we never talk about Scion anymore.”

“Cauldron was formed to save humanity. We adapt to the changing circumstances.” Was all Doctor Mother had to say.

Chapter Text

Dennis scratched his head. “You know, I don't even know how to react to that, just... what?”

Taylor shrugged. “All I remember is something about causality errors.” Taylor was currently showing the video of the... thing that had happened back at the Guild to the Wards.

The Endbringer response... hadn't gone well. Most of the capes who had shown up had, well, exploded the moment they appeared as Leviathan forced the water out of their bodies. That move had almost taken down Legend, who barely managed to fly out of range with terrible damage. Panacea had fixed him, but still.

The more invulnerable capes had made an attempt to stand their ground. Behemoth hit them with a kinetic force wave that sent all involved hurling for miles. Most survived, but that was the end of the offensive. The Endbringers made off with the heads of every Toybox tinker and retreated before any recovery could be made.

It was a battered and bruised protectorate that slowly left that battle, very slowly left. The loss of their most notable teleporters was going to hurt the protectorate for along time. Taylor hadn't really known Nowhere for long enough to really mourn his passing, and he was kind of annoying in that 'adult child' kind of way, but still, someone she knew had died.

Dragon had gotten Taylor home a few hours later. Mobius had lost pretty much everything with the Toybox attack, so she had hitched a ride and was now currently staying at the Protectorate Headquarters.

Taylor upon returning home had tiredly greeted her Dad and fallen asleep. Only to awake in the morning to find that the world had turned upside down overnight.

The Endbringers had apparently been doing work all night. There were confirmed reports of at least five attacks. Large portions of Africa were now devastated as the Endbringers added not only Tinker heads but raw resources and parts to the increasingly massive cloud telekinetically trailing behind the Simurgh. The cloud of parts both visceral and mechanical underwent constant shifting, as the Simurgh brought things together and tore them back apart to add something new to the design.

A few more attempts were made on the Endbringers; they were, if anything, less successful than the Protectorate's initial efforts. Teleporters had rapidly reached a point of 'fuck no' towards anything involving going near the Endbringers, and the loss of mobility grounded any potential effective response to a halt.

And thus began the Tinker panic. It hadn't taken long for Tinkers to realize the implication of all this and they had, well, panicked. The actions they had taken varied. Some made likely to be proven ineffectual last stands with everything they could possibly build, others had scattered in the hopes that their tech would be deemed not worth the effort.

The Protectorate had taken the option of consolidating everything. Every Tinker they could possibly convince was brought to Brockton Bay, along with every cape they could bring, all in the hopes that the fact that since most of the world’s strongest capes were either there, or not too far off, the Endbringers would be deterred towards less 'hard' targets. Villain actions had fallen off entirely as the number of Hero capes actually outnumbered even the number of non-capes in the city. Well, in the city was probably a misnomer, most of the new arrivals had taken up residence in the increasingly massive number of hastily set up tents surrounding Brockton Bay.

A few people had questioned as to why they were consolidating on the eastern seaboard of all places, rather than someplace easier to get to for most of America, especially when they had lost their major cross-continent movers. The Protectorate had replied that it was easier to bring people to a place that was further away, yet already moderately entrenched, than entrench a new place entirely. Personally, Taylor felt that statement rang a bit hollow, but it seemed to satisfy those people andTaylor certainly wasn't going to object to not having to move.

The last major thing to happen was that, as far as anyone could tell, precognition was down. As in, not working for the next few months. Every precog had agreed that the future had basically blanked out for them, and the only thing they could tell was that it would clear up within a month or two. Taylor had winced when she first found that out; it was probably her fault.

In short, shit had happened during the eight hours she had been asleep. An actually quite impressive amount for the time frame. And now Brockton Bay was host to the world’s greatest collection of Parahumans since... well, the Endbringer attack before the last one. Although at this rate even that might get outpaced.

All Taylor's Dad had to say was that he hoped the influx of people would revitalize the economy.

“...Causality errors?” Mathew's voice pulled her out of her thoughts. “As in, errors in cause and effect?” If his eyebrows went any higher, they would probably fall off. “Taylor, what were you trying to do there that would cause that?”

“Flight of some sort, I think.” Taylor replied.

“What kind of flight method has causality errors as a side effect?” He cried out.

Taylor shrugged.

“Ugh, no wonder precognition has fallen apart.” He shook his head. “If you keep this up, Myrddin is going to have to cede the Wizard title to you.”

“Um.” Missy cut in. “What exactly does any of that mean?”

“Causality is basically the thing that states every effect must have a cause.” Mathew explained. “If you mess up causality... weird crap would happen, rather like what happened in that video. You'd have stuff occurring for, quite literally, no reason, and then that stuff not doing what it should be. Fire not burning something, for instance. You might also have something ridiculous like the effect preceding the cause. Like if you went to punch someone, you would punch them before you punched them.”

Missy went slightly cross eyed. “I... think I get it, sorta.”

Miss Militia walked into the room. “Taylor, Alexandria would like to see you.”

“Alright.” Taylor answered. “Well, see ya.” She directed towards the Wards.

Dennis waved. “Bye.” He turned back towards the other Wards. “So, running off your comment, Mathew, where would we find a good place to buy a wizard's outfit? I'm thinking...”

Taylor sighed in exasperation.

Miss Militia looked amused. “Something I should know?”

“You've spent more time around Dennis than I have, do I really need to answer that question?” Taylor replied.

“No, probably not.” Miss Militia's amusement heightened a notch. “Come on, then.” She walked out the door, and Taylor followed behind.

“It's amazing that they've managed to keep up with the logistical nightmare all of this must be.” Taylor commented while looking out the window at what would be best described as a 'sea of tents'.

“The Protectorate hired on Accord, he was apparently rather pleased that his plans would finally have the full backing of the US economy. What he directed was expensive, but no one can deny that it works.” Miss Militia answered. “Truthfully, I'm a bit worried about what will happen to the general economy with all of its resources fixated in one spot, but that's something to deal with after the Endbringers are.”

Taylor sort of admired the absolute certainty that the Endbringers would be dealt with. Taylor herself wasn't quite so sure, the Endbringers were playing hard ball now, and were doing pretty well at their game of keep away with Scion, who had yet to manage to get there in time to stop an attack. Taylor supposed that made the Protectorate's decision the most likely to actually accomplish anything. The last stands certainly weren't going to work, and scattering ran into a 'what's their long term goal' problem; it's not like the Endbringers were going to die of old age or something.

Taylor finished her thoughts as they stopped in front of a nondescript door. “And this is where I leave you, they have me directing the local protectorate as Alexandria and Armsmaster are each tied up with their own little things.” Miss Militia waved, and left.

Taylor gave a wave of her own, and entered the room. Legend was in a wheel chair talking with Alexandria, and Eidolon stood in a corner staring at Legends legs.

Taylor blinked. “Are you going to be alright?” She directed at Legend.

Legend looked up from his conversation. “Ah, welcome, Taylor. And yes, with time. Even Panacea and my own power can't completely deal with all the... unpleasant repercussions of having your legs torn off by your own blood.” He shook his head. “Not an experience I would like to have again anytime soon. Anyway, we brought you here primarily so as to discuss what is to be done when the Endbringers attack.”

“When?” Taylor considered things. “Fair enough.”

“Indeed. By bringing so many Tinkers to one place, we know where the Endbringers will attack.” Alexandria explained. “And so, we can prepare to fight them here.”

“Here... Uh, what is going to be done about the civilians? I hope you aren't expecting to fight the Endbringers while they're around.” Taylor crossed her arms.

“They're being evacuated, as many as we can at least.” Legend answered. “I'd like to promise that they will all be gone, but I can't. We have no idea when the Endbringers will attack.”

“Why the rush, then?” Taylor asked.

Legend sighed. “What's the Endbringers endgame, and when will they reach it? Those are the two questions plaguing my mind, and I would rather neither of them ever be answered. So if I must make a risky decision here or there in order to do my best to see that come to be... So be it.” Legend deflated ever so slightly upon saying those words. “It's not a happy choice, but the longer I hesitate to make it, the greater the amount of potential deaths.”

Taylor frowned. “There is far more talk of 'potential deaths' in the heroing business than I am honestly comfortable with.” She sighed. “But it's already done. I suppose I can't do much other than move on and hope everything works out.” The idea left Taylor feeling slightly bitter.

“A wise point of view.” Alexandria noted. “Now, I do believe we have a fight to plan.”

-

“I suppose it makes sense.” Taylor muttered to herself after she left. “The first soldier lost in every conflict is the plan and all that. But wow, that was kind of disappointing.” Well, the 'plan' was effectively, 'Alexandria, try and distract them. Legend, shoot. Buster and Eidolon, pray for awesome power.' After you got through all the fancy words.

Taylor looked up as she heard footsteps from around the corner.

“Buster.” Armsmaster declared after rounding said corner. “I take it you just came from the Triumvirate.”

“You would be right.” Taylor nodded. “What are you doing here?”

“You bring every Tinker in the US to one place with the intention to protect them, and you expect us to not have anything to offer.” Armsmaster snorted. “We have a plan. And with precog down, now is our best chance to outsmart the Simurgh.”

“Really? Good to hear. Maybe we'll get an actual plan out now.” Taylor was still kind of miffed. “Our current one relies entirely too much upon either Eidolon or I pulling something incredible off for anyone's good. It makes for an okayish backup, but it would be nice to actually have a primary.”

Armsmaster grunted out an agreement. There was a moment of awkward silence, and Taylor moved past.

“Buster.” Armsmaster called out just as she would have gone round the corner in turn. “Do you regret it?”

“Hmm?”

“Letting Leviathan go, do you regret it?” Armsmaster clarified.

“No. Why would I?” Taylor asked.

“If Leviathan had died there, we might not have had any of this-”

“I disagree.” Taylor interrupted. “It's not like the Endbringers couldn't have pulled all this off without Leviathan. They might have been a bit slower about things, but I fail to see how Leviathan being dead would have helped things, and that's if we had managed to kill it. It's not like Leviathan is the big thing making the Endbringers so unassailable. Behemoth could most likely preform everything Leviathan is currently doing, if a fair bit slower. Best case scenario, we killed everyone in Brockton to slow down the Endbringers. I do not consider that a fair trade.” Taylor firmly finished.

Armsmaster turned to look at her. “Steadfast to the end... And a fool too. Why don't you say that to everyone who died when Leviathan ripped the blood from their veins?”

“Precog was still up at that point; they were teleporting into a trap no matter what. Instead of Leviathan, they would have had Behemoth's shockwave waiting for them.” Taylor replied.

Armsmaster frowned. “You don't think like a human.” He spoke bluntly.

Taylor frowned back. “I can't really be considered human anymore, can I?”

Armsmaster looked at her. “And you just accept it so blithely...” He snorted after a moment, and walked off without a further word.

Taylor internally sighed. The fact that she wasn't worried about her mental state was probably the biggest proof that she had been altered mentally. Not that she needed more after the combat protocols debacle.

“I suppose I should help with the evacuation.” Taylor decided. She could worry about her sanity, and if that term even applied anymore, later.

Primary Singularity: 42% Output

Chapter Text

“This Accord guy is pretty damn impressive.” Taylor admitted. “I mean, when you think about what it takes to feed this many people...” She had gone to one of the guys in charge of this whole process and asked for a way to help. The man, being absolutely ecstatic that a hero had finally come by, immediately told her to watch the primary supply line. Apparently, the Merchants had gotten it into their heads that now was the perfect time to begin their 'dastardly deeds' once more, and had hit the last shipment to come in. So now, here she was, watching a bunch of people adeptly move boxes of various things around. It was impressive, the pure efficiency involved. Even human error was accounted for to some extent.

Taylor perked up as the low level scan she was running picked up an... Unusual vehicle. “That's my cue, I guess. But, really, they're doing another run so soon?” Taylor shook her head as she began walking towards what looked like the most likely entrance. “Drugs, what do you want?”

“Is there something wrong, miss?” One of the workers asked her.

“Mhm. Merchants are incoming from...” She paused as she took in the, rather impressive, turn the large vehicle made. “...There, probably.” She pointed after a moment’s thought.

The worker's eyes widened. “Shit, how'd they get past the security-?”

The section of wall Taylor had pointed at collapsed outwards, as something unseen broke through.

“Ah, it's invisible.” Taylor noted. “Kind of impressive, I guess you shouldn't judge a Tinker by her rating.”

The Merchants' vehicle let open an invisible side door, and out spilled several men armed with poor quality weaponry. “Yo, all of you better give us that-Oh fuck.” The first man out ended with a squeak.

Taylor raised an eyebrow. “Hi.”

“I thought all the heroes were supposed to be elsewhere.” The druggy mumbled to himself, and visibly swallowed. “D-don't move, or we'll shoot, and you can't defend all those guys behind you.”
Inertial Canceler: Extend

Taylor's eyebrow quirked further. “Can't I?”

“...Just fire!” The man shouted.

The other men hesitated. “But... Buster, dude.” Said one.

The main druggy hesitated slightly in turn, before hardening his resolve. “Fuck you, cowards.” And opened fire.

The bullets spread out, the man clearly making no attempt to actually aim for Taylor. And then the bullets, upon coming in contact with the space Taylor had defined for her inertial canceler, stopped.

Taylor crossed her arms. “I think I can.” She released her field, and the bullets fell, loudly clattering on the ground.

The gun slipped from the man's hands. “I-I fuck. Just run!” He shouted, scrambling and tripping in his attempt to get back in the Tinkertech vehicle. His assorted 'friends' followed behind, only barely managing to get inside as the doors closed.
“Uh, no.” Taylor began walking towards the Merchants' vehicle. The engine began to hum.
Inertial Canceler: Extend

“They're going to get away!” Shouted a, now considerably more confident, worker.

“No, they're not.” Taylor confidently replied.

“What do you mean-” The man was cut off by the screech of sheering metal, as the engine attempted to move the now inertia-maximized vehicle. It failed, and the screech gave way to more humming, as the engine ran uselessly with everything it used to provide movement shorn away by its own strength. “...Oh.”

“Mhm.” Taylor hummed in response. A few seconds of walking to the downed vehicle and she arrived before it. Whatever it was using to be invisible had managed to survive, not that Taylor cared.
Inertial Canceler: Inviolate

Taylor promptly walked through the side of the vehicle, Tinker enhanced metals falling before her now inexorable march.

The invisibility system died.

Taylor was greeted by a hail of bullets. Bullets which had about as much effect on her as everything had since she had triggered.

A clicking sounded as the weapons ran out of ammunition. “Really? More bullets?” Taylor questioned exasperatedly. It's not like she had magically grown less invincible in the past few seconds.

One of the men drew a knife, and charged. Letting out a scream of rage, he attempted to stab Taylor.

Taylor promptly grabbed the knife, and channeled a single spark into her hand. Reducing the metal into so much slag, and setting the wooden handle on fire. The Merchant immediately drew back his hand with a yelp.

“Honestly?” Taylor shook her head. “And this is why you don't do drugs, kids. Now, where is the PRT?” She could keep them cooped up in this vehicle basically indefinitely, but she would have to leave eventually. If only to help with anything else the Merchants might be planning. They hadn't sent any of their capes this time, either.

The druggy nursed his burned hand. “Fucking super-capes. Think they're so much better than all of us normals.” He spat.

Taylor was amused. “Considering that I'm actually a law abiding citizen, and you're a murderous drug addict and thief, that pretty much automatically makes me a better person than you.” Taylor took notice of the PRT's arrival. “And look, here come all the other people who are better than you.”

“Fuck you! It's not like all of us have other options.” The man vehemently replied.

Taylor snorted. “And the Merchants were your gang of choice?”

The druggy, clearly searching for some way out of this, began to plead. “I... I was forced join. I didn't want too, but they came by and made me with guns and-”

Taylor smiled internally. “Tell it to the judge.” A small part of her had always wanted to say that.

A female PRT officer walked up behind Taylor. “This the Merchants?” The officer questioned.

“Just some of their non-powered flunkies.” Taylor turned and answered. “They were doing their raids in this thing, which can-could.” Taylor corrected. “Go invisible.”

The PRT officer's eyes widened in understanding. “That would explain some things. Probably Squealer's work, then.”

“Probably.” Taylor agreed.

The PRT officer shook her head in disgust. “Even the E88 is, if not helping, laying low. And what do these sick fucks do? Take the crisis as an opportunity to steal valuable medical supplies, all to fuel their drug addiction.” Her face twisted. “Makes me sick.”

One of the Merchants began reaching for a dropped gun. “No, just, stop.” Taylor stated. “I mean, what do you expect to do with that?” She pointed at the offending man and the weapon he was reaching for.

“Thanks, Buster. But we can handle it from here.” Another officer walked up and spoke. He took a round object out of a pouch, and tossed it in. Containment foam rapidly filled the entire vehicle.

“Containment foam? For them? Seems kind of a waste.” The initial officer spoke up.

“Eh, there's Tinkertech involved. Better safe than sorry.” The other officer answered. “Besides, it’s not like containment foam is that expensive anyway.”

The initial one shrugged. “If you say so, I guess.”

“Well, as I'm the guy in charge here, I do say so.” The other officer replied in an amused manner.

Taylor smiled slightly. “Well, you appear to have the situation under control. If you don't need me further, I'm going to see if I can't figure out what the real Merchants are up to.”

The lead officer nodded at her. “You do that. You might be called in to make a statement or something, but with the current state of things...” He trailed off.

Taylor nodded back. “Right. Now.” Taylor spoke to herself while walking away. “Where's Skidmark...” She turned her scan on full, and searched for the man. It took only a moment for her to find him. He was a few blocks away, prepared with the rest of the Merchants capes, probably in order to deal with any pursuit without putting himself or anyone important in any undue danger. Surprisingly intelligent. “I suppose Skidmark can't be a total idiot. He does lead the closest thing to a competitor the E88 has anymore.” Taylor spoke to herself. She turned back towards the PRT team. “Hey, Skidmark and the rest of the important Merchants are three blocks that way.” She called out.

The lead officer looked at her. “Really? How do you know?”

“I have extrasensory perception within a fairly large radius.” Taylor explained. “It's not my most well-known power, but it's there.”

“Wow... that's pretty damn useful.” The lead officer rubbed his chin. “What's your range?”

Taylor hesitated. “I'm not actually sure; the first time I used it I was limited to roughly a hundred feet. But by the time the Slaughterhouse Nine showed up, I could casually see the entire city. Might as well give it a test.” Taylor grabbed the mental hold that represented her scan, and pushed.

The first thing she noted was that the Earth was surprisingly non-spherical.

The second thing she noticed was that she had worldwide absolute extrasensory perception.

The third thing was a bit of a problem. “Ah fuck.” Taylor bemoaned. “They're coming.”
Every other person there reacted. “You mean-” Spoke one PRT officer.

“Yep. Endbringers.” Taylor answered in a far more flippant manner than she actually felt. “Well, I know what I need to do. Is there anything I can help you with quickly first?”

“Time frame?” The lead officer demanded.

“Five minutes, if we're lucky.” Taylor answered.

He grimly nodded. “Much better warning than we ever thought we'd get. You can go now.” He dismissed, only to pause. “Sorry about the attitude but-”

Taylor waved him off. “Don't worry, I get it. Well, bye.” She quickly pulled out her cellphone, and dialed Alexandria. A few moments of ringing, and the phone was picked up.

“Buster?” Alexandria's voice sounded over the phone.

“Here in five minutes.” Taylor quickly explained. “I don't know where they'll pop up, but they're almost certainly coming.”

Alexandria didn't even question it. “I'll be there, keep on the phone and tell me where they're going to appear when you can.” Taylor vaguely heard a 'boom' in the background, as Alexandria went supersonic. Taylor was moderately impressed by the fact that Alexandria's phone was apparently unfazed by the speed it was now traveling at.

A minute passed. The Endbringers continued to show no indicator of their precise means of entry.

Another minute passed, and Alexandria shot down from the sky. A sonic boom trailing in her wake, she smacked the ground hard enough to leave a rather wide crater. The part of the PRT team that had remained to secure the Merchants pulled themselves off the ground, Alexandria's earth shaking landing having knocked them off their feet. The team took a moment to reorient themselves, before managing to make it off with the Merchants.

Alexandria gracefully stood up from her kneeling position in the crater. “Buster, do you know where they're coming from yet?”

“No, they refuse to settle on a direction.” Taylor replied with annoyance in her voice.

Alexandria nodded and began dialing someone on her phone, having hung up on Taylor shortly before her impact. “Tell me the instant you know where they're going, we have something prepared.”

“Armsmaster's thing?” Taylor questioned.

“Not entirely Armsmaster's work, but yes.” Alexandria confirmed. She put the phone to the side of her head. “Get it ready.” She spoke into it. Taylor heard an affirmative of some kind come in response, and they settled to wait.

They didn't have to wait long. “Uh, they appear to have stopped. And... The Simurgh is doing something with its tech cloud.” Taylor told Alexandria.

“Hmm. Prepare for worst case scenario.” Alexandria spoke into the phone.

The tech cloud spiralled together into some sort of glowing sphere. Several panels of unknown purpose hovered around a solid orb of green light. The light slowly began to increase in size and intensity. “That... could be a problem.” Taylor said as her scan took a deeper reading of it. “A Big problem. Uh, I don't think Brockton can survive that much energy.”

Alexandria nodded. “Tell me when it fires.”

The sphere pulsed. “It's going!” Taylor shouted.

“Move, now!” Alexandria barked into the phone. She grabbed Taylor, and lifted slightly into the air.

Taylor, dangling in the air by Alexandria's hold on her shoulder, was rather confused. “What-”

Brockton Bay vanished beneath her. A divot in the earth, and the abandoned docks area, the only sign of its previous existence. An existence which was now half a mile further south of where it used to be. “What-”

Alexandria shot off to the side, crossing the entirety of what used to be Brockton Bay in a second and a half, Taylor being dragged along with her.

The Simurgh's device, five seconds after the first pulse, did so once more.

The divot were Brockton Bay used to be, vanished. A brief flicker of green light and hundreds of thousands of tons of earth were vaporized.

Taylor frowned. “I think the Simurgh was fairly rushed as well. That thing looks incomplete, like it should be self-sustaining after the first shot.”

“You can tell?” Alexandria questioned.

Taylor nodded. “That thing directly converts matter into energy over a huge area. The energy was then directed back towards the device. But, rather than do anything with it, Behemoth shunted it into an alternate dimension.”

“Behemoth can manage that much energy?” That was the first thing about today to give Alexandria even the slightest pause.

Taylor shook her head. “No, the device was aiding Behemoth, keeping the energy inert.”

Alexandria visibly relaxed. “It's good to know Behemoth hasn't been holding back that much.”

“Still, if he can banish it, he can probably pull it back somehow.” Taylor noted. “On another note, what happened on your end there?”

“Strider's power, on a huge scale. That was the Tinkers project; replicating powerful Parahuman powers on a massive scale. They only have Strider's, Clockblocker's, and a few other powers though, we didn't have enough time.” Alexandria answered. “And all the big Tinkers who's specialty had anything to do with energy production were among the first hit by the Endbringers after the Toybox, so how long we can do this is heavily limited. However, it does give us something resembling a fighting chance.”

“A fighting chance...” Taylor trailed off.

“Perhaps a bit optimistic.” Alexandria admitted. “But we aren't going to give up and die.”

“Right.” Taylor agreed, only to take note of the Endbringers activities. “They're moving again.” Taylor spoke. “Tunneling back towards Brockton's new location, somewhere near west of where the docks used to be. I don't think we'll have to worry about the Simurgh's weapon for a while, though; the glow has faded quite a bit, although it's still drawing more energy from somewhere.”

“That's good. Are you sure on that location?” Alexandria questioned.

“As certain as I can be. They, assuming they continue to head towards Brockton, don't really have much room for variance left.” Taylor answered.

Alexandria nodded, and spoke Taylor's information into the phone. “We're going to try and use Clockblocker's power to direct the Endbringers to a more suitable location. It's even more power intensive than Strider's though, so any information which limits the amount of area we have to freeze is helpful.” She explained to Taylor. “Now, we have to get you there.” She took hold of Taylor's shoulder once more and-
Critical Threshold passed, all excess mass consumed.
Primary Singularity: 52% Output
Physical Canceler: Maximum
Rewriting Surrounding Space: Repairs Complete.

“Buster? What's happening? Now is not the time to go all immovable.”
Primary Singularity: 100% Output
Secondary Singularity One: 100% Output
Secondary Singularity Two: 100% Output
Algorithmic Image Drive: Online
All Systems Fully Functional

And Taylor remembered.

-
Three months and a week earlier.

It was big, Taylor noted.

Massive, in fact. A huge creature, spinning and spiraling across countless mirrors of reality. Bigger than the earth, bigger than any conceivable living being.

It was breaking, shattering. A thousand, thousand pieces of its own existence broke apart and scattered, landing upon the countless mirrors like a heavy snowfall.

A piece grew. A single fragment of this gargantuan existence entered her direct vision, and grew larger, closer. Grew until it seemed as if the earth itself was falling on her.

Then, it shattered. A flash of red broke the shard into ten thousand pieces.

“Oops, was that important?” A female voice spoke.

Taylor's mind began breaking. Connections struggled to form were there was no place for them to form. The piece's half formed connections dragged at her mind, broke and tore it apart as the piece itself was.

“...As it turns out, that was really important and I think I just almost killed someone.” The voice spoke with worry. “Uh, how to fix, how to fix...”

Light and power suffused the shattered remnants.

“Sliiiiight panic here. I just broke a girls mind and the Excelion is still mid explosion. Time limits: Not Fun.” An edge of panic entered the girl’s voice. “Right, right. Calm down, Nono. Let's see... Some sort of symbiotic being? What if I just repaired the thing...?”

The red light pulled the broken fragment back together, instantly reassuming its previous form. The connections were repaired, and Taylor's mind broke just a bit further, as a fathomless emptiness forced its way in.

“What! I-Oh. Can't actually restore the data. Um, new data... Uh, a Buster Corps drone?” The voice mumbled. “Nope, bad idea. Let's see, what other data do I have... Space Monster, bad idea. I have some data on my technology... not enough room? Well, just try and constrain it... And done.” The voice spoke as if incredibly pleased with itself.

Taylor's body began to burn, as a great force twisted at her, trying to imprint something it was never capable of imprinting.

“Waitwaitwait what is it doing?” Panic found its way in once more. “Ergh, didn't see that.” The voice spoke with a wince to it. “Kay' so it's now doing... Hrm. Well, it will probably be okay. Probably. In time.”

An image of a girl, clothed in an odd white bodysuit and with glowing red hair, came into Taylor's view. “Uh, hi.” She waved. “So, in the process of taking this.” She pointed towards a massive, splitting and shattering, black object. “Away from anywhere it might do damage... Which is almost everywhere, I accidentally bumped that symbiotic thingy. And it, well, exploded.” The girl said with embarrassment. “I repaired it best I could, but it works sliiiightly differently from how I thought it worked. And so now your body may begin to experience... changes.”

Was this the Talk? Taylor had already had the Talk. It was very awkward.

“So, I have to go soon. You... feeling alright before I go?” The girl questioned.

Taylor attempted to answer.

“...Can't talk.” She rubbed the back of her head. “Uh, that should go away fairly soon. Hopefully.” She muttered that last bit. “This isn't exactly my area of expertise, and while I'd stay around longer to make sure there's-”

A crack echoed, and the dark object split further.

“...That.” The girl concluded. “And if that goes off here... there won't really be a question of whether or not you survive this.” She sighed. “So, I have to go now. I won't ever learn your name, but mine's Nono. And...” She smiled slightly. “I suppose, welcome to the Buster Corps.”

She vanished, and Taylor remembered forgetting.

-

“...or, Taylor!” Alexandria shouted. “The fuck are you doing?”

Taylor blinked.

“Finally responding? The hell happened? We barely managed to get the Endbringers to the correct location, at huge energy loss and-”

Taylor shook her head. “Doesn't matter anymore.”

Alexandria frowned. “What? Well, whatever. Let your anti-movement thing go and I'll take you to the fight.”

“No need, I'll get there myself.” Taylor cut her off.
Rewriting Surrounding Space

Taylor held up a hand.

“How?” Alexandria questioned.

A dark point of non-light formed in Taylor's hand. She smiled slightly. “By Warp.” Her hand closed.

“War-”

And Taylor vanished, in a flash of white light.

Chapter Text

“You ready, Eidolon?” Legend questioned, having to use his power simply to move.

Eidolon breathed heavily. “Yes. As ready as anyone can be, at least.” He looked around at the shifting mass of heroes and villains, mostly heroes, that had gathered in an attempt to fight off the Endbringers. “All of them... they're probably dead.”

Legend looked around as well. “Maybe, but we're not out of options yet. The Tinkertech power replicator is quite potent, and between the three of us and Buster, maybe we can make a dent.”

Buster make a dent? Certainly, she'd done worse already in another place, another time. “She's not exactly displayed much in the way of ability to protect others.” Or limit collateral, for that matter. A replication of the feat that took out Behemoth would probably kill off America. “And with Buster's displayed power sets, anything that would be effective against this is likely to have unpleasant repercussions.” Eidolon finished.

“That's what the power replicator is for.” Legend pointed out. “It will, hopefully, keep us all alive long enough to accomplish something.”

Us? Who was Legend kidding? Even in his prime, Eidolon would have hesitated to say he could even dent this. As he was now? “Let's be honest. We're here, all of us, just to hold off the Endbringers long enough for Buster to accomplish anything.” And if that wasn't a bitter thought, Eidolon didn't know what was. That all of his, and Cauldron's, sacrifices were for nothing. Eidolon didn't know if he could bear the thought that Cauldron had made the Case 53's for nothing. That they had let Manton go for nothing.

“I wouldn't say that.” Legend interjected. “She's powerful, probably the best hope we have for damaging the Endbringers aside of Scion, but she doesn't make everyone here irrelevant.”

She really does. Eidolon thought sardonically. “We need to survive long enough for Scion to even show up.”

“His timing is rather... random.” Legend admitted. “But maybe that randomness is in our favor today.”

Eidolon didn't say anything in response. How could he? Even if Scion did show on time, that only means he and Buster run into each other. And then... who knows? In Calvert's other reality, her and Scion meeting initiated a battle that shattered North America. But that conflict was initiated by Buster, and Scion was apparently almost showing interest before Buster attacked. And if she really is gathering the other Entity's Agents...

Legend looked around, and frowned. “Alexandria should have been here by now, there's not too much longer till the Endbringers show up. What's taking her?”

A worst case scenario flashed through Eidolon's mind: Buster had gone berserk and Alexandria was dead and- He mentally shook himself. There was no evidence such a thing had happened. He would see a conflict between Alexandria and Buster numerous miles away from the actual fight, let alone the mere few miles distance that separated them now. “Alexandria has been keeping in contact over the phone, we should know why soon, hopefully.” He spoke.

Speak of the devil, Legend and Eidolon's own phones buzzed not too long after. A text.

From: Alexandria

Buster just went catatonic; she isn't reacting to anything I do. Can't move her either, she's got the anti-movement things enabled as well. I will keep trying to get through.

Legend rubbed his head. “Wonderful.”

Eidolon felt like screaming. Could nothing go right?

“We'll have to make do.” Legend resolved. He motioned towards one of the PRT personnel assigned with managing things. “What Thinkers are there that could potentially monitor the Endbringers movements.”

“Uh, give me a moment.” The man grabbed at his phone. “Let's see... Locally there's Earthshock and Buster. For out-of-towner's... Best bet is probably Throweye, but he's with the rest of the Tinkers.”

“I'd like to see Earthshock, then.” Legend told the man.

“Hmm... The boy was forcibly drafted into the Wards not too long ago, and he has a history of anti-authoritarianism. He's not a reliable source at all.” The PRT officer replied. “Besides, his accuracy is fairly poor, why not just use Buster?”

“Something happened.” Legend admitted. “We're not sure what, Alexandria is looking into it, but Buster might be absent for the beginning of the battle. Try not to spread that around.”

The man paled. “Fuck... Well, there's always Scion.” He tried to convince himself.

Legend put his hand on the man's shoulder. “Indeed, not all hope is lost. Scion will show, he always has if an Endbringer attack goes on for long enough. Our job is tomake this fight last long enough and I believe we can do it.”

The man smiled hesitantly. “I hope so, sir.”

As Legend coordinated an appropriate response to the Endbringer assault, now that they were down Buster, Eidolon focused on what he could do.

Namely, drawing up a power that could solve their biggest problem. Leviathan blowing them all up.

He kept the gravity manipulation: Flight and battlefield control in one package was far too useful.

He debated dropping the energy nullifier, it certainly wasn't going to stop Leviathan from ripping him apart from the inside out, but it was too useful a counter against Behemoth. Eidolon was still reeling from the fact that Leviathan was now the most dangerous Endbringer, barring whatever Behemoth was still hiding. At least the Simurgh was moderately crippled.

So that meant dropping the heat sapping lasers. Probably the least useful power amongst his abilities, but Eidolon always felt slightly bitter about taking the support role and leaving other's to die on the front line. Still, he was accustomed to bitter decisions.

He dropped the power, and his Agent began bringing new ones to his attention. New offensive powers came up. Lightning manipulation, a Manton violating angle switcher, and even hydrokinesis. Eidolon briefly considered keeping that one, but pushed it away as well. There was a time when he might have been able to overpower Leviathan, but not now.

Not for the first time did Eidolon curse his weakening powers.

As Eidolon continued to shove aside offensive powers, his Agent began trying other ones. After a few moments of pointless powers, Eidolon's agent offered up the perfect power.

Eidolon blinked. It wasn't often anymore that he was able to call up a power so perfect to the situation at hand. “Legend, I have a solution to... most of our Endbringer problems, actually.”

Legend looked up from his conversation with a sullen looking kid in a brown coat and mask. “Really? That's wonderful.”

The kid's sullen look vanished, to be replaced by utter horror. “What in the fuck I- They're coming, and fast!”

“Calm down, Earthshock, where?” Legend insisted.

“I don't fucking know!” The kid screamed. “There's so much going on I-I can't get a reading. Down, that way!” He pointed northerly.

Legend breathed in. “Best we're going to get, I suppose. Inform the Tinkers to freeze the earth along the northern side, leave an obvious path where possible.”

Eidolon frowned, his power was still maturing. “My ability to help will be delayed slightly; my power needs some time to come to full strength. You might want to try and have the Endbringers take a more roundabout path.”

“We have a highly limited power supply; we can't afford to stall for too long.” Spoke Legend.

“I am aware of that, but the best method of dealing with the primary threats the Endbringers pose is this power.” Eidolon replied.

“...I trust you, if you believe that, then... We'll do it.” Legend turned and spoke into his phone. “Dragon, have the Tinkers delay the Endbringers for...” He turned towards Eidolon.

“Half a minute should be good.” Eidolon confirmed.

“Half a minute.” Legend finished.

Dragon replied in the affirmative, and they waited.


“Remaining power: 60%” Dragon spoke.

Legend winced. “Sixty? We we're at ninety not too long ago. I hope this is worth it, Eidolon.”

“It is.” Eidolon confirmed. “It's a power interdiction field of sorts; changes things so that powers can't be activated through it.”

Legend nodded.

Thirty seconds passed.

The earth began to shake. Capes began shifting nervously. Eidolon prepared himself.

“Dragon, I leave managing the Tinker device to you.” Legend spoke into his phone, before setting it to the side. “This is it, Eidolon, the culmination of everything we have worked for over the years.”

Eidolon remained silent for a moment. “...Yeah.”

And then, there was no more time for words.

The ground before the gathered capes fell away, as a drill of water rapidly formed an abnormally circular hole, the constraints of Clockblocker's power having done their job.

Eidolon brought the power interdiction to bear, and layered a greenish dome over the hole, focusing the effect inwards. “Keep the Endbringers inside the dome!” He shouted.

Water streamed fourth from the hole, a cascading stream that reached the green dome, only to fall apart uncontrolled.

Eidolon breathed a sigh of relief. The power interdiction worked on the Endbringers.

The water rapidly filled the entire dome, leaving a murky blackness at the center. Here and there, you could see small streamers of water spill out from the dome, as it left Leviathan's control radius.

A gray figure, Leviathan, shot forward in an attempt to leave the dome. Its efforts were quickly thwarted by Dragon freezing the water in front of Leviathan.

Leviathan reeled back from the impact, but it was not deterred for long. Moving quickly from one edge of the dome to the other, it attempted to escape Dragon's cage.

“We'll run out of power at this rate.” Dragon spoke over an intercom system set up at the last minute. “Down to 54%”

“Right.” Legend began directing the gathered Parahumans, as Eidolon concentrated on maintaining the dome.

A loud 'crack' echoed, as a blast of superheated steam lanced forth from within the dome. The capes in the path of the blast didn't even have time to scream.

“Shit! Behemoth.” An unknown cape swore.

The first blast wasn't the end, dozens of the concentrated steam attacks tore out of the dome. Chaos reigned. A few with force field powers attempted to stop the blasts, but they were too few and disorganized, while the amount of steam Behemoth could propel seemed limitless.

This lasted a few seconds, until Dragon promptly froze everything around the dome. “Come up with a counter measure quickly.” She demanded. “We're down to 41% back here.”

Eidolon blinked in confusion as he began to feel an odd pressure coming from the dome. His eyes briefly widened, as the power interdiction began to slip from his grasp. “What the hell...” He muttered to himself, and attempted reaffirm his control.

“What's wrong, Eidolon?” Legend questioned, turning away from his attempts to give the assorted Parahumans direction.

“I think the Endbringers are attempting to push through my barrier, and... it's working.” Eidolon admitted. “The power is beginning to burn out.”

Legend just sighed. “What's one more time limit? Just tell us when to pull back.”

Eidolon stumbled as the pressure doubled. He felt like he was trying to grasp water. “Now, pull them back now.” He gasped out.

Legend, to his credit, didn't even hesitate. “Pull back, immediately, as far as you can.” He spoke over the intercom system.

The assorted capes, however, did. Acting as a confused mass, some attempted to follow Legend's order, while others appeared to have not heard it all. Resulting in a jumbled mess that barely managed a vague retreating motion.

Legend repeated his order, as Eidolon continued to futilely attempt to slow down the burn out. His efforts proved for naught, as he felt the power interdiction slowly fail.

And then, the power broke, and fell from his grasp as if it had turned to air. “Another power, gone.” He whispered to himself.

Of much more immediate concern, was the unshackled Endbringers. Dragon had immediately rerouted Clockblocker's power so as to contain each Endbringer individually.

Not that it mattered much.

Most of the capes had gotten out of range before the collapse, but a fair few didn't. They all died, instantly.

Those who had escaped Leviathan's range, were now dealing with a cascade of electricity and other, more exotic, energies radiating from Behemoth.

In other concerns, the Tinker device the Simurgh still had was beginning to undergo... modifications. And the green glow was strengthening.

Overall? Nothing was going well at all.

Eidolon accepted the first power his Agent pulled in to replace the power interdiction, an ice ray. Eidolon eyed the rapidly receding sea. Useful, he decided.

At some point, a group of force fielders had managed to get coordinated enough to block off Behemoth's barrage of attacks. Although, the charred bodies spoke volumes of how long that took.

“34% remaining.” Dragon informed everyone. “I can't spare any power for things other than containing the Endbringers anymore, I am sorry.”

The ground shook, and the previously receding sea barreled forth. An almost supersonic wave of water rapidly approached the shoreline.

Eidolon brought his gravity manipulation to bear, and dragged the sea downwards as best he could. It slowed, but not enough. The wave smashed into the capes containing Behemoth, scattering them and breaking their force field cage. Behemoth began channeling electricity into the wave, which swept around for another pass.

Eidolon considered using the ice ray for a moment. An image of the wave, only now with ice swept through his mind. And then the realization that, with Behemoth, they could do it anyway did as well. “Can't make it any worse.” He muttered, and began freezing the ice as well. Predictably, it accomplished little. “Still needs time to build.” Although, even fully built up it probably wouldn't accomplish much against this.

The wave began spinning around a point, forming the same destructive attack it had taken Buster to break through last time. Only now, it was on fire. If ever they needed proof of the Endbringers having a cruel sense of humor, the water tornado of ice and fire was proof enough.

The ray, slightly more powerful now, lanced forth from Eidolon's hand. As he brought everything his gravity power could do against the attack, even dropping his flight.

The force of a hundred times Earth's gravity pulled in the opposite direction of the whirlwind, as colossal sheets of ice formed to impede its path.

And, it was almost working. The maelstrom slowed ever so slightly, just enough for the capes that remained to gather themselves.

And then a green light flashed.

“Power reserves empty!” the panicky voice of Dragon was heard.

Shit.

The twisting wave of water enveloped Leviathan, newly freed from Clockblocker's artificially recreated power, and it pushed out.

The hypersonic gray figure crashed into Eidolon shortly after.

Eidolon stumbled backwards. If he hadn't kept that energy nullifier around... He shook his head, and thrust outward with his gravity power, trying to drag Leviathan down, only to be baffled at the complete lack of response. What was happening-?

He was shocked when his gravity power began informing him about an inexplicable gravatic anomaly interfering with the power. He didn't think it had Thinker traits as well, and what ano-

There was a sound of shattering glass.

Leviathan visibly warped, and stumbled back. A glance behind it proved that the same was happening to all the space behind Leviathan, all being dragged to a single point.

A directed singularity, his power informed him. Eidolon mentally noted that the concept seemed just as baffling to his power as it was to him.

A second later, and the singularity 'amplified', for lack of a better word. With the roar of rushing wind, Leviathan flew backwards into the directed black hole. Stumbling and flipping over itself in a desperate attempt to grasp anything that was not also being drug into the gravatic anomaly.

A mere second after its appearance however, the singularity faded from existence. Leviathan quickly flipped itself up onto its feet.

A hum of energy.

A red streak shot forth from the sky like a bolt of lightning onto Leviathan.

Leviathan, and the bolt of light, struck the ground like a hammer. Eidolon was knocked from his feet as the earth cracked beneath it.

Shaking himself out of his stupor, Eidolon pulled at his newly restored gravity manipulation to rapidly bring him to a standing position.

A shattered landscape greeted him. The immediate area around Eidolon was nothing more than a few large cliffs; torn apart remnants of the isolated section of city scape Eidolon had sequestered himself away in for the duration of the battle.

Towards the center, the ground achieved a consistency more associated with dust than anything else. And at the center of everything, was the unmoving gray creature that was Leviathan and a familiar, if changed, figure.

Buster, with her foot laying amidst the shattered remnants of what was likely Leviathan's core.

Buster glanced at him. “Hey.” She spoke with a wave.

“...Hey.” Eidolon waved back without thinking, his mind kind of preoccupied with the dead Endbringer before him. Still kind of distracted, Eidolon spoke the first things that came to mind. “What happened to your hair?” Which was glowing red, “And where did that costume come from?” Buster was now clothed in an odd white and red bodysuit, with her orange goggles replaced by an orange visor.

“Don't quite have the time to explain.” Buster spoke, as a corona of red energy flared up around her. “There are a few problems, you see.” She began to float into the air.

“The Endbringers.” Eidolon responded. “Are you sure you can handle them?” Who was he kidding, if Coil's story was halfway true, she had this in the bag.

Buster smirked slightly. “Of course.” She began to ascend into the air.

A dark shadow loomed over the two of them, as Behemoth, crackling with energy, stood looking over the edge.

A thunderous boom, and the air distorted as Behemoth directed a cavalcade of thunder and fire down upon Buster.

The hairs on the back of Eidolon's neck rose, as he instinctively knew that his energy nullifier wasn't enough for that.

Buster raised a hand into the air, and a swirl of infinitely black space appeared in her palm.

Reality bent in towards Behemoth, the rain of lightning pulled back to its generator, as a void began to from around Behemoth. Behemoth opened its mouth to scream, but sound could no longer escape.

A second later, and all that was left of Behemoth was a miniature black hole. Buster closed her hand into a fist around the one she had formed in her hand, and the black hole that now held Behemoth vanished.

“Black hole generation and control.” Eidolon whispered to himself. An absurd power.

Significantly more to it than that.” Buster shouted back towards him.

More? Eidolon wondered at that.

“And then there was one.” Buster commented to herself. Lifting of into the air, she shot towards a white figure Eidolon could still see past the crevice of shattered earth he and the corpse of Leviathan now occupied.

The Simurgh turned to look at Buster. If Eidolon didn't know better, he would have described it as resigned, almost.

Eidolon took a look at where Behemoth used to be.

Perhaps he didn't know better, Eidolon mused.

Nevertheless, the Simurgh still brought its Tinker weapon to bear, and unleashed another storm of green light.

Buster held an arm out to the side, and a thin beam of red light extended from her fingers.

A swing of her arm, and the red beam sliced through both the Simurgh and the attack of the weapon.

The tide of green energy, now split in half, went high and low. Some of it burying into the ground beneath Brockton Bay, the other spiraling off into the sky.

Eidolon didn't think energy worked like that, personally. But what did he know?

The Simurgh, sliced in two at a point a bit above chest line, fell from the air and impacted the ground with a loud 'thump'.

Eidolon, emotionally drained, slid to the ground. Oh boy, was this going to have repercussions, already, cheering could be heard in the background.

Letting out a sigh, Eidolon spoke a single word. “Door.”

-

“I honestly never thought there would be a day when the Endbringers weren't a problem anymore.” Legend spoke, utterly ecstatic with the concept. “I have to go tell Arthur, I want him to hear it from me. If there's nothing else you need me for...”

“Nothing.” Doctor Mother confirmed. “Go be with him.”

A smile still on his face, Legend left the room.

And suddenly, the mood in the room dropped.

“Well that was a thing.” Alexandria dryly commented. “I think that was a fair bit above anything Buster was pulling off in the Coil timeline.”

“Indeed, the utter lack of significant collateral indicates a level of ability far in access of what she had access to then.” Doctor Mother agreed. “Before, she simply overwhelmed the Endbringers. Now? She outclassed them. Now where will we categorize her new powers? The teleportation you and Eidolon described is clearly from Doormaker-”

“Something that bothered me.” Alexandria interrupted. “Was that she created a black hole before beginning her teleport. Almost as if it was needed for a catalyst. Every other time she's displayed a power, it's been superior to the original one.”

“On that front.” Eidolon began. “When Buster first showed up, she demonstrated some sort of ability to direct the singularities she forms. At that time, I had a power that, among other things, enabled me to understand gravity at a higher level. That directed singularity completely baffled it. I, and in turn it, didn't have even the slightest idea as to how she pulled that off.”

Alexandria connected the dots. “You think there's something more to this than merely reclaiming Agents. However, that could easily be explained by her immunity to powers not letting you understand it.”

Eidolon frowned. “That would make sense if it was the black hole generation that was interfering- and don't get me wrong, it was- but the idea of a directed black hole seemed utterly foreign to it.”

“You have a point.” Alexandria admitted. “But your earlier Agent theory is the only one that makes sense. We have nothing else to go on.”

“Maybe it's something that doesn't make sense.” Doctor Mother cut in. “However, we could theorize anything if that's the assumption we're working under. Until further information comes to light, we should continue with the Agent theory.”

A memory came to light in Eidolon's mind. “She said 'significantly more'.” He murmured to himself.

“What is it?” Alexandria questioned.

“Something crazy.” Eidolon admitted, as the idea began to form in his mind. “How to get more information on this topic.”

“How?”

Eidolon sighed. “Something Legend probably would have suggested much earlier, if we hadn't excluded him.” He began walking out of the room. “Door.”

“What?” Alexandria continued the one word questions.

Eidolon turned back briefly. “Ask.” And stepped into the newly formed portal.

-

A short while had passed since the Final Battle, as the internet was already calling it. Buster had made a brief statement, and then said she was going to check on her father and would really rather not be followed everywhere.

The reporters, for once in their lives, had been rather accommodating. Presumably, angering the girl who was assumed to be the next Scion was considered... bad for business.

And so, Eidolon found himself standing in front of a fairly nondescript house. He motioned to knock, and hesitated. Why was he doing this?

The answer hit him like a rock; he wanted Buster to not be something he would have to fight. Wanted her to be something beyond Scion. Wanted her to be able to just...deal with Scion.

Overall? Eidolon just wanted to no longer have to worry about the fact that his powers were weakening.

Resolve hardened, Eidolon knocked on the door.

“I'm coming.” A muffled voice was heard through the door. A few seconds later, and the door opened to reveal a thin man. “Ah... Eidolon, sir.” He spoke after a moment.

Eidolon nodded. “And you're Mr. Hebert, I take it?”

“I am.” He nodded. “I... Would imagine you're here for Taylor.”

“Correct. Can I see her?” Eidolon questioned.

Danny hesitated for a moment. “I-”

“No need, Dad.” Buster, or Taylor out of costume, spoke. “I saw him coming.”

“Oh.” Danny hesitated again. “Are you okay with this, Taylor?”

“Yes, Dad.” Taylor answered. “I'll be fine.”

“Alright. I suppose I'll leave you two.” Danny spoke. He turned to leave, but hesitated for one last time. “She's not in any trouble, is she?” He directed towards Eidolon.

Eidolon snorted. “She's not, but even if she's was, what would you expect me to do about it? You may have only heard about it second hand, but I was treated to a front row seat of her decimating the Endbringers.” He shook his head. “Remember the few attempts made to arrest Scion for public nudity?”

Eidolon's words did little to reassure Danny, yet the man left anyway.

Taylor sighed. “Don't take it personally; my Dad's been having an... eventful few days.”

“Haven't we all.” Eidolon murmured.

“Quite.” Taylor agreed. “I mean, literally a week ago I was running under the assumption that my powers didn't exceed anything Purity has shown. Now, boom goes the Endbringer.” She made an exploding motion with her hands. “So... where was it you and the rest of the Triumvirate went through those portals. I sensed some...” Her previously cheery attitude vanished. “...Interesting things through there.”

Ah, crap. If her extrasensory perception is half as good as we assume, the cat's all the way out of the bag. “Well, I came here to ask some questions, I suppose it's only fair I answer some in turn...” He took a deep breath. Alexandria and Doctor Mother were going to kill him. “...What do you know about Scion?”

Chapter Text

Letting out a breath of he didn't even know what, Armsmaster gently set Throweye's headset aside. The powerful coordination device Dragon had used to organize the efforts of all the many Tinker's involved in the construction and control of the power copier now pointless.

Around Armsmaster, dozens of other Tinkers leapt from their stations around the large power copying device. Cheering and exclamations of joy were heard.

Armsmaster, however, simply stared at the paused screen, head leaning on his fist.

A picture of the Simurgh, cleanly bisected and unmoving, remained frozen on the screen.

Several emotions broiled within Armsmaster. A part, in all honesty a significantly large part of him, was overjoyed. The Endbringers, apparently dead and gone, how could he not be happy about that.

In part, he was jealous, but it was a part easily squashed; he had been ignoring that part of him that screamed at the unfairness of the world for years.

In part, he was angry. She had stolen his moment, the moment of all Tinkers, everywhere, once again. Walked all over the hard work of everyone who had sacrificed hundreds of hours to build the device.

But mostly, he was resigned. It was done, the universe had bent over backwards, and given her enough power for... whatever she wanted. Whether by luck or cunning, Buster had gained enough strength that she no longer needed to answer to anyone anymore. “So, that's that. I guess you win, Taylor. No one is really capable of telling you otherwise.” He murmured to himself.

Letting out another breath, this one clearly identifiable as a sigh, he pulled himself out of his chair and set off in search of something to drink.

-

* Topic: Holy Fuck. Just... what. Endbringers, gone.
In: Boards>World News>Main
Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Posted on April 16th, 2011:
Buster just dropped the Endbringers (See Link). I just... holy shit. We don't have confirmation yet but... ParaLook is damn reputable, I... I think this might just be true. If it is... holy shit.
Tinmother: Stickied and Confirmed; I've talked directly with Dragon.


(Showing Page 1 of 15)


>Crigen (Veteran Member)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
Yeah, I'm calling bullshit. Buster's strong, and ParaLook may be reputable, but it's been wrong before, and this is way too big.

Edit: Or not. Holy fuck, mod confirmation... BRB: contemplating the many ways the world will fucking flip.

>Lasersmile
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
And that, my friends, is the sound of the status quo shattering. Shattering like fucking glass.

>Clockblocker (Verified Cape)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
Yeah, I'll provide my own alternate confirmation. I was there, after all.

>Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
Really? Shit, maybe you can provide us some info on what the hell happened there? All ParaLook has is a picture of the Simurgh, bisected (which is, in and of itself, enough for quite the 'holy shit' (which is a word simultaneously under and over used in this topic) moment.))

>Velocithor
Replied on April 16th, 2011:Technically, she wasn't bisected. The actual split line was a bit above the chest area, so it's actually closer to ¾ and a ¼.

>Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
Don't be pedantic.

>Clockblocker (Verified Cape)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
Not sure how much I'm allowed to provide, but I guess I can talk about the actual battle (as everyone there saw it).

Basically: The Endbringers managed to break through the various barriers we had holding them back and, well, went on a rampage. You all know (see link) how well anti-Endbringer efforts were working against them as they were. So, as you can imagine, things didn't go much better this time either. Eidolon made a damn good effort, but it wasn't enough, things were looking to be a repeat of the Toybox Incident.

Then the sky shatters.

I mean, literally. A portion of the skyline broke open into a bunch of shards that faded into nothingness shortly after. There's no hyperbole involved here, the hole in the sky is still sitting there like a creepy as fuck red jagged scar on an otherwise blue horizon. (Hopefully Buster can fix that.)

Anyway, sky goes the way of the status quo yada, yada. And then what I can only describe as a directed micro black hole (which a friend of mine assures me makes as little sense as you would think it would but, you know, Parahumans) forms to drag Leviathan halfway across the battlefield. Shortly after moving Leviathan to a, as far as I can tell, arbitrary location, the black hole dissipates and Leviathan finally manages to pick itself back up, only for Buster to smash down out of the shattered sky. A moment of shaking earth later, and all we can see is Buster standing on top of Leviathan's unmoving corpse, with her foot impaled somewhere deep inside it. After that, she had a brief conversation with Eidolon, vaporized Behemoth with another black hole (sentences I'd never thought I'd type), and lazered the Simurgh. After all was said and done, she made a brief statement (something to the effect of “Yeah, they're gone.”) And asked to be left alone so she could head home and check on her father.

No one really felt like objecting.

>Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
...Holy shit. Well, thanks.

>Hectonkyhire
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
Damn, not even Scion could do that...

(Showing Page 15 of 15)


>Tinmother (Moderator)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
All of the indicated users have been infracted; take it to the vs forums.

>Hectonkyhire
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
*Is sad for what he started* Damn, 14 pages of derail... So, uh, what's the current listing for Buster's powers looking like?
User received a warning for this post: A bit too close to the previous topic, you're not in trouble, but I'll be keeping an eye out. That goes for everyone after this post too, keep it away from vs.


>Bagrat (Original Poster) (Veteran Member) (The Guy in the Know)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
Here's the updated list for the new information.

Absurd energy projection abilities (now updated to Endbringer slaying levels. What that means, nobody knows, but let's try and keep her from shattering a continent or something.)

Durabilty? How much is her being durable, and how much is her weird ability to cancel out kinetic force is questionable.

Weird ability to cancel out kinetic force (and maybe a bunch of other stuff too.)

Immunity to every power as far as anyone can tell.

Some sort of extrasensory perception that, if it continues to scale up, well soon encompass the entire planet. (Testimony from some... friends of mine put it well above seeing the entire city right now, and it used to be limited to a few blocks. And by 'used to' I means five days ago.)

Flight at some sort of speed.

Teleportation by shattering the fabric of reality or... something. (I seriously hope that gets cleaned up as it’s described as rather jagged and I don't think anyone wants to experience firsthand the consequences of cutting themselves on shards of space-time.)

Black hole creation and manipulation, and at a really high level if the descriptions are anything to go by. (Directing their gravatic pull? Creating them around an Endbringer and then dissipating it and the Endbringer too? Ridiculous.)

And, yeah. I think that's everything. Assuming she hasn't gained super muffin powers or something by the morn.

>EriktheGrave (Veteran Member)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
>Some sort of extrasensory perception that, if it continues to scale up, well soon encompass the entire planet.<
She sees you when you're sleeping~ She knows, when you're awake~ She knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake~

>Lasersmile
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
@EriktheGrave: You joke about that, but it's a serious thought. She's so far beyond anyone expect Scion (who it's questionable would even care about her, considering how he's acted in regards to every other non-Endbringer threat), that there's not much we can do about her. If Buster decides to go all Big Sister is Watching You, what do we do?

>EriktheGrave (Veteran Member)
Replied on April 16th, 2011:
Bow? Supplicate? Prostrate thineself? There aren't a whole lot of answers here.

End of Page. 1, 2, 3, 4, 514, 15

-

He folded his behind his back, and began to speak. “Director Piggot, what can you tell me about Buster?”

Emily Piggot frowned slightly. “In what manner, Mr. President?”

“I would like to know about her, her motivations and her personality. To be frank, I want to know how likely she is to become an enemy of the United States, how to prevent that from happening, and what could possibly be done in the event that she does.” He clarified. “As you are the Director of the Wards team she is a member of, you are the closest to her that I can be assured of discretion and accuracy regarding the topic.”

Piggot nodded. “Your first two questions are... difficult to answer, for various reasons. However, your final one is quite simple. Nothing.” A sour note entered her voice. “With her currently demonstrated abilities, and their seeming capability to override other powers where they should be canceled out, there exists, as far as I know, no possible way for anything the United States, or anyone for that matter, has access to in any fashion at all to stop Taylor Hebert from doing whatsoever she wants.” She hesitated slightly. “Scion, could perhaps do something. But it's questionable, and on top of that he has shown a strong disinclination to get involved in the affairs of Parahumans. I would judge him as too unreliable on multiple levels.”

The President of the United States of America sat down in his chair with a sigh. “Not what I wanted to hear, but I can't say it's unexpected. The best option then, would be to insure she never has a reason to oppose us, but you seem to be of the opinion that would be a rather difficult task, why is that?”

“You are aware of the fact that, for all intents and purposes, Taylor Hebert's trigger event turned her into some form of combat android, correct?” Piggot questioned.

“I am aware of information to the effect.” The President acknowledged. “I do, however, remain unaware of the reasoning behind that decision.”

Piggot nodded. “Conveniently, the answer to that ties neatly into the answer to your question. Namely, the mysterious 'combat protocols'.”

He leaned forward in intrigue. “Combat protocols... so she has some sort of inbuilt system that handles combat?”

“As far we can tell that is precisely the case.” Piggot answered.

“Hmm.” He tapped his fingers across his desk. “I've watched some of her combat footage in the past, and failed to observe anything really striking. Is there some sort of extenuating circumstance I am not aware of?”

“Correct.” Piggot confirmed. “These 'combat protocols' seem to spend most of their time in a dormant state of some sort. According to what we've heard from the protocols themselves, they only take command of Taylor when they are activated but she isn't in any actual combat herself.”

“That seems rather... arbitrary.” The President frowned.

“Quite.” Piggot agreed. “Nonetheless, they're there, and we don't really understand their motives. They appear to maintain some sort of consistency with Taylor Hebert's own motives and beliefs, but in far more... binary fashion, almost, or so we think, as we only have one confirmed case of their appearance and we are entirely unaware of what causes them to activate.”

He rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “So that leaves the obvious solution of 'insure they never activate' mostly untenable.”

Piggot paused to consider something. “I am... unsure that would work either. It isn't something I truly noticed before, but the reveal of the combat protocols and her existence as some form of android or cyborg cast certain events in a different light.”

The President suppressed the urge to groan. More likely-to-be-aggravating information about Buster. “Go on.”

“Taylor Hebert was, before her trigger event, the target of a rather vicious bullying campaign.” Piggot began. “Suffice to say, the culmination of this campaign was enough for her to trigger as a Parahuman. I imagine you are aware of exactly the kind of situations that bring about trigger events.”

He nodded.

“Good. Then I trust no further explanation is needed for the fact that Taylor Hebert had extremely good reason to hate all those involved.” She continued. “Now, to my eternal consternation, one of the most prominent members of the campaign was, in turn, a member of my own Wards team at the time. And Taylor eventually managed to discover this fact.”

“I can't imagine that went well.” He commented.

“Actually, it did. It went extremely well.” She answered grimly. “That is, in fact, the impetus behind my belief. There was a brief confrontation where she demanded answers, and I gave them, and offered reparations. As the offender was, in fact, in my office at the same time, I was able to offer some immediate ones. Afterwards she... calmed down, and I never heard anything on the topic again. She never even vaguely acted like you would expect an abused teenager to in that situation, never blamed anyone involved but the actual perpetrators. At the time, I merely thought she was an unusually rational teenager, but with the revelation of the combat protocols, I began to think there might be more to it. After consulting a previously villain Thinker with Armsmaster's aid, I can be fairly confident that there is something... unusual to Taylor Hebert's mindset, she doesn't quite think like a normal human does. It's not the binary thinking of a computer, but there is a hint of inhuman rationality there, and the fact that it's there, and we're largely unaware of the extent of it, leaves any predictions based on her personality shaky.”

And so the most powerful being alive was largely unpredictable. Absolutely wonderful. He could feel a headache coming on already. “Intriguing information. Thank your for your time, Director Piggot.”

“A pleasure to serve, Mr. President.” She nodded, and the screen shut off from her end.

With a long held in groan, the President of the United States of America leaned back into his chair. “What a fucking nightmare.” What did he do now? He supposed that was a question that would go through his advisors, but still...

He rubbed at the bridge his noes again, and began penciling in plans to make an appointment for the discussion of all of... this.

It had always been tacitly acknowledged amongst the world power that if Scion ever decided he wanted to rule the world, it was best to let him. Of course, that tacit acknowledgment was a great deal easier when everyone was confident it would never happen, and in the face of the US potentially having to give up its sovereignty and the values of freedom it had been founded upon, all the cold hearted numbers about survival rates rang increasingly hollow.

And that was disregarding the fact that, with the deaths of the Endbringers, the population might welcome their new overlord with open arms.

And then there was the problem of no more Endbringers. Like, holy shit, what does that even mean? All of a sudden the military, assuming Buster decides to not go omnicidal or overlord, is semi-relevant again. Oceanic shipping can start once more, and the world wide economy might actually recover.

He penciled in an extension on that meeting. They were going to be there for days.

-

“See, see!” Clockblocker shouted triumphantly. “What did I tell you?” He lowered his voice into a sort of rumbling grunt. “She always wins!”

Browbeat shook his head. “I was never disagreeing with you on that, but on your usage. Sebulba lost that race, you know?”

“And yet.” Clockblocker spread his arms apart. “She won.” He finished with a flippant tone of voice.

Browbeat's eyebrow twitched. “You. Are. Misapplying. The quote. It can't be used in that context.”

“Says who-”

“Ladies, ladies.” Aegis dryly interrupted. “Calm down. Clockblocker, he's right. In the original context, that quote doesn't actually work. But, Browbeat, does it really matter?”

Browbeat stared at him as if he were crazy. “Yes.”

Aegis threw his hands into the air. “Fine, whatever. Have your crazy debate. I, meanwhile, will be exiting the Parahumans Online Vs Forums section of reality.”

“Speaking of which.” Vista cut in. “Are we now the best Wards team in the world? I mean, it's kind of hard to beat having Buster as a team member.”

“Does she really count as part of the team?” Gallant scratched his head. “I mean, we're basically just a cheerleading squad for all the difference we make.”

“The same could be said of every Parahuman.” Browbeat dryly remarked.

“Which is kind of a depressing thought.” Clockblocker broke in. “Buster, considering the teleportation and extrasensory abilities, has basically invalidated the hero as a concept. We're all kind of pointless now.”

“Is that... such a bad thing?” The previously quiet Kid Win spoke up somberly. “Being a Hero seems cool and all but it kind of sucks in all honesty. It's scary and dangerous; you're facing off against potential murderers every day of your life for what? A chance at fame? A meager paycheck? Some sort of Ill-defined duty to the people?” Kid Win began to get fired up. “So what? I'm perfectly happy with never having to go into combat against another Parahuman again.”

“And so you would push all that duty and responsibility onto Buster?” Aegis pointed out.

Kid Win deflated. “Well, maybe I guess. She can probably handle it, can't she?”

“She may very well be able.” Aegis acknowledged. “Doesn't mean she should, she needs a break too.”

Kid Win sighed. “I guess I was being kind of selfish, wasn't I?”

“Pretty much, yep.” Clockblocker replied without hesitation. “On the other hand, we are way too fucking depressed for the death of the Endbringers. So, you all are going to shut up, and we're going out to get something to eat at Fugly Bob's. Now.”

“Hear ye, hear ye. That is something I can agree on.” Browbeat spoke out.

“Shouldn't we like, go see the director or something?” Vista questioned hesitantly.

“Probably.” Aegis agreed. “However, it appears that I've forgotten that detail. So I will allow this diversion.”

Clockblocker let out a whoop of joy, while Vista just shook her head. “Oh whatever, as long as you’re taking the blame.”

“Well, if I'm taking the blame.” Aegis began. “Then I am certainly not paying.”

“Gallant.” Clockblocker immediately spoke.

“Agreed.” Echoed Vista, Browbeat, and Kid Win.

Aegis nodded sagely. “A wise choice.”

“Hey!"

Chapter Text

“Scion? He's...” Taylor's scanning systems quickly divined everything they could about the being. “...Rather interesting. Got those extra-dimensional links all Parahumans do, but a lot more of them. Anyway, what's your point?”

“He's... going to destroy the world.” Eidolon replied.

Taylor blinked. “Come again?”

“Scion is going to, at some point in the future, go on a rampage and attempt to kill everyone on every earth.” Eidolon repeated.
This was going to be a story. “Well, what's your reasoning then? Because I'm having a hard time reconciling the guy currently pulling a kitten out of a tree with the Death Star.” Taylor asked.

“I don't know all the specifics.” Eidolon admitted. “But he's not human, and is, in fact, the source of all Parahuman powers. Well, him and his counterpart.”

Taylor tapped her chin. “A few of those links did have an unusual load on them, and that would explain what the giant whale thing is up to, as well as why he has all those links. Probably a projection, if that's true.” She paused. “Wait, counterpart? I only saw one in that vision.”

“Vision?” Eidolon questioned. “Never mind, not important. And that would probably be because the other's dead. Contessa, she's the woman that makes Cauldron work, killed it.”

Might be that flesh... garden... thingy then. “Cauldron is the name of your organization then? And what can this 'Contessa' do?” Taylor continued questioning.

“Yes, and Contessa she... wins.” Eidolon attempted to explain. “When she attempts something she, assuming it is possible at all, succeeds absolutely. Some sort of unfathomably powerful precognition, I think. There are a few blind spots. You, me, Scion and, well that's it anymore. The Endbringers used to be one, but...” He shrugged. “They're not much of a problem anymore.'”

Taylor briefly processed everything Eidolon said. “Alright but, moving back to the original question, why do you think he's going to go all genocidal?”

“Well, for a few different reasons, I suppose.” Eidolon began. “Contessa, before the counterpart managed a last minute limitation of her powers, could see it and Scion, and she apparently saw them doing so. And, well, I was rather inclined to believe them.”

“Why?” Taylor pressed.

Eidolon sighed. “At first, it was largely that I was less than inclined to disbelieve the people who had given my life meaning. But, it was only after I stood face to face with Scion that I really believed it. The aura of depression and almost boredom that surrounded him... He doesn't do anything he does for altruistic reasons. At all.”

Taylor looked at him, and decided. “Well, you, at least, clearly believe it, for whatever reason.” She paused briefly. “Alright then, I suppose I'll take your beliefs at face value.” At least, until she could independently confirm them. “Well, ask away then.”

“...What?” Eidolon asked, confused.

“You did come here to ask a few questions of your own, didn't you?” Taylor answered. “Not to say my own question list is exhausted; and you will be answering those before you leave.” Taylor scowled slightly. There better be a damn good explanation there. “But I suppose I should let you have your chance.”

“Oh, right.” Eidolon paused for a moment. “Seemed so much easier to phrase in my head.” He muttered. “Well... What are you?”

Hmm, she couldn't say that was an unexpected question, instead the question by this point was how to respond... Well, Taylor decided, if he was going to be that blunt... “Terran Imperial Space Forces, Solar System Direct Assistance Battalion Attache, Sixth Generation Interstellar Cruising Decisive Weapon, Buster Machine No. 7!” She dramatically exclaimed. “Or, well, a copy of her. I guess that would make me 7.5 or something.” Taylor mused.

“I-what?” Eidolon blinked. “No, I suppose the only thing that matters is that you aren't a Parahuman.” His shoulders sagged in relief.

“Eh...” Taylor wiggled her hand slightly. “Sorta. I was going to be your traditional, run of the mill Parahuman, and then stuff happened.”

“...Stuff?” Eidolon questioned.

“Stuff.” Taylor confirmed. “Basically, when that big creature, who I presume is Scion, began tearing shards of itself off and scattering them around the world-”

“We generally refer to them as 'Agents'.” Eidolon interrupted. “Cauldron, I mean. They provide the main control for powers; usage of them is more asking the Agent for help than any action of our own.”

“Hmm.” Taylor lightly hummed. “Interesting, but that's rather not the case with my own powers. Anyway, shards, or Agents if you want, go flying everywhere with one directly on a path with me.” Taylor paused for effect. “And then it exploded, as the original Buster Machine No. 7 destroyed it in the process of trying to find someplace to put the universe destroying black hole explosion she was carrying somewhere it wouldn't damage anything important.”

“Wait-what?!”

“And that turned out to be a pretty terrible thing for my mental state.” Taylor continued, ignoring Eidolon's panicked exclamation. “The connections the Agent was going to use to give me powers were still there, just with nothing to connect to. So, on one end of an incredibly powerful mental connection you have an average human, and on the other nothing. And let me tell you, human minds are not prepared to directly deal with nothing. But anyway, I'm sitting there with a broken mind and the original No. 7 makes an attempt to fix the problem, by just flat out rebuilding the Agent. Doesn't quite work, as she couldn't restore the 'data' behind the Agent, and so I was left linked to an entirely new emptiness. And so, running out of time, she just shoved her own schematics into the Agent and hoped it would work.”

“That's nice and all, but can we go back to the black hole explosion, please?” Eidolon questioned. “Is this something I should be worried about-?”

“Not really.” Taylor cut him off. “Nothings likely to come of it and if anything does, you aren't going to be able to do anything about it-I might not be able to do anything about it.”

“...Ah.” He managed with a slump. “...Parahumans aren't... all that relevant in the grand scheme of things, are we? Even Scion, as powerful as he is, doesn't really matter in the face of whatever you were built to fight.”

“Well, no.” Taylor admitted. “But what does it matter, do you base your life around being relevant to things?”

“I... I suppose I do.” Eidolon admitted.

Taylor blinked. Well, how does one respond to that?

“My life, before I became Eidolon was... bad.” Eidolon began. “I don't feel like going into all the little details, but suffice to say, I wouldn't have lived much longer beyond the time period in which Doctor Mother – the leader of Cauldron – found me, and offered me power and life.” He calmly removed his mask, and rubbed at an eyebrow. “When I awoke from having the serum administered, I was mighty. I was powerful. I was – and still am, aside of yourself and Scion – the most powerful Parahuman in the world. And I spent a long while contemplating what I would do with this power. Eventually I decided I would be a hero.” A hint of grandeur entered Eidolon's voice. “I threw myself completely into the concept, and discarded all else. I abandoned all hope of ever having a family, of holding a steady job, running for office in government, or making a great work of art. And I decided I would make heroism my legacy.”

He sighed. “At the time, I thought I would either die of old age, or in some great battle holding off an unfathomable threat to humanity, and I would leave my legacy behind. That people would remember me as the greatest hero and that would be my life. I was... content with this. Happy, even. Then... Behemoth attacked, and I discovered that my powers were fading, and that I was massively weaker than I had been at the start of my career.”

Fading? “You seem fairly powerful for a Parahuman as is, are you sure your powers have faded that far?” Taylor questioned.

Eidolon snorted. “At the height of my power, in the days when the Triumvirate wasn't, and we possessed no threats, I could have held off all three of the Endbringers casually. Perhaps, considering how far I had faded by Behemoth, even killed some of them. Speak with anyone who was around when I first entered the scene, the difference is staggering.”

He shook his head. “Moving on, it wasn't too long after that when I discovered Cauldron's true purpose, and that I was someday going to have to fight the one thing I acknowledged as more powerful than myself, all the while I was getting weaker. So I threw myself into finding ways to get stronger, of finding that one worthy opponent. Someone I could push my powers to the limits against in the hopes that I would break through something and rediscover my lost power. Even the Endbringers never stayed long enough for me to truly push myself, always leaving before I could break that barrier. I began to despair some.”

He let out a humorless bark of laughter. “Most powerful man in the world, in many ways the most helpless. No other Parahuman had a hint of the power I did, and thus I was left with the most responsibility-the responsibility to stop the end of the world. And then... you met a Snake.”

“I... did?” Taylor questioned with confusion. “I mean, I've met a few snakes in my time, but I don't think any have had that much of an impact.”

“There is a Parahuman by the name of Coil.” Eidolon began. “He had the power to split... choices. Make two choices at a point in time, and chose which one he wanted later after he saw the repercussions of each one. He was both a villain, at that point in time, based out of Brockton Bay, and one of the many capes created by Cauldron. He was less than happy with your actions involving the ABB, and your demonstrable willingness to be a hero. So, he split his choices, and made a few attempts to remove you as a source of consideration. One of those attempts, none of us are very sure which, set you off.”

Taylor winced. “Let me guess, you guys managed to trigger the Combat Protocols, and never backed off enough to reset them.”

“That sounds like a fair assumption of what happened.” Eidolon nodded.

“Yeah, that would have been pretty bad.” Taylor admitted. “Even more so because, technically, I don't actually register Parahumans as 'human'. My sensors are acute enough that even the smallest meaningful difference is picked up on, and there is little small about a Parahuman's difference. With the combat protocols totally in control, all they would have seen is non-human entities attacking myself, and endangering humans. I don't know how bad it got, but depending upon the scale of the Parahuman attack, they may have rationalized quite a few human deaths as necessary.”

“I see... so it was our own escalation that caused the problem.” Eidolon noted.

It was irritating that something like that was even possible, but a situation like this was something nobody could have possibly foreseen or prepared for. “Although I can assure you anything like that is unlikely to happen again; the whole thing was basically my own automated systems desperately scrambling in an attempt to make something of the... unusual situation they had found themselves in.” She shrugged. “With everything fully repaired, that can't really happen again.”

“That's reassuring.” Eidolon let out a slight sigh of relief. “As you said, things got bad very quickly. Not even a half hour in, and you had killed the Simurgh, Legend, possibly Alexandria and myself, and were fighting Scion over the shattered remains of North America. It was around that time that Coil chose the other choice, and told us everything. We rapidly verified his statements and... Then spent an embarrassingly large amount of time not accomplishing much of anything.”

He sighed. “We didn't quite know what to do; it was only after meeting you at the Leviathan attack and discovering that you weren't a mass murdering sociopath that we regained even the slightest bit of hope. Of course, we simply took that as having more time to 'deal' with you.”

Eidolon shifted in his seat. “I think, that was our major problem when we planned for you, we never considered an option other than 'devise a convoluted method to kill it'. Years of preparing to fight Scion, of making terrible and hard choices to do so, left us unable to consider a different method when we faced a threat of similar magnitude.”

He rubbed at his forehead. “Maybe if we had talked with you, instead of continuing to squirrel away information, we could have figured something out earlier. Maybe made you strong enough just a little faster, just enough to stop the three Endbringers before they caused the damage they did.”

He shrugged. “But it's done, and now here I sit, unable to decide what to do. Regaining my powers, even if I did find that worthy opponent who would push me far enough – you're certainly not it, Coil's story told me enough to figure out that you were 'too worthy' – isn't really relevant anymore. What did I want them back for? To deal with Scion? Not a problem anymore. To maintain my legacy as the greatest hero? Not possible, you've neatly stolen that from me.”

He let out a self-depreciating huff. “I can't even hate you for it, I wanted to save people, and leave that as my legacy. If I truly resented you for doing a better job at it than me, could I truly say that I had meant to leave a legacy of a hero?” He shook his head. “No, if I did that, I would never be able to look at myself again. It would mean that I had done all of this, made all of these sacrifices, for nothing more than a power trip.” He spat the last words.

Taylor, who had placed her chin at top her upraised fist at some point, sighed. “You aren't going to give me any satisfactory answers to any of my questions, are you?” She could already guess how he would answer. “Besides, there are better people to ask by this point.”

Eidolon blinked. “I'm not sure; you haven't actually asked me any.”

Taylor waved him off. “Like I said, I now have a better person to ask my questions to. Anyway.” She continued. “What, exactly, did you come here to accomplish?”

“I've already accomplished it.” Eidolon replied. “I came here to, well, understand things, and find out if you knew what you were. And find out if another event like Coil's story could happen again. You are firmly of the opinion that it can't for... whatever reason. I'm not sure I got your explanation-”

“Well, you understand I'm a highly advanced combat android, right?” Taylor interrupted.

He nodded.

“Well, basically, when the original No. 7 encoded data on herself into the Agent, it attempted to fulfill its primary function and 'use' that data on me in the only way it knew how. That is, using it as a basis to encode me.” She explained. “Problem was, the Terran Imperium's technology was so unfathomably far beyond anything the Agent was ever meant to deal with, it could only perform a haphazard sort of 'smash the data at me and see what happens' approach. This, as you might imagine, didn't go all that well.”

“I can imagine.” Eidolon dryly interjected.

“So I was left with a bunch of half-finished mechanical innards trying, and succeeding, at fixing things.” Taylor continued. “Even the mangled and shattered half formed parts of No. 7 it had tried to construct inside me possessed enough will to attempt, and eventually succeed at, automatic repairs” She shrugged. “I, unknowingly, decided to force myself into this whole heroing business before I was ready at... all really. For instance.” She offered. “Around the time I beat up Lung, I was running with roughly half a percent of my maximum power output – and that's ignoring all the non-power output related problems I had, like the fact that my combat protocols were taking control at all. Shouldn't be possible, they're basically a list of instructions and reasonable actions to take during combat. Of course, as I was in pressing need of some combat help, the repair protocols manage to wrangle a basic AI out of a list. An AI with way too much access for its own good, but a basic AI nonetheless.”

Eidolon didn't seem sure how to respond to that. “You were... repairing up till now?”

“Yep.” Taylor nodded. “And, well, I shouldn't have tried to do anything much while repairing, unpredictable things can, and did, happen. Like that time I tried and accessed the Algorithmic Imaging Drive before it was anywhere near ready. You might remember it as the time Precognition collapsed.” Taylor pointed out.

“What was that anyway?” Eidolon latched onto that idea. “We're also fairly sure the Simurgh had an... unusual reaction to it, considering it was smacked fairly heartily into the ground just before it happened.”

That.” Taylor began. “Was me attempting to utilize the Algorithmic Imaging Drive to perform Algorithmic Image Propulsion.” She paused as she tried to figure out a way to explain it to Eidolon. “Algorithmic Image Propulsion is, basically, a form of Alcubierre drive. In layman's terms, a really poor way of explaining it would be that I perfectly calculate the mass of the space in front of me and behind me, and then perform a really advanced math equation to set the mass behind me much higher, and set the mass of the space in front of me into outright negative terms.”

“Negative... mass?” Eidolon tried to wrap his head around the idea.

“The mass difference results in me moving forward on a wave of collapsing space at two or three times the speed of light at the lower end, and hundreds of billions at the higher.” Taylor continued. “What's really ridiculous about this is that there's no real energy expenditure involved – the 'Algorithmic Imaging Drive' is little more than a compilation of mathematical equations so advanced they have tangible effect on reality itself. Of course, there's a slight problem with that.” Taylor brought her thumb and for finger close together, but not quite touching. “Namely, rewriting reality with math has hellish effects on causality, and I didn't have access to enough power to compensate through the physical canceler. So, basically, a bunch of things happen at once. At one point, it works, and I ram the Simurgh at a little under seven hundred times the speed of sound. At every other point... you get the event you've probably heard of from Dragon.”

Eidolon opened and closed his mouth a few times. “God... what could you possibly have fought that required something like that?”

“Heh.” Taylor chuckled slight, and looked off into the distance. “We called them the Space Monsters. Generic, I know, but that's what they basically were. Monsters, from space. Luckily, they don't appear to actually exist in this universe, probably because their creator doesn't either. But anyways, they were incredibly powerful; a single cruiser equivalent in the fleets they fielded could do this.” Taylor materialized an image of Titan after the Titan Variable Gravity Well had awoken in her hand. “To Titan. And they casually fielded enough to densely pack a sphere of space eighty AU wide. In the final assault on the galactic core, there were tens of billions of them.” The image changed to a view of the Milky Way galaxy with a large dot of red at its center. “You see that dot? During the final battle it was impossible to find a single Space Monster further than a quarter of an AU away from each other – and those were the outliers.”

Eidolon frowned, and shook his head. “I'm sorry; I just can't contemplate that kind of scale. And you're telling me you won that fight?”

“For a certainly value of 'won'. We had to envelop eighty percent of the galaxy in an FTL propagating black hole, but we took out enough that we weren't really threatened anymore.” Taylor finished.

“...Eighty percent of the- Ugh.” He sighed. “I suppose it doesn't matter. There are more things I could ask, although at this rate I don't think I would ever run out of things to ask, but I kind of need to go back and face the music.” He winced. “You see I kind of... never got permission to say any of the things about Cauldron I did. So now, I need to go back to base, figure out what to do with my life, and hope Doctor Mother can't figure out how to glare me to death.” He wryly remarked. “And considering trigger events, that's a much higher chance than I'm really comfortable with.”

“Mhm.” Taylor hummed noncommittally. “I suppose I have things to do as well, there's only so long the press will hold off before their greed overcomes their self-preservation and they start battering down my door.” And she had a golden man to greet. “So I suppose this is fare well for now, Eidolon.”

He nodded, and turned to leave. He hesitated just after opening the door. “...David.”

“Hmm?”

“My name, it's David.” Eidolon turned to her, and put his mask back on.

“...Alright.” Taylor nodded. “Fare well then, David.”

With nary a further word, the door closed behind him.

Chapter Text

“You sure everything's alright, Taylor?” Her father questioned worriedly.

“Yes, Dad.” Taylor huffed exasperatedly. He actually seemed more worried about her the more powerful she got. “Eidolon was just here to talk; ask a few questions about me and my powers. Considering the past few hours, is that honestly all that unexpected?”

“...I guess not.” He admitted after a moment of hesitation. “I suppose I'm just looking for something to worry about. When most fathers have their daughters go out alone, they worry about who they may encounter. When my daughter goes out alone, I worry for who she encounters.”

“Gee thanks, Dad.” Taylor paused. “Although, considering what happened to the ABB...”

“Ah...” He trailed off. “...What exactly happened there? I mean, I've heard rumors and all-”

“Stuff.” Taylor cut him off. “Stuff I'll explain to you a bit later, there's a few rather pressing engagements I need to deal with fairly soon. Like the press, and a few things Eidolon mentioned.” If Scion really was an omnicidal entity it was better to get forewarning than have it come as a surprise, and Cauldron as a whole was probably better dealt with sooner rather than later.

“Oh, alright.”

An awkward silence hung for a moment.

“Well, I'll be going then.” Taylor spoke, as she stood up from the chair she had briefly settled into.

Her father nodded without further comment.

A moments’ walk through the living room, and Taylor stepped outside the door.

She looked into the sky above her. Scion was probably the most pressing issue.

A moment's thought, and her internal singularities began to rumble to a start.Just enough energy pumped into the scanning systems to cover the entirety of earth.

Scion, currently traversing the Atlantic Ocean.
Right, let’s do this properly now. She brought up the outfit of Buster Machine Number Seven.

Two separate equations ran through her head. One bent space before her inward; the other bent the space behind her outward.

The physical cancelers came online, a red glow suffused her as causality was pacified and conservation of energy was convinced to look the other way – wouldn't do for the sonic boom of her travel to wipe out life on earth, would it?

The preparations for her travel made, Taylor relaxed and let the repercussions of her actions take effect.

Her body began to slide forward through the air, the bent mass of the space before and behind her creating the effect of a boulder rolling downhill through space and time. Air molecules before her snapped with shocking force to the side of her path, before slowing to sluggishness and smoothly settling into a more normal energetic state.

A few in-flight modifications to the equations running through her head later and she found herself before Scion. She rapidly rebuilt both equations from the ground up in order for her to settle into a hovering state before him.

The entire process from start to finish had taken only a minuscule fraction of a second.

The golden man stopped his movement.

-

The entity came to a stop before the female-shaped void.

The replication of human sight the entity possessed in its extension observed a human female, only notable for her unusual outfit and the fact that she was flying amidst a red glow, but all other senses the entity possessed failed to notice anything other than a void where she existed.

The female began speaking.

She floated there without noticeable outside aid of any kind; no shard maintained her flight pattern. Echoes in reality of what might have been a connection to a shard at one point stretched out into a cluster of worlds drained bare of their resources at a far faster rate than they ever should have been.

Interest.

“-ght. If this isn't going to work.” The female continued speaking. “I'm coming in.” She moved up to the entity's body, and pressed a hand to its chest.

A small void appeared in the center of the entity's false body, and rapidly exploded outward into a gravitic anomaly, or black hole as the humans called it, which consumed the entity's false body.

The black hole intensified and bent at an angle perpendicular to the dimension the female resided in. A torrent of gravity ripped a hole between and the human female shaped void stepped through to observe the truth of the entity's existence.

Shock.

“Probably not Earth native, no.” The void spoke.

The void understood the entity did not belong here. The entity reached for the cluster of shards which foretold the future.

A void lay there as well. No future could have given rise to the one the entity now resided in, and any future to come could not account for the void. The perfect analyzation of those shards, which could account and form a prediction for every conceivable variable, had come across a variable it could not conceive of.

Panic.

No answers would be forthcoming from any shard the entity possessed. No tool or ability under its domain gave a satisfactory resolution to this dilemma.

“Do you even understand anything I'm saying?!” The void cried out.

With no recourse lying within any source at entity's disposal, the entity lashed out in an attempt to banish the void from its realm.

-

Taylor blinked as her attempts at communication were finally met with a response – a shot of blinding gold light that struck with the force of a hurricane.

“How rude.” Taylor commented as the light washed over her body to no effect. “You know, this isn't really helping my point of view on whether or not you're an enemy of humanity.”

Her only answer was a storm of attacks, equaled only in their variation by their intensity.

Waves which disrupted molecular bonds, a string of light that carried enough mass to make the moon look small, a beam of black energy that simultaneously raised and lowered the temperature of all it touched resulting in atoms tearing themselves apart in confused fury.

All fell before the modified Eltreum alloy that was her skin, immutable to all phenomenon short of whatever the hell the Excelion Variable Gravity Well was using.

“Well if that's how you want to play...” She raised a hand into the air, all singularities spinning at full power, and unleashed a titanic beam of energy into Scion's true form. Enough power put out each second to exceed the sun.

A gridlock of energy, arranged in such a way that each preceding layer of energy reinforced all the others to create an incredibly efficient defense system for the energy inputted, formed before the blast.

Taylor absently noted that Alexandria's own invulnerability was based upon the same process.

Still, despite the incredible efficiency, the shield buckled under the incredible force behind Taylor's attack.

Taylor put a bit more power behind the attack, and the field of energy shattered.

Another, larger one fell into place after.

Taylor frowned. She still had a while before she ran out of power from her singularities to enhance the attack with, but that was a bit more inefficient than she was happy with. The typical Buster Corp tactical doctrine-

She blinked again, and sighed. “Now I just feel silly.” This wasn't a space monster she was facing; the typical Buster Corp tactical doctrine applied little if at all. Since she wasn't facing a space monster here, Scion didn't have any of the 'hardiness' of physics inherited through the Heart of the Universe all Space Monsters had. “Which means...” She smirked.

She mentally flipped a switch, and everything within a five kilometer sphere – the maximum area of effect for her physical cancelers – vanished as the laws of physics were turned off.

-

The void that was a female human suddenly ceased her attack, and swept up and outwards to form a vastly larger void, this one unfathomable to any senses the entity possessed – even the human sight it grafted onto its body.

The void moved onward, passing through all the defenses the entity set up as if they weren't even there. Air rushed behind the void to fill the wake left by its passage as it pressed into the body of the entity.

A few moments of the entity feeling portions of existence vanish into that infinite darkness, and the void collapsed inward to form the human female shape again.

The void began to speak once more.

Fear.

What manner of being did the entity face? What possible existence could be such a void to all things, and control it so effectively as well?

Fear and desperation having driven it to new realms, the entity drove forth a thousand years of life from its body and burned.

-

Taylor almost stumbled, not from the force but from surprise, as a wave of light expanded outward from Scion's body. Temperature the equal of the sun at its greatest moment issued forth from the body of Scion and the otherwise uninhabited world they resided on melted into slag and burnt atmosphere.

Taylor attempted to speak again, only to realize there was nothing for the sound to transmit through.

Well, there went the only form of communication they might share – although Taylor was beginning to question that.

Taylor was honestly beginning to question how much more effort she was willing to put into attempting to communicate with Scion. Many would argue that he had already demonstrated sufficient impetus for her to kill him.

But she supposed years of saving people had earned him at least one last effort.

Resolving on a course of action, Taylor brought her physical canceler directly online once more.

Space around her was rewritten, and dozens of singularities formed into existence around her, a grinding mass of incredible gravities formed several powerful degeneracy reactors – she was going to need a lot of energy for this.

Her sensor systems drew energy from the degeneracy reactors around her, and expanded outward. And outward. And outwards. Spanning millions of light years.

A suitable location was found.

A dozen more reactors were formed, as Taylor's scanning system drew forth enough energy to put a thousand supernovas to shame.

And those scans deepened. Until Taylor could completely understand everything within the massive multi-million light year radius her sensors covered.

The requisite amount of information at her disposal, Taylor began constructing a new equation. All the small idiosyncrasies of the two areas of space she had in mind were fed into the equation.

The equation built, Taylor funneled it through another one designed to convince reality these two areas of space should really be in the place the other is.

Math took effect.

In a flash of light, and a rain of shattered space time, Taylor dragged Scion and herself across reality on a cross-galactic Warp.

-

The entity finally understood things.

If there was any form of communication the entity understood, it was energy and power.

Human speech was something the entity always had to remind itself to pay attention to, but power was something instinctively grasped.

And such energy.

The void wielded energy and power in volumes, depths and to effects the entity could never imagine possible. To perform an instantaneous trans-location across so an incredible gulf of space, would require energy and abilities the entity could not grasp.

The entity finally understood things.

Resignation.

The void was not a foe the entity could defeat. There was nothing to be done but await whatever judgment it issued.

The void began to speak once more. “Are you willing to talk now?”

The entity processed the voids words. To talk? As humans did? How demeaning. But, if it was their only form of common communication...

The entity struggled to fit its thoughts into forms and manners suitable for human speech.

It began to vibrate the air.

-

Taylor held out some hope that the show of power involved in dragging the both of them to Andromeda would get him to stop attacking long enough for some sort of communication to start.

Suddenly, a huge voice boomed across the Earth-like planet Taylor had found.

“I... will... talk.” The voice slowly stuttered out, as if unsure of its wording.

Taylor grinned. “Wonderful.”

Chapter Text

“What.” Doctor Mother flatly stated. “You... what.”

“I told her everything.” Eidolon replied.

Doctor Mother opened and closed her mouth a few times.

Alexandria held her head in one hand. “Why? What could have possibly convinced you that was a good idea? And without consulting any of us.” Alexandria stressed that last line.

“In all likelihood.” The Number Man broke in. “It wouldn't have mattered for a whole lot longer after that anyway. Considering how 'complete' her powers generally seem to be, I would find it difficult to believe that she would be unable to use her extrasensory perception through Doormaker's portals. Unless we were willing to cut out portal use to Earth Bet entirely – a thoroughly untenable idea as you might imagine – her discovering the complete layout of our base was inevitable. With Taylor Hebert's demonstrated moral... inflexibility, it was probably for the best that Eidolon came clean directly to her rather than base any conclusions she could make entirely on what she's observed through brief glances into our base. Perhaps.” He looked at Eidolon. “That was even what happened there. You had Doormaker portal you to the base directly from the battlefield, correct? In that case, Taylor Hebert probably had her extrasensory perception still online, and so when Eidolon went to 'talk', he was forced to field some rather uncomfortable questions. Am I correct with this assumption?”

Eidolon, having had his entire planned argument repeated back to him in the Number Man's typical thorough and highly logical speech, fumbled mentally for a moment. “I-yes. That's... exactly what happened. I went to her planning to talk and ask a few questions and she... had some rather pointed questions of her own.”

“So you told her everything.” Doctor Mother spoke, attempting to get a grasp upon the situation. “What do you mean by, 'everything'?”

“Everything.” Eidolon repeated. “The first thing she said, in a rather more sinister attitude than she usually displays, was that she saw some 'interesting' things through the portal Doormaker had opened. I figured that I was going to have to do some quick talking in order to, uh, not become Endbringer 4.0 right there. So I asked her what she knew about Scion.”

Alexandria let out something between a sigh and a groan. “And there went the last of my hope that you had misled her as to... anything we had done.”

Eidolon looked at her flatly. “You'll excuse me if the thought of misleading the girl who just had about as much trouble dealing with the Endbringers as I do my morning breakfast never crossed my mind.”

“Statistically, based upon Taylor Hebert's demonstrated invulnerability level, you'd have been more likely to die choking on a cornflake than for the Endbringers to have accomplished anything of note against her in that battle.” The Number Man pointed out with his usual seriousness.

Eidolon shot the Number Man a disgruntled look. “Moving on, she replied with something vague about him 'having a lot of those connections' and said that, to the extent of what she could tell, he was an 'interesting' being.”

“That would imply that her extrasensory perception works on Scion to some extent.” The previously quiet Contessa commented. “If that's the case, I would judge your theory that she is something 'outside' Scion and his partner as correct, Eidolon, as no naturally acquired power should be able to work on him in such a matter, Thinker powers were especially crippled in regards to them.”

“Speaking of which,” Doctor Mother said to Eidolon, “Did you at least manage to achieve your goal while you were in the process of revealing all of our secrets to the being most likely to be both able and willing to act upon them?”

I didn't have a choice.” Eidolon stressed. “She had already seen into our base, saw us going in there, and probably saw everything from the Case 53's to the Garden itself. If I didn't come out with an explanation right then and there, we would have had to basically write off Earth Bet as a location we can create Doormaker portals to at all – if that would have even kept her back. Explaining the Scion situation and our reasons for doing so got her to back down for a little while at least. Her exact words were 'I'll believe that you believe it', and she shortly thereafter went on to state that she had 'better people to question'. And – oh never mind.” He sighed. “...Yes, I found out what I wanted. The whole thing's apparently really complicated and I got the cliff notes version, but she's apparently a sort of autonomous weapons system designed by an alternate version of humanity to lay siege to entire solar systems.”

The Number Man blinked. “I find that claim... highly dubious.”

Doctor Mother looked at him in confusion. “Why? Is something like that really so far beyond what's she's demonstrated?”

“Yes.” Alexandria bluntly stated. “I don't quite have the capacity that Number Man does, but solar systems are big.”

“Quite right.” The aforementioned man nodded at Alexandria. “A siege, by definition, implies the capability to project force of some kind or another over the entire area in question. Our solar system is huge in ways unfathomable for a non-thinker. If we stretched out a sheet that represented the solar system to scale on that wall.” He pointed at the longest wall of their meeting room. “Earth wouldn't even be visible on it, and the sun would be little more than a very small yellow dot.”

“Wasn't she measuring things in AU though?” Doctor Mother questioned.

The Number Man looked at Doctor Mother. “Our solar system, including the Oort Cloud, is approximately sixty three thousand AU in radius. Unless she means solar system in the sense of the planets themselves, a tale that is far more palatable as that usually ranges within a hundred AU.”

Alexandria glanced at Eidolon. “You disagree.” It wasn't a question.

“I do.” Eidolon replied. “But let me finish explaining first. She actually is a Parahuman of sorts. It's just, in the process of connecting with her, her Agent was destroyed accidentally by the original weapons system she was based off of. As the Agent dying mid connection turns out to be a really bad things for someone’s mind state, the weapon system – which I only know as 'Buster Machine Number Seven' – rebuilt and recreated the Agent out of an image of its own data. At that point, with nothing else to go off, it attempted to turn her into one of those weapon systems and failed because they were too advanced for it. But enough happened for some sort of automatic repair system to kick in – that's why she was getting stronger by the way, dormant systems reactivating and existing ones getting more power.”

“Interesting, I'm sure. But did you find out why Coil's story was so odd?” Doctor Mother asked impatiently.

“Yes, actually.” Eidolon replied. “Whatever systems she has for dealing with combat weren't repaired correctly at that time. So she likely got attacked by a gang that set off the systems somehow, killed them, heroes tried to detain them and she killed them too. Things escalated from there because A: Parahumans don't technically count as human to her sensors, and B: Since we had gotten so serious, her combat systems rationalized the deaths of the innocents as necessary to save the greater whole.”

“I see...” Said Doctor Mother, “...I suppose that does fully answer my question.” She nodded him off.

“That was interesting and all,” Alexandria and her one track mind broke in, “But why do you think her statement wasn't hyperbole?”

“The kind of technology level the civilization that built her creator is terrifying.” Eidolon turned to answer her. “She showed me a little of the kind of wars they fought – their enemies had fleets of billions, every single one of their ships being vastly more powerful than anything Scion has ever shown. She showed me an image of a single cruiser firing energy attacks that left gaping holes in Titan, as in the moon. I wish to reiterate, billions of these. How did they win that war? By wiping out eighty percent of the galaxy with an FTL propagating black hole.”

Alexandria rested her head in her hand, Doctor Mother blinked, and the Number Man settled heavily back into his chair with eyes slightly glazed over.

A moment of silence.

“Eighty percent,” The Number Man breathed after a moment of settling himself, “I see why you would be inclined to believe the higher end interpretation of sieging a solar system. With that kind of technology, I find it impossible to rule anything out. Do we have any indication the weapons system Taylor Hebert now is is in possession of similar levels of technology?”

“Technology? Technically no.” Eidolon admitted. “She did explain what happened with the precognition collapse, but I would hesitate to label it 'technology'.”

Contessa looked up in interest.

“It was an Alcu-something or the other drive.” Eidolon began.

“Alcubierre?” The Number Man questioned.

“I believe so.” Eidolon nodded. “It worked off the principals of increasing the mass of space behind, and decreasing it before her.”

“Alcubierre, then.” The Number Man confirmed. “An interesting concept now proven, definitely something of note, but why would you hesitate to call it technology?”

“Because she did it with math.” Eidolon responded.

The Number Man actually managed to look amused. “I would be highly surprised if she didn't use any-”

“No, I mean only with math.” Eidolon clarified. “She apparently knows math equations that rewrite space.”

“...Preposterous.” Was the Number Man's initial response. “Math cannot, in and of itself, have a tangible effect on reality, it would make no sense. Math is a series of processors for calculating things, not a series of magic spells.”

“How does the saying go? 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'” Alexandria pointed out. “Could you truly say it is an out and out impossibility?”

The Number Man breathed. “...No, I cannot. I am forced to admit that some form of thought process or repetitive method could have a tangible effect upon the world, it would be far from the most unlikely thing the scientific method has discovered – indeed, the Agents themselves prove there is far more to the world than humanity knew of thirty one years ago,” He maintained a disgruntled look in his face, “I still refuse to accept such a statement at face value. Although.” He changed tracks. “You never actually answered why it screwed up precognition.”

“Ah, yeah. Basically, 'Algorithmic Imaging' as she called it has some rather nasty side effects. Namely, cause and effect gets screwed up in a large area around her when she does it, resulting in the weird thing that happened at the Guild, and the effect that struck down the Simurgh.” Eidolon continued to explain. “Evidently, it also messed up whatever mechanism precognition works on.”

“What's the point, then?” Doctor Mother asked.

“Apparently, now that she's at full power, she can compensate for it using a 'physical canceler' of some sort... Which I didn't actually ask anything about.” He admitted.

“Physical canceler? Would that imply canceling physical laws?” Alexandria spoke with a hint of incredulity in her voice.

“If she can warp space with mathematics, I would hardly put changing physical laws beyond her.” The Number Man spoke. “Nevertheless, as Eidolon didn't ask about it, it is pointless to speculate on.”

Alexandria acknowledged his point with a nod. “Well then, do you have anything else to add Eidolon?”

Eidolon shook his head.

“What now, then?” Doctor Mother queried. “I figure it's not too much longer until we get a visit from Buster. In fact, I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet.”

“It is... surprising.” Eidolon commented. “Her talk of having 'someone else' to ask her further questions left me with an impression she would be interrogating you Doctor Mother. I'm honestly not sure what she's up to right now – actually, she said something about dealing with the press.” Eidolon remembered.

“Ah, the ever shifting public.” Alexandria reminisced. “That could take a while; someone want to check the news? I doubt the women who slew the Endbringers would be anything other than a live show.”

The Number Man nodded, and pulled his laptop open.

A few moments passed.

“Nothing. At all.” The Number Man stated with a hint of surprise, “The typical rumors, of course. But nothing even vaguely worth paying attention to. She hasn't contacted any news source whatsoever.” A few moments of typing and clicking. “In fact, there's no information upon her current whereabouts at all. Satellite coverage shows she stepped outside of her house three minutes ago, and vanished. Not even Dragon's high speed footage shows any indication of what happened.”

“Any speculation?” Doctor Mother asked Eidolon.

Eidolon shrugged. “No idea.”

“Then where is she?” Doctor Mother asked exasperatedly.

-

“I suppose we've reached an accord, then?” Taylor spoke.

“Accord...” The air rumbled as Scion twisted the word and considered its meaning. “...Agreement.” He finished in his preferred method of single word responses.

Taylor nodded, and with a flex of the dozens of still active degeneracy reactors surrounding her, she scanned the area, and flung Scion across space to land on the now atmosphere less Earth she had taken him from.

Sensors already accommodating for planetary and galactic drift, she Warped herself as well. Only this time, she went a little to the 'left'...

-

An odd sound, almost like shattering glass but just ever so slightly different, enough to be noticeable, filled the compound.

Alexandria leapt to her feet, the Number Man and Doctor Mother frowned in confusion, and Eidolon and Contessa stiffened.

“So that's what it sounds like. I didn't quite get the chance to really listen during the battle.” Eidolon murmured.

That comment clued the others in, and they relaxed fractionally. “An uneasy sound.” Alexandria commented.

“Close enough to the sound of breaking glass to be familiar, different enough to disturb.” Doctor Mother agreed.

“I suppose this conclusively answers the question of whether or not blocking off Earth Bet would have accomplished anything.” The Number Man noted. “It's worth pointing out that she, judging by the sound made, teleported into the room we use to come into the base. Most likely, she has some method of tracing where Doormaker's portals go cross-dimensionally.”

The door into the conference room opened before any further comment could made and Taylor Hebert, dressed in the same casual attire as she had while speaking with Eidolon, walked in.

The two sides stared at one another. Alexandria remained standing, while her contemporaries sat around the table. Taylor remained at the door, arms crossed across her chest.

A moment of silence, and then... it was broken. “I wish to extend my deepest thanks for dealing with the Endbringers.” Doctor Mother spoke out. “They were a huge toll on lives that could have helped dealing with Scion.”

“Scion... isn't quite a problem anymore.” Taylor answered.

Doctor Mother's eyes widened. “I... see. Still, you have my thanks for the simple human life you saved. Cauldron was formed for the sake of saving humanity as a whole, and even without Scion the Endbringers would have brought civilization on this world crashing down eventually. And as the Simurgh had demonstrated dimensional travel before, that may very well include others as well. Although, may I ask what makes you so certain that Scion is dealt with?”

Taylor paused in thought for the barest moment. “I talked with him.”

That got looks of surprise from everyone there. “How did you manage that?” Alexandria inquired. “He has historically refused to respond to everything, except the one time he said his name.”

“As long as you have a common form of communication, and are demonstrably more powerful, you can convince most things to talk.” Taylor answered. “He tried the whole ignoring me thing for a bit, I pushed the point, he retaliated, and I showed that his retaliation was... less than impressive.” She shrugged. “He was a great deal more reasonable after that.”

“...I would think someone would have noticed your battle.” Said a slightly skeptic Alexandria.

“My idea of 'pushing the point' involved using his fake body as a conduit to rip a hole into his dimension. Probably a good thing, in hindsight.” Taylor mused. “By the time Scion was finished with his ineffectual attacks, he had burnt the entire atmosphere off that Earth, and I had to go find another planet in that universe with an Earthlike atmosphere.”

The Number Man's eyebrow twitched at the implications. “It varies depending upon the universe, but the nearest Earthlike planet is rarely less than a hundred light years away. And you made that travel instantly?”

“Actually,” Taylor began. “For the purposes of convincing Scion I was more powerful than him, I went all the way to Andromeda to find one.”

“Andromeda.” The Number Man dryly repeated. “...Well, your efforts have sufficiently intimidated me at least.”

“That's interesting and all, but what did talking with Scion do that has you so convinced he won't be a problem?” Alexandria asked, attempting to get the conversation back on track.

Taylor sighed. “To make a long story short, the goal of Scion's race was to escape heat death by giving out powers and letting people experiment with them in hopes someone would stumble across a way of generating energy ex-nihilo. After a period of time they would travel to a different world, destroying it in the process, to search out other races with different ideas of innovation. At least, I think so. Scion is... kind of dumb. He honestly isn't sure what he existed for, apparently the other one was the 'Thinker' and he was the 'Warrior', so there was a fair bit of Scion going 'we do this' being vague about it, and me going 'do you mean this' and him going 'probably'. So after telling him I could deal with the problem of heat death-”

The Number Man merely sighed.

“-He seemed simultaneously happy and confused. We then came to an agreement that he could continue to try and find meaning in his life through whatever method, so long as he didn't harm humanity in any way, and I would ensure that his goal of 'living forever' was achieved.” Taylor finished.

Doctor Mother frowned. “I'm not sure-”

“Look.” Taylor interrupted while rubbing her forehead. “I've been fairly accommodating so far, probably more than I should have, but I'm not here to talk about Scion.” She looked at the group. “Where is Legend, anyway?”

“He's largely kept in the dark.” Alexandria answered. “Doesn't actually know anything about Cauldron's true motives, or that we've actually done anything beyond provide powers for a few people.”

Taylor frowned. “I suppose he can be left till later than.”

“What do you mean you're not here to talk about Scion?” Doctor Mother latched onto that, “He is a... rather important figure, as you well know.”

“True,” Taylor admitted, “But I've dealt with Scion adequately enough for my purposes. I'm here to talk about you.”

Understanding flashed across Doctor Mothers eyes. “Ah... Well either way, if you have proven conclusively more powerful than Scion, I believe I can accept whatever judgment you lay upon us.”

Taylor stared for a moment. “I suppose I will ask two questions. First; why all... that?” She motioned downwards. “Because if you honestly believe that bunch could even phase Scion, than you might be legitimately insane.”

“Of course not.” Alexandria answered. “They were never intended to be anything more than a distraction at best; we were searching for another Eidolon – someone powerful enough to fight off Scion.”

Taylor raised her eyebrows at Alexandria.

“To clarify,” Eidolon broke in. “We considered pretty much everyone aside of the most powerful of Parahumans to be a distraction in the face of Scion – even with the limited amount he has shown, he is still too far beyond any Parahuman for all but the strongest to be relevant at all.”

“I'm not seeing why they're all kept caged then,” Taylor asked with narrowed eyes.

“Our formulas are far from stable – see the difference in power between someone like Alexandria and, say, Battery.” The Number Man began to answer. “And they frequently lead to some serious mutation. So what often happens is they receive a power they either can't or are unwilling to control. In those cases, we imprison them in the lower levels. And to assuage your obvious concerns, every person we dosed with the formulas would have assuredly died otherwise.”

“Since when did saving someone’s life give you right to own it – that was certainly in no version of the Hippocratic Oath I've ever heard of.” Taylor's expression lightened little, if at all.

“By any conventional moral standard, what we did has little in the way of an excuse.” Doctor Mother answered. “But we had few, if any options otherwise. What morality we could salvage from this situation we did, all else was discarded as stopping the end of the world was the highest priority. We had no idea that someone as incredibly powerful as you would come along, so we had to do what we could to save humanity. If, at the end of it, enough of humanity remained I, at least, would have accepted whatever decision was made about my actions.”

Taylor's face initially remained hard, and then she sighed. “As much as it may satisfy that dark little part inside me, killing you all wouldn't actually solve anything. So we're going to move on, ignore any 'point for point' debating about what you've done and how it weighs against what happened and might happen, and state the facts. Namely, you've created a shitty situation for a lot of people in the hopes of stopping a shitty situation for everyone. And now as the latter event has been interdicted, you're left with having left a lot of people in a shitty situation. So, here's how it's going to go.”

Taylor shifted stances slightly. “Cauldron has entirely too many useful resources to just dismantle in its entirety, and it will be a while till I can get around to starting on anything that could effectively take your place. So you're going to gather every Case 53 Parahuman you've created, and issue reparations. If that includes taking their powers away and giving them their normal bodies back fine – I am more than capable of dealing with that problem. If they want their memories back, fix them if you can, I'll see what I can do to get them back if you can't. If they want a fuck ton of money, they get that.”

“And if they call for our deaths?” Doctor Mother asked, before closing her eyes. “If that is what they require, I will accommodate. So long as none of the others have to, they are far too valuable.”

Taylor hesitated for a moment. “...No, if you really did only take those on the verge of death, murder in response is not actually the answer.”

Doctor Mother nodded in acknowledgement.

“Anyway.” Taylor continued. “If Contessa is half as powerful as Eidolon suggested, you should be more than capable of doing all of that on your own, and I will handle any requests you are unable to. And if you at least attempt to satisfy the requests of every single life you ruined... I will consider your debt to society to be fulfilled.”

“I believe I can agree to that.” Doctor Mother answered.

“Not that they really matter, but are there any objections from the rest of you?” Taylor asked.

“It is not at all how I ever imagined spending my time after Scion was dealt with, but I am lacking in anything else to do.” The Number Man responded. “I have no objections.”

Alexandria simply shook her head. “I am fine with that.”

“That's fine.” Contessa answered.

Eidolon hesitated for a moment. “I... suppose this is the final death knell in my hopes for leaving my legacy behind.” He sighed. “But it wasn't likely to work out by this point anyway.” He looked up. “I agree.”

“I suppose the question by this point is; what are you going to do?” Doctor Mother asked.

“A good question,” Taylor sighed, “I'll get back to you when I know the answer. Hopefully, I'll have one by the time the press loses all patience. Which,” She grimaced, “Judging by the crowd gathering in front of my house isn't too much longer. In fact, I'd better get back now before they break the door down or something, ugh.” She turned to Cauldron. “I'll leave you to your tasks, while I deal with mine.”

And with a flash of light, Taylor vanished from the base.

All was quiet.

“...Where do we even start?” Eidolon broke the silence.

“In hindsight.” Alexandria began to speak. “Someone probably should have told her that Contessa's powers are down right now as well.”

“Logically? We begin with those who have a power releasable into the world, and don't seem like they want to lose it. Or gain their memories back.” The Number Man pointed out.

“How many of those are there?” Doctor Mother questioned.

“Not many.” He admitted. “But there are some who may fit those criteria.”

“And I, personally, don't want to have nothing done when she inevitably comes back.” Eidolon replied.

“Unlikely to be good for anyone’s health.” The Number Man agreed, while looking over the list of Parahumans in their base. “...Custodian, bring two-six-seven-nine here.”

A brush of air through the room, and they waited.

“Which one is that?” Doctor Mother asked.

“His powers turn him into a living source of lava, but they also render him without need of any food or water. In all likely hood, he has grown too dependent on his powers to give them up. He also speaks a language only the Number Man knows.” Alexandria answered.

A minute passed, and the door opened to reveal a subdued man. The man had thick, cracked black skin, Darker than any possible human pigment. The man steamed as small bits of lava oozed their way out of the cracks in his skin.

Wh-what do you want?” He stuttered.

The only one capable of understanding him, The Number Man took over this exchange. “The situation has changed. The reasons you were retained here are no longer relevant, and for your sacrifices we are offering restitution to some extent. What is it you want?”

“I just want to go home...” The man asked, a look of depression on his face.

“Very well.” The Number Man answered. “If you would like, we may be able to rectify your condition given enough time.”

“I...” The man hesitated. “...No, I just want to go home now. And this I... don't think I could manage without it.”

The Number Man nodded. “Very well. Doormaker, portal to Earth six-seven-two-seven. Area two-six-seven-nine.”

A rectangle opened in the air.

“The world you came to here from is through there. The location is fairly close to where we first picked you up as well.” The Number Man spoke.

The man hesitated, clearly not believing any of this. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“You don't.” The Number Man answered. “But if we wanted to kill you, we could do that quite easily. And, either way, you will no longer be trapped here.”

Still hesitant, but satisfied enough, the man stepped through.

The portal shut behind him.

A moment of silence as the Number Man typed something out on his computer. “Twelve thousand six hundred and eighty two remain.” He commented.

Eidolon sighed. “We're going to be here a while.”

“Most likely.” The Number Man agreed. “And few are as likely to be as 'easy' as that one.” He checked the list again. “Custodian, bring up six-two-seven.”

As the custodian brushed by them again, Alexandria stood up. “Number Man, send me a list of every Case 53 in the protectorate. I will see about gathering them up.”

The Number Man nodded. “Sent to your phone.”

With a nod, Alexandria left through a Doormaker portal.

“...Door to Legend.” Eidolon called out.

A portal formed.

“You're going to tell him.” Doctor Mother stated.

“The whole world will know soon enough. He deserves to hear it from me.” Eidolon answered.

Doctor Mother nodded, and Eidolon stepped through the portal.

The portal closed.

Chapter Text

The sky lit up with ten thousand flares, and two stars circled each other in the night.

She looked at the ground, and with a sigh, picked up her hat. A brief attempt was made to purge the crinkles her excitement had brought upon the poor object, but it was all for naught. She sighed again. A perfectly good hat, ruined. Still, she couldn't remain down for long. Today was a day for happiness.

She looked up at the sky again, and smiled. A single hat was a perfectly adequate sacrifice.

A glance was made at her, rather expensive, camera sitting on top of her bag. That, she would rather not sacrifice, if she had anything to say about it.

She reached down for the camera. Probably best for the thing to go into the bag, she decided.

Finally, god... There are entirely too many alternate universes for anyone's own good.” An unknown voice complained from behind her.

She blinked, and turned to look at the speaker.

A teenage girl, with long and dark curly hair. The teen was rather plain faced and wearing some truly out of date fashion. Jeans? Who even sold those anymore?

Still, if the teenagers of the day wanted to dress up in Victorian Era clothing, who was she to judge? “I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I don't know your name. I thought I was alone up here, did you come to watch as well?”

“I'd be shocked if you did know me.” The teen answered. “And, I... guess?” The teen looked up at the sky. “Oh. Ohhhhh. Well, that's a... pleasant surprise. But, mostly, I came to talk to you.”

She frowned. “I'm not interested in giving out any autographs-”

“No, that's not it at all.” The teen waved. “It's just that, well, we share a common... friend? No, that's not quite the right description; I didn't know her well enough or long enough for that.” The teen frowned. “I suppose she was a friend to you, but more of a... almost mentor to me.”

An idea flashed across her mind. “Do you mean-”

“Yeah.” The teen answered. “I only knew her for a few moments but she... changed my life, probably saved it even. And, by proxy, saved a whole lot more people than even you know of.”

She quirked an eyebrow. “How so?”

“It's... a long story.” The teen answered.

She shrugged. “I've got time.”

The teen thought for a moment. “Alright sure.” She sat down upon the grass where she was standing. “My name's Taylor Hebert.”

Lal'C Mellk Mal sat on the ground next to the girl. “Nice to meet you, Taylor.”