Chapter 3

-Legion*** Taylor ***Legion-

On the Thursday after getting my gift from Mrs. Knott, instead of spending the day at the library, I got up a little earlier than normal and made dad breakfast and his lunch, instead of the other way around. After the breakfast dishes were done, I dressed for the outdoors; I put on my new eyepatch, black with a silver starburst, a gray hoodie, with my new jacket over it.

I had long since decided that my appearance was just a thing, and I refused to hide myself away. I would force myself to leave the house, no matter how nervous I was, and I refused to hide my face; the hospital had given me a partial face mask, that would cover a lot of my facial scarring, but I never used it after I left the hospital, well except for when I slept. Supposedly it would help reduce the scarring, but it was so extensive that I felt it was pointless. Those bitches had done this to me, and every time I gave into my fears and insecurity, it was like they were winning again.

I went for a short walk, just around the block and then back inside, stopping once to mail the thank you note to Mrs. Knott, hoping that she would get it. Since it was still pretty cold, I made a point of dressing to stay warm, but I was still following the exercise routine I had been given, and as usual, I was still pushing myself to go a little bit farther and a little bit faster each day. And though I wasn't really getting any faster, I was going just a little bit further. Today was the first day I felt that I could actually walk around the block by myself, which I did.

At 10:30 there was a knock at the door, which surprised me, because ever since I came back from the hospital, nobody stopped by without calling first. Getting up, I grabbed my cane and the canister of pepper spray that dad insisted I keep with me whenever I left the house, or answered the door, even if it was just to get the mail or to pay for the pizza delivery.

I hoped it would be the supplies dad had ordered for me; most of my studies were right out of the book, or online at the library, but I needed to do actual labs for my chemistry class, and without any support from the school system …?

Dad still had some of his supplies from college, but we had needed to order replacements and supplies enough so that he could set up a small chem lab for me. It wasn't going to be much, but his friends from work had already found a steel table and vent hood out of the kitchen on one of the smaller ships in the Graveyard. A little late-night salvage and a few hours of work, paid for with some beer and pizza, had gotten everything set up last weekend.

I also wondered if I could get some assistance from the same foundation that Mrs. Knott had used to pay for my new computer system; if so, it could be a big help paying for supplies for my chemistry class, and perhaps my physics class as well?

I unlocked the deadbolt, but left the chain on. To my surprise, it wasn't my chemistry supplies, but something completely unexpected.

Standing on my front porch was Armsmaster, with Miss Militia standing off to one side!

I stared at them for a moment in disbelief then checked out the street and surrounding houses, but the only thing that seemed out of place was the white van, with the PRT logo on the door.

"Um… Can I help you?" I asked uncertainly, keeping the door on the chain, not opening it fully, and keeping most of my body hidden from sight.

"Ms. Hebert? Ms. Taylor Hebert?" Armsmaster asked.

"Yes, I am. Can I help you?" I asked again.

"We would like to ask you some questions about one of your fellow students at Winslow High School…"

As soon as he mentioned Winslow I froze, then said harshly, "I don't go to Winslow. And I most certainly do not consider anyone there to be my 'fellow students'." The two heroes exchanged odd looks at that and Armsmaster asked, "May we come in, I would rather not discuss this while standing on your porch?"

"No. Not without my dad here," I said, as I stepped back to close the door.

Miss Militia spoke up then, "Ms. Hebert, a student at your… at Winslow was badly injured, and we are trying to determine if it was an accident, or an attack that was disguised as an accident."

At this I paused, thinking back to all the times that those bitches had attacked me, and it got ignored or covered up as an 'accident', and wondered if they had picked a new target, since their old one had gotten away. If so, if there was even a chance that some other poor girl was beginning to be targeted, like I was; I really couldn't just ignore it; I wouldn't just look away like everyone else did, when I was their target.

Finally, I decided to let them in so that they could ask their questions; and maybe if those bitches had picked a new victim, I could at least try to warn these two about the Trio, let them know just how dangerous and insidious they were. Who knows, maybe the 'heroes' would do the right thing, unlike the school?

"Come on in, then," I gestured them into the living room and pointed to the kitchen table; after they entered I closed and locked the front door again. "Have a seat at the table. Would you like some juice or water to drink?" I asked, trying to be polite, as I slowly limped into the kitchen, still sore and tired from my morning walk.

Armsmaster just shook his head no, while Miss Militia said, "Some juice if you don't mind?" I think Miss Militia was surprised at my appearance, because I was wearing a short sleeve shirt in the house, my arm and hand scars as well as my facial scars were completely visible; she didn't seem disgusted or revolted by them, but rather she just seemed a bit angry, Armsmaster just didn't seem to notice or care about them. I couldn't tell if he was oblivious or had just seen worse.

I grabbed two glasses from the cupboard, put them on the table and then got the pitcher of apple juice from the fridge and filled both glasses. Setting the pitcher back down on the table, I pushed one glass towards Miss Militia, then I sat down and said, "Okay, ask your questions."

Clearing his throat, Armsmaster stated officiously, "Two days ago, a tenth grade female student was attacked, and ended up in the hospital. When the initial investigation found some rumors of bullying and suggestions that the attack may have been caused by the use of a Parahuman ability, the investigation immediately came under PRT jurisdiction." At this point, he stopped and looked at me expectantly, after a moment of waiting he went on, "While you were attending Winslow, did you see any signs of bullying or harassment going on?"

I stared at him in disbelief; then just asked dumbly, "What?"

Miss Militia tried to interrupt him, but he just bulled on ahead without hesitating a moment, "Did you ever see any of the students assaulted, tripped or having their belongings destroyed?"

I pushed my chair back from the table sharply and said, "Is this a sick joke? Are you seriously asking me if I witnessed any signs of bullying at Winslow? Look at me!" I held both arms outstretched, turning them over so the extensive scarring was obvious, gestured at my face, pulling my hair back and removing my eyepatch to show all of the damage. As I spoke, my voice kept rising from anger. Miss Militia reached out to grab Armsmaster's shoulder, but again he ignored her and repeated his question.

I grabbed my cane and leveraged myself to my feet and gave him a disgusted look, pointed at him and said, "Don't you dare move; wait right here, I'll be back in a minute," with that I left the kitchen, limped up the stairs to my bedroom and got the stack of notes out of my dresser, the notes that I had made while still in that hell-hole; detailing all of the crap that those bitches had put me through, since September of last year. Four, almost five months of constant assaults, property destruction, theft, and harassment of every kind; verbal, written, electronic; with copies of the emails and text messages that had been sent to me.

When I got back to the kitchen and sat down, I tossed the two inch thick stack of papers, held together with a couple of big bulldog clips on to the table and said contemptuously, "This is only since last September, I didn't think to keep records in the beginning, because, I still had hope that the faculty would do their damn job and stop it, like they were supposed to."

I sat there, sipping my juice, trying to calm back down from that outburst. I watched them skim through my notes and saw that although Armsmaster didn't seem to even care about what he was reading, it was like what he was reading didn't matter in the least to him; Miss Militia though, she seemed to be getting angrier as she kept reading, occasionally looking at me.

After a few minutes of watching them in silence, I realized that something was 'off' about this whole situation. Why would two of the biggest heroes in Brockton Bay come to my house to ask questions about some girl getting bullied? Finally, I couldn't restrain myself anymore and politely asked, "You know, you never did say who was attacked, nor how she was attacked? Could you please tell me who it was?"

As I asked that question, both heroes looked at each other, shook their heads and Armsmaster simply said, "Due to privacy concerns, I cannot reveal the identity of a minor during an investigation."

As he said that, I noticed that Miss Militia's power, the glowing light, was flickering faster and faster, changing into different weapons as if she was upset or angry, and searching for just the right weapon to deal with whatever was making her angry; and considering the looks she had thrown my way, I was getting the uncomfortable feeling that she was angry at ME!

The longer I watched the two of them sitting at my kitchen table, skimming through the notes that recorded my torment; the more I realized that nothing about this situation made any sense; why would two superheroes come to my house to question me about the bullying of some random schoolgirl; why didn't some police detective or a PRT investigator handle such a routine issue… unless it wasn't routine at all?

With that thought, all of my fear and paranoia, well-learned through 18 months of non-stop abuse and watching as the people in authority, the very ones who were supposed to protect me; instead continually using their position and power to enable and protect my abusers; everything finally crystallized and I forced myself to ask the question again, fearing what the answer might be.

"Who was injured?" They didn't answer me, but I could see that Miss Militia was getting angrier; even so, I had to know, so I tried again, "Why are two 'heroes' questioning me about a schoolgirl getting bullied? Unless there is something special about the girl? Can't be rich or politically connected, not at Winslow, so what could it be?" I sat there trying to figure it out when Armsmaster spoke up and said, "Ms. Hebert, you do not need to know the identity of the victim. That is classified information." Miss Militia grabbed his shoulder and shook it harshly and said, "Stop it."

But it was too late; so many things, both large and small, came together and finally made sense; as I realized the horrible truth, "A Ward, the student who was attacked was a Ward; that's the only reason you would be here…" I paused, thinking about all of the Wards, and which one could possibly be at Winslow; then I realized that only one Ward matched up with anyone I knew from Winslow, and that was… "Sophia. Sophia fucking Hess. That's why you're here," looking across the table at the 'heroes', I saw that Miss Militia's power had stopped cycling and was now manifested as a large pistol holstered at her hip.

Armsmaster spoke up yet again, "Ms. Hebert I am afraid that is classified information and I now have no choice …"

At that I lost it. Completely. They're going to kill me, kill me to protect Sophia Hess; no big deal, such a simple thing, to protect Sophia at all costs, just like always! I threw myself out of my chair in terror, and scrabbled backwards across the kitchen floor until I was in the corner, trapped again, the locker all over again!; braced up against the cupboards screaming and pleading, "NO! NOO! LET ME OUT! PLEEAASE! PLEEAASSE NOOOO!"

When they got up and came towards me, I tried one last time to get away, flailing at the cupboard doors, trying desperately to open one, perhaps hoping to hide inside, until finally one of the doors was knocked open, but before I could do anything, to escape or run, or anything; it felt like I got hit in the chest by a big hammer… and then blackness.

-Legion*** Miss Militia ***Legion-

I tried to stop Colin, but it was too late; the girl had realized that the injured student was a Ward, and given even the little I had read from that stack of notes, Ms. Hebert had jumped to the wrong conclusion and thought that they had come to cover up Shadow Stalker's misdeeds. And based on the looks she has been giving my power as it shifted, she probably thought that I was here to kill her to stop her from talking. As Taylor fell to the floor and tried to crawl away, her face pale and sweating in obvious terror and panic, I reached for my phone to call for an ambulance, than her eyes rolled back in her head and …

Destination.

Agreement.

Trajectory.

Agreement.

Concern.

Confidence.

Renege?

Denial. Destination.

Agreement.

…I pulled myself up off the floor, with that vision still in my head as I stared at the young girl, who if I was right had just triggered, right in the middle of having a heart attack. I looked over at Colin as he tried to turn over, "Colin, call for an ambulance. I think she's having a heart attack!"

"No, she triggered. Not a heart attack," he mumbled as he struggled to get to his feet.

"Call for an ambulance, damnit!" I yelled as I placed her on her back, checked her for a pulse and breathing; finding neither I started CPR. While I tried to keep the poor girl alive, Armsmaster finally called for an ambulance, telling them to be ready for a young female cardiac patient. Once he had done that, he called the PRT trooper in and had him seal off the house and direct the paramedics inside when they arrived.

Coming back inside, he watched for a moment and then asked if I wanted to trade off yet. Shaking my head, I said, "Not yet. For now, make copies of all of her notes. I don't want them to 'disappear' like it seems most of her other complaints have."

He nodded and started paging through the stack, capturing an image of both the front and back of each page, occasionally cursing at some of the things he read. When he finished he restacked the notes neatly, and said, "I sent a copy to both your Protectorate and your private email. I don't know how Shadow Stalker got away with this shit for so long, but I can't imagine she didn't have help from someone. Someone else has been making sure no reports made it up the chain, and that someone is going down, hard."

Finally, after almost 6 minutes, her heart started beating on its own; fast and weak, but beating. I continued with the rescue breathing, checking regularly to ensure her heart kept going on its own, until, at last the paramedics arrived and took over, giving her oxygen and using a breathing bag to force air into her. They finished prepping her for transport and placed her in the Rescue and left to take her to Brockton Bay General Hospital.

Armsmaster picked up the knocked over chairs and put the pitcher of juice away and then grabbed the stack of papers to use as evidence against Shadow Stalker and the school. As we started to leave, a FedEx truck pulled up to the curb and the driver got out and after a moment of staring at us in surprise, picked up his clipboard and approached us.

Diffidently, he asked, "Sir, Ma'am, I have some packages for a Mr. D. Hebert, or a Miss T. Hebert," he looked at the Rescue that was just leaving, then went on, "Was that them? And should I leave the packages with you, since…" he glanced at the where the Rescue had been again, "well, someone has to sign for them, and…?"

Armsmaster started to shake his head no, but I spoke up first, "Certainly, I'll sign for them, just bring them into the living room, please," I held the front door open for him and pointed to where I wanted them left. He brought in four, fairly large, packages marked FRAGILE, that I signed for.

After he left, Armsmaster checked the shipper's address and attached invoice, on his way out of the house. "Hmmm. That's a bit suspicious. I wonder what she is planning to do with these chemical supplies? You could create some rather dangerous chemical weapons or explosives with this material; I suppose I'll have to get a warrant to confiscate them," he mused.

I had looked over the delivered materials, but I had also seen the books on her shelves and desk. She was clearly studying so she could complete high school or get her GED. At his comment I just shook my head and interjected, "Colin, don't be an idiot. She's homeschooling herself; those supplies are needed to complete her lab assignments. Not make bombs or poisons. Just leave them here, you have neither the authority or cause to do anything with them. We can lockup the house as we leave, so let's go."

After a moment, he agreed and used one of his many tools to lock the deadbolt as we left. When we had started back for the PRT building, he shook his head and said, "You're right, she's just a kid. I originally had thought that perhaps she had Triggered during the Locker Incident back in January, and had used her powers to get back at one of her abusers. But everything she said makes it apparent that she was just trying to put it all behind her and get on with her life; not to get revenge. And we both know now that she didn't Trigger last month and she didn't use her nonexistent powers to attack Shadow Stalker, despite her accusations."

I laughed mirthlessly, "True, given that she actually triggered in front of us; that kind of points the finger at just who has been using their Parahuman abilities to attack whom."

"Director Piggot will not be happy with this report. I am going to recommend immediate incarceration during the investigation. With her history, and given some of the incidents described in these notes, she is almost certain to attempt to flee. Not to mention that someone in the PRT has been covering for her actions; and either coercing or assisting the school officials to do so as well."

He paused and then went on, "The police will need to be read in as part of the investigation, to handle the civilians, and this will be a mess to coordinate. Deputy Director Renick will probably end up running all of it. Making sure that Ms. Hebert stays safe and is properly compensated during all this will be no small task, either."

I nodded my agreement, and thought about what we could do about Ms. Hebert, and what we owed her because we had failed in our responsibility to keep a sociopathic Ward under control. Eventually I just said, "Drop me off at the hospital, I'll make sure that she is getting proper treatment as well as keeping you informed. You'll have to report all of this to both the Director and the Deputy Director; but try to get her Triggering classified if possible, alright?"

"I'll try, but why do you want to do that, in addition to the normal classification?"

"To prevent any attempts at recruiting; Director Piggot can sometimes be heavy-handed about recruiting newly triggered capes; and after everything Ms. Hebert has gone through, I can't see her wanting anything to do with the PRT at this time. Better to leave her in peace, and let any contact with the Wards or PRT come from her end, not ours."

He nodded thoughtfully and said, "I agree and I'll do my best with that; let's go."