Disclaimer: Not my stuff.

Taylor moved as fast as she could, skipping over rooftops in full costume and cursing the time it had taken her to get home and change. The motion taxed her far less than it had: her powers were growing at a steady rate, something that she was glad of. She held her carved staff in her right hand, using it to help channel her psychics. She continued moving, unnaturally fast, but there was a sinking feeling in her stomach that told her she might be too late. It was a long way from Winslow School to Brockton Bay Bank, and longer with a trip home for her gear. But Glory Girl was hot-headed and impetuous and Panacea was fragile and she needed to be there.


'No. No, I don't know their powers. I haven't really looked, that's something I'll have to rectify.' Was her mental reply. The Emperor grunted in amusement.

"POWER YOUR WAY THROUGH THEN." He noted. Taylor leapt off a roof, calling her power to help her sail through the air, and landed smoothly on another roof, almost ten feet away.

'That was my plan.' She responded, knowing that she was close to the bank now. One final leap, and she landed on a roof with a view of the bank. Or at least, if there wasn't a massive bank of darkness rolling ominously across the street there would have been a view of the bank.

"Fantastic. They started without me." Taylor commented, before taking a step and letting herself drop to the ground. She landed softly, her mind spreading out and marking the positions of everybody in the darkness from habit. Wards, a couple. Undersiders, two of. And three other minds that were far simpler. Animals? Something like that.

'I don't have enough information for this.' Taylor lamented as she walked into the cloud of inky black, idly spinning her staff in her hand. Inside the cloud it was completely dark, and silent, and Taylor smiled.

'An excellent intimidation power. I wonder if I could replicate it?'

Taylor shook her head, returning her attention to the actual fight that was going on. From what she could tell, the two Undersiders were making good use of the fog: obviously they could see through it. Taylor let a frown cross her face, then located Vista. She couldn't just rush in and hope to power through here, she needed to know what was going on. Taylor twitched slightly as she registered one of the lesser minds moving. Moving towards Vista. Moving fast. Taylor swore mentally and started to run.


The oily, choking darkness must muffle sound. Vista wasn't responding, turning and shifting. Maybe she realised that something was coming for her? Who knew. Taylor kept running, pushing herself to be faster. The lesser mind was closing fast, but so was she. Taylor burst through the darkness to where Vista was, twisted, swung her staff with both hands. The butt of the staff connected with something, and Taylor poured power through it. There was a yelp, and the lesser mind hurtled back into the murk before Taylor could take more than a glance at it. Taylor reached out- she tried to call Vista's name, but the sound was muffled and she wasn't sure whether or not the Ward heard. The way that Vista hit her when Taylor grabbed her shoulder indicated that she definitely hadn't heard. It really wasn't fair that a thirteen-year old baseline human could hit that hard, a small part of Taylor reflected as she dragged herself closer to the struggling Ward and put her mouth to the smaller girl's ear.

"Vista! It's me, Circaetus, stop struggling!"

The Ward stopped slamming an elbow into Taylor's side- thankfully- and Taylor let the small girl out of her grip and considered trying to psychically push the darkness away. The clinging, almost oily nature of the cloud made her feel like it would be pointless, but it might be worth a try. Just as she was gathering her power she felt a change in the darkness, and it suddenly shredded, breaking apart and leaving her in the light once again. Now that she could see the field, it was less than encouraging.

"Well, that isn't good." Vista remarked, looking at the display. Taylor narrowed her eyes at the sight of Clockblocker's white costume torn and liberally smeared with blood.

"Vista, Clock-"

"He switched with Aegis to try and confuse them. Obviously it didn't work." Came the curt reply. Taylor inclined her head slightly.

"Obviously." She murmured, scanning the ground with her eyes until she saw the rust-red and silver of Aegis' costume, tangled with the brighter red and gold of Kid Win. There was a story in that, she reckoned, but it would have to wait. There were bad guys…well, maybe not bad guys, as such. But villains. That was better. There were villains to crush.

"So, who's who in this mess?" Taylor asked. Vista raised her hand, indicating as she spoke.

"The big guy in the skull mask is Grue. He's the one with the darkness. The one by the dogs is Hellhound, she's something to do with them. The monsters are her dogs, and the guy in armour facing off against Browbeat is new."

"Browbeat?" Taylor asked.

"Point blank telekinetic. New Ward."

Taylor smiled behind her mask.

"Oh, you've already gotten your very own cut price me? That's adorable." She commented. Vista sighed.

"Reign in your ego. At the very least, save it until we've managed to deal with this." She chided, though there was some amusement in there as well. Taylor shrugged and scanned the field again. Aegis was down, but he was at least distracting two of the dogs. Grue was looming over Kid Win and Clockblocker, so he would need to be dealt with. Gallant was facing off against Hellhound and her last dog- hopefully the power armoured Ward could deal with that. And Browbeat should be able to distract the Undersider in power armour- presumably a Tinker with some combat ability.

"Right. We need to punch a hole so I can get to the bank. Panacea's in there, and from the hole I'd say Glory is too. If her sister's in danger she might not be subtle, and that could definitely end badly." Taylor said, shifting slightly and eyeing Hellhound. She would need to be first, her dogs provided most of the muscle, and taking her out would free Gallant to take Grue.

"Alright. Vista, can you distract Grue? I'll help Gallant against Hellhound, then he can help you while I hit the bank."

"You'll hit the bank? Not him?"

"Honestly? I daresay he might be better at calming Glory down, but I can sure manage to contain her better than him if needed. And I can take a hit a lot better."

Vista conceded that with a quiet mumble, and Taylor narrowed her eyes at Hellhound.

"On your signal, Vista."

The short Ward glanced at Taylor and nodded.

"Alright. Three, two, one, go!"

Taylor pushed off the ground, hitting a sprint almost immediately and hurtling towards Hellhound. The stocky woman in the cheap dog mask pointed and shouted, her voice raspy.


The massive rhino-dog-lizard whatever rushed towards Taylor. She gauged the distance, gathered her power. It drew closer. Taylor planted her staff into the ground and the dog leaped just as she used the staff as an anchor, swinging herself around it. Her feet left the ground, and her left foot hit the dog monster with a devastating, psychic augmented kick. Something snapped and crunched, the dog howled and sailed across, hitting one of its companions. From the corner of her eye Taylor saw Aegis lurch up and grab onto the last remaining dog, but she was preoccupied with Hellhound, who had given a howl of incoherent rage and anguish and rushed at her.

"A mistake." Taylor coldly stated, stepping forward as the Undersider drew close. Hellhound was stocky, and likely strong but she was undisciplined and filled with anger. Taylor gave that rage a mental nudge, pushing it just a little further so that it filled Hellhound's existence, and the villain screamed hoarsely and threw a strong, sloppy punch. Taylor pushed power to her hand and caught it.

A moment of stunned, silent shock as gloved hand closed over fist, and then Taylor let go of her staff and slammed her free fist into Hellhounds stomach, hard enough that it sank into flesh and let her lift the Undersider from the ground. The snarling scream turned to one of pain as Hellhounds feet left the ground, bent agonisingly over Taylors fist. The blow wasn't fatal or even permanently damaging, Taylor had enough skill and self-restraint to manage that, but it was enough to cause excruciating pain. Taylor let go of Hellhounds fist and pushed her backwards, waiting until Hellhound hit the ground. Taylor heard her vomit even as she curled into a foetal position, so she simply left her there, striding towards the bank again and pulling her staff back into her hand with a brief application of power.

"Circaetus behind you!"

Taylor turned at Vista's shout, her staff coming up defensively on reflex but the incoming fist was too close and too fast and Taylor was sent staggering by the heavy blow crashing into her jaw. Her hands came up automatically, her staff swinging, but her assailant was too close too fast too strong and a fast one-two punch got through her guard. The first, to her chest, knocked her back again and the second hit her mouth and she fell and a spark of panic-fuelled rage boiled in her until it manifested as a blast of force that hurled the big man in black away. Taylor rolled to her feet, shaking her head and grimacing as she felt pain in her lower lip. Her nose hurt as well, and she could feel blood soaking into the scarf portion of her mask. The Undersider- Grue- he had hurt her. Had shed her blood. She would show him the price of wounding her. The price in blood and skulls and-

"TAYLOR." The Emperor boomed in her head, breaking her out of her momentary daze. Taylor shook her head again, clearing away the last of the sudden bloodlust, and focused on Grue.

'Right. He's good, but I just have to get him out of the way. Gallant can deal with him.'

Taylor brought her staff back into her hand, crouching slightly and holding the staff in both hands, like a spear. Grue had taken on a fighting stance himself, but Taylor could feel wariness in his mind, and she smiled. Wariness was good. It meant he saw her as a threat, and nothing stroked the ego quite like that did.

"HIT HARD, HIT FAST AND HURRY TO THE GIRL." The Emperor advised. Taylor sent a mental nod back and burst into action, crossing the distance between Grue and her in a few strides and thrusting the staff hard at his stomach. Grue swung an arm, grabbing for the staff but Taylor pulled back, jerking away and thrusting again, aiming for his face this time. The Undersider flinched away, spinning himself out of the line of the staff even as darkness began to billow from his body and Taylor frowned behind her mask. If Grue was aware enough to realise that she could project her powers from her staff then he would be more of a problem. Taylor glanced across and registered Gallant approaching fast, just before the darkness closed around her.

'Get him out of the darkness.' She told herself, before closing her eyes and focusing on Grue's mind. He was closing fast, coming from her left, and clearly he could see through the darkness. Taylor grimaced briefly, realising that she could tell the direction he was coming from but not exactly how he was going to attack. Well, guessing it was.

"TRY AND GRAPPLE HIM. YOU ARE STRONGER EVEN IF HE'S BIGGER." The Emperor advised as she turned and brought her arms up defensively. The first punch hit her hastily raised arms, sending a ringing pain through them, but the second slipped through and hit her stomach. Taylor coughed as the breath rushed out of her, swinging wildly but Grue had already retreated into the darkness.

'Damn he's good.'

Taylor sucked in a breath, suppressing the pain in her stomach in favour of trying to locate Grue. He was going to come in swinging again, she thought, use his greater reach and the advantage of the darkness to hold him off. The Emperor was right, she needed to find a way to keep him close. This was going to hurt, she gloomily reflected as Grue's mind approached at a rapid pace and she dropped her staff and moved her hands, just enough to look like she was trying to block while leaving a good opening.

Impact. Oh yeah, that really hurt and a rib was probably fractured and her left hand clamped onto Grue's arm while her right buried itself in his stomach and even if his costume soaked much of the impact it was good enough to stagger him and Taylor fastened onto his costume and spun and lifted and threw and dragged in a deep, painful breath as she heard him land hard. Gallant was already on the Undersider, and Vista was holding off Hellhound with ease while Browbeat brawled with the unknown Undersider so Taylor set off for the bank at a sprint. Her rib- ribs? She wasn't sure- screamed at her but she pushed away the pain. Misdirection. Misdirection, she knew so she ran in the darkness, aiming for a window close to the mind that she had classed as one of the Undersiders, one with oddly stunted emotions. Psychopath? Sociopath? The Emperor had never been able to remember which was which, and Taylor decided it didn't matter as she sent a pulse of power to burst open the doors in a feint and dived for the window.


The yell of alarm sounded a just as she crashed through the window but it was too late. Taylor landed, rolled through the shards and rose in a lunging motion, sucker punching the Undersider in white even as he turned, sceptre clumsily raised. The sceptre- a taser, his mind informed her- was in his hand still, so she grabbed his arm, forced her thumb over his to push the button and jammed the active end into his neck. She left him spasming on the ground, at the very least incapacitated, and directed her gaze to the rest of the bank.

"You started without me. I'm almost offended." She deadpanned. The sheer lack of response was disappointing, but she did note that maybe it wasn't the time for quips. Glory Girl was hovering slightly, glaring at the girl in black and purple who was holding someone who Taylor vaguely recognised as Panacea- it was hard to tell, the healer preferred to stay low-key when out of costume. A few remaining hostages cowered by the walls, probably intimidated by the presence of the parahumans, especially given that the Undersider was holding a gun to Panacea's head and Glory Girl was emitting an aura that could be accurately described as murderous. Just as an experiment, Taylor relaxed her mental barriers that she always kept up to prevent Glory Girl's unconscious aura from detecting her and blinked.

'Wow. That is quite the rage she has going.' Taylor mentally commented as she restored her barriers. The Emperor grunted in agreement.


'I can definitely try.'

"So, I'm going to assume that negotiations aren't going that well." Taylor started cheerfully. Glory Girl didn't look at her, and Panacea- or was it Amy, when out of costume? Definitely a question to ask later- was too busy scowling and muttering threats, but the Undersider in black and purple did. There was a sparkle of amusement in her eyes.

"Oh, hello. Circaetus, right? You're just in time for family history time. New Wave's, obviously, not mine."

"That sounds delightful, but I'm guessing that Glory and Panacea aren't as enthusiastic about it as you." Taylor responded. A smile showed on the Undersider, her mouth uncovered by her costume.

"No, they don't seem to be. Family secrets and all that." She replied pleasantly. Taylor shifted slightly to keep Glory Girl in her line of sight, carefully extending a trickle of her power to soothe the rage that Glory Girl felt. Unethical, maybe, but there were too many hostages to risk the New Wave heroine to flying off the handle. The Undersider started to talk again.

"Although we all have secrets. I get that. But, I just want to share them. Share other people's secrets. Get it all out in the open, to help them."

Tattletale, that was the Undersiders name. Taylor had finally remembered it.

"That's why you're called Tattletale then. Cute. But talk is cheap, and I'm not so easy to unnerve." Taylor responded, while sizing up her opponent. Tattletale was holding Panacea very still, the gun unwavering, but Taylor could feel her doubt. It was a good thing really, because if there hadn't been doubt in the villain's mind Taylor would have already killed her. It wouldn't even be hard to turn Tattletale comatose, a single crushing instant of willpower would suffice. But she held off, for the moment, because a trump card was best kept hidden for as long as possible.

"Bullets are cheap as well." Tattletale commented idly, edging backwards and pulling Panacea with her. Taylor narrowed her eyes.

"You won't do it." She said, confidently. A smirk curved Tattletale's lips.

"Won't I?" she asked in response. Taylor smiled behind her mask.

"No. You won't. Because if you hurt Panacea, Glory will turn you into a chunky smear on the wall, and everyone here will attest that you did it to yourself."

Taylor wasn't lying- altering memories to make it seem like Tattletale had used a Tinker device that had malfunctioned was well within her capabilities at this point. Even better, the only villain Tinkers in Brockton Bay had a tendency towards explosive or otherwise shoddy equipment.

"And besides that, why would you risk earning the ire of every Hero and most villains for a job you don't even want to be doing?" Taylor added. Tattletale twitched, just a little.

'Got you there.' Taylor thought smugly.

"What makes you say that?" Tattletale replied after barely a moment. She was good, Taylor would admit, but good did not quite cancel out Taylor's ability to read minds when she was focused.

"All in your body language, darling." Taylor said, shifting a fraction to keep Tattletale in full view a she sensed Regent's mind stir. A tiny gesture applied just enough psychic force to keep him down, without being too obvious.

"Body language? You're lying." Tattletale responded, but there was a slight uncertainty in her tone. Taylor picked up on it, but she wasn't sure that Panacea or Glory Girl did.

"Am I? That reminds me, what exactly is your power? You seem very certain of what you're saying." She said. Tattletale smiled again, and Taylor felt the villain's thoughts settle.

"My power? Why would you ask that?" she asked, still backing away. Taylor held out her arm to keep Glory Girl from rushing forwards.

"Oh, well, you were talking about secrets that people have. And you seemed very sure that I was lying before."

Tattletale smiled wider.

"Trying to get me monologuing, Circaetus?"

Taylor offered a shrug.

"Really, time is on my side here. Your pals are distracted by the Wards, I can easily afford to wait until the Protectorate realises what's going on and comes fireballing in here."

'Fireballing? That's not mine.'


'No kidding.'

"I'm a lot more inclined to think that my colleagues will be the ones bursting in. But since I'd like to buy time as well, I might as well indulge you. The truth is…I'm psychic."

There was a pause.

'I haven't missed something, have I?' Taylor questioned, just checking.


'Thought so.'

Glory Girl scoffed.

"Bullshit. The brainpower you'd need to interpret and decode someone's unique neural patterns would need a head five times the normal size to contain it all. True psychics can't exist."

Taylor forced herself not to turn her head and stare incredulously. In a world where men could literally bend lasers around corners, and casually violate the laws of physics, nature and-slash-or existence at will, why should psychic powers conform to the mould? Tattletale, Taylor noticed, had said much the same, but with more mockery aimed at Glory Girl. Although, in fairness Taylor suspected that her mind-reading ability and indeed the vast majority of her mental powers worked at a more metaphysical level. There wasn't any electrical impulse interpretation that she'd ever noticed, it was either like listening to an internal monologue or, for people who didn't have one- most people, actually- catching flickers of sights and smells and feelings and interpreting those. It just took practice. And the appropriate power. She thought. It was hard to really put it into words and she had better pay attention to what was going on.

"So, now that we've shared our powers and histories and motivations, why don't we go back to negotiating?" Taylor said cheerfully, deciding to put any deep, philosophical considerations about the nature of her powers on the back-burner for now. Maybe forever. Some questions were best left unanswered.

"Yes, negotiations. Feel free to begin." Tattletale invited. Taylor felt that she might be able to like the Undersider if they hadn't been on opposite sides.

"Well, I'd say that letting go of Panacea would be a real good start." She said, increasing the pressure on Regent just a little as he tried harder to stand. Glory Girl glanced at her.

"Circaetus, are you sure we can trust her?" she asked in an undertone

"Better we let her go with none of the hostages harmed." Taylor replied, just as softly. She was extremely glad that her soothing attempts were working, it would make this a lot easier if Glory Girl and Panacea weren't making threats.

"Yes, I'd agree it would help. But honestly, I'd prefer to get out of here without being arrested, so why don't we try a little carrot on your side?" Tattletale asked. Taylor narrowed her eyes at her.

"Stalling. You're stalling. Why is that?" she asked. Tattletale's eyes widened fractionally, and Taylor felt worry race through the Undersider's thoughts. Taylor tilted her head, thinking, and then nodded.

"Oh. Of course. You're waiting for Grue to pull himself back together. After all, he has the perfect ability for making escapes." She concluded, before crooking her hand at Regent and pulling with her power. The slight Undersider flew through the air with a muffled yelp, and Taylor casually tasered him again with the sceptre he had loosely clutched in his hand, before wrapping an arm around his neck and holding him up.

"Circaetus? What are you-"

"Leverage, Glory, in case Grue does indeed turn up. Now we both have a hostage." Taylor said, hiding the fact that she could feel Grue, just outside the windows. He must have beaten down Gallant. Tattletale frowned, but didn't say anything. No 'You wouldn't hurt him, you're a Hero' protestation. Maybe she really did have something along the lines of psychic powers.

"So, what do you suggest, exactly?" the Undersider asked, quite calmly. Taylor shrugged.

"I give you Regent. You give Glory Panacea, and you get a two-minute head-start."

"Five minutes."

"Not a chance. Three."

"Uh, Circaetus? Why are we giving them a head-start?" Glory Girl interrupted. Taylor shrugged.

"Sometimes you just have to take your wins when you can get them." She responded, and Glory Girl nodded after a brief consideration. She would probably be able to catch a Tattletale burdened by Regent anyway, had Grue not been close by. Taylor knew that they would probably escape, but millennia of experience that wasn't strictly hers told her that there was an opportunity here. Tattletale didn't seem happy with this job, at all, and that suggested a bigger boss. Letting the Undersiders go might well give her a lead to him or her.

"So an exchange and a running start? You're too kind." Tattletale said, though Taylor sensed that it was just to buy her a moment to think. She would probably accept though.

"I assume the head start only extends to me?" Tattletale added. Taylor chuckled and nodded.

"If they aren't here, no start. Grue, Hellhound, the Tinker, they'll all have to manage alone."

Taylor paid very close attention to Tattletale's emotions as she named them, and felt a spike of aggression- or maybe not aggression, wariness? Dislike? Negativity, anyway- at the mention of the Tinker. Priority target, Taylor told herself.

"Chariot, the Tinker is called. And Hellhound prefers Bitch." Tattletale said, masking her dislike of the newly named Chariot commendably. Taylor nodded agreeably and waited.

"I have your word that you will give me the start? Both of you?"

"Yes, I promise. Glory?"

Glory Girl shifted slightly, hovering a fraction, and then nodded reluctantly.

"All right." She conceded. Tattletale smiled again.

"Well then, we have a bargain." She chirped. Taylor nodded.

"On three?" she asked, adjusting her hold on Regent so that she could throw him.

"On three." Agreed Tattletale, before she counted down. Taylor waited for the count, let Tattletale push Panacea away from her before shoving Regent at the purple and black dressed Undersider. Tattletale grunted as she caught Regent- despite his slender frame the white dressed villain was barely conscious and would be nearly a dead weight. Glory Girl caught Panacea, hugging her sister to her and glaring at Tattletale.

"I suggest you make use of your three minutes. I reckon that Glory will be the one chasing you." Taylor commented, indicating the angry heroine with a thumb. She was starting to unwind her mental influence- best not to leave it too long, there was too high a risk of being discovered.

Tattletale smiled at her.

"Oh, don't worry. I'm sure I'll manage." She said, a moment before the windows caved in and Hellhound's massive dogs burst in, a mere fraction ahead of a roiling wave of darkness.

"Glory go high!" Taylor shouted, flinging herself towards the panicking knot of hostages and thrusting out her palms to push away the closest dog. Tattletale, a moment before the darkness swallowed them both, caught her gaze and made a telephone motion with a free hand.

"I'll be in touch." She mouthed, a cheeky smile curving her lips just before she vanished into the darkness. Taylor snarled, locating the Tinker- Chariot- in the darkness and plunging in after him. She sensed Regent, Tattletale, Grue and Hellhound atop the dogs, but clearly they had expected Chariot to make an escape alone. A reasonable assumption given his power armour, but not one she would allow. She locked onto his mind, surging through the darkness with a boost from her powers, and planted herself just off his straight line of escape. A grimace touched her lips as she realised that any attempt to stop him physically would end in broken bones for her, and her staff was lost somewhere. She moved, taking a step into his path and focusing her powers. A single blast, at the feet, she thought, bring him down. After that, well, choking him out should do. Taylor raised her fist in the air, and then punched down as Chariot approached, at high speed. The ground rumpled and reared up, and the Undersider hit hard, tripping and sailing past her. Taylor turned and leapt onto the sprawling villain as he fell, wrapping an arm around his neck for the image while she curled her fingers and applied telekinetic pressure on his windpipe. She held it until he passed out, and then let go and stood up, carefully checking that he was still alive and relatively unharmed. Just to sell the image she levered off a part of his helmet, exposing his throat and mouth just enough that it would appear that she had physically kept hold of him. A slight touch of memory alteration, and she was dragging him through the darkness towards the bank.

"-and all of them escaped," she heard Vista grumble as she walked through the thinning darkness, seeing Glory Girl slowly descending from the roof where she had flown, Panacea still safely in her arms. Taylor looked to Vista, and whistled to draw her attention.

"Not all of them escaped." She said, dragging Chariot through the doors. Vista turned, and a beaming smile crossed her face.

"You got one?"

"Yeah. The Tinker, Tattletale said he was called Chariot."

A slight pause, as though she was considering what she wanted to say next.

"She didn't seem to like him very much."

Vista shrugged and looked around the bank.

"It happens. So, do we call this a win?"

Taylor gave a shrug of her own.

"Not sure. Do you know where my staff went?"

Three days later, Taylor stood on the roof of a derelict building and stared blankly into the darkness. It was drizzling, and she wished that she had a raincoat. It might not really fit her image, but being dry was being dry. Still, this was the place and time that Tattletale had asked to meet at after contacting her on PHO, so this time and place it was.

"So," the voice of the Undersider said from behind her, "What does it feel like to be the new favourite vigilante of Brockton Bay?"

"About the same as it did before." Taylor replied, turning.

"I almost thought you weren't going to turn up." She added. Tattletale laughed softly.

"I considered it. Grue has been quite overprotective since the bank incident. How is Chariot, by the way?"

"Chariot? Rolled on you, you know. Flipped over and showed his tummy like an eager puppy. The PRT was pretty happy, and I hear he's going to be a Ward."

"A Ward? Probationary?" Tattletale mused. Taylor inclined her head.

"Like Shadow Stalker, yes. You were pretty smart to not show him your lair. Or at least, to move to a different one."

Tattletale shrugged.

"What can I say, the boss said we should add him so we did. Didn't mean that we trusted him."

"Mm. No doubt, considering that he used you as bait."

Tattletale blinked.

"Bait?" she asked cautiously, and Taylor could see in her mind that she was wondering how Taylor knew. Taylor herself reached into her coat and produced a newspaper, carefully tilting it to shield it from the rain for as long as possible.

"Dinah Alcott, niece of the Mayor, kidnapped. Kidnapped while the Wards and Protectorate were busy with the Undersiders robbing a bank. That's an awfully large…coincidence."

Taylor sighed, dropping the paper. Tattletale brought a hand up- she was wearing a raincoat, Taylor noted.

"Yeah. Yeah, we were told to rob the bank. Got a bonus whether we succeeded or not. Realised there was something wrong but didn't think it would be like a that."

There was a hollowness to the smile Tattletale turned on Taylor, and Taylor felt a flicker of pity despite herself. Tattletale was desperate and frightened, enough that she would come to a vigilante Hero. It was tragic, really.

"But Coil didn't give you a choice." Taylor said quietly. Tattletale choked on her next words and that was confirmation enough.

"How did you know?" she asked. Taylor took that as confirmation that whatever Tattletale's power was, it wasn't on all the time. Some kind of limit? Didn't really matter, she supposed.

"I didn't, until you confirmed it. But really, it was an educated guess. Wasn't Empire, I would have known once I hit them- which I did the day after Dinah was kidnapped. Wasn't ABB, not their style and they would have boasted about it. Wasn't Merchants, too clean. So, Coil. Maybe not him directly, maybe through an intermediary like Faultline, but ultimately him."

Tattletale licked her lips, nervous.

"Have you told anyone?"

Taylor shook her head.

"Don't trust them. Chariot's probably a mole, and I suspect there are more in the PRT and Protectorate. If Coil knows that I'm after him then it'll be much harder to get to him. I'll need information, though."

"I…I don't know if I can give you any. I got away for this, he seemed distracted, but he knows. He always knows what I'm doing."

A brief, bitter laugh left Tattletale.

"Like he's in my head. I still can't work out what his power is, and I just know that if I'm too much trouble he'll have me killed, or drugged. Drugged and kept as a puppet, useful only for my power."

Taylor let a tiny sigh huff from her mouth and stepped closer to Tattletale.

"Then don't give me anything. Pretend to be cowed, or pretend to be defiant, which ever you like. I'll be hunting him regardless…building evidence until I can find him. But I'll have to let it look like the Empire is my priority."

Tattletale nodded quickly, and Taylor felt the gratitude that the Undersider would never show. Taylor almost hated herself for inspiring it.

"I…right. I'll do what I can, but it won't be much. Goodbye, Hero. And good luck."

A tinge of the spirit had returned to Tattletale's voice as she hurried away, and Taylor turned back to the rainy darkness.

'An unusual power, and a boss who seems to know everything…I wonder, is this linked to the dream I had?'

The Emperor said nothing for a moment, clearly remembering the dream she spoke of. It had been the night of the bank robbery, when she had slept and dreamed of leaving school from boredom. Then, wandering the streets she had seen a small girl being kidnapped, and saved her. Taylor had initially thought nothing of it, until she had read the newspaper and seen the image of the girl in her dream. An image, captioned with the name of Dinah Alcott.


'Perhaps. It is something that we'll have to look into, once we have more information. That will be more difficult than hurting the Empire.' Taylor noted. She knew that she was speaking the truth.

The issue with Coil was, as Taylor saw it, that he ran an organisation and not a gang. The Empire was a gang. The ABB and the Merchants were gangs, and they were filled with low-skilled and undisciplined members. That meant that acquiring information on them was as easy as hitting places until you found a Lieutenant and then ransacking his or her mind for the information needed. Well, it wasn't quite that easy, but it was close. Coil ran an organisation. Smaller, more disciplined, more capable, probably with better operational security. No, she needed more information before she went hunting. Coil maintained his territory without a single Parahuman- apart from himself- when the three other gangs had at least two, and as many as...well, however many the Empire boasted at the moment. Eight? Something like that. A lot, anyway.

'I think I need to go and beat something up. All this thinking around a dead end is giving me a headache.' Taylor decided. The Emperor grumbled in agreement, but she could feel him still thinking, working on the problem as she began to leap across the roofs, floating no her power just enough to travel. There was no real hurry: this was Brockton Bay, after all. Trouble was always happening somewhere. And then there was an explosion, not far away, and Taylor concluded that she should maybe be more careful with her thoughts as she sped up and moved in the direction of the explosion.

Taylor landed on a building close to the explosion, and very rapidly concluded that she should stop wishing for trouble, because she was really out of her league. Below, a vaguely wolf shaped mass of grinding metal blades stormed around, following a slender man in a demon mask and black clothing, who kept…well, exploding. Hookwolf and Oni Lee, two of the biggest, baddest villains in the city. And there was the Empire cape Stormtiger, adding sharpened blasts of air or whatever the hell it was to the churning, tearing mass of metal that was Hookwolf. This was, absolutely, something Taylor did not want to get involved in. And then Stormtiger blasted an Oni Lee away and the explosion turned a wall to glass and Taylor saw the child and mother cowering within and knew that she couldn't stay out of the fight. She didn't even hesitate before she pulled her phone and punched in a number.

"Glory? Yeah, Circaetus here. Would you do me a favour and ring the PRT, tell them that Hookwolf, Oni Lee and Stormtiger are throwing down with some really nasty stuff and that I'm trying to save civilians."

"Wait- what? Damnit Circ where are you?"

Taylor gave the location, eyeing the melee and trying to decide what to do first. Stormtiger had to go, she decided, and then she'd hurry the small family out and hope that the metal monster and the cloning, teleporting suicide bomber killed each other.

"Glory. Make the phone call. Do not come here yourself. I'll see you tomorrow." She said, a finality in her tone as she closed the phone on the last protests of the heroine who was quickly becoming her friend. Taylor gathered her legs underneath her and focused on Stormtiger.

'Well, in for a penny.'

She dropped. Taylor fell directly, landing behind Stormtiger. He was incredibly fast, and a punch split the air and laced a cut mere inches away from her right eye, slicing along the hairline before she hit him in the ribs, no time to be subtle. Bone snapped and caved and Stormtiger rammed into a wall, Taylor adding a solid smack to the head with her staff. She didn't have time for delicacy, she knew, dragging Stormtiger deeper into the alley he had been in and running for the family. She slid through a door that was miraculously not glass, hurrying to them.

"Are there any others in here?" she asked, in an urgent whisper. There were three of them- father, mother, child. The father and mother seemed frozen with fright, but managed to shake their heads and Taylor let out a sigh of relief.

"Good. Listen, you need to run. I'll distract those two, you three need to run away and not stop until you're sure that you're safe. Alright?"

"THIS PLAN WILL END POORLY." The Emperor rumbled.

'I know. Heroism, right?'

The family still looked terrified, but they were nodding and the child- a small boy, maybe five years old- poked his head around his mothers arms to look at her.

"Are you gonna stop them?" he asked, innocent and trusting. Taylor looked at him and nodded, injecting some cheer into her tone.

"I'm gonna try, kiddo. Get ready."

She turned her back to the family, spreading her stance and waiting. Hookwolf first, she decided, then the ninja nut. Power gathered and boiled, and she felt her eyes begin to shine a moment before she thrust out her staff and blew out the glass wall in a shower of lethal shrapnel, aimed directly at the two battling capes.

"Go!" she shouted, even as she focused her power and slung it in a much tighter one, hitting a surprised Hookwolf and knocking him into a building. Disused. Warehouse. Fantastic, and Taylor shattered the structure with a horizontal blast of force and watched it collapse. It would barely inconvenience Hookwolf, much less harm him, but it would delay him while the family fled. Now, Oni Lee. Where was he at?


Taylor whirled, her staff coming up just in time to throw up a wall of force that blunted the grenade explosion. A standard grenade this time, thankfully, Taylor wasn't sure how she would react to being turned to glass or something. Probably horribly, but the concussion still knocked her off her feet. The family were running, she just needed to buy them a little longer. Standing, Taylor slammed her staff into the ground and generated a circular shockwave which bought her a little time, but Lee or his clones were everywhere and the time taken to bring up a shield was starting to become slower than the time between explosions.


Taylor leapt on instinct, barely avoiding a churning mass of serrated edges that would have torn her to bloody scraps. She thrust her staff down, hitting Hookwolf and using him as a platform to boost herself back to a building roof. A mental check, the family were out of the immediate blast zone and still running and another cry of warning from The Emperor and Taylor was fast enough to turn but too slow to defend and the knife buried itself just under her throat, scraping on her breastbone. Instinct, and she pushed Lee away with enough force that his explosion didn't kill her but the very edge of it threw her back and she was falling, choking on blood and steel and falling towards a steel blender in the shape of a wolf.

And so, another Chapter. Personally, I'm not as happy with this one as with the others, so it might change, but I thought I'd get it up rather than spend ages fussing over it.

Some points that might come up: the vision. This is, basically, Coil's power messing with Taylor. However, this only happens when she is directly involved in the 'timeline' that he dropped, so not all that often. I just felt that it was suitable, as a manner of covering the visions that some 40K Psykers experience.

Tattletale: her power requires context, which is why it didn't go "GOD EMPEROR, BOW TO HER". Rather, it went "Powerful telekinetic, possible other powers, willing to kill, no Manton limit, trustworthy" which is why I wrote the interaction as I did. Tattletale is hard to write.

And we saw that Taylor is not all powerful, and the bigger boys in Brockton Bay can really give her trouble. And that's about all folks. I hope you enjoyed and, as always, appreciate any reviews you want to leave.