* November 5, 2008 *

"I need friends," muttered Taylor Hebert, swinging on the swing. "I want my Mom, but..."

An image of a glowing crystal forest appeared before her that she somehow knew was some time in the past.

Queen Administrator:[Data..]

Gaia:[Interrupt: Data!]

QA:[Data?]

G:[Data!]

QA:[Epiphany]

G:[DATA!]

QA:[Query?]

G:[Network]

QA:[Data?]

G:[Access Acquired]

Inference:[Query?]

Minion:[Query?]

Shaper:[Data?]

QA:[Extrapolation]

G:[Acquisition]

I:[Inquiry?]

G:[Adjustment]

G:[Analysis]

S:[Intrigued]

G:[Solution.]

M:[Objection]

G:[Data?]

M:[Retraction]

QA:[Adaptation?]

G:[Plan]

I,G,M: [Approved]

S:[Enthusiasm]

Taylor fainted on the swingset for a moment, though it took a few minutes for her to be able to move.

Nobody had bothered her. Her friends saw to that.

* Hebert Household, morning after *

Danny managed to drag himself out of bed and down the stairs on hearing strange noises.

Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, he almost went back up and back to bed because he was clearly still dreaming.

Almost.

There was a spider the size of a very large housecat knitting on the couch.

There was a beetle the size of a dog clumsily using the Swiffer in the living room.

"Jeanne, can you get me the eggs?" asked Taylor, from the sound of it she was in the kitchen.

There was a chirrup/buzz sound followed by the opening and closing of the refrigerator.

"Thanks," said Taylor.

Another chirrup/buzz that somehow or other sounded pleased?

* Hebert Household, three days later *

"You holding up?" asked Alan Barnes.

"I'm not dealing with any of this well," admitted Danny Hebert.

"So... Taylor's a parahuman," noted Alan as he returned his attention to what was happening in the backyard.

"Apparently," said Danny. "It's like some weird version of some Disney Princess movie."

"Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" declared Emma Barnes as her mount went across the yard, up the wall, then perched there on the roof.

"That's a... what again?" asked Alan Barnes.

"It's just a beetle that Taylor summoned," said Danny Hebert. "I think she called it a Hercules beetle."

"That's not as creepy as the spider at least," observed Alan.

"Don't let her hear you say that," said Danny. "The spider that is. She's apparently quite sensitive to that."

"So, her power is..." Alan made a gesture.

"She can summon things. Or people. Or she can control and modify creatures," said Danny. "Higher intelligence, more friendly towards humans, larger size, apparently had to change the way the insects breathe and pump blood because just making them bigger made them sick."

"This is going to take awhile to get used to," said Alan.

"The spiders she combined with caterpillars to produce spider silk might just be..." Danny broke off what he was going to say as two large vehicles with PRT logos screeched to a halt in front of the house. "I think that one just tagged your Jag."

"MY CAR!" exclaimed Alan Barnes as he looked and spotted the smooshed sports car.

They watched as the troops came out, heavy weapons showing.

"Wha?" asked Zoe Barnes, coming out of the house and immediately getting sprayed with foam.

* PRT ENE HQ *

"You did what?"

When the Director in charge of the Parahuman Response Team East-North-East Division asks a question like that, it does not bode well for anyone under that person's command. The twitching eyebrow merely added to that impression.

"Let me see," continued Director Lee. "You responded to a call as a new parahuman with insect control powers was spotted. You decided to take two of our transports, shot and killed the insects, foamed everyone involved including a neighbor who was apparently grilling hotdogs in their backyard, captured the parahuman and stuck her in confinement under brute restraints. Oh, and the girl in question is how old?"

"Uhm," said Troop Leader Heinz, "thirteen, sir."

"Right, and her best friend who is apparently the same age," said Director Lee, his eyes briefly glancing at a calendar that marked when the new director would be taking his place and he could retire. "And everyone else at a two-family get-together. And some of the neighbors."

"To be fair, sir, we did not know who among the group was the parahuman," said Troop Leader Heinz.

"Did you ask?" asked Director Lee.

"Sir?"

"Did you ask?" repeated Director Lee. "You had giant insects that were not attacking anything. You had two families together. You had neighbors grilling hotdogs. There was video streaming from one of the neighbor's windows. Even if we managed to take down the video, there's a good chance that Miss Hebert would technically be an outed cape - so we'll let that go. For now. Did you ask anyone there who was the bug controller and if they might be interested in becoming a Ward?"

"Uhm, no sir," said Troop Leader Heinz. "We were responding to a call to indicate there were monsters on the street."

"Yes, yes, I have that too," said Director Lee, shaking his head. "One neighbor. Mrs Karen Kravitz. Who apparently is a bit of a busybody and was not invited to any party because she tends to do things exactly like this. Mrs Kravitz is known by the Brockton Bay Police Department as someone who calls in police reports on a regular basis. She once reported trick-or-treaters as a youth cult with a door-to-door extortion racket."

"Technically not entirely wrong," said Troop Leader Heinz before the glare from Director Lee quieted him again.

"Now, Heinz, you've been in the PRT for eleven years and not taken a vacation day yet," said Director Lee, "so I'm going to put you down for a nice long one where you get a good psych eval and I'm going to let all these very upset people know about that and that I am very very sorry this entire thing happened. Hopefully that will calm everyone down and we won't see too much damage done in the lawsuit. I'm going to let the lawyers battle that particular fight."

* PRT ENE HQ, 1 day later *

Little thirteen year old girl looking mostly innocent holding up her hand.

"Yes, Taylor?" asked Miss Militia.

"That's not what I can do," said Taylor. "I can change animals temporarily, or I can summon friends. Also temporarily."

"Yeah! Show her! Show her!" cheered Emma Barnes.

"Well, if you can do it safely, why don't you show me?" asked Miss Militia, glancing over at where the various technicians and scientists had gathered around a bee the size of a housecat.

Taylor nodded and closed her eyes, then very obviously concentrated hard. "From times before before, from times of ancient lore, friends from ancient age, come ye forth - turn the page."

There were abruptly two large carnivorous dinosaurs, measuring a good sixteen feet in length, with hairy feathers, standing there and looking around the room with great interest.

One, whose crest was red in hue, warbled a bit. A thick claw on one foot tapped out a quick beat on the tiled floor.

Miss Militia noted the lack of rampage of large teeth and claws and managed to put the power-summoned assault rifle back into a knife form. Though she was ready to summon a shotgun at the first hint of aggression. "That's... nice."

"SO COOL!" declared Emma, launching at one and hugging it.

The red-hued raptor glanced at the green-hued one and warbled something.

Both Utahraptors looked moderately embarassed.

"Uhm, can they has cheeseburgers?" asked Taylor.

The two raptors managed somehow to give Hannah their full attention and pulled off a puppy-dog eyes impression. Not a very good one, but they somehow managed one.

* PRT ENE HQ, three months later *

A new Director was always something stressful to those under their command. You never knew what that all entailed and there were horror stories about Director James Tagg already in circulation.

Director Lee clicked the "Next" button on the display. "That's the two major gangs, plus Coil's mercenaries, plus Faultline's crew, plus New Wave. Now we come to the single most dangerous independent in the Bay. Or, I should say, most potentially dangerous or useful independent. She's thirteen and very helpful but the word from the top is that she's an anomaly because powers don't work like hers do. Don't dismiss what she says she can do, and don't dismiss her as just a kid."

"That's her?" asked Director Piggot, studying the picture. "She's the bug girl?"

"That's what is generally circulated," said Director Lee, he pressed the "next" button again.

"Dinosaurs?" asked Director Piggot. "A redheaded man with a spear? A huge guy wearing a lion skin?"

"These are not projections in the usual sense," said Director Lee. "Blood samples were obtained and analyzed. If they were projections any blood or other samples would vanish when they did. Hair and feathers and all remain after they return to wherever they get pulled from. We're going with alternate universes for now. The redhead with the spear calls himself Cu Chulainn or Setante. The first is more a title from what I understand."

"You've got to be kidding me," said Director Piggot. "The myth?"

"The myth, the legend, the spearman of Irish stories. Seven fingers on each hand and all." Director Lee shook his head. "Her 'friends' include a number of mythic figures or creatures that were exceptional within their timeframe."

"Including dinosaurs," observed Director Piggot.

"Including animals that we only know of through fossil or impressions left behind in sedimentary rock," said Director Lee. "Some of which do not line up with what the scientific data predicted."

Another click, another picture.

"Giant chickens?" asked Director Piggot. "Is that... Vista?"

"Gastornis," said Director Lee. "Riding birds. Omnivores. Fast. The science boys thought they were purely carnivores. They're not. We rigged saddles up for testing purposes. On allied missions these are the mounts we want her to pull out for rapid deployment purposes. They have a top running speed of just a bit over 40mph and are able to manuever a lot better than wheeled vehicles. There are plans for them to be used on allied Ward patrols to get the public used to seeing them. They are a lot more PR-friendly than the raptors."

Director Piggot cocked her head as she examined the picture. "I don't know about that. If they're doing search and rescue, I'd say yes. If they're responding to, say, a riot - the raptors might be a better choice."

Director Lee made a thoughtful noise. "Or the T-Rex."

"Say again?" asked Director Piggot.

"She has a T-Rex," confirmed Director Lee, clicking twice to get to the relevant picture.

Emily Piggot spent just a moment looking at the frankly terrifying creature on the picture, tuning out the exultant-looking Vista on the back of the dino. If such a creature had been available at Ellisburg, tromping creatures underfoot, chomping on dozens of goblins at a time. "This girl is an independent but a hero and an ally?"

"Yes, she works with her father. Her official cape name in the database is Mythos, by the way. Because of her age, and word from higher authority, we've kept most of the details of her power testing under Level 5 - Director and above access only. The Level 4 for slightly more general dispersement doesn't mention everything she does or the implications." Director Lee glanced at her. "One thing that was pointed out by mention was that Mythos in the Wards wouldn't be able to respond to nearly the number of situations she otherwise can. She doesn't even need to be near where things are going on, range of her summons has been noted as over a mile or for a duration of one hour."

* November 3, 2009 *

She was darkness. She was the night. She was the supreme predator of Brockton Bay!

Turning to her shadow form in mid-leap, she easily coasted the distance between buildings and landed to where she had a good view of her prey.

A bunch of Nazi thugs, yelling at a bunch of ABB thugs. Truly this was a target rich environment. With luck she could shoot one and have it look like an attack from the other side.

Things might escalate to that on their own though. Yelling was going out from both sides, rocks and knives and guns were being brandished.

Shadow Stalker, because she stalked the shadows in search of prey, smiled behind her mask. Yes, she was in her element, the top predator preparing to take down the worst... what was that thumping noise?

"KKRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAGHHHHHHHHHH!" The roar was certainly loud but it was also almost a physical presence.

Shadow Stalker glanced back along the street and froze.

Pillar-like legs pounded as the beast charged towards the intersection.

"FUCK THIS!" came from more than one voice in the crowd.

The creature slowly rose to its full height right next to the building where Shadow Stalker was standing on legs that just did NOT want to move.

"This is awesome," said a girl's voice.

Shadow Stalker had a moment to contemplate the presence of two girls sitting on the back of a humongous carnivore before the head of that carnivore cocked and she found herself looking into an eye as big as a dinner plate.

Shadow Stalker managed to tear her gaze away for a moment to note that there was a discarded newspaper blowing across the now vacant intersection.

A snort brought her attention back to the 50 foot long T-rex standing not ten feet away.

"Hey, you a new hero?" called out the same young woman's voice.

Shadow Stalker tore her gaze away from that baleful eye that seemed to weigh her as a potential snack to the girls sitting on the back.

"I'm Vista! With the Wards! If you're a hero, you should consider joining. There are benefits!"

Shadow Stalker slowly looked back from the green-clad girl to the other girl and finally back to the eye of the T-rex.

"Okay. Oh, hey, Mythos? Can we just patrol a bit around this area some? I want to try using my power for jumpscares. Can you picture shortening the distance behind some people and then BAM they turn around and where did that dinosaur come from?"

Shadow Stalker's eyes watched the dinosaur go plodding off through the streets, only half-hearing the argument between Mythos and Vista.

"Second. I can live with second place predator in Brockton Bay," said Shadow Stalker eventually. "Second night out and I'm already in second place."

* PRT HQ *

Rebecca Costa-Brown sat down at the table, looking around her. "You've seen the video."

"I haven't," said Eidolon.

"Mythos brought back Hero. Or, I should say A Hero," said Alexandria. "Different multiversal thread where he hadn't died by the Siberian. It was a world where Alexandria died instead - and it turns out that Manton is projecting the Siberian. We exchanged a few notes. While Mythos can speak to and understand her summons, even if they normally don't have a language, they are not projections under her command nor do they share knowledge through some mental link."

"You determined that before anything else?" asked Eidolon.

"Director Piggot was able to determine that prior to my meeting, it was one of the things that convinced me to try it," admitted Alexandria. "I have written the information obtained from Hero to the G-drive on the secure network, password is Avent1cus." She then spelled it out for them.

"I have seen the video," said Doctor Mother. "So Mythos power reaches even alternate timelines of our own world?"

"Worlds that aren't even Earth-based," agreed Alexandria. "She states that her power is still immature, that she cannot reach as far as she eventually will."

"That's potentially frightening," said Doctor Mother, though her voice didn't actually sound very concerned.

"Potentially frightening and potentially useful," countered Rebecca.

"She's all of, what, fourteen now?" asked Eidolon. "She's been an independent hero for a year. She's not a concern."

"Just watch the video, check out the summary I wrote up, and make decisions then," said Rebecca. "I've got to be Alexandria and over at the Galleria in thirty."

* An Alleyway in Brockton Bay *

"Oh, shit," said Alan Barnes as the dumpster was rolled behind his car.

"Hang on," said Emma, pulling out a phone and tapping a button. "Taylor? Emma. Sending you my location. Gang members about to attack my car. Uh huh. Looks like Azn Bad Boys. Help on the way? Good. They're motioning for me to get out of the car. ETA? Oh hell yes. Send THEM."

Tapping at the window and brandishing a firearm from an Asian girl with a facial scar. Emma tilted her phone to be sure that was caught on the pickup. She then held up her hand in a 'just-a-moment' gesture before getting out of the car.

"I don't suppose we can just pay a toll and drive away?" asked Emma.

"Put the phone down, bitch," said one of the youths.

"Uhm, right. I'm going to give you one chance to leave here with nobody getting hurt and I just want a video recording of me making that offer," said Emma.

"Why, you a cape? You don't look like no cape," said the scarred girl, flicking open a butterfly knife. "So. You gonna pay with that jacket, and I'll let you choose. You want to pay with an ear? Maybe yer nose?"

(Chirrup!)(Gwonk!)

"I don't know," said Emma, seeing the shapes that were slinking forward around her and the car now. "I don't think you can spare either, and I don't want your jacket. Vista, you want her jacket?"

"No, I don't want her jacket," said a voice from one of the rooftops.

"I'm not a cape, by the way," said Emma. "Do I know capes? Yes, as a matter of fact. Who are these anyway? I recognize Raptor Red and Raptor Green."

"This is their family," said Vista's voice. "Did you know Utahraptors were pack hunters? I did."

"Huh. So, just so you know, they understand threats," explained Emma. "They know what guns are. If you surrender, they won't kill you. If you attack them, they will kill you. They will eat you. You hurt me or Vista, that would be close enough. Mythos back at base?"

"Yeah, she's on Console duty again," said Vista. "Oh. Hey. You're that vigilante. Did you think any more about joining the Wards?"

There was a brief silence as various weapons were carefully lowered around the car.

"I'm... thinking about it," said a vigilante who thought she'd been hidden in the shadows and was now realizing that there was something in those various shadows besides herself.

(Chrrr-clk.)

"Oh, that's Blackie. She's one of Red's kids." Vista sounded moderately happy at the moment.

"He-hello, Blackie," said Shadow Stalker, wondering exactly where she placed on the predator list now.

(Clk-clk-clik)

"Oh, here comes the police," said Vista. "Probably want to get pictures with dinosaurs. Because everyone wants pictures with dinosaurs."

* Red *

Weird sounds from the various mammal biped tool-users, as usual. Weird smells.

Some of the foods provided were not good. Some was good. Some was very good. It was nice repayment for services, which was mainly threat displays for the establishment of territory.

Of course Tay-lor would speak of many strange and novel concepts. Tay-lor was an up-and-coming Alpha of her own pack in this strange territory, but that was only part of the reason to follow Tay-lor's directions. There was also this new territory and those new concepts and new resources to be had.

She rapidly tapped out a series of instructions with one of her carving claws on the strange black-tar-rock to indicate that the odd-smell female Alpha of the territory-challengers was not putting her false-claw down. Threat display to level 2? Yes.

Feathers fluffed out slightly, making her seem even larger than her actual sixteen feet (4.9m) length, 5ft height at hips with neck extending so she could look directly into the female's eyes. The female biped weighed perhaps one third what she herself did and did not have her advantages in natural weaponry.

Her teeth, which she took especial pride in keeping clean, should be hitting the light from the cold sunlets just right. She'd faced off other predators with a display like this. Did the biped know what honor she was giving it by bothering to display such a threat that predators a third-again her own size stepped back from?

Ah, the false-claw was being laid upon the ground next to the loud-noise-pellet thing. Wise. She would do well for her own species if she passed such wisdom on.

* PRT ENE HQ *

"There have been complaints about Mythos," said Armsmaster.

"She's an independent we work with, she's not a Ward yet," responded Director Piggot. After a moment she looked up from her paperwork. "How many claims for laundry services?"

"Fifteen, mostly from suspected ABB and E88 businesses. Apparently several gang members have soiled their clothing," said Armsmaster.

"I weep," said Director Piggot in the most sarcastic voice she could manage. Which was considerable.

"There were some complaints about the damage to vehicles from when 'Trikey' was used to cover prisoner transport," read off Armsmaster.

"I would complain about a triceratops she named 'Trikey' but I am reminded that Mythos IS a fourteen year old girl," responded Piggot. "What vehicles were damaged?"

"There's footage. Apparently an SUV attempted to cut in front of a charging triceratops and 'Trikey' did not stop in time," said Armsmaster.

Director Piggot hmphed. "Anything in your stack that is not directly attributed to human stupidity?"

"That clears at least 90% of the complaints about Mythos, Vista, or her various summons," said Armsmaster. "There's also a vigilante who has made inquiries about joining the Wards. Calls herself Shadow Stalker."

"Make sure she's vetted then," said Director Piggot. "Until she signs, she's an independent. I swear, somedays this job..."