Prologue: Inception

"No, you don't get, do you? 'Cause if you did you wouldn't have said that. You see I might be a merc, but I'm not minion material and it has to do with my favorite hobby. No! Not playing Video Games! It's finding a guy who thinks he's hot shit and has power over me and telling him 'No' right to his face. The Faces they make are priceless! Which leads me to my next favorite hobby... breaking priceless things."

Übermensch, one of the contenders for, if not the strongest Cape in Europe, was dead.

Max Anders clenched his fists tightly. He vaguely hoped that Krieg would mistake the act for one of rage as opposed to the genuine worry he was currently experiencing. A leader cannot appear worried even in the face of an Endbringer, he thought while releasing an inner sigh.

"Did you gather the information I asked for?" He calmly asked Krieg instead of voicing his thoughts.

The German Cape nodded slowly and placed a dossier with a picture of a man, teenager really on the cover. The Cape was wearing a leather trench coat that was all too common in the Empire 88 along with a more decorative than a functional gas mask, which managed to obscure all of his facial features.

Though considering Gaskammer comes from the Gesellschaft, he looks like the perfect Aryan, no question about that, he thought as he began to glance at the fragmented information Krieg managed to recover. Some of them originating from both the now-defunct Gesellschaft's database. But most of them from the European equivalent of the PRT. The people who were dealing with the aftermath of what the press over there was calling the Gaskammer Massacre.

Having given a cursory review of the teenage Cape's files as he focused on the threat assessment assigned to him by Interpol, he said the only thing that came to mind, "This could be bad." After all, what else could Max say about a formerly unknown cape who killed Übermensch? The S-Class leader of the Gesellschaft, a biokinetic villain who could change his DNA intuitively and at will, making him a powerful Brute, Mover, Changer, Stranger, and even Thinker if Krieg's information was correct.

Krieg graced him with a skeptical look at his statement, one which Max took to mean that it wasn't just 'bad'; it was way, way worse.

"You don't get it, do you?" Krieg asked his nervousness allowing his accent to come to the fore for once. Instantly Max straightened, and short metal spikes began to grow out of his armor. Valuable a subordinate as Krieg might be, he wouldn't tolerate disrespect from anyone whose balls, or in Kayden's case whose children, he did not firmly hold in a leash.

Krieg sat down without a further word; the vintage clock whose ticking he was usually fond of now only served to exacerbate the newly created tension between the two capes. Finally, it was Kaiser who broke the silence. "What do I not get? Gesellschaft trained him since he was eight. Hell, he triggered in their custody. He may be skilled, but here is everything there is to know about him and his powers. Besides, he probably just took Übermensch by surprise, his powers are good, but not good enough for him to take out such a powerful changer in a straight fight."

Not to mention with the destruction of their power base in Europe, a bunch of former members are headed for greener pastures. I would almost thank Gaskammer if I weren't worried, he'll also be coming for us.

Krieg shook his head, "His official rankings give him a Shaker-5 rating for his ability to produce any kind of gas in small quantities, something which coincides with his Cape Name and the rumors I've heard of him, but I sincerely doubt that's all there is to it."

Kaiser favored Krieg with a look, and the German Cape elaborated. "Gaskammer triggered under the Wundersoldatprogramm," he added gravely.

"You mean those rumored efforts the Gesellschaft undertook to force trigger events?" Kaiser asked with an uneasiness he hoped didn't manage to creep into his voice.

"Exactly," Krieg emphasized with a nod, "look, contrary to what most people believe it wasn't as simple as forcing members to trigger by torturing them. Gesellschaft hired some freelance Tinkers to make this," Krieg said, pointing at a picture of a syringe filled with a viscous looking neon blue liquid, "It's Tinkertech and don't ask me how. But, when someone is injected with it, it pushes their brains to their limits in terms of stress, either causing a Trigger Event and healing them afterward or killing them instantly."

"I'm guessing it didn't work very often," Kaiser stated more than asked after giving a cursory review to the casualty reports included in the files.

"It only worked once," Krieg corrected with a brief nod, "more specifically, Gaskammer is the only surviving member of that particular method of forcing a trigger event."

Krieg flipped through the dossier he had handed to him, eventually opening a page with a birth certificate for a "Heinrich Weber," with a photo of what even Kaiser could admit was a cute little blond kid. Well, cute if it hadn't been for the Hitler Youth uniform he was wearing and the fact that he was standing next to a perpetually scowling Übermensch.

"What made him so special? I mean, why did they choose him of all people?" Apart from being blond and having blue eyes

Krieg flipped through another few pages before continuing, "Well, his family's loyalty to the cause for one. I'm pretty sure he's descended from some officers who fled to South America after WWII. But that characteristic was pretty much a given from all the members who were selected. I guess what made him stand out were his grades if you'll believe that."

Kaiser raised an eyebrow in disbelief, not that Krieg could see it, but his silence and posture got his point across anyway.

"His academic career short as it was, was from a grades-standpoint flawless, straight ones or as they would be here A's on literally everything." Krieg paused to allow Kaiser the chance to flip through the child's record himself, and sure enough, he hadn't been exaggerating.

"However, it was coupled by isolationist, some would even go so far as to call them sociopathic tendencies, so in the end, Gesellschaft Thinkers concluded that the boy was a once in a decade prodigy while at the same time being a prime candidate for the Wundersoldatprogramm."

"It didn't quite work out like that, did it?" Kaiser asked, crushing the satisfaction that welled up at seeing his 'puppet masters' in Germany fail. Like it or not, they were a significant financer for the E88, and while their loss was sure to get them some members from the now-defunct organization, the consequences of their massacre could prove… troublesome for morale and recruitment of well-informed capes.

"No," Krieg responded with a frown, "Oh, he was a prodigy, there's no way to deny that. Apparently, he took to the more rigorous aspects of his education with a drive that was simply unnatural in a child. And after he triggered, he picked up every single skill the other members tried to teach him with a speed that was previously unheard of. But the indoctrination…" Krieg continued only to be stopped by his superior, interrupting him.

"What did Übermensch want him to do, exactly?"

"Murder," Krieg answered with an easy shrug. "To be more exact Übermensch wanted him to take out most of Germany's left-wing politicians for all the harm it would've done them. Gaskammer's first mission in that capacity was, according to a few favors I called in, to assassinate the Chancellor before this whole debacle took place."

Kaiser resisted the urge to slam his head into his desk in frustration at his counterpart's stupidity,

"Übermensch wanted to send a fifteen-year-old, to assassinate a world leader?" He asked, incredulously. As strong as young triggers sometimes were, they were also almost all loose cannons, and most of them were nuttier than squirrel shit, Mouse Protector immediately comes to mind.

"There were more rumors about him." Krieg finally said.

"Such as…?" Krieg was usually a down to business and to-the-point kind of guy, for him to sound this unsure was a rare event, it made Max even more curious and though he'd never admit it, not even to himself, just a tad more afraid.

Krieg let out a sigh, "As I said, I'm fairly sure whatever's on his file isn't true, at least not completely. Übermensch kept him very close to the chest no matter who I ask, but apart from the rumors about him having schizophrenia as he talked to himself far too often for it not to be considered odd, I also learned that he might be a Trump."

That more so than anything else managed to set Max on edge. Both Trumps and Tinkers could either be really weak or ludicrously strong depending on certain conditions, as evidenced by Eidolon and Squealer, respectively. "What can he do besides this?" Max asked, tapping his finger at the threat assessment laid before him.

Krieg thought for a moment, "It's not that he can actually do anything, it's that apparently, he's completely immune to all Thinkers, or at least every Thinker he's ever encountered up until now."
"That's… impossible." It was a well-known fact among people as well-informed as Kaiser that the only things, because they were things, entirely immune to Thinkers were the Endbringers, Eidolon and Scion himself. Hell, even Hatchet Face, with his power-nullifying aura, wasn't immune.

"Apparently not," Krieg responded matter-of-factly.

A momentary lull in conversation ensued as both parties took the time to process the information.

"So, that's why Übermensch wanted to send him to assassinate your chancellor."

"Probably the main reason." Krieg conceded. "But that's not really why he's so threatening as an assassin. Apart from rumors of his schizophrenia. You should also note that he was rarely if ever spotted sleeping." Krieg paused here, though whether to gather his thoughts or for dramatic effect Max couldn't quite say, "I believe he might also be a Noctis Cape much like our dearest Miss Militia, which is why he managed to master everything Gesellschaft tried to teach him in such a short time."

Kaiser considered the implications of this information. A Cape who was worse off than Oni Lee in the mental health department. Who knew perfectly well how to murder someone discreetly. Who didn't need rest, was immune to a plethora of things that could kill him otherwise and even to Thinkers somehow and had a much stronger and versatile power than he'd initially let on. And this Cape might now be gunning for Gesellschaft affiliates? In short, none of the implications were good ones.

"Did you manage to retrieve Gesellschafts' files on him?" Kaiser asked.

Krieg nodded and pointed at a USB drive ensconced within the manila folder, Kaiser calmly plugged it into his computer and played the first video file that popped up, tilting his screen so Krieg could see it as well, even though both of them knew the German cape had already seen the footage and likely reviewed it for himself several times.

I tried desperately to remain calm under the situation, but I was never good with hospitals even when there was nothing to worry about, why would I be good with them now? Especially considering the Doctor who's about to try and give me powers is the closest living equivalent to Mengele that can be found on this planet. Well, apart from maybe Nilbog and Bonesaw, who to me at least are very close seconds in terms of how terrifying they are. Though all things considered Riley might not have triggered, I might have Butterflied it away after all.

I shook my head slowly from side to side. No use thinking about all the hurricanes I may or may not have created, this situation was already fucked from start to finish, and the only way I could make it worse was if Scion ended up winning. And considering he would also be going after my original home, that is not a possibility I wanted to allow, or even really contemplate for that matter. Not to mention getting revenge for what the Simurgh did to Earth Bet's version of my country is starting to sound pretty nice too.

I've never figured out how I ended up on Earth Bet, whether it was Truck-Kun's mysterious powers or something else (meaning Abbadon). Whatever the case for some reason I couldn't remember anything about my home.

Though that's not quite true, I could remember what I learned in school, the breathtaking mountain views of where I lived and how to cook like my mom taught me. Except, I couldn't remember my teachers or classmates. I couldn't remember when, how or with whom I saw those views and I couldn't remember my mom, or anyone else for that matter. But I could remember Worm perfectly down to the last detail in fact and if this wasn't a sign of a divine being playing some kind of sick prank, I didn't know what was.

I briefly considered that my information was incorrect and perhaps somehow the consequence of some kind of Master ability one of the goddamn Nazis had, or maybe it was my power and unbeknownst to me I had triggered. But I dismissed the former simply because the Nazis wouldn't have planted information in my head that went counter to the brainwashing they inflicted on a daily basis, and the latter because they did a scan for a Corona Gemma and Pollentia to myself and the other children in the compound. Needless to say, I lacked both and I was hopefully about to gain them, if I didn't die that is, but then again, I'd rather die than be an unpowered Nazi Mook in a world of Superheroes.

"Sie können sich gerne hinsetzen Herrn Weber," the rough Austrian-accented voice of the Doctor somehow echoed through the tiny room instantly snapping me out of my reverie, something which usually annoyed me. Still, considering the direction my thoughts were headed in, I was thankful for it this time around. Even if the prick is a fucking Nazi who's probably killed more than enough kids to get him his own parking space next to Satan at this point.

And to show my appreciation to the man. I ran as fast as my stubby legs could carry me while subtly flipping him off and plopped my ass down on the surprisingly comfortable leather chair, even if it was several sizes too large for an eight-year-old.

What came next made me flinch involuntarily, the doctor tying leather bands around all of my limbs and placing a mouth guard made out of rubber between my teeth. Which told me A, I was going to flop around like an angry epileptic trout and B, this was going to be so painful that I was going to grit my teeth hard enough to break them. I'm already regretting my commitment to Liberty or Death.

"Alles gut?" He asked with a raised eyebrow behind his bizarre multi-lensed glasses, I nodded swallowing the bile that was building in the back of my throat out of nervousness, "Das wird ein kleines bisschen weh tun." He said matter-of-factly and not at all apologetically. On my Earth, which for the sake of ease I'll call Earth-Prime, when doctors admitted something would hurt, you were basically fucked. It seemed Earth Bet wasn't too different in that regard.

I say that because he then proceeded to fucking stab me! With a syringe so large that it could've conceivably passed for a Nail Gun. One would think the pain of that thing stabbing through your intestines would be the worst of it, but no, of course not. As soon as it pierced my skin, every fiber of my Being felt like it was on fire. My nervous system may as well have been conducting lightning. However, even so, through all of the pain, I felt a discernible sense of odd lethargy. The closest comparison would be a blood transfusion, but instead of blood, the other liquid is mercury.

The pain didn't lessen even as my vision started to blank. I was vaguely aware of my tears and hoarse screaming, though when they had begun, I couldn't say. Time, Space, and even imagination faded away; all that was left was the pain.

It was then that I saw them, in the same way, I knew my 'foreign' memories were real; I knew who and more importantly what those two whales were, Zion and Eden. They were floating in the night sky. But rather than coming closer to them as I expected, my vision began to swim, and they grew smaller and smaller as I hurtled through space at speeds that would make light jealous. The nauseating experience lasted until I saw a large blueish, but an unmistakably human-shaped entity. And when I did the pain began to recede.

[Destination], [Query], [Resignation], [Trajectory], [Acceptance]

The pain slowly began to ebb away, only for it to suddenly increase tenfold, but rather than something which occupied my entire body now it was solely concentrated on my forehead.

"Did, did Abaddon just shove a Lovecraftian Parasite into my skull?" I thought and perhaps would've spoken the words aloud if I thought my throat could've handled it with how hoarse it felt from screaming.


My question being answered by a voice inside my head. A voice that sounded exactly like Hal-9000 no less, did precious little to aid in preventing the oncoming panic attack.

"That was…"

"Horrifying," Krieg helpfully finished, and Max silently chastised himself for having said the words aloud.
While not telling them much about Gaskammer's powers or potential threat rating, the video clearly showed them the cause for the Cape's murder spree. Kaiser had never considered Übermensch to be particularly intelligent. Well, not any more intelligent than one would need to be to act as a figurehead for the Thinkers and industrialists who actually ran Gesellschaft, but to not fear that someone who underwent this wouldn't swear revenge merely made the now dead man lose what little respect he had in Kaiser's eyes.

"Is there anything here that'll give us a clue as to the extent of his powers?" Max finally asked the million-dollar question.

Krieg sighed; it was the sigh of a man who had the world on his shoulders. "Yes and no," he began, "the footage from his massacre is basically just white billowing smoke in front of the cameras interspaced with the occasional scream. This tells us that the range of his gas is much bigger than what Gesellschaft had previously imagined, but beyond that our only clues are the aftermath."

"Elaborate," Kaiser ordered brusquely.

Krieg gestured for the keyboard and mouse and once Max handed them over his lieutenant brought up certain picture that would've made a weaker man lose his stomach.

"As you can see," the German Cape began with the intonation of a bored schoolteacher, "most of these wounds weren't inflicted by gasses."

It was true, one member was decapitated with what must have been an extremely sharp blade, a few others had bullet holes that went straight through their bodies and Übermensch himself or rather his corpse... Kaiser suppressed a shiver, looked like an uglier version of the Elephant Man. This wouldn't have disquieted Kaiser so much, there were capes who were capable of similar amounts of destruction, but this was accomplished in less than an hour.

"Now," Krieg continued, "It's possible that his power somehow allowed him to cause all of this, particularly Übermensch's injuries extremely quickly, however, it is also equally probable that he broke into their armory and used a supply of hitherto unknown Tinkertech to achieve it."

Kaiser pondered this for a moment. "More questions than answers, then?" Both possibilities were terrifying, Gaskammer having enough power on his own to do this, or having a lot of Tinkertech that could, the latter slightly less fear-inducing than the former, but this kind of speculation wasn't helpful in either case.

"Then there's no more use in speculating," Kaiser aired his thoughts brusquely, and Krieg frowned. "For now, continue gathering all the information you can on him, I don't care if you have to get outside Thinkers to do so, confirm whether he really has that Trump power and see if one of them can find a way past it. Also, get Toybox to do an analysis of the data we have, maybe they can identify whether Gaskammer used Tinkertech or not."

"Anything else?"

"Yes," Kaiser nodded, it physically pained him to have to dig into Medhall's profits more than he had to, especially since he no longer had Gesellschaft as a safety net, but… "get Faultline's Crew on retainer for the next few months, don't worry about the money, Medhall will take care of it. Also, has this news made it to the general public over here?"

"No," Krieg shook his head, "but it's only a matter of time, PHO has already gotten to it and while people might not give a shit about what happens in Africa with or without Capes, Europe is a very different story."

"I see, I'll get Hookwolf to kick the junkies out of wherever they're hiding and Victor to hold a rally next week, we need to project strength so Lung doesn't get any ideas, in the meantime work on Faultline, defending ourselves is the top priority for now."

"Hey Boss, wh-" A guarded voice addressed to me asked in the smoke-filled car we were all cramped in. I mightily resisted the urge to sigh. Honestly, I deserved a fucking award of some kind for dealing with these kids.

"Told you not to call me Boss, Grue. You're still an independent, talk like that, and people might start thinking you've joined our little merry band of misfits." I cut him off before he could ask his question. Then manifested and idly did a few impressive-looking tricks with a featureless steel Zippo lighter.

Grue, nervously cleared his throat, "Sorry, Glitch, I just have one small question."

Newter, for his part, gulped exaggeratedly and rolled his eyes at me while Grue was speaking. It showed me that he wasn't the least bit intimidated by my display. Even with me being immune to his most dangerous ability. Understandable as he was the only person who actually knew that I hammed up the whole 'psychopath who'll gladly murder you in your sleep' shtick to up my intimidation factor. I liked Newter, he kept me from going full Shigaraki.

"Feel free to ask," I returned, taking a long drag out of my cigarette through a small hole I left open at the bottom of my mask for exactly that purpose.

"A-alright, then," his nervousness was palpable as he continued speaking, "why exactly are we doing this job, so close to… the building down the road?"
I nodded my head. Grue's question wasn't unusual for newbie villains to ask. However, in his case, I had to continually remind myself that he was a newbie. In a way, I learned the most about my job from him, after all.

"Because the Nazis won't expect us here," I began re-adjusting my mask and flattening the creases on the modified straitjacket I was wearing. "Kaiser wanted to prevent violence in his territory by setting up his base close to the PRT. Lung and the Merchants don't dare strike this far into E88 turf for fear that the heroes will be able to mobilize more quickly and capture them while Kaiser's Capes fall back in good order. Most of the time, the deterrent works, but at this time of day?" I asked rhetorically while shaking my head, "The Wards are in School, the Heroes are on their Rig, and the police are patrolling areas where they're actually needed. Essentially everyone you're worrying about is occupied."

[Agreement] Generator added in the back of my mind, very unhelpfully I might add. [Sarcastic Retort]

"No shit," Connor, the only Non-Cape in my Crew, and our driver interjected. "The client already explained as much, why are you repeating yourself for the noob, Glitch?"

I directed a glare at him. Though he couldn't see my eyes, the pitiless gaze of my chrome helmet, which was modeled after what Elfen Lied's Lucy wore while she was imprisoned induced far more fear than my ordinary glare ever could. Though I admit I did have to hold back some laughter at my gamer slang having rubbed off on a hardened criminal like him. "Mr. Blonde, you know as well as I do that his concerns are valid and he's right to be nervous. This is a more dangerous job than usual. Besides,' not like any of us were MLG when we got started."

Connor shrugged with a natural smile on his face and tilted his head in apology to both me and Grue. He was the kind of guy who had a pathological need to prove his dominance with stuff like pointless pissing contests and belittling rookies.

Still, even Connor knew what the end goal with Grue was. And luckily, he was professional enough not to fuck it up by making him feel unwelcome. Too unwelcome anyway; otherwise, I knew Brian would be smart enough to catch on.

Grue seemed to be grateful for me leaping to his defense. But also, even more, worried once the Cape, who according to all rumors had a flawless record in combat, had admitted that this particular undertaking could be dangerous. Which it was, Hookwolf's the only one who was a fighter before getting his powers.

"MLG?" He whispered to Newter as I pretended not to notice.

The Case-53 cracked one of his trademark grins, "Major League Gamer," he said with a glance at me, "and don't worry. Despite our boss' frankly worrying video game addiction, he won't start randomly jumping on enemies to prove a point like those two copycats who stream their fights." I felt kind of bad for stealing Über and Leet's gamer shtick. But hey, I was planning on offering them employment after they realized everyone else thought they were losers, so, eh, it evens out.

"Hey!" I interjected in mock offense, "I object to the addiction part, I can stop whenever I want."

"Sure, whatever you say, boss," Connor stated, his voice practically dripping with sarcasm.

"Hey boss, did you just quote Skidmark?" Newter questioned. Outwardly with complete seriousness but he couldn't hold his poker face as the others began laughing.

I laughed good-naturedly as well hell, even Grue loosened up and chuckled a bit.

The silence that ensued was unsurprisingly broken by Connor of all people, "In all seriousness, though, aren't you exaggerating about the difficulty a bit Glitch?" He asked, and all of our heads swiveled over towards the mirror so we could make a semblance of eye-contact with our driver. "I mean, I know it's Hookwolf, but come on, even Lung doesn't mess with you lightly."

"No one messes with him lightly," Newter grumbled under his breath, but purposefully loud enough to be heard by Grue.

"I'm not," I said, "at least not for us Capes because Lung follows the Unwritten Rules. Sure, he's willing to make you wish you were dead, but Hookwolf will actually kill you if given half the chance. The challenging part isn't in actually taking him down, but rather what could happen if we fuck up. Not to mention there's a real chance he won't be alone. Empire Mini-Bosses are always found in pairs, after all. Hookwolf being the occasional exception, but the keyword here is occasional."

That comment I could see made Grue very nervous, but the rest of us were as unfazed as if we were going grocery shopping. I didn't even bother to repress the flash of pride I felt at the scene. I had wanted my Crew to become a team specialized in subduing other Capes as a sort of preparation so we could eventually tackle the Big Bad himself. And for all intents and purposes that was what we had become best at.

In the beginning, it was just Newter and me. I used my powers to fight and tire them out so he could get close enough to touch them and send them on their way to give Lucy and her diamonds the finger. Eventually, we diversified and became direct competitors to Faultline's Crew, albeit we categorically refused to work for the Empire. And for this diversification, we hired a Non-Cape, who used to run with Marquis' gang and who was good at the aspects of jobs that didn't require combat. So good in fact that I wouldn't be surprised if Connor could give Über or Victor a run for their money when it came to lockpicking.

"Relax kid," Connor said, placing an arm around Grue's shoulder, which I could see nearly made him jump, "those two are in charge of actually fighting him, you're just there for crowd control." He emphasized the last part while idly pointing to one of the many teargas grenades Grue was in charge of using.

"Yeah, like I said, Hakuna Matata," Newter said with a wink, "despite the boss' demeanor, he's a big softie. Even if you're not technically a member of the shitty little Triumvirate we got going on here, he won't let you get shredded."

Grue's posture looked distinctly uncomfortable.

I sighed despondently and placed a hand on my mask. Mimicking a facepalm, "I really miss the good old days when you thought I'd kill you for accidentally deleting my save."

Newter chortled, "I almost thought you would, you were so pissed."

"What do you expect?" I answered morosely, "I was this close to finishing 'Demon's Souls' when an orange sewer-monster saved over my progress and couldn't even beat the first boss."

Newter between the gales of laughter spoke in his defense, "H-hey, don't look at me. You still hadn't explained what a video game even was at the time. Hell, for the first few days living at your place, I thought your N-64 controller was some kind of weird sex toy."

I guffawed along with everyone else, including Grue, cigarette long forgotten and consigned back to non-existence.

Brian hardened his grip around the grenade launcher and began box breathing as his dad had taught him. He thought it necessary as he realized his nervousness may very well get him severely injured. Or maybe, if Newter was exaggerating about his boss' inclination to save him even killed. For his particular role, he swapped the helmet for a gas mask that 'Mr. Blonde' had given him, making his skin slightly visible. Something which only served to exacerbate his nerves, he'd heard rumors of what the Empire did to black Capes after all.

As he allowed his mind to wander in preparation for the signal, he scoffed at the codename they give the redheaded Irishman. "Then again," he thought, "I suppose Mr. Orange was already taken by Newter."

"Alright, boys, time to play some Wolfenstein!"

Glitch's excited battle cry pierced the air. Immediately Newter pulled on the rope attached to heavy metal doors and Brian began hammering the trigger launching canister after canister of teargas into one of Hookwolf's many dogfighting rings and extended his darkness inside the building. Some customers, most of which clearly skinheads ran out in a hurry. The disorientation from the darkness and the teargas making them akin to sitting ducks for Glitch's rifle once they emerged.

Gone was the jovial boss who had an obsession with Video Games and would joke around with his subordinates. Replaced by the cold focused killer, he was feared as being as he took potshots at them.

Apparently aiming for their heads.

He shivered from a genuine fear that had nothing to do with Hookwolf.

Saying that Glitch 'shook up' the Cape scene when he'd first shown up would be a massive overstatement, but that didn't mean he wasn't dangerous. Unlike most, he didn't join the PRT or a Gang. Instead, he debuted by throwing Molotov cocktails at an E88 rally and stealing anything that caught his eye in the Art Gallery. Hell, he even forced the Mayor to strip at gunpoint and repurposed the fabric of the man's suit for his costume, which he convinced (probably threatened) Parian into making for him.

It was during that particular theft that he fought and defeated Armsmaster of all people with contemptuous ease. Putting him to sleep with a cannister of anesthetic gas and selling his Tinkertech by auctioning it off on PHO. And of course, drawing several dicks on his visor with a sharpie and posting the pictures as part of his Cape Verification on the same site.

What made him so terrifying to other Capes was not his evident skill at combat. Not entirely anyway, but also the fact that no one knew quite what his power or more likely powers were. Everyone knew he could teleport and that he could pull out items from nowhere. So, the working hypothesis was that he had a weird amalgam of Oni Lee and Circus' powers.

Still, no one but him definitively knew his limits, and that scared Brian more than he'd like to admit. Because as he'd learned from experience bad information in this line of work would result in injury. Especially when fighting someone, you can't outrun like Glitch.

But the thing that truly cemented his reputation as an unhinged madman to the other members of the Cape community was his willingness to ignore the Unwritten Rules.

Well, ignore was a strong word, he followed them to the letter; in fact, but he completely disregarded their spirit. "You aren't allowed to kill Capes or use guns on them?" Alright, I'll only use guns and kill their non-powered subordinates. What, you can't reveal someone's identity? Fine, I'll just purposefully damage their masks in combat, so they run away. "You can't rape a female Cape while she's down?" Fine, that makes sense. I'll just grope them while fighting to make them angrier.

Still, Brian or rather Grue agreed to work with the man's Crew. Because if they succeeded in this, they would not only get Hookwolf's bounty of 250k split four ways. But also, half that again from whoever was employing them to shut down Hookwolf's dogfighting rings.

It's for Aisha, I'll join the PRT when she's with me, he reminded himself. He forgot to do that far too often these days for his liking.

His train of thought was suddenly derailed by a howl. A howl followed by shrieking metal, which barreled through the entrance of the warehouse. Grue barely realized what he was looking at when he saw it, or rather him.

Hookwolf, without using his powers, didn't look like much. In fact, he looked like a redneck who rubbed grease over his inordinately large amount of chest hair and used a rusty piece of metal as a mask. While using his powers, though?

He looked like every third grader's attempt at drawing a stereotypical cartoon villain; a wolf literally made out of swords. It would've even been funny. That is if said wolf made out of swords wasn't charging at me as fast as a moving car.

He barely had time to react as Newter grabbed him by the arm and jumped high enough to earn the man a Mover-3 rating, almost dislocating Grue's shoulder in the process. The next thing he knew, he was lying face-up on a gravel roof. At the same time, Newter was overlooking the fight, which was ostensibly raging below.'Ostensibly' because Hookwolf was screaming in a rage with enough profanity to make a sailor blush.

"You alright?" Newter asked with an apologetic grin, though not taking his eyes of Hookwolf for a second.

"Yeah," Brian muttered and double-checked that his shoulder wasn't, in fact, dislocated and inched closer so he could get a look at the psychotic Capes fighting. Only to be disappointed when the only thing he saw was the Nazi Cape using one of his arms to thrash around. Probably hoping to hit Glitch, who was quietly standing in a corner. Was he, was he on his phone?! While using the other hand or paw to furiously wipe at his face, producing a sound like nails on a chalkboard.

"What, what's he doing?" Grue asked unashamedly entranced by the display.

Newter raised one of his dark blue eyebrows, "Trying to get the acid off."

"Wait, Glitch threw acid at his face?!"

"Yup!" Newter exclaimed happily, "Severely hampers the whole visual aspect of fighting if you get my meaning."

"I thought you couldn't maim anyone under the Unwritten Rules…" he hedged cautiously. For all that Glitch was a homicidal maniac, he could see Newter often kept his boss in check and was smart enough to listen to reason.

"You can't," he replied, "at least not usually, but Hookwolf's escaped from his Birdcage transports twice now. Meaning if he's maimed, the Protectorate won't care too much, and the Empire has Othala if things get too bad."

The fight continued once Hookwolf got it together, and Glitch, in a manner more befitting of Oni Lee. Started teleporting around the Nazi while throwing more and more grenades at him.

Of course.

Grue could almost imagine the man's logic word for word. Guns are banned, but no one ever said anything about Grenades, not like Oni Lee gets shit for it, does he?

"You did good, Grue," Newter said, and Brian didn't even bother to respond. "I got to admit when Glitch explained exactly how useful your power would be, I was skeptical, but holy shit."

"Thanks," Brian muttered. He was unsure of what to say as he realized all of those corpses pooled at the entrance of the warehouse were his fault. Sure, Glitch shot them, but he was the one who made them run out, he was the one-

A meaty three-fingered hand was placed on his shoulder. Newter was utterly ignoring the fight and looking at him with concern etched on his features, "It's not your fault." He said seriously.
That was the last thing he needed to hear as he turned on his heel and looked for the fire escape.

"Dorothy Chisholm," Newter said, his voice lacking the mirth Brian had come to associate with him and even the appropriate seriousness of his boss. It sounded sad, broken even.

"What?" Brian asked, but he stopped.

"Dorothy Chisholm," Newter repeated, "She's the reason I joined up with Glitch."

Despite himself, Brian was interested, "and," he thought with a sigh, "he's just trying to help."

"Who is she?" Grue asked, and Newter ran a hand through his dyed hair.

"She was a Cape groupie, so no one you would know," he began, "do you know the basics of what Case-53s go through? Cause otherwise, this is going to be one hell of a confusing story."

Grue nodded crisply, he did know. He had researched it extensively before agreeing to work with Glitch's Crew.

"Well, basically, I never got the chance to have my situation explained to me by the government, so I thought I was a monster. I stole food, I lived in the sewers and more often than not scared the living hell out of people that got close." He chuckled fondly, but an undertone of sadness was still there.

"Not her though, she was this teenage black girl. Walked up to me all nervous as I was eating some chicken wings, I'd fished out of a dumpster and asked me for my autograph." Newter laughed, "Can you believe it, there I was. A freak of nature who didn't know what or who he was. And someone wanted my autograph. I didn't even have a signature yet! So, I made one up and asked her why she wanted it, and then she explained the common knowledge about Case-53s. She kept coming around my sewer every so often. She was my first friend, and how I learned, I wasn't a monster." The last part was spoken quietly, almost hesitantly.

He didn't know where it was going, but he could guess. "What happened to her?"

Newter scoffed, "Some prospective E88 members kicked her ass to prove themselves to Victor, I don't know if they were trying to kill her, but she didn't make it in the hospital. Glitch told me later that Panacea was home at the time."

"I'm sorry," what else could he say?

Newter laughed, but it was hollow, "Don't be, it's not your fault. Anyway, that's not the end of the story, after I found out I got angry. Real angry. I didn't know exactly what my powers did, but I wanted to kill some Skinheads."

Brian felt himself nod in sympathy, entranced at the view of what was one of if not the most unique private lives that a Cape in Brockton Bay had.

"So, I hear they're having a rally, and I go over, not sure about what I was going to do. That is until I see this guy dressed in a T-Shirt and probably the cheapest mask you could possibly buy, throwing Molotov cocktails at panicked Nazis. I'm all bummed out but grudgingly impressed, so I climb the building 'cause I want to get a closer look at the guy. To thank him, I suppose, and before I can get a word in edgewise, do you know what he says to me?"

Brain shook his head.

"Hey, you look too jaundiced to be a Nazi, want to join my guild?" Brian laughed, that sounded exactly like something he'd say.

"And you said yes to that?" He asked incredulously.

Newter snorted, "No, of course not I just left on the spot. But later, he kept visiting me in my sewer, challenging me to silly games like Rock-Paper-Scissors and claiming that when I'd lose, I'd have to join him. Long story short, he never won, and eventually, I realized that he was letting me win."

"Why?" That sounded nothing like Glitch. Über and Leet may have streamed their fights. But Glitch occasionally streamed himself playing Earth Aleph games, and Brian had rarely seen a more competitive person before.

"I asked him that myself," Newter said with an understanding look, "And he said, 'you looked sad, so I wanted to cheer you up, and nothing cheers me up like winning at a game.'"

"That's…" he wanted to say that that was nothing like Glitch, but he didn't know him nearly as well as Newter, so clearly it is.

"That's when I joined him, he let me crash at his place, taught me martial arts and how to properly use my power. Now we fight for people who pay us to fight and steal things people pay us to steal. Though," he paused thoughtfully, "I guess if no one pays us, we steal anyway, but hey, details!"

Brian couldn't help himself; he laughed, a full guffaw coming from deep in his stomach. This is so surreal, he thought, when's the last time I laughed like that?

"So," the normal upbeat Newter interjected, but there was still a hint of concern in his voice, "don't torture yourself over people like that, trust me, they wouldn't do the same for you. But more importantly, don't feel sorry for them, you're disrespecting all the people they've wronged whom they've never felt sorry for."
Brian nodded gratefully if still, a tad put out.

"Now, do you or do you not want to watch Hookwolf get his ass kicked?"

"Yes," Grue said with a smile, and though Newter couldn't see it, his smile widened in return, "I'd like that very much."

Both of them simultaneously neared the edge of the building, where they saw that Hookwolf crashing into the spot where his opponent presumably used to be. Glitch silently reappeared behind him with a-

"Newter?" Brian asked, staring at Glitch, holding the long sparkling steel spear hooked up to what looked like a car battery.

"Yes, Grue?" Newter responded as both Capes stared at the scene with looks of horrified fascination. The kind you would see on people gazing at but not bothering to stop an impending accident.

"Is your Boss going to shove a plasma torch up Hookwolf's ass?" Newter didn't have to respond. The incoherent howl of rage, pain, and if only because it would be funny if it was true pleasure. It managed to answer his question well enough.

Newter quickly swept Brian up bridal style and leaped off the roof to land near Hookwolf, who'd passed out, probably from the pain. The blades that made up his body were receding, and Newter flicked his tongue out at the man's exposed skin. Hookwolf's muscles twitched in agitation before relaxing completely.

"Nice work, boss," Newter said.

"You… too," Glitch responded, panting and probably slick with sweat, "I take it I wasn't invited for the nuptials?"

Brian blushed, not that they could see it, as Newter laughed and unceremoniously let him fall to the ground in a heap. Suddenly he could see Glitch stiffen and Newter following in due course.

"Armsmaster and Miss Militia are about to show up in three minutes give or take probably along with some PRT troopers, call Mr. Blonde, and tell him to meet us at the Loft." He said seriously, his tone not brokering delay or much less, disagreement.

Newter nodded and did as he was told, though neither of them seemed to be in a rush. Despite his instincts screaming at him to flee the scene as fast as possible, he now trusted Newter and knew he should defer to the pair of more experienced villains. And besides, he didn't want to leave Hookwolf's carcass behind and let all this work be for nothing.

"Shouldn't we be heading out?" He asked, instead.

"Yeah, just give me a second," Glitch answered, getting his breath under control before laying a hand on Hookwolf's body. With the sound of a sucking vacuum, it promptly disappeared.
Brian jumped.

"Relax, Grue," Newter said after finishing his phone call. "He has a Pocket Room like Circus where time is frozen, people can enter it if they want to or are knocked out, or dead too, I suppose."

"Yeah, now come on," Glitch said urgently, extending a hand, "we should skedaddle. I really don't feel up to fighting Halbeard and Miss Milf right now."

Grue gulped audibly.

He could practically feel Glitch rolling his eyes in the same way he could see Newter rolling his before he vanished. Presumably into the Pocket Room.
I'm fucked anyway if they catch me, he thought. He summoned up his courage, grasped his employers' hand and-

And the next thing he knew, he was sitting on a perfectly comfortable white couch inside of what of a sparsely decorated living room. Newter was quietly nursing a beer, Corona, Brian noted, with an animated smile on his face recounting the fight to Mr. Blonde while Glitch occasionally threw his two cents in. He looked around for a bit but tried not to make it obvious that he'd woken up. Most of the walls were red brick and a few of the windows of the building were boarded up. Distantly Grue could smell the ocean, abandoned Warehouse near the docks then.

He could also notice quite a few pieces of furniture, most of which looked extremely worn, but well taken care of. They probably took them from the street and fixed them up, he thought. It was almost funny that they did something kind of admirable like that because Glitch almost definitely stole the many large Arcade machines that littered the room.

Hanging on the wall directly opposite him was a poster with a dark outline of a woman wearing a suit and fedora, the words "My Goddess Looks Like Carmen Sandiego," were written bellow with a permanent marker. He took a closer look at the brick walls and actually laughed at the dissonance when he realized that most of the fine art that formerly hung in the Museum was now proudly on display in a place where it had no business being in.

Only with the laughter did Glitch notice he was awake, "Sorry, Grue, the first time in my Inventory kind of messes with people, you were out of it for about ten minutes." He said sort of sheepishly while tossing him an Eidolon backpack clearly meant for kids that had the words 'You too are a Hero!' boldly printed under the face of the Founder. And isn't that just the textbook definition for irony?

"We'll take Hookwolf to the Police Station to collect his bounty tomorrow, but for now that's your cut from our client, should be 31250 bucks, you can count it out if you want-"

"No," Grue cut him off, "no, it's fine. I trust you, boss." Strange as that is to say.

"Listen, Grue, I already told you, don't-" Glitch began but was cut off when Newter punched him in the shoulder. Glitch seemed utterly blindsided by the action for a moment. "Oh," but only for a moment as he spoke in dawning realization, "Oh, you want to join us?"

"I wouldn't be averse to it, but I have some questions." Frankly, this independent stuff was getting kind of old, mostly doing odd jobs for other supervillains.

He didn't like to think about it, but he had no real plan if he got severely injured or if his identity was outed. And his usual clientele wasn't the most trustworthy. Glitch and Newter, at least from what he'd seen so far, wouldn't leave him out to dry.

The pair had been operating for a little over two years now, meaning they had more experience than he did. And they were obviously tough enough to contend with the toughest Capes the Bay had to offer.

"Bold of you to assume we want you here." Glitch's sharp voice was like a bucket of ice-cold water. Suddenly he was reminded of the fact that he was a newbie villain with a power that wasn't that useful for combat in a team while trying to join what was mostly a Cape PMC.

In short, he felt like he'd just applied for a management position with a very shitty CV and was being interviewed by a hard-ass CEO. If that CEO could kill you in the blink of an eye anyway.

"I-I," he stuttered out but was interrupted by Newter who'd come back from another room, probably the Kitchen, with more beers.

"Oh, come off it, Glitch. With the way you were going on about his power's potential uses the other day... Well, I almost thought you wanted to suck his dick instead of hiring him," he said, rolling his eyes. Mr. Blonde half chuckled, and half nodded in agreement.

Glitch looked, for lack of a better word, shell-shocked at the proceedings before a massive sigh escaped him, "Yes, thank you for that, and here I wanted to negotiate properly."

The Case-53 shrugged unrepentantly.

Glitch turned to him and flippantly said: "No, we don't have a dental plan or a 401k,"
Brian was taken aback by the man's sudden change in demeanor, Mr. Blonde seemed to have picked up on it as he silently mouthed 'you get used to it.'

"Not what I was planning on asking, but good to know," Grue said drily, "my question actually concerned my yearly salary."

"That…" Glitch began and reached a hand to rub his chin in thought, momentarily forgetting he was wearing a mask, "varies considerably. Keep in mind we work by commission, and the number of jobs we do get tends to vary. To be fair, though, we are on retainer for one of the minor Villains in the Bay. So, we do have a steady income of about 10 grand a month total, so at least 2.500 grand a month, and that's without any extra jobs."

"Which villain if I may ask?" Grue was positive it wasn't Kaiser, but he hadn't heard of Glitch ever fighting the Merchants, and he didn't want to be contractually attached to those scumbags.

"Coil." Glitch answered simply

Grue had to wrack his brain for information on the villain, coming up with nothing at all. Glitch must've noticed as he elaborated.

"First of all, he's a paranoid bastard, so don't go spreading this shit around. But he's a minor player by the docks, fancies himself a sort of chess master. No one knows whether or not he has powers, but he definitely has the most well-trained and equipped NPCs. Most members of his gang are ex-military, and they carry Tinkertech rifles. Some friendly advice if you ever go up against him. Be extremely careful, ever since he showed up, he hasn't suffered one major setback, and that's saying something in Brockton."

Grue processed the information, "Can he be trusted to pay on time?"

Glitch, Newter, and 'Mr. Blonde' all shared a brief glance, "He wires the money to our accounts individually, and at least in my case, he's never missed a day." Newter stated.
Both the other members nodded their assent, the old man, seemingly without a stake in the conversation seemed to be staring into space.

"What does that entail exactly, having us on retainer?"

"It means," Mr. Blonde began, "that we're strongly encouraged to accept any job he gives us. And if he gives us a job while we have another contract, we should drop the other one if he pays the same or more."

"Also, we can't harm him or his, but considering how most people don't even know about him, it's not a problem," Newter added, and Glitch nodded at the explanation.

"Alright," he took a deep audible breath. Decisions like these can make or break Cape careers, "There's one more thing I need to know, but it'll only make sense if I explain something from my personal life."

"Juicy," Glitch said, steepling his fingers together and leaning forwards, "don't worry, we can keep a secret." The gesture filled Brian with the opposite of confidence, but he knew his prospective boss was doing it on purpose. Probably.

"I'm sort of about to be locked in a custody battle, and I need to prove to the court that I have a steady income if I'm going to win, so I need some kind of legal income."

Newter wolf-whistled, "Wow, I didn't think you'd be the kind of guy to knock someone up at your age."

Grue shook his head, slightly embarrassed, "It's my sister, actually, our family situation… isn't the best…"

Glitch put up a hand. "You don't have to explain even if you join, private stuff can stay private as far as I'm concerned so long as it doesn't affect your performance in the field. Still, as far as your salary goes…" He trailed off, before sharply turning towards the older man, "Hey Connor, do you think your uncle can 'employ' him as a cook?"

"What do I look like?" The now named 'Connor' asked rhetorically, "Your money-launderer?"

"Well, all things considered…" Newter muttered.

"Yup," Glitch said, nodding his head, "That's exactly what you look like, and don't let a lawyer tell you otherwise."

"I get no goddamn respect around here. Alright, kid congrats, you're a chef now." The Irishman said sarcastically but boasted a small grin on his features.

"Does that mean...?"

"Yeah, I'd say it does," Newter said, saluting with his mug of beer.

"Welcome, I'm glad you decided to join us," Glitch said simply, and Grue saw one part of his mask click open with a sharp hiss. "I suppose we should introduce ourselves properly…" Glitch continued cheerfully while removing his creepy mask. His new boss had a genuine though small smile plastered on his pale face, it was all Brian could do to hide the flinch at seeing the rest of his features.

Glitch without his mask was somehow even creepier with it on.

He was a disheveled-looking older teen who sported large dark bags under his blue eyes. Eyes that glinted with a sort of craziness you'd only see among the more unhinged Capes in the bay and when he spoke, it attracted attention to his lips. Lips that were scuffed and chipped from what was probably excessive picking or chewing. What surprised Brian the most, however, was his skin or rather its color. He half expected Glitch to be black, but truth be told his features were so characteristically Aryan to the point where his mind subconsciously associated them with Empire thugs he'd rather avoid on the street. He probably dyed his hair too, Brian thought with a small frown, his boss' dark hair somehow didn't mesh with everything else and he'd bet every dollar he'd earned today that his boss had some history with the Empire, maybe they tried to forcibly recruit him because he looked like one of them?

"Oh, can I do the thing?" Newter asked in the same giddy fashion one would expect a child to ask whether or not he could open his Christmas presents seemingly completely oblivious to Brian's reaction and thoughts.

"I don't see why not." Glitch answered with a sigh, "Just refrain from trolling Grue too much, he might yet decide to leave once he realizes how much it actually sucks here." That was probably a joke.

Newter rolled his eyes at what he probably saw as an unnecessary remark and then proceeded to loudly clap his hands to get everyone's, but more specifically Grue's attention. "Alright, so the boss showed me this tradition for team members to introduce themselves to each other when they first meet. You start by unmasking and saying your full name, then list some of your likes, dislikes, hobbies, your goals for the future and lastly explain your powers to the best of your ability, get it?"

Grue nodded, he was honestly kind of impressed. It seemed like a pretty efficient system to quickly get all the information across that one would need to know in order to trust your team members. Instead of waiting for it to be shared by a gradual if more organic process during the weeks it would presumably take, by which time it might be too late if problems arise. Newter said it was a tradition, was Glitch a member of another group before? Was he an E88 member, and if so, what the hell happened?

"I'll go first to demonstrate," Newter said with an all-too-grandiose flourish and Brian felt himself smile. The Case-53's enthusiasm could be truly infectious. "I'm a Case-53 so the name's just Newter, I like pranking people, sleeping with freaky girls who want to see what a Case-53's like in the sack." Brian blushed, and Glitch snorted at that particular remark. Newter continued speaking regardless. "My hobbies include beating Glitch at any and all video games…"

The statement was naturally followed by Glitch's indignant grumble about unfair superhuman reflexes and Newter giving him the finger in turn, "I dislike Nazis and people who judge by appearance. My goal for the future is to find out where Case-53s come from and as for my powers…" Newter trailed off, "well, you probably already know the basics, all of my body fluids are like LSD on steroids, yes even the one you're thinking of," he added with a wink and Brian despite himself imagined what sex with Newter must be like if that was the case, "also, I have a few minor Brute and Mover capabilities, basically like a monkey with really good reflexes as our supreme leader oh so kindly points out almost every day."

"Go fuck yourself Newter," Glitch intoned monotonously, but there was no heat behind his gaze and the small smile never left his face.

Newter shrugged and said, "Well boss, is that an order? Because I'm sure I could figure something out with my anatomy…"

Connor burst out laughing, only to be joined by himself a few moments later, Glitch staying stonily silent throughout it all, but he looked vaguely amused.

"Ok, ok," Glitch began as his fit of laughter died down and pointed at the Irishman, "Your turn, otherwise we're going to be here all night."

Mr. Blonde, no, Connor shook Brian's hand in a firm grip with a terse expression, uncomfortably reminding him of his father, but he pushed those thoughts aside. "The name's Connor Sullivan. I enjoy Earth Aleph documentaries and my hobbies include brewing beer and doing Magic Tricks. I'm not a Parahuman and my dream… I guess I'd like to see my old boss one more time, that's Marquis by the way," he added casually but was clearly bragging.

"You used to work for Marquis?" How high up the totem pole were you? Went unsaid.

"Yeah, I was just a dealer though, but Marquis," he said nostalgically, "Marquis was something else. I only joined up with these two losers when they saved my Uncle the trouble of getting mugged and I haven't felt fulfilled ever since."

"Yeah, yeah," Glitch muttered, "sorry I can't give you a boner like Marquis."

Newter and Connor both groaned and it took a moment for the frankly terrible pun to register for Brian, but when it did, he joined his compatriots in their lamentations.

"Wow, really not even a chuckle?" Glitch asked rhetorically and the groans of frustration only increased. "Huh, tough crowd." Glitch muttered clicking his tongue.

"You're putting your introduction off Boss," Newter grumbled good-naturedly, but even through his sky-blue inhuman eyes, there was something in his gaze that Brian couldn't quite identify.

"Alright, alright," Glitch said rolling his hand in a dismissive gesture. "Good to meet you, Grue," he started with an exaggerated bow, "My name's Johan Liebert and please for the love of all that is good and holy don't call me Joe."

Brian snorted and feeling extremely brave at that moment teasingly replied, "Sure, Joe."

Glitch groaned as if in physical pain and both Newter and Connor chortled at their boss' misfortune.

"At any rate," he continued, "I like Cooking, Anime and Earth Aleph media in general. My hobbies include playing Video Games-"

"An excessive amount of Video Games," Newter interjected quietly but was ignored.

"and practicing Martial Arts." So, we at least have some common interests, Brian thought. "I dislike Nazis as well and as for my future goals…" He trailed off before gaining a determined glint in his eyes, "I want to get World First on the final boss of Outside."

Connor coughed, "Mind translating for us non-virgins, boss?" Gl-, Johan glared. Without the mask it was Johan, Brian would have to get used to that.

Despite the question, Johan proceeded as if Connor hadn't said anything. Still, knowing his new boss it probably wasn't important. He was almost definitely talking about some really difficult video game he wanted to get an achievement in or something like that. Though maybe I should start learning some gamer-lingo so Newter doesn't have to constantly translate…

"My powers are very simple," he said smugly breaking Brian out of his momentary reverie and summoning a large golden coin while rolling it around his knuckles all the while. "They allow me to create anything I want in limited amounts."

"Bullshit." The word escaped him before he could stop himself, but to his surprise, none of the people at the table were angry that he was accusing Johan of lying if anything they all looked smug.

"Oh, how so?" Glitch asked with a knowing smile, further highlighting the state of his lips.

"Well, you can teleport, and you have some kind of Pocket Dimension. So, you just store shit and pretend you can create them, don't you?" Brian asked a tad more hesitantly especially as Newter chuckled, clearly at his expense.

"You got it backwards," Johan explained seriously, "I pretend I can teleport and have a Pocket Dimension I can store stuff in and pull stuff out of, but I'm just a very powerful Shaker. Shaker 12 if I had to give myself a rating."

"That doesn't explain, how you can teleport or made me disappear," Brian said more forcefully than he'd intended.

"It does if you pay attention," Johan said in a sing-song manner, "I said I could create anything in limited amounts, that includes a Pocket Dimension, it was your mistake to assume I was limited to material things."

What the fuck? "Ok, even if that were true, how on Earth can you teleport?"

Johan's smile widened, "I create more time."

"What?" Brian asked quietly, completely focused and dumbfounded at the same time.

Glitch nodded, picking up his glass and letting it fall to the ground. Suddenly the area around him turned gray, stopping just short of his side of the table. The glass stopped in mid-air, but Glitch could still move as demonstrated by his waving his hands around in a 'spooky' manner. Grue would've been uncomfortably reminded of Gray Boy had he not been entranced by the casual demonstration of a power the Ancient Greek gods would've killed for.

Johan continued speaking even after the effect faded and he effortlessly caught the glass, "I can freeze or slow time in a pretty large area, though the more I slow it down, the area I can do it in gets smaller. So, like I said anything I want in a limited amount."

"So, that's why you're tired after teleporting. You actually have to run!" Brian said in realization. Glitch's teleportation was a subject of hot debate on PHO boards dedicated to him and presumably among Parahuman Experts too, as no other known Mover power made the user tired.

Johan nodded approvingly, "Yup, my Cooldown for that is also pretty shit if I completely pull a full-on Za Warudo, so I mostly slow it down just enough so that it seems like I'm teleporting."

"So, wait." Brian understood exactly none of that sentence but decided to press on with his more important questions, "Does that mean you can basically use every Shaker power ever on top of freezing time?!"

Glitch nodded with a large, some would even call it a deranged smile on his face. "Now you're getting it." He said and punctuated it by enveloping the room in the same darkness that Brian used, he quickly made it disappear and elaborated. "There are some limits, however, I can create anything, not manipulate it after its inception beyond making disappear again and I'm always the epicenter of what I create. So, I can't say, for example, make a giant piano fall on top of someone like in a Looney Toons Cartoon unless I'm above them."

Grue nodded, so Glitch wasn't just a flat-out god then, "But then if you can create darkness like me, why did you hire me in the first place?"

"He can create it," Newter said, "but he can't see through it like you can and that's a problem, since he's inside it once he creates a lot of it."

"Oh," Brian muttered pondering the implications of what was probably the strongest and frankly strangest power he'd ever encountered.

"There are a few more limits," Glitch added, "I can't create other powers or things that don't exist, so, for example, I can recreate Tinkertech like this." he said casually, and Brian used that term very loosely here, summoning what he immediately recognized as Armsmaster's Halberd, ok what the fuck had he gotten himself into?

"But I can't just magic up some potential Tinkertech that no one has built yet. The same goes for very vague things, like 'Health' I can't just will my power to create 'Healing' or 'Health' and fix up my injuries that way."

As he processed the implications of Johan's power, he could only come to one conclusion, "That's Bullshit."

Johan raised a somewhat bewildered yet unimpressed eyebrow. Brian's cheeks darkened. "I mean, not in the sense that I don't believe you. It's just that-"

Glitch cut him off with a chuckle, "Yeah, I get what you mean. My ability is really OP, but hey them's the brakes. The first rule of Parahumans, powers are bullshit."

Connor nodded emphatically at this and Newter shrugged in tacit agreement.

Brian nodded and bit back a million questions he wanted to ask about Johan's power. But there was one thought that had absolutely nothing to do with it. There's no going back now, but honestly, he didn't even want to, because now he knew his Boss was possibly the strongest Shaker on the planet. A Shaker who could tango with the strongest Capes in the Bay and sandbag against them like there was no tomorrow. He removed the gas mask to reveal his face.

"My name's Brian Laborn," he began, "I like…" what do I like? "Martial Arts and my Sister. I dislike irresponsible parents and druggies, I guess. I practice boxing and work out at my gym and sample coffee around town. And I guess you already know both my goal and my power."

To his immense surprise, everyone clapped at his introduction.