She pressed against the tight confines of her metal prison, feeling as if all the hope in the world had drained away.
"Please. Someone. Help me," she pleaded, despite knowing that nobody would. After all, the three had developed a reputation for cruelty and the staff ignored everything involving Sophia Hess for some reason.
"Ah," said a voice. "I can do that."
"Eh?" asked Taylor Hebert as abruptly the back of the locker was open. She craned her neck, then wiggled around to face in that direction. Pure white as far as she could see. Slowly she stretched out one of her cramping legs and felt around. Despite her vision saying there was nothing there, she felt a solid surface. Slowly, the rest of her body untangled from the locker to stand there in the whatever-it-was.
White. Pure unrelieved white in all directions save the three-quarters of her locker that was still there.
"Uhm, hello?" asked Taylor, not sure if this was some Parahuman or if she had snapped under the constant pressure.
Abruptly there was a black cat sitting in the whiteness and regarding her. "Hello," said the cat. "Interesting fragment of reality you're in."
"Are you... god?" asked Taylor.
"Depends on your definition," said the cat. "I've been called that before. Also a reality-warping pan-dimensional busybody. That seems to be the most current way for your kind to label me. I am simply me - the labels are entirely subjective."
"I see," said Taylor, who didn't really understand much about the current situation or even if this was real. "Where am I?"
"Currently," said the cat, "you are in an extradimensional space within your school locker at Winslow High School in the city of Brockton Bay, in Massachusetts of the United States of what you refer to as Earth Bet. I had a Bet once you know. It got out of hand."
"Okayyy," said Taylor, letting the word trail off.
"In any case, there's the matter of help requested and help offered," said the cat. "That leaves the nature of your empowerment to consider."
"Can't you just let me out of my locker?" asked Taylor.
"Where's the fun in that?" asked the cat. "You already have those parasitic reality-eaters giving out those 'superpower' things, so there's an obvious theme to consider. Just what to do among so many choices."
"How much is this going to cost me?" asked Taylor.
"Oh, I'm just doing this for my own amusement," said the cat. "Pan-dimensional reality-warping mischief ball and all that. Hmmm. Setting is way too dark and depressing. So something big and flashy and not constrained by the usual shard-based system. Reminds me of that Correia guy's magical noir in some aspects. Interesting."
"I don't understand half of that, but it sounds like you're talking about a Trigger Event. Can you clean me up anyway?"
The cat made a gesture and abruptly the caked filth disappeared from Taylor's clothing. So did Taylor's clothing. Which was abruptly replaced with something that had a LOT of ribbons and glittery bits.
"WHAT in the name of glitter-rainbow hell am I wearing?" asked Taylor, a bit aghast at her current ensemble.
"Magical girl outfit. Superhero costume. I understand this sort of thing is normal for the genre.
"It's not very... me," tried explaining Taylor.
"So, no Sailor Moon costume?" asked the cat, cocking its head.
"No. And why are you a cat?" asked Taylor.
"Because it's one of those forms that doesn't involve your kind screaming about 'too many angles' or 'too many tentacles' or some other minor detail. Honestly, you humaniforms can be SO terribly picky." The cat snapped its tail with a whip-crack sound. "How's this?"
Taylor examined the hammer in one hand, then her reflection that had appeared at the same time as her 'Sailor Moon' outfit. "It's... very Viking. Viking-esque? Metal and leather and big red cape?"
"The power of Thrud, inheritor of her father's power and hammer. Belt and gloves are available."
"Thrud?" asked Taylor, weighing the maul in one hand. "Sounds like the sound effect of hitting someone with this thing."
"No, Mjolnir would make a rather different sound depending on what you hit with it." The cat seemed to consult something Taylor couldn't see to the creature's left. "If I have this right - Brute 10, Blaster 10, Shaker 5, Mover 5. As the daughter of Thor, or at least her earthly incarnation, you could fight toe-to-toe against your Behemoth."
"Whoa," whoaed Taylor, a brief image of her twirling the hammer and getting into a lightning-throwing competition with Behemoth dancing through her imagination. "Thor as in Norse mythos?" At a nod from the cat, she also went with a certain trio being swept away in a sudden flash flood in an equally sudden thunderstorm. There was definitely some appeal there.
"Whereas the sort-of Sailor Moon is more a Striker 6, Thinker 5. A Healer with some magical attacks."
"Huh," said Taylor. Maybe she was just dreaming?
"You are not dreaming," stated the cat. "How about this then?"
"Red skirt, lightning bolt symbol, white cape?" asked Taylor.
"Going the 'Mary Marvel' route allows you to stay normal, just transforming to an empowered state when you choose to. Solomon's wisdom, in this case superior senses and intuition. Hercules' strength, which is pretty high on your Brute scale. Atlas provides endurance or stamina. Zeus provides power - including the occasional throwing of lightning bolts. Achilles - sheer willpower. Mercury - superspeed or a high Mover rating."
"Not really sure about the skirt on a flyer," pointed out Taylor.
"How about this then?"
"A witch costume? Does the broom fly?" On seeing a nod, Taylor went over the rest of the outfit, brandishing the wand. "How's this work?"
"You get a trip to Hogwarts out of it, then back here with a one-second to one-year time differential."
Taylor was tempted but ultimately decided to pass on that.
"A tiger-striped dog?" asked Taylor.
"Basically you'd have Pokemon Go powers where you could see, capture, heal, and summon various nature spirits in the form of animals. By befriending them and then summoning them, you'd have access to a number of abilities that you could then switch out at need. This one's called a 'Growlithe' by the way."
"Well, you ARE cute," said Taylor, kneeling down and then putting her hand out. The creature sniffed at her hand briefly then tentatively allowed a scritch. "This one's a maybe."
The cat considered Taylor for a moment, then stretched and began licking a paw."Hmmm. Tough. Let's see. Maybe something like this then?"
A triceratops looked around and let out a slightly alarmed noise.
"I saw that Aleph movie 'Jurassic Park' - let's not go that route."
The triceratops disappeared. A priest appeared.
"What?" asked the priest.
"A pawn I've used in the past, he could be the little voice in the back of your head - giving you advice and access to abilities he's obtained over several lifetimes in alternate universes."
"Hey now," protested the priest.
"An old guy in my head sounds like a problem," stated Taylor. Then she watched in a certain horror as a large safe fell out of the whiteness overhead and crushed the priest.
The safe and the remains of the priest vanished, and the cat went back to a thinking pose.
"How about this then?"
"A jade ring and a lantern?" asked Taylor.
"A highly advanced device that allows you to form force field constructs shaped and reinforced by your will. It recharges every planetary rotation. Mover 8, Shaker 8, Blaster 8. I think. Some parts of your system don't make a lot of sense to me."
"I'd think that would get taken away pretty quickly," said Taylor. A certain trio getting into her locker despite changing locks immediately came to mind.
"How about big green rage monster?"
"That reminds me. Why am I so calm about all this?"
"Oh, that was me. We couldn't have a rational choice if you were being irrational. Humans can be very irrational and often at the worst times."
"Oh," said Taylor. "That makes sense."
"Well, if not that, how about this? Basic Kryptonian package. Start you out with Brute abilities at a rating of 2 or 3 and gradually increasing in power as you spend time in sunlight. Flight eventually, along with the super-senses and such."
"Why so many Brutes?" asked Taylor.
"Tradition. It's actually fairly common, called FISS in worlds with the hero thing going on. Flight, Invulnerability, Super Strength. Maybe something more ranged? How about this one?"
"A bird made of fire?" asked Taylor.
"The Phoenix Force. Telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, among other things. The Incarnation of the cycles of death and rebirth, though with some control issues. More so than the big green guy."
"How bad?" asked Taylor.
"Destroy solar systems and all life in them, so... moderate," answered the cat.
Taylor went silent for a moment. "That's 'moderate'?"
"Everything is relative."
"O...kay, let's skip that," said Taylor.
"What about ninja powers? Those seem fairly popular," suggested the cat.
"Don't most ninja stories end in tragedy?" asked Taylor.
"You're very picky," pointed out the cat.
"I have to live with the consequences, and you're the one who did some magic calming thing," pointed out Taylor.
"Fair enough," agreed the cat. Cocking its head briefly, the cat tried to consider. "Hmmm. Has to be broken, because the setting is broken. Let's see. Maybe... this?