I don't own...yeah, I think all the disclaimer stuff is self explanatory.
So, I was reading Worm, and this idea came into my head. I'm not sure how good it is, or if people will like it, but I thought I'd get it out there since it gives me a chance to write something a little more action packed than Harry Potter. Rest assured though, my other stories have not been abandoned.
So, uh, enjoy.
Edited 09/06/2017- some alterations to the formatting, as my usual double spacing to mark paragraphs had inexplicably gone AWOL and I've been forced to use the actual lines. Also, a few lines added in to help with the most jarring scene change, all things pointed out in reviews, so I do listen.
The Emperor could never have guessed that he could find himself in a worse situation than his interment upon the Golden Throne. Massive agonies, slowly feeling himself dying, seeing Mankind slowly going extinct and the itching of phantom limbs- if he ever recovered he was going to beat Nurgle to a whining pulp for that- but he had been wrong. There was something worse, and this endless void was it. He wasn't even sure what happened. He had been communicating with the Void Dragon that was quiescent on Mars- as it turned out, the ancient Star God had mostly recovered from the psychosis induced by massive consumption of mortal souls, and was relatively sane and helpful- when he had felt an enormous distortion in the Warp. It hadn't been anything he had recognised, his best guess had been that the Dark Gods had finally stopped being polite and started murdering each other, and the backlash had…well, he had no idea. He had attempted to brace the Astronomicon against the wave, but he assumed it had been futile. Regardless, the last thing he had sensed was a wash of power as the Void Dragon rose from slumber, and he could only hope that the C'tan would help humanity. He certainly could not.
'YET ANOTHER FAILURE. THIS PLACE IS EVEN WORSE THAN THE WARP. AT LEAST THERE I WOULD GET TO OBLITERATE SOME DAEMONS.' The Emperor mentally grumbled. Whatever had hurled him through this…whatever it was hadn't even had the grace to restore his body. He was still in the form of a rotted skeleton, and his limbs still itched. Still, he thought that he might be slowly regaining some use of his body. It was hard to tell, but…wait. A light. A light in the distance. If he was a lesser man, the Emperor would have cheered. As it was, he gathered his strength and waited.
'THAT LOOKS LIKE TERRA. BUT ONE FAR YOUNGER THAN I RECALL.' He mused, searching through his memory. It was a long search, but he believed that it might be Terra as it had been dozens of millennia ago. The third millennium, maybe? Hard to tell. However, the shadow of the enormous slug-thing hovering over the planet was not one he recalled. And the Emperor was fairly certain that he would have recalled something like that.
'IT LOOKS LIKE NURGLE HAD A CHILD WITH A SLUG, AND THEN IT WAS DROPPED IN A PIT OF CRYSTALS. FACE FIRST.' The Emperor said, his mental voice unfortunately lacking most of the inflection that he wanted. He was getting closer, but it was still more of a booming monotone than anything else. It was a projection of his powers after all. Whatever the beast was, it was ugly. The Emperor concentrated, and he could see that the shards that composed much of the things form were falling towards the planet of his race, apparently attracted towards the most despairing of the human race. It was disgusting, another parasite in a line far too long for the Emperor to remember all of them. Wrath swelled within him, and he mustered his might to turn upon the creature, to erase it from existence. Power boiled and swirled within, and then…nothing. He could not strike. Could not crush the beast to less than atoms.
"SON OF A BITCH." The Emperor stated, concluding that more violent curses would probably be redundant. At least he could now identify why he appeared to be regaining use of his body: he wasn't a physical being anymore. A being of spirit, unable to affect the lamentably physical form of the giant space whale-slug thing that was apparently feeding off the pain of his people. The Emperor drifted aimlessly around the giant creature as he thought, absently examining it. After a period of examination, he concluded that the beast was, for want of a better phrase, multi-dimensional. On one hand, that meant that there could only be one of it, existing across multiple Earths in the multiverse. On the other hand, the only thing he'd encountered that were definitely like that were the Chaos Gods. The Emperor wasn't sure he could defeat something of that power level even at his best. At least, not without laying waste to a significant portion of existence. As he was currently, more a ghost than a real being, he couldn't even begin to confront it. Not unless he could somehow regain a form, which would require some sort of possession. Which he refused to do on sheer principle. The Emperor drifted aimlessly for what could well have been years, his mind sorting through his vast history until he hit upon an idea. The Eldar Phoenix Lords.
The Eldar Phoenix Lords had long fascinated the Emperor. They were, simply put, an amalgamation of souls. A Phoenix Lord always seemed the same, always acted the same. A Phoenix Lord was eternal. The body might die, but as soon as an Eldar donned the armour of the Phoenix Lord they became part of a union of souls, led by the original Phoenix Lord soul and possessing all the skills and powers that every host had ever had. The Emperor had considered attempting a similar process, in about his six thousandth year on the Golden Throne, but he hadn't been able to get it to work. He didn't have a conduit, like the armour the Phoenix Lords used, and even if he did he doubted that any would wear it. It would have been seen as blasphemous. But…but, he might be able to manage it now. If he could latch on to one of the parasite shards that the creature was sending down to humans, he could usurp it, and bond his powers and soul to a human. In theory. It would be less the hosting of the Phoenix Lords and more a partnership, but it should allow him to aid his people once more. His decision made, the Emperor drifted across to the creature, in order to examine the shards. They were…primitive, he supposed. It should be easy to follow in one's wake and then destroy it once the soul merge was complete. This one that he was close to…it was…it had a purpose, a being, just as they all did. The essence of it was something odd, hard for him to translate exactly.
"LORD COMMANDER? RULING GOVERNOR? NO. SOMETHING SIMILAR BUT NOT QUITE. I AM MISSING SOME NUANCE OF IT, PERHAPS." The Emperor mused. It didn't matter. This…this Monarch Overseer shard, or whatever it was, would serve him well enough. Or rather, it's host would, for he had managed to ascertain a brief impression of the one it would manifest in, and the host had potential. Such potential, to be great. Greatness for good or for evil, one worthy of inheriting his mantle and taking his place as the shepherd of Humanity. This was his chosen one. His successor. His final legacy. The Emperor banished a stray hope that it would not turn as sour as his other legacies, and let his ethereal soul follow the path blazed by the shard. His soul was swift and traced the path behind the shard, quickly drawing on his power. The child who would inherit his might must not receive it all at once, such might would destroy them, and so he carefully began to partition his strength, to slowly unlock over time. He should be there to control the increase, of course, but were he not his efforts would be essential. And then he noted that the shard was almost at its destination, and he could view the one who would be his host and successor. A girl child, young and scrawny, trapped in a…a locker, he thought, dredging his mind for memories of long ago. He could feel her horror, her disgust, her terror, and yet he could see defiance and determination. Yes. She would be worthy. The Emperor followed the shard, and waited for the precise moment.
The Emperor interrupted the strange sequence that the shard was going through, overwhelming it and melding his soul to the girls, a process that he already knew would be agonising for both of them. And in the last moments before the agony caused him to briefly lose his ability to think, he silently apologised to her. For he knew that her life would be changed, irrevocably.
The locker. The locker, the locker, the locker, oh God the smell and the feel of it and the darkness and the crampedness and the panic. Taylor writhed and twisted and barely fought back the urge to scream as whatever the Hell filled the tiny metal box squished around her, oozing and gelatinous. Insanity. Insanity awaited as tiny legs crawled across her form and something skittered across her face and she instinctively closed her eyes and prayed that it wouldn't reach her eyes. Pain raked up her arms as she scratched them in her cramped, crushed flailing, and only the fear of something getting into her mouth prevented her from screaming and howling in the locker. Couldn't tell, couldn't tell how long it had been, trapped in a cycle of fear and horror and pain and there was light and two vast things and something was falling towards her and growing larger and larger and-
The voice was booming and terrible and soothing all at once, and Taylor felt a strange relief. And then the relief was washed away by the pain and Taylor screamed.
"Where…where am I?"
Her voice sounded very weak and thready, and as she opened her eyes slowly she found herself surrounded by a blinding white that made her squint and cover her eyes.
"AH, MY APOLOGIES. I HAD NOT CONSIDERED THAT YOU ARE UNUSED TO THIS."
The voice was deep and booming, and vibrated in her bones like nothing she had ever experienced, and it drew her attention as the light dimmed, a great deal. When Taylor opened her eyes again she was in a cavernous room, lavishly decorated in gold and with a great throne at one end. The room seemed old, though, and decayed- almost decrepit.
"NOT THE BEST IMAGE, I'M AFRAID." The voice said quietly, and she turned to face it. She almost screamed at what she saw, and the figure paused and looked down at itself before twisting before her eyes, turning into a vast man, with darkly tanned skin and black hair drawn back.
"What…what are you?" Taylor demanded, her voice shaking. The monstrous man- he had to be over ten feet tall, and broad to match- took a few more steps forward, holding up enormous hands in a gesture of peace.
"CALM, CHILD. I AM…I AM THE EMPEROR. I DO NOT WISH TO HURT YOU."
Parahuman, her mind screamed. Not one that she had heard of, but that didn't make him any less dangerous.
"PARAHUMAN? I SUPPOSE THAT WOULD NOT BE INACCURATE." The Emperor mused. He sighed, and looked at her.
"EVIDENTLY THIS FORM IS NOT REASSURING. PERHAPS ONE THAT IS LESS IMPOSING?" He said, before his appearance once again twisted in a manner that was simply wrong, and he became a much shorter, slimmer figure. Still taller than even Taylor's unusual height, but more human, with dark blond hair in a single ponytail and features that were attractive in a non-descriptive way.
"I AM GLAD. TO INFORM YOU, TAYLOR, I COULD BE CALLED PARAHUMAN. BUT I AM NOT HERE TO HARM YOU. I CANNOT. I AM YOU, CHILD. ONCE I WAS CALLED THE EMPEROR OF ALL MANKIND, AND NOW I AM BARELY MORE THAN A GHOST."
"I…I don't understand." Taylor said softly. The Emperor tilted his head slowly, and then nodded.
"I SHALL SHOW YOU."
"FOR THIS I AM SORRY." He said quietly, and Taylor saw.
The metal of the locker crumpled and ruptured, and Taylor stepped forth, eyes blazing with eldritch blue light in the darkness and her hair playing about her shoulders, running with faint strands of lightning.
"SO IT IS." The Emperor rumbled inside her mind. Taylor echoed him more quietly, distracted by the rushing of power within her.
"I can…I can hear them. So many…" she whispered, as the rush of humanity ran through her mind, dragging at her sense of self. A soothing strength cooled her mind, and the babble faded to a soft, comforting buzz as The Emperor aided her, his knowledge hers.
"I'm not as powerful as you were." Taylor remarked quietly as she walked towards the school doors, the detritus and slime of the locker falling from her clothes with but a thought.
"YES. I BELIVE THAT YOU HAVE NOT COME INTO THE FULLNESS OF YOUR STRENGTH- OUR STRENGTH. AS MY IMPERIUM MEASURED IT YOU ARE A POWERFUL DELTA CLASS PSYKER, ABLE TO READ THE MINDS OF A SMALL CITY OR DEVASTATE FOES IN SINGLE BATTLE. YOU WILL GROW MIGHTIER, TAYLOR."
"Grow mightier. Grow mightier, and do what?"
"THAT IS YOUR CHOICE. YOU ARE…THE EMPRESS NOW, I SUPPOSE."
"No. Not Empress. Not yet." Taylor said softly. Her resolve hardened as she walked to the front doors of the school, opening them with a gesture of her hand and a twist of her thoughts. She did not have all the memories of the Emperor, she barely had any of them, but using her powers came naturally to her. Almost as though she had been born to them. The ghost of a smile crossed her face as she stepped out into the harsh orange glow of streetlights. In a way she had been born to them. They had been born to them. Taylor focused on drawing her powers back, and the manifestation of her powers ceased, The lightning no longer dancing around her hair and her eyes no longer glowing.
"I suppose I should head home. Dad will be worried." She said quietly, smiling slightly as she realised that all the frustration and fear and sorrow she had been feeling for however long had faded. It had not gone away entirely, but it no longer weighed her down.
"WILL YOU BE A HERO? A MEMBER OF THIS PROTECTORATE?" asked The Emperor. Taylor thought she could hear curiosity in the booming voice: either that or the connection they had was letting her understand him better.
"I don't know. Would it help more? Or can I do more with your knowledge, our knowledge? Can I grow mighty enough to destroy the leech alone? Will humanity ever truly grow into its potential with us holding its hand? Questions I can't answer. I suppose…I suppose I shall see how things go."
"PERHAPS THE WISEST COURSE OF ACTION."
"I hope so. Maybe it would be best to wait before I start doing anything. Actually assess my powers?"
"MAYBE. IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO ADAPT."
"I BELIVE THAT YOU MAY HAVE ALSO INHERITED MY STATUS AS A PERPETUAL. IT WILL BE UNUSUAL."
"A Perpetual…that's a big thing. This is…this is a lot to take in." Taylor murmured as she set off. She would need to walk home, in the dark. That was a nuisance, but it took very little effort to expand her powers and nudge any minds around away from her so that she could travel untroubled. She sank into contemplation, considering what she had learned. What she knew. What little she remembered of the Emperor's life, and eventually her thoughts slid to Sophia, Emma and Madison.
"Am I? I don't know. I feel like what they did is so insignificant compared to everything that you have seen, and yet…"
"YET RESENTMENT FOR THEM STILL BOILS WITHIN YOU, AND YOU STILL WISH TO INFLICT UPON THEM THE AGONIES THEY SUBJECTED YOU TO. THAT IS HUMAN. NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS."
"Human. Yes. That's what we are, isn't it? Human."
Taylor paused in her walk and looked upward, straining past the streetlights to see the stars, faint overhead.
"It's humbling I suppose."
"MANY THINGS ARE."
Walking home took a while. Normally it would have taken a while, but it took even longer now as Taylor took her chance to do a little good as she went. Soothing violent impulses near to her was easy enough, with the Emperor coaching her. Besides, if she really was a Perpetual now, time was not an issue. She had as much time as she would ever need.
"I'm going to need a costume. And to consider the best way to present my powers." Taylor said.
"HMM. YES, I CAN SEE HOW REVEALING THE FULL SCOPE OF YOUR POWERS WOULD BE UNWISE, WITH THIS 'SIMURGH' IN EXISTENCE. PERHAPS YOU SHOULD CLAIM YOURSELF A TELEKINETIC, WITH SLIGHT REGENERATION?"
"Yes. Yes, that could work. Assuming my regeneration is slow enough that it isn't obvious. And I think there're capes with telekinesis, there might even be one in the city, so I shouldn't raise too many eyebrows."
Taylor lapsed into thought, walking further onwards. She was getting closer to home.
"I need money." She said quietly, still thinking. "With money I can experiment. I can build. I can create things that will help humanity so much…but I need money."
"THINGS THAT WILL…AH. YES. MUCH OF THE TECHNOLOGY I REMEMBER WOULD BE INVALUABLE. AND AS FOR MONEY…DO THE GANGS OF THE CITY NOT HAVE IT?"
Taylor considered that, smiling slowly.
"What's your opinion on becoming a criminal vigilante?"
A deep chuckle filled her mind.
"IN THIS CASE, I'D SAY IT ONLY COUNTS IF YOU GET CAUGHT."
"Spectacular. I just need a costume then. I was thinking something imposing, yet not too hard to make or maintain…"
"YOU COULD JUST DRESS LIKE AN IMPERIAL GUARD OFFICER."
"No! Well, maybe. But I'm not sure it's a good idea. It's a little bit, y'know, Nazi. And there are Nazis in the city. And people remember the Nazis. And the look isn't very heroic."
"BUT AN ARMOURED VEST AND COAT WILL PROTECT AND DISGUISE YOU. YOU DO NOT NEED TO LOOK LIKE A NAZI." The Emperor pointed out, his voice sounding slightly amused. Taylor grumbled a bit, but agreed. It would still be awkward to put together…high grade body armour that also allowed for free-ish movement wasn't all that common, after all. Problems for later. Considering what being a Perpetual implied, she wouldn't really need armour against low-grade thugs. She hoped. Home was close now: Taylor really hoped that her father was asleep. She didn't really want her first thinking use of her powers to be on a family member. Alas, it was not to be: when Taylor reached her house and paused outside the front door she could sense the worried thoughts of her Dad in the living room. She took a moment to gather her thoughts, and let the Emperor guide her as she shaped her power.
There is nothing wrong.
There is nothing wrong. That was the thought that she broadcast, the thought focused on her father, and she waited until the thought had taken hold and was masking his normally sharp perception before walking in.
"Hi Dad." She said, affecting surprise. Her Dad- lean and lanky and balding- looked up from his chair, blinking in surprise and a little sleepiness.
"Oh! Taylor, I thought you'd be home sooner-"
"Had an art project to finish." She lied smoothly, nudging his thoughts just a little to make him believe that the stains on her clothing were the results of an art project. Guilt briefly gnawed at her insides, but she crushed it. No one could know of her powers. Not even her father, not until she was mighty enough to crush all challengers. Her Dad nodded, a little bemused, and she gave him a soft smile.
"Well, it looks like I've ruined these clothes. I'd better get showered and changed," she said, walking away before he could recover and begin questioning her again. Later that night she sneaked downstairs and buried the clothes at the very bottom of the rubbish bin. What her Dad didn't know wouldn't hurt him.
Two months. Two months, and she was nearly ready to make her debut. Taylor shifted slightly, scooping her books into her bag as the lesson she was in ended. Unfortunately, she still had to attend school. She had made quite a display out of the mess that was her locker the day back in school after The Emperor had merged with her, but it hadn't gotten her more than a week off and a new locker. At least her bullies seemed to have laid off her a little, though she suspected that the odd truce that had come into being was about to be broken. Taylor sighed to herself, steeling her emotions, and walked towards the classroom door and her tormentors. Time to face the music, she thought, and was mildly surprised that she made it several steps from the door before anyone spoke.
"Oh! Look, it's Taylor! I'm surprised that she's still here after what happened to her locker."
The falsely caring voice of her once friend grated on Taylor, but far less than it once would have. Now it was an irritant, and nothing more. Still…Taylor still wondered if she could get away with just a tiny nudge. Just a tiny twist of her powers, and Emma would be broken. No. No, that wasn't the way to go about anything. Instead Taylor turned slowly, smiling and stretching out her power, trying to understand: she hadn't been near the Trio, as she mentally labelled them, since the merging.
Emma. Vain and vapid and so, so broken. Poor girl. Taylor might have pitied her once, but now all she felt was a vague sorrow and contempt. Her old friend was lost, twisted away.
Madison. A follower. A flunky. Nothing interesting there at all, not without diving into home lives. Meaningless. Far more contemptible than Emma, even if her cruel apathy was oh so human.
Sophia. The last. The worst. And…and wasn't that interesting, because Sophia was a cape. And not just any cape…a Ward. One of the junior heroes in the Protectorate team. Well, that was certainly…interesting. Taylor would probably have been outraged not so long ago. Now…well, now she could see that Sophia was hiding what she did. That the school and the PRT case worker considered having a Ward present at the gang-ridden Winslow Academy worth more than a single anonymous student. That sickened her a little.
"SACRIFICE IS A NECESSARY PART OF LIFE." The Emperor said in a neutral tone, playing Devil's Advocate. Taylor shrugged mentally.
"And yet, when you sacrifice one so willingly you lose much of your humanity. Trying to do the right thing is never a bad thing." She replied mentally. The Emperor said nothing in reply. Taylor hadn't expected him to: this was something on which she would not agree. Sacrificing innocents was never a course of action that should be taken when there were other choices, long term thinking be damned. There was a sneaking suspicion that she might change that thinking in the future, but she really didn't want to. Slippery slopes. Making them pay less attention to her, on the other hand, would have been fair. Pity that she hadn't thought of it.
"A good education is important, Emma." Taylor replied quietly. The urge to simply mind control Emma and force her to repeat everything Taylor said briefly surfaced, but she quashed it. She wasn't certain that she could hold something like that for long enough anyway.
"Oh? What are you doing then?" Emma snickered. Taylor repressed the urge to roll her eyes.
"Yeah, she didn't even hand in that big art project last Friday." Sophia added. That was actually true. Mainly it was because she had been hit with a fairly large chunk of the Emperor's memories that day, and everything she tried to make had been golden and covered in skulls.
"I SAID I WAS SORRY." The Emperor said, sounding a little embarrassed.
"You should be. That sense of fashion is terrible."
"TERRIBLE? GOLD IS THE GREATEST COLOUR!"
"Be that as it may, the skulls are a step too far. And nothing but gold is a little bit ostentatious. I wouldn't have minded if it had other colours."
Sophia and Emma were still talking. They had gone back to their thing of talking about her, but not to her. That was fine with Taylor. It made it much easier to mentally nudge them into forgetting about her for the moment and push through the small group of flunkies they had brought.
"Why do I even stay here?"
"BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE IN GETTING A GOOD EDUCATION, AS YOU SAID."
"I guess that's true. But Emma was right, for once. I'm not getting a good education here. I wonder if I can find a way to move to a different school?"
"SO LONG AS YOU'RE SUBTLE ABOUT IT. YOUR POWERS WILL ALLOW YOU TO APPLY SUGGESTIONS AND REINFORCE THOUGHTS EASILY."
"That's something to do, then. Hmm…you know, I heard rumours that the Wards all attended Arcadia. So what's Sophia doing here?"
"TRYING TO SET HERSELF APART, PERHAPS? THAT WAS WHAT HER MIND SUGGESTED TO ME. AND IT WAS PROBABLY EASY ENOUGH TO SUGGEST IT AS HELPING TO KEEP AN EYE ON THE MORE GANG-RIDDEN SCHOOL IN THE AREA."
Taylor eyed a couple of boys who were posturing in the corridor, sliding past them carefully.
"Gang-ridden is right. I'm surprised that those lot back there hadn't already gone for each other."
"ABB AND EMPIRE EIGHTY-EIGHT, YES? AND THE MERCHANTS. THOSE ARE THE GANGS HERE?"
"Yeah. I'm surprised that there isn't more fighting given that the Empire are Nazis and consider anyone who isn't white a being below them, especially considering that the ABB is Asian."
"THEY DO KNOW THAT THE NAZIS WERE ALLIED WITH IMPERIAL JAPAN, DON'T THEY?"
"I wouldn't count on it. They're Neo-Nazis, they just think that the Nazis had the right idea and that everybody not white should be killed. Oh, and homosexuals. They think that they should be killed as well I believe."
"FOOLISH. PEOPLE GIVE ENOUGH REASONS TO HATE THEM WITHOUT JUDGING SKIN COLOUR OR SEXUALITY."
Taylor answered that with a mental shrug. Honestly, the Emperor was more or less disgusted by the Empire. His own Imperium had been more or less fascist and generally evil, but it hadn't been so petty as to discriminate on such minor matters. On the other hand, it had been rabidly religious, so maybe that made up for it. The Emperor grumbled wordlessly in the back of her mind, but said nothing to defend his Imperium: probably because everything she said had been true.
"THEY'LL ALL BE CHRISTIANS AS WELL, I ASSUME?"
"I'd assume so. It's likely. But please don't start talking about the evils of religion. You tried to exterminate it yourself and it hardly ended well."
"WELL, YOU AREN'T WRONG. YOU THINK WE SHOULD LEAVE THIS SCHOOL AND WORK ON OUR COSTUME FOR VENTURING OUT TONIGHT?"
"Finally. I thought you'd never ask."
A black turtleneck sweater. Cargo pants, also black, and a long coat. Not the best costume ever, but good enough. Army boots and a mixture of balaclava and scarf provided a makeshift mask: Taylor would have preferred something more secure- something more like a cut-down gasmask- but this would do. She didn't actually have a weapon yet: she needed a baton or a staff or something. Either would do, since she had enough of the Emperor's experience to use either. Not perfectly, since the Emperor's experience was more along the lines of a sword and a glaive, but good enough. Her own psychic powers would have to do for now. Considering that the Warp in this universe was quiescent, she would have no problems wielding her powers. She paused, looing again at her makeshift costume, and sighed. She had to add it, she supposed. It took under half an hour, when using her powers, to weave the golden- well, yellow- thread she had bought into the sweater, forming the outline of a double headed eagle.
"That should do." She said quietly, before quickly dressing. It was dark now, and the gangs of Brockton Bay would soon be coming out to play. She intended to hit some smaller criminal groups, and hopefully equip herself from them.
"REMEMBER TO USE YOUR PYSCHICS TO AUGMENT YOUR PHYSICAL ABILITIES. YOU WON'T HIT HARD ENOUGH OTHERWISE." The Emperor reminded. Taylor nodded as she slipped out of her door, careful to keep the noise down.
She did know. The Emperor was no slouch in hand to hand combat: in fact, he was practically unmatched, but he had also been highly superior in a physical sense. Even before coming into the powers that let him shapeshift into his hulking fifteen feet tall form he had been nearly seven feet tall and muscled like an Eighties action hero. Taylor, by contrast, was five feet six and slender, even if she had been becoming more muscular recently. The Emperor suspected that it was the influence of her new status as a Perpetual, keeping her in peak health, considering that the exercise she did was mainly running. Working on her strength had taken something of a back seat, and more so now. Taylor would simply have to rely on her psychic powers to reinforce her body until she could get a weapon. And gang members had weapons. Problem, meet solution. Now to find some gang members.
Taylor's solution for finding gang members that she could take down was very simple. First, she found a tall building. One with a fire escape attached. Then, she used a psychic assisted jump to get on to the fire escape and climb to the roof of the building. And then, she settled herself on the roof in a pose that could almost be called meditative, and opened her mind to the city. It came as a rush, a wave, all the fears and hopes and dreams and nightmares, and Taylor wavered under the deluge before she focused herself, drawing in the scope of her mind until it was closer to the building on which she perched and narrowing her focus, looking for what she wanted. A brief thought drifted through her mind, not one of hers…
'Lung and Oni Lee. Are you sure this is a good-'
'Undersiders pay today-'
"Gang warfare. Not something I want to be a part of." Taylor decided, blocking that part out. She wanted something smaller, something easier. It didn't take long: she was in a rough part of the city and finding a drug deal in progress nearby was just a matter of time. Once she found it Taylor slid back down the fire escape, dropped to the ground and moved towards her target. There were only three men. Easy. Hopefully.
It might not be so easy. There were only three men, yes, but Taylor had been expected drug addicts, not Empire Eighty-Eight strongmen. She hovered on the rooftop above them, using a tiny application of her talent to mask her presence from them. Well, less a masking and more a general 'you have no reason to look up' feeling, but close enough.
"THERE ARE ONLY THREE OF THEM. NORMAL MEN. YOU CAN MANAGE THIS." The Emperor encouraged. Taylor looked down, closing her eyes and letting the worry, the fear, the insecurity that she would fail wash over her. Let it sink into her. And then she smiled, pushed it away and stepped off the roof. Taylor slowed her descent with her powers, landing softly in the alleyway. A hand came up and pressed two fingers against a head: a carefully controlled psychic spark and the man went down in a heap. His buddy turned, mouth opening in alarm, and caught a knee to the groin that put him out of the fight as well. The drug dealer, a scrawny man, turned to run, but Taylor caught his jacket and applied her enhanced strength to ram him into a wall. Another psychic spark and he collapsed as well, unconscious but ultimately unhurt. Taylor turned to the only standing man- well kneeling after the groin attack, but the phrase was close enough-, the second Empire strongman, and seized his jaw.
"Look into my eyes." She intoned, forcing his head up and bringing her mental might to bear on his mind. It didn't take long to drive through his mind, dragging out his memories of safehouses, plans, Capes, everything. And he wasn't all that hurt. Well…he might need to learn to speak again, but there was no serious long term damage. Probably. Regardless, none of the thugs had anything more than a switchblade, so Taylor left them as they were and headed to the nearest Empire safehouse that she considered small enough for her to attack. She just needed a bat or something. Was that too much to ask?
"Ring-a-ring of roses, a pocketful of posies…" Taylor sang mentally, broadcasting her thoughts through the entire building. She was finding a new edge to her powers, one that the Emperor had known well but hadn't told her about: she could create illusions. And broadcast her thoughts. Really, she could be a very effective terror hero if she played up this angle. A small smile played across her mouth as she listened to the sounds of terror and panic, but then she guessed that the ghostly children that her illusions caused the Empire members in the house to see were somewhat unsettling. Taylor herself ghosted into the house, heading for the least panicked gang members and adding a smothering darkness to her mass illusion. Take out the ones with guns first, she told herself, and the rest after. Fortunately, there were only eight or so people in the room, and only one had a gun. That one, a woman with dyed blonde hair and a hard expression, was trying to enforce some order. She didn't even react as Taylor walked up behind her and clamped a hand on either side of her head. A psychic knock-out spark, and Taylor dragged the woman back to the wall of the room. To the other gang members, it would appear that a pair of gloved hands simply dragged their leader into the suffocating darkness. More than one of them screamed.
"Oh, don't worry. You'll all be with her soon." Taylor told them, keeping her mental broadcast to a soft, papery whisper. From the way they reacted it wasn't a comfort, and Taylor used the chance to cross to the nearest gang member. This one in particular was a stocky girl with pigtails, and holding- joy of joys- a baseball bat.
"Just what I needed." Taylor whispered to her in particular, before grabbing her by the throat and ramming her into a wall. Part of her mind held the illusion steady as she knocked the stunned girl unconscious and relieved her of her bat. Well, this was nice. It didn't take her long to clear the room after that: it was easy to bring down men who were blinded and panicking. The last man tried to flee: Taylor couldn't have that. As he ran she focused her power, feeling it coil and burn and surge down her arm. It leapt from her outstretched hand as a bolt of bluish lightning, coiling around the man and sending him into twitching convulsions until she cut off the force and knocked him out with her bat.
"Not bad work. Time to collect the spoils."
The spoils weren't as good as she had hoped. Taylor managed to get a sturdy knife, the bat and a few hundred dollars from her raid, but she had thought there would be more. Oh well. She took the gun as well, but she didn't think she'd ever use it. There were far more dangerous weapons waiting to be built, the blueprints in her mind, and a first generation laspistol didn't need all that much technology. On the other hand, a pistol was a good stopgap and possible base, so she took it anyway. Taylor packed all of her loot into a satchel that she had brought for this express purpose, and strode back out into the night.
"Well? Do I pass?"
"PASS? WELL ENOUGH, I'D SAY. YOU HANDLED YOURESLF WELL, AND THE ILLUSIONS WERE A NICE TOUCH. I HOPED THAT YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND THOSE ON YOUR OWN."
"Why didn't you tell me about them?" Taylor asked, genuinely curious. The Emperor shrugged…well, not shrugged exactly, but the psychic resonance he gave off gave the impression of a shrug.
"IF I TEACH YOU EVERYTHING YOU MAY NEVER LEARN ANYTHING NEW." He replied. Taylor shrugged, accepting that as a decent answer. A loud explosion sounded, far off, and Taylor glanced in its direction.
"Sounds like somebodies having fun." She noted, a moment before her still active mind picked up a pattern of distress.
'Clockblocker. A mere child, how dare he stand in our way-'
'Krieg and Rune, I don't know if we can-'
Hmm. Clockblocker. A Ward. Facing off against Krieg and Rune, from the Empire. Well…
"What do you think?"
"THE NIGHT IS STILL YOUNG."
The situation for the Wards looked dire, Taylor would have to admit that. The two young men- boys?- were hunkered down behind a car, trying to keep out of the way of rocks and chunks of debris that were being hurled at them. Two Empire capes walked slowly down the road- Krieg, the male, in the lead with Rune, the girl, slightly behind.
"You know, I don't think that Krieg is telekinetic, actually. He doesn't seem to be doing anything, at least." Taylor observed. The Emperor murmured agreement, and she looked at the two Wards again. Clockblocker was the one in white: his costume was covered in clock faces. He was crouched behind the car, which admittedly offered poor cover as it was parked and therefore offered a much smaller barrier than if it had been lying across the street. Taylor could only assume that he was using his power to time-lock the vehicle, as it didn't seem to be taking any damage from the rocks that were hitting it. The other one, in red and gold, was the Tinker Kid Win, she thought. At least, he was wearing armour and firing what looked like a laser pistol, so probably Tinker. Somehow, Taylor didn't think that either would manage very well once Krieg closed the distance.
"Well, here's to grand entrances." Taylor thought, and walked out onto the street. Once she reached the rough centre of the street- close to the Wards. She smiled with anticipation behind her scarf and mask and let her 'notice-me-not' effect fade before raising her hand and tapping into her telekinetic powers. The very air before her seemed to ripple, and the chunks of brick and masonry changed their trajectory, condensing into a tight band that swirled and spun around her like a tiny tornado, grinding itself into smaller fragments of rock and dust. Taylor lowered her hand, letting the debris fall to the ground, and raised her head. Krieg, Rune and the Wards all stared at her.
"Greetings." She said, smiling behind her mask.
"Who are you, to dare stand before the Empire?" Krieg demanded. Normally, Taylor would have called him out on being a pompous prick. In this case, however…
"Wow. Wow. You know, with that look and calling yourself Krieg, I would have expected a German accent. But you…not even slightly. Could you not be bothered to even try? Come on, say it with me: 'Zis is ze land of ze vhite peoples, und I shall bring Var to zhose who vould blacken it.' Can you say that? I think it would really cement your Nazi vibe."
Krieg stared at her for a long moment, and Taylor surreptitiously reached out to the rubble around her. Eventually, the man in the gasmask and World War 2 looking uniform spoke.
"Hmph. Well, rest assured of this: your insolence has ensured that I shall remember you marginally longer than the other fools who have attempted to face me."
"Cute." Taylor mentally commented, even as Krieg broke into a run, directed at her.
"I THINK YOU'RE RIGHT. HE ISN'T TELEKINETIC. THE GIRL IS, BUT HE'S SHOWN NO SIGN OF IT." The Emperor commented. Taylor had to agree, even as she whipped her hand in the direction of the advancing man and drove a swirling wall of debris towards him. The debris that should have hit slowed and deflected around him- most of it swirling around his subordinate Rune- and Taylor cocked her head.
Krieg roared as he lunged out of the dust, swinging a fist. Taylor, taking advantage of being able to read his general intent, dodged and ducked, swinging her bat one handed at his skull. The Nazi leaned back, barely avoiding it, and jumped back at a cry from Rune. Taylor turned as the female Nazi launched a brick at her: Taylor twisted her body and caught the brick in her own telekinesis, swinging it around her body and launching it back at Rune in a slingshot move. Taken off-guard by the move Rune didn't dodge, and the brick hit her ribs with an audible crunch, knocking her off her feet. Krieg snarled and came at Taylor again, fists swinging. He was stronger than he looked: one punch cracked the ground as she skipped aside. Kinetic manipulation? Two could play at that game. Taylor dived away, flinging a fusillade of debris at Krieg to hold him at bay while she drove power into her bat. Krieg came out of the debris unharmed again, and the bat drove through whatever field protected him and hit his ribs. The impact knocked the bat out of Taylor's hands, but also sent Krieg sailing down the street. He landed hard, and Taylor grinned as she retrieved her bat. Home run.
"I suggest you leave, Krieg. It's just going to get worse if you stay." She said loudly. In truth, she wasn't sure how long she could keep this up. A headache was already building, and she was starting to feel tired: and even besides that, she wasn't all that tough. If she was hurt she would heal, but not fast enough to get back into the fight. Hopefully, Krieg and Rune were badly injured enough that they'd leave and not come back. Slowly, Krieg stood. He was standing a little hunched over, and Taylor guessed that his ribs were injured but not broken: presumably the effect of his own powers reducing the impact of her bat. She reached out mentally, prodding slightly to persuade him to leave it there, to accept a stalemate. Krieg stared at her, then snorted.
"You are stronger than you seem, girl. Very well. I shall leave you and the children, but do not think I shall forget."
"Save your threats for when you can back them up." Taylor responded. Krieg let out a little laugh, as though amused by her insolence, and offered Rune a hand up before half carrying the younger Nazi away into the night. Taylor waited until she was sure they were gone before letting out a long breath and turning to the two Wards. As she probably could have expected, Clockblocker was the first to react.
"Hey. Uh, I've no idea who you are, but thanks for the help." The teen in white said, holding out his hand. Taylor shook his hand after a cursory scan of his mind indicated no ill intent.
"It was my pleasure. You seemed like you were in trouble." She said, by way of explanation. An embarrassed laugh was her response.
"Yeah, you think you're breaking up a gang scuffle and Krieg and Rune are there…what can you do?"
"The other heroes couldn't help out?" she asked. Clockblocker shook his head.
"No. Something to do with, er, Lung I think. Something big over at the docks."
"Ah. I'll make sure to avoid that then. You need any more help?"
"I…er, no, I think we can manage." Clockblocker said. Taylor nodded.
"Good. Good. Try not to get in any more trouble." She said, waving and starting to walk away. She stopped when Clockblocker called after her.
"Wait! What's your name? Uh, your cape name. Not your normal name. Obviously. Because that would be weird to ask, y'know."
Taylor grinned a little at his fumble. She had been thinking over names for a while and never decided on one, but now she gave the name that came immediately into her mind.
So, I hope that you enjoyed this, and leave a review if you can, tell me if you thought it was good or terrible.