Othinus's mansion, Winthrop
Kamijou Touma heard about the otaku, or the Japanese equivalent of socially awkward nerds obsessing over pop culture to the detriment of their social skills, and their obsession for stories related to isekai, which involved the main characters being transported to another world, usually one with fantasy elements.
It was silly, he thought. And he'd never be a part of such insanity.
But here he was, a year after he got transported into another world, another earth, in North America.
And the only person to blame was his blonde, one-eyed companion, the Magic God Othinus.
"Touma, hey, Touma." Index poked his cheek. Or rather, the version of her created from Othinus's magic combined the full memory, abilities and personality of the original, poked his cheek. "Let's go to Pearrygin Lake."
The two were at the third floor library. Touma sat by a long solid oak library table, his elbows on its surface, his arms propped up and his face leaning on his hands. On the table was a book he grew bored of reading, and around him were rows of bookshelves that fit the room and reached the ceiling.
Index was a slender girl of sixteen, with long silver hair, green eyes and milky white skin being her most prominent features. She wore a green shirt under a denim overall, but her feet were bare.
"Sometimes I wish Othinus made you less needy," Touma mumbled to himself. Index flicked his nose. "Aw!"
She puffed her cheeks. "Touma, I'll have you know I am very different from the me that bites your head." The original Index bit Touma's head on a regular basis. The magical clone standing beside him took it as a matter of pride that she did not. But he had a guess she'd resort to it if he continued pissing her off.
Touma said, "I can't even speak proper English, Index."
"I'll be your translator," Index replied.
"I'm feeling tired."
"Exercise is good for you."
"I don't want to go."
"Better than being a lazy loser staying inside all day." She grabbed his wrist and tried pulling him out of his chair. "Come on, Touma. Stop being so lazy!" Interestingly, it was his right wrist, which was part of his limb containing his power, Imagine Breaker.
Imagine Breaker could dispel anything supernatural. Index, despite being an exact replica of the original, was still born from Othinus's magic. Yet his power didn't work on her, or the other magical replicas living inside the manor.
He let her grab his arm and pull him up. Touma knew she would escalate if he continued denying her selfless wish of dragging him across Massachusetts 'for his sake' as she often used to excuse herself. He took the book he was reading from the table and returned it to a bookshelf before Index dragged him out of the library.
"Hey there." Mikoto greeted them on the hall. Unlike Index, who was white, Mikoto was Japanese. She had shoulder-length brown hair, chestnut brown eyes, Asian features, skin shimmering with sweat, and an athletic body under her gray tracksuit that left her midriff bare. She usually worked out in the gym on the second floor. She held a white gym towel which she used to dry her skin.
Also, Touma was sure there were an infinite number of rooms in Othinus's manor. But he didn't want to explore too much partly due to fear he might destroy the house's obviously magical nature with his Imagine Breaker.
"Working at the treadmill again?" he asked.
"Yeah." Mikoto smiled. "So, where are you two going?"
"The State Park," Index chirped. "And then Sheri's Sweet Shop, and then the Pizza Center, and then-"
"Stop!" Touma complained. "When did I agree to go with you to all of those places!?"
"Since you agreed to go with me?"
"But I never said I did?"
Index puffed her cheeks. "Touma, I'll have you know that I know the best places to go in Massachusetts, be it Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall or Boston Common." 'Who even talks like that?' he thought. Index, apparently. If she was trying to impress him she failed spectacularly. Unaware of his internal monologue, she continued unabashed. "If you apologize to me I'll even tell you lady Othinus's second house in Martha's Vineyard." Index smirked and nodded to herself with her ingenious bribe.
"Othinus has a second house?" Touma asked.
"I told you to keep that a secret!" Mikoto exclaimed, covering her face with one hand and left her towel over her right shoulder. She signed in her palm.
Touma shrugged. "I don't care what Othinus does in her free time." It was none of his business. Heck, he was freeloading inside her house. Then again, so were Mikoto and Index. Or did they not count as freeloaders because technically they were just magical duplicates? So what were they, then? Touma didn't actually know why Othinus created copies of his friends, but the similarities were so stellar he almost forgot they weren't the original people.
They were real, of course. They were clones, and not the first ones Touma encountered either. But these are the first that have the same exact memories, personalities and abilities of the originals. It was slightly disorienting imagining the magical clones and their forebears being in the same room. He doubted he would be able to tell them apart.
But there was a slight difference though.
He knew these replicas for over a year now. Despite all the time he spent with the originals, he never knew Mikoto and Index for more than a couple of months. And those were long months. Compared to his original world, this 'Earth Bet' was far more peaceful.
No Academy City, no magicians, no angels, and no megalomaniacal villains attempting to 'save' the world by destroying it.
"Oh, right." Mikoto lowered her hand and sighed. "Lady Othinus wants to see you."
That was the other difference between the originals and the magical replicas. The reverence for Othinus which the originals lacked the magical copies made up for in spades.
"Where is she?" Touma asked.
"In her study, five minutes ago. But, er…" Mikoto blushed, looked at the window and twiddled her forefingers. "She told me you should go straight to your bedroom."
"Mikoto, are you alright?"
"Y-yes!" She scowled, clenched her fists and stomped on the floor. Electricity sparked from her knuckles, cheeks and bangs. "It's not like I'm interested or anything!"
"What?" Touma was incredibly confused.
"Hey babe." Othinus sat on his bed. She was blonde, with a cat-like green eye, an eyepatch covering her right, a beautiful face and a svelte body under her red negligee. She crossed her bare, slender legs and glance at him from where he stood on the doorway, and then returned her focus to the screen of the white smartphone on her left hand.
She was Othinus, a great god capable of achieving whatever she set her mind into with one-hundred-percent success. Reshaping the universe, moving celestial bodies, creating or destroying life, she could do it all.
And she was also his girlfriend.
"Mikoto said you wanted to see me?" Touma asked. "Lady Othinus Velvet?" He referred to the fake last name she forged when they began living in this world. She flashed him a coy smile.
"Yes. Come here." Othinus lowered the phone and tapped the space beside her. Touma closed the door to prevent staff or the other freeloaders from seeing them talk. Othinus employed a lot of people, and she wasn't limited to this one house either. She possessed countless properties under shell companies. Those properties needed to be managed, and employees were sought. Othinus was an amazing job creator, even then. Although he preferred servants and clerks of the present to terrorists of the past.
Touma sat beside her, and Othinus leaned for a hug. He grinned. Who knew a god like her could be such a softie?
"What is it?" he asked, caressing her back.
"I'm going to be doing some side projects in other cities, and it might have repercussions in the form of rival companies targeting my property."
Did she mean him? Othinus was so vague sometimes, proving accurate the presentation of gods in games.
"I don't see the problem here?" Touma asked. Othinus looked up at him from his chest, although her hands lowered to his abdomen instead of letting go.
"The capes of this world are largely unknown." She used the local term for people with superpowers, capes. "I do not take chances I cannot win."
Touma understood. Othinus always stacked the deck in her favor. But she was very powerful. What could she possibly be afraid of? He asked her.
"Silly human." She sighed. "The abilities in this world are so random. There might be a possibility someone is immune to my abilities. And if I used my magic and they're unaffected, what then?"
She'd be a sitting duck.
"Is that why we're laying low?" He imagined her incredibly egotistical and unable to help herself from telling the world how awesome she was.
But this was the same girl who orchestrated terrorist attract on three different continents. Intelligence was not her weak suit.
Still, with her caution he knew she'd succeed. "Why are you telling me?" Touma asked.
"What? Having a heart to heart with your girlfriend isn't good enough for you anymore? You want to spend more time with those two you man whore?"
He laughed. Othinus's sense of humor never got old. "You know, I'm still curious why you made copies of my friends." And not just Mikoto or Index. He saw a lot of familiar faces over the year.
"Silly human. For you, of course. You'd be lonely without them, and since I cannot summon the real ones from the old world, I made due with perfect copies instead."
"Ah." He didn't think she was right in assuming he would be lonely, but the act of kindness touched his heart. Though it'll be confusing if and when they return to their old world. The original Index meeting her magical clone would be a sight to see.
"Othinus, I love you."
He caressed her back, held her chin, and leaned for a kiss. Othinus moaned into it, making Touma feel like he was in heaven.
Winslow High, Brockton Bay
Accelerator looked at his phone. The date was April 8. The time was 3:04 pm. Touma uploaded a picture on Facebook. He was with Mikoto and Index, and a plate full of pizza on a table between them.
Accelerator sat on the hood of a 1967 black Chevrolet Impala at the parking lot behind the school. His hair was white, his eyes red, and his skin unnaturally pale. He wore a white hoodie, black trousers and white shoes. He bit his lips and growled in frustration.
"Stupid asshole getting all the food," he said.
"H-hey," the girl he was waiting for nervously said. He gazed at her. She flinched. He scrutinized her entire body. Her black hair ended in curls. Spectacles covered her eyes. Her wide mouth reminded Accelerator of a fish. She wore baggy clothing. She held the straps of her backpack and looked worried, but refused to look away.
He nodded. "So you weren't bullied today." It was a rhetorical question. He knew she wasn't.
"No need to mention that…" she whispered, staring at her shoes. She kicked a pebble. It skittered across gravel into the pedestrian lane on the middle of the road.
She was Accelerator's problem child. Not in the sense that she was a troublemaker, but in that trouble came to her. She was being picked on by three bitches and their clique of losers. Accelerator didn't care how school politics worked, be it here in North America or back home in Academy City. But he knew assholes and Winslow was full of them.
No one moved to help the bullied girl, and it pained his heart to see someone so pathetic he had to step in.
And so her he was. He put a stop to all the bullshit, accompanied her to her classes and drove her from her house to school. Not because of any delusion of wanting to make friends. It was more out of pity.
"Hey Taylor," someone approached them. The speaker was someone a foot taller than Accelerator, with a black shirt, denim jeans and brown boots. His hair was shaved under a black bean bag. Accelerator recalled he was a sophomore. A skinhead, too. A member of one of the three gangs dominating Brockton Bay. Empire Eighty-Eight "This chinc bothering you?"
Before Taylor could respond, Accelerator buried his phone inside his pocket and slid off the hood of his car. He made his way to the sophomore until they were inches apart. "Fuck off," he said. "And if you do anything other than walk away, I'll break your legs."
He wouldn't, of course. Being a member of a racist gang wasn't enough to make Accelerator hurt people. But he was in a foul mood, he was hungry, and the sophomore looked like he was rearing for a fight.
"Ace, stop, let's just go," Taylor said with a shake of her head. Ace was the nickname she called him by, after having found his real one five syllables too long. Accelerator kept his eyes on the prize. The sophomore glared back, sneered, but walked away.
In the distance, a dark skinned girl leaned by a flagpole. The American flag billowed with the wind. Sophia Hess. He knew she was fit, almost like Mikoto, under her tracksuit.
It wasn't enough to scare him off. She folded, just like the rest of them. He got into the driver's seat, Taylor by the passenger seat beside him, and he started the car and drove off. Winslow became a dot from the rearview mirror, and then vanished among all the other buildings of the city.
"T-thanks," Taylor stammered, hugging her backpack.
"Throw that in there," Accelerator said, releasing his hold on the gearshift to jerk his thumb behind him. Taylor threw her bag on the bench-seat and then made herself meek looking between the traffic by the windshield and the pedestrians beyond the window.
He didn't really know her all that well. He just didn't like other people getting away with spitting on her face. He had no intention of making friends. He was on a mission from his boss, and he wanted it finished before the week.
His boss… Accelerator's phone ringed. He extracted it from his pocket. It was another photo. This time the three were eating ice-cream. So stupid.
"They're your friends?" Taylor asked.
"From Winthrop," he said. "Don't ask why I moved."
"Okay. I wasn't going to though…"
Their car was caught in the traffic. Accelerator glared at the steering wheel as if his eyes could will it to move. He gave up and looked at the ceiling. "Ask away."
"The questions swirling in your mind. Ask. Go. You'll never get another chance."
And so she did. She asked him who he was. He told her he was another student. She asked him why he helped her. He told her it was because he disliked the assholes picking on her. She asked him why he transferred to Winslow. He told her it was because he was looking for a purpose in a life.
When they were done Taylor was frowning, arms crossed over her chest. "And your friends?" She was upset with all his vague replies. She never expected him to hand her his phone.
"It's okay," he said. "They're friendly. They don't bite." A gallery from Touma's profile gave an idea on what kind of person he was. Completely ordinary. The majority of his pictures were with Mikoto and Index, but sometimes on the older ones Accelerator would be there frowning at the camera. At a bar, at the park, or at the library. Wherever.
Now though Accelerator was busy and didn't have time to have fun. He was a scout sent to investigate Brockton Bay, as countless others were sent to various powder keg cities across the world.
Powder keg cities referred to locations that held a high concentration of people with superpowers, or parahumans. They were to catch a parahuman and then send a message to their teleporter, who would extract the prisoner to be taken for experimentation. The scout could leave too, if they so choose, and Accelerator planned on doing exactly that.
"He's so popular," Taylor said, unease in her voice.
"Only because he's kind," Accelerator said. "And you know how easy it is to take advantage of kind people."
"Yeah…" Taylor returned his phone. She was lonely, probably from however long she was ostracized in the bullying.
"They'd love you," Accelerator said. "When I'll next visit Boston, maybe you could come with. And it isn't a question." The traffic started moving again and Accelerator focused on the road.
When he dropped her off, Taylor waved and ran across the yard to the porch of her house. Despite the cynicism beaten into her, she was still a child, it seems.
Accelerator pinched the bridge of his nose. He was becoming attached to the girl. She'd only interfere with the mission.
The original Accelerator took no orders from anyone, and he, the current iteration, believed he was much the same. Othinus was the sole exception. It was due to his nature as her creation superseding his identity as Accelerator. And he didn't have a problem with it.
But he did have a problem with this. Taylor might become liability, and Accelerator knew he couldn't leave her. Not after witnessing what the bullies did to her. He was stuck in Brockton Bay and he knew it.
An American robin soared over his vehicle. Its brown wings led to an orange underbelly. White droppings fell, staining his windshield. Accelerator groaned. "I hate Connecticut."
He drove off the suburbs. Along the way he spotted a group of hoodlums loitering around the sidewalk. An older member of the group of friends had a tattoo of a small black swastika under his left eye. The Aryan Brotherhood, KKK, Empire Eighty-Eight, the white supremacist racist gang took many forms in the United States of Earth Bet. Unlike his world where he didn't even notice its existence, it appears in this world it regained prominence. Or it never lost it in the first place. He didn't know. He didn't care.
These were fodders of the higher echelon of Empire Eighty-Eight. He doubted they could provide him information on the capes controlling the organization, but maybe they could lead him in the right direction.
Accelerator wanted nothing more than to go straight to a cape and drag them back to Winthrop. But all the capes minus New Wave hid their identities, and he didn't want to target heroes. So he settled for villains, criminals like him. But like the wise rats they were, villains wore masks to hide their identities. There was some sort of rule in this world where people didn't come after each other when they weren't wearing their masks. Stupid, compared to his world where no one wore masks. But then again the culture of Academy City wasn't exactly what he would call normal.
Accelerator parked the car across the street and got out. The E88 gangbangers noticed him and immediately reached for their pockets for their guns or under their coats where it was holstered. He pretended to do the same with his own pocket and walked up to them.
"What the fuck do you want, chinc?" The one with the tattoo asked and spat on the curb.
"Thinking of broadening my horizons. I'm gonna need a little help."
"Why don't you get the fuck out of here you creep." The thugs surrounded him. Accelerator checked the nearby houses for any eyewitnesses. Surprisingly there was none. He expected to do this in some alleyway, not in the middle of broad daylight. Whatever works, he guessed.
There were five heads. One to his left, one to his right, two from behind him, and the tattooed leader in front of him. He heard footfalls and clothes rustling against the wind and shadows move from beneath him, followed by the familiar sound of cracking bones. His power was activated.
He glanced at his attackers. Two of the men, one on his left and the other from behind and to his right attacked him. He knew because of the broken knuckles they were now sporting and holding with their other hands. Blood dripped through the broken hands. Metacarpal fractures were common when striking a hard surface. It was made worse when his power redirected the kinetic energy to its source. Twice the fun.
Accelerator was already moving to the man in front of him. The hoodlum to his right screamed he was a cape. Footfalls pitter-pattered on concrete. The unharmed hoodlum behind him was already running away. Smart, but that wouldn't do. Accelerator grabbed the man in front of him by his neck and without effort threw him like a weightless toy at the hoodlum to his right. He turned to the runner. One of the wounded attackers clutching their broken hand withdrew a gun and aimed at him. Not so smart. The attacker pulled the trigger. The bullet made contact with Accelerator's power. He redirected it to the leg of the running hoodlum. The bullet tore through their calf and left their shin, leaving the runner cursing. The hoodlum who shot at him fired again. When the bullet was inches from his skin Accelerator returned it to the gunsman, tearing through their gun, their palm, and exiting the back of their hand. The shooter dropped the broken weapon and shrilled.
Accelerator checked the five man team. The leader and the man Accelerator threw him at were still unconscious. The one who struck him and broke their knuckle was frozen like a small animal in the presence of a predator. The one who made a run for it was bleeding out on the street. The one who shot at him was now kneeling, possessing two broken hands, one from his shattered knuckles and the other from his own bullet that tore through his hand.
"Hey." Accelerator walked to the man with one broken hand. "I'll do worse if you don't do as I say." The man jerked their head and didn't make a sound, as if under the assumption keeping silent would protect them from further harm.
"I didn't really want to hurt you," Accelerator said. "And to be fair, you were the ones who hit me first. If your friend over there didn't shoot me one of you wouldn't be bleeding to death as we speak. How far up are you in the food chain?" The man, too scared to form coherent words, let out a whimper. Accelerator sighed.
Now he was stuck with a problem. He gambled on the hoodlums to provide him useful information that would lead him closer to the higher ups of the Empire Eighty-Eight and their many, many capes. Instead all he obtained were five liabilities. They knew his identity and it could compromise his work. He could kill them, but they've done nothing to deserve it. Despite being racist assholes, they were just loitering around the street. He instigated the fight. They were his responsibility. He went over to the man he threw, lowered to one knee and checked his pockets, found his phone and stood up.
"Hey. Any of you jackasses tell anyone who I am I'll be killing you, okay?" It was a bluff, but the wounded man believed him. Accelerator asked the man with one broken hand to get all his friend's wallets. Accelerator checked their wallets, and sure enough they held driver's licenses and school ID's. He memorized the names, addresses and faces and then returned the wallets to the man with the broken hand.
Accelerator raised the borrowed phone to his ear and dialed nine-one-one. He gave the name of the street he was on and the five people that got caught in a 'gang war' and hung up. "See you around," he said, and passed the phone to the scared man, and then walked back to his car and drove away.
But not too far. When he was out of sight he dropped his car and circled a street behind the area where he fought the five men. He jumped over a white fence and scurried over someone's backyard. He leapt, a small boom being made from the soles of his shoes as he reached the rooftop of the two-story house. He didn't worry about balance, his power keeping him on his feet at all times. He peeked from a chimney and watched.
Police cruisers arrived two minutes later. White ambulance vans thirty seconds after that. Policemen surrounded the wounded E88 gangbangers and paramedics extracted stretchers from the back of their vans to retrieve the bleeding man shot in the leg and the one shot in the hand. The two unconscious men were returning to the waking world, were read their rights, and were pushed into the backs of the police vehicles. After the four men were retrieved the police and the paramedics left the scene.
Four men, because the fifth, the one Accelerator spoke to, ran off. The fifth man with the broken hand had ran straight into the house Accelerator stood on. "Why would you do that?" Accelerator crossed his arms and tilted his head as he leaned against the chimney. He decided to go and ask. He stepped off the ledge and fell on his feet at the backyard, making no sound when he made contact with the ground. He approached the backdoor, found it locked, gave the doorknob a light squeeze and shattered it into his palm. He pushed through the broken door and stepped into the house. Despite the unprofessional way Accelerator walked about, he didn't make a sound. His footfalls and his breathing were silent. It was not because he was a hardened assassin, but because his power blocked out sound that should've escaped to his surroundings, keeping it to himself.
"Y-yeah." A voice came from a door to what he assumed was the kitchen area. "A-a new cape. T-the ABB, I think, sent him to give us a message. He fucked us up, Charlie."
'Charlie'. Accelerator wondered if the man would be more useful than the four dimwits he sent to the hospital and the police station. He recognized the term 'ABB'. It was an abbreviation for the Azn Bad Boys, which gathered members from everyone with Asian ethnicity. They only had two members, Lung and Oni Lee, but made up for it with the sheer strength of Lung's powers.
The man with the broken hand continued complaining about his knuckles and how it hurt. Tough shit. He was the one who attacked Accelerator. Accelerator waited if he could gleam more useful information. The 'Charlie' person was going to arrive in five minutes, apparently. The man with the broken hand stayed put in the kitchen until there was a knock on the door by the porch.
When the man with the broken hand left the kitchen to answer the door Accelerator was waiting for him at the hall. He caught the man by the back of his neck and said, "If you scream I'll pulp your head and kill whoever's at the front door." The man squeaked like a mouse and tried to scurry away. Accelerator made a light squeeze. The man then nodded like it was running out of style. Accelerator hid behind him as he answered the door.
When he opened the door, it revealed a fat man with sunglasses standing on the porch. "Warren!" the fat man said in greeting, opening his arms for a hug. Accelerator shoved the wounded man, 'Warren', at who he assumed was 'Charlie', sending them both flying down the steps to the yard.
"You pie-" Was as far as Charlie got before Accelerator covered his mouth with one hand. When Charlie tried to bite him he succeeded in shattering his own teeth. Accelerator dragged both men inside the house and closed the door.
Othinus's mansion, Winthrop
"I don't like it here, frowning face." Touma read Accelerator's message and laughed. Accelerator was apparently sightseeing the rest of the country and started with Brockton Bay. It was just two hours or so from Boston so it made sense he would go there first.
The mansion had three lounge rooms per floor. Utterly ridiculous in Touma's opinion, but he always felt rich people weren't in tune with the rest of reality. Othinus took it a step further, being capable of ignoring reality entirely in favor of her own imagination.
This particular lounge room had white marble floors. Paintings of Norse mythological figures mounted gray walls. A chandelier hung from the ceiling. Red furniture were spread across the room. Mikoto sat on an armchair, Index on the floor, and the two were holding black controllers and playing and focused on an LCD TV racing cars to the finish line.
They've had a change of clothes after returning home. Index wore a green oversized shirt, a bowl of popcorn between her legs. Mikoto wore a brown tank top and black shorts under a red hoodie. The cold air from the AC made him wonder why they didn't pick thicker clothing.
Five meters back Touma was on a sofa, his elbow on the armrest, his arm propped out and his head leaning on the palm of his hand. Three water bottles were full on top of a glass coffee table before him. Every now and then he heard Index let cheers whenever she got ahead of Mikoto, and aws when Mikoto took back the lead. Mikoto laughed when she won again and grinned at Index, who pouted at her.
"Their hyper abilities are boundless, it seems." Misaki winked as she sat beside him. Misaki was blonde, her long hair reaching her back. She had a round face. Starry eyes. White skin. Despite her claims of being similar age to Mikoto, her chest was far larger. She wore a yellow shirt, a white skirt, and thigh high socks leading to white rabbit slippers.
"Hey there," Touma said, opening an arm. Misaki made a delighted smile and snuggled next to him. She was soft and warm. The scent of her hair reminded him of lemonades. He didn't know who she was, the first time she approached him, and even worried about what he was going to say if she greeted him in English. But to his surprise she spoke in Japanese and they got along quite well. Misaki always sought him out whenever he had free time, like she was worried he'd be gone the next day and never come back. But over time her worries receded and now they simply enjoyed each other's company.
"Where've you been up to all day?" Touma asked, turning to the shorter girl. Misaki leaned her head to his chest, closed her eyes and made a dramatic sigh. She peeked one open to see if he was paying attention. He rolled his eyes. "Yes, I'm all eyes, Misaki."
She beamed at him. "I've been allocating some of lady Othinus's assets." She was also Othinus's creation, but unlike Mikoto or Index who do nothing all day, Misaki was also under Othinus's employ as her secretary. The cooks, gardeners, servants and maids of Othinus's manor were in turn under the management of Misaki.
"Sounds boring and stressful." Touma hadn't been to a proper school in over a year. Instead he was homeschooled by tutors who didn't really teach him anything and just passed him with flying colors. He once left a test paper blank to see just what they would do, and they offered to give him all the right answers just to pass the exam.
It turns out Misaki was the cause of all that. Her, and the wealth of Othinus.
It was not fun when he discovered.
"You're boring and stressful," she said.
He shrugged. He couldn't actually argue with her. He agreed. "Where's Othinus now?"
"She's meeting up with some business associate of ours to seal a deal on various areas in Boston." Misaki yawned and nuzzled Touma's side. He rubbed her back. She wrapped her arm around his stomach and giggled. "I love how close you are."
"Uh, okay?" Sometimes Misaki got weird, blurting out some stuff about someone Touma didn't recognize. "Is this about your friend again?" She had told him once before that she used to know some boy, a best friend, who she might've seen as something more, who took care of her until the day he moved away.
"No?" Misaki scowled. "How did you even know about that anyway?"
"I found you drunk on some liquor candies." Chocolate shaped like a bottle, to be precise. Misaki's addiction to sweets got the better of her. She had a sweet tooth, she later explained, as if trying to look for an excuse to the sorry state he found her in.
"Well," Touma said. "If it's worth anything. I'm not like him. I'm not moving out or going away."
Misaki snorted. "Sure." She made herself comfortable stretching on the sofa and using his lap as her pillow. "I'm going to sleep. So tired…" It was followed by another yawn.
"Please don't." But she was already asleep. Misaki's blissful expression plastered on her sleeping face was the same as the day she met him. He found her an odd, quirky girl as weird as Mikoto and Index. But she was good company, all things considered. She never bothered him as much as the other two, that was for sure.
"Hey," Mikoto said, leaving her chair. "Misaki's here?" She dropped her controller on the floor beside Index, who was wiping her eyes. "You should've told me. Might've left me distracted enough to lose a game or two."
"Shut up!" Index said, her eyes red. Mikoto laughed.
"Are you crying?" Touma asked, absentmindedly brushed Misaki's bangs.
"N-no? Shut up!" Index reached a hand to the bowl and scooped up popcorn which she rushed to her mouth and hastily swallowed. She didn't even chew the puffy white kernel in her stress eating.
"How many times did she lose?"
Mikoto counted her fingers, tapped her chin and rolled her shoulders. "I lost count after the first ten."
Wait. Ten? When they started the two were just on the third round. Ah. It must've been Misaki. He lost track of the time just staring at the clingy girl curled around him and sleeping on his lap.
"Hey," Touma said, recalling the message Accelerator sent him. "Accelerator just told me he didn't like Connecticut. Or at least Brockton Bay."
"That's one of the top ten highest population of capes in the U.S." Mikoto shook her head. "All he'd find over there is trouble."
She didn't mean trouble that could hurt Accelerator, but rather trouble that became a nuisance over time.
Despite the large population of parahumans in Earth Bet, it felt small compared to his own world where Academy City was condensed with espers and the other countries were swarming with magicians.
"I'm kind of jealous, actually."
"Oh, why's that?" Mikoto grabbed a water bottle, opened it and took a sip, hydrating herself.
"Accelerator knows what he wants. One day he was here, spending time with the rest of us. And now he's gone. Just like that." Touma snapped his fingers. "I'm such an indecisive man compared to him."
When Index finished her popcorn she stood up, stomped her way over to them and dropped the bowl to the coffee table. She snatched a water bottle and tried to twist the cap open. When it didn't budge she almost came close to crying again.
"Give me that," Touma said, reaching an arm out for the bottle. She passed it to him. He removed the cap and handed it back.
"T-thank you," Index said and then guzzled her drink.
"When did you become a crybaby, Index?" Touma asked after she emptied her bottle and made him open the next one.
"Touma, I was not crying!" Index screamed. "There was sand in my eyes."
"Sand?" He looked across the room. There was not a speck of dust on sight. Othinus' employees were meticulous when it came to cleaning the estate. He looked at Index dubiously."What sand?"
"Shut up, Touma! I don't like car games anymore." Index the grouchy cat stalked off the room to bother weaker prey, most likely the unfortunate servants and maids who couldn't brush off her complaints. Not if they think their livelihoods were at risk.
"Did you have to destroy her?" Touma asked.
"It's just a game, geez. I'll see if Index won't go mouthing off again." She rushed out of the room, leaving Touma in complete silence save for Misaki's occasional snores. She was cute. He petted her head. She mewled in her sleep and rubbed her head against his hand.
He wondered how Accelerator was doing.
The Boardwalk, Brockton Bay
Accelerator was not doing well. It was two days since he snuck up on the person who punched him, Warren, and the one who visited Warren, Charlie. He didn't gleam any useful information out of them at all. Now he was stuck with another liability, this one refusing to give in to his scare tactics, which made Charlie a greater threat than the others.
He learned nothing from Charlie. The man was paranoid to a fault. He didn't bring any ID, driver's license or passport on the fat man. Charlie apparently walked to Warren's place. So there wasn't a vehicle identification number or license plate number to trace back to him either. All he brought was cash. Ten grand. Which Accelerator took for himself. A phone with no contacts. A burner phone, which Accelerator also appropriated. And a silver revolver, the serials scratched off, which Accelerator confiscated.
Accelerator learned a wonderful tidbit about Warren. His family lived in Boston and he was hiding the fact he was a gangbanger by living his dreams in Brockton Bay. Accelerator found out through Warren's Facebook on his desktop computer inside his bedroom. The two troublesome men were tied the two men with their hands behind their backs and their asses to the floor. There wasn't any robe, so he settled for the sheets and blankets to bind their limbs and cover their mouths. Muffled sounds of protest came from Charlie who refused to back down.
"Funny thing," Accelerator told Warren, who looked in fear at the image of his younger sister from his gallery. "I know some people from Boston." Othinus, Misaki, Shizuri. "If you don't want them to pay your family a visit, then you're going to make yourself useful, understand?"
Warren nodded so hard Accelerator was worried he might break his neck. Now Warren was holding his own ally hostage with a pump action shotgun in the basement of his house. His fear for his family overruled whatever loyalty he held for Charlie and the cause.
Accelerator was in the Boardwalk, the nicer place in town, drinking a cup of coffee from inside a black van that belonged to Warren. After Accelerator 'recruited' Warren for his own cause, which was to capture a criminal parahuman to drag screaming and kicking back into Boston, they decided to pool their resources together. And by that he meant Accelerator commandeering everything Warren owned from his house to his car and everything in between.
The man was scared shitless of him, which made Accelerator feel a little guilty for. He promised Warren he'd bring him back to Boston and give him some cash in exchange for his silence just to ease the guilt, and even gave him half of the money he stole from Charlie, who saw it all happen and screamed in his gag. Warren was smart. He didn't have any tattoos. No incriminating evidence in his house that would make people think he was a believer, either. He was also a college graduate from Boston College and tutored to earn his living. And he was on break.
No one would go looking for him.
And Accelerator decided to remind him at that moment by calling him with Charlie's burner phone. After Warren gave him a status update on Charlie, who was given a bucket to relieve himself whenever he needed to urinate or defecate, Accelerator hung up and inspected Charlie's gun. It was a Rudger Redhawk. A large frame revolver. The serial number scratched off was amateurish work. It could still be read forensically with acid solutions. The serials scratched would only draw attention from law enforcement. If you were going to commit something illegal anyway it was better to get rid of the gun after you've done the deed rather than have anything that could trace you back to the scene of the crime.
Accelerator decided he was going to the Docks. The bad part of town. He was hoping on chancing a cape passing by. Either a villain looking for crime to commit, probably eyeing another villain's drugs or cash to steal, or a hero looking for a villain committing crime, so they can legally beat someone up without repercussions in the eyes of the law.
He got out of the car without making a sound. Left the beach and nice buildings of the Boardwalk. Crossed the park that served as a border between the good and bad parts of town, and stepped over to the other side. Decrepit buildings, gang signs spray painted on walls, and drunkards sleeping on the streets. These were the little hints that told him he was at the Docks.
Accelerator groaned and pulled the drunkards from the streets to lay them beside buildings. It would be so stupid if they died from getting run over by cars. Him and his stupid soft heart.
After he was done, he looked for trouble. Surely there would be a supervillain prowling about in the den of night, right?
A window from one of the houses turned on, shining the street.
To his surprise, the answer to that was 'yes'.
He found him like a dehydrated man found an oasis in the desert.
'He' was a six footer. Wore an ornate metal mask. Went topless, revealing muscles and intricate Chinese dragon tattoos. He was Lung, leader of the Azn Bad Boys, and surrounded by his underlings, Asians in green and orange clothing. The color of their gang.
The light turned off, leaving Accelerator in the darkness.
But he was grinning like a madman who won the lottery. Lung was his jackpot. He could finally leave this shitty city and go back to Winthrop. Good old boring Winthrop.
That was when something interesting happened. He heard the buzzing sound of a swarm of insects and saw a mass of creatures descent from the sky and out of the crevices from the street to congregate on the ABB. People screamed and ran in panic, some flailing about in their attempts to get rid of the insecta.
Fire illuminated the area. And then there was light. It came from Lung, unleashing streams of flames to get rid of the bugs. More insects gathered on his body faster than he could get rid of them. Accelerator observed his pyrokinesis. It was unrefined. He probably used it to supplement his other abilities.
But then Lung detonated into a blast of flames that burned all his clothing, the insects, and one of his underlings. Thanks to the orange light, Accelerator saw the bee that stung his eye. Before more insects could do the same Lung soaked himself in flames from head to toe. He searched the street for the attacker. Accelerator was still far enough the darkness hid him, and his power made sure he gave no sound, making him virtually invisible.
Lung hunched over, his back parting into two. Metallic scales covered his gap. His entire body grew in size. When he straightened his back he was a foot taller. He whirred to the building behind him and let out a roar. He leapt from the sidewalk to the building, buried his metallic claws covered in fire to the walls and climbed the rest of the way up over the ledge to the rooftop.
When he turned his back to Accelerator, that was when he struck.
Wings burst from Accelerator's back. Snow-like white wings resembling those of angels depicted in the works of Ephraim Moses Lilien or William-Adolphe Bouguereau. He flew one-hundred meters up and descended with the fury of a heat seeking missile.
His foot made contact with Lung's head, shattering the metallic scales coating his skin, and smashed him through the rooftop of the building, down every floor until they hit the lobby. Lung was still conscious and rapidly growing in size. He got up and moved away from Accelerator. He was now eight feet tall. He tried burning or swathing Accelerator away. He ignored the flames and redirected the kinetic energy of the attacks back to Lung, cracking his limbs with his own blows. Accelerator went behind him and wrapped his arms around Lung's neck, choking the air out of him. Lung grew larger still. He tried to scratch Accelerator and failed. Attempts to smash him up against the ceiling failed. Punching him failed. Nothing worked, and no matter what Lung did he still needed to breathe. What a strange limit for his power. Then again, Accelerator shared the same weakness.
Eventually he stopped resisting. Good. Accelerator was starting to get worried. Not from Lung's strength, but from the intensity of his flames. If he burned down all the oxygen Accelerator would've been forced to let go. He dragged Lung's body up the second floor. The building was on fire. Accelerator removed the oxygen from the area, killing the flames, and flew up the hole leading to the rooftop, carrying Lung's unconscious body in one arm.
Accelerator found the bug manipulator. The costume was black and gray. The only thing that stood out was the dull yellow lenses and the mandibles from the mask, resembling those of a bug's.
"Thanks," Accelerator said, nodding to the cape. He didn't know if they were a hero fighting Lung or a villain settling some old scores, but they helped him and for that he felt like he should give them a reward. He dropped Lung like a sack of potatoes on the roof and took out the other five grand from his pocket, handing them to the cape. "For the effort."
"T-thanks," the cape, a girl, mumbled. Accelerator paused. He recognized that voice. He growled, bridged what little distance was between them and reached a hand for her mask. She didn't resist when he removed it. Typical, pushover doormat.
"Taylor!?" Accelerator snarled. "What the hell are you doing out here!? Lung could've hurt you, you idiot!"
"I-I'm not an idiot!" She exclaimed, stomping on the floor as she attempted a glare and appeared more like she was barely just withholding her tears. "You didn't tell me you were a cape. And give me back my mask!" She snatched it from him and put it on.
This girl. He reprimanded her on the risks to her own life and she focused on him calling her an idiot? After all the effort he took protecting her from those assholes who hurt her at school, she risked her life doing this? Getting in a fight with a giant man? His head hurt. He closed his eyes. Grit his teeth. Rubbed his forehead. He felt an aneurysm coming up and sighed.
He heard something large land on the rooftop. He opened his eyes. Three giant monsters stared back. They were agitated at his mere presence. Maybe due to months of protecting her, the two instinctively went to their natural positions. With him in front and acting as a shield, and her hiding behind him.
Four people dismounted the three creatures. One of them was in all black, with a motorcycle for a helmet sprayed with the picture of a skull. Grue. One was a girl with dark blond hair wearing a skintight outfit in black and purple. Tattletale. One wore a carnival mask and reminded Accelerator of a jester. Regent. And one just wore a dog mask. Hellhound.
He knew all of them. He studied capes. He analyzed those he hunted. Taylor was the only one he didn't recognize and that was due to her freshness than anything else.
Silence reigned for more than a minute as he stared them down. He broke it and said, "What the fuck do you want?"
"You did all this?" Regent theatrically waved an arm to the path of destruction down the hole of the rooftop floor.
Tattletale whistled, spotting Lung's unconscious body. "He took down Lung."
"You really saved us a lot of trouble," Grue said. "When-"
"Are you okay?" After realizing they weren't a threat, Accelerator ignored them in favor of Taylor, turning to her and inspecting her for any wounds.
"I'm fine!" she hissed. "Why aren't you wearing a mask? They saw your face?"
"You're right." Accelerator returned his focus to the group of villains. "Tell anyone who I am and I'll kill you." It was a bluff, but Taylor slapped his shoulder anyway. His power didn't register her as a threat so he wasn't able to block the hit.
"Ouch. What the fuck was that for?" He rubbed his shoulder and grimaced.
"Okay, this is awkward," Grue said. "Introductions, I'm-"
"I know who the fuck you are," Accelerator snarled. "Say your piece or fuck off."
"Well, red eyes," Tattletale said. "You did us a solid taking down Lung, so take my advice. Someone from the Protectorate-"
The Protectorate. The premier superhero team spanning North America and Canada. They were the costumed version of the alphabet soup. Whatever they did, the media followed. They were trouble.
Ignoring the rest of Tattletale's words, Accelerator scooped Taylor up in his arms, left Lung and flew from the rooftop into the night sky.
The sky, Brockton Bay
With her scooped in his arms, after he saved her from a monster who called himself a dragon, she couldn't have called him anything more than her knight in shining armour.
Just like the movies.
Taylor remembered when it all began. She was being picked on in the hallways by the girls. Madison and Sophia weren't there. Just Emma, her former best friend, and who she felt was the leader of the bullies that made her life hell.
And then he was there.
He grabbed Emma's throat and slammed her back to the wall, and whispered something in her ears. And then he watched them, waited for them to leave. Emma looked scared, for the first time in a long time, and ran out of the halls. Must've done the same to Sophia and Madison. She wasn't sure. He only spoke to Madison once. Found her about to pick on Taylor.
"Cut that shit out."
And it was done. No more bullying. Just like that. He didn't really speak to her. There was no small talk. Only questions and answers. What classes are you in? Do you want me to to drive you? Did they hurt you?
And here he was again, saving the day.
He wasn't originally her classmate in everything, but somehow he made it work. He drove her from her home to school every single day, and even visited her during weekends to 'study'.
She didn't want to put him under a label and disliked stereotypes. But it was really, really hard to do. On moments like this, it was hard to see him as anything but her hero.
'Who are you, Accelerator?'
They flew for another two minutes. Eventually he dropped her in front of her house. He was so incredibly gentle when he let her go. When she faced him, she could've asked him anything. You have powers? Why aren't you wearing a mask? Why did you save me? Who are you, really?
But all she said was, "Uh…"
"Taylor, we are talking about this tomorrow."
Accelerator spread his wings and shot into the sky.
Accelerator cursed, hovering over the area where the fight took place. Lung was gone. The Protectorate probably took him into custody. Accelerator could break him out, but it would draw too much attention to himself. He was back to square one.
He was getting incensed by all the time he was wasting hiding from other people. But he needed to avoid attention, if not for him then for everyone else in Winthrop. It was his boss's orders too.
Intellectually he knew he didn't have any reason to obey her. The original him wouldn't have, and from the original's memories in Academy City watching the news and Gremlin's terrorist attacks, he would've gone against Othinus had he been summoned to this world.
But he wasn't the original. He was a copy created from Othinus's magic, and thus whatever desires he has as Accelerator were discarded the moment they came into conflict with his nature as her creation and the desire to obey her.
There was nothing here. He left.
They assumed he was an ABB stepping into their territory. If only they knew the monster they've drawn into their lives, they would've reacted differently the day they decided to attack him.
Warren was scared for his life and that of his family. He was trapped in a nightmare. The albino knew everything. Since the moment he tried to call Charlie for help, the albino was there, waiting. And when he struck, he struck hard.
Now Warren was stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he sided with the albino, he was betraying the Empired Eighty-Eight. They'd kill him and make an example out of him. They don't tolerate traitors. Charlie certainly didn't. He left the man in the basement with his bucket of shit and piss. Warren locked the door and pulled a chair from the kitchen to stand guard in front of it with his pump action shotgun.
But if he went against the albino, the man would kill him, and then his family. Leaving his account in his browser was the worst choice he's ever made.
The albino knew people from Boston. And he was trying to hunt down the capes from the Empire Eighty-Eight. Was it a hostile takeover? Warren didn't know, and right then as the sound of the tires hit gravel he didn't care. The albino opened the door to the house with the keys Warren gave him as part of their 'alliance' in which the albino knew everything about him and he knew nothing about the albino.
The albino spotted him from the door. Warren forced a smile. "Evening, boss." The albino closed the door, nodded, and crossed the room towards him.
"Where is he?" Accelerator asked.
"Still down there." Warren pointed with the barrel of his gun. The albino opened the door and descended to the basement. Warren waited one, five, and then ten minutes when his boss called him.
"Warren, he's dead."
He gulped, gripped his shotgun and felt his body go cold. He stepped down the stairs, like a dead man walking to his execution, and saw the guillotine that would take his head. The albino stood, bored, at Charlie's dead body. Blood stained his lips, tongue and chest red. He was naked. The trail of blood followed his shoulder, arm and hand. In his palm, between his fingers, was his tongue.
"He exsanguinated." Accelerator looked at his body like it was trash. "How boring. You're going to help me get rid of the body. There's some garbage bags in your van. I bought them while I was out. Thought of something like this, but I didn't think it'd be this soon. Go."
Warren was already moving. He could make a run for it once he reached his car, but thought better of it. The albino might just kill him the second he found him. Charlie didn't die. Charlie was alive the last time he left him. The albino killed him, probably because Charlie said something stupid that pissed him off. Warren decided there and then to do whatever the albino said, just to keep himself alive for a little bit longer. Even if it meant killing someone else.
"Good morning, sir," Accelerator said, greeting Daniel Hebert, Taylor's father. He was a thin man with balding hair and large eyes under his eyeglasses.
"Please, call me by my name."
"Uh, sure. Is Taylor home? Don't wanna be late for school."
Danny shook his head, his smile amused, and said, "It's 6:30 in the morning. You won't have classes for another hour. Come in. Join us for breakfast."
Accelerator shrugged. Free food was free food. He followed Danny inside the house he'd spent many weekends at. He often helped Taylor with her homework. She was good in academics, but he was perfect. And she needed to be the same if she ever wanted a future in this hellhole they call a planet.
In the kitchen Taylor was at the table, pouring herself a glass of orange juice. He smirked at her and made a small wave. She frowned and poured him one too.
There were three cups at the table. Three plates and three of everything. Ever since the first week where he showed up almost religiously for every breakfast, sometimes lunch and dinner, they started the day preparing with the assumption he would join them.
"Freeloader," Taylor said. Accelerator took the chair beside her, grabbed a fork and impaled it on some bacon. He ate the juicy meal and ignored her stare.
When he finished eating all that was on his plate he drank his O.J. and sighed in bliss. That was the stuff. "Thanks for the meal, sir." Danny gave him a look. "I mean Danny."
Danny nodded and took a seat facing them. He pushed his plate forward. "You can have mine."
Without shame Accelerator accepted the offer. Taylor scoffed but didn't bother trying to tell him how rude he was.
"I'll be frank," Danny said. "Did you two do it last night?"
Do what? Accelerator wasn't sure what Danny was talking about. He chose to remain silent and meet Danny's eyes. Taylor squirmed beside him. He didn't know what for. What did they 'do' exactly? The only thing that came to mind was the battle against Lung.
Did Taylor tell Danny about her cape activities last night? No. A glance at the girl made him dismiss it even as a possibility. Taylor was too secretive to tell Danny what was up with her.
Accelerator slowly took the bacon from Danny's plate, put it in his mouth, and chewed. It stayed there for five minutes of awkward silence.
He swallowed. Blinked. Scratched his cheek.
"Um, I'm not sure what you're talking about," he said. What complex riddles this man gives!
Danny nodded sagely, crossed his arms on his chest and closed his eyes. "I was like that too, when I was your age. Truth be told, Ace, I didn't trust you much the first time you drove my daughter home. But as the days passed into weeks I began noticing something strange. She was happier, somehow."
It must be because he stopped the bullying. Accelerator's in your face method worked with varying degrees of success.
"So I understand," Danny said. "But if you want to be a part of this family, then you need to be more responsible. Can you do that, Ace?"
"Sure." He didn't know what the hell Danny was talking about. But he pretended to. Looking like an idiot in front of the old man was not something he was keen on experiencing..
Taylor tapped his hand. He stared at hers. He found it strange she could touch him. She snapped her fingers. He raised a brow. "How cute," Danny said, once more shaking his head. Accelerator found it irritating. Found his nickname, 'Ace' in the Hebert household, irritating. But he held back. He pitied Taylor and Danny and their unfortunate situation.
Danny was a member of the Dockworkers Association, as the Union spokesperson and head of hiring. The problem was the situation at the Docks. West of the Boardwalk, it was the ghetto of Brockton Bay. Back then the import and export business in the Docks kept the city alive. But when Leviathan arrived, the increased risks of business by water essentially killed the Docks. While the wealthier people turned to tech and banking to make more money, the less fortunate ran out of jobs.
Homeless, squatters and prospective criminals populated the Docks. It was a breeding ground for gangs, which promised food, shelter and a steady employment. The three largest gangs, the Empire Eighty-Eight, the Azn Bad Boys and the Merchants had a steady supply of recruits from desperate and hungry citizens left by the government to fend for themselves.
It was an endless cycle.
Fortunately, Accelerator was working on it. He wanted someone else to take care of Brockton Bay after he was done with the mission, but he might just change his mind.
"Never mind you two," Danny said. "Anyway, there's some good news. A businessman from Boston came to us with an offer for a job."
"Really?" Taylor asked.
"Yeah. I didn't meet them directly, but their lawyer knocked on my office and gave me their card. They're apparently some sort of rich kid with big projects, and looking for some manual labor to start up their work."
"Can I see the card?" Accelerator took Taylor's plate and finished her meal too. He knew she lost interest in the food anyway. Danny handed her the card. "Starchild Corporations. Let's build for a greater future - Shokuhou Misaki. She's Japanese?"
Accelerator finished his drink. Tapped Taylor's back. "Come on. Let's go to school."
"Right." She looked at her plate, and then with a deadpan expression glanced at him. He shrugged. She shook her head and got up. "Bye dad."
"See you, kiddo. You too, Ace." Accelerator growled, hating the nickname. Danny just laughed and ruffled his hair, which further irritated him. After Taylor had her backpack they left the house and got into the car. The moment Accelerator hit the road Taylor nudged his shoulder with her elbow.
"What?" he asked.
"You're a cape."
"Yeah, and so are you. So what?" He didn't understand the culture of hiding your identities behind masks. Back in Academy City there was a sixty-percent chance the person you bumped into had psychic powers. Compared to Academy City and how they developed espers, the way capes obtained their powers was almost third-world and ill-bred.
Barbarians, basically. He wondered if there was already an organization developing ways to give other people superpowers. If there wasn't, maybe his own group could be the first. Another Academy City, this time developed worldwide, sounds like a dream.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Taylor was more curious than angry. And strangely enough after last night she was a lot more talkative. He guessed all it took to break her out of her shell was risking herself in a scenario that could spell her death.
He was tempted to give her the cold shoulder, tell her she shouldn't put on a mask, confess everything to her dad and make sure she didn't get into any trouble, but that might just push her away. If he was more encouraging it would be easier to keep an eye on her and manipulate her feelings.
"I'm sorry," he said, not feeling sorry at all. He turned the steering wheel and took a left. "I didn't know you were a cape and I sort of overreacted last night. It wasn't my right to take off your mask or carry you home, and for that I apologize."
Taylor's face reddened. Was she coming off with a fever? Well, if it kept her out of danger he was all for it.
"It's fine," Taylor said. "I don't mind. But if we're going to do this we should get you a mask?"
'Do this?' He assumed she would drag him in whatever zany schemes she was running in her mind. Probably team up to become heroes and fight evil-doers or some stupid shit like that. He could play along, at least until his group controlled the city.
"Sure," he said. "Maybe something that'll really give me away. How about a white mask with an 'A' on my forehead? Boom. Identity secured. I'll wear my underwear inside out while I'm at it. Get a long-ass cape too."
Taylor laughed. "You'd look stupid with a cape." She was a LOT more talkative. He wanted to ask what's making her speak her mind, but decided against it. Pointing it out might make her self-conscious and undo all his work. She was his pet project and decided he'll call it a success when she was no longer a socially awkward weirdo.
"Armsmaster took the credit for beating Lung, by the way." She took out a smartphone, the one he gave her and asked her to hide from her dad, and showed him the screen. She didn't have wifi so he paid for the data plan on her phone. On the screen was an article about Armsmaster and how the Brockton Bay superhero fought off Lung using his cunning, skill and old fashioned good luck. Piece of shit.
Accelerator was also monitoring the news for any mention of a red eyed albino. He wanted to see if the four geniuses who picked a fight with or if Grue and the others were going to rat out on him. Surprisingly none of them did. Good, because if they revealed his identity he might seriously kill them.
"How's your run going along?" Accelerator asked.
"Meh. Been giving it a break. Much rather stay in your car." Taylor made another laugh. Accelerator looked at her like she was an alien.
"Who are you and what did you do to my Taylor?"
Her eyes widened in surprise. "T-that's-" she stammered, covered her face with her hands and released a breath. When she was done she lowered her hands. "I think last night opened my eyes to the future."
"Like getting burned to death?"
She scowled at him.
"No, you asshole. Just realized how short life is."
"Listen if you're going to give me some philosophical pep-talk I'll pass, thanks." She slapped his shoulder. He sniggered. They reached the school and he parked his car in Mr. Gladly's favorite spot just to piss off the man.
"I think it's nice," Accelerator said. "You being more like this, I mean."
"Uh…" Taylor looked at her lap, and then away. Beyond the window, to the school. "W-we might be late. Come on." She got out of the car first. Accelerator sighed, grabbed his bag and followed after her.
Class was boring. He was paying off a lot of teachers to mind their own businesses. That was how he avoided getting a suspension for threatening the girls bullying Taylor with physical harm. But sometimes some teachers didn't take bribes. Mrs. Knott was one of them.
Computer class was the first subject of the day. They entered the room, found several students already having taken seats, and Mrs. Knott glanced at them with a nod. She didn't trust Accelerator, and viewed his violent ways of threatening others and paying teachers to keep him off the news to be thuggish behavior. She made her thoughts explicit when he confronted her one day and asked her why she wouldn't take the cash he offered her. It would make her life easier. She had principles, she said, as if that shit mattered. Maybe if she was like Touma, but she wasn't. She was an old teacher wasting her life away teaching a school full of children more likely to graduate with criminal records than with actual diplomas or degrees.
Their computers were side by side. The assignment was easy. Create a working calculator with Visual Basic. Taylor was too engrossed in her phone to do any work, leaving Accelerator with all the heavy lifting. He finished the assignments on both computers and then took out his own phone.
It was a private message from Othinus. The boss herself. He was immediately on full alert as he read the text. 'A query for you. How goes the mission?'
He froze. Did she know? Of course. She was his creator. She knew everything. It was stupid of him to think he could relax and enjoy the day without the epic failure of a mission he succeeded in embarrassing himself in last night. He didn't bother replying. He needed a way to get in touch with capes. Lots of them. From a position where his identity or his past wouldn't be put into question.
At the same time, Taylor logged into the Parahumans Online forum, opened the advanced search page for the message board, and searched traits describing Accelerator. Red eyes, albino, and even dragonslayer. She came up with nearly over a hundred results. Most of them from Dragon's arch-nemesis who humiliated her time and time again. She narrowed it down to the last 12 hours and searched again. The results turned up five posts. She clicked one at random and paused.
For red eyes. Would like to strike a deal. If interested, send a message. Tt
Othinus mansion, Winthrop
"There," Othinus said, after typing the message to a random twelfth person in her contacts. She recently received a message that read, 'A query for you. How goes the mission?' followed by, 'If you are reading this then you are cursed. Forward the text to 12 people to remove the curse.' And so she did. She shivered. She knew magic existed in this world. She just knew it.
She was at the backyard, sitting on a white chair with a glass table before her. A servant delivered a tray to her table. Breakfast consisted of hashed brown, mashed potatoes, and tea.
Othinus left her food untouched, instead inspecting her clothing. She wore a red dress adorned with black intricate flower designs, black stockings and flats. She wanted to wear a cute red bow, but chose against it for now.
Her butler and housekeeper stood on either side of her. She delegated the tasks of overseeing the servants and maids to them, respectively, with Misaki the only one that could supercede them. Well, her and Touma, but he's too much of a nice guy to abuse his powers.
The mansion was surrounded by large walls with security personnel, armed men in suits, sunglasses and earpieces, in black vans parked outside her walls. She also gave them superpowers, after making them sign contracts to appease Touma's consent loving side, and inserted gold coins into their chest, turning them into a state of undead akin to that of zombies. They were more durable, more tolerant to pain, and could regenerate. If she was to use this world's definition when it came to supernatural abilities and the like, then her security detail were already parahumans.
So were the majority of her employees, including her butler and housekeeper, and so long as they follow the hierarchy they would enjoy keeping their magical abilities, or as they'd like to call it, superpowers.
Touma was still asleep in their bedroom. Othinus worked him up last night, and she left his room in her robe she picked up from the floor without so much as a kiss. She'll make him make up for that one later.
As it was, she was extremely disinterested with the rest of the world. For now she planned exploring the other cities and observing their parahuman population. At the moment she had 153 cities all over the world being observed. The number might seem impressive, but if one takes into account the fact there's only one agent per city it becomes less so.
She received a steady stream of information in her phone. Various reports on the ongoing parahuman events and what it entailed for the fate of the city, and the rest of the world.
Othinus was most interested in these 'Endbringers' due to their obvious alien nature compared to other parahumans. They might not even be parahumans at all. And in that case, what were they? Otherworlders like her and Touma? She wanted to capture them this instance and question their origin, but until she knew more about this world she didn't take the risk.
One piqued her interest. It was from Mugino Shizuri. A replica of a level 5 from Academy City. She could create laser beams that destroyed everything in her line of sight. If she saw, you were good as dead.
Mugino had caught a cape.
And what's more, it was right here in Winthrop.
It was not a hero either. Othinus forbade her underlings from hurting goodie two shoes capes because it might offend Touma. But everything else was fair game.
She dialed Mugino's number.
"My lady?" Mugino asked. "There's-" Another voice spoke from the phone in conjunction with Mugino's. Not to the phone, but within its vicinity. One of her teammates, Hamazura or Kinuhata or Takitsubo. Most likely the first. Mugino screamed at her underlings, and then sighed. " Apologies for that, ma'am. There's a little problem. The cape, he's dead."
Othinus expected as much. "It is still acceptable." Maybe it was time she spoke to the local supervillains? She would kill them if they displeased her, but she would deign them the opportunity of basking in her presence. Yes. A fine compromise. She was nothing if not fair. "Bring the body to the second base in Martha's Vineyard."
"Oh, and, Shizuri? Good work." Othinus disconnected the call. She inspected the other reports to see if there were similar levels of success. Sadly not. However the constant updates were interesting by themselves. She was building a blueprint in her mind of the quirks and stories each city had to offer. The most interesting ones were in China and Africa.
She was going to spend the rest of the day reading through the never-ending updates when she saw from the corner of her eye she saw her butler reach into his ear. Someone must be speaking to his earpiece. "Who is it?" Othinus asked.
"It appears someone attacked one of your servants, ma'am."
"Oh?" How intriguing. Who was so audacious as to attempt a strike at one of her people? "Is my servant dead?"
"No. It appears the attacker was unaware of our abilities." A bold move. Time will tell how it plays out.
"Mugging, then?" She took her teacup and sipped her tea.
"It appears not. The attacker is too professional in how they went about it."
"And where would they be now?"
"In the basement. Room 3, of course."
Othinus stood up. "Let's go then."
Harold Wiseman, at the moment, did not feel wise with his current predicament. He was bound by ropes to a wooden chair. His hands were tied behind him. His shins wrapped to the legs of the chair. His mouth was gagged with a handkerchief. His eyes were covered by a blindfold. Everything was dark and scary and all he thought of was regretting his mistake.
He was set up.
He was a hit man who went after fellow mortal men. He did not provoke parahumans, ever, and made it as a rule. He did research on his targets. And the first sign of trouble he would bail from the job. The contract came from the usual customer. A plain looking man with a balding head under a fedora. The job was simple. Kill the target. As always, Harold did his research. Followed the target when they left the compound and then to where they would go. The target appeared to be a servant to some rich Winthrop local. Harold inspected the target's background. Ex-military. Discharged with honors. But no connection to the cape scene whatsoever.
So it was to Harold's surprise when he left the alley five seconds after the target took the usual route and shot him at the back of his head in the sidewalk in broad daylight the target did not die. The target flinched like he had been pinched, turned around with glowing red eyes and struck Harold in the stomach. And now he woke up to this. He didn't know where he was or how he got here, but unless he provided the people who took him useful information he was most certainly did.
Someone removed his blindfold, and then his gag. He wisely chose to remain silent. Begging would only lower his precarious standing. The room was dark. Empty. There was no sound. It was so quiet it was almost deafening. And then he realized the wall he had been staring at was a door when it opened. His vision was lit up. A silhouette stood illuminated by the light from the hall. Slender and small.
Harold recognized her immediately. The wealthy Winthrop local. The employer of the man he was hired to kill. If his guess was right, she was also a parahuman.
He either provoked a lone parahuman working as a servant, in which case he would be dead. Or he provoked a parahuman working with a greater whole, which would explain why his target's boss personally came to see him.
Were they a new gang? An old one from Europe? A branch of Gesselschaft? The European white supremacist group? No. There was an Asian boy seen coming out of the house. If it was American, the only ones he could think of would be the Ambassadors and the Elite. The former being Boston's local supervillain gang with a flare for the dramatic and their leader, Accord resembling a mob boss. The latter being the largest villain organization in North America with the style of making a business out of villainy and presenting themselves as a large and successful company.
But he didn't want to take chances with assumptions. He stuck with the facts. He attacked a cape, who knocked him unconscious in turn and brought him back to an unknown location before the wealthy girl of Winthrop.
"You are aware why you are here, yes?" The rich girl asked. She put a hand to her hip and raised the other to point at something or someone behind Harold.
"Yes," Harold answered.
"Then we can make this simpler. Who hired you?"
He gave up his contact without hesitation. And just like that, they left, leaving him all alone in a room enveloped in darkness and silence. Hands wrapped around his cheekbones in a firm grip and snapped his neck.
When she was in the hallway Othinus opened her hand and a gold lance with a sharp tip appeared as if to fill up the space. Gungnir. It was a spiritual item that helped control a Magic God's power. Her power. Whatever course of action she took or whatever will she imposed on reality will have one-hundred-percent chance of success. She created a small red orb in the tip of her finger and it flew back into the room, passing through the door like it was never even there, and went inside the chest of the dead man who dare insulted her. When the time was right the small orb would detonate into a fiery explosion. Her servant Michael Butters, the one was shot and who she gave the permission to kill his attacker in turn, untied the ropes and let the dead man stand. The orb was the one controlling the corpse like a puppet. The moving corpse fixed its neck, left the room, nodded to Othinus and then went up the stairs to leave the basement. In a few minutes time the Boston Globe would report an explosion that took place in Carson Beach. The spell she created was designed to destroy physical evidence. Bodies caught in the explosion would not be found.
Despite her calm exterior inside she was boiling. Had she been in a more serene state of mind she could've tried neutralizing the man who hired the attacker to attack her people and learn if the contractor was merely a handler paid for by someone else to provoke Othinus into this exact scenario. But she was too angry to notice her mistake. Oh how she hated people who insult her.
Winslow High, Brockton Bay
Mr. Gladly's class was a test of patience. World Issues was a strange curriculum focusing on the ongoing events transpiring in the world. And most of them were related to parahumans. There were similar classes in Academy City, although far more internalized due to the success of the Power Curriculum Program and the production of espers. He found that one boring as well.
Taylor was more focused on her phone. She didn't even bother putting it down when Mr. Gladly entered the room. Mr. Gladly didn't call her out or confiscate her phone for one good reason.
Mr. Gladly was under Accelerator's payroll.
Accelerator paid him four times his yearly salary per week. Misaki had made bank accounts for Accelerator and the others and constantly wired a large sum of money for their daily costs and expenses. It was virtually limitless, but Accelerator didn't like withdrawing cash due to the data trail he'd leave behind. But gang money could only provide so much income, and he had a lot of hungry mouths to feed. Mr. Gladly was one of them. The teacher was short and young enough the less acute could mistake him for a student. He ordered the class to break into groups of four. While the rest of the students started scrambling for their group-mates, Accelerator and Taylor didn't move from their front row seats. Mr. Gladly didn't ask them to move either, because he was a bitch like that.
Accelerator knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that even if he and Taylor missed all their classes they'd still pass their grades with flying colors. No one approached them to group up. No one except for the leftovers.
Two boys went to them. Sparky and Greg, Taylor called them. Her loser friends from her loser life before Accelerator showed up. Sparky had long hair, and was often daydreaming. Greg was awkward and made whatever came out of his mouth be worse than intended. But they had their benefits too. They were useful for manual labor.
Greg and Sparky took the seats beside Accelerator. Sparky, the genius that he is, immediately lowered his head on his desk and attempted to sleep. Accelerator would've followed suit if Greg didn't open his mouth. "I didn't get much done," Greg said, "I got distracted by this new game I got and it is really really good, it's called Space Opera, have you played it?"
"Shut the fuck up, Greg," Accelerator said. Greg did, looking nervous while he was at it. Accelerator had an unfortunate reputation amongst the student body of hitting a girl. He was talking about Emma, of course. And like the good men they were when they saw a white girl being attacked by an Asian the Empire Eighty-Eight stepped up to the plate and attempted to beat him.
Accelerator sent them home with broken bones, all the while managing to hide the nature of his powers, and soon enough after confirming he wasn't affiliated with the ABB they backed off. They growled at him menacingly and glared if they thought they could get away with it, but they never challenged him openly. The last time someone did, they tripped on the floor several times until they were unconscious. That was the official story, and no one, student or teacher, contested its veracity.
When the time for the presentation came up, Mr. Gladly picked a student from every group to extrapolate their homework. Accelerator didn't remember having been given homework, given he was fast asleep on Friday. But Mr. Gladly let him off the hook for being such a 'good student'.
When the bell rang Taylor grabbed Accelerator's wrist and dragged him out of the classroom, through the hallway, to the entrance of the school. They went to the parking lot, to his car, and entered the vehicle.
"What?" Accelerator asked. "Are we finally cutting classes? Paying those teachers isn't cheap, you know. Especially the principal."
"Ha-ha. Very funny." Taylor didn't believe Accelerator was actually bribing the faculty. When he didn't play along with what she thought was a joke, she looked bewildered. "Wait, you're serious?" He nodded. She didn't break into some speech about how he was wrong and that they shouldn't pay their way through life or some other heroic allocution that would make him turn his brain off for the next five minutes. She just said, "Good to know."
There was a wall between them, Accelerator noticed, before last night. Whatever happened when he carried Taylor home broke that wall. She was more talkative now, and he felt more at ease because of it.
"Where do you want to go?" Accelerator asked.
"Home," Taylor said. "I'm getting my costume. You should get yours too."
Accelerator nodded. "They're at the back of my trunk." Taylor made to go out, but Accelerator caught her hand and stopped her. "After we get home," he said. "Let me guess, we're finally going to meet some supervillains?"
"Wow. How'd you know? Are you a precog too?"
"No." But he knew someone who was. Memories from his past life, or from the original, the concepts were indistinguishable, reminded him of Touma's strange way of fighting when they clashed in Russia. Maybe after he finished his mission they could spar. He's been itching to try his wings on someone who could take them.
"So what was your origin story?" Taylor asked.
"Origin story?" Accelerator frowned. Bad memories of his past were dredged up. When he gained his abilities, when some idiot tried to pick on him, when it escalated into soldiers and tanks and military helicopters with armed door gunners and their armament all aimed at him. He killed a lot of people, and not even because he wanted to. So many lives, pointlessly lost, over a worthless cause. "I don't want to talk about it," he said. "So what's the battle plan?" he asked, changing the subject.
"We're going to be hitting villains, right? Comic books and other stories make it look easy. But the truth is you won't just find crime by walking down down the sidewalk on the middle of the night."
"Why not? It worked with Lung."
"That was a lucky break." Too bad Armsmaster took Lung.
"And…" Taylor looked down. "I think you have the wrong idea?"
"Oh, so you do have a plan. Go on then. Let's hear it."
"Y'see…" Taylor made a nervous laugh and played with a curl of black hair. "I was sort of asked by Tattletale to meet up and I said yes?"
It took half a second for Accelerator to process her word, and then the other half to explode with the five stages of grief. He willed himself to deny what she just said. Maybe he misheard? But his memory was too good to make a mistake. He was angered by the stupidity of her choices. He pleaded to whatever god there was in this world to make her change her mind. He became depressed at even entertaining the thought of being with Taylor Hebert, bullied doormat and resident supervillain. He then recalled her personality and knew getting pissed would just push her away, and so resigned himself to playing along with whatever she wanted, all in the span of three seconds.
"Sounds like a plan," Accelerator said through gritted teeth. So long as he was beside her Taylor wouldn't get a scratch on her body.
"That was fast," Taylor said. "I thought you'd be more angry and discourage me. You know, like dad?"
"I am angry," Accelerator hissed. "At the unfairness of the world. Not at you." It wasn't her fault. She was just a curious girl. And he saw some benefits to it as well. Grue's team, or Tattletale's, whoever led their little crew, regularly clashed with other supervillains. He wasn't keen on kidnapping kids, but if they fought adults like Lung those would do.
"Let's go already. But first, we're eating."
They deliberated in McDonalds.
Over cheeseburgers, fries, and two cups of coke. Extra large. Accelerator knew it was unhealthy. Both the food and his relationship with Taylor. He was using her as a substitute for Last Order, Worst. Her father too, in the sense of replacing his guardians Aiho and Kikyou. His own family was back at Winthrop. While he was in Brockton Bay he grew attached to the Heberts and knew he wouldn't be letting go. When he became fond of people he never, ever let them go. Not that he'd tell Taylor this.
It took the horror at thinking she'd get hurt pretending to be a villain that made him realize how he saw her as a younger sister. She was small and pathetic and defenseless like Last Order. He vowed to protect her, subconsciously, from the moment he met her.
His introspection bore merits. He didn't deny the affection he had for Taylor. Just accepted them. There was no point fighting his nature. He took a French fry and nibbled on the deep-fried potato while he stared at the girl across the table. Taylor was doing the same, biting her burger while giving him glances, and then looking away. What a weird girl.
They discussed extensively 'the plan'. Accelerator wanted it to be from a position of power. Attack the group of petty thieves and beat them up. Lock them in the basement of Warren's house for a day or two and then offer them a 'deal' that tilted the benefits to Taylor and himself. Taylor disagreed with his plan and thought of her own. Go undercover and infiltrate the group from within. If she wanted to play detective she could've said so. Regardless, he didn't agree with her method and she didn't agree with his. Accelerator offered a compromise. They play detective, the term angering Taylor, and then when she was satisfied going 'undercover' he would attack the group of thieves. As long as he didn't hurt them like he hurt Lung, she insisted, worried the group weren't as durable.
And then they ate in silence.
After they were done eating, they left the fast food store and returned to his car, drove to her house, and took out his costume, hidden inside a white briefcase under his trunk.
"Are we really showing up in costume?" Accelerator asked as they stepped up the porch. "If they threaten you I could just kill them." And he would. After accepting the epiphany Taylor was another Last Order, he would do many things to protect her. And not all of them good.
Taylor grumbled about him being a crook and went to her room to change. Accelerator went to the bathroom. Closed the lid of the toilet seat. Put the briefcase on top of the lid. Opened it. Revealed a three-piece suit, all in white, and a Pierrot inspired mask, the left side black, the right side white. He changed clothes, and then called Warren.
When Taylor descended from the stairs in a loose set of clothes, Accelerator was waiting for her in the living room, his arm raised, and his hand holding his mask. He looked at it and contemplated his name as a cape. Pierrot came from the seventeenth century. Played by Italians in Paris. It was an interesting trivia, but he wanted nothing to do with the Comédie-Italienne. Or the sad clown, or anything related to Pierre.
"Migliore," Accelerator said. He was the best, and he would let the whole world know it. He turned to Taylor, surprising her at the sudden shift of his eyes from his mask to her clothing. "Why aren't you in costume?" he asked.
"B-because. We can't use your car in this. It might lead back to us. We have to go there with something else."
"We're not taking the bus," Accelerator said, peeking through the window. "Our ride's here."
"My employee. Warren. He's reliable. Don't worry about him."
"You have a minion!?"
"Yeah." He even helped Accelerator bury Charlie's body. Accelerator didn't want to think about how Charlie committed suicide, and so focused on Warren instead. "He was a member of the Empire Eighty-Eight. I converted him into our side."
"Let me guess," Taylor said, narrowing her eyes. "You bribed him with money."
"Yeah, basically. He's here." A black van parked across the street. "Come on." They left the house, Accelerator holding his mask, and Taylor hiding hers in her backpack, and crossed the street towards the van. Accelerator reached for the knob, slid it open and got inside. Taylor followed.
"Are you sure about this?" she whispered, looking at the driver, Warren, dubiously.
"It's fine. He's reliable, trust me," Accelerator said, and put on his mask. Taylor shrugged, removed the outer layer of clothing hiding her costume, and then extracted her mask from her backpack and put it on. She really did resemble a bug.
"So you're going as Migliore?" she asked.
"Yeah. How about you?"
"I haven't decided on a cape name yet."
"Well, you scurry a lot. Like a rat. So let's call you Scamper." She punched his shoulder for that one, but it was worth his laugh at his own joke.
"Skitter!" she decided. "Because I move with graceful steps."
"I don't think that's what the word means, kiddo," he said in a mocking tone. She sighed. "So, where are we going to meet?"
"I already told you at McDonalds!"
"I wasn't listening."
"Where you fought Lung."
"We," Accelerator corrected her. "Where we fought Lung. Warren, drive us to the Docks."
"Yes, sir!" Warren said.
Taylor whistled, impressed, and whispered, "How much are you paying him?"
"Five grand," Accelerator said. "More at the end of the week. Why? You want me to boss you around too?"
"Like hell I do!"
Lounge room, Othinus's mansion, Winthrop
There was an explosion at Carson Beach. Authorities didn't know the source, but assumed it was a cape playing around with their power.
Touma turned off the TV and threw the remote. It landed on an armchair a few meters away. He was at the couch, and worried about his future as a couch potato. He was not going to be like Index!
Still, the explosion implied there were still some capes in this world that had fun with their power. Not everything was doom and gloom. When comparing this world to his, he could say with a complete straight face his world was more dangerous. Othinus was the prime example. But there were others, people with grand plans that involved the extinction of the entire human race.
Yet there was always hope.
This world, Earth Bet, was in perpetual misery.
"Touma!" Index entered the lounge room and smiled at him, immediately brightening his day. She was dressed in a green shirt under white overalls. Very cute. Unable to help himself Touma pinched her cheeks. "Ow!" Index slapped his hands away. She rubbed her cheeks and scowled. "Touma, you are very rude!"
He laughed. "Sorry. I can't help it."
"Hmph." Index crossed her hands over her chest and tapped the floor with her white shoes. "I was going to tell you something good, but you ruined my mood. Now I'll keep it a secret." She wagged her forefinger and made a catty smile, obviously baiting him into begging for forgiveness.
He scratched his head and sighed. "I'm sorry," he said. "I won't do it again."
"Promise?" she looked so trusting he almost spoke the truth.
"Yes," he lied. "I promise." Index was too cute not to do that again though. She beamed at him and sat beside him.
"Lady Othinus told me a secret." And like a child unable to keep a secret she shared it to him.
"Aren't you going to get in trouble telling me these things?" Touma asked, worried for her safety.
"It's fine. It's okay if it's you, she said."
Touma blushed. Othinus shouldn't have told Index it was fine if she wanted to keep anything from Touma at all.
"So what is it? This secret, I mean." It was either some other exotic property he was unaware of or something related to the people she was working with.
"There's a serial killer on the loose!"
"Ah, I see." He nodded. It made sense. Sometimes there always are. "Wait." The words became clearer in his head. "She what?" There was a serial killer on the loose!? "We should alert the authorities!" How did Othinus even obtain this information? He asked Index, who raised her arms and shrugged.
"Wait, is it a parahuman serial killer?" Touma asked. If it was a normal person, he'd have left it to the Winthrop PD, but if it was a little something beyond their league then he'd feel obligated to apprehend the man himself. There was a citizen's arrest in North America, right? Othinus forged fake citizenship for Touma and the others, and he doubted mere mortals could disprove it. And even if they did, he'd just wear a mask instead.
"Come on, Index. Let's go!" Touma said, standing up and clenching his fist. "I'm all fired up!"
Index tilted her head and remained sitting. "How are we even going to find them?"
"Uh, that should be obvious. Let's ask Othinus."
They asked Othinus, who was at her study typing on a white tablet propped up on a writing table. To Touma's surprise, she was willing to go along with it, provided he be accompanied by one of their servants. Michael Butters, a man who was mugged earlier today. Butters didn't experience any permanent injury, for which Touma was thankful. Othinus created a magical map that revealed the location of almost everyone within the state of Massachusetts and gave him the name of the serial killer. Harold Wiseman.
"You three wear masks," Othinus said, handing them plain white masks she conjured from thin air. Touma recognized two of the three masks. One was smiling, one was sad. Sock and Buskin, the masks of comedy and tragedy. The third was a smooth, faceless mask and was given to the servant Michael Butters.
When he asked her how she even knew the serial killer existed, Othinus explained she was merely observing the mortals and by chance saw the one called Harold Wiseman kill a random person in an alleyway in cold blood. He wanted to chastise her for not interfering, but knew that as a god her view of morality was different from mortals. That and he needed her help in case something else came up in the future. So he thanked her instead, leaving a happy Othinus as he vacated the room, followed by Index and the servant Butters.
In the study, Othinus was still in her blissful state of being when she contemplated the falsehood she gave Touma and the others. Harold Wiseman was dead. Michael Butters was the one who killed him. Yet only Othinus knew his name the moment her magic took hold of him. She controlled his corpse and detonated it when he was within arms-reach of the man who ordered him to kill her servant. There was a secondary effect to the magic she implanted within him. It remade his corpse, combining it with the fiery magic and creating a fire monster. The idea came to her when she realized how bored Touma was. A little stimulation to get him excited every now and then would do wonders to his mood. And it was safer for him to fight a villain she created than one beyond her control. This way she could observe his progress from a controlled environment. She altered the white tablet to let her observe the video feed from Butters' body camera. Touma and Index had changed into a blue waistcoat and a long coat for him and a white dress for her, and Butters remained in a black suit. They wore their masks and took a ride in a brown SUV. Butters also wore a GPS tracking device, the location constantly being updated on the web mapping services provided by an app compatible with the tracking device.
"Here's the plan," Touma said, and she observed her wonderful human with delight.
"Here's the plan," Master Touma said. "We take Harold by surprise. He doesn't know he's being followed. The map says he's on the cemetery by Bennington Street at Orient Heights. Either he's visiting a loved one or one of his victims or just taking a walk, we don't know. What we do know is that Othinus saw him kill someone and even gave us the victim's identity. Poor guy." Master Touma revealed a brown envelope and showed them a photo of the victim. It was a fat naked man with his tongue cut out and blood trailing down his shoulder to his hand where he held his tongue. Disturbing. This 'Harold Wiseman' was a monster indeed.
"Uh, Touma… I think we should call short-hair for help," lady Index said, referring to lady Mikoto.
"Why? You think I can't do it? I'm not inexperienced, Index! I've been fighting people like Izzard for as long as I can remember!"
While the serious discussion devolved into name calling between the two, Butters contemplated his choices in life. He was a servant by choice, after rebelling from the controlling madness of a rich old man he used to call his father. He was merely one of hundreds chosen by lady Othinus to work for her mansion under her employ. They were overseered by lady Misaki, and took care of master Touma, lady Index and lady Mikoto.
He always wondered who they were and how they were connected to lady Othinus. Their family was a strange one.
Even stranger was that they were a family of capes.
One day while he was serving them breakfast master Touma said something that offended lady Mikoto, who then generated electricity that speared at him. Master Touma calmly responded by throwing his right arm, blocking the bolt. It did not electrocute him. Rather it was the opposite. It vanished the moment it made contact with his skin.
Lady Othinus then offered Butters and all the others superpowers the same night, although she called it magic. She was like Myrridin, the New York cape in that regard. Despite gaining powers, Butters and the others continued working for lady Othinus, lady Misaki, and whenever the three were bored master Touma, lady Mikoto and lady Index.
There was one other who used to hang with them, an albino, but he left before Butters got to know him. Butters always felt danger permeate the air whenever he was within the albino's presence. He wondered where the albino went to.
He didn't know what master Touma's family was truly about. They brazenly turned hundreds of people into capes, yet miraculously managed to keep it a secret. Something greater was at work, Butters believed, but he chose not to ask his employers the question. It was not his place.
They soon arrived outside Bennington Street Burying Ground on East Boston. They got out of the car, while the driver remained. Sunlight flared. Back then, it would've hurt his eyes. Now it did nothing. Butters stood behind Touma and Index, who wore the masks of comedy and tragedy, although they switched. They passed through a gate. Bennington Street Cemetery, a sign read. Tombstones scattered across a green field. Red pines and pitch pine trees provided some shade with their overhang with their branches. Lady Index held the map, master Touma afraid he might destroy it, and led the way. They followed a dirt pathway through the cemetery until they found a clearing made by five trees surrounding a tombstone. Before the tombstone stood a man wearing a brown long coat and a fedora hat.
He turned to them.
"Harold Wiseman," lady Index said, glancing from the map to the man standing in front of them. His skin was bright red like lava. His eyes molten gold. Smoke came from his body and filled the air. He stepped towards them, leaving burned grass where his soles touched the earth.
"I've made so many graves," Harold said in a gravelly voice. "The one behind me is my greatest regret. I didn't mean to kill her. It was all an accident."
Was this man feeling regret for people he's killed? Butters didn't believe it for a second. Monsters don't change. They just pretend. He stepped forward, worried for master Touma and lady Index's safety. "Behind me, you two," he said. "Monster, your acts of depravity end today. I don't know why you're confessing to us, given we're complete strangers to the likes of you, but we shall only grant you peace if you surrender to the proper authorities."
Harold responded by raising his arm and shooting out a blanket of lava. Master Touma rushed forward and swatted it with his right hand. Against all logic when his fingers touched the lava instead of melting his skin off it vanished.
"Sir!" Butters protested.
"I can fight, Butters. Don't worry about me." Master Touma crossed twenty feet and charged towards Harold, who turned his arms into tendrils of lava and whipped at Touma. He dodged one limb and flicked the other with his right knuckles. The limb cut off from Harold's body melted into the earth. His stump bloated in size and then regrew his limb. Butters looked for anything he could do to help. He saw a pebble two feet before him. He leapt for the pebble and with superhuman strength flicked it to Harold's face. It struck his left eye. Instead of piercing through his eye the molten gold eye burned through the pebble. Harold glanced at Butters and spat a stream of lava at him. Harold was forced to stop when master Touma bridged the small distance between them, but Butters didn't have the same unique abilities as master Touma and tried to dodge the spit of lava by running to the side. He wasn't able to completely evade its touch. Lava burned through his right forearm faster than his regeneration could heal it.
Red wings sprouted from lady Index's back. She raised a hand and flicked the air. Harold was thrown to the side. His back struck the tombstone. The altered biology of his power made the concrete material of the tombstone melt when it made contact with his body. Harold screeched like a demon, his jaw stretching 150 centimeters. He clenched his left hand which bloated in size and swung a cartoonishly large fist downwards, striking master Touma. It melted against master Touma's right hand. Instead of backing away, master Touma pushed forward, destroying Harold's wrist, his forearm, and then his shoulder. Harold looked desperately for a way out and settled his molten eyes on Butters. Harold's free hand lashed in a whip towards Butters in an attempt to capture him.
Lady Index's red wings blocked the attack, creating white sparks when the red feathers made contact with the whip of lava. She flapped her wings, and a gust of silver wind blew the limb away. Harold was unable to react any further given the right fist that smashed through his face. His head spun 360 degrees. He stopped moving.
"Is he dead?" Master Touma asked, sounding worried for the enemy who tried to kill him. He was far too kind for his own good. Butters dusted his trousers from dirt he acquired running around and scrutinized the supervillain. The tombstone shattered into debris that scattered around him. Despite his bizarre biology, his chest was rising and falling like he was breathing.
"It appears not," Butters said to his disappointment. "Do you want me to finish the job, sir?"
Touma shook his head. "Let's leave it to the authorities. Should we call the police?"
"No. When it relates to parahuman activities it is better to ask the PRT for aid." Butters extracted his phone. He did not call the Parahuman Response Team directly. His phone was not a burner phone. He instead called the driver, who carried a burner phone, and had the driver contact the PRT in his stead. "It is done," Butters said. Wounds he sustained from the fight were fully healed. The powers lady Othinus bestowed upon him were amazing.
"Let's just make sure he doesn't wake up and make a run for it," master Touma said. "Isn't it weird how he confessed for his crimes? We didn't even need to confirm anything."
"I can bind him," lady Index offered, flapping her red wings.
"Index, I'm not even sure how reliable your ma-powers are right now. Let's not do anything stupid, okay?"
"I'm not stupid!" The two teenagers descended into arguments once more. Still, Butters lamented in his heart, they were far more experienced in combat than himself. He needed to do better if he was going to continue accompanying them in what he assumed would be regular vigilante activities henceforth.
The Docks, Brockton Bay
'I don't believe it. That's Touma and Index!' Accelerator watched the video with rapt attention. It was uploaded to Youtube by an account that had no preceding videos. Touma complained in a private message with Accelerator and told him Othinus had taped the whole thing. The video started with three masked capes confronting a man facing a tombstone. When the man turned towards the three capes, he revealed a skin like lava. The ensuing fight was brief but violent and ended with the tombstone breaking completely when Touma struck the lava cape unconscious.
"That's so cool," Taylor said. "Wish we did the same with your fight against Lung."
"Eh…" Accelerator got out of the car. Taylor followed after him. They couldn't meet in the rooftop of the building he nearly destroyed in his battle against Lung. There was a hole from the rooftop leading down every floor to the lobby. It was a miracle the building was still standing at all. They decided to meet on the building next to it. Accelerator opened his arms. Taylor hesitated, hands under her chin, and despite her costume made a girly posture, before she hugged him. White wings grew from his back and he flew them all the way to the rooftop. A white-winged masked-man in a suit carrying a girl in a black bug costume made for an interesting image, he thought, at least from the perspective of the three people observing them.
Two guys and a girl. Accelerator noted the barest essential details. The taller of the two guys was black, with shoulder length cornrows, wore jeans, boots and a plain green t-shirt. The shorter one was white, a pretty boy if Accelerator used high school terminology, in a white jacket with a hood, jeans and sneakers. And the girl had dirty blonde hair tied into a loose braid, and freckles scattered on the bridge of her nose. She wore a black long sleeved t-shirt with a grafitti-style design on it and a knee length denim skirt. The rest were worthless information he couldn't be bothered to process.
"Grue, Regent, Tattletale, right?" he asked, letting go of Skitter.
"Yeah," Tattletale said. "Nice to meet you." She turned to Regent. "Told you they'd be in their costumes. Pay up." Regent scowled and reached into his pocket, taking out a wad of cash which he handed to Tattletale.
"I honestly thought you were going civilian," Regent said, facing Accelerator and Taylor.
"We almost were," Accelerator said. "Skitter here wanted otherwise. And I'll be going by Migliore."
"Hey," Grue said, reaching for a handshake. "I'm Brian." Accelerator stared at his hand. The awkward air intensified when it went past fifteen seconds of him leaving Brian hanging. Taylor hurriedly took over and gave a firm shake with both hands.
"N-nice to meet you!" she said.
"Lisa," Tattletale said.
"And I'm Alec," Regent said. "And Bitch is Rachel."
Brian opened his mouth. "She's sitting this one out," Lisa said, before Brian was about to. When he frowned at her she stuck her tongue out and grinned.
"Bitch?" Accelerator asked. "You mean Hellhound?"
"Yeah, she prefers the imprecation," Alec answered.
"So, you here to recruit us or what?" Accelerator asked. Taylor spun to him, panicked by the blatant way he went about asking for the group's intent.
"Actually, yeah." Brian clapped his hands and nodded, giving them a charming smile. "We were just going to. You interested? We even brought money along." He glanced to a lunchbox on the floor beside Lisa's foot.
"We're not-" Taylor was about to start when Accelerator interrupted her.
"Give me the money," he said. Free money is good money. Accepting it never hurt. Lisa handed him the box. Without bothering to open the clasps he buried the tip of his finger on the surface of the box and tore it open. He extracted its contents and threw the box on the floor. He counted the money. Eight grand.
"We were originally going to go for four," Brian said. "But we felt that was a little cheap compared to what you did to Lung, so we all chipped in, except for Bitch, and gave a little extra. Too bad Armsmaster took the credit for your takedown. That guy's a real bastard doing something like that."
Accelerator went behind Taylor, opened her backpack and put the money inside. She made a whining sound and he sighed. She wanted to make Brian and the others give a little information before she and Accelerator joined, not wanting to seem too eager. Just by taking the cash he blew all her plans out of the air and made them look like a couple of greedy fools. Or at least made himself look like that, and tarnished her reputation by association.
"So we're good?" Lisa asked, raising two thumbs up.
Accelerator did the same, surprising Taylor because he was usually so serious. "We're good," he said.
"I love this meeting already. We thought it'd actually be harder recruiting a powerhouse like you," Brian said. Accelerator agreed. Taylor was the sole reason he was here, and it was because she wanted to co undercover and learn some secrets from the Undersiders. This time when he offered his hand Accelerator shook it. "Welcome to the Undersiders."
There was probably a reason why they went without their costumes and offered cash when recruiting Taylor and Accelerator. This wasn't bog standard recruitment pitch. Usually when a gang recruits new members they'd conceal their identity or send a middleman in case things went violent. There was likely some underlying cause or backstory, a missing piece of the puzzle that would make everything make sense and explain why they did what they did and leave themselves vulnerable to an attack.
If there was a reason, he didn't care for it. He already knew the real truth.
The real reason they were so thoughtful was because they were afraid of him. He was powerful. They were not. And despite their fear they wanted him to be on their side as well. Maybe he could make them like Warren and turn them into his underlings too. Better than being enemies. It'd be a shame to send people so useful to prison. He'll have to convince Taylor later. Whichever boss things they control the Undersiders is in for a rude awakening.
"Hey, Lisa," Accelerator said. There was one thing that bothered him. "How did you know how to contact Taylor?"
"A-Migliore!" Taylor said, correcting herself from outing his name. Not that he needed it at this point. Accelerator removed his mask. "What are you doing!?" Taylor exclaimed.
"She already knows," Accelerator said. "And she's no threat to us." Everyone on the rooftop knew that. "She contacted Taylor on her phone."
"Girl's gotta have her secrets," Lisa said with a wink.
"She's half the reason we haven't failed a job yet," Alec added.
"And our boss is a large part of the rest," Lisa said. Instead of joining the talk Brian was quiet. Too quiet. He was watching Accelerator's eyes. Saw the intensity of his gaze. He knew what was going to happen if they spoke the wrong word. If Accelerator disliked it.
"If you want the full scoop, I'm afraid the details on what we do only come with team membership. What I can tell you is-"
"You're going to tell me," he said, ruining the friendly atmosphere that was generating on the roof. "Right here. Right now. Or I'll-"
"Stop," Taylor said. Not in a commanding voice, but a lowered one. She was afraid he was going to do something stupid, and it might make a crack in their relationship. Accelerator sighed. Chose to keep his mouth shut. Brian was still on edge. Alec joined him. Lisa was the exact opposite. She was grinning like a loon as if she discovered something or confirmed a theory. She glanced between Accelerator and Taylor and came to the same conclusion he had while he was at McDonalds. He was wearing a collar and Taylor was holding the leash.
"That was stupid," Alec said. "Lisa, Migliore already said they're joining the team."
"Nu-uh. He only said he wanted to join the team. Skitter didn't. If I told them my powers and she backed out, we'd have a problem on our hands. Skitter, are you in or out?"
"I'm in," Skitter said almost instantly after Lisa made the offer. Her hasty answer was likely prompted less from Tattletale herself than from the possibility of ensuing violence if Accelerator got too angry and lost his patience with the Undersiders.
"Now I'm very glad we didn't bring Bitch here," Alec said, shaking his head. "You're just like her, aren't you, Migliore."
"Oh yeah? And what's that?"
"A wild animal." Alec's bluntless made Accelerator chuckle. He liked him already.
"Alec, shut the fuck up," Brian said, exasperated. "Don't offend the villain with the Alexandria package."
The Alexandria package referred to capes possessing abilities resembling Alexandria's from the Triumvirate, the three most powerful members of America's premier superhero organization the Protectorate. Alexandria possessed enhanced strength, speed, durability, and the ability to fly. From a superficial perspective Accelerator's own abilities and Alexandria's were similar. But if Accelerator explained in depth how his powers worked people would realize they're very different.
He didn't bother correcting them. "Taylor, you can remove your costume now. I won't look."
"Like hell I'll let you!" she almost but not quite shrieked. He curtained her with his white wings which expanded in size. There was no actual limit to the length of his wings other than his aesthetic tastes. And the color. That had more to do with his mood.
With his back to Taylor, Accelerator asked the Undersiders, "So what's villain life like?"
"Oh, you know," Lisa said. "Getting by. I recall you saying the first time we met you already know us. Part of your power?"
"Nah. Just plain old research on the gangs of Brockton Bay and seeing which ones make a good punching bag," he said. That was was the truth, but an incomplete one. He read every article concerning every cape that ever touched the city of Brockton Bay, and then monitored the targets.
But he spent a larger amount of time looking after Taylor and worrying about her, thus leaving him unable to finish his original mission. Not that Othinus minded. He was one of many. That was until she sent him that message.
"Okay, my turn. Why do you want us in the Undersiders?" he asked. "You know what kind of person I am. Why go out of your way to bring in a safety hazard?"
"Um." Lisa pointed behind him, to Taylor enclosed by his wings.
"Relax. My wings damper sound." It was actually an application of his power, at the moment through his wings keeping Taylor from being affected by the outside world. His wings were safer than a nuclear shelter.
Alec whistled. "How many powers do you have?"
"Just one." Accelerator raised a finger. "Now answer my question."
"You're strong," Brian said, shrugging. Accelerator nodded. At least he was honest. "Honestly we didn't even think you'd join us at all. So now that you did I'm just rolling with it. We've never actually done this whole recruiting thing, to be frank."
He wondered if Brian was being truthful. Before he could inquire, there was a knock on his feathers. Taylor was done changing. He retracted his wings and revealed Taylor in civilian clothing. "All done," Taylor said. "Your turn."
"I'm wearing a fine-ass suit." Accelerator scoffed, removed his mask, gave it to Taylor who grumbled and put it inside her backpack and he straightened his tie. "No way in hell am I changing to something else."
"If you're all done," Brian said, making his way to the fire escape. They all followed him and moved as a group deeper into the Docks. Derelict buildings, some marred with graffiti, grass growing from cracks in the road, and abandoned cars stolen of nearly everything of worth littered the ghetto. It gave the impression of a future where nature took back the land given to man.
The homeless people living in the docks were plenty. Accelerator ignored all of them. He couldn't do anything to help him now, but soon, when the others get here, they could make a real change and help lives for the better.
He made a mental note to have Warren give food to the homeless later just in case.
Brian led them to a red brick factory with a massive sliding metal door locked shut by a coil of chain. They went through a small door on the side of the building, inside a room filled with old, massive machines covered in sheets, and up a spiral staircase into a lounge room. There were two couches facing each other with a coffee table between them, a large television set, and half a dozen video game consoles underneath it.
Beyond the lounge room was another section, a collection of rooms. Six doors, three of which were spray painted with art. The first door had a crown. The second door a white silhouette of a man and a woman against a blue background. The third had a girl's face with puckered lips.
At the far end of the room was some tables and a cabinet.
Pizza boxes were scattered in a disorganized mess on the tables, two dirty plates on the coffee table in front of the couch, and some clothes draped over the back of one of the couches.
Ignoring everyone else Accelerator went for the couch, threw the clothes on the floor and lied his back on the couch. He used his arms as pillows, kicked his legs over the armrest and closed his eyes. This was the life.
"Don't take up the entire couch," Alec said. "I do that."
"Fuck off," Accelerator said. Alec murmured some words, so Accelerator opened one eye to gaze at him. Alec looked away and went to the other couch shared by Taylor and Lisa, who was explaining the occupants of the rooms. She started with Alec's room, which was the one spray painted with the crown, and then the bathroom, which had the white silhouettes, and then her own room, the one with the girl with the puckered lips.
"Just a second," Taylor said, leaving her couch and approaching Accelerator's. She slapped his leg. He groaned and turned around, facing the backrest of the couch. "Stop being so rude!" she said and tried to get him to sit up by pushing his knees. She only managed to make him cover his ears and curl to give her some space to sit on. Taylor kept it up for five more seconds, gave up and then sat beside him.
"So are you two dating?" Lisa inquired in a teasing tone.
"N-no!" Taylor hissed. If they kept teasing her she would clam up. Lisa, probably aware of it, laughed but changed the subject. "Anyway, you know where my room's at. The three others on the side closer to us are Rachel's room, Rachel's dogs' room, and the storage closet. If either of you want, we'll clean out the storage closet so you have a room."
"Pass," Accelerator said, his eyes still closed. "I already have a base."
"You have a base!?" Taylor asked, sounding betrayed. She obviously wanted him to tell her and show her his place but didn't want to look like a curious child asking him where it was. It wasn't much, actually. Just a regular house, but Warren's place was just as reliable as the Undersiders' loft in his opinion.
"So you staying in his place?" Lisa asked.
"I'm not sure," Taylor said.
"Well, he's already got a place. What about you?"
"I mean, you don't have to do that for me. I've got a place." Her house, she meant. And his base too, which she was going to demand to see once they were out of the Undersiders' place.
But Lisa was insistent. Said it was fine even if Taylor didn't use it much, so long as the room belonged to her. Accelerator, wondering why she was so insistent, and so asked her. Alec answered in her stead. Explained Brian having his own apartment, and being firm of not wanting a room in the Undersiders' base. It led to constant arguments with Lisa, and whenever he got hurt and can't go back to his place, he could only sleep on the couch and leave his stuff everywhere in a scattered mess. Last time he went against Shadow Stalker, someone Accelerator recalled was a member of the Wards, the junior Protectorate, Brian came back and bled all over a white couch, worth 900 dollars, that needed to be replaced.
He heard footsteps across the coffee table. Probably Brian, since he was the only one left standing. Accelerator didn't bother to look. "Rache's not here, and neither are her dogs," Brian said. "She must be walking them or working. Dammit. I get stressed when she's out."
There was a pause. Accelerator, curious for the silence, glanced back to the Undersiders. Brian was squinting his eyes, staring at Accelerator. Alec was sulking. Lisa grinning. Taylor frowning. Ah. It was because Accelerator was taking almost an entire couch to himself. Brian didn't ask him to move his legs and instead sat between Lisa and Alec.
"So, here's the deal," Brian said. "Two grand a month, just to be a member of the team. That means you help decide what jobs we do, you go on the jobs, you stay active, you're available if we need to call."
"Sounds good," Accelerator said. Taylor nodded. Brian continued, saying they hauled around ten to thirty-five grand a job, divided four ways, now six. That wasn't going to be enough, Accelerator thought. He wanted more jobs, if only to cure the boredom. Hurting thugs was a bonus. He would ask Warren information on his Empire friends, not the capes but the regular people like him, and see if he was more useful than being a driver.
Maybe drag some Undersiders along the ride while he was at it.
"Are you two up to speed with what we're up against?" Brian asked.
"Fo-" Taylor was about to say, when Accelerator interjected.
"Yes." He nodded. "I've been observing for two months." Longer, actually, but they didn't need to know that. They didn't need to know he was an operative working for a higher force in Winthrop, Massachusetts, and that he was going to kidnap other capes and send them back as a parcel to Boston as gifts to his boss.
Again, the part of him that was Accelerator was slightly confused over having someone else as his superior, but the part of him that was born from magic superseded the discomfort and took it all in stride.
"Thought as much," Brian said, all serious. To his left Alec wore a bored face. To his right Lisa was grinning. "Better than some people I know." He gave a side glance to his two teammates, who scoffed and rolled their eyes.
"So what's your power?" Accelerator asked Lisa. He had a hunch, but he wanted to confirm it.
"I know everything."
He gave off a yawn, nodding at her answer, and then absorbed her words. That was when his interest piqued, perturbed and peaked. His red eyes focused to her with laser guided intensity.
"You're omniscient!?" Taylor exclaimed.
If she was, she'd know who Accelerator worked for.
His mission was to do things in secret.
She would threaten that secret.
"No, no. I do know things though. My power tells me stuff."
"Like how to make contact with Taylor through her phone, without having her number or her online account in that message board. Your power allows you to skip all the steps." He lost interest. Stared at the ceiling instead.
"And it's telling me you're not just another Alexandria package," Lisa said.
"If my wings weren't obvious enough then I don't know what to tell you."
Her power filled in the gaps. If it was one-hundred-percent accurate, then that meant sooner or later she would learn how Accelerator's power functioned. She was incredibly dangerous. He viewed information type abilities to be more of a threat than physical ones.
She could learn about Othinus.
Othinus's mansion, Winthrop
Touma was in an unusual spot.
He was surrounded by people he knew, or replicas of people he knew. But they weren't the ones he usually hanged out with. Reasons stemmed from the obvious. Lack of mutual interest. Different hobbies. They just didn't know each other.
But he was in the library with four other people, including Othinus, and they were unusually worked up. Seated on the head table was Othinus. Beside her to her right was Touma. Facing him across the table and to Othinus's left was Kanzaki Kaori. To her right was Sherry Cromwell. At the far end of the table was Stiyl Magnus.
The three people shared two things in common. One: they were former members of Necessarius, an organization built to neutralize and destroy magic in England, and to investigate, arrest and punish magicians. Two: they were all magicians.
The professional air they gave, in addition to Othinus's natural majestic aura, made Touma feel out of place. Like a fish out of water, as Samuel Purchas would say. He was a high school student back in the old world, and now a freeloader in the new one. In Earth Bet he didn't even have a job and relied on Othinus for everything. Sure, Mikoto and Index were much the same, but he wasn't as shameless as them.
He asked Othinus to finally give him a job, just earlier today. She found his words amusing, patted his shoulder, commended him on his joke, and when realizing he was serious, laughed. Or at least giggle. She was far too high class, similar to Mikoto and Misaki, who went to an expensive school, to mimic commoners like him.
And so she brought him along to one of her meetings with her staff. That was what she called them. Not her security detail, but her staff. Officially, Kanzaki worked as a librarian in her estate, Sherry was her financial advisor, and Stiyl was her administrative assistant.
'Officially', that is, because Touma was sure Kanzaki never stepped foot in the library except maybe twice the year before. He never even saw Sherry before today. And Stiyl was seldom in the mansion, except when it was to give Othinus an important message in her study. Touma was never asked to leave, and there was no reason to, because he never understood what most of those messages entailed.
Kanzaki was Japanese, like him, a beautiful girl, with long black hair tied into a ponytail, a denim jacket, beneath it a white shirt tied in a knot at the bottom, revealing her midriff, and jeans with one side cut off to leave her thigh uncovered. She didn't even realize how attractive she was, Touma thought.
Stiyl was Caucasian, with red hair, earrings on both ears, a barcode tattoo under his right eye, and donned a black priest robe. His hands were on the table, revealing silver rings covering all ten fingers. Beside his left hand was a white cigarette stick, left unlit. He was a heavy smoker. Oftentimes Touma had to remind himself they were on the same side.
Sherry was a woman with black skin and messy blond hair, like a cheap wig for a play, and when observed from behind was like a lion full of mane. She wore a pitch black dress with white frills and a gothic style, tatters across the fabric, and slightly yellowish lace. She was the most serious out of the three.
"Yesterday there was an attack on one of my employees, a servant by the name of Michael Butters. The assailant stepped out of an alleyway, followed Butters down the street and shot his head from behind."
That was horrible. Touma was unaware there was a crime infestation in Winthrop too. Boston was full of criminals, but he assumed Winthrop wasn't as violent. Human nature proved him wrong.
"Fortunately for us, I gave Butters supernatural abilities. Mild regeneration and enhanced durability were enough to stave off death from a bullet shot at point blank range. Butters' counterstroke left the assailant dead. Butters was able to escape, albeit disoriented, before the Winthrop PD arrived on the scene."
Touma sighed in relief. At least this Butters person was alright. It was unfortunate the assailant was killed, but it was done in self defense.
"We don't know if it was a mugging or something more. Regardless, to that end I've decided to tighten securities. Kaori, Stiyl and Sherry were on paid leave vacationing from China, Europe and Russia. But now I've decided to call them back to fulfill their duties."
"As a librarian?" Touma asked, raising a brow to Kanzaki.
"Yes," she said. "I've always seen to it lady Othinus's library be taken with the best of care." The bold faced lie was given with a straight face, but the way her eyes danced told him otherwise.
He didn't bother calling out either Sherry or Stiyl. Their jobs as finance adviser and admin assistant were more interlaced with Othinus herself. Kanzaki was the only one tied to a physical property.
"Were any of you careful in using your abilities?" Othinus inquired. "This world is more secretive than ours when it comes to the identities of superhumans. If you're caught once with a picture it'll be spread to every government on this earth."
Stiyl shrugged. "I wore a domino mask."
"And I a lion-themed animal mask," Sherry said.
"I cover my face with a motorcycle helmet," Kanzaki said.
They were all so serious. Touma gaped at them and turned to Othinus, wondering how she was going to reprimand her employees. She didn't.
"Good job," she said, as if the poor attempts at wearing their disguises was enough. A token effort, as it were. The culture of magicians and espers was too different from that of parahumans. Unlike the latter, magicians and espers seldom made attempts to hide their identities.
"We'll continue this meeting tomorrow. For now you're all dismissed."
When they all left, Othinus lost her majestic aura, or rather it receded because Touma doubted it could actually completely disappear, and she dragged her chair beside his to lean on him for a hug. "I don't like this world," she complained. Her childish mannerism was the exact opposite of what she displayed in the presence of other people. It was due to the bond they shared, which was unfortunately caused by a whole lot of pain. Touma forgave her regardless, but Othinus never stopped apologizing and succumbing to the tiniest of suggestions that came out of his mouth, essentially becoming a doormat to his will.
Othinus's slender hand clutched his chest. His thumb caressed her knuckles and slid his fingers in the space between hers, interlacing their hands, and kneaded her back. "That's what I'm here for, isn't it?" For a god, she was easily stressed by other humans. Although her mask never broke in public, in private when it was just the two of them she used him as a stress relief. He didn't mind. He'd be insane not to decline relieving his beautiful girlfriend's stress, especially with the amorous way they went about it. But sometimes they simply basked in each other's presence. A hug and a little support came a long way towards a stable relationship.
"So now what?" Kanzaki asked. They were at the hallway. Sherry stood on the center of the hallway, her hand holding a smartphone and her eyes focused on the screen. Stiyl leaned his back on the wall beside a window and put the tipping paper of the cigarette between his lips, lighting it with fire that flickered from his thumb. Kanzaki had her hands behind her head and stared out the window. Gardeners who doubled as cleaners were mowing the lawn, raking the leaves that fell from trees scattered across the property, and used hand skimmers to remove bugs and leaves from water surrounding a white marble statue of Odin, a bearded man wearing a helmet like that of a viking's, with an eyepatch covering his right eye, his hand wielding the spear of Gungnir, and mounting an eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, riding into battle.
"What do you mean, now what?" Stiyl opened the window and blew smoke into the air. It caught the eyes of some gardeners, who saw the higher ranked employees, and greeted them with a smile and a wave. Kanzaki waved back. Stiyl and Sherry ignored them.
"I mean, what are we going to do?" Tightening security was such a vague term. The security detail existed just for that job. The only reason they were called was if Othinus expected parahumans to attack her property or her employees, which meant there was an enemy that wanted to hurt her. But unless they knew the enemy, they couldn't be proactive and only react to an attack.
"We observe data collected and mount an appropriate response?" Stiyl asked. "Whoever this Michael Butters is, he's already proof we aren't facing an actual threat. No one in their right mind would attack the Protectorate, and based on the number of people with superpowers working for Othinus now, we're a dozen times that. This is probably more related to Butters himself."
"The man was ex military," Sherry added, lowering her phone. "Before he became a butler he worked for the army. Did two tours abroad. Was a corporal when he was honorably discharged. Or something like that. I'm not really familiar with yanks and their love for war." She shrugged. "Point is, he came from a wealthy background, abandoned it when he went to war, and retired from the army with a shady past." She crossed her arms under her chest. "We need to investigate this man asap."
"Should we bring him to Martha's Vineyard?" Stiyl asked. "Our place there isn't a dungeon, but it'll do."
"No." Sherry shook her head. "We don't hurt one of our own. At least not without a good reason. And the only good reason is if they're a traitor."
Our own, she said. What did that even mean? Kanzaki wondered. The only uniting factor among people like her, replicas given life through a god's will, and the staff chosen from the people of this world, was their employer. Othinus.
"Who's going to check on this Michael Butters?" she asked.
"I'll do it," Stiyl said, raising a hand.
"We're not in middle school anymore, Stiyl. Put your hand down," Sherry said, sounding cheeky. Kanzaki smiled. Stiyl scoffed, lowered his hand and rolled his eyes.
"What'll you be doing then, Sherry?" Kanzaki asked.
"I'm going to sleep. Can't be arsed to work right now. See you two later. Cheers." She left the hallway, leaving Kanzaki and Stiyl alone.
"You weirded out too, huh?" Stiyl, perhaps due to years of working with her, became perceptive of Kanzaki's mood. It was mutual. They've worked together for so long reading each other became instinct.
He referred to their unique status as magical creatures. She'd read about the fey. She just never thought she'd become one.
"Yeah," she said, pinching the air. "Just a bit." She'd never discuss this with anyone else. But Stiyl was special. He went through the same struggles she did. She trusted him with her life. And knew he felt the same.
"Where's your sword?" he asked.
"Left it in my room. Wouldn't do making the people here feel uncomfortable with my weapon."
"Just call it a quirk of being a cape. People will eat it up. There's no point hiding the fact we have powers here. Everyone working for our boss has powers."
"I'm talking about the normal people," she said. "It'd be a pain to have them poking around."
"Whatever. I'm going to go ahead and look for a place to sleep. Let's continue later tonight."
She watched Stiyl take a corner and then she left the hallway, down the stairway, in her wanderlust exploring the mansion. She found Misaki and Index by the kitchen table, the former eating a bucket of ice cream and the latter apple pie. She found Mikoto by the gym running on a treadmill. She found Mugino and her team by the arcade wasting their time playing games. There was a myriad of places in the mansion she were sure weren't there the day before, suddenly popping into existence when no one was looking. And so she went and explored the mansion, like she always did whenever she was here.
She eventually settled on a lounge room and found her partner on a couch. Stiyl was sleeping on the couch. She wondered if he took different routes to arrive to the same room. Kanzaki, possessing a higher endurance and was thus unaffected by the two hour walk, took the remote that was on the coffee table in front of the couch, sat beside Stiyl, their shoulders pressing, put her leg on top of the coffee table, clicked the remote, and began playing the news.
Sherry Cromwell did not go to sleep. She instead observed the supervillains of Boston from her personal computer inside her room. There were quite a few of them, although none as influential or powerful as Accord and his Ambassadors. The one known as Blasto was quite impressive for lasting so long without underlings while maintaining an adversarial relationship with Accord. They fought for territories in Boston, for influence, drugs, guns, and tax from lower ranked villains who wanted to make a living in the surrounding area.
Sherry moved the mouse. On the screen the cursor went over various images of the Boston capes taken by pedestrians, professional photographers and shots from cctv cameras.
Costumes. They wore actual costumes. The superpowered battles were not that intriguing. Those were quite common in her world too. Be it magic spells or psychic abilities, superhuman feats were achieved regularly in their world. This one was no different. It was the hiding of their abilities that confused her.
Based on data gathered the greatest among them wore no mask and possessed a skin of gold. Scion was a majestic creature who helped the masses. The rest of the heroes paled in comparison. What chain of events made them choose to hide their identities instead of being proud of their abilities?
But it was just trivial, all things considered. Sherry planned on scheduling a meeting with Accord, and to see if the cape took part in the attack on her coworker Michael Butters. If she found him guilty she would attempt to capture him, and she knew she couldn't fight both Accord and his Ambassadors, the army of capes working under him. So she needed to bring backup. There was a near endless amount of superhumans of magical and psychic origin inhabiting the mansion. She only needed less than five. She would get to that later.
But for now she continued checking these costumes. She had to admit. Some costumes were stylish.
Undersiders base, Brockton Bay
Accelerator looked down the final member of the Undersiders, Rachel, and then glanced down, to the three dogs bleeding on the floor. He raised his left hand. There was no blood stain from when he hit the dogs, nor was it wounded from when his knuckle made impact against their teeth. Not even dust could dirty his clothes.
It happened a minute earlier. He was just lazing around and listening to the Undersiders talk about pointless things like Lisa's abilities when he heard barking downstairs, seconds later followed by three dogs bursting through the door. He was already standing, his right hand buried in his pocket, and strolled towards them.
The first dog looked like a mutt with Rottweiler genes. It attempted to seize his wrist. Its teeth shattered in the attempt. He slapped it aside. Its head bounced against the floor. Its company, two other dogs, a German Shepherd and a hairless terrier with a missing ear and eye were too excited to realize what had just happened to their companion. Accelerator slapped the German Shepherd's head. Blood and saliva flew from its mouth. The terrier attempted to bite his leg. The kinetic energy from its attack was redirected to its own body and broke its jaw. He crouched and slapped the side of its body. It stopped moving.
The one who controlled the three dogs, Rachel Lindt, stood by the doorway, shock on her face. "You asshole!" Accelerator observed the situation. The dogs were no longer a threat. Neither was Lindt if all she could do was control her mutts. She was useless on her own.
He took a step towards her. Fear and panic made her activate the secondary effects of her powers. Accelerator assumed Rachel possessed two abilities. To control dogs and to turn them into monsters. Having powerful servants under your disposal was an amazing thing. The dogs, beaten black and blue, swelled in size. Fur split at the seams. Muscle and bone were visible underneath. Spikes, spurs and an exoskeleton of bone growths covered the gaps where the bone was close to the skin. Their tail resembled human spines. They grew into the size of small ponies.
"Your power also heals them," Accelerator said, nodding. He saw one of the dogs with the broken teeth grow it back to replace the original. That was amazing. If her powers could be applied to humans it would be even more amazing.
But, just like Lung, it didn't change a thing. Unless they attacked in ways other than with vectors, they were essentially harmless.
The three monster dogs ganged up on him. One grabbed his left wrist. The other his right shoulder. The third attempted to tackle his chest. The monster that tackled him flew back towards the wall. Its skull fractured. It shook it off, growled and tried to attack him again. He broke his left hand free from the jaws of the monster that chomped on it, shattering teeth and breaking its jaw. The monster didn't let up and tried to bite his side, succeeding in digging its own teeth deep into its flesh. He clenched his fist and threw it down its head. The blow was so powerful its head dented the floor with the impact. The monster clutching on his shoulder was constantly being hurt with its own strength. Blood was now seeping from the gaps between its mouth and his body, trickling down the floor. His white suit was left unstained. His left hand seized its neck, and ignoring the large limbs flailing about and its attempt to rake his skin, breaking its legs in the process, and used its body as a blunt instrument on the monster that was still attacking his shoulder to no visible effect. The monsters growled the first time he hit them against each other. It was the same the second and third time. But as the attack went on, growls receded into whines of fear. Blood and flesh stained the walls and the floor but left him clean. He didn't stop hitting them until the effects of their power subsided.
When they were normal, beaten dogs, only then did he stop.
He turned his eyes to Rachel.
"What to do with you."
She was frozen like a deer in the headlights.
He was confused. She saw his strength against Lung. What did she honestly expect when she sent her dogs after him?
Maybe he was wrong. Maybe she was just trying to scare him off. He was the one who approached her dogs and in his steps agitated them into attacking him. They were just animals, after all. He looked at the obviously fearful girl and scratched the back of his head.
He was going to apologize when Brian spoke from behind him. "Well, I'm glad that happened."
Alec whistled. This time, Lisa joined in.
"Don't kill her," Taylor said.
Accelerator sighed. Muted his surroundings. Closed his eyes. Pondered what to do. When he opened them, Rachel flinched.
"Apologize," he said. "For your mutts attacking me."
It was her fault her dogs were too excited. If her power was so faulty she couldn't even control them properly, then that was on her. He did hurt her dogs, but only in self defense. He didn't want to have an antagonistic relationship with his own teammate. But he didn't want to look weak either. Didn't want them to think they could just leave their excited pets biting whoever they saw. He had to make that clear to this girl or she'd do it again. Had to let her know to take responsibility for her pets. So he stared her down.
He repelled the sound from the world around him. He didn't hear what anyone was saying. Couldn't hear what Rachel was saying. He stared at her hips. One minute turned into two. Finally, she gave in. He allowed sound to affect him again. Heard her say, "I'm sorry."
Accelerator nodded, reached a pale white hand towards her. Rachel didn't move. Scared out of her life. He patted her shoulder. He wasn't going to hurt her. It wasn't her fault her dogs were too energetic. "Next time, don't do it again," he said, and then released his hand from her shoulder.
She made a frantic nod. He turned his back to her and returned to his seat. Everyone was quiet, except for Brian who nodded in approvement. Accelerator stared at the coffee table. They must've thought he was going to hurt that kid. He felt a little disgusted. He wasn't going to attack a defenseless girl.
At least, not anymore.
He stared at the ceiling, made up his mind, and said, "I'll be leaving now." Maybe the awkward atmosphere would break when he was gone.
"Geez," Alec said. "If you want to kill her so bad don't let us stop you."
What? Accelerator looked at Alec incredulously. He didn't understand the shit that came out of his mouth.
"Rachel," Accelerator said, deciding to make amends for scaring the girl. "Why don't you sit down? Let's treat your dogs. Make sure nothing bad happens to them." Rachel looked pain with every step she took, but one by one she carried her dogs between the two couches. Lisa stared at her and the blood on the floor, as if it was her fault the dogs were bleeding.
"You know first aid?" he asked Brian.
"Help me out. Let's treat her dogs."
"I'm not actually trained in animals but-" he relented under Accelerator's gaze. "Sure."
After the awkward bonding session fixing up the three dogs he beat into bloody pulps, Accelerator sighed with obvious relief when he and Taylor left the Undersiders' base and were back on the sidewalk.
"That was a thing," Taylor said. "Everyone was walking on eggshells around you."
"I was prioritizing your safety," he said a touch defensively. "If even one of those dogs got through me they'd tear you to pieces."
The bashful way he spoke juxtaposed his cold, almost detached manner whenever he was surrounded by other people. It made her feel special being one of the few who saw him like this.
"I don't know," Taylor said. "They were whining and crying while you were stitching them up."
Accelerator took out his phone, began texting, and when Taylor asked what he was doing, told her he sent a message to Warren to pick them up on the address he gave him, and then he called her dad.
"Ace?" Danny asked, using the nickname Taylor had given him. They both knew he disliked the nickname, and used it both fondly and to tease him.
"Mr. Hebert, sir," Accelerator said. "Taylor's with me." He then began a five minute debate with her dad about their 'nightly' activities that sent him through a kaleidoscope of expressions, from surprise, to anger, to frantic denials that had Taylor laughing internally. She wasn't able to suppress all of it from escaping her lips, but the soft giggle that came out was at least quiet.
Accelerator wasn't one to talk about his feelings. Good. Neither was she. Unfortunately his cold exterior made her curious if it hid a warmer side underneath. She still didn't know who he was, other than an enigmatic figure who entered her life like a knight in shining armor protecting her from the bitches who made her school life hell. She wanted to know more about him.
Maybe meeting his friends would help.
"Here," Accelerator said, breaking her out of her stupor. He held out the phone. "Your dad wants to talk to you." The red blush on his pale face hinted at the embarrassing discussion with her father. She deigned him a smile and took the phone.
He changed to a more regular clothing inside the car; a jacket, cap, trousers and boots, all in black. His companion and driver waiting on the sidewalk outside the vehicle until he was done, and then Warren drove them to the nearest burger joint. Some place called Fugly Bob's. He wanted to go to Zervas, but Fugly Bob's was closer, and so they went there instead. They ate a burger or two, shared their French fries, and then finished their drinks of iced tea. They walked the rest of the way home.
Danny was waiting for them by the porch of Taylor's house. Told them he prepared dinner. Asked Accelerator to join, who happily accepted the invitation. After dinner they spoke a good ninety minutes, give or take, about what he and Taylor did that day. When Danny's inquisitive mind was finally content, Accelerator was free to go.
"See you tomorrow," Taylor said, seeing him off by the porch.
"Yeah." Accelerator glanced up the sky. Stars filled the darkness of space. "Take care, okay? No more stunt against Lung."
"Ugh. It's bad enough you do that in school. Can't I get a break in our superpowered lives at least?"
She hugged him a good three seconds and then let go. Her bashful expression made his cheeks heat up. He hurriedly crossed the lawn and the street towards the parked black van that waited for him. He rode shotgun and faced the driver, reaching a hand to his shoulder.
Warren was dressed similarly to Accelerator. He told him to. They were doing a job, and Warren was going to be his driver, whether it involved the Empire or not.
"Warren," Accelerator said. "Tell me where some of your friends live."
Warren gulped. All blood left his face, marred with trepidation and weighing the consequences of betraying the Empire or refusing Accelerator's question.
Even if he didn't answer it wasn't really a problem due to the number of crooks living in the city. But if he did give an address it would make everything so much easier.
"I know a place," Warren said. "T-they're the Roch brothers. The richer members of the Empire Eighty-Eight."
Accelerator nodded. "Go on…"
The Roch brothers lived downtown. They were members of the Aryan Brotherhood and came from New York, thriving and making a business from the inheritance their parents left them after they died from a car crash. The Roch brothers smuggled guns from Florida into Brockton Bay, providing weapons to their allies in the Empire Eighty-Eight.
The Empire Eighty-Eight, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Herren Clan were a loose affiliation of white supremacists that gained a resurgence in the United States. They never truly went away, but it was the superpowers that made them prominent again.
The local gang, the Empire Eighty-Eight, was arguably one of the strongest gangs of Brockton Bay. The connection with other powerful gangs domestic and abroad, the politicians who believe in the Aryan race, and the rich investors who believe in the cause made not just the Empire Eighty-Eight, but their sister gangs far more reaching than either the ABB or the Merchants.
The Roch brothers lived in the third floor of a local hotel. Warren drove down the front of the hotel, accompanied Accelerator out of the car, handed the keys to the valet, and entered the lobby. Behind the counter the hotel clerk, a pretty girl by the age of twenty-one greeted them. Accelerator searched the lobby for security cameras. He found four on all corners of the ceiling.
Warren inquired if there any rooms available. The clerk offered three. On the third, fourth and fifth floor. They took the fourth. Accelerator extracted money from his pocket and slid it across the counter. The clerk gave them a key, winked and told them to enjoy their evening.
She mistook them for gay lovers, then. It would explain why they were so shady. They entered the elevator, pushed the button to the third floor, and waited. The doors closed. There wasn't any security camera in the elevator, to Accelerator's relief. Warren took out two ski masks. Handed one to Accelerator. The elevator doors opened. They put on their masks. Stepped out of the elevator. Entered the third floor.
There were three guards on the door to the Roch brothers' room. They immediately spotted Accelerator and Warren, the two men wearing ski masks, and pulled out their pistols, assuming the men in the ski masks weren't there to say hi.
Accelerator slid down the floor like a skater on ice, ignoring friction altogether. One of the guards shot his forehead. The bullet flew back into the gun and destroyed it. Accelerator barreled into the three guards, his body colliding with theirs. The kinetic energy from the impact was redirected to the three guards. One was knocked to the wall. Another flew across the hall. The third fell on their back to the floor.
"Grab their guns," he told Warren. The guard slumped against the wall reached for something in his pocket. Before he could pull it out Accelerator caught his wrist and squeezed until his bones cracked. The guard opened his mouth to scream. Accelerator punched it close. Released his hold on the guard. Opened the door to the Roch brothers' hotel room.
The reason why he targeted them was not because they were allies of the Empire Eighty-Eight.
He targeted them because of money.
The information that made him go after them was what Warren told him. They often played poker with high stakes cash.
True to form. There they were. Three men surrounding a table on the living room. They held cards and battled for stacks of cash on the table.
One of the Roch brothers turned to him. Saw the ski mask. Knew the rest. All the brothers put their cards on the table. Fold. They didn't want a fight.
"You three got a bag?" Accelerator asked. One pointed to the bedroom.
"What kind of thief are you you didn't even bring a bag?" One of them asked. Point.
"You won't get away with this. Kaiser will have your head," another one said. "You and whoever traitor told you about this place."
Accelerator rolled his eyes. "Spare me the pleasantries." He grabbed one brother by his hair and dragged him out of his chair, throwing him face first to the floor. There was a crack. The two remaining brothers looked on in panic.
Accelerator didn't really feel guilty attacking them. He wasn't going to kill them. They supplied weapons to white supremacists who hunted down blacks and jews and race traitors. And they were members of a gang. If they weren't prepared for violence then they didn't deserve to be members of the Empire Eighty-Eight.
"I'll get the bag," one brother said, standing up. "Just don't kill him." He went into the room, returned with a duffel bag. Opened it. Threw all the cash from the table into the bag. Zipped it closed.
"Pleasure doing business with you, gentlemen." Accelerator grabbed the shoulder strap, lifted the duffel bag and left the room. If the bag was supposed to be heavy Accelerator didn't feel it.
In the hallway Warren was agitated. He held a gun taken from one of the guards and pointed it at the floor. When Accelerator emerged, the tenseness in his shoulders loosened. Warren knew Accelerator was his only way out of here.
"Let's go," Accelerator said. They forwent the elevator and ran down the stairway. Along the steps they removed their masks. They slowed down when they reached the first floor. Didn't look at the clerk as they left the lobby. The same valet greeted them at the entrance of the hotel. He was going to fetch their vehicle when Accelerator insisted to follow him into the parking lot instead. When the valet led them to their car Accelerator pulled out a hundred dollar bill.
"Here." Accelerator said, and also gave him the keys to their roo.. The valet was surprised but took the money and the key. Accelerator and Warren got into the car and left the parking lot.
They circled the streets for an hour to see if anyone was following them, and after learning they weren't being followed, returned to Warren's house. His hands clutched the steering wheel a little too tightly. He must be scared of retaliation. Only a few select members of the Empire knew the location of the Roch brothers. They'll probably ask around tomorrow.
They returned inside the house and counted the money. 150 grand. Accelerator split it in half. Gave Warren 75. "Enjoy your money," he said. Warren looked at him, and then the cash on his bed in disbelief. "There's advantages siding with me, Warren." Accelerator slung the strap over his shoulder and left the house.
That was an easy job. It was all thanks to Warren. If Accelerator could gain more allies like him then he'd be set.
There was someone waiting for him outside his apartment.
Accelerator lived in a place by the south-east area downtown. He found the free space online, called the landlord, paid ahead and arrived the next day. The landlord lived in the first floor of the building. Accelerator lived on the fourth. The landlord, an old man who's seen some shit, preferred reliable customers to become his tenants due to fear of the more criminal kind not paying their rent. He told Accelerator he was his favorite, two months in, which disturbed Accelerator greatly.
It could've been better, because of all the mess gangbangers were causing, but he made it better. In this place, at least. Made sure the neighborhood wasn't an infestation of thugs by attacking them and making them leave.
He had neighbors from all around the globe. A French couple lived across the hall, with their three attractive and flirty daughters hitting on him every chance they get. A Chinese widow lived one floor down, her only son sometimes visiting when he was free from his work on New York. He also spotted two men, Germans, living together, who insisted they were only best friends and not the gay lovers everyone thought they were.
But today something was different.
It had something to do with the white Lamborghini parked outside his apartment, and the girl by the sidewalk leaning on its door. Blonde hair cascaded down her back. She wore a white mink coat, which gave the impression of wealth. The yellow crop top beneath it accentuated her chest and her bare midriff, and so did the white skinny jeans, drawing attention to her alluring legs. The plain, brown sandals didn't match the rest of her attire, which confused him. She raised her sunglasses to her forehead, revealing stars where her pupils should be.
If he didn't know her at all, he wouldn't have thought she was even Japanese.
"Misaki," Accelerator said. "Why are you here?"
He had a guess, but he desperately hoped otherwise.
And why was she wearing sunglasses in the night?
Despite the obviously wealthy girl loitering on the street with her expensive car, no one paid attention to her. It was the effect of her power, Mental Out, which allowed her to achieve a variety of effects including brainwashing and mind reading.
Pedestrians walked around her, not noticing her yet avoiding her all the same. One person walking their poodle however stopped. The poodle looked at Misaki curiously, and when she smiled and knelt down to pet its head it wagged its tail energetically. Her power wasn't able to affect animals, after all. The dog owner had to carry their dog away because they didn't know why it was so intent on staying in one place.
Misaki stood up, brushed her pants and gave a playful smile. She winked. "Aren't you going to invite me in?"
"No." Accelerator carried a duffel bag holding 74 grand by his left shoulder. He held a grocery bag to his chest with his right hand. He just came back after having bought his groceries from Lord Street Market, or as the locals liked calling it, the Market. He bought an ice cream for himself, and didn't feel like sharing.
"How did you even get here?" he asked. "You know what, I don't even want to know." He took out his smart card and swiped it on the electronic lock, opened the door to the apartment and went inside. There were three hallways on either side and in front of him. The one to the right led to the landlord's room. The one to the left led to the stairway to the second floor. The one straight ahead led to an elevator.
There was a knock on the door. He glanced through the spyhole. Misaki was on the verge of tears. He felt a migraine starting on his head but let her in anyway. She did a cheer, even making a yay as she got inside. "This better be good," he hissed. "Your car's going to get stolen if you leave it on the road."
"It's okay," she said, raising her middle and index finger in a v shape under her left eye which twinkled with joy. "Index-chan helped me with her magic abilities."
There's a story there. No doubt if he asked her what she and Index were doing prior to her drive from Boston to Brockton Bay. But he didn't ask. He wasn't interested in whatever adventures she had on the road from Winthrop to his apartment.
"Here," he said, handing her the grocery bag. She briefly struggled balancing it with her hands. She wasn't fit like Mikoto or Touma or even blessed with enhanced strength, or the imitation of it like him.
"Who's here, sonny?" An old man holding a cane emerged from a hallway to the right. He put on his glasses, saw Accelerator holding his duffel bag, and Misaki carrying his groceries and smiling as she waved at the old man. The old man widened his eyes. "Ah. Is it yer girlfriend?"
"No," he said. Beside him Misaki covered her smile and giggled.
"I'm just a friend visiting from out of town," she said.
"Ah. Where might that be?" the old man, his landlord asked.
"Winthrop, Massachusetts, good sir," Misaki said. "I'm Misaki Shokuhou. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'd offer you a shake, but…" She shrugged, making a tired smile, like she was used to this kind of treatment and was just baring with it.
"Listen here, sonny," the landlord said. "It ain't right for a man to treat his woman like that no sir."
"Yeah," Misaki said, nodding with his words.
Accelerator made an insufferable sigh. Misaki was going to pretend to be his girlfriend just to take the piss out of him. He should've seen the signs. Shouldn't have let her in. He briefly indulged in what could have been. A peaceful night just by himself cooking snacks for himself and eating for himself and a nice, blissful sleep.
Just like that.
The landlord ranted for another two minutes. Three women, the youngest seventeen, the middle child nineteen and the oldest twenty-two, made their way down the stairs, calling Accelerator as they reached the final step. They shared two traits with the esper beside him. They were blondes, and they were beautiful. Misaki raised a brow. The three sisters did the same. They were Parisians, and were drawn to him after their parents invited him to dinner and to their surprise he could speak in French.
The three girls casted Misaki in a suspicious gaze and narrowed their eyes at her, probably wondering who this girl was that was so close to Accelerator. He glanced to his fellow level 5 and found a mischievous grin.
He grabbed her shoulder and dragged her to the elevator. He turned to press the button to his floor and found his audience, the three sisters speaking in hushed whispers and the old man shaking his head. The elevator doors closed.
Accelerator pinched his nose. "Why are you here, Misaki?"
"A job," she said.
"Thought so." It was the only thing that made sense. She wouldn't have left Winthrop and that level 0 otherwise. "Does it have anything to do with the Dockworkers Association?"
The Dockworkers needed jobs. The Velvet estate was always looking for more people to hire. Not out of a need of a growing business. Othinus can achieve everything by herself. Nor was it because she cared for the struggling class. If she did she'd have saved the world thousands of years ago. In fact, it wasn't because she cared at all.
It was Accelerator that tied the fate of the Dockworkers Association to the whim of Othinus. They were an anthill, maybe less, scrutinized under the magnifying glass of a playful god.
"Yeah. Caught me by surprise too. One minute I was in the kitchen with Index, the next I was called to give you support." She poked his shoulder and pouted. "It's your fault I'm tied to the Brockton Bay project. You could've asked anyone for help. You just had to ask me." The last sent his mind back to an incident in the past involving Misaki, Othinus, Touma and noodles.
The Brockton Bay project was what Misaki called Accelerator's plans in Brockton Bay. She thought he was planning a scheme, and needed her unique capabilities to manage and refine the more intricate details of his plan. She was wrong.
There was no plan. He just wanted to help Danny get a job, and attempted to do it through the company he was in. The Velvet estate paid well. And he could continue monitoring Taylor even after he was done with his 'job' in Brockton Bay, that job being to capture a local parahuman to send back to Winthrop for examination.
But he wasn't going to tell her that. Informing her he was 'winging' it would just upset her.
"So why did you come here, specifically? Get your own fucking apartment." There was a ding, followed by the elevator door parting to reveal the fourth floor hallway. He took out his card and opened it the same way he did the door to the apartment. By swiping the card on the electromechanical lock. He turned the doorknob open. Went inside.
Misaki held his groceries to her chest and followed after him, inspecting his flat. To the left was the living room. Two armchairs, a sofa with two cushions and TV. Beyond the living room was three doors that led to his bedroom, the bathroom, and a guest room. To the right was the kitchen. A fridge, a table, a few chairs, a counter, a burner, the sink, utensil crock, plate holders and a glass cabinet.
"Put the stuff on the counter," he said, making his way to his bedroom. There was a bed, a closet, and a study table with a chair underneath it. He dropped the duffel bag on the floor beside the bed, took off his jacket and shirt and replaced them with a white shirt from the closet. When he left the bedroom it was to Misaki opening the fridge and helping herself to a can of diet coke.
"Ah…" Misaki sighed contently and left the empty can near the grocery bag on the counter. She pulled the stiles of a dining chair, took off her mink coat, hanged it on either ears of the top rail of the chair, and then went to the guest room. "I'm commandeering this room."
"Look for your own place!" Accelerator said.
"It's your fault I'm here!" she entered the room and closed the door. Accelerator covered his face with his hand, rubbing his palm downward as he sighed in irritation. She had a point. Othinus mistook Accelerator asking Misaki for aid as a sort of 'partnership' that meant Misaki was to participate in his 'brilliant' schemes.
He unpacked his groceries, and with a little sluggishness in his movement, began cooking for two.
"Smells good," Misaki said, an hour later. Accelerator cooked some hamburgers, hot dogs, bacon and eggs. It was all just for her. He told her to put the leftovers in the fridge and then went to the living room. "These are all for me?" Misaki asked, surprise in her voice.
"Yes," Accelerator hissed. "Wash the dishes after you're done." He sat on the far left of the sofa and closed his eyes. Other than the sounds of Misaki chewing on the food, there was silence. He used his powers and blocked out all sound from reaching him. There was complete silence. He smiled a blissful smile.
But as with all good things, it came to an end. When he opened his eyes, Misaki stood before him. The playful smile was gone, replaced by a cold, detached expression and eyes analyzing his body. He stared back, red eyes boring into gold, and then her apathetic gaze broke into another grin. He scratched his head. He found a troublesome housemate.
He deactivated the aspect of his power filtering sound, and only then did she speak. "What's in the bag?" she asked, putting her hands behind her back as she leaned forward, giving him a nice view of her cleavage.
"Money," he said. If she was going to be his partner there was no point hiding anything from her. She straightened her back and tilted her head, glancing to the door to his room and then back at him.
"You stole it?"
"From the Empire Eighty-Eight."
"The local neo-Nazi group." She nodded and plopped on the seat cushion beside him. "You've been busy."
"Stealing money from them?"
"But no cape." When he didn't answer, she continued. "There's a cape called Hookwolf running a dog fighting ring. Just snatch him up and leave."
"It's not that simple."
"Not even for the number one esper of Academy City?"
"Not if it means compromising my identity."
"Ah." She grabbed a cushion and hugged it under her chest. "That makes sense. I washed the dishes, by the way. Thanks for the meal."
"You're welcome." He pulled out his phone, opened the downloads folder and clicked the video he downloaded from Youtube. "Are you aware of this?" He clicked the video to play and showed her the fight between Touma, Index, a servant battling what appears to be a lava cape.
"Yes." Misaki glanced from the screen to his face. "What?"
"How did Touma know where to look for a supervillain? And why were they accompanied by this guy?"
"I don't know. I can't read either of Touma or Index-chan's minds, and I've no interest in the other employees. I saw them leave lady Othinus's study, though. Touma must've asked her for some adventure, and having fallen for his charming ability, lady Othinus gave in."
"Made sense." Othinus was a pushover when it came to Touma and his wants.
"Let's snatch a cape," Misaki said.
"Not yet. I'm working on a project with this girl I know from school. Maybe afterwards."
"School?" She giggled. He frowned. Going back to high school was his cover story. It wasn't great, now that he thought back to it, but that was how he met Taylor.
"Yes. We're part of a supervillain group. Calls themselves, ourselves now I guess, the Undersiders. Hellhound, Grue, Regent, Tattletale, Migliore and Skitter. I'm Migliore. My classmate's Skitter."
"Oh." Her starry eyes twinkled with delight. "Six for the price of one."
"We're not taking them, Misaki."
"Aw. Why not?"
"They're just kids." Around the same age as Misaki and slightly younger than him maybe, but Accelerator always thought level 5's grew into a state of maturity faster than even most adults. It was due to the sheer violence they found themselves in all the time that forced them to grow up fast or die facing horrible events they couldn't handle.
But Touma wasn't a level 5, and he was way more mature than Accelerator. Maybe he was speaking out of his ass. Still, he wouldn't go after kids.
"You're hoping the increased reputation with the Undersiders would drive you into a collision course with another villain group?" Misaki asked.
"Yeah. Gang war or the cape equivalent." He participated in a similar event himself when a few groups formerly loyal to Academy City went rouge. Accelerator and his group, among other loyalists were deployed to purge the traitors to the city. That was before he joined the crazy world of magic when he went off to Russia and entangled himself in World War 3.
"It's so needlessly complicated," Misaki said. "There was this gang leader I've read about from the BBB."
"BBB?" he parrotted, already knowing she wanted him to inquire but playing along.
"Brockton Bay Bulletin." She grinned. "Lung. Leader of the Azn Bad Boys. He was caught by the Protectorate hero Armsmaster. You could've broken him out of jail."
"I was the one who put him in there."
"Then why did you let Armsmaster take the credit?"
"I bailed when he showed up. I wasn't wearing a mask at the time." Misaki's look of confusion made him wince. He extrapolated. Started with a girl called Taylor. When he was done she nodded in understanding.
"So she's your girlfriend?"
"Aw." She smirked. "So I'll be your girlfriend."
"Fuck no." If Touma found out, well… He wasn't really sure. He didn't know where Touma stood with Misaki and the other girls all clearly attracted to him. Othinus didn't seem to mind either. But even then, the hassle of lying to people he knew was more trouble than it's worth.
"Why are you so worked up about it?" She laughed. "It's not like we're actually dating."
"Never pegged you for an actor," he said.
"Nah. Just teasing you."
"Well, cut it out. I've already got enough problems without you adding more."
"You know people will jump to that conclusion anyway, right? We're living in the same apartment, after all."
"Yeah. Doesn't make it less annoying. Listen, I'm sorry for dragging you out of Winthrop, but you don't need to take revenge by making my life miserable. I get out of your way, you get out of mine, okay? Sounds good?"
"Hmm." She made a noncommittal shrug and covered her mouth with the cushion as she stared at him. "Let me have a say in the operation and maybe I'll agree."
He rolled his eyes but relented. "Sure. Whatever."
"Let's start a war with the Empire Eighty-Eight."
He blinked. He was thinking the same thing. Misaki took his silence for agreement.
"Let's think long term," she said. "What does lady Othinus want?"
"Control?" He only assumed, but he was fairly certain that was the case. "She wants to control the world to eliminate anything that could threaten her. But the sheer mystery surrounding the capes and their superpowers makes her uncertain about openly moving against them, so she sent us to probe the cities and see if we can obtain any cape and package them back to Winthrop for experimentations and autopsies if they're dead."
"You're so talkative," she said. "I just asked what she wanted, not an entire speech."
"What's with the sandals?" he asked. "They don't fit your style."
"Touma gave them to me."
"Ah." That explains everything. "And the car outside? Magic?"
"It's been charmed, yes. Unless you've got mental resistance abilities you won't even be able to notice it."
The magic must be following similar principles to her Mental Out if Accelerator was unaffected. He didn't like magic. The sheer flexibility of the spells the magicians were capable of learning left him vulnerable to ones of the more esoteric nature.
"So what's this all got to do with the Empire?"
"You're already targeting them, right? Rope the Undersiders into it. Start with the guys. Promise them good money. Escalate the situation until the Empire has to respond. I think they will soon anyway. So, what do you say, partner?" She offered a hand. Accelerator shook it. Her palm was smooth and soft in his hand.
"So it's a deal!"
He released her hand and she pulled away. Scampered off and in her haste tossed the cushion to the sofa. It fell off the ledge towards the floor. Accelerator picked it up and looked behind him to the kitchen area.
"But we're already partners though?"
Misaki took two bowls, two spoons and the bucket of ice cream. "But I didn't get a say back then. Now we've made it official. It's time to celebrate!" Her tongue stuck out the left side of her lips and her face contorted into one of euphoria for promised goods she was about to partake in.
He was saving that snack for himself. Misaki tried opening the lid of the ice cream bucket, failed, whined, and made puppy dog eyes towards him. He groaned, got up and went to the kitchen. WIth his power he flicked the lid open to reveal white vanilla ice cream.
"Yay!" Misaki said, impaled the spoon on the surface of the ice cream and then scooped a hefty pile up and over the bucket towards the bowl. To Accelerator's surprise she passed it to him. "Cheers to the future."
"Sure." He accepted the bowl, took the spoon and scooped the bowl's contents, bringing it to his mouth. The ice cream was delicious.
April 12, Tuesday, 5:30 the next morning, Accelerator went to work. He didn't plan on bringing Misaki into his work with the Undersiders, and she didn't bring him into her business meeting with the Dockworkers Association. Even though they were a team, they were far too independent to actually work together. They would do their own thing, succeed, and help each other if it was asked. But until then they would barely interact with their different operations.
Besides, he was the one who asked her to help him. He wished he didn't, if only to keep Othinus from misunderstanding his words as those of someone picking an office worker to go do some fieldwork. That was what Misaki's situation was, essentially. No wonder she was angry. She just wanted to stay in the mansion in Winthrop and snuggle next to Touma, but due to Accelerator she was forced from enjoying that possibility.
He gave her half the 74 grand, leaving him with 37 thousand dollars. That and the unlimited funds in his bank account, but he decided he was going to use that only in case of emergencies.
He drove his car, a 1967 black Chevrolet Impala, to a drive through at KFC, ordered seven meals of spicy fried chicken, mashed potatoes, hash brown, fries and extra gravy. First order of business. He drove back home to his apartment, rushed through the lobby and used his powers to amplify the strength of his soles as he leapt up the stairs a dozen steps at a time until he arrived on his unit, swiped his card on the electromagnetic lock, turned the knob open and went inside. He found Misaki by the couch with her head on a cushion. The blonde girl still wore her yellow crop top, but replaced the white skinny jeans with black cycling shorts, showing a lot of skin. She was on her phone, didn't even look at him when he threw her meal, and yelped when it landed on her bare midriff.
"Thank you!" she said. He was already out the door. Ran back from the hallway down the stairway from the fourth floor to the lobby, exiting the building and then almost leaping towards his car. He got inside and drove off the area with haste.
The next place he was going to was Warren's house. It hadn't even been a day since they robbed the Roch brothers. He had to make sure there wasn't anyone from the Empire, be it the Roch brothers, those people he sent to the hospital, or any of their lackeys hustling Warren for information on how Accelerator obtained the location of the Roch brothers. It was a well kept secret, and only insiders were in the know. Not even everyone from the Empire knew about them or where they were living in, so the number of suspects was very short. Warren was one of them.
Luckily, when Accelerator arrived to the suburbs he found Warren's house unmolested and the man himself holding a mug of coffee as he sat on a rocking chair by the porch. Accelerator got out of the car, crossed the street, passed through the yard and stepped up the porch and greeted his partner in crime.
"Hey, Warren," Accelerator said, dropping the paper bag holding a KFC meal on Warren's lap. He took the mug from Warren's hand and sipped the boiling hot, black coffee. It didn't burn his tongue. What heat he felt was muted by his power. But the flavor was on point. It was brewed to perfection. There was a subtle sweetness under the bitter flavor of the drink. Accelerator was surprised. He finished the contents of the mug and then eyed Warren suspiciously. "Warren, you never told me you were a barista."
He had asked Warren the moment he woke up to prepare for his arrival and make him a cup of coffee. He didn't expect anything great, so this completely blindsided him.
"M-my dad was a barista. Not me." Warren checked the contents on his lap. "Fried chicken?"
"Yeah. You a vegetarian?"
"No. Thanks boss."
"Right. Speaking of, just call me if someone starts hustling you for trouble, understand? I'll make them go away like I did Charlie." Warren gulped. Accelerator winced. Despite only meaning to take any troublemaker down the basement, he reminded Warren of how his friend Charlie committed suicide by biting his tongue off and bleeding to death. It must still be horrible for the guy. Accelerator wished he could've done things differently, save Charlie's life. But he wasn't able to. There was no point dwelling in the past. Lives come and go.
"Warren," Accelerator said. "My partner's in town. We've decided to pool our resources. She'll be showing up later today."
"She a cape like you, boss?" Warren's bandaged fingers from when his knuckles broke itself hitting Accelerator's head, twitched.
"Yeah. Relax. She's harmless." Her power didn't directly affect her target's bodies. If Misaki had to hurt someone, she needed to take control of their bodies first, turn them into her puppets, and then make them grab a pointy object and stab themselves. Different to how Accelerator could just grab someone and throw them across the lawn.
"I gave her your number. When she calls you to a place, you show up." He handed Warren back the mug, returned to his car and left.
He drove back downtown, through Lord Street towards the Boardwalk. He got out of the car. Stepped into wooden platform. The boardwalk was the tourist spot of Brockton Bay. It was filled with expensive coffee shops, stretches of wooden walkways and beaches that gave a good view of the ocean.
Most of the shops were still closed. Top notch security systems, steel shutters and iron grates protected all of the expensive stores. He took out his phone. Checked the time. 6 am. Vans drove by and parked beside some of the stores, probably to unload their shipments.
Taylor wasn't here.
Good. He didn't expect to see her until later. He spotted Brian and Alec by the wooden railing, the former looking into the beach, the latter leaning his back to the guardrail. Brian wore a sweater under a felt jacket, his jeans didn't have any rips or tears in them, and his boots were shined. Alec donned a coat, a scarf around his neck, expensive looking trousers and newly bought shoes.
They were both dressed well. So was he. Accelerator preferred a suit. This time he picked brown. Accompanied by a navy blue silk knit tie and brown Magnanni Sneakers. They fit in with the aesthetics of the boardwalk where only those with money could blend into.
"Yo," Accelerator said.
"Hey." Brian nodded.
"Sup." Alec made a wave.
He texted them last night, offering them a job. This was right after his talk with Misaki. She insisted he implement his plan immediately. It led to an argument. He didn't want to rush things. She did. He agreed, but only if she owed him a favor. She acquiesced. And so he told Brian and Alec if they were interested in his offer.
"Let's get in the car," he said. "I bought some food."
"Sure," Brian said. He looked serious. Too serious. Alec was blasé. Disinterested. They got into the car. Accelerator was in the driver's seat. Brian was in the front passenger seat. Alec took the bench seat at the back. "So what did you want to talk about?"
"A job," Accelerator said. "As payback for the good faith you gave Taylor and I yesterday, I'll tell you what I've been up to. April 10, I found an insider from the Empire Eighty-Eight. April 11, me and my friend robbed some of the richer members of the Empire. Made a hundred and fifty grand. Split between us. I got seventy-five."
The moment he mentioned the amount of money he earned he drew Alec and Brian's undivided attention.
"Wait, 10?" Alec asked. "That was when you took down Lung."
"And yesterday you robbed someone?" Brian asked. "Just after you joined the Undersiders, you had the time to go with your other friend to do a heist and make out with a hundred and fifty grand. How come this wasn't in the news?"
"They're crooks," Alec answered for him. "And this would damage their rep. To us, rep is everything. They'd rather deal with this themselves. They'll probably ask around for the rat who told the thieves their hiding spot, you know what I'm saying?" There was a gleam in his bored eyes.
"Relax. I'm watching after my friend," Accelerator said.
"Is this really smart?" Brian asked. "They're the Empire. They've got a lot of capes."
"Anyone as strong as me?" Accelerator asked.
"He's got a point," Alec said.
"Here." Accelerator handed them their meals. "Let's eat first."
When they were almost done he offered to buy them drinks. He left the car and went to the nearest coffee shop. Two burly men in uniform stood guard outside it. They inspected his clothes, deduced he was a man of wealth, and greeted him a good morning. He said the same, went inside and bought three plastic bottles of water. He returned to the car and passed them to Brian and Alec. Brian uncapped his bottle and drank. Alec was still munching on some fries.
"So," Alec said, pausing between each chew. Accelerator held the steering wheel. Focused ahead. More shops were opening up. The sun was rising. "What do you expect us to do, exactly?"
"Just answer when I call you. Won't interfere if it affects your job with the Undersiders."
"I don't know," Alec said. "You made more in a night what we do in a month. If you get a large haul next time, I want to be a part of it and get a piece of the pie. I'm in. Brian, what says you?"
Brian closed his bottle. "Yeah. Don't even know why you need us, what with you being indestructible and all, but I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. But first, I want to know about this insider. Is he reliable?"
"Yeah." Despite only knowing Warren for a few days Accelerator felt like there was a bond between them. He knew a team player when he saw one. Once Misaki took over the Dockworkers Association, and then the city, he might just bring Warren back with him to Winthrop and get him to know about Touma and the others.
"He's a former neo-Nazi," Brian said.
"Nah. He doesn't even have a tattoo. Think he just hung out with them for his own protection." A lie, but one that would become the truth. Once they destroy the Empire Eighty-Eight, former members would form new teams and challenge them or move out of Brockton Bay. They'd be in for a nasty surprise if they went to Boston. An army of superhumans lied hidden in Othinus's mansion and her other properties.
As for Warren… He'd see the light. He'd make so much more money working with Accelerator anyway.
"And who'd be dumb enough to betray him?" Alec asked, 'him' referring to Accelerator.
"True," Brian said, rubbing his chin. "I know I wouldn't."
"Good. Keep it seperate from our work with the Undersiders," Accelerator said.
Finding the main discussion finished, Brian moved onto other topics. Specifically one regarding his teammate. "Look, about what Rachel did last night, I apologize for that."
"What did she do last night?" Accelerator asked. Monster dogs flashed in his memory. "Oh, right. Those things. Her dogs. Don't worry about it. Water under the bridge. Besides, the only ones that got hurt were the dogs and the room."
"Oh yeah," Alec said, snapping his fingers. "You didn't get dirty even when you were dying the floor with their blood. Does your power have some sort of forcefield?"
"Yeah," Accelerator said. "Keeps me clean." Among other things.
"So, um, I've been meaning to ask but how did you get our numbers?"
Accelerator paused. Misaki had called back to Winthrop, directly towards the boss. Othinus. He didn't know the means she did to acquire their numbers, but the next thing knew two new names were added to his contact list.
He couldn't tell them about Othinus.
"I know a guy who knows a guy," Accelerator said, keeping it vague. "And I don't know, nor do I want to know how they get the info they do."
"Okay, man," Brian said, raising his hands to placate Accelerator. "I might've touched a sensitive subject there." So he was perceptive enough to notice the sudden change in Accelerator's demeanor. Then he wasn't blind. Good.
"Sounds worrying though," Alec said. "If the guy who knows a guy knows our numbers."
Brian nodded. "It means a cape. Probably a tinker like Lisa."
"Guys," Accelerator hissed. "Stop digging."
"Alright," Alec said. "Was just curious, is all."
"Good. Alright. Get out of the car. I'm driving Taylor to school."
"So you two are dating!" Alec exclaimed.
Accelerator waited for them to leave and then he drove the car out of the boardwalk. He passed by the Docks on his way to the Hebert residence. Taylor was in the living room waiting for him. "Brought you breakfast," he said.
"Thanks." Taylor beamed.
He put the other one in the fridge. "This one's for your dad."
"Cool. He left early though. Heard the CEO, this Misaki figure, showed up in person to ascertain the workers herself."
"Hmm." Accelerator carried Taylor's backpack, much to her embarrassment, as they went to his car. He threw it in the back.
"Where's your bag?" she asked.
"I'm not going to school today," he said. "Going to see if the Undersiders are cooking up something interesting." And if they weren't, he was going to try and see if he could make them divulge the location of supervillains like Kaiser, leader of the Empire Eighty-Eight.
He expected Taylor to protest, to say he should focus on his education, or some other good student crap like that.
He didn't expect her to meekly say, "Can I go with you?"
He gaped at her. She blushed.
"Only after we get your costume," he said. She smiled.
He was such a bad influence.
"I desire a meeting with Accord," Sherry Cromwell said, standing opposite Othinus. They were in her bedroom. Othinus wore a short silk robe the color of blood. She sat up. Beside her, under the covers, Touma sported a blissful smile on his sleep. He was shirtless, and if Sherry's assumptions were true, naked. Othinus crossed her bare legs and snapped her fingers. A red armchair manifested from behind Sherry.
"Sit," Othinus said. She did. Othinus didn't speak for another five minutes, opting to conjure a comb and straighten her hair. When she was satisfied, she said, "Continue."
"I wish to verify if the supervillain participated in the attack towards my coworker Michael Butters."
"And you could not find any method of making contact with him without my help?" Othinus lowered the comb to the mattress and looked at her fingernails.
"Not without destruction of property," Sherry said. Othinus glanced at her. She elaborated. "If I and the others played the act of supervillains and caused wanton destruction across the streets of Boston, Accord and the other supervillains will attempt to run interference and stop us from hurting their business. That is under the assumption the Protectorate or other heroes arrive first. If by chance Accord or one of his Ambassadors attempt to subdue us, we can incapacitate them, take them to Martha's Vineyard with Move Point."
Move Point was the technical term for their teleporter. A useful individual who made traveling so much easier. The original teleporter was traumatized into being incapable of teleporting herself. Othinus removed the limit from the replica, who was now the reason most of her employees could travel anywhere around the world with ease. Move Point was the one who transferred Misaki to Brockton Bay, although Othinus refrained her or any of them from sharing this information, even with each other.
Touma was the only one who couldn't be teleported by anyone other than Othinus. A fact she knew Othinus was secretly vertiginous over. Or giddy, as commoners like Sherry would call it.
"Very well," Othinus said. "I shall obtain this Accord character. But see to it you obtain the necessary information yourself. Use some of the telepathic espers at your disposal."
If only Misaki was still here. She could simply extract the information from Accord's head. Alas, she was spirited away to Brockton Bay. Sherry would make do with Measure Heart. No doubt the reason Othinus was humoring her was much the same. They relied on Misaki for many things. Now that she was gone they needed a replacement to coordinate everything.
"My lady," Sherry asked out of a morbid sense of curiosity. "With all this godhood at your disposal, why not just rewrite the world?"
"I already did that, once. Changed the course of August twelve, two-thousand-and-three. Can you tell me what happened then?"
The only thing that came to mind was the Simurgh. "The Endbringer attacked Birmingham?"
Othinus nodded. "It was a different city, back then."
"Why not just take over the world?"
"Precaution in the possibility someone is immune to the new layers of reality. Are there anymore questions?"
"No. Thank you for indulging my questions." she stood up and curtsied. Othinus dismissed her with a wave of a hand. Sherry left the bedroom. In the hallway Oriana waited for her. Oriana was blonde, like Misaki, but with a more developed body. Curvaceous under her gray work clothes, the top unbuttoned to show her cleavage, short enough to leave her midriff uncovered, and pants she left unzipped, held by her belt just below her hips.
Slut, some people would call her. Seductive, others would say. She didn't care. Neither did Sherry. Oriana's blue eyes glimmered with mischief under her bangs. "Hey," she said with a friendly smile. Sherry smiled back. She greeted Oriana with a hug, one her fellow blonde happily returned.
"Welcome home," she said, pulling from the hug but holding Oriana's hands. "Where have you been?"
"Sudbury, Maynard, Hudson and Marlborough. Just about everywhere in Middlesex County of Massachusetts," Oriana said. "You?"
"Russia. It's a haven for criminals everywhere. The fall of the U.S.S.R. was quite tragic and stupid. But it did make it easier for parahumans like me," she said with a wink. "To thrive better with Dno, Russia's underworld. We're all allies against the government and the Elitnaya. It is quite a nice place."
Oriana sighed. "Wish my travels were as good. Everywhere I went I just saw the growing power of the Ku Klux Klan. Heard from the others New York was in a similar situation with the Aryan Brotherhood and Brockton Bay with the Empire Eighty-Eight."
"White supremacists," Sherry said with disdain. "I hope Fiamma and Accelerator take care of them soon."
"Yeah." Oriana released her hands and hooked an arm over Sherry's shoulder, leading her to one of the lounge rooms. "So? Tell me about Russia."
"Only if you tell me about Middlesex."
"Okay." Sherry picked an armchair. Propped her elbow by the left armrest. Leaned her head on her palm. Crossed her legs. Oriana sat by the right armrest and began gesticulating with her arms. "There's this guy I met in the bar, and he told me a lot of juicy stuff about the Klan…"
Sherry closed her eyes and smiled fondly. She could listen to her friend's soothing voice all day.
They arrived outside the Undersiders base in a car provided to him by Warren. He didn't know where it came from, but deduced it was stolen from a scrap yard given it was a rusty tow truck straight out of the 1950's.
It had been driven to Taylor's house by Warren himself. Taylor eyed the man curiously. Accelerator and Warren traded keys and they got into the tow truck and drove towards the Docks.
When they arrived at the red brick factory and got out of the vehicle Accelerator texted Brian they were outside the door. Brian opened it and said, "Hey. Morning you two."
"Morning," Taylor said. Accelerator took her backpack from out the window and effortlessly carried it with his pinky finger. He slid his arm under the strap and held it by his shoulder.
"Let's go," he said. The back was holding both of their costumes. If a white suit constituted as a costume. They entered the factory and headed for the second floor. He noticed Brian, who walked ahead, changed his clothes to a green sleeveless t-shirt and black yoga pants or something of the like.
Alec waited, leaning against the back of a couch when they entered the living room. He changed too, from his finer clothes earlier to a shirt with a cartoon character and basketball shorts. He nodded at Accelerator, and then at Taylor.
"Alec and I were sparring. Lisa's on the phone in the kitchen. Rachel and her dogs are in her room. You can watch us if-"
"Pass," Accelerator said, making his way to the kitchen.
"I'll watch if it's cool," Taylor said, deciding to stay behind.
Accelerator went to the kitchen, opened the fridge, found a carton of milk, a pizza box with more than have the pizza still remaining, some barbecue, beef ribs, and helped himself to the good stuff. Lisa was on the table talking to her phone, sometimes sneaking glances at him. He held a barbecue stick by one hand and a milk carton by another and stared back. At the living room Brian and Alec were having a good time with Brian kicking Alec's ass until the latter called quits.
Accelerator finished the barbecue and was working his way through the ribs. He chewed meat and bone alike, shattering it against his teeth. Even if he drank poison his power would filter it from actually doing him harm. Oil that was supposed to cling to his fingers went elsewhere, back to the meat or falling towards the floor. His only weaknesses, other than the need to breathe, was the time limit of fifteen to thirty minutes due to the battery life of his choker substituting for his brain after he took a bullet to the head. Now that he was back at full capacity he no longer worried about it.
He finished the last rib, not even bothering to chew it, crushing bone against his windpipe, and then moved on to the pizza. Worked his way through a slice, and then another. For some reason he had a harder time being full. He assumed it was due to his nature as a magical creature, in addition to being based on an esper. How did that work, exactly? Did Othinus replicate all his abilities, and just replaced the 'psychic' components with 'magic' ones? Or was he simply using a power similar to his original one, but not exactly the same?
He ate the last slice when Lisa stood up. "We're doing a bank robbery," she said.
He nodded. "I'm game."
"Not your first rodeo, I take it?"
"Nope. Not yours either?"
"I may have robbed Lung's casino," she said with a cheeky smile.
Accelerator whistled. "By yourself?"
"Nah. The whole team." Funny how Brian and Alec neglected to mention that little tidbit. "I'm guessing based on how you treat Taylor she didn't get to join your extracurricular activities?"
"Nah. Come on. Let's tell the others." They went by Rachel's room first. Accelerator knocked thrice before she opened. The scowl on Rachel's face was replaced by fear. He inspected her pets. Her dogs lowered their ears and whined. "We're robbing a bank," he said. "You cool with it?"
"Y-yeah," Rachel said.
"Good." He went to the living room. Taylor replaced Alec, having decided it was cool seeing him getting his ass kicked and wanted a turn. Brian, happy to oblige, threw her down the floor. "We're robbing a bank," Accelerator said.
"Now?" Brian asked, misunderstanding his words for the job he offered them earlier this morning. Lisa tilted her head, confused. Accelerator subtly shook his. "I mean, what?" Taylor groaned. "Oh, sorry." Brian helped her up to her feet.
"You in?" Accelerator asked Alec, who was rubbing his shoulder from the couch.
"Sure," Alec said. "Extra money sounds nice." Accelerator nodded in agreement. Extra money was always nice.
"Taylor, you in?" Accelerator asked.
"I don't know…"
"Wait," Brian said, finally shaking himself out of his stupor. "Isn't this a bad idea?"
"For whoever comes against us, maybe." Accelerator raised his hand and clenched his fist. "Lisa, you think Glory Girl could take me?"
"What about this guy, Dauntless? Heard he grows a little stronger everyday."
"Not even if you give him four years to prepare. Who knows. His powers might be so strong he'd become a giant, but even then I doubt he'd do more than break his own arm trying to hurt you."
Did Lisa learn the intricates of his powers? It didn't matter, he guessed. Accelerator crossed his arms. "Lisa, Rachel, and Alec are in. Including me, that makes four. Even if neither of you agree, it's still two to four. We've got the majority. Come on."
Brian sighed. "Any other circumstance I'd be very against it. You know the average haul for a bank is twenty thou, right?" Accelerator nodded. "And given this is Brockton Bay, where banks keep the amount of cash in their vault to a minimum, we'd be bringing in maybe twelve to sixteen thou. Divide six ways and it's what, two to two-thousand and six hundred thousand bucks each?"
"It's free money," Accelerator countered. "And you should never say no to free money. Besides, I'll be doing all the heavy lifting. I really, really doubt there's anything the heroes of this city have that could hurt me."
"He's got a point," Alec said.
"The runt is right," Rachel added, glancing at Alec.
"Yeah, Brian. Listen to our powerhouse. And relax, Taylor, he'll protect you," Lisa said with a wink to Taylor, who blushed. Brian sighed. "Okay, we good? Good. Besides, it's not as bad as it sounds. The boss wants us to do a job at a very specific time."
"I got the sense he was willing to offer a fair bit if we went the extra mile, and I negotiated a pretty good deal." Apparently, the bank robbery was her idea. According to this boss, the Protectorate was busy with an event on Thursday.
"Stop," Accelerator said. "We're hitting them today."
"W-what?" Lisa spluttered.
"We're doing it today. Anyone in favor?"
"Aye," everyone said. Rachel because she was eager to prove herself for some reason. Alec because he looked like he had nothing better to do. Taylor because she looked like she was going with the flow. And Brian because he looked like he wanted to spite Lisa, eyes narrowed and lips smirking, returning the majority votes back in her face.
"You can't be serious!" Lisa said. "This is not according to plan. If we-"
"Lisa. I don't give a shit," Accelerator said. "You know what? I'm going to hit the bank anyway. None of the Protectorate dipshits or the Wards or New Wave are going to beat me, okay? Unless Alexandria herself descended from the skies, there's not a thing in this city that could hurt me."
And if there was, it would draw the attention of his allies in Winthrop. The Protectorate had no idea of the god lurking just out of view, waiting for the opportunity to strike when the time was right.
To be frank, Eidolon's powers fascinated him. The ability to summon three superpowers needed at any given moment was fascinating. It wasn't strong enough, obviously, or else he'd have killed these giant monsters, the Endbringers.
But it was something.
"It's what the boss wants!" Lisa exclaimed. "And you don't even know which bank!"
"Let's just hit the biggest one then." Accelerator shrugged. "You can rob the bank on Thursday, I guess, after I rob it today. And tomorrow, if I felt like it. Enjoy a group of paranoid heroes waiting for you. Maybe the Triumvirate, if I'm feeling lucky. I'd get to fight them."
"You some kind of battle maniac or something?" Alec asked.
"No." He wasn't really sure. He enjoyed the thrill of the fight, but not against people who couldn't even do anything against him. As much as he hated Kihara Amata, he had to admit that their fight was exciting. And things were always fun when he fought Touma. In fact, they should really spar when he returned to Winthrop. He bet his new wings would spell game over for the level 0.
There was a fond smile on his face as he imagined breaking Touma's nose with his fist.
"That's creepy," Alec said. Rachel nodded in agreement. Whether to his smile or Alec's words, he didn't know.
"Okay," Lisa said, rubbing her forehead. "Let's talk strategy. Accelerator's strong, but being prepared doesn't hurt. Let's start with the Protectorate. Work our way down. Arms- hey! Where are you going?"
"Yeah, you do that with them," Accelerator said, leaving the room. "I'm gonna get some stuff from my car." When he was on the first floor, surrounded by ancient machinery, he extracted his phone and dialed a number. "Misaki?"
"Hey. What's up?"
"We're gonna rob the bank. Probably Bay Central, downtown. Not sure, but it is the largest one in Brockton Bay."
"I've learned something interesting. The Undersiders have an unseen boss. Probably the mastermind of this operation. Their boss wants to rob the bank on Thursday. Has some plans or whatever his James Bond type villains do."
"Interesting. What do you want me to do about it?"
"Keep an eye on stuff. How many sleeper agents and spies have you made so far?"
"A lot. I've got eyes and ears everywhere now. A net of informants reeling some really juicy fish." And it wasn't even a week since she arrived. It was virtually impossible to keep a secret when she was the one you were up against.
"You know who Kaiser is?"
"Working on it. For now though, I've got a bunch of other naughty Empire players you and your big boys could hit."
"Alright. After the bank job we'll get the one from you."
Like all good bank robbing clichés, they went through the front doors. Lisa wanted to go through the bank, but they put a vote to it and the majority won, once more. This time half the team was smirking, as if getting a perverse sense of satisfaction holding it over her head.
It started just a few minutes back. It was a bright and sunny day when they got out of the car and into the bank. It was a stone fixture six stories tall, with crenelations on the roof and balconies, stone gargoyles at the corners and iron grilles on the windows. The entryway had wide stone stairs like a courthouse, with statues of rearing horses with wild manes on either side. The name of the institution was etched into the stone above the doors. The Brockton Bay Central Bank. It was beautiful.
And it was his for the taking.
They were all in costume. Lisa in her lavender costume and domino mask. Grue in his motorcycle clothes and helmet painted with a skull. Regent in that strange renaissance clothing and Venetian mask and scepter. Hellhound, or Bitch, as Rachel preferred calling herself, in a dog mask and civilian clothing. Skitter in her costume resembling an insect's, with the yellow tinted goggles akin to large bug eyes. And Accelerator as Migliore, a simple man in a pristine white suit and a Pierrot inspired mask, the left side black, the right side white.
They were a team, and right now he felt like the leader.
Just like old times with Group.
They entered the bank. Bitch's three dogs, now the size of small ponies, bony and muscular, alongside Bitch following meekly after Accelerator. It was a strange dichotomy seeing large monsters being so bashful. Taylor's swarm, which she gathered from the surrounding environment, buzzed around her. Grue's own power, darkness manipulation, soaked into and through his costume. Tattletale, Regent and Accelerator were the only ones without visible powers, and he opted not to reveal his wings for his first publicity stunt.
"Oh hell," Grue said.
In the middle of the bank stood two figures. To the left was Armsmaster, a man in blue body armor with silver highlights, a v-shaped visor covering his eyes and nose, and a halberd with the blade pointed to the floor. Accompanying him to the right was Miss Militia. She wore a modified military uniform, tight enough in the essential areas to accentuate her curves, sporting a scarf around her lower face with an American flag embroidered on it, and a similar sash around her waist. She held a small, almost harmless looking revolver.
Based on what Accelerator read online, Armsmaster was dependent on his technology to battle. Miss Militia could reshape her gun, at the moment taking the shape of a revolver, could reshape into any 'normal' weapon she could imagine.
Accelerator was already moving. He slid through the floor like friction didn't even exist, crossing the distance in less than a second. It spoke volumes that the two heroes were experienced enough to react almost immediately to his sudden lunge. Armsmaster prepared to meet him. His Halberd was raised at the ready, blade at the ready to swat his chest away or smash his face. Miss Militia reshaped her revolver into a pistol and shot at his legs. The bullet was redirected at Miss Militia's left thigh. Before it made contact with her skin it vibrated and evaporated into thin air. The pistol changed into a broadsword. In the span of moments she was already reacting to his ability to reflect long ranged weaponry and opting to go melee. He raised a left hand and flicked the blade of Armsmaster's Halberd with his knuckles. His right hand went low, ignoring the broadsword that was repelled from his skin. Despite the pain she must be feeling Miss Militia merely gritted her teeth and used the kinetic energy from his attack to control her movement as she flew back, leaving him alone with Armsmaster. Armsmaster swung a left hook to his face. Combined with his armor it would've shattered the cheek of a lesser man. Against his skin Armsmaster might as well be naked attacking a steel wall. His gauntlet shattered when it made impact with Accelerator's jaw. It was little more than a graze, but the sheer destruction caused was enough to make Armsmaster hesitate. His Halberd, which was pointed at the ceiling after Accelerator swatted it aside, changed. The blade of the halberd broke into three pieces, reconfigured and fired into a grappling hook towards a chandelier. He was already flying when Accelerator struck the floor. It shattered, creating a crater. He buried his foot a meter deep, and then kicked it upward, uprooting it and causing a tremor. Pieces of the floor flew towards Armsmaster, the impact crushing him against the ceiling. Miss Militia reshaped her weapon into a rocket launcher. Debris the size of a basketball fell from the ceiling, parting from the large projectile Accelerator struck Armsmaster with. He punched the debris towards her the same time Miss Militia pulled the trigger and released the rocket. She was struck in the head. He was soaked in a fiery explosion.
He contained the impact from harming everyone else, condensing the attack towards himself until there was nothing left. When he dismissed the flames, he walked beside the crater. The debris he struck Armsmaster with fell to the floor, accompanied by the unconscious superhero. Miss Militia was in a similar state of paralysis, but still remained conscious and glared at him through a bleeding and bruised face. Her weapon was blurring into energy, turning into something else, when he kicked the floor. A tile flew spun through the air and struck her forehead, leaving a deep cut. Her head struck the wall. She lost consciousness.
What felt like an hour hadn't even been ten seconds. Accelerator shook his head in awe. They were good. To react so swiftly to his attack and change tactics after each of their own attempts to hurt him were repelled showed an incredibly amount of experience he'd expect from seasoned veterans. If either of them possessed Touma's power, they could've honestly given him a run for his money.
"Damn," Accelerator said, unable to help the grin on his face. "We should fight more often." He turned to the observers, bank workers and customers alike who watched with expressions of horror at the sheer one-sided battle against their beloved heroes. "Everyone," Accelerator said. "Get on the floor, pretty please."
Skitter hastily approached Accelerator and grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him to the side and away from the hostages. "Did you really have to hit them that hard?"
"They were fast, almost as fast as me," he said. "Who knows what would've happened if I held back." He shook her hand off, made his way to the vault, paused, and turned around towards his teammates. They were all staring at him. One of the monster dogs buried its head on the floor. Poor fella must've been scared from the explosion. He heard dogs didn't like loud noises. Still, he needed someone else to carry the bags or he'd destroy the money against the fight with the heroes.
"Bitch," Accelerator said. She flinched, as if called upon for punishment. Was she still scared of him because he hurt her dogs? He really needed to make up to her for it. Maybe he could apologize later after the heist. "Could you bring the bags over?"
The dogs fetched duffel bags from outside the front doors and then galloped after Bitch who broke from the team to follow Accelerator. He stood in front of the vault. Observed the stainless steel wheel. Tapped it with his left knuckles. The wheel dented inward, digging into the vault, which curled with a groan. He passed through the gap and entered the interior of the vault. It was stainless steel from top to bottom. Banded bundles of bills were organized into stacks. So much money. So little time.
"Can you handle it?" he asked her.
"Yeah. Leave it to me."
He was hoping she'd say no so they can bond a little over stealing some cash from the bank, but it seemed Rachel was adamant on making him go away. A shame. Accelerator left the vault and went to the other Undersiders. Grue gathered Miss Militia and Armsmaster and was treating them with a first aid kit.
"Where'd you get that?" Accelerator asked.
"From one of the helpful bank workers," Grue said. "Man, you really did a number on Miss Militia. Were you trying to kill her? Cause you almost succeeded."
"Almost, because I wasn't." He knew she would survive his attacks. He wouldn't kill a hero. Skitter and Tattletale were peering through the windows. Regent raised his scepter trying to get the halberd that hung from the chandelier. Accelerator joined the two girls. "How many heroes whose asses am I kicking today?"
"Enough to last us a lifetime," Tattletale said.
"Migliore," Skitter said, sounding worried. "Are we really going to be fine?"
"Relax." He held her shoulder in reassurance. "I won't let anything hurt you, okay?" He turned to Tattletale. "Time to take one for the time. You distract them while the rest of us run away."
"Fuck you!" Tattletale said.
Accelerator inspected the entourage on the street. He counted nine heads. Five from the Protectorate: Assault, Battery, Dauntless, Triumph, Velocity. Four from New Wave: Brandish, Flashbang, Lady Photon and Manpower.
They didn't bring any kids. Good. If they were stupid enough to involve teenagers in what he thought they would assume was going to be a bloodbath, he'd rip them apart.
He analyzed them one by one. Assault wore red body armor and a visor covering the upper half of his face. He could control kinetic energy, but not to the same extent as Accelerator. Battery wore a skintight white and dark grey costume covered with circuit-like cobalt blue lines. Based on his readings, she could charge up her power and boost her speed, strength, and obtain electromagnetic abilities. Dauntless wore a white and gold armor like that of a Spartan or a Greek soldier, and was armed with a spear that looked like lightning and a shield fixed to his forearm, surrounded by rings of the same energy as his spear. He grew stronger with time, and eventually he might even fight Accelerator on an even footing. But that was far off into the future. Triumph wore a gold lion helm, shoulder-pads and belt, and skintight suit. His power was sound manipulation. Considering Accelerator could mute sound, he regarded Triumph, more than the others, as a nonentity. Velocity wore a red costume with racing stripes down either side and two stripes that met in a 'v' on his chest. He had super speed, or a variance of it. Strangely enough it actually made him weaker. Brandish wore a white costume with orange trim and a crossed-blade symbol. Her power allowed her to create light constructs that functioned akin to solid objects. Flashbang wore a white costume with padding and helmet, marked with a green-yellow grenade icon. He could create bouncing orbs of light capable of detonating with potentially lethal force. Lady Photon wore a white bodysuit without a mask. There was a starburst on the chest of her bodysuit in indigo purple. Lines extended from the star's edge towards the rest of her body. She could fly, create energy blasts and forcefields. Manpower wore something similar, only more masculine and in orange instead of purple. He could create some sort of shield that enhanced his strength and durability.
"We're done," Bitch said.
"Good," Accelerator said, impatience seeping through his voice. When I fight them, and I will fight them, the rest of you make a run for it."
"But-" Skitter began.
"No buts!" Accelerator said. "Listen to me if you don't want to spend the rest of your life with a criminal record. Get the fuck out of here when we clash, got it? I'm going to be aiming for New Wave first. They've got a lot of long ranged hitters. Then I'll dash straight for Velocity. His superspeed might be a problem. Same with Battery. The rest of you run, okay? Don't stop until you've escaped."
"Sounds like a plan," Tattletale said with a mock salute. Accelerator's fingers twitched and when Bitch and her monster dogs left the vault Accelerator bolted out of the door. He was on the lawn of the bank facing the heroes all by his lonesome, ready to enact his plan.
"Kid!" Assault screamed. "You made one hell of a mistake! You have one chance to surrender or I promise you I will fuck you up!"
He laughed. Trash talk before the fight even started? He liked this man.
"Why don't you come over here and do it?" he asked, taking a step forward. Assault grinned and actually charged. Before he could take more than three steps, however, he fell on his face.
"What?" Battery gasped, and then fell on her back. Triumph followed, and then Velocity, Dauntless, Brandish, Lady Photon, Manpower and Flashbang.
"No," Accelerator gasped in horror, feeling a chill creep up his chest. Someone did this. He knew who. He was hyperventilating. Clenched his fists. The air vibrated inches from his skin. Four tornado-like wings whirled into existence from his back, creating a blast of air towards his surroundings.
"Whoa," Regent said, looking at all the unconscious heroes. "Holy shit, man. You did this?"
No! He wanted to scream, but he couldn't rat out his teammate. Misaki, that brat, couldn't even follow through the deal she agreed to follow a day after she made it. Fucking unbelievable. He chose to ignore the question and turned to Grue.
"Cover us in darkness."
The entire bank was shrouded in shadow. The Undersiders made their escape.
Misaki looked at her phone in amusement from the back of the black Honda Civic parked across the street. She was on her way to meet up with the spokesperson for the Dockworkers Association when Accelerator informed her he would attempt a bank robbery in Bay Central.
She lied on her back on the bench seat of the Sedan. Her driver, the owner of the car, was a man happily married to his wife, the two raising two girls. They were short on money, so Misaki left ten grand on the passenger seat with a note telling him her number if he wanted more cash.
She picked the car at random. Gained attention by hitchhiking. Found a reliable driver on his way to work. A man named James Lewis. 45 years old. Made him miss his job, but offered a better one. All he had to do was drive. They waited for hours until it began. Armsmaster and Miss Militia were near the bank, but not inside it. She changed their minds, made Miss Militia call backup and insisted they call reinforcements from New Wave just moments before Accelerator entered the bank.
She wanted to see how the two heroes would do against Accelerator. They did poorly. When all the adults gathered on the street, they were sitting ducks for her to bend to her will.
Darkness covered the street one moment, and then it vanished the next. Grue, using his powers to cloak the location of the team. After they were gone the Wards and the younger heroes of New Wave, who were hiding inside and atop buildings rushed to the aftermath of the battlezone. They were panicked, seeing the majority of the heroes unconscious. Civilians rushed from the bank, carrying the beaten forms of Armsmaster and Miss Militia. They were good people. She didn't worry. One of theirs, Panacea, could fix up whatever wounds Accelerator inflicted upon the two heroes.
The children were conflicted. A part of them wanted to join the fight. Beat the villains unconscious for all the harm they've caused. The other was afraid, running under the assumption Accelerator, or the masked man in the white suit, caused all this without lifting a finger. He could've done them all the same way.
Not that it was actually their choice. If left alone, the children would've joined the fight. Misaki planted the seeds of doubt and fear that kept them in hiding. Of the Wards and New Wave, Clockblocker, Vista and Panacea were the most intriguing capes. Their powers needed to be tested in a safer environment to see how they'd truly dwell against Accelerator.
The heroes would wake five minutes later. There was no need for them to worry. Misaki snapped her fingers. The driver looked at her from the rearview mirror. Stars were on his eyes. The same as hers.
"Let us leave," she said, and they did. A crowd was forming by the heroes. No one paid attention to the Sedan that quietly drove away.
Accelerator should be thanking her for the chance to fight at all. If she willed it, he wouldn't have met any heroes despite the number of times he'd rob the bank. That was going to be the core of her argument when she returned to their apartment. She already dreaded the fight that was about to ensue.
"Holy shit balls that happened," Alec said, staring at the news on the TV.
"Alec," Brian said, throwing him a can of beer. Accelerator was sipping through another, sitting on a couch. Lisa was on another, munching on some pizza rolls and working on her third can of alcohol. She shared slices with Rachel and her dogs, which were unusually subdued. Taylor sat beside Accelerator, holding a can of diet coke instead of a beer. He didn't allow her to drink and insisted she remain on the 'safe side' until she was eighteen.
"So Lisa," Alec said. "What's the boss going to think about this?"
Lisa shook her head. "I have no fucking clue!" She finished her can. "You know, Accelerator, I honestly thought you'd fuck this up. Make us fight alongside you somehow. I dunno, bond maybe, struggle together against the forces of good and all that mushy stuff. But nooo, you just had to one-shot them all like they were worth nothing. Why am I even a part of this team?"
"Yeah," Alec said. "Why are you a part of this team? You know the way out, Lisa." She gave him the middle finger and asked Brian to give her another can.
"That wasn't how it was supposed to go." Accelerator couldn't hide the disappointment in his tone. "I actually expected a fight…" He made a wistful sigh. "Some people, huh. Can't trust them for anything."
"It's okay," Taylor said, patting his shoulder. "You'll fight stronger opponents."
"Huh. I wish." He snorted. If Misaki kept interfering then he doubted he actually would. There was nothing exciting anymore. If this was her way of revenge for having him pluck her out of Winthrop then she won. He didn't want her here either.
The news reporter was talking about the new S-class threat that decided to make Brockton Bay their home. A potential competition for Lung, and serious firepower for the Undersiders. Within the span of mere hours the Undersiders were elevated from nobodies into genuine threats to the Protectorate, in part because one of their member took down the local Protectorate.
"All eyes on us," Alec said.
"Yup," Accelerator said.
"You realize there are going to be people that'll you blow for blow, right?" Alec asked. "Or maybe even put a dent in your indestructible face. No pressure."
"Yeah." Lisa pinched the bridge of her nose. "This was what I was worried about. Being lay profile was a benefit for us, you know? Kept the heroes from escalating and the villains from going after us thinking we'd be easy boosts to their rep."
"Relax," Brian said. "You saw what Accelerator could do. He made them fall asleep just by looking at them. I don't know about you but that is not a guy I want to mess with."
"There's a trick to it," Lisa said. "Did you remove the oxygen from the air or something? I've seen you do that a few times."
"You've seen me 'move' oxygen?" Accelerator asked. "How the fuck does that work? Your power allows you to see air?"
"They're not the same thing," Lisa said. "And I know things, remember? Or were you not paying attention to our little discussion yesterday?"
"Whatever." Accelerator's phone ringed. He checked the screen. It was a message from Warren. Problem, it read.
Internally he cursed.
"I'm gonna take a breather," he said. "Get this mess out of my head."
"Dude, you have too high expectations for your enemies," Alec said. "You should lower them to increase the chances of not being disappointed."
"Fuck you, Alec." Accelerator didn't even know what he was talking about. He went to the bathroom, changed into a black hoodie, jeans, and sneakers, and then returned to the living room. "Taylor, be careful, okay?"
"Sure. Where you going?"
"Like I said. Around the Bay."
"Can I come with?"
Her sudden scowl made him laugh and ruffle her hair. She slapped his hand away. Again, his power didn't work. But he was getting used to it.
When he was out of the factory he was already running out of the Docks. He chose the paths with the least people, which was made easier by the state of emergency caused by the fight on the bank that took down the entire Brockton Bay Protectorate team.
Warren was calling for help. Accelerator imagined the worst. One of the Roch brothers or another member of the Empire learned how Warren ratted them out and put a bullet to his head.
Accelerator didn't know what he'd do if someone tied under his leadership.
He'd probably kill the Roch brothers, and work his way up, and then down until he was sure every participant was dead.
He arrived on the sidewalk across the street from Warren's house. Warren was surrounded by three men, all bigger and tougher than him, and Warren was frantically speaking, probably telling them he wasn't part of the robbery of the Roch brothers.
Accelerator checked the neighborhood for eyewitnesses. Found three. A redheaded girl on her lawn holding a green balloon, a driver inside his car, and an old man looking from his porch.
Accelerator pulled up his hood to cover his head and from his pocket he took out a black face mask, strapped behind his ears to stick to his face and cover his mouth and nose.
He ran. He tried to make it look normal even as he dashed through the street, leaped half a dozen feet over the lawn towards the three men in under three seconds.
One of them, a bald man with a beard, sunglasses, and wearing a black tank top that showed off his muscles, was the first to turn towards Accelerator. Accelerator threw a fist to the bald man's sternum and sent him flying towards the wall of the house. The strength of the impact and the lack of movement from his body meant he was down for the count. His two companions, realizing they were under attacked, moved into action. The man to his left, a twenty-year-old punk with messy blond hair under a cap, took out a switchblade and lunged for his throat. The man to his right, sporting black hair ending in curls and a goatee, took out brass knuckles and wore them on his left hand, throwing a swing for his Accelerator scythed an elbow to the left man's head, ignoring the switchblade shattering against his skin. There was a crack following his attack, and the blond man lost all consciousness and fell on his back. The right man, unaware of Accelerator's power, saw an opening and struck his face. The brass knuckles dented and broke, sharp edges digging into the man's flesh. His shriek was brief. Accelerator punched his stomach, making the man lurch forward. Accelerator grabbed his hair and pulled his face into a raised knee. The nose, cheeks and jaw broke and shattered from the attack. Blood trickled from the wounds. Accelerator let him go and watched him fall beside his friend.
He inspected the right man's pockets and came back with a gun. He aimed at Warren. "Inside the house, now!" Warren, confused, ran back inside.
Good. Make it look like Warren was still on the Empire's side. There was an audience to be misled. Both the eyewitnesses here and the members who later would observe from the videos taken and come to their own conclusion.
Before he could plan this out, he heard sirens in the distance. The cops were coming in. Accelerator could fight and draw unnecessary attention to himself, or he could run and make it seem like a gang war. He ran around and behind the house, and didn't stop until he reached the edge of the Docks. He went inside the ghetto, to one of the abandoned buildings, and removed his face mask. He sighed.
Those men. Whoever they were. He needed to find out who sent them. And to keep them silent about his powers when they wake up.
He needed Misaki.
"So you want me to owe you two favors now? Just because I helped you beat those pesky heroes from the Protectorate and New Wave? Is that right? You want me to owe you for the mistake of helping you?" Misaki asked.
"Yes," Accelerator said. He expected another argument. He didn't expect what she said next.
"Okay, but after this I'll only owe one more favor and you'll forgive my interference," she said. "So, what do you need?"
He told her.
"I see. I'll call you when it's done." She hung up. He stared at the phone and checked the time. He spent a total of fifteen minutes in the abandoned building before she called again.
"Meet me in Cheaksey."
Cheaksey was an expensive cafe in the Boardwalk. He crossed the small distance between the Docks and the Boardwalk, separated by a park, and stepped on the wooden walkway. He made his way to the cafe. Two enforcers, uniformed men paid to keep undesirables like the poor, the troublemakers and the gang members, blocked his path.
Accelerator took two fifty dollar bills from his pocket and handed them to one of the enforcers. "Sorry sir," they said, apologizing for mistaking him for a hoodlum and happily accepting his money. He could just beat them unconscious, but that would draw unwanted attention. It was easier to bribe them.
He entered Cheaksey cafe. Found Misaki in one of the booths. Went towards her table. She was helping herself to a slice of apple pie. There was a teacup filled with milky white tea beside her meal. What is that? Tea with too much milk?
"Hey there," she said, smiling at him.
"What's with the name of this shop?" he asked and sat on the cushion seat across the table.
"It's the name of the owner's grandmother," Misaki said. "You want some apple pie?"
He waited for her to finish her meal. When she was done, she sported a blissful smile and used a paper napkin to wipe her face.
"So, what did you find out?" Accelerator asked. Misaki put her fork on the plate and then covered it with the paper napkin.
"Well, I paid a visit to Warren who was being investigated in the precinct. Didn't meet him in person. I just waited by the parking lot, possessed someone, sent them inside and then found Warren being interrogated by the cops. A cursory glance at his mind gave me the names of the three men. From the cops I gleaned their location. They were at the second floor of a nearby hospital. I paid them a visit. A security guard was kind enough to lead the way. Even offered to wipe out the camera feeds with me in it." There was a brief twinkle in her eyes. "The three attackers were friends of the middle child of the Roch brothers. Not as close as Warren is to the siblings, but definitely reliable enough to ask for favors."
"Did you erase their memories of me using my powers?"
"Yes." Holding the teacup, she raised it to her lips. Sipped her tea. Sighed with a goofy smile. "This is the stuff."
"Thanks," Accelerator said. "The shit you pulled at the bank is forgiven."
She sniffed. "I merely wished to aid my partner in the plight that is his fight. You're such a prick."
"Whatever." Accelerator's fingers drummed the table. "So what job do you have for us?"
"The drug dealers of the Empire. Not the lackeys on the streets, but the people running the scene. They're mostly hidden from the public. Only the upper echelon of the Empire knows who they are. Well, them and people like me." She made a playful smile.
"People like you?"
"Yes. Telepaths. Or people of the like capable of skipping several steps in obtaining the information we need. I think in this world it's called thinkers."
Thinkers like Tattletale.
If Misaki used memories to bridge the gap between a question and an answer, then what did Tattletale use? Clues? The slightest change in the environment? Or did she simply possess plain old enhanced intelligence?
If her power was the obtaining of information itself, then sooner or later she was going to learn about Winthrop. Touma, Index, Mikoto.
And when she does, she needed to be in a situation where she would keep the information to herself. There were two ways to ensure Tattletale from spreading the information. One way was to have her be in their side. Be it as someone who trusts Accelerator with her life, or find herself in a situation where she had more to lose if she spread her knowledge, or as someone completely subservient to his control.
The other way was to kill her. It was better all around. Even if she was on their side other thinkers could glean the information from her anyway. Killing her removed the possibility of a leak.
But he didn't want to kill her.
The perfect solution faced him with a twinkle in her starry eyes.
"Misaki, I have a nosy teammate who might unearth our friends back in Winthrop," he said. "Her power basically allows her to become Sherlock Holmes. She can pull information out of thin air." Literally, if she was able to notice the redirection of the air molecules around him.
"You want me to brainwash her?" Misaki asked. "Kind of cruel, isn't it?"
"No. Just, keep an eye on her. And since when did you care about who you controlled?"
She blushed, embarrassed, grinned and scratched her head. "Fair point. But I meant more as in you betraying your teammates."
"They're not my teammates," Accelerator said. "I'm just playing along because Taylor wants to play undercover to learn what they're hiding for some reason."
He didn't find it strange why Taylor wanted to do that. If pretending to be an undercover cop was going to be her hobby, then it would be best if he didn't discourage her. She was finally coming out of her shell. Anything negative would push her back in.
And it wasn't like she was in danger. Not really.
There was a lull in the conversation. Misaki stared out the window, to the beautiful beach and the people, families and friends, enjoying it. Accelerator observed the customers. Rich, wealthy people from out of town and rich kids with nothing better to do were spending a pretty penny just to buy ridiculously overpriced coffee. It wasn't because the coffee was good, but because it was a sign of status of how rich they were.
"I think it was still a mistake," Accelerator said.
"Hmm?" Misaki returned her focus to him.
"You intervening. Even if I did need your help, directly taking down the heroes was a bad move. You could've just made them see things. Think I'm invisible. Stuff like that. At least then they wouldn't feel the need to escalate."
"Is that what's going to happen?" She tapped the table with her forefinger. "They'll escalate?"
"They can't ignore it," Accelerator said. "The same way they can't ignore Endbringers or other superlative threats. Because they challenge the government. They'll send someone else. Someone stronger than what the local Protectorate have now. And when they do, they'll be gunning after me. Why did you do it, Misaki?"
He was still frustrated. If he was the one who defeated them, then at least it would appear like they managed to make him work for victory. But Misaki's interference made it so painfully lopsided escalation was the only logical conclusion. He was a villain. He defeated all the local heroes. Conclusion? They respond by bringing stronger heroes into Brockton Bay.
"So? We beat them one after the other. And then they'll have to quarantine the Bay. Cut it off from the rest of the world. It'll make it easier for us to take over. And make it easier for our boss too."
She was speaking freely despite being in a place full of people. The reason why she wasn't worried was because she was likely using her power to make everyone ignore them, just like that night she arrived in her Lamborghini.
"Make it HOSV?" HOSV, or hive of scum and villainy were quarantined locations under the control of the local supervillain the Protectorate was unable to suppress. Freedom, Eagleton and Ellisburg came to mind. Freedom was controlled by a pastor, a church, and townspeople under his thumb. Eagleton was overwhelmed by a self-replicating machine army. Ellisburg was overpopulated by monsters and a madman who calls himself king. So long as there wasn't a containment breach, they were all left alone.
There was merits there. If he ruled the city then he could do as he pleased. Whatever attempts at containing him to the Bay would fail due to his connection with Othinus. After the town gets quarantined he could start cleaning it up, help the homeless, get them homes, and arrest the thugs walking down the streets with their heads held high. Not more skulking around from the authority because he would be the ultimate authority of the Bay.
But there were demerits as well. Taylor didn't know his connection to Othinus. He'd much prefer her not hating him. Living in fear of the local warlord who was the cause of the town getting cut off from the rest of the country was not a good way to live.
Once more he regretted bringing Misaki along. She misunderstood the offer he was making to the Dockworkers Association as an attempt to control them, and after them, the rest of the Bay. She probably thought they'd buy everything here, one by one, through shell companies or middlemen, until all of the Bay was under their control.
He just wanted to help Danny.
That, and if his name hit the news, it might draw Touma's attention. Touma, who fought Accelerator because he couldn't stand the thought of ten thousand clones dying. How much more if he misunderstood and assumed the city itself would fall victim to Accelerator's onslaught? And if Touma interferes with the quarantine zone, Accelerator would have to back off. He couldn't hurt Touma. Not if he was the one in the wrong. And that would in turn draw attention to Touma, and through him the rest of their group in Winthrop. Othinus might have to use magic in a big scale, and if her assumptions were true, that there was someone immune to her magic existing somewhere in the world, she would tip off this hypothetical boogeyman and allow them to prepare for an eventual clash with Othinus.
No. He couldn't allow it.
"Misaki, don't do that again. Please." He couldn't strongarm her into obeying him. Level 5's were too individualistic to actually give a crap about each other's opinions. But if he could approach her as a friend, as an ally, as a reasonable person, then she would back off.
Or he'd report her to Othinus as more of a hindrance than an aid. He'd make sure she'd suffer for crossing him without laying a finger on her body. He'd even write it down with a quill and an inkwell on some fine paper just so he could brag about the pen being mightier than the sword.
Misaki narrowed her eyes. No doubt she was planning countermeasures in case he tried to humiliate her. She harrumphed and crossed her arms under her breasts. "Well? Aren't you going to ask me about the job?"
"I was, before you decided to go on a tangent about telepaths and thinkers. So what's the job?"
She began explaining it to him. He was disinterested until he learned the name of the target, which drew his undivided attention. And then he learned of what the target and his coterie did. What brief horror he felt was overcomed with seething hatred hidden under a cold, bored face. He shouldn't have been surprised. They were just trash like him.
An hour after Accelerator left, Danny Hebert appeared. He was a thin man under his old suit with balding black hair he was unable to hide under his cap. His large green eyes were magnified by his glasses. All in all he gave the impression of someone easily blown away by the wind.
Danny looked around the cafe, searching for Misaki. The barista called the local enforcers, uniformed men paid to remove undesirables from the money making portion of Brockton Bay, and they arrived in force. Four of them. Two grabbed Danny's shoulders, and two more flanked them. Some of the people in line took out their phones. Pedestrians saw the event through the window and did much the same.
"Stop that." Misaki snapped her fingers. Neither the enforcers nor the barista actually heard her speak. She was far too away for her soft-spoken voice to be carried towards them. The reason they obeyed was because she used an application of her power, Mental Out, to give them the command to obey her orders. The enforcers lost interest in Danny and let him go. So did the barista. The crowd of customers and onlookers from outside the cafe put their cameras and phones back in their pockets and moved on. She followed with another command, to remove any pictures or videos that involved her presence. CCTV cameras were going to be missing parts of their record because of her.
"Danny, over here," Misaki said, slightly raising her voice just so he could hear her. He was wondering what just happened. Why everyone suddenly ignored him. She made sure he followed the sentiment and commanded him to ignore what happened as well, and then made a mental bomb that would erase the strange event altogether from his mind. The mental bomb would detonate five minutes after she left.
"Miss Misaki?" Danny took out a phone her lawyer had given when she failed to arrive in their meeting to keep him to keep in-touch with her. She called him an hour earlier to this exact address to continue their discussion.
Using the phone, Danny called her number. Misaki took out her own phone from her handbag, which ringed, and answered. "It's me, Danny."
"Right, sorry." He hung up and went to her booth. Sat opposite her. "Um, well, I don't really know where to begin. I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to give me and my people work. You can be rest assured we'll do whatever it is you'll give us to the best of our abilities."
Misaki nodded. From her handbag extracted a rolled piece of paper and a ballpoint pen. She straightened the paper, revealing fine prints and a line to put a signature. "You asked me where to begin. Let's start with a contract." She handed him the paper to read, and left the pen at the center of the table. "I'll order us something to eat. How does carrot cake sound?"
"Perfect!" She clapped her hands and put it beside her smiling face. She caught a whiff of thought under Danny's surprised and serious exterior. 'She's so young. Still childish and a bundle of energy. How did she become the owner of her company?' She ignored his thoughts and got up and left the booth.
What was she going to order? Carrot cake, cheese cake, chocolate cake. Yes, those all sounded wonderful. It would've been easier to cut in line. With her power no one would complain. But enjoying a slightly extravagant normal life was tasteful too.
'And drinks! I'll order drinks too,' she thought.
Hokaze Junko was a member of the Boston Wards for six months, and was recently transferred to Brockton Bay. She was never informed by her lady until the day they were going to leave, but she was happy to be pulled along in whatever great adventure her lady had in store for her.
Junko was a slender girl with the most noticeable features about her being her long hair with ringlet curls. She wore a white bodysuit under an empire waist dress, a domino mask covering the upper half of her face, and two blue bracelets around her wrists.
Normally, she'd be the latest talk of the town because the reasons for her transfer was mysterious and unknown. Just a series of events and people suddenly finding it a good idea she should be in the bay.
Alas, two people far more famous were the talk of the day. One of them stood beside her on the rooftop of a building overlooking the skyline of the city. Her companion showed her a white tablet. From the screen a video played. It was the other famous person of the bay.
Accelerator. Or as the public knew him through information anonymously leaked online, Migliore. He wore a cute looking mask and tasteful white suit as he tore through Armsmaster and Miss Militia inside the bank. The videos were probably caught from the bank's security cameras. It transferred to another video, probably from that of a pedestrian, as Accelerator exited the bank and faced the heroes standing on the street reminiscent of high noon showdowns of the Old West.
And then all the heroes fell, one by one. The attack did not come from Accelerator, but from her lady, Misaki. Junko was one-hundred-percent sure of that.
Not that her companion knew that. Her companion was far taller than her. Seven foot tall. She possessed long, glossy pale hair and covered her naked body with crystalline scales, an application of her power. A three foot horn protruding from her forehead was likely the same. She was Narwhal, the head of the Canadian superhero team the Guild and the leader of the Toronto branch of the Protectorate.
"What do you think of him?" Narwhal asked.
'He is quite the splendid man.' She couldn't voice her thoughts and compliment the enemy. It would not do for good moral. "I think he is quite powerful," she said. There. Truth, aware of the threat, and yet lauding of their skills and abilities.
"Indeed," Narwhal said. "I've been trying to figure out his power myself."
If it were up to Junko, she would not spend the day with a stranger she held no interest in and would rather be by her lady's side. Alas, it was not to be. Narwhal wanted to get to know her fellow transferee. She said things were fine in Toronto, which Narwhal pronounces as 'Tur-on-no' or something to that effect.
"Are you not worried the Guild might be directionless without your guidance?" she asked.
"Nah. We have a new member. Curtana." That would be Carissa. "She's powerful and quite reliable. Creates lasers from her sword. Younger than me, too, with a future in leadership. Although she has quite the temper. Still, she's quite the muckle and we're lucky to have her."
"Ah. I see." So lady Carissa was also taking control of Toronto, just like Accelerator was taking over Brockton Bay. If that is the case then they went at completely opposite ways to achieve it. If only the other cities were more like Boston, whose Protectorate branch consisted almost exclusively of magical creatures like her. Junko was quite confused about that part of her existence. Was she still Junko, an esper, with a flavor of magic added into her body? Or was she a magical creature merely possessing the memories and abilities of the girl called Junko?
In the end, so long as she was with her lady, it didn't matter.
Still, she bet the Protectorate would be surprised if they ever learned that all the 'heroes' in Boston were not parahumans but rather magical creatures like her with psychic abilities and magic spells used in lieu of parahuman superpowers.
"He holds great strength, speed and invincibility," Junko said, after they finished the video. "This Migliore fellow," a splendid gentleman, "ignored the attacks Armsmaster and Miss Militia both threw at him, and then pummelled them unconscious." Not literally, but the effect was quite the same.
"You talk strange," Narwhal said, scrutinizing her face. Junko blinked twice.
"Nothing. Just, were you raised in a mansion?"
"No. Just five star hotels."
"Ah. Clearly a difference. I get it now. Never mind. Back to Migliore, he had additional powers like his wind manipulation. Tornadoes sprung from his back and a pulse of air blew through the surroundings after he took down the Protectorate and New Wave. An average person loses consciousness after one minute without breathing. With superpowers it might even be less. Do you think he tampered with the air?"
"It is indeed a possibility," Junko said, holding her chin contemplatively and with a solemn expression donning her face. Accelerator certainly could pull it off, but he was far more 'hands on' in his approach to things. Misaki was the opposite. She preferred if you didn't see the attack coming. She would stalk, observe, and compile data on her prey, and when the time is right she would attack them. Of course considering her methodology took mere seconds to implement, maybe she was not the best example.
"Regardless, he didn't kill them at least. Would've been a shame to be K.I.A. Or be the unlucky one delivering the kiyi. One of his teammates, a villain called Grue, administered first aid to Armsmaster and Miss Militia. And he didn't leave any damage to the other heroes after he incapacitated them."
That is because Accelerator is a respectable gentleman.
"How strange," she said. "Do you think you can take him?" And if she can, Junko will report it to Misaki, who will warn Accelerator, who can prepare for Narwhal.
"Maybe." Narwhal held her phone over the ledge of the rooftop and released it from her fingers, letting it fall to the street. The phone fell. And then it stopped falling, suspended in midair. It floated back to the rooftop and swirled around Narwhal, orbiting her. On closer inspection the phone was not floating as much as it was being carried by tiny crystalline energy (force-fields) glittering with faint rainbow hues.
"Relax," Narwhal said, giving her an encouraging smile. " Don't worry about me. I'm pretty strong too."
Junko laughed. "Truly?"
Othinus had watched imported films from earth Aleph, the series called Harry Potter.
She enjoyed them immensely, and believe they were an actual biography of the boy who lived. She wished she and Touma ended up there instead, so she could meet her fellow magicians who call themselves wizards and witches. And she could even study this arcane wonder called Hogwarts.
Replicating the Marauder's Map was easy. She changed it to reveal all the secrets of Boston, Winthrop, and whatever areas the map was currently inside. There was an added application of the map revealing whoever it was she sought. She found Accord in some building in Charlestown. Wondered how she should approach him.
She left the map on her desk, leaned back on her recliner chair and put her feet on top of her desk on top of her laptop. She was in her study, wearing a red babydoll, wondering who to replace Misaki. Blonde bangs covered her face. She blew on her hair. It fell to the side, revealing an eyepatch covering her right eye. She created and hired employees to avoid work, laze around and spend time with Touma. She could hog his attention all day, but it wouldn't do to keep him from his friends.
A little distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Her arms were draped on the armrest of her chair. She raised a hand, conjured a red pen with a heart shaped tip. Bit the tip. Magic energy flowed through the pen and was absorbed by her body. The heart pen would give random ideas each time it was bitten.
Pathways previously invisible to her became open to her mind. Ideas illuminated like the stars in the sky, filling her with infinite possibilities.
In the endless stream of ideas she found one that piqued her interest. She removed her feet from her desk, crossed her bare legs and snapped her fingers. Her laptop floated towards her. The monitor rose. The LED screen revealed her target. She created a portal to Accord's location using the laptop as a medium. Visible through her end, invisible from his, akin to a one-way mirror used in interrogation rooms.
Accord was seated behind a desk in his office. He was a short man, barely over five feet. He wore an ornate mask with curling, overlapping bands of dark metal trimmed in silver, possessed oiled and neatly parted hair, and wore a clean white suit.
This was the man who send a killer after her butler? Othinus didn't care about her employee's life and she usually left the workers to Misaki. But Misaki was not here. And it would not do to let other people harm hers without retaliation in kind. It would set a precedent.
She snapped her fingers.
On Accord's office a black portal split beneath his chair. He fell. The portal closed.
The scenery changed. With a bird's eye view it revealed the building which held Accord's office, and the surrounding buildings around it. A whitish-gold ball of energy struck the side of the building where Accord's office would be, destroying it and disintegrating everything inside his office.
She closed the laptop.
"Well," Othinus said. "That was easy." She stretched her arms and yawned. She took her phone and sent a message to her subordinates, informing them of the new plan. And then she left her seat. "Wonder what Touma's doing." And left the study.
Citrine was a young, blond woman wearing a goldenrod yellow evening gown and a gemstone studded mask. She was a member of Accord's Ambassadors, his group of subordinates that exist to do his bidding, be it terminating his enemies, or cleaning his office. Not that he'd let them.
Citrine was in the hallway, glanced through the window, and saw a magnificent view of the Boston skyline. That was when she saw it.
She only caught a glance. Less than a second of warning. It was a bright, powerful ball of light that blinded her and made her cover her eyes and look away. She remembered watching the news when she was younger, about an interview on a man who survived the attack of a weapon oriented tinker focused on creating a variety of missiles. He described it as wrath of God. Just a small orange light in the distance. And then he was engulfed in an explosion and a torrent of flames. He wasn't the main target. That was how he survived. Made a promise never to go to Africa again.
That was the last thought on her mind. And then the building shook. The explosion was deafening. She covered her ears and grit her teeth. The windows shattered. The ceiling cracked. Debris fell. Glass shards flew. At the moment countless number of things could hurt her.
She used her power. Within the small area that was a section of the hallway she slowed the progression of time. Everything was five times slower than normal. She avoided a debris that would've hit her head and slapped away a piece of glass that would've cut her skin.
She took a glance to the hole that was formerly a door to Accord's office. Everything was destroyed and burned. The walls, ceiling and floor were all gone, leaving a view of the street below where a crowd of people were watching the aftermath of the attack.
Citrine snarled and ran away from the strike zone in case of a follow-up and swore she would get revenge.
Safe house, Revere
Ninety minutes after the attack on Accord, Lizardtail watched the news from one one of their safehouses in Revere, Suffolk County. He was at the lobby when he felt the attack. He gathered with his fellow Ambassadors and prepared for a siege, but there was no follow-up. They learned from Citrine that their leader, Accord, was dead.
They didn't know who their enemies were. They didn't know how many of their enemies took part in the initial assault. They didn't know from where their enemies would strike from next. It could be anywhere in the city. They didn't take the chance. They extracted two million dollars from their stash houses in Boston and drove southwest to Revere.
Accord taught them well.
And now he was gone.
Lizardtail wore a suit with a green dress shirt. He sat on the couch. A copper lizard mask was on the coffee table in front of him, revealing his face many girls called handsome. The TV across the room was currently on the news channel of Boston Globe. The reporters were speculating on the source of the attack. Perhaps it was one of Accord's rivals, like Blasto and his companion Rotten Apple. Or maybe it was the Teeth finally deciding to expand their territory. Or maybe it was a new player deciding to make their mark and leaving a grand first impression by killing a powerful man. It was the Boston Games all over again.
"We should retaliate," Othello said as he entered the room. Othello wore a black suit and held a mask divided between alabaster white and jet black. He had a plain, bored face, messy black hair, bright blue eyes and a small scar on his left cheek. A remnant from one of their battles with Blasto gone awry.
"We don't know who attacked us," Lizardtail countered.
"We have money to spend."
"Spend on what? Private investigators?" He scoffed.
"On skilled individuals willing to do anything for cash."
On the TV the leader of the Boston Protectorate branch released a video telling the people to calm down and promised they would get to the bottom of this.
"A clairvoyant?" He imagined people holding maps and holding pictures and pointing at the exact area the target was in. Convenient powers, but it would take some time looking for someone who held it.
"Or equally talented tinkers."
"And what if the threat is stronger than us?"
"We hire someone else to do it. We have contacts. Hitmen. Mercenaries. Ranging from Germany and Africa to our own neighborhood in Brockton Bay. In the event of his death Accord left a plan for us as his successors." Othello sighed. "He planned everything."
"And what makes you think the rest of us want to continue being the Ambassadors?"
"Because we have nothing else but each other. Come on. Citrine's crying right now." Othello offered a hand. Lizardtail rolled his eyes but took it and Othello hoisted him up. "She's in love with Accord, you know."
Despite his calm face, inside Lizardtail was boiling. He'll never forgive the people who killed his master.
Shirley St, Winthrop
"Did you do this?" Applesauce asked.
Rey shrugged. "Nope."
"Someone else, then."
Rey tapped his cheek. He wore a mask with the components of a fungus with the same texture of a human flesh. Applesauce wore the same. They wore faces not their own, and were in civilian clothing. Good for disguise. Not so much for a fight.
The two were in Winthrop, there to meet potential allies or make potential enemies. Compared to Boston, Winthrop was far smaller smaller. It was harder to get lost if you didn't know the way. They left the hotel they were checked in three minutes ago and were making their way towards their destination.
"Let's talk about the invitation," Applesauce said. "This person knew who you were?"
"Yup." Rey put his hands in the pocket of his white coat. He wore a waistcoat beneath it, and a red tie Applesauce picked for him.
She donned a gray turtleneck, black leggings and gray boots. Her hair was cut in a bobcut, which combined with her temporary face made her exceptionally cute. Her power to create spheres of poison would be useful to get them out of a pickle if they were ambushed. But in case it wasn't enough, Rey prepared biological weapons of his own.
She poked his shoulder. "You know you're lucky I was in town when you got that invitation. Just think what would've happened if I wasn't here."
"I'd probably be dead or dying," he said. "Accord was in his office surrounded by his lieutenants when he got blown up. I'd end up the same."
Applesauce scowled and punched his chest.
"Ow! Stop that!" He rubbed the area where she hit him.
She crossed her arms and harrumphed. "Don't even joke about that."
They arrived at the destination. D'Parma Restaurant served Italian cuisine. They stepped inside. The floor had black tiles. The walls were painted orange. Portraits hung on the walls. He recognized one of them. The Street Enters the House by Umberto Boccioni. Black chairs surrounded brown tables. Customers ate pizzas and spaghetti, at least of the meals Rey recognized. The place gave a cozy feeling, like it was where you'd have a get together to catch up with families or friends.
An attendant was all smiles when she greeted them. "Yes?"
"We're here to see miss Thomson," Rey said.
"Ah, yes! Mr. Rey and Ms. Apple. She's been expecting you two." Even used his real and his companion's cape one to prove it. "Come with me." The attendant led them across the room to a door, which led to a red hallway. "There are VIP rooms usually reserved for our, ahem, more affluent customers." For the rich ones, then. "If they were willing to pay extra, they could even re-decorate the place just for them. For a monthly fee, of course." She stopped on the fifth door to the left. "This is it." And then she left.
Rey and Applesauce shared a glance. "You think it's a trap?" Applesauce asked.
"If it is we kill her and make a run for it," Rey said. If they could kill her. If this Miss Thomson was the attacker who blew up Accord's office, then they were in for a real fight neither were sure they'd emerge from unscathed.
The room was dark. Lit solely by the candles on the white table at its center. Three glass cups surrounded a silver bucket of ice nestling a bottle of wine. By the corner on the far side of the room he thought he'd spotted a bed. There was a white door with the sign 'Bathroom' and a close too. Ridiculous. No restaurant in their sane mind provide a room for their customers.
Ah. This wasn't just a restaurant then. It was probably her base of operations.
Seated by the table was a blonde woman in a black dress. It had a v cut that showed her cleavage. Rey's glance was brief but when he turned to her beautiful face there was a glimmer of mischief in her blue eyes. She made a coy smile and said, "Please, sit." She motioned with a slender hand to the two empty chairs on the other side of the table.
Rey took a seat first, to the left, and Applesauce took the one to the right. Their back was to the door, which put them at a disadvantage. Still, if she was a blaster, parahumans with powers focused on ranged combat, then she put herself into a vulnerable position by allowing them to get close.
"Let me open the bottle," Thomson said.
"I've got this," Rey said and took the bottle of wine. A purple tentacle with a sharp tip slithered from the white sleeve his wrist, uncorked the bottle, and slid back inside. It was one of his creations, a life form based on a combination of an octopus and a cactus, controlled by his pheromones. It was more advanced than most, and he wanted to keep it as a trump card, but he felt maybe a little show of faith would make Miss Thomson a little kinder to them.
"Thank you," Thomson purred. Rey poured the three cups and then left the bottle on the table. He sipped his wine and ignored how Miss Thomson eyed him as she drank hers.
"I'm gonna cut with the bullshit," Applesauce said. "Were you the one who killed Accord?"
"Maybe." She made an innocent smile and tilted her head. "Why?"
"Because you left a power vacuum," Applesauce hissed. "Without Accord, the Ambassadors would bug out. And without them, there's new space in Boston local and foreign supervillains would kill to get a piece of. All those customers willing to buy drugs, guns and people? You'd be insane not to take a piece of it."
"How did you know the Ambassadors left?"
"I'm one of their contacts. Tried getting in with them earlier. Wondering what the hell was going on. They didn't reply. Must've thrown their phones and went off the grid. That's what I would've done if someone killed my teammate." Under the table Applesauce's hand gripped Rey's.
"Are you going to take a piece of Boston?" Rey asked.
"No," Miss Thomson said, shaking her head.
"Was it a hit?"
"It was a retaliation. Don't ask for more information about it."
So revenge, then? Accord was a dysfunctional man who would kill others for the smallest mistake like pissing on the side of the toilet. And he hired multiple contract killers to do it. It didn't surprise Rey that Accord left a lot of angry families of his victims wanting to take revenge. It wasn't that far off to imagine one of them triggered too, and was conveniently powerful enough to kill him in one blow.
"What do you want with us?" Rey asked. And how did she even find them? He knew nothing about her, wasn't even aware she existed before today, but she knew everything about him. They had two options. To run for it, which meant they would be stalked and chased by mysterious enemies for the rest of their lives. Or they confronted her head on. When Rey received the invitation, it was after hearing the news of Accord's demise.
"I want to learn more about other people like me," she said. "Call it professional curiosity. And if you two are interested, in something a little more permanent. Like a partnership."
So she wanted to keep an eye on them. The partnership was probably little more than a farce for her to control them. At the moment their hands were tied and they couldn't escape, not without knowing the method of how she found them. If she did it once, she could do it again.
He was caught between a rock and a hard place.
He felt something brush against his leg. Glanced down and found black high heels leading to creamy white bare legs. Miss Thomson licked her lips. He gulped.
A very hard place.
Downtown, Brockton Bay
Coil was dressed in a black bodysuit from head to toe, with a white snake arranged across it. He was inside an armored limousine, with the black interiors and dark tinted windows blending him in with his surroundings. The only illumination was from the monitor of the laptop on his lap, which was focused on a site discussing the death of a respectable man.
The news of Accord's death was a huge blow to Coil.
He considered the man a reliable business partner, and dare he say it, a good friend. There wasn't even a body left to bury for a funeral he would pay himself. And then he swore he would find the person who killed him and make them pay. He mourned a little, inside, even if he showed a calm, silent exterior for his people.
His people. One of them just so happened to be an uncontrollable Alexandrian package with a penchant for violence. Brutes will be brutes. He tapped some buttons on the keyboard, moved the touchpad and clicked on a folder. Its contents were on one special member of the Undersiders.
The young man was quite powerful. Mysterious too. Coil would later look into his past, but for now he was focused on the present. He was aware of what Accelerator was doing since the day he made contact with Lung.
Tattletale described everything.
Coil did the rest. Had his people monitor Accelerator from afar. With his appearance unmasked on his first night out it was not difficult to search for a white haired, red eyed man. As it turns out, he was a student in Winslow, lived in an apartment downtown, and was allied with a former member of the Empire Eighty-Eight to attack their own people.
Oh yes. Coil was quite aware of what Accelerator did in his free time.
He was also aware of the blonde girl living in Accelerator's apartment. He viewed the pictures. One picture was of the girl, a blonde with star-like eyes, speaking to Accelerator outside his apartment. The interesting thing to consider was that the observers were unaware there was even a girl. She was a stranger, then. A parahuman like Accelerator.
And they were living together. He wasn't sure about that part, but his instincts told him it was fact and he never doubted his instincts. It was not hard to put two and two. They were obviously lovers.
But where did they come from? Coil was very curious.
More pictures revealed the two having a date in a cafe in the Boardwalk, and after Accelerator left the blonde met up with the spokesperson of the Dockworkers Union. They were planning something. Most likely the same thing he was. And they were using the Undersiders to do it.
Accelerator's attack on the bank was two days ahead of time. Now Coil needed another angle if he was to obtain Dinah Alcott. He couldn't just punish Accelerator either. The young man was far too strong to allow others to push him around. Coil couldn't approach the blonde girl either. Her power was far too mysterious. Strangers were always a pain to deal with.
But there was another option.
The next picture was that of Taylor Hebert.
For some odd reason Accelerator became attached to her. Most likely he found something in her that reminded him of his past. He was being protective of the girl despite her being a parahuman as well.
She would be his leverage into controlling Accelerator. Taylor would be the leash to reign him in. Coil imagined ordering the young man to destroy the Empire Eight-Eight completely, and wondered how much blood would spill the streets the moment it happened.
He lost the window to take Dinah, and he lost an ally in Accord. But he obtained a useful pawn in Accelerator, and for now he'd make due. One step forward, two steps back. He was a patient man. If a little change of plans was what it took to control this city, then he would do it.
Brockton Bay. It had good parts. Bad parts. Ugly parts. More than most. But it was his to take. And one day, when he sat on the throne of one holding the fate of the city with the status of éminence grise, he could finally relax.
The final picture was that of a ball of light just before it struck Accord's office. It was taken from a camera drone that was just passing by when the attack made impact, and the drone caught everything. It was spread to the news, and now made public.
"Whoever you are," Coil said, imagining the mysterious attacker and what he would do to them once he found them. "I will make you pay."
Othinus's mansion, Winthrop
Othinus sneezed. It was a cute little achoo. Her nose twitched, adding to the adorableness factor. She was with Touma, the two having dinner in his bedroom, an hour after making love. He sat up and wore boxers, she lied on her front and wore a red robe. The breakfast were burgers and fries. Unhealthy, but far from the worst.
"What's wrong?" Touma asked. "Are you coming with a cold? I thought gods couldn't get sick."
"I'm not," Othinus protested and munched on her fries. "Just being busy, lately."
"You know I haven't seen Misaki today," Touma noted.
"I sent her on an errand. Out on some other city making a deal with a businessman."
"Ah. Makes sense." He forgot Misaki worked for Othinus. Despite living under the same roof, they lived different lives. Misaki had an actual job and a stable income. He was just freeloading because his girlfriend happened to be rich. Not that he minded not being the breadwinner or something like that. He just felt a bit useless when realizing his housemates were earning for a living and he wasn't.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked, holding a saggy French fry between her fingers. It looked like she was deliberating between eating it or throwing it. In the end she gave in and ate the saggy fry. She smiled. Othinus liked potatoes.
"Now you're smiling," she said. He shook his head.
"Just find you cute," he said.
She sniffed. "Flattery will get you nowhere, human."
"You need to try harder than that to impress me." She closed her eye and nodded at her own words. He petted her head. She blushed, mewled, and sighed. She looked up at him with a pout. "You suck."
He laughed. "So what have you been doing today?"
"Just some business stuff. Things are a bit harder now that Misaki's gone."
"You sound like you're saying she won't be back for a while." He felt worried imagining Misaki alone in a city full of strangers. For some reason he just didn't feel she would be safe unless someone looked after her.
Him, to be precise.
"Because she won't," Othinus said, munching on another fry. While chewing she eyed his half-eaten burger. "You going to eat that?"
"No." He lost his appetite. "You can have it."
"Yay!" Othinus tried pushing herself off her chest, oofed, gave up, and just pulled herself across the mattress, over his lap, and then swiftly caught the burger in her hand. "Mine."
"It's not going to fly away, Othinus," Touma said.
"Psh. It might. Into your mouth." She eyed him dubiously, and then took a bite of the burger. "I'm onto you." She spoke while she was eating, so it came off more as, "Um omto yuu."
He laughed once more. Her worshippers would probably be surprised if their god acted like a lovestruck girl who couldn't even wait until after swallowing her meal before she talked. Touma absentmindedly rubbed her back while Othinus lied on his lap and continued eating his burger.
He was getting worried for nothing. Othinus took care of her own people. If she felt Misaki was responsible enough to manage on her own, then he had nothing to worry about. And even if Misaki wasn't safe in another city, he could rely on Othinus to have someone watch over her employee.
Still, maybe reminding her a little wouldn't hurt.
"Othinus, can you have someone look after Misaki?"
She stared at the wall and chewed on her food, swallowed, and nodded. "Okay."
Touma blinked. "Just like that?"
"If it's important to you, then I won't question it. You barely ask me of anything, so having you make a request means your worry for Misaki superseded your hesitation in asking for help."
She really knew what he was thinking and how he felt. It was a mutual thing, and he read through her mood just as easily as she read his. He almost smiled, but the last words she said made his eye twitch. He frowned. "Hey. I think I've outgrown that phase, thank you very much."
She scoffed. "Sure you are."
He sighed and kneaded her shoulders. "You're such a handful."
"That's why you love me." She closed her eye. It wasn't until five minutes later he realized she fell asleep.
"Honestly." He petted her head once more. She giggled in her sleep.
She worked him like a stallion. Last night miss Oriana Thomson, as she introduced herself as, worked quickly getting Rey and Applesauce drunk, and then overcome with lust he was unable to help himself to Oriana's approach, and to his surprise neither was Applesauce. He didn't know she was bi. But with Oriana who could blame her. He certainly didn't.
Oriana rode him dry, and didn't settle for anything less than his complete obedience which meant lying on his back and watching her large tits bounce and her glistening skin as she did all the work. She moaned when he cupped her breasts, but when he tried to sit up, she pushed his chest back down. He settled for revenge by pinching and twisting her pink nipples red, and her gasps and moans satisfied him. It lasted like that until he came inside her, and she squeezed him for more. She closed her eyes, gasped and arched her back as she climaxed. There was a bit of drool from her lips as she smiled at him and leaned down for a kiss.
It was sloppy and messy and he loved every second of it.
Who wouldn't? Scoring it with a hot girl with your girlfriend joining the fun?
If this was what their partnership was going to entail she should've told him sooner. Sure, he was a tinker who used his power for crime, but hot damn was he still turned on by seeing two hot girls make out.
He sat up with a groan. The bedsheets fell from his chest and on his lap. Oriana was on his left, curled to his side. Applesauce was on his right, lied on her back with her forearm covering her face. Sometime during the night his tentacle monster wrapped around her left thigh and remained there. Huh. Weird. It was usually more aggressive around other people. Maybe it liked Applesauce?
He rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. Today he awoke a winner. Accord, his rival, was killed, saving him competition. And what's more, Accord's killer was a bombshell who had the hots for him and his girlfriend.
He thanked the gods above for fulfilling one of his bucket lists.
Today was awesome!
Fringe Street, Brockton Bay
"So…" Brian stood with his back against the wall and looked at the pile of money at the center of the living room. "What are we going to do with these?" They rented a motel room on the outskirts of downtown because none of them wanted to bring it home.
"It's about a million dollars," Alec said, lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. "We spend them. Divided three ways, we have around three hundred grand each."
"We can't just spend them. There's going to be a paper trail. The cops will know we obtained it illegally. We have to launder the money. Make it clean."
Alec scowled. "So we can't spend them."
"That's what you're worried about?" Brian asked. "Not the people we burned? Accelerator's victims he killed in cold blood?"
Alec chuckled. "You're kidding, right? Who gives a shit he killed some Nazis."
Brian grimaced and closed his eyes, recalling what happened last night.
Accelerator used a black SUV and had Alec drive them to a townhouse in the Towers, a nice place downtown where the rich and the affluent live. Only place better was southwest from there. The most noticeable part about the Towers was a set of hills.
And the houses where the rich folks live.
Even then, to know which targets specifically to rob hinted at information that could only have been obtained through an inside source. This person Accelerator was working with was truly impressive.
They stopped by the house Accelerator had told them. Told Alec to stay. He and Brian went inside. There was no finesse. They wore ski masks and black clothing and carried bags for the money and that was it. Accelerator kicked through the door. It shattered and flew back into the house. Someone in the inside greeted him with a gunshot.
To Brian's horror, the bullet flew back and through the shooter's forehead. Accelerator grabbed the gun, a Glock 19, and began killing everyone he saw. He was an animal. A monster. People couldn't hurt him. But he hurt them. Killed everyone on the first floor. Picked up another gun on his way up the stairs to the second. Brian was paralyzed. Heard ten more gunshots. Knew they all hit their marks.
It wasn't until Accelerator tapped his nose that he shook out of it.
"Burn the bodies," Accelerator said, pointing at a red fuel container between two corpses and a puddle of blood. He handed Brian a match, helfted the bags loaded with cash and left the house. Brian gulped but did as he was told. He didn't want to be Accelerator's next victim. He poured gas all over the bodies, on the wall, all the furniture, and did the same to the second floor.
He ran out of the house and threw the match on gasoline tinged red with blood that was leaking on the porch. They were already driving when the house exploded in flames.
"Shit," Brian said. "You should've seen it, Alec. He killed everyone. Why the hell did he do that?"
"Because they made money trafficking young girls," Accelerator said as he emerged from his bedroom. "Mostly minorities. But they aren't picky. Even raped some of them. I checked all their faces. I know. If there was even a single person that didn't take part of that crime I wouldn't have killed them. But everyone did." He yawned. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier, Brian. You too, Alec."
"No worries," Alec said. "I'm cool with it. I'm three hundred grand richer. Who wouldn't be cool with it? Oh, can I keep the extra hundred thousand?"
"How did you know?" Brian asked. "How could you be so sure?"
"I have a reliable source."
"This driver of yours?"
"No. Someone else." Accelerator made his way to the cash. Began the process of dividing it evenly between the three of them. "I know you're going to want to meet them so I'll arrange it. Just be warned. This is not a nice person you'll be dealing with."
"Compared to you, I doubt it. I'm gonna take a walk. Just leave my share on the floor." He left the room, went to the motel clerk and asked for their room to be extended another night. After which he strolled down Lord Street until he reached the market. Started his groceries. Went to Fugly Bob's after he was done. He did everything to distract himself from the flashes of screams of pain and then the bodies suddenly falling to the floor like puppets with their strings cut. People dead, just like that. He recalled how Accelerator looked at the corpses. Like they were trash he needed to clean.
Brian shivered. "Fucking animal," he said. And until he verified Accelerator's claims on his own, the opinion would remain.
When he returned to the motel room, Alec and Accelerator were already gone. Two duffel bags were missing. There was a third on the floor. Brian left his groceries on the couch, kneeled beside the bag, unzipped it, and found a lot of money. He was surprised one duffel bag was able to hold three hundred thousand in cash. He licked his thumb and picked up a dollar. He smiled. Not everything was bad. This was easy money.
Next time though, a little warning before his teammate went on a killing spree would've been nice.
With an upbeat whistle he began counting the cash.
"So…" Misaki drawled, looking away from her phone to Accelerator with a worried glance. "How was your day?" She was still on the couch, her clothes changed to a white blouse and black leggings.
"M'fine." He dropped his duffel bag to the floor outside the doorstep to his room and went to the fridge. He took a carton of milk and drank from the carton.
"You killed them," Misaki said. "The news is all over this thing. One of the comments says Brockton Bay's going to shit more than it normally is."
"Why?" Her voice was pained.
Accelerator put the carton on the counter and went to her. "Why what?"
"Why did you kill them!?" she screamed.
"Because they were monsters?"
"And you think you're better?" She glared at him.
"No." He laughed. "I'm not."
She was taking deep breaths, closed her eyes and for five minutes she said nothing. Accelerator waited.
"I trusted you with this information," Misaki said. "In the hopes you would bring them to justice."
"I did," Accelerator said. "Every bullet of it. They're burning in hell now, where they belong. It's where I'll be going too, once I die."
If he could die, that is. He was no longer just a plain vanilla human, for a given measure of plain when it comes to espers. He was now an actual magical creature connected to a god. Looks like he was special in that he'll escape his fate.
"I'll tell your family," she said.
"I'll tell Aiho. Kikyou."
"They know what I am."
"I don't give a shit."
He groaned. "Why are you so hung up on this?" Maybe if he changed the subject she could focus on being angry on him instead. If she continued on her threats and he continued brushing her off she'd tell his family for real just to prove she was serious. She narrowed her eyes, aware of what he was doing.
"I do not want to be complicit in a murder," she said. "I don't care about you or your life or what you do with it. But I do not want to stain my soul with your shitty antics like killing defenseless men and burning their corpses."
"Those 'defenseless men' kidnapped and raped and sold young girls," he said. "And you aren't complicit in my crimes. You gave me the address, and weren't aware of what I was going to do. And honestly, what the fuck were you thinking telling me at all? You could've done that shit on your own if you were really invested in sending them to jail. It was a lack of foresight on your part that blindsided you."
"I see." She nodded. "So in the future I won't help you anymore. Is that what you're telling me? Lack of foresight, is it? I'll be sure to correct myself then. Thank you for the enlightenment."
"I'm sorry," he said, lowering his head. He wasn't. Not really. But maybe if he conceded an apology she would cool down? She didn't. Her glare didn't disappear when he looked at her face.
"I can't trust you on missions either, Accelerator," she said. "I guess that makes two of us, huh."
"You're right." He didn't agree. She was the untrustworthy one. He just played along to whatever she said to keep her from lashing out. "Goes to show how similar we all are."
"I'm nothing like you!" she said. He cringed. Should've kept his mouth shut.
"What do you want, Misaki?" he asked. "You want to bring them back? They aren't coming back. They're dead. Deader than dead. Only one person in this world can bring them back and you know as well as me she won't."
"Next time," Misaki said. "Don't involve me in your killing spree."
"Yeah, yeah." Accelerator took his bag into his room and closed the door.
At the living room the moment Accelerator closed the door Misaki lost all expression on her face which became as bored as his.
She only acted like she cared. She really didn't. As try as she might, she wasn't Touma. She wouldn't mourn the deaths of child trafficking paedophiles.
She agreed with Accelerator. And in fact sent him there precisely because he would kill them. But if she agreed with him, then she lost all leverage in their partnership. That couldn't do.
Misaki read the news on her phone. The bodies, after killed, where burned in the violent burglary and home invasion. None of the corpses were revealed to be human traffickers. The truth would never be known. But she hoped all their deceased victims could at least find peace.
She was already working on saving the rest. Her phone ringed. The caller was Junko. She answered it.
"What is it?"
"A powerful cape from Canada was sent in response to Accelerator."
"Who is it?"
"Understood. Thank you, Junko." She genuinely smiled.
"It's not a problem, my lady!" Based on the tone of her voice, Junko was probably the same.
Misaki disconnected the call, and then send a message.
Junko replied with a heart.
She then called the number of the person experienced in hunting other people. "Good morning, Marian-san."
Othinus's mansion, Winthrop
Stiyl learned nothing useful from Harry Butters. Or whatever the fuck his real name is. He was an honest man, but was too vague on most of the details concerning his life.
So Stiyl resorted to a truth serum he acquired from Martha's Vineyard. They were already reaping the benefits of the dead cape Mugino killed.
What Butters told him was interesting. He dismissed the butler after the interrogation and made his way to the bedroom of his master.
What a strange thought. Stiyl, the magician, held no true master. But his other self, the magical creature, considered Othinus his creator. He would do anything for her.
Othinus was awake. She sat on the edge of the bed. Wore a red robe. Looked at him expectantly.
Touma was sleeping under the covers.
"There's a chance the assassin was hired by his cousin," Stiyl said.
"So it's a personal matter. Why?"
"His cousin was in love with him. But when he was confessed to, Butters didn't reciprocate their feelings."
"A crime of passion."
"Indeed. Do you want me to go after them?"
"Yes." Othinus handed him a map that looked like it'd seen better days. Stiyl looked at it. The map displayed the layout of the mansion, and the names of everyone in it.
"Just ask the map for the location of your target. It would make everything easier."
"Thank you." Stiyl bowed and left the room. He looked at the map. It was incredibly useful. And it was given to him by his god. He promised he would treasure it with his life.
Hebert Residence, Brockton Bay
April 13 was proving to be a boring day. Accelerator was spending time at the Hebert residence with Taylor and Danny who was celebrating the deal he scored with Starchild Corporations. The company outsourced labor to the Dockworkers Association and sweetened the deal with an advanced payment of three weeks' worth.
If this were any sane, rational company Accelerator would call them stupid for wasting their money on a workforce of a dying city instead of a thriving one like New York. But since this was merely a front company used to transfer money to Danny, he was fine with it.
It's basically like laundering cash, only for good.
"Are you two sure it's fine to miss a day?" Danny asked. They were at the kitchen. There was a chocolate cake on the table, bought with Danny's new salary. It was only going to get higher from here. There were also cans of beer and bottles of soda which Accelerator had bought on his way over when Taylor texted him they were skipping classes.
And he almost believed she finally gave up on the education system.
"It's fine," Accelerator said. "Taylor and I are the ace of our class." Partly due to him paying off the teachers at the school. They were all quite eager to receive the extra cash he considered a 'bonus' for being such wonderful pedagogues. He actually told them that with a straight face, and they believed him.
"Well, okay." Danny laughed. "But only this once. And thanks for buying beer, Ace."
"Stop calling me that," he grumbled. He sat next to Taylor while Danny cooked some hot dogs and eggs.
"Huh." There was a look of wonder on Taylor's face as she stared at the wall. She shook her head. "I can't believe it. Things are actually looking up for us."
"You better," Accelerator said. "Come on. Let's eat." He made to stand up to get the plates and the silverware. Danny beat him to it.
"I'll get that," Danny said. When he brought the plates and utensils to the table he found Accelerator scowling and laughed. "You're like a cat, you know that?"
"Am not," Accelerator said. Danny returned with the food he was cooking, all in one large plate, and placed it beside the cake. He sat on a chair facing Taylor and Accelerator from across the table. There was a content smile on Danny's face.
"You know, kid," Danny said. "I'm pretty happy you're here. You've been a best friend to Taylor since the day you showed up. I'm glad there's someone looking out for her in places I can't."
"Ugh." Accelerator grimaced. He felt his insides wring from Danny's words.
"Dad!" Taylor was covering her reddening face, although her eyes observed Danny from the gaps between her fingers. "W-what are you saying!?"
"Mr. Hebert, sir, I've gotta be frank. Can we just eat?" Accelerator added.
"Alright, alright." Danny finally relented and took a cake knife to split the chocolate cake into eight slices. Put one on Accelerator's plate, and another on Taylor's.
"Hey, since we're all celebrating here," Taylor said. "Can I have some beer?"
"No," both Accelerator and Danny said at the same time. They shared a glance and then Accelerator shrugged. "You're too young," Danny continued.
Taylor pouted. "But he isn't?" She pointed a thumb to Accelerator.
"I only drink when I'm stressed," Accelerator said. "And it's mostly coffee."
Danny snapped his fingers. "That's it. He talks like an adult. He's more mature than you, kiddo. Nothing personal."
"Nothing but!" Taylor said.
"Let's just dig in," Accelerator begged.
Breakfast was a peaceful affair. Now and then Taylor or Danny would attempt conversation, to which Accelerator responded to with curt and short answers. Instead of being offended, the two found him funny for some freaking reason and he hated every second of it.
After they finished eating, Taylor stood up and told them she was going to take a shower. Accelerator opened a can of beer and handed it to Danny, and took another one for himself. For five minutes there was silence.
"Thanks," Danny said. "Again. I mean it, you know. Everything was falling apart before you showed up."
"Listen, Danny, I don't care about your gratitude and platitude and whatever. Just continue being you and we're good," Accelerator said.
"You're not comfortable with compliments, are you?"
Accelerator didn't bother with a reply and guzzled his beer.
"Ah…" Accelerator put the can on the table. "I'm leaving. Have to meet someone. I'll be back later. Oh, and I bought Taylor a phone."
"Yeah. I'll be back later, maybe. See you, old man."
"See you, kid." Danny sipped his beer.
Accelerator left the house.
He took a stroll. He was across the street from Warren's house when he called his informant. "B-boss?" Warren asked.
"Hey. You heard the news on the towers?" Curtains covered the windows. There was no one guarding the house.
"Those bodies? They were you?" Warren sounded like he was going to vomit. Accelerator spotted a parked car, a red Honda Accord that stopped ten yards away, and a bald man in a tank top and jeans getting out of the driver's seat. He was made of muscles. There was a tattoo on his left shoulder. EEE, which meant, 'Erase, Extinguish, Eradicate'. A sign for members of the Empire Eighty-Eight.
"Yeah. It's alright. I made three hundred grand. I'm willing to split half with you if you give me a name." Accelerator stared down the thug even as he calmed Warren down.
"I knew those guys! Some of them invited me to their weddings! They have wives and kids that are going to miss them!"
"Warren, they trafficked minorities," Accelerator stressed. "Hold on. I'll call you back." He hung up the phone and turned to the bald man. "What the fuck do you want, asshole?"
"Why the hell is a chink here?" The bald man asked. "You with the ABB? You fucking Asians have been harrassing my boys for far too long. All these attacks that happened to my friends, it was all you fuckers, wasn't it."
The bald man was right but for the wrong reasons. The Empire probably thought it was a power move from the ABB, which was a shock considering they just lost their powerhouse, Lung, to the Protectorate.
"You know," Accelerator said. He tilted his head. "Who are you?" Were the Empire Eighty-Eight truly a tight-knit community? If something happened to one of the lower ranked members, does everyone from the organization become informed? Accelerator fought Warren and his friends on Friday, attacked the Roch brothers on Monday, beat up more of Warren's friends on Tuesday, and killed the human traffickers the night of the same day.
There was a wealth disparity between them, yet they all knew each other? This 'Brotherhood' thing was something else.
"None of your business, squinty eyes twig," the bald man said. He made a fist and put it on an open palm. "Now, we can do this the easy way or the hard way."
"Oh yeah? What's the easy way?" Accelerator asked.
"You take it like a man and let me kick your ass as payback for the motherfuckers who killed my friends," the bald man growled. "Or you resist, and then I kill your ass in self-defense." He grinned. "The Empire has more cops in this city than the ABB does in one precinct. If you want I can call my cop friends and have them watch. Hell, they could just shoot you and claim you were pulling a gun. So many ways, little guy, for me to fuck you over. Why don't you get on your knees and take it, huh?"
The bald man didn't give Accelerator time to respond. He lunged forward, crossing the distance in three seconds. Impressive by normal standards. The man swung a powerful right hook aimed for Accelerator's left cheek. It met his power instead. The kinetic energy from the blow was sent back to his fist, shattering his knuckles and fingers. The man screamed in pain. Accelerator stretched his left arm and caught the man's right shoulder with his hand. He squeezed. Muscles gave in to his gentle hand, and then bones cracked as he upped the pressure.
He drove the man to his knees with the pain, and struck the man's face with his right knee. When he pulled back his knee, the man's nose was broken. Blood trickled down his lips. He was missing a tooth. There was a bruise on his jaw.
Accelerator was going to ask Warren for help because Misaki wasn't going to be helpful in giving him names. He wasn't worried about the other kids that were kidnapped and sold. He knew Misaki wouldn't rest until she helped those kids. She was a soft-hearted girl. Better than him. But that left him one less informant.
This bald man was a blessing in disguise. Accelerator had new source of information. He was worried he had to kidnap a gangster off the street, but was saved the trouble of having to plan for it.
"They sent you to guard Warren," Accelerator said. "It makes sense. He's been attacked twice now in less than five days. But you picked a bad target to start a fight with."
"Cape," the man gurgled, blood leaking from his mouth. Accelerator looked at the neighborhood. To his surprise there was no one there. Was everyone asleep? Regardless, he needed to leave before someone came out and saw the whole thing.
"Let's go," Accelerator said, dragging the kneeling man back to his car. The bald man was likely three to four times heavier than Accelerator, yet he had no problem pulling the man. It was due to his power, which he was using to emulate super strength. It wasn't exactly the same, but at the moment the difference was negligible. He opened the door to the driver's seat, which was fortunately unlocked, and threw the man inside. He pushed the man to the passenger's seat, closed the door. He turned on the ignition, pressed the clutch, pushed the gearshift and held the steering wheel. He drove out of the neighborhood.
He didn't know where to go. If he went back to his apartment, he ran the risk of pissing Misaki off. And if he was being followed, then it meant leading them back to his whereabouts. If he went to the Docks, then it risked the Undersiders learning his other criminal activities, and Taylor learning from them that he was hiding secrets from her. And he didn't forget that the Empire had a presence in the Docks too, one that was empowered by the fact Lung of the ABB was no longer part of the picture.
He drove downtown and constantly checked if he was being followed. It was close to thirty minutes before he was satisfied no one was following him. "Hey," Accelerator said. "I've got a question for you, tough guy."
"Fuck you, chink," the bald man said.
"Look, I'm sorry I hurt you," Accelerator said. "If you tell me what I want to hear, I promise I won't do it again."
"You f-" The man's next words were silenced by Accelerator grabbing his wrist and twisting it sideways. "Gah!"
Accelerator released his wrist.
"Don't make do that," Accelerator said. "I don't want to hurt you. We don't have to be enemies. Let's be friends instead." The bald man was rubbing his wrist and crying. Tears leaked from his eyes, mixing with the dried blood under his nose and his lips.
"Look, man, don't kill me, alright?"
"I'm not going to kill you," Accelerator said. "I don't even know you. Just answer my questions, alright? No one needs to get hurt in this situation."
"Now." Accelerator stopped the car,, buzzed the window down and turned to the bald man. "Who sent you?"
"Welcome to McDonalds," a voice said from outside the window. "How may I serve you?" They were at a McDonalds Drive-Thru. Accelerator ordered for both him and his companion. They left the Drive-Thru, to the forest near Maplewood Drive.
Accelerator handed the man a chicken sandwich and helped himself to some nuggets. He was on his third when he noticed the man wasn't eating. "You don't like it? I'll trade you a spaghetti for the sandwich."
"N-no," the man said. "It's just… Weird." He unwrapped the sandwich and took a bite.
"So, like I was asking earlier, who do you work for?" When he was done with the nuggets Accelerator took out a paper box holding a spaghetti and white plastic fork, for himself, and a cheeseburger for his companion.
"Um, it's Viktor, man. Um, can I have a soda?"
"Sure." Accelerator handed him the Coca-Cola. "Sorry about hitting you earlier. I'll get someone to heal you." Panacea was a healer. She wouldn't listen to a stranger like Accelerator though. And he didn't know how to contact her. Luckily Misaki could help him with both. But he needed to give her something useful first.
"N-nah, man, I'm good." The bald man forced a smile and gave a thumbs up. With the dried blood it made him look ugly.
"Okay." Accelerator nodded. He watched snot trickle from the man's nose, mixing with dried tears and blood. "Um." Accelerator looked away, beyond the windshield to the forest around them. "This is what's going to happen. You'll me the place of your boss, or I'll make you tell me the place of your boss. Remember the towers? That was me."
The man was chewing on his sandwich when his eyes widened in horror.
"Yeah." Accelerator figured a little scare tactic would make him a little more honest.
If he was going to be too obstinate Misaki could change that. Read his mind. But they were on a time limit. Who knew how long Victor would stay in whatever hideout he was in before he realized something suspicious was up.
"B-basement of a diner called the Wildflower, Cove Street, downtown. The owner's one of us. Hate negroes. B-but he's cool with Asians, man! And so am I!"
Accelerator stopped listening the moment he heard the address. "Shut up for a minute," he said. He drummed the steering wheel. Contemplated his next step. It was simply, really. Just go over to the diner and beat them unconscious. Then call Misaki, inform her he caught a cape, and have his former teammate Awaki, aka Move Point, deliver the goods to Martha's Vineyard.
Sounds like a plan. "Is the diner closed?" Accelerator asked.
"Yes!" The bald man said. "No one else. Even the owner's gone. Won't be back until later the evening."
"Victor's renting the place."
Strange, but he's heard stranger. Like how the Velvet estate was converting the D'Parma Restaurant into a motel for the rich. His phone ringed. Checked. It was Taylor calling. He didn't answer. He waited for her to stop. She did, and sent a message instead. It read, 'You didn't even wait for me? Rude.' Cheeky little girl. Accelerator chuckled. He returned the phone to his pocket.
"Just stay in the car," Accelerator said. "Give me your wallet."
"Come on man," the bald man started. Accelerator stared at him. He grimaced and took out his wallet from his back jean pocket. Handed a brown bifold wallet. Accelerator checked its contents. There was a driver's license and three hundred dollars. He read the name. Clifford Byrd.
"I know your name, Clifford," Accelerator said. "If you think of crossing me think twice. I'll pay a visit to your friends and family. Do to them what I did to your friends in the towers. Piss on their bodies and chop them to pieces and make you eat them. Not necessarily in that order. You understand?"
The bald man, Clifford, was about to burst into tears. But he managed to reign it in. Gave a brisk nod.
Good. Accelerator was only bluffing. If Clifford called his bluff he was out of answers. Might've looked like an idiot being with someone who knew he wasn't going to follow up on his words. He wasn't going to hurt Clifford's friends or family, despite the likely chance they were Empire. Unless he knew for a fact they were crooks, he had no beef with them. They were racist white supremacists, true, but once upon a time he had a god complex and killed over ten thousand girls to sate it. To judge other fuck-ups when he was worse was the kind of hypocrisy he couldn't tolerate.
No matter what a person believed in, so long as they didn't physically hurt anyone else, he didn't give a shit about them so long as they left him alone.
Accelerator smiled. He liked Clifford already. Just like Warren, Clifford was becoming a reliable person. He was definitely bringing them back to Winthrop and have them work with him afterwards. The salary in the Velvet estate was good. And if they wanted to do jobs instead he was fine with it too.
"When we're done here, I'll have you meet my boss."
"You have a boss!?"
"Yeah. They're in Winthrop. Relax. Don't worry about it. They're pretty reliable. Although the boss might mindrape you."
Clifford stopped moving. In fact, he stopped breathing entirely. It was only for ten seconds, but then he started breathing again. Was he okay? Accelerator was about to ask him if he needed to be in the hospital when he noticed the three E's tattoo on his shoulder.
"Might want to get rid of that," Accelerator said. "Or she'll skin you alive." Othinus didn't tolerate employees who have loyalty to someone else. Even Gremlin, her organization back in their original world that only supported her due to her promise of granting them their wishes still gave her their absolute loyalty. To do otherwise would be seen as an insult.
"Remember," Accelerator reminded him. "You run, you die." He wouldn't, but he didn't need to know that. He was met with another nod, and then they were off.
Traffic took them thirty minutes to reach Cove Street. Accelerator spotted the diner. There was a sign board on top that read Wildflower. There was another on the door that read Closed. Accelerator left the car. Went to the door of the diner. Reached for the doorknob. Found it locked. Pushed it open. Hinges flew. Bolts fell. The doorknob, which he crushed in his hand, was a scrap of metal ball when he dropped it to the wooden floor. There was a door behind the counter which led to the kitchen. It was open. Beyond the kitchen was two doors. He checked both. The one on the left led to a hallway. The one on the right was a stairway that led to a lower floor. The basement door. The diner was unusually big. Accelerator made a note to investigate it later.
He plucked the doorknob and went down the steps with his hands in his pocket. When he reached the basement floor it was covered in darkness. The only illumination came from a room twenty meters away. It was open. He strolled towards it. Stepped into the room. It was white. Crates were stacked against the wall. There was a table at the center of the room. Two people were on stools and playing chess.
On the left was Victor. He was blond. A domino mask covered the upper half of his face. His body was fit under his red shirt and breastplate. With his black trousers and shoes, his 'costume' was far more normal than most of the others Accelerator had seen. Victor, from what he's read, was a skill thief that, in prolonged presence, stole someone's abilities.
He was playing with bearded man in a domino mask and a red tracksuit. Accelerator recognized the man. He was from the Aryan Brotherhood in New York. Why was he here? Brockton Bay was a shithole next to New York. No, Brockton Bay was a shithole period. He decided to find out. Recalled the New Yorker's powers. The bearded man, Rotlicht, was capable of creating red energy that burned the flesh of those he struck, leaving only ash.
"Rotlicht," Accelerator said. He ambled towards the two capes. Rotlicht, who was holding the queen, created whitish red energy which enveloped the entire chess piece, destroying it. White dust trickled from his fingers, sprinkling the chessboard with the substance.
"Leave," he said. His eyes glowed white, and then red, followed by a beam of light that enveloped Accelerator's entire body. It didn't even leave a mark on his white jacket. His power redirected the light back to Rotlicht. Instead of being hurt by his own power, Rotlicht sent it elsewhere. It struck Victor instead. His body was coated in energy, which first revealed the outline of his body. Little by little pieces of his skin flaked off and vanished until he was only left with bones, and then nothing. When the light receded, only white powder was left from the stool he sat on and the floor around him.
"Shit," Accelerator said. He killed a man. He didn't know Rotlicht's powers couldn't hurt him directly. Rotlicht was visibly terrified from having killed his teammate. His mouth was stuck in a wide gape. And then it turned into a glare. Whitish red energy escaped his eyes.
"You-" was as far as he got before the doorknob to the basement struck his neck. It dented his throat. He gargled for breath and raked his own throat with his fingers. Fell off the stool. Landed on his ass. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't die too. Accelerator rushed to his side. Crouched next to him. Grabbed his neck. Accelerator raised his forefinger. Created a wind-blade as thin as a needle and punctured his neck, just below his Adam's apple, creating an airway. The man took in a vast amount of air. Accelerator regulated his blood. Made sure none spilled out of the hole on his neck.
Accelerator kept a hand on Rotlicht's shoulder to control his blood flow, and extracted his phone with the other. He called Misaki.
"Hey," she said. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Listen, I'm sorry about earlier."
"It's fine," she said. "Water under the bridge."
"Alright. Listen, I need a healer asap. I've got a man with a hole on his neck and someone to fix him."
"Noted. I'll send one of the magicians over."
"Wait, you can do that?" Accelerator was so used to working alone he forgot the near endless list of allies in Winthrop.
"I oversee almost everything, Accelerator. Even now I'm still managing most of our fellows' and their activities. We opened a group chat with them asking me for help, basically. Give me the coordinates to your address." Accelerator gave her the latitude and longitude. "Hold on."
Twenty seconds later someone entered the basement. It was Kanzaki Kaori. A Japanese girl with long black hair tied to a ponytail, a pretty face, and a curvaceous body under her black jacket, blue skinny jeans and skateboard shoes.
"Hey," she said, smiling. It became worried when she found the man with the hole to his neck. "Is he okay?"
Was that rhetorical? Accelerator wasn't sure. He said, "He's seen better days. Guy needs healing. A little help?"
He liked Kanzaki a lot. She was a kind person. Similar to Touma. It was nearly impossible to hate someone like her. Back when he was in Winthrop his coworkers usually tried to befriend him only to receive cold shoulders. But Kanzaki was undeterred. She always approached him with a smile and a warm greeting. Stayed with him unless he asked her to leave. Visited almost regularly whenever she was in town. Eventually she just became another presence in his life, kind of like his family, that became so familiar he just ignored her entirely. His closeness to her was cemented when she tapped his shoulder one day to get his attention, and all his focus was on the fact his power didn't repel her.
"Okay. One healing magic coming right up." Kanzaki raised a hand. Green magic circles coalesced into existence. She approached Rotlicht and held her hand out. Green fire licked Rotlicht's neck, but instead of burning him it did the opposite. The little hole shrunk into nonexistence.
Accelerator sighed in relief and let go of Rotlicht's shoulder.
"T-thank you-" Rotlicht said, and then vanished.
"Ah. Awaki's here?" Accelerator asked, and looked around for the teleporter.
Kanzaki shrugged. "She was. Long gone now. We were actually here for extraction."
"Extraction? Ah." The original mission. To catch a parahuman. He's done it now. Accelerator glanced at the remains of Victor's body. He wished it wasn't at the expense of a life. He was a complete failure in everything he set out to do. If only he'd aimed at the ceiling instead, Victor wouldn't be dead.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Kanzaki asked. She was incredibly empathic to those around her. He was no exception. Whatever wall he's built to deter other people ceased to exist when it came to her. The worried look on her face was a stark contrast to his bored one.
"Aren't you supposed to leave?" Accelerator asked.
"No." She shook her head. "Wanted to sightsee. See how you were doing. That sort of thing." She offered a hand. "Come on. Let's get up."
"Sure. Can we clean that first?" He pointed to the white powdered remains of Victor. "I think I fucked up."
Kanzaki didn't ask any questions as she helped him up. He stretched an arm. Wind swept all the dust, gathering it in a ball that was carried by a zephyr to his open palm.
'I'm sorry, Victor.' He didn't know what kind of person the white supremacist was in his life, but now that he was dead, his story was over.
"Damn it," Accelerator said.
He went to the market, Kanzaki in tow, and bought an urn. When he asked her if she was going with him to his apartment, she declined and said she was there to meet up with someone else. Apparently he wasn't the only reason she was in town. They parted ways at Lord Street and he walked back to his apartment. He found Misaki in the kitchen room by the table. He put the urn on the counter.
"What's that?" she asked.
"Victor. Or what's left of him." He shrugged. "I may have killed him."
"He's part of a group that targets minorities," Misaki said. "Why do you care what happens to them?"
"He could've been useful," he said. "You could've changed his mind. Brainwash him into joining our side."
"You learn something from Rotlicht? Why was he here? Not New York?"
Misaki combed her hair behind an ear. "The Empire Eighty-Eight was worried about your presence and the increased firepower of the Undersiders. They asked aid from their friends in the Aryan Brotherhood to lend them a hand. Rotlicht was sent. He and Victor were good friends. Something about the Herren Clan taking care of him when he was younger."
"I don't care about his past," Accelerator said. "Does he have anything valuable about the Empire?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact." Misaki grinned. "But if you want to learn the information you'll have to earn it."
Accelerator scoffed. "You know I could just report you to Othinus for insubordination."
"You could, but we both know you're too prideful to ask her for help."
Accelerator groaned. "Fine. What do you want?"
"A meeting with your team."
The Undersiders? "Fuck no." He didn't want her anywhere near Taylor.
"Not them. Your other team."
Ah. She meant Brian, Alec, and Warren. Clifford now too. "Okay," he said. "But can you tell Clifford he was free to leave?"
He never introduced Misaki to Clifford, but she knew the bald man anyway. He assumed it was due to Rotlicht being privy to Victor's lackeys and having been in possession of Clifford's number. She dialed Clifford with her phone and told him he could leave, and hung up.
"I'll get Brian and Alec," Accelerator said. "This better be good."
"It is," she said. "Trust me~" He didn't like the way her starry eyes twinkled.
He called Brian and Alec, gave them directions to his apartment and waited for them at the hallway outside his door. Brian and Alec arrived five minutes later, both sporting stupid grins.
"Dude," Brian said. "There were these three hot French girls, and Alec introduced me to them."
"Oh man," Alec said. "You wouldn't believe what just happened down t-"
"Don't give a fuck," Accelerator hissed. "I called you two for a job. We'll be working with another cape."
The jovial expressions on their faces vanished, replaced by a sharp look from Brian and a curious one from Alec.
"Another cape?" Brian asked. "Not the Undersiders?"
"No. She's the informant who gave me your numbers. A thinker like Lisa. Although that's not the only thing she could do."
"Like Lisa?" Alec asked. "I don't think this is a good idea."
"Just get in the fucking room," Accelerator said and led them to his flat. Brian was the first to the kitchen, where he met Misaki. It only took a second for him to look her up and down and then he made a dashing smile and approached her.
"Hey," he said. "Name's Brian. Nice to meet you."
"Misaki." She made a playful smile. "Charmed." She turned to Accelerator, who was taking some cookies from the fridge. "Accelerator, you failed to mention you had such a handsome teammate."
Brian laughed. "Oh, I don't know about that. I'm just your average guy from Brockton Bay. I'm guessing you're not?"
"Well…" Misaki bit her lips, as if she was holding herself back from sharing a big, juicy secret. "What makes you think so?"
"Maybe the part where Accelerator trusts you?" Brian turned to him. "How long have you been in the game, man?"
Considering he had his powers since he was a child? "A long time," Accelerator said. "Now stop fishing for information before I kick you out and do the job with Alec alone."
Alec made a wave from the doorway. "Hey."
"Hi," Misaki said. "Nice to meet you."
"Same. So Accelerator said you're a thinker?"
"And stranger," Misaki said. She interlaced her fingers and stretched her arms over her head, the swell of her breasts bobbing with the gesture. "But I don't think it's fair for me to tell you everything when I don't even know who you are." She winked. "Tell you what. I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
Alec chuckled. "Right now?"
"Yes please," Misaki said, giggling as she lowered her arms.
Alec twirled with his forefinger. Brian pulled a chair when he fell on the floor. Alec laughed. Accelerator snorted. Misaki covered her mouth and giggled. Brian got to his feet and was just about to jump him when Accelerator said, "That's enough."
All three turned towards him. Misaki and Alec were still smiling. Brian was the only one scowling.
"Wait," Alec said. "Misaki, you gonna show me yours?"
Accelerator rolled his eyes. Misaki clapped her hands.
Alec blinked. "Huh. Where'd she go?"
Brian whistled and looked at all corners of the room. "Invisibility?"
Misaki made them ignore her while still being aware of her. In essence she was mimicking invisibility, without being actually invisible. Misaki remained on her seat. There was another variation of the invisibility she used the night she arrived. That version made people ignore her completely.
Misaki clapped her hands again. Removed the part of their brain that made them think she was invisible.
"Not bad," Brian said. "My turn?" He raised his hand. Wisps of darkness twined from his knuckle.
Misaki eyed it with wonder.
"No," Accelerator said. "Alec, Brian, sit down." They did. "We're here for a score so big I needed to invite you personally into my apartment. You remember the towers and the people I killed?"
Brian winced. "Too soon, man. Not even twenty-four hours?"
"Brian, stop being such a chicken," Alec said. "No one gives a shit about the human trafficking white supremacists we killed except you."
"Misaki was the one who identified them," Accelerator said, nodding at the blonde. "She's a thinker. She knows things. Her power allows her to connect the dots, as it were." If the dots meant human mind and she was connecting them with her telepathy. "She found a thread between different people. Identified the ones kidnapping kids."
"You have proof of this?" Brian asked. Misaki nodded.
"I'm working on saving the ones still alive," she said, confirming Accelerator's assumption that she was taking care of it.
Brian sighed in relief. "I was so worried we killed innocent men. Glad we didn't."
"Told you," Alec said.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. I'm sorry I doubted you, Accelerator."
"It's fine," he said. "Misaki, what have you got for us?"
"Max Anders," Misaki said.
"The Medhall Corporation's CEO?" Brian asked. "He's Empire?"
"What made you come to that conclusion?" Misaki asked.
"Accelerator kept targeting the Empire for some reason. Either he has a grudge or really loves their money. Could be both. That house I set on fire was littered with a lot of corpses." Brian shivered, as if recalling a bad memory.
"Well, I own a company too," Misaki said. "Starchild Corporations. I want to dismantle the pharmaceuticals company, liquidate its assets and reacquire them for my own purposes. Medhall Corporation is the most successful cash cow, or the only one, Brockton Bay has to offer. I want to change that. Exposing their CEO as a member of the Empire Eighty-Eight goes a long way to do so."
"Nice," Accelerator said, grinning as he rubbed his chin. "That pharma's worth ten billion at least. If we can steal everything from Anders, then we'll be two-point-five billion dollars richer. We won't have to work a day in our lives."
Accelerator didn't need money due to being an employee of the Velvet estate, but a little extra didn't hurt.
"How are we going to launder all that?" Brian asked.
"Through me," Misaki said. "I'll handle the transfers of all the liquid assets. Open a business account for each of you and transfer the money straight from Starchild Corporations."
"I dunno," Alec said. "Max Anders sounds expensive. How the hell are we going to steal all of that cash without raising a lot of eyebrows? And even then, putting our name in your company leaves an electronic tail for the people at forensic accounting. It's just crazy," he said. "We're a bunch of nobodies getting two billion to our name? That sounds like a hassle."
"It would be a hassle," Misaki said. "If we used your real names."
"We know people back in Winthrop that can set us up with fake passports and birth certificates," Accelerator said. "And whatever else you need." He understood what Misaki was doing. She wanted her company to become the leading job creator in Brockton Bay. To do that they had to terminate the competition, violently.
"Winthrop?" Brian asked. "There's some forgers in Winthrop? Are they good enough to fool tinker tech?"
He imagined Othinus creating an entire backstory for the people who needed it. She might even create a town populated solely by magical creatures just to perpetuate the masquerade.
"Yeah," Accelerator said. "Don't go there though. It's where Misaki and I are from. I implore both of you not to go poking around. You'll regret it."
"Now you've got me curious," Alec said. "But you do know just because the company's worth ten billion doesn't mean the CEO is."
"And how are we going to convince him to give us the cash?" Brian asked.
"I'll take care of that," Misaki said.
"Your stranger power?"
"Maybe~" Her singsong voice made him grin.
"He's right though," Accelerator said. "It's just not as fun if we don't get the ten billion." Despite Max Anders being a high profile target, he wasn't as threatening as some of the more volatile members of the Empire Eighty-Eight either.
"Hey," Accelerator said. "What did Anders do? The crimes he made and all that shit. In all the excitement of stealing his money I forgot to ask if he was a crook. If he's just some sort of sponsor for the Empire, then I don't think it's worth stealing all his cash over."
"Are you kidding me?" Brian asked. "Dude's a fucking Nazi."
"And I'd happily snap his neck if I find out he's killed innocent lives," Accelerator countered. "But if he's just a supporter I don't think I'd actually give a crap what he does on his days off."
"He's a rich supporter. Owns a fucking company," Brian said. He was getting worked up. "Hell, he might be funding all the other Nazis and getting them the cash to buy their guns and drugs, and not the legal kind."
"Even if it's just one billion," Alec said. "It's still a lot of cash. You never hesitated to steal from the Empire before. Why start now?"
A memory flickered. Red beam that disintegrated Victor's body. What was left was inside the urn on the counter. Accelerator killed someone so carelessly. He couldn't do that again.
"This is a half-baked plan," Accelerator said. "Misaki, you're hiding something. You wouldn't have told us this name if you knew I'd back out. What's the hook here?"
Misaki made an exaggerated sigh. "Must you always doubt me?" Accelerator kept staring at her. "Fiiine," she drawled. "He's not just a billionaire. He's also a cape."
"A member of the Empire?" Brian asked. He paused, contemplating which villain from the Empire Eighty-Eight would fit the description. "You mean Kaiser!?"
"Son of a bitch," Alec said. "Forget the money, this'll dismantle the Empire Eighty-Eight! Wait." He narrowed his eyes at Misaki, who shrugged with a careless smile like someone who was caught in the act and didn't give a crap.
"This was your intent," Alec said. "You're not just going to replace Medhall with your Starchild crap or whatever. You're replacing the top capes of Brockton Bay." He glanced at Accelerator. "Who the hell are you two?"
"Investors from Winthrop," Misaki said. "And if you know what's best for you keep your mouth shut."
"Oh, is that right?" Alec rolled his shoulder. Was this the prelude to a fight? Apparently not. "Okay."
Brian, who was clenching his fists and looking like he was preparing for a fight, deflated like a popped balloon. "Just like that. Really."
"Come on," Alec said. "We've got someone who can turn invisible. And even if you can do the same with your power, you'd still leave me blind. Neither you nor Misaki can see each other, and you can't hurt Accelerator either. You've seen what he's done on the bank and at the towers. We'd be complete idiots to take them on."
"I can't believe it's coming out of your mouth," Brian said. He sighed. "One of the people I know told me that capes are like cops and robbers and all that shit. We shouldn't go after them in their public identities or whatever because it'd draw the attention of all the villain gangs in Brockton Bay like angry hornets from their nests. You two thought about that?"
"Yes," Accelerator said.
"Quite," Misaki added. She made an inquisitive glance towards Accelerator. "Can I tell them?"
"Tell us what?" Brian asked.
"We're part of a gang," Misaki said.
"I knew it. Let me guess. Accord?"
"What?" Accelerator asked. "Brian, Accord died yesterday."
Brian took on a look of surprise. "He did?"
"Check your phone."
Brian did. "Whoa," he said, after verifying from the news. "Someone missiled him in his office. Hardcore."
"Damn straight," Misaki said, briefly smirking with a hint of pride in her voice. Accelerator couldn't help but feel the same. Othinus informed them she was the one who attacked Accord. Having other people acknowledge her greatness satisfied their nature as magical creatures made from her magic.
She was their god. They were doing all of this for her. Everyone should be aware of her magnificence.
The original Accelerator did not care for Othinus, but he wasn't just a copy of the original. He was also her creation. And he would do anything for her.
"I was so busy preparing for the heist I didn't even check what was happening to our neighborhood. Still, it is Accord. I heard he was a bit of a nutcase. Was it really a wonder other capes did him in?"
"It's probably an inside job," Alec suggested.
"So you're from a gang in Winthrop?" Brian asked. "You're not the Elite, are you? All the money and power makes me think it's the Elite."
"No," Misaki said. "Although I do admire their professionalism."
"So you're something similar," Brian said. "Let me guess. You're trying to recruit us. You're a thinker like someone I know. Accelerator infiltrated the Undersiders for the express purpose of having others join his team. Or something like that."
"Yeah," Accelerator said. "You in?"
"Yeah, man." Brian offered a fist. Accelerator bumped it. "We're making loads of money here! And even if Kaiser's only worth one billion it's still a fuckton of money. No way in hell am I missing this one out."
"Same," Alec said. "We don't even know our boss. At least with you two we know who we're working with, right?"
"Tell you what," Misaki said. "If we capture Kaiser, regardless if we extract his money or not, I'll pull money out of my own pocket to compensate for the labor of kidnapping him."
"It hasn't even been a day since the towers and the bank," Alec said. "Fucking crazy. I am so down for this."
"I guess we won't be using our masks here either?" Brian asked.
"No. We'll be wearing suits and clown masks," Accelerator said. "Misaki will pinpoint us to Kaiser's location. Alec will drive us there. I'll take care of the security. Brian, you carry his body. Alright?"
"Sure," Brian said.
"Alright," Alec added.
"Got it," Misaki peeped.
In truth, there wouldn't be any heavy lifting. Misaki would take care of everything. But he needed to give the illusion of a reliable leader to assuage Brian and Alec.
The rest of the day was spent researching the building and buying the supplies for the job.
The four would-be-thieves stayed inside a black van. Alec was in the driver's seat, Brian on shotgun, and Accelerator and Misaki at the back. They wore gray suits with varying colors of ties. Accelerator wore a blood red tie, Misaki a gold tie, Alec a rich purple tie and Brian a navy blue tie. Their clown masks were on their lap. White gloves covered their hands.
The van was parked across the street from the Medall building where Max Anders, aka Kaiser, was staying in. Now and then employees left the building, and Misaki informed the others of Kaiser's current whereabouts based on what she gleaned from the pharmaceutical employees.
They had spent the first thirty minutes discussing the plan one last time. And then there was silence. The others waited for Misaki to give the signal. Accelerator assumed that the delay was caused by the number of employees still in the building.
Even in the chance they obtain no money from kidnapping Kaiser, they were still going to go through with it. Accelerator wanted to see how many crimes Kaiser participated in. Misaki would be the one to read his mind. In the end it was a personal matter. Accelerator had seen too many fucked up Empire members to even consider the idea of the leader being innocent.
Brian and Alec would be compensated handsomely, of course. Money wasn't a problem for either Misaki or Accelerator, and they were willing to pay a reasonable price for the participation in the capture of Kaiser.
Accelerator could've done this on his own, but he wanted Brian and Alec to get used to what they were doing. He wanted them to trust him, to trust Misaki, and so when they absorb this city the two would be loyal to them.
There were other options. Just pay Alec and Brian to be on their side. Force them with the threat of physical violence from Accelerator. Or just flat out have Misaki brainwash them. Of the three options, Accelerator liked buying their trust the most. Neither violence nor mind control appealed to him.
For now, the true and tried form of bonding, doing a job, would suffice.
"Now," Misaki said. They all put on their masks. Alec rushed the van across the street until it was only a meter from the entrance. Accelerator and Misaki left the back seats. Brian emerged from the passenger's seat. They all shared a glance and a nod. The building was marked with a black crown against a red and yellow background, the logo of Medhall Corporations.
The metal door to the lobby was locked. There was a card reader under the doorknob where a card would be swiped to gain entrance to the building. Accelerator tapped it with his hand. The metal door dented and flew backwards, pulling bolts and hinges and pieces of the building it was connected to, all of it flying inside the lobby.
Four people heard the commotion. Two of them wore blue security uniforms and black guard caps. The other two wore black suits and white earpieces in their left ears and black sunglasses over their eyes. They were all armed with Uzis. Muzzles flashed. A volley of bullets soaked the three trespassers in the enfilade.
Accelerator, the moment he saw the guns, created a sweeping gesture with his arms and swung them outwards. A tornado from his left arm blew the bullets away. Another from his right flung the security guards into the wall across the room. Their backs hit the wall with a clink and a thud. They slid down the walls to the floor and stopped moving.
They were still alive. If he wanted them dead he'd have created wind blades that flew past their necks. Four decapitated bodies would've greeted him instead.
Misaki went to one of the men in the suit and took a card from his pocket. "Follow me," she said. She led them to a door by the left of the lobby, swept the card in the reader and unlocked the door. They ran through a white corridor to two pathways that split to the left and right. A morton's fork. A dilemma.
Luckily Misaki knew the way. She went left. They followed. It led to another door. Accelerator lost patience and slid past her, barrelling through the door. It broke into a dozen pieces that fell to the floor. The room led to a stairway to the second floor. Brian went on ahead. Accelerator looked at Misaki. She hunched over and held her knees. She was tired. Not used to this.
"Come here," he said, opening his arms. She nearly lost her footing walking towards him. He carried her in his arms. Four tornado wings exploded from his back and they flew up the stairs. The second floor was shrouded in the darkness of Brian's power. Another security guard was knocked down by the floor. After ten seconds the darkness dispersed. Brian stood over five unconscious security personnel.
His gloved hand was covered in blood.
"Drats," Misaki said. "Accelerator, carry Brian too. We're flying through the ceilings to the top floor." Brian was swept in the eye of a cyclone. Accelerator held Misaki in a more stable position to make sure she wouldn't get hurt and flew through the ceiling. Brian was carried by the wind and tailed after them. On the third floor security guards were caught in surprise and opened fire on the three capes. A barrier of wind blocked the bullets. A lazy wave of Misaki's hand sent all the guards to sleep. They tore one floor after the other until they reached their destination.
Five minutes earlier Max Anders was in a pickle.
He was in his office, reviewing some reports from his laptop on his desk. He looked beyond the window. The orange sky and purple clouds made way for the glittering stars of nightfall.
He returned his focus to the laptop. He was not reading about the latest meeting with his board of directors nor was he inspecting the latest development and production of medicine.
He was viewing his employees. Not the Medhall workers, but those of the Empire Eighty-Eight.
It was a fucking disaster.
Victor and Rotlicht were missing. The Wildflower diner was attacked. He didn't know who the perpetrators were. Of the past week this was the worst his Empire's ever been. Based on the police reports from an inside man, the door to the diner was broken into. The doorknob was found by the floor. Another doorknob belonging to the basement door was found in a room in the basement, stained with blood that belonged to Rotlicht.
He viewed the pictures on the attack at the Towers. Max was not a squeamish man. He was long since detached from the urge to look away from a corpse. The ones in the pictures were close up shots of the victims, his friends and people who trusted him. Their bodies were charred. There were holes on their heads from which bullets were recovered. It was the second most devastating attack. The burglars stole close to a million dollars.
The third was a report by the Roch brothers, who told him in person the attackers, two men in balaclavas, knew exactly where they were. In an attempt to investigate the following day some of their people were struck by a man in a face mask who only ran when they heard the sirens of a police car. In the hospital the beaten men informed him in person they didn't remember much from the attack.
He doubted the ABB were capable of such sophisticated hits. His connection to the men at the Towers wasn't even known to the general public. No one knew Victor and Rotlicht were missing either. Policemen assumed the diner was merely burgled instead.
Little by little his people were being whittled down by an invisible enemy he had no way of countering. He couldn't retaliate against an attacker he didn't even know the identity of.
That was when he felt it. A tremor.
Kaiser was already out of his seat when two men in suits barged into his office. "Sir," one of them said. "We need to get you out of here. Three capes have invaded the building. We believe one of them is Migliore, and the other Grue."
"Is the third a girl?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. Possibly Tattletale."
"Of course." Kaiser felt like all the missing pieces finally came together to fit the puzzle. The Undersiders always were plotting against him since the very start. Migliore was the tipping point for them. The powerhouse to answer the might of the Empire Eighty-Eight. He called his friends in the Aryan Brotherhood for this very reason. The Undersiders must've been the ones kidnapping his employees, and beating the information out of them. Tattletale did the rest, and now after all their attacks they've finally found him.
They didn't care about the unwritten rules. Not if it meant killing him. In their shoes he would've done the same.
"Hurry," he said. They dashed out of the room. Turned to the hallway leading to the fire escape. The floor shook. There was suddenly a hole. A man in a gray suit and a clown mask flew emerged, wings made of tornadoes carrying him and the girl in his arms. Another tornado carried a third masked man into the floor.
Network of metal encompassed his chest, and then his body. Kaiser was covered in a suit of armor. The floor shimmered. Silver blades of metal emerged. His two men unholstered their pistols and opened fire.
A wall of wind blocked their attack. They didn't stop shooting until they ran out of bullets. Two of the tornadoes that made up Migliore's wings whipped the two men on either side of Kaiser and sent them flying across the hallway behind him.
He didn't look back.
"Undersiders," he said. "To what do I owe the favor?"
"Shut up," Grue said. Kaiser was enveloped in darkness. Silence so absolute he couldn't even hear his own breathing. If this was to be his death then he will go down swinging. He pulled the two blades to his hands and prepared for a battle in the dark when he felt a throbbing pain in his head.
'Sleep,' he heard a girl speak into his head.
And then he lost consciousness.
The drop off site was an abandoned warehouse in the Docks. There was a lot of those and they weren't picky. The drive there was uneventful. Misaki did all the work, keeping attention off them by making everyone ignore the car they were in. Once they reached the warehouse Brian and Alec bugged out, with Misaki promising to send them their money the day after. Accelerator waited until Awaki appeared in person, while Misaki monitored the minds of the vagrants and gangbangers nearby.
"So…" Accelerator eyed his former teammate. Awaki Musujime had a slender build under her brown coat. Her hands were in her jean-pockets. Her boot tapped the grubby floor. Her red hair, tied into two low ponytails, billowed with the wind. Accelerator glanced up at the window near the ceiling. It was broken.
"What?" Awaki asked. "What do you want?"
"I have a favor to ask you," Accelerator said.
"Just ask lady Othinus. And then have her allocate me or someone else, another teleporter, to do your project."
He was wondering about that. Accelerator didn't really plan on participating in taking over the cities. Misaki was the true mastermind here. Everyone just misunderstood and assumed it was Accelerator's plans all along.
"I can't ask her though," Accelerator said.
"You planning on betraying her?" Awaki asked, her eyes sharp.
"No," Accelerator said. "I just need someone I could trust here. Misaki's too stressful to work with. For old time's sake?"
"Let me guess," Awaki said. "You don't want anyone else to learn about this little 'favor' you're asking either, right?"
"Fine. It's not a problem for me anyway. Just don't drag me in the politics of the upper echelon and we're gold."
"Politics? What the fuck are you talking about?"
"You don't even notice? You and Misaki remind me too much of the Board of Directors of Academy City. So much power and resources and still practicing with your schemes and deceits. So petty." Awaki shook her head. "I'm out." She held the door of the van and vanished, bringing the van and Kaiser with her.
He was left mystified by her words. What was she talking about?
Misaki returned to find Accelerator, all alone, in the grimy warehouse.
"You got all the videos?" Accelerator asked.
"They're all wiped from the control room. The number of surveillance equipment in the building was more than a hundred. It took a couple minutes for the security guard on duty to erase everything." Misaki made an amused smile despite her flushed face and gave a thumbs up. "Good job."
He didn't return her cutesy act but nodded. "You too."
They were back at their apartment, sharing the couch and watching TV.
Misaki changed to a yellow tank top and black shorts. Accelerator wore a white hoodie and khaki shorts. They were resting. At least for the moment.
"Why did we go through all that trouble to attack Medhall when you could've just brainwashed him in a meeting or something?" Accelerator asked.
Misaki shrugged. "Dunno. Because I want to? I'm happy you brought me along, 'Ace'."
He groaned. "You read Brian's mind?"
"Yeah. He overheard Taylor call you Ace. Found it morbidly fascinating. He was thinking, 'why is Accelerator letting her call him a stupid name?' and stuff like that. Oh, he's angry."
"I'm not." Accelerator sighed. "That bullshit you fed them, Brian and Alec I mean, about robbing Max Anders was pretty stupid. Almost got me excited for a second there. And then things stopped making sense and I lost interest."
"I don't get you," Misaki said. "We have unlimited resources and you're here acting like a greedier version of Robin Hood stealing from the rich and keeping to yourself."
"I don't get you either," Accelerator said. "We could've avoided the stress of bringing Brian and Alec along if I kidnapped Kaiser myself. But for some inexplicable reason you joined in and tired yourself not even two minutes into the attack. Why did you do that?"
"Hmph." Misaki harrumphed. "Because it was fun."
"Yeah." Accelerator stood up. "Because it's my preference."
There wasn't any real reason why they took the long route. Misaki making up some bullshit excuse to Brian and Alec and Accelerator excessively stealing money from the Empire Eighty-Eight. It was just what they wanted to do.
It was stupid and impractical and a complete waste of time.
But if it time spent with things they enjoyed, then it was a time well spent.
"So stupid," Accelerator muttered.
"Where are you going?" Misaki asked.
"Going to buy dinner." He offered a hand. "Want to come?"
Misaki grinned. "Sure." She took his hand, firmly held it in her softer one, squeezed it and smirked. "Hope you're not falling for me, 'Ace'-chan. That won't end well for anyone."
Accelerator snorted and hoisted her up. "Sometimes I wonder what that idiot sees in you."
Misaki grinned, her eyes shining and pulled a lace from her pocket, a whistle attached to it. "You wouldn't understand." She put it on and strode past him towards her room. "Wait for me. I'll just take a shower and get dressed."
"Was that whistle supposed to mean something?" Accelerator asked. Unfortunately by then Misaki already entered her bedroom the door, leaving him to his thoughts. "She's such a weirdo," was the conclusion he came to."And taking a shower…" He rubbed his forehead. "Shouldn't have invited her at all."
The door slightly opened. Misaki's hand stretched out, dropping her top and shorts. "Can you put these in the laundry basket for me? Thanks!"
Should not have invited her at all.
They found a semi-formal restaurant just across the street from their apartment. It was a steakhouse. It had a bar, booths, tables and even pool tables at the center of the room. Waiters went in and out of a door beside the bar leading to what he assumed was the kitchen. Medium rare steak was the most common cuisine.
Misaki, dressed in a frilly yellow dress, white stockings and ballet flats, led Accelerator by the hand to one of the empty booths. Accelerator glared at her hand, as if the intensity from his eyes would will it to let go. It didn't. Misaki was more touchy ever since he carried her through the ceilings of the Medhall building.
He hated it.
Accelerator wore a white fur coat, black trousers and Chelsea boots. When she finally let go his hand and took a seat, instead of taking the one on the other side he simply sat beside her. She made an inquisitive glance. "Too lazy," he grunted. Misaki made an amused smile and briefly closed her eyes.
"You're so full of shit," she said.
She was right.
By the bar Accelerator side-glanced other men. The Empire kind. They were dressed in regular clothing, but some of them had swastikas tattooed to their necks. It irritated him that they still existed. He assumed the termination of their 'Kaiser' was enough to dissuade them from showing their faces to respectable places.
"Can you make them leave?" he asked.
"Are you for real?"
"You're the one who decided to go white knight on me. I want to see how this plays out."
He took out his phone and Googled the definition of white knight. It read; a person or thing that comes to someone's aid.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Accelerator asked.
"Hey," Misaki said, leaning towards him until her lips almost touched his ear. "They're planning on showing a demonstration of how they're still strong. Planning on killing one of the minorities. Like the gay couple playing pool, one of which is black. Two birds with one stone. Time to man up, hero. Go get em, tiger." He scowled at her. She simpered.
"Shit," Accelerator said. "Okay. At least promise me this won't get out."
"I'm on your side," Misaki said. "Just a pinch." She pinched the air. Her stupid smile was making him really pissed off. "I'll make sure none of this reaches the outside world." She put her elbows on the table, propped up her arms and held her cheeks. "Scurry along now."
"This isn't over," Accelerator said. He left the booth. Approached the Empire goons. "Hey," he said, drawing their attention to him. The one on the front wore a coat, leathered jacket, jeans and working boots.
"What do you want?" he asked. There was a momentary confusion due to the paleness of Accelerator's skin, but after a few seconds he recognized Accelerator as an Asian and cracked his knuckles. "You wanna take this outside? The owner ain't friendly to little scuffles, you see."
The customers continued eating. The workers continued serving. No one noticed them, as if they were in their own little corner of the world. Misaki was the only one who noticed them, but other than a coy look she didn't interrupt the brewing discussion.
"Okay," Accelerator said. "After you." He held his arm to the door.
"Eat shit," the man said. Threw a punch. Snapped his fingers. Screamed.
Accelerator closed his eyes. Wondered when he would be free from Misaki's torment. When he opened his eyes he found all of the Empire goons on the floor cradling their limbs. They managed to beat themselves up with his power in less time than it took him to blink. Impressive.
"They won't even remember how they got hurt," Misaki said as Accelerator returned to sit beside her.
"You make everything needlessly complicated," he lamented. "Let's take our orders already." He watched with interest as the beaten men crawled their way out of the steakhouse. They couldn't reach the knob, but a patron happily opened the door for them and waited until they left the diner before the patron closed the door.
"M'sorry," Misaki said, not sounding sorry at all. She raised a hand. Ceremonial. She didn't need to. One of the waiters, who wasn't even looking at them, approached their table.
"Can I get you anything?" the man asked.
"Two steaks. Medium rare. Mashed potatoes, salad, and Coke." Misaki ordered for both of them.
"Coming right up."
When the man left, Accelerator said, "You used your powers on him, didn't you?"
"Who?" Misaki wasn't even paying attention, like she was distracted by the people around her. Probably eavesdropping on their thoughts.
"The waiter. He wasn't paying attention to us."
"Oh, yeah, he wasn't." Misaki tapped the side of her head. "I'm sorry for being out of it. The cacophony of thoughts interests me. Now more than ever. Did you know some of the people here are watching us?"
"Oh?" That was interesting.
"They think we're a couple." Misaki tittered.
Accelerator snorted. "That's stupid. Who do they work for?"
"That's what's interesting. They're not quite sure."
"How does that work?"
"Think an intermediary. A middleman. These people are just normal blue collar workers trying to make ends meet. They've been observed for some time. One day they find a letter in their mailbox, doorstep, whatever. Says they're offered a job in exchange for amateur spy hour. Half don't come. They doubt the letter. Why wouldn't they? Best case scenario. It's a prank and no one's there. Worst case scenario they get mugged and killed. But the other half take their chance, go to an abandoned warehouse, factory, building, whatever. Meet a man in a mask. Offering them loads and a picture of the people they're going to observe. Easy money. No one gets hurt. And they're a few grand richer." Misaki clapped her hands. "They're the two men by the pool table, by the way."
"The gay couple?" he asked. She nodded. He was tempted to beat the information out of them, but if she was more sympathetic to them than to the Empire men maybe he didn't need to do anything at all. "Can we bribe them to working for us instead?"
"Exactly what I was thinking. I already have their numbers. I'll contact them later tonight. For now, let's eat." As if she could see the future, or more likely read minds, the waiter arrived with their orders.
"Where have you been?" Lisa asked, arms crossed and foot tapping the floor like a girl who caught her boyfriend cheating on her. She wore a sweater, a skirt, and sandals. Her hair was tied to two ponytails.
'Oh boy,' Brian thought. He was in a conundrum. Brian was at the loft, by the couch, in a black tracksuit with the sleeves pulled to his elbows, bandage wrapped around his left hand, and a messenger bag beside him. He wanted to rest for the night wonder if he should throw his lot with Starchild Corporations instead.
Betraying the Undersiders would hurt, but antagonizing Accelerator would hurt even more. And he meant that literally. Even if Misaki and Accelerator were a pair and there wasn't actually a gang at Winthrop, that still meant he had to contend with an impressive thinker-stranger and her Alexandrian package brute boyfriend.
A dangerous combo.
And they bought him off. What bullshit story they concocted about Max Anders was just that, bullshit. There was no billions to be had, either from the man or the company. But Misaki did remunerate him for his work. She even offered to launder his money. What a reliable girl. A shame she was spoken for. He would've taken a shot at her himself.
"What do you mean?" Brian asked.
"All day," Lisa said. "For the last three days. You and Alec have been going out more and more ever since Accelerator showed up. From you? I wouldn't be surprised. But from Alec? That guy's lazier than a sloth.
"Sloths aren't lazy," Brian corrected her. "They're just slow because they need to conserve energy. Their food isn't exactly packed with energy, but it keeps them alive and there's a lot of it."
Lisa rolled her eyes. "Brian, stop changing the subject."
"Lisa, you're a thinker. I think you know I know. Let's not play this game."
Lisa took the remote from the coffee table in front of the couch and turned on the TV. It showed the news, discussing the attack on Medhall and the ever increasing violence on Brockton Bay. No one mentioned Grue, Migliore or the thinker-stranger Misaki, which meant they were off the hook.
From the government. Not from her.
Lisa pointed at the TV. "You did this."
Brian didn't answer her.
"You kidnapped the CEO of Medhall Corporation, killed a bunch of people from the Towers, and even made fucking millions for it." She narrowed her eyes. "You son of a bitch." He sighed. "You're cutting me out of a job!"
"To be fair," Brian said. "Accelerator's the one with the plan. And he has a thinker of his own."
"Oh, and what, she's so much better than me?" Lisa asked. "You don't know her for more than a day and you trust her more than me? Is that it?"
He grimaced. "What the hell is your power telling you?"
"Stop changing the subject!" Lisa was like a petulant child who didn't get her share of the cookies and was furious for it. "I want a piece of the action, Brian, and you are not going to deny me the chance to earn money."
"You fuck off!" Like something in her snapped, Lisa got on far end of the couch, crawled towards him and began punching his shoulder.
"Ow, ow." Brian caught her wrists. She was smaller than him. It was easy to pin her down. He pushed her back to the seat cushion. "Stop," he said. "Why are you getting so worked up about this?"
"Ugh. You wouldn't understand," Lisa said. Somewhere along the way she lost her hair ties and left her blonde hair spreading into a pool around her. She was breathing hard. Her cheeks flushed red. Working up a sweat. She glared at him. Glanced at the TV. The reporters were speculating parahuman involvement in the attack. "It feels like I'm getting replaced. It's not a good feeling."
He understood the sentiment. If he was in her shoes he'd be angry too. "Alright," he said. "But promise me you won't hit me when I let you go, okay?" She nodded.
The door to the stairway opened and Taylor stepped into the loft, wearing a jacket, jeans, sneakers and a beret. "Hey guys. You seen Ace?" She paused, staring at them. Blushing as she focused on Brian's knee between Lisa's legs. "Um, am I interrupting something?"
"NO!" they both said. Brian released Lisa's wrists, and the girl scrambled away.
"Why?" Brian asked. He wasn't sure if Taylor knew about Accelerator's relationship with Misaki. In fact, he wasn't even sure how close Taylor was to Accelerator. Until he knew more, he'd treat Taylor as someone out of the loop. He casted a meaningful glance at Lisa, who was rubbing her wrists. She straightened her skirt, pushing it over her bare legs, and slid out of the couch.
"Why what?" Taylor said.
"Why are you looking for him?"
"Because he was there this morning celebrating with me and my dad."
"Oh. It's your dad's birthday?" Brian smiled. "Cheers."
"It isn't," Lisa said. "Her dad struck a deal with a company that plans on settling down the Bay."
"Yeah. Starchild Corporations. Practically employed the Dockworkers en masse."
Misaki's company bought off Taylor's dad? And she wasn't even aware of it. Lisa was combing her hair while she looked at Brian with interest. He wondered what the difference was between her power and Misaki's, thinker wise.
"I haven't seen Accelerator," Brian lied. "He's probably out there glaring at someone and scaring their brains out." Accelerator was scary.
Taylor laughed. "Yeah. Probably helping someone like me." She sighed longingly, making a nostalgic smile. "Still takes me back. When he showed up. Who knew he was a cape though."
"Yeah…" Pale skin, red eyes, white hair. "Who could've guessed."
"What happened to your hand?"
"I punched something stupid."
"Oh. Did you two hear about what happened at Medhall?" Taylor asked, changing the subject. "And the Towers too." She shivered. "This place is getting more violent. I'm glad I've got the Undersiders on my side. Well, Accelerator to be specific, no offense. He's a powerhouse. If anyone can keep us safe it's him."
Brian laughed nervously and scratched his shoulder. Lisa shot him a cheeky smile. She sashayed to Taylor and hooked an arm over her shoulder.
"So? Tell us about your day."
Brian listened in interest as Taylor spoke about her father's new contractor, hearing more about Misaki's company. Lisa pretended to care as she too fished for information about Accelerator.
Alec was offered another job.
In addition to being an Undersider and a diligent driver, he was now moonlighting as a cleaner.
Misaki texted him -because of course she knew his number without recalling giving it to her- and offered him another job with a good salary. He inquired the specifics. She told him he would be like a courier, delivering bodies. Insisted they were bad guys.
He didn't care. The number of zeroes on his salary was all that mattered.
He was at the designated area, a forest on Maplewood Drive, stepped into the woods towards the clearing and found the vehicle holding the luggage. It was a large blue van. He approached it. Checked the back door. It was unlocked. He pulled it open.
Six dead bodies stared back at him. He corrected himself. Five. One of them was missing his face. He could see through the hole, to the open eye of another corpse. The smell of piss and shit didn't even affect him. He was desensitized to it due to his upbringing. Risky, to leave the vehicle out in the open. He closed the door. Checked his clothes for bloodstains. None on his windbreaker, jeans or slip-ons. Good enough. Deliver six bodies to someone else. Get paid for it. Wonderful. Brockton Bay was the American dream. Full of jobs for people like him.
"Hey," someone said from behind him, almost making Alec reach for the pocket pistol inside his coat.
Instead, he made a smile and turned to the source of the voice.
It was a policeman in uniform. Alec wanted to curse.
"Is that your car, sir?" the policeman asked, extracting a flashlight from his flashlight-holder as he lit up Alec's face, making him cover his eyes with his hand, and then turn the light to the license plate of the vehicle.
"Yes, sir," Alec said.
"Can I see your license and registration, sir?"
"Yes," Alec said. "Hold on. Just let me get my wallet." The policeman nodded. Alec gently put his hand in his coat pocket and pulled out his pistol, safety off, and aimed at the policeman. At the same time he used his power and made the policeman trip. The policeman fell on his face and tried to look up at Alec. Before the cop could react Alec pulled the trigger. Shot him in the eye.
The policeman crumpled to the detritus. Alec looked around him, expecting backup to come out of the woodwork. There was none. Why was a cop out here in the woods? It didn't matter. He opened the back door, picked up the body by the shoulders and threw the corpse on top of the pile. He closed the door. Left the forest. Looked for a police car. Found it parked near a fire hydrant. He approached it. Knocked on the window of the driver's seat. The police officer, a black woman, buzzed the window down.
"Yeah?" she asked.
"Excuse me, ma'am," Alec said. "But I was sent your partner?"
"He took a piss by the woods. Tell me he didn't do anything stupid," the stupid cop said. "Has a habit of disturbing pedestrians, unfortunately."
"No ma'am," Alec said, laughing. Under the window he pulled out his gun. "He's just talking to my parents. Told me to get you."
"Ah, okay." The police woman nodded. Smiled. "What's your name, kid?"
"Jean-Paul," he said, all smiles, raised the gun and shot her head. Gore stained the ceiling, chairs, and the window on the other side of the vehicle. He left, humming as he returned to the forest.
Correction. Seven dead bodies. Moving the other cop from the car was too much of a hassle. He returned to the clearing, checked the van for anything useful, found lighter fluid under the passenger seat, drove the van out of the forest, near the police vehicle, went out of the car with the lighter fluid, doused the body, took out a match and set it on fire. The corpse was burning quite nicely when he left the scene.
"Promise me you won't look into their minds," Accelerator said. "Brian and Alec. Promise me."
"Okay?" Misaki raised a brow and poked her fork on the empty plate.
"If I ever find out you did," Accelerator said. "I'll never trust you again. They're my people. I trust them. I need you to do the same."
"Relax," Misaki said. "I will. Just don't think I'll extend the same treatment to the rest of the Undersiders."
He frowned. "Taylor too."
She laughed. "Don't worry. I won't harm your precious friend."
"Alright." There was a lull in their conversation. Accelerator took in the rest of the restaurant. Families and friends gathered to enjoy a pleasant evening. Drinking beer, eating steak, playing pool, it was enjoyable. He wanted this to spread to the rest of Brockton Bay. No violence. Just peace. Maybe solve the homeless problem while he was at it. They had virtually unlimited resources. Anything was possible.
"I'm sorry," Accelerator said. "For dragging you into this."
Misaki looked surprised, although only briefly, and then beamed. "I never expected you to apologize. It's fine, Accelerator. I'm over it."
"You don't seem to." He recalled how she made him get rid of the Empire men in the bar instead of using her powers to do it herself.
"Oh, you mean earlier?" She tittered again. "It's not that I hate you, Accelerator. It's just that I'm always like this."
The playful sort? That didn't sound fun.
Still, they were cordial now and that was all that mattered.
"One thing I didn't understand," Accelerator said. "Why why were you angry when I offed a bunch of human trafficking paedophiles?"
"Oh. Just surprised." Misaki shrugged. "Next time tell me first, okay?"
"Alright." He drank his Coke. "I think we need to put a stop to the gangs."
"Isn't that what we're doing?" Misaki asked. "With the Empire. We're dismantling them, removing their capes one by one."
"It's a start," Accelerator said. "But they're not the only ones running sex slavery. The ABB does it too. And the Merchants drug kids and vagrants into becoming their mules in exchange for a little of the good stuff. And all the other shit in this cesspool. We need to fix everything in the Bay, you understand me? Everything."
"True…" Misaki tapped her chin. "Junko's with the Protectorate right now."
"I know," Accelerator said. "Was that you?"
"No. It was lady Othinus."
"That explains how fast she was transferred." Misaki could do the same thing, but she needed to control too many people. Othinus could achieve it with a snap of the fingers.
"Let's send a mole to the Merchants," she said. "And after we dismantle the Empire we'll take over the ABB too."
"You have an execration with the Empire or something? I notice you didn't include them in the list of people you'll absorb."
Misaki wrinkled her brows. "What is with you and sympathizing with white supremacists? The Merchants and ABB aren't much better, but at least they're not nazis."
"Misaki, I have a kill count higher than most of the people there," Accelerator said.
"No." She shook her head. "The original version of you had a kill count higher than the E-Eighty-Eighty. Not you."
"My memories and personality make up who I am. Same as you."
"You're wrong." She harrumphed. "The original version of me is worse off because Touma doesn't know she exists."
"Whatever. It's semantics anyway. And I don't feel any different from who I was before. So it's all the same to me. The Empire Eighty-Eight are full of shit, but any sufficiently motivated bastard can do the same. Let's just brainwash them into surrendering their belief in the Aryan race. Make them worship lady Othinus instead or something."
"They already worship her," Misaki said. "Odin."
"Well, make them believe in the one in Winthrop. Make them see her in their sleep. I don't know. You're the people person here. If the Merchants and the ABB get a second chance, then so does the Empire."
"Your sympathy makes me sick."
"Perks of having been one of the bad guys."
He killed a lot of people. A lot of girls. Defenseless ones. And enjoyed it. He was a piece of work and he managed, through the effort other people who gave a damn put through, change for the better.
"Touma helped me out of it," Accelerator said. "I was in a hole, and he pulled me out twice. He didn't have to. He didn't to. But he did. I have to try. Or I'll be spitting in his kindness."
Misaki twiddled her thumbs. "Oh…"
It probably wasn't easy for her. She must've seen the kidnapping of children. The rape. The murder. She saw the worst the Empire had to offer and was a little short in sympathy.
"Did you bring anyone else in Brockton Bay?" he asked, changing the subject.
"Yeah," Misaki said. She was still a little out of it. From what, he didn't know. "They're doing their part cleaning up the streets."
"Like I'd tell you."
"Tsk." He clicked his tongue. "Why the fuck not?"
"It's a surprise~"
"Love ya, Bersi. Take care of yourself."
Marian Slingeneyer hung up her phone with a smile. Othinus did it. She managed to bring Bersi back to life. Her student and lover was in Winthrop meeting up with some cape called Blasto, who believed Bersi was a fellow tinker, strangely enough.
Marian was a girl with brown skin and braided silver hair. She wore red framed glasses and overalls over her bare skin. In her left hand she held a western sword sheathed in a golden scabbard.
She strolled by the beach. Moonlight reflected from the surface of the ocean, giving it a silver shimmer. She stepped over a seashell, picked up a starfish and threw it back into the sea, and poked a jellyfish with her sword. Dáinsleif.
She didn't really care that she was a clone or whatever mumbo jumbo Othinus said. She was still herself, with all her memories and personality and abilities intact. She didn't care about her old goal anymore either. All she cared about was Bersi.
She heard someone say you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Truth is, she knew what she had, she just never thought she'd lose it. Bersi was that special someone, and the pain of losing him hurt.
Now, they were together again. Her hope in Othinus paid off. She knew the path to a better life was paved with Othinus's intentions. So she just needed to continue following orders until Othinus would grant her another wish.
She was tasked by Misaki, who oversaw multiple operations across the globe, to Brockton Bay to terminate targets of Misaki's choosing. She left the latest batch in a blue van in some forest and made her way to the Boardwalk, and then the beach.
"New Gremlin's kind of overwhelming," Marian said. "At least the original Gremlin only had magicians. This new one has espers too. As expected of Othinus-sama."
Ever since Othinus revealed her godhood to Marian, she earned a pure, devoted worshipper.
"Bringing people back to life is awesome!" Marian shook her head in awe. "I wonder what else Othinus-sama has in store for this world." She saw several cars from afar drive towards her direction. "Huh?"
The cars stopped fifteen yards away. Three vehicles. Seven people emerged. All men in suits.
"What you did wasn't very nice," the tallest of the bunch, a seven footer said. "Killing our boss with such amateur skills and not even tampering with the video surveillance is an insult to our reputation." The seven footer threw his arms to the side. White electricity discharged into the sand. "That's right, bitch." His companions began using their own powers. One was enveloped in green energy and floated in midair. Another created fire from their mouth. Another made a spear of ice. Another exhaled black smoke. Another grew spikes from their elbows. Another turned their shadow into blades.
The seven footer grinned. His eyes glowed with white energy. "We're all parahumans, and you're going to die a painful death."
All at once the seven suits unleashed a volley of attack. Electricity, green energy, fire, ice spears, acidic smoke, bone spikes and shadow blades combined into a violent onslaught to overwhelm their foe.
"Fill." At the same time they attacked she raised her sword into the sky. Lightning far more powerful than the one from the seven footer came from the sky and struck the sword. It gave a soft, gold glow. It was followed by an explosion, with Marian at the center. A large flash, followed by a shockwave blew all their attacks away. The suits followed, thrown backwards in the air. The flying man was flung further into the sky. Some of them were thrown into the beachwater and the others into the sand. One struck the hood of their car. Grunted. It was the seven footer.
He jumped off the hood. Spat blood into the sand. The suits regrouped and surrounded Marian. Circled her like a pack of wolves surrounding a single lioness. Marian looked at her sword. The sheath released bluish-white sparks.
She used her thumb, holding the sheath to push the handguard. Several millimeters was enough to reveal the gold blade of the sword.
The flying man lost his green glow and fell into the ocean. He didn't get back up. The others turned to him. Even Marian, who sheathed the sword with her fingers. One of the others, the man with spikes growing from his elbows, pulled out a spike and made the motion to throw the spike towards her neck. Again, she unsheathed her sword. The man fell on his own spike that burst out of the back of his skull.
Before they had time to react, Marian repeated the motion of sheathing the sword with her fingers and then unsheathing it with her thumb. The shadowmancer fell. She leapt back from flames spat upon the sand she stood upon moments ago. Repeated her tactic. The fire spitter fell. She raised her sword, blocking a spear of ice. It didn't even scratch the sheath. With another movement of her thumb the ice manipulator died. Two left. The seven footer and the smoke generator. Black smoke shrouded her vision of the beach. She moved her fingers. The smoke dispersed. The smoke generator lied on his back, face frozen in horror.
"Okay," the seven footer said, getting on his knees. He put his hands together and begged. "Please don't kill me. It was clearly a mistake. Listen, I'll give you money, see? I'll make up for my insult. Just don't-"
Marian unsheathed her sword until half of it was bare. A searing beam of light exploded behind her. Beyond the light a silhouette of a four armed being stood. It was twenty feet tall. It held a lotus flower in its lower left hand, a mace in its lower right, a conch in its upper left hand and a discus in its upper right. Padma, Kaumodaki gada, Panchajanya shankha and Sudarshana Chakra. The ever-changing god, Vishnu. It was power so great Marian knew she would be in trouble with Othinus for summoning another god without her permission.
The seven footer's eyes exploded with white fire, burning his brain into crisps.
She was left alone with the god, and she faced its incomplete form. It raised a hand, the one holding its conch. According to the Sanskrit epics of Ancient India, the conch was taken from a Davana, or demon, Vishnu had killed.
It did not speak. But she felt its intent.
"You think I'm not myself?" Marian asked, surprised. Apparently, Vishnu thought her not guilty of the sins of the original Marian Slingeneyer, and approved of her termination of evil. "Whatever you say." Marian sheathed her sword, breaking the fragile magic anchoring Vishnu to this world. The light from the presence of the Vedic deity vanished, cloaking her in darkness.
Marian sighed. The pursuers were employees of the people she killed. She actually visited other cities before arriving on Brockton Bay. How they found her was a mystery.
She asked Misaki for the number of the cleaner so they could help her in person. Misaki did on the condition she didn't hurt them. Marian sat on the back of the seven footer corpse and waited five minutes for the cleaner to arrive. The smell of urine and feces didn't even affect her, having grown used to operating with fresh corpses since she was young.
The cleaner was a pretty boy in a windbreaker, jeans and slip-on shoes. He whistled as he surveyed the scene. "Hey there," he said. "I guess you're the gift that keeps on giving?"
"Marian," she said. "And I'm a parahuman or whatever. You?"
"Alec." He approached her, offered a hand. "Nice to meet you."
She shook it. "Likewise."
The Astute Mortuary on the outskirts of downtown provided an electric cremator for the services of cremating the deceased. At the moment the undertaker was quite busy burning one body after another. He did not ask where the bodies were from, only that each corpse was worth ten thousand dollars.
A starry eyed girl approached him, told him she heard his dreams of becoming a millionaire. She offered to make it a reality in exchange for his facility. He happily jumped at the chance. Now here he was.
"Hey," the young man from earlier said, returning to the mortuary. "I've got seven more here."
"Just put them on the floor," the undertaker said, not even bothering to look at the corpses. "I hope you weren't followed on your way over?" When the furnace was done incinerating the corpse into specks of bones, he grabbed the next one and threw it inside.
"I'm good. Geez. You're a pain in the ass," the young man said.
"Hmph." They waited for the corpse to be incinerated, and then the undertaker grabbed the next body. It was heavier than the others. A glance told him it was seven foot tall. "Mind helping me?" he asked the young man.
"Sure." The undertaker grabbed the corpse by the shoulders, the young man by the feet, and they threw it inside the furnace.
"So what killed these poor schmucks?" the undertaker asked.
"Aren't you paid not to ask questions?"
"Oh." Alec snorted. "Heart attack. They died of heart attack."
The undertaker raised a brow. "Did they now?" If this was the work of a parahuman, then it was a strong one. "Tell me, young man, are you interested in becoming a funeral director?"
"But it pays well! This one does, anyway."
"Listen, pal, I've already got a good gig going on. I don't want to fuck it up by throwing bodies into the fire, okay? That's your job. Delivering fresh corpses is mine. See ya." The young man left the mortuary, leaving the undertaker alone with the corpses.
The cars were left on the beach, with the keys still inside them. It didn't take long for some hoodlums from the ABB drawn to the noise to find the vehicles, cheer, and get inside their new ride. Not even fifteen minutes and the cars were stolen.
Brockton Bay, where the magic happens.
"So Alec," Marian said, waiting for him beside a lamppost outside the mortuary. "Do you happen to know a place to stay? My coworkers are a bunch of assholes, you see. They didn't even reserve a room for me in a hotel."
"Red eyes and star eyes?" Alec asked. Marian nodded. "Yeah. I can imagine. They don't look like the caring type."
Except when it came to money.
She shrugged. The motion pulled his eyes to her cleavage, barely covered by her overalls. The strap over her left shoulder fell down to her elbow. He shook his head.
"Oh?" Despite her blank face, she caught his wandering eyes and walked towards him with a sway of her hips, her hands holding the sword behind her back. "What's wrong, Alec? Cat got your tongue?" She pressed her body to his. He caught a whiff of her scent. It reminded him of strawberry cake.
"What shampoo are you using?" he asked.
She grinned. "It's a little something from Scandinavia. You like it?" She cupped his cheek. "My boyfriend picked it."
He raised a brow. "Boyfriend?"
"It's an open relationship." She bit her lip. "We don't deny each other pleasure from others." She raised her knee between his legs and purred. "Tell you what. You show me around town and I'll show you a good time. What do you say?"
"Tempting," he said. "Ah. What the hell." He held her bare hips. She flashed him a coquettish smile. "Sure. Why not."
April 14. 7:20 am. The Undersiders congregated at the loft. Accelerator and Taylor took one couch. Alec and Lisa took another. Brian sat on an armchair. Rachel leaned against the wall beside the TV, her dogs resting on the floor near her feet.
"You've been doing what?" Taylor asked, her lips an inch from the straw to her drink.
"I've been doing some jobs," Accelerator said. His hand was inside a bag of chips. Despite halfway through the snack, not a single crumb clung to his skin. "Getting some scores for me and Brian and Alec."
"You've been skipping out on us," Rachel said, narrowing her eyes. Accelerator ignored her. Brian was using his phone. Alec ate a hotdog sandwich.
"Ace, you're a crook?" Taylor's voice was pained.
"Impulsive is more like it," Accelerator corrected her. "And all I've been targeting were members of the Empire Eighty-Eight."
"Ah. So it was all to put a stop to their operation, right?" Taylor asked, attempting to justify his actions by painting it under an altruistic light.
"Never mind that," Lisa said. "Alec, you were twenty minutes late."
"Wait," Alec said. "You're telling me you've been here since seven?" He pointed at Accelerator and Rachel. "Especially you two?"
"Yeah," Accelerator said. "I'm punctual." Rachel snorted. "So, again. Where were you?"
"Had a good time," Alec said, grinning. "I think I've found my special someone."
"Wow," Lisa said. Brian shuddered.
"Let me guess," he said. "She has a boyfriend."
With the most shit-eating grin, Alec bobbed his head.
Brian gaped at him. "What the hell, man? Don't you know the bro code?"
"What's the bro code?" Taylor asked.
"Something stupid," Rachel said.
"Men." Lisa rolled her eyes.
"Bro code," Accelerator said, slow enough to taste each word. "A code for brothers. I didn't know you two were that close." He was amazed. Their bonds must be stronger than steel.
"Anyway," Alec said. "I'm moving out. I have enough cash not to work another day in my life. And I really like this girl."
"What if she's just using you?" Brian asked. Lisa, Taylor and Rachel glared at him. "Or what if you're using her?" Brian corrected himself.
"Using me?" He laughed. "She is. So honest about it too. Basically freeloading from my cash so she doesn't have to pay a cent for a house or food. I really like her."
"If all we're going to talk about is Alec's gold digger girlfriend," Rachel said. "Then can I leave?"
She checked Accelerator for approval. He raised a hand, signalling for her to wait. She was so docile he didn't understand the rumors about her from PHO.
"Anyone who knows more than they should," Accelerator said, giving a hint of a warning to Lisa he was sure her power would pick up from the tone of his voice alone. "I suggest you keep those things to yourself."
If she blabbed about Misaki, which he assumed she figured out after Brian and Alec met the telepathic esper, then he was going to give her an incentive to keep it to herself.
"Yes, I've been doing jobs with Brian and Alec. It was just a little fun." He recalled the Towers where he killed more than half a dozen men with headshots and left their bodies to burn. "Easy money. I figure since we were already a team why not earn a little more cash?"
"And weaken the Empire while we're at it," Brian said. "And you're not quitting, Alec."
"What Brian said," Accelerator said, narrowing his eyes at Alec.
"Aw." Alec pouted.
Lisa sniffed. "Try that when you're cuter."
"Who are we going to target?" Taylor asked. "And I left my costume at home. Ace, can you give me a ride back?"
"We're targeting the-" His phone vibrated. "Hold on." He reached inside his pocket, withdrawing his phone. 'The couple spying on us inside the steakhouse were working for Coil,' it read. He'll look into it later. He returned his focus to his team. "We'll be targeting the ones running the drug dealing in the Empire business."
He already struck the arms dealers, the Roch brothers, and the human traffickers from the Towers. Attacking their drug dealers makes for a perfect triangle in his list of assholes to assault.
"Stash houses?" Alec asked.
"No. The people behind the scene. We'll be extracting them. They live downtown, in a mansion over at Inlet Street across a payday loan."
"Brockton Bay Loan Company," Brian said. "I know that place."
"And we aren't using our costumes. We'll be wearing Abraham Lincoln masks and monkey suits. There's no need to draw the heroes into this. It's just a smash and grab. We'll be smashing the mansion and grabbing the drug dealers."
"And quoting Abraham Lincoln while we're at it," Lisa said. In a deeper voice meant to imitate men, she added, "The best way to predict your future is to create it."
"No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar," Brian said, playing along with her.
"All I have learned, I learned from books." Taylor too attempted a serious look, but laughed halfway through. All three of them chuckled.
"You Americans and your obsession with your presidents," Alec said.
"Wait," Accelerator said. "You're not American?" He raised a brow. "What are you?"
"Wow. Way to be insulting. I'm from Ca-"
Accelerator's phone vibrated. He raised his forefinger. "Hold that thought." Alec scowled. It was another message. It read, 'Want to meet up later? Marian invited us (Misaki, Junko and I). We're getting to know Marian's boyfriend. I mean, other boyfriend. Whatever. Let's hang out. Kanzaki :D'
A small part of Accelerator's mind was alarmed by the fact Marian was in the city without him knowing until Kanzaki sent him a message. It was superceded by the knowledge she was seeing someone else.
Marian has another boyfriend? He thought she was dating Bersi. Then again, they were in an open relationship. 'Sure,' he sent back. He returned his focus on Alec, who was busy tapping the screen of his phone.
"So we'll be the Abrahalm gang," Lisa said. "Hitting the evil Empire Eighty-Eight and bragging about our angel mothers while we're at it."
"We'll be abolishing them Nazis while we're at it," Brian said. He was smiling. "I like it."
"Wait," Taylor said. "You said something about extracting. What do you mean?"
"We'll be interrogating them," Accelerator said. "And gloat about Nancy Hanks while we're kicking their asses."
"Interrogate them?" Taylor repeated.
"Relax. Not for anything evil. We'll just be using a thinker to gather evidence on them. Know where they put all their cash. Access their bank accounts. Stuff like that."
"Use a thinker? You mean Lisa? Makes sense." Taylor nodded. "And then we'll let them go?"
"For the authorities to catch, yes. I won't hurt them, Taylor. Not in anyway permanent."
Accelerator shared a conspiratorial glance with Lisa, Brian and Alec. Rachel saw the exchange but didn't call it out. When he said he was going to use a thinker, he never gave a name. Taylor did. Who was he to correct her preconception?
"Where'd you get the masks?" Brian asked. "If you bought it yourself you do realize people can trace it back to you."
"I'm not an idiot. I paid someone else to buy it." Warren and Clifford were clearly enthused to hear from him again. He paid them a little extra for the cash and told them to keep an ear out for anything interesting from the Empire side of things. They believed the Empire was a sinking ship, and they were jumping out of it. Joining his.
"So I can't bring my dogs?" Rachel asked. Was she self conscious about her reliance on her pets?
"Rachel, relax. You'll be doing something else," Accelerator said. "The Empire maybe one big happy family, but they all have their own cliques and ways to get things done. The targets have a bundle of people that sell drugs on the street. Those dealers are going to be the first to respond. I want a preemptive strike. Don't kill them, but make sure they'll never be able to respond."
The Empire was on high alert. They lost three capes in the span of two days. One of them was Rotlicht, a cape borrowed from their New York counterpart the Aryan Brotherhood. The other was the CEO and president of Medhall Corporations, Max Anders, and the leader of the Empire Eighty-Eight. The public was unaware of Victor's death, and didn't even know Max Anders was Kaiser. It was even likely no one knew Rotlicht was in Brockton Bay.
One cape dead. Two more missing. If Accelerator had his way he would add Hookwolf into that list.
"Where's the masks?" Lisa asked.
"And the monkey suit," Alec said. "Hope they fit. Don't want something too big on me."
"It's in a duffel bag in your room," Accelerator said. "I'll show you." He got up. "Rachel. Wear a dog mask or whatever. Just don't link the attack to ours. We'll try to make them think it wasn't the Undersiders that made the attack. Grab some cash if you find any, to make it look like a coincidence."
Accelerator was followed by the others into Alec's room.
"This is delicious," Kanzaki said from where she sat on a Burlington leather armchair. Kanzaki was a voluptuous girl, nineteen years old if her memories counted, with long black hair tied into a ponytail reaching her hips. She wore a white shirt tied into a knot at the bottom, revealing her midriff, and denim shorts, which left her legs bare. She finished the contents of the strangely colored teacup and placed it on the coffee table before her in Junko's living room. "Thank you, Junko."
"It is not a problem, Kaori-san," Junko said. Junko was a slender girl with long hair in ringlet curls. She wore an oversized shirt with a green and black spiral design. She was on the Armonia couch adjacent to the armchair. Portraits of the Mona Lisa and Mary Magdalene hung on the Calacatta marble wall. Gold chandelier hung from the ceiling. "Being a hero in Brockton Bay is more hectic than in Boston. I wonder why."
"I'm surprised they believed you're an adult," Kanzaki said. "I'd have thought they'd place you in the Wards." She tapped the white marble floor. "It made sense in Boston, but the Bay?"
"Yes. I am quite perplexed as well. But birth certificates are birth certificates. Even forged ones." Junko was fiddling with a mini tablet on her lap. "Have you heard about the new hero Narwhal? She is quite the powerful parahuman. She can create force-fields inside someone else's body."
"I've heard," Kanzaki said. "That's why I'm here, actually." Leaning beside the armchair was a nodachi, or field sword, sheathed and two meters long. It was her Shichiten Shichitou, or Seven Heavens Sword, that was the conduct for her magic. "Misaki asked for my help in the off chance Accelerator can't beat Narwhal." Kanzaki crossed her legs and put her arms on the armrests. "I don't understand her, sometimes. She could handle Narwhal herself, but asks for my help? It is quite perplexing."
"Lady Misaki is playful like that," Junko said with a fond smile. "I believe it is not so much the intricacy of the plan as it is getting to know her friends."
"Hmm…" Kanzaki never was one to make friends on her own. If that was how Misaki made bonds, then she was grateful to be a part of it. "This teacup, what is it called?"
"It's part of the Roy Lichtenstein tea set. The rest is in the kitchen. Do you want to see it?"
"No. Just curious." Junko had quite the expensive taste. She is not dissimilar to the royalty back in their world's Britain. Junko lived in the penthouse of High Cliffs Hotel. It gave a spectacular view of the city.
"I have been meaning to ask, but why did you invite me here? Aren't we all going to meet with Marian later anyway?"
"Is it wrong to invite a friend?" Junko answered her question with one of her own. "I wish to see if you are well, Kaori-san."
"Oh…" Kaori felt her cheeks warm. "That is nice of you, Junko." Truth be told, she wanted to do more than simple backup in case Accelerator loses to Narwhal. But enjoying moments like these were good too, she supposed.
Othinus's mansion, Winthrop
"You know what would be nice?" Touma asked. "If it was always sunny."
"Oh? How come?" Othinus asked. The two were in her study. She sat beside a desk he was using to read for his lessons. She held a saucer to her lap and a teacup with another. Steam warmed her face. She just finished bathed with her lover, and now sported a tank top and shorts under a robe.
Touma wore a shirt with the kanji for love and shorts. He was busy reading a book on business management. Othinus was tutoring him, and now and then would test him with questions. If he answered correctly she would reward him with a kiss. So far he received only one, and it was given out of pity and impatience.
"Do I need a reason?" He closed the book, Spin selling by Neil Rackham, and turned to her.
"Yes." She lowered the teacup to the saucer.
"It's a source of vitamin D?" He raised a finger.
"Cancer remission?" He raised another. "Sunlight makes breast cancer go into remission. Some physicians actually recommend sunbathing to cure their patients."
"It kills bacteria-"
"Touma, let me interrupt you right there." Othinus put the saucer holding her teacup on the desk beside his book. "I could make a bunch of excuses why it'd be nice to rain today as well. It makes my skin cool. It gives a good view of the clouds and raindrops pelting the ground. Lightning makes it even more beautiful." She gave him a coy look. "And I find it romantic making love while it's raining."
He blushed. "Um, well, that's sort of subjective, isn't it?"
"That's the point. Stop making excuses and just be honest with me." She could already read him like a book, and him her, but eliciting the truth from his lips was far more rewarding.
He made an exaggerated sigh. "Fine. Because I like sunlight. Happy?"
"Yes." She leaned and gave him a kiss. "Now keep reading. Break time's over. You're lucky I'm more patient than most teachers in high school."
"I somehow doubt that." He opened his book and continued reading.
"Quiz in five minutes," Othinus said. She reached for her teacup and blew on the surface. Steam vanished. The contents of the tea changed from that of her reflection into the image of the sky. Clouds gathered, blocking the view of the sun. The weather forecast told her today Winthrop and other areas in New England were going to rain. She changed that. She blew on the tea once more. The clouds were puffed away. Sunlight shined in the contents of her cup.
She smiled in satisfaction and finished her tea. She didn't care about the weather, but keeping Touma happy, even with just the little things went a long way.
Gulf Street, Brockton Bay
They took two vans provided for by Accelerator's people. Taylor was the only one who questioned where he was getting all his resources from. In truth, the cars were provided for by Misaki, who arranged Clifford and Warren to drive them outside the Undersiders' base. Accelerator kept dodging Taylor's question, referring to his allies collectively as his people.
"You're so freaking mysterious sometimes it sucks," Taylor said. She wore a black dinner jacket, a white dress shirt underneath, black trousers, black court shoes and a bowtie. She held an Abraham Lincoln mask by the side of her leg in the backseat of the van.
Accelerator sat beside her, wearing the same thing. "Taylor, you don't even know me."
"Yeah…" She looked out the window. "Is it going to be like that forever?" They were downtown, taking an intersection to Gulf Street. Right now they were stuck in traffic.
"Huh. Weird." Taylor looked at the sky. "It's sunny. The weather forecast told me it'd be raining today."
"Weather forecasts can be wrong," Accelerator said. The one in Academy City made lots of mistakes.
"Guess you're right," Taylor said. "Still, I'm not comfortable with this 'interrogation' thing you've got planned." Their driver was a middle aged man. One of the homeless people Misaki had given a job. Accelerator knew her employees wouldn't betray her. So he was fine speaking freely in the car, although he had to encourage Taylor to do the same. Now and then she eyed the driver suspiciously.
"Why didn't you tell me this earlier?" Accelerator asked.
"I can't show disagreement in front of the others," Taylor said. "Have to make them think I'll always follow you around, you know?"
"You mean you don't?" He smirked. She scowled. So cute. So she was just acting, in front of the others? How adorable.
"Still think we should've worn our costumes," she said. "Your rep as an Alexandria package would help avoid another fight with the heroes. Prevent them from getting hurt."
"The efficacy of a deterrent is tempting," Accelerator said. "I agree. But you've heard how the Protectorate has new capes on the scene. People like Narwhal and Rampage Dress," the latter known as Junko in her public identity.
"I've heard of Narwhal. But who's Rampage Dress?"
"She's a hero from Boston. Transferred here too."
"You think she's strong?"
"Probably." The traffic started moving. He put on his mask. "Get ready." They soon reached Inlet Street. The iron gate of the mansion was nine feet tall. It was enclosed by brick walls. On the courtyard beyond the gate was a fountain of an anchor. The mansion was thirty yards ahead.
"Taylor," Accelerator said. "You don't have to come with." He gave her an out. "Let me take care of this. You're just pretending anyway. No need to actually put yourself in danger or anything stupid like that."
"You don't get it." She shook her head. "I'm tired of hiding while you do all the work. What kind of person am I if I keep hiding behind your back?"
"A smart one." Using a powerful ally as a shield was not something he would hesitate in doing. "Aren't you angry at me for what I've been hiding from you?"
"I should be mad we're basically home invaders about to kidnap people and force them to tell us their secrets, but I'm not. They're nazis that pick on people because of the color of their skin. I like Brian. I like you. The Empire would've hurt you both or worse just because they don't know you."
Again his mind went back to the Towers and how massacred their people.
If they tried to hurt him, it was with good reason.
"And… I trust you. Just… I know you're keeping secrets from me," Taylor said. "And they're important enough you feel the need to hide them from me. Can you promise me at least that when you think I'm mature enough, you could trust me with them?"
"Sure," he said. "But first, I'll have to introduce you to someone."
"Another one of your mysterious 'people'?" Taylor put on her mask. "I wonder who they are."
Accelerator texted Rachel to start her rampage on the coordinates he gave her, and to bail if strong capes appeared. He and Taylor emerged from their van. Lisa, Brian and Alec emerged from the other.
Accelerator walked through the gate like it didn't even exist. The iron bars broke and bent from making contact with his body. The others followed. There were five people with guns aiming at them from the porch. Accelerator slid ahead, creating a gust of wind that blew all the people away.
"Capture the targets," he said. In truth, they only needed one. There was another reason why the targets were so valuable. According to Misaki, they had contact with the
Victoria was perplexed about something her mom told her earlier that day, and shared her feelings with present company. Not even a minute in and she was already regretting it.
"Victoria was discombobulated," Crystal said. Victoria flashed her a glare. She returned it with a grin. The cousins were hanging out with Browbeat and Aegis.
"Just because you use a big word doesn't make you smart," Victoria said. Aegis chuckled.
Crystal, or Laserdream in her cape name, and Victoria, or Glory Girl, were cousins. Both blondes. Crystal had a heart shaped face, full lips and wore a ruby headband over her hair. Her costume was white, with a stylized arrow pointing down to her right, on her chest, with half a dozen trailing behind it, over her left shoulder, one line zigzagging across the others. The outer layer was ruby red, which faded into a magenta color.
She was tall, beautiful and gorgeous, just like her cousin. Victoria's costume was a white dress that came to mid-thigh, with shorts underneath. An over-the shoulder cape, high boots and a golden tiara with spikes radiating from it. In short, her costume showed off her figure.
They didn't wear masks either, unlike their two male companions.
Aegis wore a rust-red costume with a matching helmet, both with a silver-white trim, and a shield emblem. His costume left his eye exposed. Browbeat was a muscular man under his dark blue spandex piece designed with a diamond print. His facemask left solely his eyes uncovered. A crystal was embedded to the forehead of the mask.
Despite having a boyfriend, Victoria didn't shy herself from enjoying the eye candy. She caught Crystal peeking glances at Browbeat too, when the muscular cape wasn't looking. The cousins shared a grin.
The four of them were at Gulf Street, floating by the sidewalk. They passed KFC, and McDonalds just across the street.
"I'm hungry," Crystal said. "Cuz. Treat me to some food."
"Heck no," Victoria said. "You still owe me forty bucks, Crys, I mean Laserdream."
"You know," Browbeat said, looking at their feet. "I feel kind of left out being the only one unable to fly." Victoria followed his gaze. She, Crystal and Aegis were all floating fifty centimeters from the concrete.
"Whoops," Victoria said, and lowered her feet to the ground. "Better?"
"I wasn't judging you," Browbeat said. "Just noticed I was different."
"Different's good," Victoria said. She straightened her skirt and flashed him a winning smile.
"Why are we even here?" Browbeat asked, scratching his head.
"Why are we what? Born? Here, in this world, at this exact moment in the Gulf Street of Brockton Bay?" Crystal interjected, sliding between her cousin and the Wards hero. "Geez, I dunno. If you were into destiny stuff you should've consulted a priest."
"I'm an atheist," Browbeat said.
"You are?" Crystal actually looked surprised.
He shook his head. "No, I meant is why are two Wards and two New Wave heroes patrolling the streets?"
"Are we though?" Aegis asked, flying two meters behind and one meter above them. "We're not actually doing anything."
"That's the point!" Browbeat said. "And Director Piggot is usually sterner about these kinds of things."
"Heard she was meeting with her counterparts in the Boston and Winthrop branch of the PRT. Same with the Protectorate."
"Winthrop has a Protectorate branch?" Victoria asked. "Aren't they like, super small?"
"Yeah, they have one. Not that big though."
"Help!" Someone thirty yards away ran up to them.
Victoria was the first to respond. She flew towards the pedestrian, Aegis and Crystal behind her. And Browbeat arriving seconds later. "What is it?" Victoria asked.
"Burglars in Abraham Lincoln masks broke into a house in Inlet Street," the pedestrian said. "I think one of them's a cape. Went through the gate like it was nothing."
"Intangibility?" Browbeat asked. That meant the Manton Effect would limit them to non-living objects. They wouldn't be able to pass through living bodies. A breaker state similar to Shadow Stalker's then.
"No. More like they were invincible," the pedestrian said. "The bars literally broke from touching their skin."
"Could either be metal manipulation or something else," Aegis said. "But let's assume they're as strong as Glory Girl. Thanks for the tip, sir." Browbeat was already calling the PRT hotline from his phone. "We'll take it from here."
"Aegis, can you carry me?" Browbeat asked.
"I'm up for it." Victoria made the offer with a grin and a flex of her right arm.
"Um, no thanks." Browbeat took a step back and shook his head.
"Sure," Aegis said.
"We'll fly ahead," Crystal said. She and Victoria took off.
"I'll do sentry duty," Taylor offered. Accelerator tried to stay with her, but she insisted he go look for the targets. She didn't really want to walk around and do nothing while he did all the work again.
Taylor sat by the stone bench facing the fountain at the courtyard. She wondered what the story was with the anvil at the fountain's center. She also needed to settle her thoughts.
Was Accelerator a criminal before he arrived on Brockton Bay? He knew too much about criminal work and used terms she was unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. A score, a job, a heist. All of it indicated he was a robber or something similar.
It would explain his mysterious background and the number of people with questionable character he knew.
But did she care?
She couldn't bring herself to dislike him because he protected her, stayed by her, and even grew close to her father. He was family in all but blood.
"Some hero I am," she said. She glanced into the clear blue sky. The sun glared brightly and made her look away. "I thought there was going to be rain today or something. What is up with that?"
Her swarm gathered around her. They hid on the leaves and holes of the trees beside the wall. If all went well, which translated to Accelerator succeeding, she wouldn't get to use her bugs at all. He was so overpowered it was ridiculous.
Why wasn't he a hero? Why was he putting up with someone like her? If he forced the issue and just told her to bring in the Undersiders, she would've given in. He spoke like someone with experience. He probably clashed with heroic elements during his time somewhere else before he arrived on Brockton Bay.
It was because he put up with her that she couldn't even entertain the thought of betraying him if he was a criminal.
Still, just sitting here and letting them do all the work was kind of funny in and of itself. Sure, they were going to kidnap someone and rob them of all their possessions, but when that someone was a neo-Nazi drug lord it mitigated her guilt.
And she trusted Accelerator to do the right thing. It was an irrational feeling, but she doubted his desire to befriend her was rational either.
'I guess I don't really as long as I'm with him.'
She shook her head. She stood up. Decided she would join the others. It wouldn't do if they came up with a lot of money and she did none of the work. Accelerator might give her some slack because he always went easy on her, but Alec, Lisa and Brian might not be so tolerant of her laziness.
"Glad there aren't any heroes around."
She made her way over the cobblestone pathway to the house. She didn't even make a third of the distance.
Five meters away something fell into the pathway. Cobblestone shattered. Air was blown away with the impact. Knees and a fist struck the pathway. A blonde girl knelt before her, dressed in a white dress, a cape over her shoulder, high boots and a crown on her head.
In blind panic she sent her swarm flying from all the trees around her to attack Glory Girl. They converged to their target. Not that it mattered. It was like hitting unnaturally strong, slick glass.
Taylor was already running for the gate, hoping she could escape.
She managed ten steps.
Glory Girl burst from the insect swarm and flew towards her. A shoulder slammed into her back with superhuman strength. Taylor was already unconscious when she hit the grass.
"I found someone," Victoria said. She pointed at the robber in an Abraham Lincoln mask and a formal suit and bowtie sitting by the stone bench facing the fountain by the courtyard. "I'll take them down. You go on ahead to the house."
"Be careful," Crystal said, and flew towards the mansion.
Victoria observed the target and waited until they stood up and began walking back to the house. It made her sick how casual they were, like hurting the owners of the house didn't even matter.
She whooped and plunged for the ground. She hit the cobblestone pathway with her left knuckle and leg. It made a small crater. She had been so fast the air that followed her descent blew away fragments of the cobblestone into the grass on either side of her.
She'd rough them up for information and drag them into the house, she decided.
That was when what she assumed was a powerless thug summoned a swarm of insects hidden from the trees near the brick wall. A swarm momentarily blinded the sky, and flew towards her.
Surprised, she wasn't able to react until the bugs blinded her line of sight, useless attempting to penetrate the forcefield coating her skin to no avail. Still, she needed to escape the bugs. She was too vulnerable. Closing her eyes, she dashed in one direction, felt like she hit something, ignored it, and flew towards the sky.
"Can you blast the rooftop and let us in?" Aegis asked, carrying Browbeat. They floated above the mansion. A cursory glance at Glory Girl confirmed she already took down one of the thugs, who was apparently a cape; a bug manipulator of some sort. Not that it mattered against her.
"That doesn't sound safe," Crystal said.
"Relax, Laserdream," Browbeat said. "I'm a tough guy. I can take it."
She cackled. "Are you now?"
"Ugh. Why are we even asking for help? Aegis, throw me over the window."
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Boys," Crystal interjected. Her palm glowed red with energy. She aimed at the side of the rooftop. "Don't screw this up." Red energy burst from her hand and struck the rooftop tiles, creating a crash. Aegis threw Browbeat into the opening, and flew after him, turning back to give Crystal a thumbs-up. She waved at them and they were gone.
She turned to her cousin. Victoria was twenty meters above ground valiantly resisting the insect swarm by swiping them from the air and crushing them with a clap of her hands. More took their place, and Victoria was stuck in the defense.
She looked ridiculous.
Crystal wished she brought her camera so she could take a video of the scene. She aimed at the insects and blasted them away with her laser.
"Thanks!" Victoria hollered.
'If I was a kingpin where would I be?'
He was on the second floor balcony, leaning on the rail-guard, and staring at the stairway draped with a red carpet. Brian was tying up the people they caught in one of the vacant bedrooms on the first floor, and Lisa was needling them for information. Alec came out of the kitchen, holding a gold vase he was planning on stealing, and sat on the foot of the stairway.
Accelerator came to the conclusion no one was here.
No one important, anyway.
If none of the targets were in the house, it meant someone tipped them off. There was only one possible leak that could've informed them of the Undersiders' raid.
'She must've attacked before I gave her the order.' He wasn't really angry. Rachel was a little antisocial like him. He'd give her some slack. Although next time maybe he'd just bring her to the raid and leave the distraction to someone else.
If Rachel attacked even a minute ahead of the time he planned, then the people defending themselves against her would have ample time to warn their employers that they were under attack.
He was bored, and a little disappointed, but mostly bored, when the ceiling glowed. It broke with red light. Pieces of the ceiling scattered on the floor. Someone fell through the hole. A bulky man in a blue costume rolled his shoulders and charged Accelerator. Browbeat.
Another cape flew downward, towards Alec, who made a feeble attempt at a resistance by throwing the vase. Aegis.
Heroes from the Wards. Kids.
He was going to enjoy teaching them the difference between their power-levels.
"You're capes," Browbeat deduced.
"Are you a thinker too?" Accelerator asked. Browbeat didn't answer. He made a battle cry and charged Accelerator. Browbeat clenched his left fist, raised it, and struck Accelerator's face. With the heavy muscle and the momentum of his charge it would've been enough to break a normal man's nose, cheekbone and jaw.
His hand shattered from the impact. Accelerator caught Browbeat's wrist, punched his stomach, and blew him out of the floor. Browbeat flew from the hole on the ceiling to the backyard.
The Velvet estate is a holding company owned by Othinus Velvet, an American heir of old money from European ancestors. She is a blue blood in all but name. The list of subsidiaries owned by the Velvet estate is as follows: Starchild Corporations, Gentle Beetle, and Bluebird United.
They were all Boston-based companies, with the holding company headquartered in Winthrop. After quietly having acquired other companies in Boston, Starchild Corps was branching out to New York and Brockton Bay. It was an interesting development.
"How did you obtain this information?" Thomas Calvert asked. They were in his office, with him seated behind his desk and the informant across him. If his assumptions were correct, then Starchild Corporations was going to attempt to buy out all the other companies in Brockton Bay. He already caught wind of the situation with the dockworkers and how they were shifting into a new company of their own. The new company was Brockton Bay Pawnbrokers, or BBP, with Danny Hebert as the subsidiary CEO and his employees' former dockworkers.
"I was sent here to scout on your construction company," the corporate spy said. "But I thought a little transaction with you for some extra cash wouldn't hurt nobody." 'Anybody,' Coil mentally corrected in his head. "I'm willing to share more for some cash." The spy rubbed his forefinger and thumb together indicating his desire for cash.
"Very well." Calvert nodded. "I'll offer five thousand a month for valuable information on my competition." 'And while you're probably going to sell me out to someone else as well, I'll have my men follow you home and give you a little taste of fear.' "Do we have a deal?" He offered a hand.
The blond man with the shades grinned wolfishly and shook it. "I love it when a plan comes together."
Calvert resisted the urge to roll his eyes. The approach was far too suspicious. A man allegedly working for Starchild Corporations reached out to him offering information in exchange for cash? He was a fool if he considered it anything but a trap.
So this was how Starchild worked. They send someone in the inside with 'useful' data that would actually weaken the rival company just before they buy it off to liquidate its assets. It was practically a declaration of war. Calvert felt insulted. He would show this company, not even a year old, what true corporate espionage was like.
And when it was over, he would make sure this man, Tsuchimikado Motoharu, was buried in a ditch.
When the corporate spy left, Calvert pulled out his burner phone from his drawer and called one of his men. "How's the raid going?" The raid referred to the Undersiders' attack on a mansion by Inlet Street. The house was owned by a secret drug lord of the Empire Eighty-Eight.
How Accelerator obtained the information baffled him.
One of his men, who he sent to observe the attack and to give aid if the Undersiders' needed it, reported back.
"Capes are on the scene. Glory Girl, Laserdream, Aegis and Browbeat."
"Excellent." Calvert doubted the Protectorate, even with Narwhal and Rampage Dress, would be enough to defeat the Alexandrian package Accelerator. He was more curious who would win in a fight between Accelerator and Glory Girl, who possessed a similar power-set.
Accelerator was truly an indispensable employee. He didn't even need to tell him what to do for Accelerator to create a distraction.
"Continue observing for now." He hung up and dialed someone else; the people watching the Alcott residence. "Begin the attack."
A white van parked near the Alcott ground. Five men came out. They wore helmets, balaclavas, goggles, and tactical vests. They were all armed with M4 carbine assault rifles. One slid the door open. The armed men burst out of the vehicle.
They passed through the yard, passing through concrete walkway surrounded by a rose garden. There was a gardener tending to the roses. The first armed man shot him in the head. He kicked through the door. A maid waited for them inside the house. She screamed. He shot her throat and stood guard. The second armed man checked the hallway that led to the living room, followed by the others. They found two men in suits. Shot them in the chests. They inspected the rooms one by one. Some were empty. Others weren't. They shot everyone they found. One remained on the first floor while the others shuffled into the stairs leading to the second floor.
"Stay away!" A man said, running at them from one of the rooms. They sprayed his head with bullets. The wall was colored red with his blood. He was the father of the target which meant there was a high probability she was inside the room he came from. They found a woman crying as she blocked the closet. She glared at them defiantly.
"You monsters!" she screamed.
One shot her throat.
They were already by the closet when she fell. Blood pooled on the floor around her. They opened the closet. Found the target hiding behind the clothes. Grabbed her shoulders and pulled her out.
"No! Let me go!" She tried punching her captor. They ignored her. They rushed out of the house, towards the waiting van, loaded into the vehicle and drove off.
Two minutes. In and out.
Aegis flew through the hole. Browbeat was facing off one of the masked men on the second floor. Aegis flew ahead, beyond the balcony to the other masked man sitting by the steps on the first floor. The Abraham Lincoln masked man threw a gold vase at him. Aegis swatted it aside and swung his left fist to the man's neck. The attack was magnified by the speed of his charge. The masked man slid down the floor. Aegis kicked his side. He careened to the wall.
Aegis checked on Browbeat. He found his teammate missing. From a window near the ceiling he saw a body sailing to the backyard. Browbeat. Which meant the masked man on the second floor was the cape.
"You're very stupid," the masked man said. "You should've attacked me while I was distracted by your ally. These one on one fights you're perpetuating are the height of idiocy."
Aegis didn't respond. The man was the one that broke the gate. It hinted at super strength. Browbeat could manipulate his own body, increase his muscles, and possessed tactile telekinesis that gave him limited control on anything he touched, mimicking super strength. To beat him meant strength Aegis might not be able to withstand if he was less durable.
Luckily, his body could tank almost any attack. He kicked on the floor and flew to the masked man.
The masked man flicked the rail-guard. They detached from the balcony and shot towards Aegis, spreading like a net. 'Shit.' He tried to dodge, but it was too late. The rail-guard wrapped around him and pulled him back to the first floor. The masked man stomped on the second floor. Cracks spread like a spider-web. The floor shattered. Debris and masonry fell. Aegis couldn't escape. He was smashed by a pile of rubble.
"Crystal!" Victoria pointed at the house. It shook. "We need to help Aegis!"
They were about to fly inside when wisps of darkness stretched out of the hole to the rooftop.
Crystal recognized this power. "It's Grue!"
"Shit!" Victoria exclaimed.
That meant they weren't fighting a band of criminals led by one parahuman.
They were fighting the Undersiders.
They were fighting Migliore.
They had to run, fast.
The darkness shot towards them. Victoria's senses were dampened. It removed her vision. The darkness slithered over her skin, reminding her of oil. She tried to call her cousin. But the words barely reached her. Sensory deprivation.
She flew out of the darkness. Crystal had the same idea. They shared a relieved smile.
Something flew by her. There was a flash of red light. Crystal vanished.
"What?" Victoria rewound what she saw in slow motion. A man in a suit and an Abraham Lincoln mask slammed against Crystal, ignoring the blast of energy she shot his chest and dragged her to the courtyard with the ease of a lion catching a calf.
She heard the sound of stone breaking. Crystal's body bounced against the stone anvil, clipping its side, and she fell down the water of the fountain, knocked out.
Standing beside her, dry as a towel, was Migliore. He stood on the water, but didn't get wet. It was like he was covered by a layer of forcefield that kept him clean.
"Like me," Victoria gasped.
Four tornado-like wings exploded from Migliore's back. Victoria was enveloped by fear and she tried to escape. She shot to the sky. The wind was faster. She was caught in a cyclone that enclosed her from escape. Migliore flew to her, the air around him becoming whips of wind that struck her body. She was able to resist the wind.
But not the punch to her midriff.
He pulled Laserdream from the fountain to keep her from drowning and put her beside Glory Girl, laid on their backs on the grass under the shining sun. Accelerator carried Taylor. He checked her for any fatal wounds but came up empty. She was up against heroes. He should've expected them to go soft on her. He was out in the backyard checking on Browbeat to make sure he was okay when darkness swept the sky.
Lisa ran out to him, informing him that Glory Girl and Laserdream were about to attack the house. Accelerator flew to meet them. The two girls rose above the darkness and he hit one at random. He was worried when Laserdream struck the anvil, but fortunately she wasn't too hurt. Panacea, her cousin, could heal her. He fought Glory Girl under the assumption she was at least as durable as him.
She fell on one punch.
That was slightly disappointing.
"Aegis is fine," Lisa told him as she ambled out of the mansion. "You crushed his legs, but Panacea should be able to fix it."
"The targets weren't here," he said. "I think Rachel did something wrong."
"Yeah." Lisa nodded. "I expected as much. She must've attacked earlier than planned and alarmed the drug lords we were coming. Still…" She looked at Glory Girl. "Nice. That'll teach her not to fuck with us."
She was angry, but why? Taylor groaned in his arms. Lisa turned to Taylor. Despite wearing a mask, he imagined Lisa with a worried face as she checked her teammate. Lisa sighed. "She's okay. Glory Hole didn't hurt her too badly."
"Ow. Fuuuck." Alec limped and swore every few seconds. He was cradling a shoulder. "That motherfucker Aegis did a number on me."
Brian, walking beside him, said, "The targets aren't here. So no money?"
"I'll pay you anyway," Accelerator said. "But this failure is a first. Still, at least we know Rachel's weak points."
"Rachel?" Alec repeated.
"She's the reason why the targets aren't here, right?" Brian asked. "I guessed as much." He sounded like Lisa. "Must've attacked early, which tipped them off."
"Let's scram," Accelerator said. The cars weren't there when they left the gates. But new ones in the form of two SUVs across the street waved at them. Accelerator recognized the drivers. Warren and Clifford. Misaki must've called them. They rushed to the two vehicles, got in, and left the scene of the crime.
Accelerator removed his mask and inspected Clifford, his driver and former member of the Empire Eighty-Eight. "Hey," he said.
"Hey boss," Clifford said.
"Well, since you're killing all the people from the Empire and still paying me a whole lot of money, might as well get used to the new hierarchy am I right?"
"Sure thing," Accelerator said. "Let's get the fuck outta here."
When Taylor came to, she was all alone in an unfamiliar room. The sheets were white. The floors were white. The ceiling, walls, closet and even the nightstand were all in white.
"Where am I?" she asked, not expecting an answer.
"In one of Accelerator's houses," Lisa said as she barged into the room, holding a brown paper bag to her chest. Her dark blonde hair was loose. Freckles covered the bridge of her nose. Bottle-glass green eyes sparkled with delight. She was wearing a blue shirt with the words 'Genius over here,' in red, and a white skirt and flip-flops. Taylor noted, with a little bit of envy, that Lisa held a slimmer figure than herself. Where Taylor was average Lisa was pretty. "Here." She slid a hand inside the paper bag and retrieved an apple. "Keeps the doctors away," she said with a sardonic grin. Taylor rolled her eyes and took the apple. She wiped it with her shirt and took a bite.
She chewed, swallowed and observed the room once more. "So this is where he lives…" She wanted to explore the house. She recalled someone, she didn't know who, claim that home is where the heart is. She wondered if Accelerator left some kind of indicator of the ones that own his heart.
"If you're trying to look for clues don't bother," Lisa said. "This place is too clean. I don't think he actually uses it. Just bought a house in case of an emergency."
That still told her something about the mysterious man. He was secretive. In all the months they've spent together not once did she learn where he lived.
"What happened when I was out?" Taylor asked.
"Well, what do you remember?"
"Glory Girl took me out in one hit." Taylor shuddered. "My bugs didn't even do anything to her. What a bad match-up."
"Hmm…" Lisa sat on the edge of the bed and put the paper bag on her lap. "Maybe if you were packing a gun."
"That would help me how, exactly? Glory Girl's kind of invulnerable. Just like Ace." Ace was the nickname she gave Accelerator.
"Not quite. Accelerator took her out."
"Whoa." Cool. She wished she'd seen it. "Must've taken minutes." She imagined Glory Girl and Accelerator trading blows, with neither one giving an inch in a grueling battle until their battered fists, normally unscratchable, were covered red with blood.
"Nah. All it took him was one punch."
"What?" Taylor shook her head in disbelief. That meant the disparity between their strengths was too high.
"Yeah. By the time Brian and I heard the noises we found Accelerator beating the shit out of Aegis. Brian's power was good for a distraction, but he couldn't see where Glory Girl and Laserdream were outside the house. I helped him by giving their exact location. All he had to do was shroud it in darkness. It was only a second before they flew out of it, but then Accelerator caught up to them and beat them both in ten seconds. Maybe less."
"Where are the others?" Taylor asked.
"Brian's checking on Rachel, probably to chew her out on messing up the plan. Alec's out with his girlfriend. Might be to meet her friends. Accelerator's checking with his contacts, maybe to look for the targets and track them down himself."
Probably. Might be. Maybe. None of it a hundred percent.
"Did they tell you that was what they were doing?"
"Nope. Brian muttered something about dogs and left. Alec looked at his phone, chuckled and did the same. Accelerator didn't even say anything. One moment he was here. The next he's not." Lisa blew some bangs away from her eyes. "He didn't make a sound, like he dampened my hearing."
"An application of it." Lisa reached a hand and poked Taylor's forehead. "You had me worried there, silly. Don't go and fight people like Glory Girl out on your own again if you could help it. That's what your boyfriend is for, right?"
Taylor felt her face warm. Accelerator wasn't her boyfriend. She wasn't even sure he was interested in her. She distracted herself by munching on her apple.
Four people loitered on the dirty street under a bridge that offered shade from the sun. Trash was everywhere. Vagrants passed them by. They waited until the last one, an old man looking to be in his sixties and naked, turned a corner behind a building and was out of sight. They were in the Docks, the poorest part of Brockton Bay, inhabited by squatters and criminals. They belonged to the latter.
"I think this is a bad idea," Tsuchimikado Motoharu said. He was a blond man with spiky hair, Asian features under his sunglasses and sporting a wry grin. He wore an unbuttoned polo shirt, khaki shorts and slippers. He leaned on the wall with his arms crossed and his foot tapping a pebble.
"What is?" Awaki asked. Her red hair was tied into two ponytails. She wore black tank top and denim skirt and sandals. She was crouched on the ground and poking an anthill with a stick.
"Motoharu claiming he works for Starchild Corporations," Etzali said. He was a blond man with sparkling blue eyes, a small nose, and a round chin and an oval face. He wore a blue suit, a gold watch and black shoes. The handsome face and expensive clothing made him stand out even among the others.
"You know," Accelerator said, staring at Etzali. "That face you're wearing disturbs me."
Etzali was a shapeshifter capable of imitating the physical appearance of people whose flesh was in his possession.
"Found his body surrounded by some punks. One of them held a gun. I shot them dead."
"This guy's a victim and you're wearing his face?" Accelerator looked at him with disgust.
Etzali shrugged. "He's rich."
"Where did you keep the body?" Accelerator asked.
"A storage facility I leased thirty miles outside town," Etzali said. "Awaki helped with the travel expenses, of course." He grinned at the teleporter. Awaki snorted.
"I'm practically a car with the way you assholes are using me."
"Better, even," Motoharu said. "But back to me. I don't think it's a good idea doing this behind Misaki's back."
"Why?" Accelerator tapped the wall behind him. It formed a small crater. He was getting impatient.
"Because you're getting us involved. I don't care what you're doing on your own time, but dragging us down this infighting is just not a good way to spend the time."
"You're right." Accelerator nodded. "I should've asked for your opinions first. I'm sorry I didn't." He took out his wallet from his back pocket and took out three hundred dollars. "Here." He handed them a hundred each. "As a sign of our friendship." They all took the money and then opened their hands for more. He growled and took another three hundred split between the three.
"That's it?" Motoharu asked.
"You'll get more when you do the job." Motoharu's little trip to Calvert's office was something Accelerator thought of on the spot. It would make Calvert pay attention to Starchild Corporations, make him go after them, and bring Misaki's eyes to him.
"Why are you so interested in Calvert anyway?" Awaki asked.
"He's a part of this. Half the people Misaki 'caught'," by which he meant brainwash. "Thought of Thomas Calvert. He's related to Coil, somehow. A lieutenant or something."
"Calvert works for the Parahuman Response Team," Etzali said. "If Coil turned him or if he works for the supervillain, then he's been feeding Coil some hefty confidential information." Etzali made a wry grin. "Then again, not like we're any different."
Accelerator's mind went to Junko, who went by the superhero name Rampage Dress. She was their mole in the Protectorate, just as Calvert was Coil's mole in the PRT.
"I don't mind the subterfuge," Motoharu said. "I just wish we didn't have to do it with one of our own."
"You have feelings for Misaki or something?" Accelerator was getting irritated by his constant yammering and wanted him to shut up.
"I don't give a rat's ass about her. But I don't want her as an enemy either. She'll make my life hell if she found out what I was up to."
"We can use the alchemist," Accelerator said. He was curious about this telepath. "Have him here by the end of the week."
"Uh, boss," Motoharu said. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"Beats being scared of Misaki." Accelerator turned to Etzali. "What time is it?"
Etzali checked his watch, or more accurately the watch of the dead man he was impersonating. "3:30."
"Alright. Contact me if anything comes up. Make sure Misaki and her clique doesn't catch wind of your presence. I'm out." He walked out of the underpass.
And found four thugs staring back at him. They wore clothes in red and green. One had the tattoo, 'ABB' on his right shoulder. It stood for Azn Bad Boys, a criminal gang which had Asian members.
The man in the front, who had a tattoo of a dragon on his left cheek, looked behind Accelerator to one of his teammates. Awaki. The man with the dragon tattoo licked his lips and leered at her. Awaki scowled.
"Hey there baby," the man said. "How's it going?"
"Fuck off before I kill you," she said.
The man laughed. "I like em rough and spicy. Come here and let me show you a good time."
Awaki scoffed and didn't deign him with an answer.
"What's a white man doing here?" Someone else spoke up. It was the man with the letters on his shoulder and wearing a red tank top. He pointed at Etzali and took note of the face he was wearing. "This is ABB territory, bitch."
A shorter thug with a green beanie took out a knife. "Motherfucker thinks you can come here and show your face and we cool with it, huh?" He pointed the knife to Accelerator, Awaki and Motoharu. "You three can go. Us Asians have to stick together, right?"
Accelerator grabbed the knife-man's wrist, ignoring the blade that dented against his skin, and swatted him aside. The knife-man's body smashed against the wall. Accelerator rammed into the others. One flew to the opposite wall. Another was flung out of the alley. The last was thrown into the underpass. Awaki, Etzali and Motoharu surrounded him.
"Hey there buddy," Motoharu said, grinning. "You did something very stupid today."
"I'm in a bad fucking mood thanks to the marks escaping," Accelerator said. When he went to the mansion he expected to catch at least one of his targets, not waste time tangling with a bunch of kids from the Wards and New Wave.
He saw the man outside the bridge attempt to crawl his way out. Accelerator sunk his fingers into the concrete wall, grabbed enough rubble to fit his hand and threw the projectile towards the crawler. It hit the back of his left thigh with a crunch. The crawler cried in pain. He lost balance of his arms and fell on the grimy surface.
Awaki teleported next to the knifeman, retrieved his weapon, and reappeared beside the pervert. "You wanted to have a good time, right?" Awaki teased the man with the dragon tattoo by poking his cheek with the knife. It slid inside and drew blood. "I know how we can have a good time." He was too scared to make a sound.
"These guys are wearing the same uniform, or color, of the people who killed my face," Etzali said. "Who are they?"
"The local gang," Accelerator said. "The ABB. I'm surprised you don't know."
"I've been doing a lot of work in Martha's Vineyard," he said. "We've got a lot of parahumans now. I'm actually wasting time being here in this shithole."
"If you want to leave just give me back the money."
Accelerator scowled. "You better not run off with the cash." Etzali chuckled and didn't answer.
"See if you can get anything useful out of them," Accelerator said.
"Got it." Motoharu cracked his knuckles. "Sounds like a plan." They all vanished. His three teammates and the four hoodlums from the ABB were nowhere to be seen. "Like they weren't even here," he mumbled. Awaki's teleportation was quite useful in a time like this.
He left the underpass. What to do, what to do.
His phone vibrated. He checked the inbox. The message was from Misaki. It read, 'Can you buy me some snacks? Thank u d;'
He groaned and walked to the Market.
Alec was in a predicament. His new girlfriend, Marian, was beside him on the couch. She was a swarthy skinned girl. She wore overalls over bare skin, not even bothering with undergarments. A fact he enjoyed learning last night unwrapping the clothes from her seductive body. Her silver hair was tied into braids, large circular earrings pierce her ears and red rimmed eyeglasses covered her eyes. Her hand draped on his thigh. He was on her left, and her friend, the voluptuous girl Kanzaki was on her right. Another girl stood like an attendant beside her master, a familiar face by the armchair.
"This is amusing," Misaki said mirthlessly. "What are the odds."
"Um, I can explain…" Alec forced a smile. Misaki narrowed her eyes. He grimaced.
"My lady." The attractive girl he assumed was an attendant spoke up. She wore a white apron over her black dress, giving the impression of a maid. She was slender, and her hair spread to ringlet curls. "Do you happen to know Miss Marian's boyfriend?"
"Yes, Junko." Ah, so that was her name. "You could say we are colleagues." Misaki retrieved a gold handheld fan from her handbag and spread the slats, revealing a red dragon intricately designed on its surface. She wore a yellow dress, white evening gloves, stockings and pointed stilettos. She twirled a lock of blonde hair around her finger and looked bored. 'God she's hot,' he couldn't help but think.
As if she was reading his mind, Misaki scowled.
Oh right. She's a thinker.
"Tell us more about yourself," Kanzaki said. She was a beautiful Japanese girl with long black hair tied into a ponytail and a curvaceous body under her white sweater, blue jeans and white shoes. She put an elbow on the armrest and propped her arm, leaning her cheek on her hand. "I am quite curious as to what Marian sees in you. I'm sure Accelerator would be too."
"Accelerator?" Misaki turned to Kanzaki with surprise in her voice.
"Hey." As if on cue, the door to Junko's penthouse opened and Accelerator walked in, carrying a shopping bag. "I've bought some food." He paused, stared at Alec, and scowled. "You've got to be fucking kidding me."
"What's up boss." Alec nervously laughed. Not because he was in an awkward scenario learning his coworkers and his girlfriend's friends were one and the same.
No, it was because he was sure they were all capes.
"So…" Alec nodded to Misaki, glanced at Marian and eyed Accelerator. "I'm guessing since three of you are capes, it's not farfetched to say the rest of you are too?"
"Misaki get the shovel. I'll tie him up." Accelerator approached him.
"Roger that," Misaki said.
"Wait." Alec raised his hands in an attempt to placate the white haired Alexandria package. "Don't kill me. I'm valuable!"
Accelerator put the shopping bag on the glass coffee table in front of the couch. He looked around the room, ambled to Misaki and motioned for her to move. She lightly bounced to one side. He sat beside her. There was enough space on the armchair for both of them.
'I wonder if they're dating,' Alec thought. Marian sure has attractive friends.
"Don't be silly," Misaki said. "None of us are capes."
"Yeah." Marian nodded. "We're magicians. Except for those three." She raised her thumb and forefinger like a gun and tapped the air, 'shooting' at Junko, Misaki and Accelerator. "They're espers." She winked at Kanzaki. "Am I doing it right?"
Kanzaki made an airy smile and shrugged. "You caught me. Well, Alec, looks like the cat's out of the bag. Try not to tell anyone our status, okay? Also we're magical creatures created by the Norse god who lives in Winthrop."
"With her knight in shining boyfriend," Misaki added with a charming smile.
Alec snorted. "Okay, okay. If none of you want to tell me the truth, just say so."
Accelerator covered his face with his palm and made an exaggerated sigh. He looked at Alec with the space between his fingers and said, "You are a very stupid man."
"Don't talk to my boyfriend like that," Marian said, hugging Alec possessively as she scowled at Accelerator who rolled his eyes. Alec was feeling a bit happy, and not just because he could feel her breasts against his skin.
"Hey, if I knew I was dating my coworker's friend I wouldn't have shown up for this bunfight at all."
"Bunfight?" Accelerator repeated.
"It is a tea party or other function, typically of a grand or official kind." Junko looked up from her phone. "At least as Google describes it." She smiled genially. "Mister Alec considers this get-together a tea party, then? How shockingly appropriate."
"Indeed," Kanzaki said. "I've been invited to some back in England. It's quite distasteful."
The dilemma of the rich. It seems Alec found himself expensive company. If the penthouse wasn't enough of a hint, then surely the expensive clothes would've given them away?
Misaki shrugged. She nudged Accelerator's shoulder with her elbow. "Did you buy some sweets?"
"Yes I bought some fucking sweets. Enjoy." Accelerator glared at Misaki, who stared back with an impassive face. The staring contest lasted two minutes before he gave in with a sigh and reached for the shopping bag, pulling out a box of chocolates and handing it to his girlfriend.
She is definitely his girlfriend. He is so whipped.
"Thank you," Misaki said.
"Marian, can you tell us more about your boyfriend?" Kanzaki asked.
"You mean Bersi? You already know him," Marian said. Alec spoke to Bersi last night after making love to his girlfriend. It was a strange discussion. He wasn't strange to swinging and open relationships. But that talk was all sorts of weird.
"No." Kanzaki laughed. "I mean Alec."
"Oh. He's a believer." Marian winked. "Thanked God Almighty for sleeping with me."
"Darling, not in front of other people!" Alec said.
"Whoa." Misaki widened her eyes. She was in the process of eating her third chocolate ball when she gaped at him. "You're blushing. Weird."
Accelerator leaned forward on the chair he shared with Misaki and nodded. "That is weird."
"Why is it weird?" Kanzaki asked.
"Mister Alec barely reacts to anything," Junko said. "He has quite the poker face."
"He's a sociopath," Accelerator said.
"Or a psychopath," Misaki added.
"What's the difference?" Kanzaki asked.
"Can we stop talking about your professional diagnosis of patient Alec?" Alec complained.
"Yeah!" Marian nodded, coincidentally rubbing her cheek against Alec's. "Leave my psycho alone!" The warmth of her soft body was enough of a distraction from the presence of her friends. "Ah." Marian giggled. "This reminds me of how I met Bersi. I was improving the tools of the Dverg when I encountered the wandering stranger."
"It's so fucking weird having her talk about one boyfriend while hugging another," Accelerator said.
"Why's it weird?" Misaki asked. "Not like you've ever been in a relationship, so what do you know?"
"Right back at you, vestal flawless maiden."
Misaki blushed. "You're a virgin too, you asshole!"
Accelerator wasn't as affected by her insult. "Whatever."
Gods above, the sexual tension in the room was suffocating. And not just because of Marian pulling Alec to her chest like she was trying to smother him with her breasts.
Kanzaki rummaged the shopping bag and grabbed a can of pineapple juice. "Nice." She pulled the tab off the lid and drank from the opening of the can. She made a blissful sound and suspired in satisfaction. "That hit the spot."
Accelerator said, "Bought some Budweiser too."
"Thank you!" Marian said, letting go of Alec. She helped herself to some bottles of beer.
"So Alec," Kanzaki said. "Mind telling us about yourself?" She was like a persistent broken record. It was impressive. Like a fisherman that hooked a sailfish, she was determined to keep hold of the topic and never let go.
Marian passed him a bottle and winked. She put a bottle opener on his palm. It was made of gold. He uncapped the bottle and swigged some liquid courage.
"You're surprisingly close for people who just met last night," Misaki said.
"Thanks, captain obvious," Marian said, once more placing a hand on Alec's thigh. She held a bottle with her other hand and kept another one between her thighs. "It's just the kind of person I am. Once I bond with someone I give it my all."
"That path leads to broken hearts," Misaki said.
"I think it's best if we listen to mister Alec, yes?" Junko interjected and put a hand on Misaki's shoulder.
"Very well." Misaki picked up another chocolate and ate. Junko began kneading her shoulders. She made a sound like a moan. Whether it was from the chocolate or Junko's massage Alec couldn't be sure.
"Hmph." Marian raised her bottle and sipped her drink.
"Alright." Alec felt a buzz starting. He took a few more sips and then began his story. "It all started when I was a boy. There was this asshole called my dad, you see. He was a real ladies' man. And not in a good way."
His thoughts went back to Heartbreaker, his father, a man who enslaved women into loving him and the cause of his trigger event.
He finished his bottle, took the other one from Marian, opened it and guzzled the beer. He checked the time from the Umbra Ribbonwood Wall Clock above the door. It was 4:15. This might take a while.
"Rachel, it's me, Brian. Pick up the phone. I'm getting worried." The light of the setting sun cast the sky in a gentle, warm orange glow. Brian put the phone in his pocket and sat on a bench atop Captain's Hill, overlooking the skyline of Brockton Bay. A forest behind him led to a pathway to the foot of the hill. A cliff in front of him led to the more mountainous terrain.
He couldn't wait for her forever. He needed to check up on his sister, Aisha. He needed to talk with the rest of the team. Ask Taylor if she was okay, Lisa if they were doing okay, Accelerator if they needed a new plan, Alec if he needed a new girlfriend, and Misaki to continue discussing their business venture.
Birds cawed at the sky, heading north beyond the bay. Brian looked at them with jealousy. The birds were free, in a sense, because they were capable of flying from all their responsibilities. He was stuck on the ground while they could travel the world.
He needed a break.
He was thankful Accelerator and Misaki gave him the opportunity to obtain more money than the income from the Undersiders provided. He'd like to thank them, one day.
After he could get over Accelerator's cold blooded solution to all his problems. Brian recall dousing the bodies in fuel and setting them aflame. It was still fresh on his mind. Considering the massacre took place two days ago, he had a good reason to be afraid. How many more bodies are they going to bury before it was all over?
He didn't know. He didn't want to know.
"I wonder what my life would've been like if I joined the Wards…" He wouldn't know Lisa, Alec, Rachel, Taylor or Accelerator if that had been the case. He wouldn't know Misaki. Her beauty still captivated him. A shame she was spoken for.
Brian decided to check the news. There have been a recent string of murders and missing people the last few days. One of them he took part in, the massacre in the Towers. But there were others that he wasn't aware of. Last night a cop was shot and killed. Her body was set on fire in her own car. The reporters outlined her African American descent and theorized she was killed by the Empire and her partner was kidnapped. Victor, the Empire cape was missing as well. So was Kaiser. He wondered where Accelerator hid the body. It was obvious Kaiser was dead. If Accelerator didn't like you you'd better pray he make your death a swift and painless one. Some gangsters from the ABB were found dead on the streets of the Docks. It was common turf wars. Nothing too strange in their violent city. But others were just flat out missing. Families were coming up to the cops telling them their kids haven't returned and it was unusual behavior. The cops dismissed their concerns, too angry at the loss of one of their own. He wondered where those people went. Maybe they ran from the bay. Headed to Boston or New York to start a new life.
"You think it's safe here, Joe?" A voice came from the forest. Brian leapt out of the bench. He reached for the Rossi 352 in his pocket. A gun Alec had leant him before he went on his date with his girlfriend. Thought better of it. He looked around him. He found a bush between two oak trees. He hid behind the shrubbery and peeked through the leaves.
"It's safe, Perry." 'Joe' was a sleek looking man with blond hair combed back and tattoos on his forearms. He was carrying one end of a black body bag. 'Perry', a tall, muscular man, was carrying the other end.
"Can't believe we actually did it," Perry said. "I mean, I know the girl was hot, but we actually managed to score with her."
Brian could guess what happened to the girl they were talking about.
"Yeah." Joe chuckled. "He raped her good. She was a screamer though."
Perry grinned. "So were you, dumbass."
"Hey!" Joe scowled. "I'm not the one who choked her to death, you son of a bitch! I wanted to keep fucking this girl but you just can't help yourself, can you?"
"So what?" Perry shrugged. "There's plenty of fish out in the sea. Wish we coulda burn her body though. Like the Towers and that cop in Maplewood Drive. Some people here are hardcore."
"Eh. This is a start," Joe said. "Come on. Let's throw this bitch off the cliff and scram outta here."
Brian waited until they were focused on the cliff. He was in a good position, hidden inside the shrubbery. They were sitting ducks out in the open. He aimed with the front sight of his gun. First to the smaller man called Joe. He used his power, layering the barrel in darkness to dampen the sound like a suppressor. He pulled the trigger. The .38 shot through the side of Joe's head. He let go of the body bag and fell off the cliff. The big guy Perry had a panicked look. Brian shot him between the eyes. He followed his friend.
Brian stayed in the shrubbery for five more minutes. Ran under the assumption the two rapists had backup. None showed up. He waited another five minutes until he was satisfied they didn't have reinforcements.
He left the shrubbery. Approached the body bag. Opened it. Saw the face of what he assumed was a fifteen year old girl. He closed the bag. Fought the urge to vomit. He took out his phone and called nine-one-one.
"Nine-one-one. What's your emergency?"
"There's been a shooting on Captain's Hill," He said and hung up. He buried his gun in his pocket. He removed the back cover of his phone. Threw the battery over the cliff. Kept the SIM card. Ran back to the forest, down the pathway to the foot of Captain's Hill. He ran south of the Docks, hastening his steps as he heard the sirens of police cruisers behind him.
He needed to call Lisa. Maybe she could find Rachel. Maybe she could reach out to Accelerator. He didn't know. He just needed to pass on the task because the last five minutes were incredibly stressful. He had another phone in his apartment. He reached the docks and kept running.
Oni Lee was on the prowl. He was an ABB supervillain wearing a black bodysuit, a belt and bandoleer of knives and grenades on it, and covered his face with a leering, demonic mask with an ear-to-ear grin. It resembled the Oni of Japanese folklore, was crimson with two green stripes on either side.
He was on the Docks, at the territory of the Empire, causing havoc among their men.
Someone had targeted the Empire.
What was supposed to be a moment of weakness for the ABB has instead become opportunity. Kaiser was missing, and so was Victor. Without their leadership the Empire was disorganized. No one could agree on who could become the new leader.
Oni Lee teleported in a street full of Empire thugs, teleported away, and left his copy pulling the pins of his grenade. There was an explosion behind him, but he was already moving.
Oni Lee possessed two abilities. He could teleport to his line-of-sight. And he left behind a duplicate that would disintegrate after a few seconds. His technique was to teleport somewhere, leave a copy and have that copy explode in a glorious kamikaze.
He didn't fight the capes. He always chose to run away. He would whittle down their forces and rely on the hidden creature that preyed on their ranks to terminate their capes. It was a truce, of sorts, between Oni Lee, a humble man, and this mysterious figure that struck behind the scenes. Or was it an offering? Sacrifices before an angry god.
It was just a matter of time before Lung would be free, and then the Empire would truly meet their demise.
He spotted three Empire men, identifying them by their bald heads and the swastikas on their faces, necks and shoulders. They were loading inside a vehicle, a blue Ford Crown Victoria, trying to make a run for it.
Smart. Normal people are not built to battle capes.
But unfortunately for them, they were the enemy. Oni Lee teleported beside them, already gone and leaving a copy that pulled the pin of a grenade. One of the hoodlums beside him was fast enough to pull his gun and shoot the duplicate in the head, but he was a second too late. The grenade exploded, taking all three in an explosion followed by hundreds of fragments puncturing their flesh. If they had only killed his clone before he unpinned the grenade, they might have prevented their own deaths.
Oni Lee spotted a glow in the sky. Purity. He looked to the streets behind him and teleported just as a beam of light tore through his duplicate. His power was great for escaping his enemies. If he didn't want to engage someone, he simply ignored them and focused on his targets.
He reached the border between the Empire territory and the ABB. The Empire was dominating the fight. They had more capes. More powers to throw into the battle. Bakuda was busy preparing so Oni Lee was stuck in an asymmetrical warfare against the white supremacists.
He found three skinheads standing above the bodies of five ABB men. The ABB men were dead, riddled with bullets through their chests. The skinheads were reloading their guns when one of them spotted him and swore.
Oni Lee was shot in the head, but he was already behind them. The copy exploded into an opaque cloud of white ash. The real one extracted two knives and stabbed the Empire men in their backs. They gurgled blood. The third, still unharmed, shot his neck. But he was already across the street. He reappeared beside the shooter and slashed his wrist, following it with a stab to his chest. Oni Lee teleported once more behind them and continued stabbing the three men. Rinse and repeat until they fell to the ground.
His eyes were drawn to the pistol the dead Empire thug held like a lifeline. It was a Smith & Wesson M&P. Desperate times call for desperate measures. He grabbed the semi-automatic pistol and released the magazine to check the cartridge. .22 LR. Satisfying. He spotted an Empire thug peeking from an alleyway and teleported next to the thug. Before the Empire thug could react he aimed for the back of the head and pulled the trigger. Blood sprayed the wall.
Oni Lee's body disintegrated.
He used clones to shoot to save up on bullet. His ammo wasn't infinite, but his powers essentially removed that as a problem. He spotted Empire hoodlums run into a derelict building, followed after them, and began shooting like crazy.
In the distance the sound of gunfights, booms and screams of anguish, pain and death echoed. Bodies littered the streets. He left the building ten seconds later. It exploded behind him as he walked away.
That took a lot of clones. It was glorious.
Revere Beach Pkwy, Revere
Tonight Othinus was on an adventure.
She wanted to explore the world known as earth Bet.
But not in a way that compromises her identity. She solved the issue by creating another body wrapped in red bandages from her mouth to her feet. She also wore a flashy black cape because she liked capes. She painted her eyepatch white and left her blonde hair untied.
While her original body slept with Touma, the second one was out and about taking a stroll on Revere Beach Parkway. Saw the building for Cronin Skating Rink. Took a turn to Wilson Street, Taft Street, and then Broadway. For a time street lights served as her only illumination. None of the buildings interested her until she found one that could be of use. She stopped in front of a 7/11. Went inside. Bought a hot dog sandwich. The clerk gaped at her, but accepted the money she pulled out of thin air.
Othinus left the 7/11 and finished her snack five minutes later. She wiped her lips with the back of her bandaged hand and put her mask back on. She found a Dunkin' shop and a laundromat and continued to Fenno Street. There was an Italian bakery, Luberto's Pastry Shop, that for some inexplicable reason was still open.
She went back to Broadway, took a turn to Cheever Street, went up Hyde Street and found the city hall. It was a large, orange building, with white pillars surrounding the steps to its entrance. She continued her trek. There wasn't anything interesting going on in Revere, it seems. She returned to Broadway, found a liquor store called Woody's, a convenience market beside it, and a barber shop up ahead. They were all closed.
It was when she reached the Golden Hands Thai Spa that she found something interesting. Not the spa itself, but the fast food chain across the street. Papa Jack's.
There was a masked man inside. A parahuman? She decided to learn for herself. She wrapped two sheens of magic spells on her body. One that made her invisible. Another that dampened the noise her body creates. She cast a third, one that removed her scent, in case the parahuman possessed heightened sensory perception.
She vanished from the street and reappeared inside Papa Jack's. The counter of the pizza restaurant was black. There was a white rectangle with red and green squares inside it at the center, which referenced the Italian flag. The digital menu board on the wall behind the counter offered delicious looking pizza.
There were three people, excluding herself, inside the restaurant. Two of them were countermen. The third was a cape.
One of the countermen, wearing a green shirt and white trousers, looked ghastly afraid. The second counterman was dead. Their body was on the floor. They were missing their head. Blood spread from the stump. Their pants was wet in the front side and brown from the backside. The scent of feces and urine permeated the air.
The cape wore a grinning red mask, a red suit, black gloves and black shoes. They were obviously a villain.
"Before the heroes show up," the cape said. "Tell me where your boss lives."
"I-I don't know," the counterman said. "Please, I'm begging you, don't kill me."
The cape raised their left hand. Reg energy swirled into existence from his palm. Upon closer inspection it was sucking the air into the red energy. That might explain why Othinus couldn't find the dead counterman's head.
"How fascinating," Othinus said. Not that the villain or the counterman heard her. She clapped her hands, and pulled them apart. Gold light coalesced in the space between her palms. It took the shape of a wolf-shaped white marble. The wolf marble opened its mouth. Its eyes glowed white. The cape's essence, which took the shape of a gaseous copy of the cape, was pulled from the red mask and drawn into the jaws of the wolf marble. It closed its mouth.
The cape fell to the floor.
What Othinus held in her hand was a soul eater. It was a folklore figure common with the Hausa people of Nigeria and Niger. The soul eater would consume an individual's spirit and cause a wasting disease that can be fatal. Whether or not people of this world possessed souls is irrelevant. It stole their essence instead, which consisted of their mind, their personality and their memory.
What was left on the floor was an empty shell of a human being. Othinus created a portal by spreading her hands. The floor split apart like the jaws of a giant beast and devoured the body of the cape into the abyss. In truth it was actually taken to her property in Martha's Vineyard. The soul eater blinked out of existence and the portal closed with a clap of her hands.
The counterman was bewildered by what he saw. Othinus snapped her fingers. Made him sleep. Gold flames coiled in the air like a flying snake and slithered to the dead counterman. It devoured the body whole. It then vanished, leaving not a trace of the corpse.
Othinus was about to leave when she heard the counterman sniff in their dreams. She rolled her eye. She took pity on the counterman and created a magical beast based on their dead companion. White light took shape behind the counter, and dispersed, revealing a fully healed counterman from one that was dead. It wasn't the real counterman, just an exact copy with the memories, personality and abilities of the original. With the added bonus of being loyal to her. Despite being unable to see her, the magical creature knew she was there.
'Take care of him,' she mentally commanded her creation. It bowed and carried the sleeping counterman in a room beside the kitchen. Having another magical creature stationed in Revere might prove useful in the future. 'Contact me if anything comes up,' she added, and vanished into a swirl of darkness.
The Docks, Brockton Bay
"I was wondering where you were," Accelerator said. He took off his mask.
"I can explain," Rachel replied. She looked panicked. Afraid. Blood stained her face and her shirt.
He found her in one of the many derelict warehouses in the docks. The reason she was hiding could be explained by the three large monsters around her. They were chewing on corpses of the people he asked her to target.
Men from the Empire Eighty-Eight.
Accelerator obtained the number of her SIM card from Lisa, the one who bought her the burner phone. He asked Misaki for help by contacting the nearest service provider, acquired the Mobile Country Code, Mobile Network Code, Location Area Code and the CellID. He picked up a mask and paid a visit to the companies owning the cell towers in the Bay and asked them, nicely, to give him the information he needed. It took some persuasion, but after the threat of him promising to go after their family if they didn't give him what he wanted and the rewards of five hundred thousand dollars, the people working in the wireless and broadcast communications infrastructure finally gave in. He warned them not to tell anyone about his activities or he would come back to kill them. He wouldn't, but the idea of an invincible monster after your head was enough to scare most people off.
He triangulated Rachel's location and found her exact coordinates.
He knew it would've been easier if he asked Misaki for help, but he didn't want her involved with an internal problem. It should stay within the Undersiders. She's already interfered enough.
It took him the entire night. It was now two minutes after midnight.
"Brian was worried about you," Accelerator said. He approached her, ignored the corpses. "You should've come to us, Rachel."
"I-I fucked up," she said.
"Nah. It was these idiots you killed. They probably did something that pissed you off."
"There was a poodle!" Rachel hissed. "In a cage. It starved to death. None of them gave a crap. Fuckers!"
One of the corpses was still whole. He kicked it over. There were puncture wounds on its neck. The throat was ripped out. He could see its interiors. Pieces of the epiglottis, larynx and trachea were bitten off.
"I tried to warn them," Rachel said. "To get down on the floor. But some of them reached for their guns. A smartass grabbed his phone. Managed to do something before I killed him. This smartass." She kicked the head of the corpse Accelerator was inspecting. Its jaw opened. The tongue slid out, trickling with blood.
Shit and piss mixed with the blood of the bodies. Accelerator wasn't able to smell it because his power filtered the scent from his body due to its offensive scent.
"Whoever they were in life, now they're dead," he said. "You're not. You can still make amends for this. Let's start with the obvious. Help me get rid of the bodies."
She gaped at him, shocked he was willing to aid her.
"We're a team, Rachel. I've got your back. Come on. I'll get rid of the teeth and the nails. You put the bodies in the van parked outside." He called Clifford, the driver, and told him to help Rachel haul the corpses into the vehicle. 'Let's get started. You with me?"
Rachel looked touched. "Y-yeah. I'm with you."
"Good." He reached for the corpse's teeth, held one crown between his fingers and pulled it out. Gum clung to the root. It was a start.
"It appears the bodies were gathered in the van and set on fire," the news reporter said. "It was similar to the attack in the Towers a few days back with one significant change to the killer's m.o. The teeth and the nails of the victims have been removed."
The scene, which was on the news reporter holding a microphone, changed to a burnt car and the charred bodies within. "This brutal act of violence was accompanied by the removal of the vehicle's license plate and VIN numbers. Whoever the killer was, they do not want to be found."
It was April 15. 7:40 in the morning.
Accelerator was watching the news back in his apartment. He was in the living room with Misaki. She had a bowl of popcorn on her lap and was eating with gusto.
"You did that?" she asked.
"Oh." She threw a white puff into her mouth and chewed. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about Marian."
"Why?" he asked. "It's not up to me to decide who shows up in this town."
"Okay. But I'll tell you what. Let me make it up to you with an apology. Let's go after a cape. This Bakuda from the ABB."
"You've caught her?"
"No. But I've intercepted a lot of people under her thrall."
"I thought she was a bomb tinker?" If Bakuda could make brainwashing bombs, then he needed to put her down, fast. He disliked mind control due to the number of people he had to fight to suppress it. It was fine if it was on his side, but unacceptable if it was an enemy.
"She is. She's put bombs in people's heads."
You continue watching the news. There was a violent shooting in Captain's Hill. They found the body of a dead girl and the two people who raped her. A vigilante was on the loose and they were doing good work.
You raise the remote and turn the TV off.
"Did you say she put bomb in people's heads?"
"It was a recent development. I had Awaki teleport most of the victims into Winthrop. I wasn't able to save everyone though." She rubbed her forehead. "I saw through the eyes of the survivors. It wasn't pretty."
"Did you ask the boss for help?"
"No. Someone else."
"I'm guessing you took them into the mansion?" he asked. She nodded. It made sense. The mansion changed and created new rooms to accommodate its inhabitants. Othinus once boasted (to Touma while Accelerator accompanied him) that they could insert the entire population of earth into the mansion and have room to spare.
"Yeah. They'll be returned to Brockton Bay once we terminate the threat. I've asked permission t let them stay from lady Othinus, who was obviously made aware of the recent development. She was displeased with the new tenants and commanded me to extinguish the cause of her irritation before she decides to pay a visit to the bay herself." Even if thousands of people lived in the same magical mansion with Othinus, none of them would meet her unless she was the one who sought them out. Space bent itself backwards to ensure she was unbothered by all the mortals she deigned to occupy her property. She was literally unreachable inside her own house. The only one who always found her whenever they chose was Touma. The rest required conscious summons from her part before they could approach her.
Regardless of the fact she could live with someone their entire life without meeting each other, she was still unhappy if she wasn't given time to contemplate her choices.
"Alright," Accelerator said. "Where's Bakuda?" He got up.
"Can you get me some yogurt?" Misaki, ever opportunistic, gave him a cutesy smile and giggled when he grumbled his way to the fridge. He grabbed a blue yogurt plastic container from the freezer and a silver spoon from the utensil holder before returning to the living room.
"Here," he said, handing her the yogurt and the spoon.
"Thank you," Misaki said. She opened the container, revealing its white creamy contents. She scooped some into her spoon and had a taste of the yogurt. She closed her eyes, smiled blissfully and made a happy sound.
"Where's Bakuda?" he repeated the question.
"Hold on, I'll contact one of my spies. I brainwashed some ABB delinquents to keep an eye on her. It just so happens one of them helped drag some of the victims into her hideout." Misaki took her phone from the coffee table and tapped the screen. "It's in Loch's Place in the docks. Between Cobalt Street and Cyan."
"I know the place. It's deep ABB territory. How can I tell it apart from all the other abandoned buildings?"
"There's a red Toyota Hiace parked beside it. There's armed men across the street. Misdirection. Bakuda's hideout doesn't have security, but the other building does. Draws attention away from her own laboratory, as she calls it."
Accelerator left the living room. When he returned, he wore a white suit and a Pierrot mask with the left side black and the right side white. "Cover me," he said. Misaki gave a thumbs up. She would rewrite the memories of the other tenants of the building.
There was an operating table at the center of the room. A twelve year old boy lied on the table, his arms and legs strapped to its side. Bakuda whistled and reached for a micro knife from the medical trolley to her left. As she did so, she caught a glance of the grimey floor and the dirty walls of the warehouse, which made a stark contrast with the expensive, shiny tools she implemented in her work.
She wore medical gloves, a white apron splattered red with blood, and blue scrubs. The only hint she was a cape was her mask. Large opaque goggles covered her eyes. Gas-mask filters covered her mouth. Black, green and yellow cords were braided over her shoulders.
She tried inserting the bomb into the anterior cingulate of the patient's frontal lobe. The patient's left leg twitched. Their toes slacked. And then they ceased breathing. She dropped the micro knife to the floor and sighed. She closed the patient's eyes.
"Rest in peace, Byung-ho."
"He's Chinese, ma'am, and his name's Zhu Biao. Byung-ho's over there." Her lackey pointed to the pile of bodies at a corner of the warehouse. Most of the corpses were children. All of them Asian. Feces, blood and urine trickled down to the floor.
It was a miracle she wasn't distracted by the stench.
A fly buzzed towards her. It landed on her mask covering her nose. She swatted the fly, hit her nose, winced and groaned. When she saw the fly buzzing away at the corpse on the operating table she couldn't help but sigh. She picked up the micro knife, wiped the blood with her apron and returned it to the trolley.
"Alrighty then," Bakuda said, clapping her hands. "I don't know where my other people went to. When I tried detonating my bombs there was a serious lack of heads blowing up. Regardless, at this rate I wouldn't be able to help Oni Lee fight the Empire Eighty-Eight. Then again, maybe we could just wait this out?"
"The attack on Medhall, ma'am?" Her trusted lieutenant asked. She was more tolerant of him because he knew his place, both in the new hierarchy of the ABB and in her bedroom. He was a handsome man of Japanese descent and someone from Downtown, which meant he had education in addition to his charming looks. Good qualities for a subordinate.
"Yes," Bakuda said. "It's obviously related to Kaiser being missing. Someone got to him, just as they got to Victor. There's another cape doing our job for us. A shame. I wanted to join the rippah. Can you get me some food from the dunkies? I'll be at the house across the street on the pahlah."
"Yes, ma'am." The lieutenant of hers was obviously confused by some of her words.
She felt a bit insulted. Boston was the hub of the universe. She put her gloved hands on her waist and said, "Party, Dunkin' Donuts, and parlor." She tapped her lieutenant's shoulder. "Come on. Come back in five minutes and I'll share~"
"Right." Her lieutenant walked to the metal door that led to the front of the warehouse, opened it and left.
"He left the door open," she grumbled.
There was a bang. She recognized it as a gunshot. She ignored the wringing pain in her heart and focused on her survival. Her left hand went to her pocket and extracted a silver sphere. Her thumb traced the red button on its surface. It was a bomb made from her power.
The gunman entered the warehouse. He wore red and green clothing.
"What is this?" Bakuda asked. "A coup?" The gunman raised the pistol, a Glock 19, with the intent to shoot her dead.
A big mistake. She buried a bomb under the surface the gunman stood on. There toe rings in her big toe and the toe beside it. By crossing one to over the other, she created a signal she could direct with systems built into her goggles to the bomb she faced, detonating it. In her line of work, preparation is key.
"You have no idea what you did, do you?" Her toes crossed. The asphalt exploded. Legs and limbs flew to the air. The gunman's head rolled towards her. She kicked it away. "I liked that lieutenant you piece of fuck. Just for that I'm going to kill your family."
The ceiling shattered. Something flew towards her. She clicked the button of the bomb and threw it at the attacker. A powerful gust of wind blew the bomb to the wall behind her before it exploded.
A man in a white suit and a black and white mask knelt behind her.
Her right shoulder slid off her body. Her head followed. Her body crumpled to the floor.
"That was boring," Accelerator said. His hand cut her flesh like a hot knife through butter.
He saw the medical equipment, the body on the table, the one blown to bits, and the pile on the corner of the room.
It was disgusting.
What was even more disgusting was his lack of reaction to it. He was desensitized to the blood, violence, and death, through his own making.
ABB men entered the warehouse, guns raised, and aimed at Accelerator.
"Put your guns down," he said. "If you don't, I'll kill you." It was a bluff, but not ineffective. He stepped on Bakuda's head to remind them he killed their leader. The ABB men lowered their guns. "Good. From now on I'll be in charge of the ABB. Do you understand me? No more kidnapping. No more drug dealing. No more human trafficking. If you don't want to end up like your parahuman boss here." He kicked her head. "Then I suggest you listen to me. Okay?"
A chorus of affirmatives answered him.
"Good." He wanted to tell them to round up the men who participated in kidnapping the dead bodies at the corner and the girls in the whorehous, but they might try to protect their friends in the ABB. Misaki will have to do it instead.
His phone ringed. He took it out of his pocket. "Hello?"
"How bad is it?" Misaki asked.
"Very." Some of the men looked nauseous next to the pile of corpses and the blown up body. "Looks like there was a fight here. One of Bakuda's own people tried to kill her. Didn't work, of course, so we can add his corpse to the list of victims." He inspected the child on the operating table. His forehead was cut open. Parts of his brain was removed. There was something shiny and metallic inside wedged into his brain. A bomb. "I think all the corpses have bombs inside them."
"What do you plan on doing with the bodies?"
"They're victims. The least we could do is give them a proper burial. Most of their relatives are in Winthrop, I'm guessing?"
"Yes," Misaki said.
"I suggest keeping them there. At least for the time being. I'll talk to the boss lady."
"Speaking of, the boss, lady Othinus, would like you to take a picture of Bakuda's corpse to confirm her death."
"Understood. Anything else?"
"Listen, if it's not too much to ask, can you tell the public that you were the one who went after Kaiser, Victor and Rotlicht?"
"Is it a part of your plan?"
"Behind the scenes. Wink~"
They weren't in video chat so she had to compensate by vocalizing what she was doing. It made him shudder. "Taylor's going to hate me for this."
"Let her know the truth now. Tell her everything, except for what's happening in Winthrop. Gauge her reaction to see if she's angry at you for being a murderer or for keeping a secret from her. If it's the former, convince her you were avenging the victims of these sick supervillains. If it's the latter, apologize and promise her you'll give her the truth from now on. You won't, obviously, but give her enough breadcrumbs to sate her curiosity and comfort her with your presence. In the scenario she learns you've been keeping secrets from her again, she'll still be angry at you but won't actually be able to leave you. She's attached to you, Accelerator. Just keep apologizing and promising you won't do it again and give her bits and pieces of love and she'll always forgive you so long as she gets to enjoy your presence."
"You're describing an abusive relationship."
"How's it abusive if there's no violence?" Misaki giggled. "You're just giving her what she wants. Is it so wrong to manipulate someone if they enjoy it? That's the secret to human nature. If you keep them warm, safe and happy, they'll tolerate almost anything to maintain their idyllic lifestyle."
"Misaki, I understand you enjoy mind games. But if you are bullshitting me right now I am going to kick your ass."
This time she bellowed in laughter.
"Fine," she said. "What do you want?"
"Another favor," he said.
"That's it? Fiiine," she drawled. "I don't see why you even bother. It makes no difference to me."
"No, this one's different. It's a blank check. Unlimited freedom of action. When I call for this blank check, you'll have to do it, no questions asked, and never bring it up unless I say so. Understand?"
"Okay," she replied instantly in a chirpy voice. She must've guessed that based on his personality he wouldn't be capable of anything that'll make her regret giving him a blank check.
"Alright. I'll see you later." He hung up and called Taylor's number. "Taylor, you there?"
The only reason he even entertained Misaki's demands was because he wanted the blank check. She had no idea what she just gave him. And if she tries to retract her statement he can hold it over her in any argument that would come up in the future.
She was obviously scheming behind the scenes. She was conducting a plan without informing him, and he didn't bother asking. Lying would only piss him off. The blank check was insurance for the future, he told himself.
"Ace? What's up?" He heard Taylor yawn. "It's 8 o'clock. You wanna hang out?"
"Taylor, there's something you need to learn. I killed Bakuda today."
He waited five seconds.
"What!?" she exclaimed.
"I think…" He counted the number of the bodies. "You should see this for yourself." He gave her the address and told her to bring the others. It wouldn't do for her to come here alone. At least with the Undersiders she could stay in the back. Rachel's monster dogs and Brian's darkness and Lisa's hyper awareness and Alec's tumble invoking combined to create the perfect synergy for a hit-and-run. With Taylor added into the mix, her insects could scout the number of enemies in a potentially hostile area and compare notes with Lisa, or swarm her enemies while they were in darkness or flat on their face.
"Wear your costume and bring the others with you," he told her.
She must've heard the seriousness of his voice and assumed the worst. "Okay. Stay safe." The line disconnected.
Accelerator took a picture of Bakuda's corpse. He removed her mask and took another. "Did she have any friends or family?" he asked the ABB men by the door.
"Yeah, a boyfriend, outside," one of them said.
"Oh. This'll suck. Where are they?"
"O-on the sidewalk, sir."
"Well, what are you waiting for? Bring them in." Bakuda's boyfriend was probably going to hate him for killing his lover. Then again, there was a chance she forced the man into dating her. A third possibility existed, where he took part in the massacre. If he did, Accelerator would kill him on the spot.
Two of the ABB men went outside. They returned, hauling the body by its legs and shoulders.
Accelerator walked towards them. He noticed how some of the men instinctively reached for their guns, only to stop themselves from drawing it. The reason was probably because his steps didn't make a sound. That was how he caught Bakuda by surprise. Even when he crashed through the rooftop of the warehouse the only sound came from the ceiling, dampened when his body made contact with its surface.
The silence in his steps was a juxtaposition to his casual way of walking. Maybe if he tried to walk stealthily like a ninja the ABB men would be more okay with it because he was trying to make it obvious that he was being sneaky. As it is, he was probably sending warning bells to their heads and telling them to keep an eye on him because if they looked away or blinked he would be gone.
"What happened to him?" Accelerator asked. They lowered Bakuda's boyfriend to the grimy floor. He looked almost asleep if not for a small, cylindrical hole on his forehead. A bullet hole.
"The man who blew up," they said. "Shot him in the head. Tried to do the same to Bakuda. Just adding more bodies to a pointless death."
"What about the people who went missing?" Accelerator asked. "Bakuda told me her other victims didn't explode. What happened to them?" He hid the fact Awaki spirited them away.
"They're dead," the ABB man said. "Bakuda's a bomb-specialist tinker. She probably made them all dissolve into water for kicks and giggles."
"I see." They didn't know Misaki and Awaki's interference then.
"B-boss," the ABB man nervously called him. "What are we going to do now?"
"You work for me now," Accelerator said. "My name's Migliore. You'll all be part of my gang."
The Undersiders arrived two minutes later. It was fast, faster than he expected. He assumed they'd be here by five minutes, not two. They must've panicked hearing him kill Bakuda. They were ten yards away, on the street, gearing for a fight.
The Undersiders were all in costume. The one on the lead was Brian, or Grue. He wore a motorcycle jacket, trousers and boots. A motorcycle helmet covered his head, the visors shaped like skulls. His power, darkness, trailed around his helmet, shoulders and limbs like living tendrils.
Accelerator noted the Walther P99 pistol on his left hand, pointed at the concrete.
Lisa, or Tattletale, was to his left. She wore a lavender bodysuit with black lines stripped over the front to create the letters, 'Tt'. A black domino mask covered her face, hiding her freckles. She wore her dark blonde hair down. If you looked closely, you could see an emblem of a stylized eye on her chest, gray on black.
Accelerator narrowed his eyes at the P238 holstered on her belt.
He scrutinized the others. Alec, or Regent, wore white gambesons, baldric, tights and mid-calf leather boots, giving the image of Renaissance clothing. He wore a Venetian mask with a silver coronet. His mouth was the only part of his face uncovered. He was behind Lisa, flanked by a monster dog.
There was a sword sheathed in his baldric. Weird, but not a gun.
Rachel, or Hellhound or Bitch, wore a jacket, trousers and boots. A rottweiler dog mask covered her face. She was behind Taylor, who was on Brian's right. Rachel didn't have a gun or a sword, but she didn't need any.
Taylor, or Skitter, wore a black bodysuit with the swim goggles of her mask resembling that of a bug's. Her hair was uncovered and freely hung behind her. She too held a gun, a small part of Accelerator's mind noted. She raised it as she waved at him, and then stared at the gun as if she forgot she was holding it. He wanted to cover his face with the palm of his hand. He settled for growling in disapproval. He needed to teach her how to handle a gun.
He took a step towards them. His men, formerly ABB, now part of Migliore's gang, heard his growl and misunderstood his intent. They raised their guns and aimed at the Undersiders.
One of Rachel's monster dogs, the size of a pony with a durable skin covered with bones and spikes protruding from its limbs, snarled at the gunmen.
"Put your fucking guns down," Brian said. His power made his voice reverberate like an echo in a cave.
"I don't think so," one of the gunmen said.
"It's okay," Accelerator said. "They're with me." He approached Brian. "I've absorbed the ABB. They work for me now. I'll put a stop to the whorehouse. Bakuda's body is in that building." He jerked his thumb to the warehouse. "Come on."
He led them inside the warehouse.
Taylor reached for his shoulder and squeezed.
"Jesus," Brian said. There was a small hole from the ceiling, and a larger one on the wall across the room. There was a pile of bodies on a corner of the room. Feces, blood and urine trickled down to the floor, mixing into a puddle that had vomit. A meter ahead the floor was burnt. It exploded outward, scattering debris into the area. A burnt body and limbs were all over the place. It was a corpse of someone who took the explosion at point blank. There was an operating table at the center of the room. A child, around twelve years old, was strapped to the table. Their forehead was missing. A small bomb was wedged into their brain. Bakuda's body was two yards away, brightened by the hole on the ceiling. It split into three. Her head, her right shoulder, and her body.
"This is something straight out of Nazi Germany," Alec said. He didn't look particularly bothered by the gruesome sight. Neither was Rachel, although she ignored the bodies and was more focused on Accelerator.
"Ironic, considering they're not Nazis." Accelerator made a cough. "I killed Kaiser and Victor, members of the Empire Eighty-Eight. Taylor." He turned to his friend and held her shoulders. "These are the kind of people I target. In the future I'm going to kill more of them." He turned to the rest of them. "Tattletale, Bitch, Regent, Grue. I'm taking over the Undersiders, absorbing it into Migliore's gang. I'll be beating every other piece of shit in this city. And believe me, I'm going to win."
He finally embraced the plans Misaki set in motion. A long time ago he asked Misaki for help while she and Touma were eating noodles. Othinus, who came from the kitchen, overheard and misunderstood the situation and allowed him to use Misaki to give him aid in his endeavors. What started as a misunderstanding grew more preferable the longer he stayed in Brockton Bay.
He tried denying it to himself, what Awaki told him. 'You and Misaki remind me too much of the Board of Directors of Academy City.' But in the end he finally gave in. If he was going to own a city, he might as well make it better. The homeless, the poor, and everyone who needed help. He would be there to help them.
"I want you all to renounce your loyalty to your old boss and swear loyalty to me." Snow-like white wings stretched from his back and flapped. A cyclone tore the ceiling above him from the warehouse, creating a hole basking his body in sunlight.
He looked at Tattletale. She would be the hardest to convince.
So he was caught by surprise when she gasped and said, "Yes! I'm in."
"Really?" he asked.
She made a cheery grin, for some reason reminding him of a fox, and she skipped towards him, wrapping her limbs around him in a hug. He patted her back and she pulled away.
"Well, that's good. Grue, Regent, Bitch, same offer."
"Hell yeah, man," Grue said. "We make a lot more cash with you anyway."
"Sounds fun," Regent said, bobbing his head.
Rachel gave a thumbs-up.
Migliore put one hand on Skitter's shoulder. "You can say no," he said. "It won't change anything."
"I want to be a part of your world," she said. He pulled her to his chest. His white feathers refracted light, momentarily making the Undersiders, other than Taylor, look away.
"Good," he said. "Here's what we're going to do."
"I am Migliore, leader of the Undersiders. Thirty minutes ago, I killed Bakuda on a warehouse on Loch Place. And a few days ago, Victor as well, killing him on the spot in the basement of Wildflower by Cove Street. I was also responsible for the attack on Medhall. Kaiser's body is now in the ocean, swimming with the fishes. I didn't do it because of a sense of justice, nor was I avenging the weak. I did it because they were pieces of shits and I didn't like them. To everyone who pisses me off, I'm coming for you."
Migliore wore an immaculate white suit with a black and white mask and was flanked by the Undersiders and former members of the ABB. They were now collectively referred to as Migliore's gang. The former ABB's territory grew overnight. The video was released online.
And so that very afternoon a meeting took place in Somer's Rock. Among the many things Misaki learned from Kaiser, a neutral ground was the most fascinating. There were a variety of ways for supervillains to inform each other. The most common method was to send a messenger to inform the people of the rival supervillain, who would then deliver the news to their boss.
Misaki, a blonde girl with starry eyes, wore a yellow dress under a white cardigan, stockings and sandals. She made a token effort to hide her identity by wearing a white masquerade mask shaped like a butterfly. Its wings were streaked with tinges of gold.
The Docks was a magical area where almost anything could fit in. The vagrants in the Empire territory tend to be whiter. Those in the ABB would have Asian features. And those in the Merchants would be in a drug-fueled high.
The meeting place was located somewhere in the middle. Most buildings followed the trend of having a hole in the wall. Trash littered the street. There was a shadow of movement behind a dingy alleyway. Learning whether it was a cat or a mugger was half the fun.
The minds of the supervillains were like a hodgepodge dish, and she the taster.
The group she followed was of a particularly unique flavor.
'Cauldron, huh.' This group, Faultline's Crew, possessed members that did not recall their past, were branded with tattoos, and believe themselves to be victims of this enigmatic organization, Cauldron.
The man she followed went shirtless, had orange skin, a dark red tail, and a tatoo on his chest over his heart. She only knew the last tidbit from skimming his mind and finding him looking at his own reflection in the mirror. His name was Newter. A good man, all in all. His companions and teammates were called Gregor the Snail, Labyrint, and Spitfire, and their leader Faultline.
They were the easiest to find. It was an open secret that they owned a bar. She put various customers under her control observe Faultline's Crew, and when the time was right, inform her of their movement. She slid herself into the group on their way to the meeting place.
She read the sign of the pub the villains would congregate at. 'Somer's Rock.' There were iron bars on the windows and the curtains were drawn. The paint on the outside was peeling, and the rust from the bars had bled onto the gray-white paint below the windows.
She was the last to step inside. Somer's Rock was a dingy, grimy place reminding her of those shady bars in Noir films brought to life. The wood floor was stained the same dark gray as the counter of the bar, the curtains and tablecloths were dark green, and the only real color or brightness was the yellow light cast by ancient, burnt lightbulbs.
There was a family of three managing the bar. A twenty-four year old deaf girl by the name of Sagma, and her two twenty-seven year olds twin brothers named Crag and Cliff. Misaki caught them in her web a day prior. She made a promise to remove Sagma's deafness and pay the three a hefty sum for their cooperation.
Sagma wore a slightly wrinkled sever's uniform and held a notepad and a pen. Crag and Cliff, the twins standing behind the bar, wore a dress shirt and an apron, and a black t-shirt under a Hawaiian shirt, respectively. Other than their clothes, they virtually the same. They busied themselves washing glass cups.
There were tables and chairs strewn across the room and booths in the corner. Seated by the table at the center was Purity, surrounded by every surviving cape from the Empire Eighty-Eight. Normally they would take chairs on the tables behind her, but they were too agitated to even take a sit. She was flanked on either side by her fellow lieutenants and Kaiser's trusted aids Krieg and Hookwolf. A skim of the mind granted her the names of the other capes of their group. Fenja, Menja, Crusader. Night, Fog, Alabaster, Stormtiger, Cricket, Othala, Rune. They were a nonentity and thus unworthy of her attention.
Purity, Kayden Anders, wore a white costume that gave a soft glow. Her eyes and hair glowed even brighter, to the point if you stared long enough you might go blind. To her left stood Hookwolf, Brad Meadows, a big man with a violent past, greasy blond hair, and was shirtless. Unlike Newter however, he was hairy and displeasing to the eyes. He had an 'E88' tattoo and a swastikas on either biceps, symbolizing his union with the Aryan ideology. Krieg, James Fliescher, by contrast, wore a white waistcoat under a lab coat, hands in his pockets, and donned a blank white mask. He was unassuming. He reminded Misaki of a doctor, which was probably the intent considering he worked for Medhall, Kaiser's company.
He was also connected to a European based nationalistic neo-Nazi organization, Gesellschaft.
Faultline's Crew with their connections to Cauldron, and now the Empire Eighty-Eight with theirs to Gesellschaft. How interesting. Then again, the same could be said for her and Accelerator and their connection to the Velvet estate.
Large, mysterious organizations moving behind the scenes seems quite the common cliché in this world. 'Just as it was back in mine.'
Gesellschaft was large. Cauldron was mysterious. Her own group, the Velvet estate, was a little bit of both. Then again, she doubted Gesellschaft made all their operations be known to the public, and if Cauldron was regularly kidnapping like the members of Faultline's Crew it meant manpower and deep pockets to funnel their operation.
Seated across the table facing Purity was Coil.
He was a skinny man under a black costume that covered him from head to toe, with a snake trailing across the costume.
She skimmed his mind and sighed.
It wasn't the real Coil. Whoever this man was, he was only an actor. Digging further, she learned he was a PRT agent from out of town recruited by the supervillain to become his decoy. Unable to resist the offer of five thousand dollars per week, he took the job and here he was.
'Fegen Tabor,' Misaki noted his name.
Faultline took a chair on the same table Coil and Purity were at. Her costume was like a mix between a riot gear, a karate gi and a dress. Her straight black hair was tied in a bristling ponytail. She was owner of the bar Palanquin, which served as her crew's headquarters.
Misaki mentally asked Sagma to get her a chair. She already made everyone ignore her. For a moment she extended the effect to Sagma who pulled up a nearby chair and pushed it next to Faultline's. Misaki sat beside Faultline, with Coil to their left and Purity to their right.
Out of everyone here, she liked Faultline's Crew the most. They were mercenaries, but good people. She collected victims, made them useful, pulled them into her team which became their family. There was a lot of love in Faultline's Crew, and it reminded Misaki of her own fondness for Junko and her clique in Starchild Corporations.
She had requested lady Othinus to bring back her entire clique, in addition to Dolly and Mitori. The latter two especially. She loved Dolly, and damn it she was starting to become fond of Mitori too.
Now they worked as her auditor and bookkeeper, respectively. It was ironic she was the CEO of the company and lady Othinus's personal administrator at the same time, but she could deal.
Another group arrived. It was the Archer's Bridge Merchants. Skidmark, Squealer and Mush. Skidmark wore a mask that covered the top half of his face. The lower half was dark skinned, with badly chapped lips and teeth. Gross. Misaki 'felt' distaste from all the other supervillains in the room.
Skidmark strolled to the table and reached for a chair. It was beside Misaki.
Faultline raised a pistol and said, "Go in the booth."
"What the fuck?" Skidmark hissed like a dirty snake. Next to him Coil was practically nobility.
"I won't ask again," Faultline said. Skidmark was about to say something else when Purity banged her fist on the table and glared at him.
"It's because I'm black, isn't it?" Skidmark stomped to the booth Mush and Squealer where at. Misaki sighed in relief. She did not want to sit next to him. Neither did Faultline, apparently, and given none of them were consciously aware of Misaki's presence, Faultline only saw it as Skidmark sitting next to her.
"I'll be taking a chair, I think," someone spoke from the door. Most heads turned to check out a male figure in a black costume with a red mask and top hat. It reminded her of Baron Samedi. His teammates followed him into the room, all in matching costumes of red and black, differing only in design. A girl with a sun motif, a guy with bulky armor and a square mask, and a creature so large it had to crawl on its hands and knees to get through the door. It was something like a four armed hairless gorilla, with a vest, mask and leggings in the red and black style its team was wearing, six-inch claws tipping each of its fingers and toes.
Misaki's starry eyes twinkled as she read their minds. The man with the top hat was Trickster, Francis Krouse. The sun girl was Marissa Newland. The bulky armor was Ballistic, Luke Brito. The hairless gorilla was a projection of Genesis, Jess Origine. There were two more members, Oliver and Noelle, literally gender-inverted beauty and the beast.
"Oh my," Misaki said aloud, not that anyone heard her. "You're from another world."
Just like Touma.
Which meant Othinus's paranoia of a potential threat skulking in the shadows just procured merit.
"The Travelers, yes?" Fake Coil said. "You're not local."
Trickster responded, telling them the Travelers were nomadic. He claimed what was happening was too interesting to pass up. Somehow word had spread that there was a meeting in Somer's Rock. That was the power of social media for you. Trickster introduced himself and bowed. Misaki gave it an 8/10.
Trickster pulled a chair facing Faultline and Misaki.
"That should be everyone," Coil said. "Seems the Undersiders won't be coming. Although I doubt any of us are surprised given the subject of this afternoon's discussion."
"Migliore," Purity said.
There was a cacophony of hisses and growls from the supervillains behind her. Understandable considering Accelerator, aka Migliore killed two of their people, and one of them was Kaiser, the leader of the Empire Eighty-Eight.
"Three capes dead. Victor, Kaiser and Bakuda. One cape strong-armed. Circus. The Protectorate is doing nothing to cross them. As of the moment they are an existential threat to every villain in Brockton Bay and I'm not sure they'll stop until we're all submissive or dead," Coil said.
"We need to call backup," Krieg offered. "Perhaps the Gesellscha-"
"No," Faultline, Coil and Purity said at the same time. Krieg shrugged as he faced Hookwolf. His mind read, 'What can you do about it?' Hookwolf shook his head.
"What about those two capes?" Trickster asked. "From Toronto and Boston. Narwhal and Rampage Dress? Were they useless against the Alexandrian package, too?"
"It's called Alexandria package," Faultline corrected him. "And the Undersiders are good at escaping from a threat. It's their thinker, Tattletale, I'm guessing, that's keeping tabs on the pair of heroes, and bugging out just before they arrive. With Grue's power in play it's almost impossible to catch them. Or play tag with Migliore in the darkness."
She was right, when it came to Narwhal. Someone was keeping tabs on her. What Faultline didn't know was that Rampage Dress was on their side and warned Accelerator in advance whenever Narwhal came close. Cue Grue's umbrella of darkness and Tattletale's foresight and the Undersiders were out of there.
"Why the fuck should we care?" Skidmark spat. "It seems to me the Empire painted a bullseye on their back and Migliore's doing us all a favor bulldozing them. You Nazis are getting what's coming to you for hurting black people like me."
"Playing the minority card?" Faultline asked. "Then think about this. People like you, and I mean drug dealing crack addicts, kidnap kids and force-feed them drugs. Based on Migliore' MO, he subverts 'harmless' villains like the Undersiders and is trying to do the same with Circus, and he kills 'harmful' villains because he doesn't like the skeletons in their closet. Victor was part of the Empire Eighty-Eight. Kaiser ran it. Bakuda's been kidnapping and killing a lot of people. They died, and if you don't shut up you'll end up the same."
A glimpse at Faultline's mind told Misaki she was stressed by Migliore's existence. She was fine with Migliore targeting supervillains like Kaiser and Bakuda. But when he took Circus she was incredibly alarmed by the sheer strength of his power and how helpless she would be to stop it.
"Let's focus on the topic at hand," Purity said. She gave a thankful nod to Faultline. "Migliore is invulnerable to almost any direct attack. But he seems hesitant in fighting Narwhal. No doubt because she could create a forcefield from inside his body and skewer his internal organs. We need a cape capable of bypassing the Manton Effect, like Narwhal. And one that's willing to take cash."
"I know someone in India," Faultline said.
"I have a contact in France," Krieg offered.
"Calling an outside to deal with our problems will only bring more in the long run," Coil said. He was reading off a script. "It'll open a Pandora's box I'm not sure we'll be able to close. Bringing either the Gesellschaft from Europe or the Thanda from South Asia will have repercussions to our own reputation as villains of Brockton Bay."
It's like Academy City asking for help from the U.S. or U.K. to deal with an internal problem and losing face in the international community.
"What choice do we have?" Purity asked. "This man fought the entire roster of the Protectorate and the older members of New Wave. He didn't even struggle putting them down. And he was playing nice. What do you think he'll do to us?"
Misleading people into thinking Misaki's power was Accelerator's was paying off, it seems. It was the main reason why they were hesitant in fighting him themselves. The only other cape they believed could take him, Lung, was currently locked down in the Protectorate hq.
Ironic, considering it was Accelerator who took down Lung.
"I have a supposition," Coil said. "Let us focus on a cheaper solution. Break out Lung and have him face Migliore. If he isn't enough, we can look for alternative capes then."
For a moment everyone was quiet. Now and then Alabaster would look at Faultline curiously, but other than that no one spoke up. They were all contemplating Lung's chances against Migliore. Lung, despite being a rival to the Empire Eighty-Eight and Coil, was less of a problem than Migliore due to the latter's determined act of hunting them down.
"I have an alternative supposition." She raised her hand and snapped her finger. She created a telepathic pulse that caught everyone in a web of her power. She didn't brainwash them, but altered their priorities. She became the predominant one.
Shifting their belief into making her preeminent was much simpler than brainwashing them. The former method kept their personalities, beliefs and memories intact. She could do it manually with brainwashing, but this method made sure that even after they were outside the range of her powers she would still be their main priority.
She dispelled the mental cloak that gave her invisibility and made everyone turn to her.
"How about instead of opposing Migliore, you all work for me?" She made a cheeky smile. "Mental Out at your service."
"Sure," Hookwolf said. "I don't see a problem with it, personally."
Trickster shook his head. "I have no problem with what you're suggesting, but working alongside white supremacists is going to be a bit of a problem."
Purity pinched the bridge of her nose. "Be that as it may, Mental Out, isn't it still going to be a problem considering Migliore's presence?"
"Indeed," Coil said. "What if he targeted you next? It wouldn't do to be unable to protect you."
"It's fine," Misaki said, cupping her cheeks. "I can handle myself just fine. For now we need a plan to compile all our assets and put a ceasefire between all the gangs, am I understood?"
"Yes," Purity said.
"Now Trickster," Misaki said. "I understand you're from another world?"
"Um." Trickster glanced at all the other capes who gazed at him with interest.
"It's fine," Misaki said with a wave of her hand. "None of them will speak of this unless I permit it, am I understood?"
A chorus of yes resounded in the pub.
"Alright," Trickster said. "I'm a cape from Aleph. Believe it or not, I used to be a gamer-"
"Stop!" The hairless gorilla slammed the table of their booth and leapt beside Trickster. "Trickster, what's wrong with you? You're not usually this open!"
"What? I know it's weird doing it in front of everybody else," Trickster said. "But we're with Mental Out. I trust her. Come on."
"No! She did something to you. To all of you! She spoke about your past despite not knowing it and made you all work for her in the span of one second!" Genesis pointed one large finger at Misaki. "Who the fuck are you? I thought you were a member of Fautline's Crew because you sat beside her, but I was wrong? Let my teammates go!"
"Oh right," Misaki said. "You're a projection. I was so focused on other matters I failed to realize I wasn't reading your mind but that of your teammates. Okay." Misaki clapped her hands. "Have a seat, Genesis, and we can work something out. I'm willing to pay you lots and help you walk again in exchange for your employment. Does that sound good?"
Genesis didn't bother answering. She barreled through the table, smashing it in half, and raised a large meaty arm to a downward swing in an attempt to pulp Misaki's head. Hookwolf shifted into a mass of hooks and blades shaped like a wolf. He covered Misaki with his back and absorbed the attack. Genesis' arm skewered the metal encasing his back and gouged its surface. Gregor the Snail, a hairless man, morbidly obese, with milky white skin that was slightly translucent, spat a stream of saliva, soaking Genesis. When Genesis tried to move the spit became an adhesive-like substance that glued her body to the floor. Purity flew above Hookwolf and aimed with her hand. Light glowed from her palm and she blasted Genesis across the room.
"Purity," Misaki said. "Overkill much?"
Purity scratched the back of her head. "Whoops." She made a nervous laugh, and Misaki rolled her eyes but smiled indulgently, like they were two long time friends.
"Her real body's back at our lot," Trickster said. "Want us to go after her?"
"Yes, but don't hurt her," Misaki said. "And if she wants some alone time that's fine too. But be discreet."
"Roger that." The Travelers left.
Genesis awoke with a scream. She was in her bedroom in their dingy motel. She needed to run. Her teammates were captured by a master and she was helpless to stop them. She couldn't go to Migliore for help because he might kill her, and all the other villains were now under Mental Out's thrall.
She mistook Mental Out for a member of Faultline's Crew that was influential enough to have a chair to herself. She should've known better. Seen the signs. None of them were paying attention to Mental Out until she snapped her fingers. And by then it was too late.
She needed help. She needed to reach out to the Protectorate. Tell them a master was on the loose. If she was anything like Heartbreaker, then they needed to be warned about Mental Out before it was too late.
But before that, she needed to escape. Out of sheer desperation her power took effect. She fell back asleep and was coated in a blurry, beige, and yellow shape akin to a slime. It coalesced into a translucent slug. Its underbelly opened and absorbed her main body in a pouch before closing. It climbed out of the windowsill, smashed through the glass and clung to the wall on its way down. Its exterior blended with its immediate surroundings. From a distance it was invisible. Still, she kept to the streets away from prying eyes until she reached the beach. It slid down the shore and slithered under the cover of water.
And when it was fully submerged, it swam straight out of Brockton Bay. She didn't know how powerful Mental Out's reach was, and she wasn't willing to find out. She would go to the nearest town and hide herself there until she could retaliate and free her teammates. She didn't like most of them, but they were her family and she wasn't going to abandon them. A tactical retreat, she told herself, as she swam away.
Under the pouch of the invisible slug which provided her with oxygen and ate carbon dioxide, Genesis shivered. That was the most horrifying thing she's ever witnessed, and that included the Simurgh and Noelle. To just brainwash everyone with a snap of a finger and watch her friends fall to someone's control was so scary it made her question the fragility of the human mind.
For now, she focused on the present and left the city of Brockton Bay five miles behind her.
Alabaster needed an avenue of attack. He was a man with pure white skin and hair and right now he was wearing a suit of the same color. He was a member of the Empire Eighty-Eight and was devoted to their cause. A cause to cleanse the world of the impure.
A cause that in one single finger snap was wiped out.
It was like tendrils digging into his skull and blacking him out. If not for his power to restore himself into a pristine condition at set intervals of four-point three seconds, he would've been a mindless slave like all the others.
This Mental Out didn't seem to notice, and for now he was willing to play the fool until the time. She remained seated despite the lack of a table, with one leg over the other, an elbow on the back of her right hand and her left hand playing with her hair.
"We can pretend it's like a Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union."
"The Soviets collapsed due to their capes," Faultline said.
"Right. Alternate world. Ignore that. What I mean is that there's going to be a ceasefire and truce between the respective groups. Purity, Faultline, am I understood?"
"Yes," Purity said. "Although it might be difficult to control the more eager members of the Empire."
"Just send them to me. Faultline, will it be a problem?"
"My team needs to eat," Faultline said.
"Then I shall have you on retainer. How does ten-thousand dollars a week sounds?"
"Done. The same goes for every member of your crew." Misaki looked at everyone in the room. "The same for all of you. I shall have you all paid to avoid the hassle of needing money. No more kidnapping, killing or taking advantage of those weaker than you. For the moment, you shall all remain in the bay, understood? Then let us meet again next week." She made them write down their numbers in the deaf girl's notepad passed across the room like they were back in kindergarten. After they were all done Mental Out pocketed the paper.
She stood up.
"That'll be all."
Othinus created a unique ward system as a matter of protection. She created a magic spell, 'Skydda,' which blocks those with precognition and similar abilities from seeing her. It was a spell she implemented throughout all of her magical creatures.
If a seer, clairvoyant or soothsayer were to attempt to observe Othinus the way she observed Accord all they would see is fog.
They also warned her when someone attempted to breach her spell like an alarm when the tripwire went off.
From her study Othinus's green eye glowed with emerald light. She used Misaki's eyes as her own. She found the source of her woes. She immediately created another copy of the Marauder's Map which materialized from gold fire, grasped it in her hands and extended its reach to Brockton Bay. She identified the three threats as Francis Krouse, Marissa Newland and Luke Brito.
Without a second thought she touched their names on the map and crushed them with her thumb.
"Oh my." Misaki shook her head in disbelief. "Are you telling me the three have been killed?"
She was back in the apartment she shared with Accelerator. She could move into Junko's place, but it was more fun needling her fellow level 5. She wore a wireless earbud to her right ear. It was manufactured by her company, copied from technology from her original world. She held a teacup to her chest and a saucer on her lap. She was speaking to Louis Moorland, a detective working for the Brockton Bay Police Department, or BBPD. Surprisingly, he wasn't under her control but willing accepted her offer. She read the minds of the force and found him disliking his wages and wanting to earn more. She approached him in a donut shop and offered a new job and he happily took the deal.
"Yeah," Louis said. "Their costumes melded into their flesh, or what's left of it. Their bodies have been crushed, like a pile driver drove them into the earth. It's ugly. Found their bodies in an apartment in Dritsea Place. Neighbor reported the stench."
"Are you the first on the scene?" He said yes. "Okay, here's what you're going to do. Burn the bodies and get out of there. I'll manage the witnesses. Alright, Lou. That'll be enough for now. Keep me updated?"
"Sure thing, boss." Misaki pressed a button on her earbud to disconnect the call and took a sip of her tea.
She wasn't surprised. Othinus called her shortly after they died and informed her who was responsible for their deaths. Othinus would deliver replicas by tomorrow. She was then instructed to capture the remaining members of the Travelers and keep them in Brockton Bay. Misaki leased a storage facility near Inlet Street where she was keeping Noelle, sent three men to observe Oliver, and was for the moment looking for Genesis.
She instructed the fake Coil to feed false information to the real one. It was only a matter of time before he's caught in her net.
The front door opened. She tried to get a read on the mind of whoever entered the lot. She couldn't. There was only one person in Brockton Bay completely immune to her capabilities. She grinned and pushed her back up the backrest of the couch to catch a glimpse of her housemate.
Accelerator scowled. Misaki's hair dangled to the floor from her awkward position. "Hey there," she said. He took out his phone and showed her the results of his venture. She took the screen and turned it upside down to look at the video he was playing.
"It's from a body camera," he said. Someone else must've worn it because Accelerator in his Migliore persona could be seen talking to Circus. There was a backdrop of crushed cars and used electronic devices. A junkyard.
Circus crossed her arms and leaned back against the wall of piled cars. She was a girl in her late teens or early twenties. She wore a clown makeup and a jester's cap. A gold and red skintight costume adorned her body. Bells jangled from her cap.
She must've been in a rush, Misaki thought. Finding Circus was easy. Misaki hired twelve private detectives to compile the areas Circus attacked and to provide a general location of her whereabouts. She then began planting sleeper agents throughout those areas, who wouldn't deviate from their daily routine up until they saw something important. And then they would inform her. It took three days to locate Circus' home. She left a letter last night. Show up at this address at this specific time or else. From Migliore.
"What the fuck do you want?" Circus asked.
"Work for me. Either as an Undersider or as my employee. I don't give a crap," Accelerator said. He basked in the sun. She hid in the shade. You could almost mistake him for a good guy in the video.
"And if I don't?" Circus asked.
"I hurt you and make you regret your decision," Accelerator said. "You can use your hammers and your flamethrowers and whatever else you've got and I'll shrug them all off and knock you unconscious like I did Glory Girl. Or…" His tone took a gruffer note. "If I learn some nasty skeletons in your closet I might just kill you instead."
For two minutes Circus didn't respond. And then she sighed. "Fine. But no way am I working with these losers. If I work for you, it's on my own."
"Whatever," Accelerator said. The video stopped.
"That's anticlimactic," Misaki said. "And I spread the news online too."
"You called me at the last minute to pull off that stunt," Accelerator said. "Couldn't you have done that shit yourself? Stop being lazy."
"Boo. You're such a sourpuss." She pulled back to the couch and straightened her hair. Accelerator was carrying a white plastic bag. He sat beside her and lowered it to the floor. He pulled up two cans of Coke and passed her one. "Thanks," she said.
"I don't really know what I'm doing," Accelerator said. "I'm not cut-out for this super genius one hundred steps ahead kind of thing. I mostly just wing it."
"That's highly debatable." She opened her can. Clang it to his. "Cheers." She sipped her Coke. "And you can relax. I'll be there on the corner cheering you on."
"Misaki, I'm tired of this powerplay between us. I'll be honest. I sent Motoharu to mislead Thomas Calvert, mostly because I was pissed at you. I'm sorry."
She paused, sighed and smiled. "It's okay. I already know."
He poked her nose. "But seriously. Stop keeping secrets from me. It's stressing me out and pulling me into your games. Understand?"
She rubbed her nose. "You'll rescind those favors I owe you?"
"No." He frowned.
"Then no." She grinned. He mumbled something and growled, leading her to laugh. "Just let me be, Accelerator. It's who I am."
"You're gonna kill me of stress is who you are." He scratched his head and opened his can. The two were still in their 'costumes,' her in the yellow dress under the white cardigan and him wearing an immaculate white suit. The only thing missing were their masks.
"I took control over all the other villains today," she said.
"Well, that makes everything easier. You made me post the attack online and strong-arm Circus just to get all the other villains together so you can brainwash them, right?"
"I wouldn't say brainwash. More like change their paradigm and make me the top priority."
He nodded. "So you brainwashed them."
"Still better than having them keep killing each other, I guess." He pointed at the plastic bag. "I bought you chocolate cake."
"Yay!" Misaki cheers and rummages for the goods. Accelerator, bored out of his mind, grabs the remote from the coffee table and turns on the TV. Misaki extracted a plastic container holding a slice of chocolate pie and a white plastic fork. She opened the container, cut a third of the cake with the side of the fork, impaled a piece and took a bite.
"Mhmm…" Misaki moaned. "So good…" She slid two points under the rose and pulled it off the cake. She licked her lips and leaned, almost kissing the flower, before she took a bite of its petal. Misaki closed her eyes and made happy sounds as she soaked up the flavor.
"Hey," Misaki said, turning to Accelerator. "Want some?"
"No," he said, ignoring her. "And you need to lay off the sweets before-" he wasn't able to finish talking due to Misaki pushing a forkful of cake into his mouth. He gurgled on the sweets and forced himself to swallow.
He growled. She laughed. He opened his Coke and drank. She took another bite of her cake. And so the night continued.