Alrighty, new story. First, some author's notes! I'm sure everyone will read them instead of asking already-answered questions in the review section.

To begin with, though it is Warhammer crossover, the Warhammer elements will be very restrained. This is deliberate, because Warhammer has a way of taking over any setting it is paired with through sheer over-the-topness. There will be no Warhammer characters popping up or anything of the sort.

Second, pairings. I know some of you think that every story needs to have them. Fair enough, I'm not in a position to be making comments about the topic given what I typically write, but I really have no plans for any in this fic.

Third, the update schedule. As always, my schedule is "when it's done". That being said, I do have five and a half chapters already written at this point in time. Until I run out of material, updates will probably be weekly.

Fourthly, this was beta-read by Alvor.

I think that's it.


"Stay where you belong, Hebert." Sophia's cruel words were soon drowned out by the laughter of the other students at Winslow, not one of them thinking to help.

Taylor's head swam from the impact with the back wall of the locker from when Sophia shoved her inside. Her throat burned from the stomach acid after she had vomited from the smell of the rotting filth that must have been festering since before the winter holidays. The jeering laughter from outside, from people who had seen what was done to her and didn't care, was in some ways even worse.

Time passed in a delirious crawl, the laughter replaced by silence as classes started.

"Please, somebody, help." She whispered to herself plaintively, too exhausted and her throat too raw to speak any louder. Her words weren't meant for them anyway, as this final cruelty had extinguished what little faith she still had in people.

She passed out, the trauma activating the dormant Shard of power given by a parasitic multi-dimensional alien. But more than that, something also heard her prayer, something that dwelled beyond the physical.







The Warp was a place of infinite possibility, a nexus of countless realities where concepts like time and space ceased to have meaning. However, to actually get a glimpse into a different reality, one had to go deep into the Warp, so deep that anyone who tried it would be lost forever. No psyker could hope to achieve such a thing. Even a Chaos God normally could not, bound as they were to the material world location that spawned them.

But should a tormented mortal with a great destiny and a spark of psychic potential call out for aid and act as a beacon, then Tzeentch might get a glimpse into such a reality.

Immediately recognizing that he alone lacked the strength to reach so far, he did something that only happened a handful of times in all of history. He told the others so they could pool their powers.

Taylor Hebert's reality was one where the oldest race in the universe were massive crystalline Entities, roaming the stars, leeching from the creativity of mortal races because they had none of their own. This had prevented any race from evolving true psychic potential and left the Warp offensively placid.

The connection was too tenuous for any of them to lay claim to the girl's soul or offer a bargain for it, as it would drift out of reach after the shatterpoint moment passed.

It was rare for all four of the Ruinous Powers to agree on anything, but it happened sometimes. It happened now and they were agreed.

They would not have access to Taylor's reality for long, not long enough for any kind of contest to see who got to claim her soul. Instead, they each chose to bestow a gift, on both her and the Queen Administrator. It would be a gamble, a game to mirror the Great Game they played against each other in their native reality, to see which one of them she would take after most.

Tzeentch saw her desperate need for control over her life and the spiteful determination to keep going despite the misery inflicted upon her, so he awoke Taylor's latent connection to the Warp, leaving it at the very edge of true psychic potential. It would take only a single strong burst of emotion to break through the final barrier. To complement this, he tweaked the Queen Administrator and turned its focus inward. Instead of wasting all that processing power on controlling bugs, Taylor would have the ability to run 10 to the 80th power concurrent mental operations. A priceless boon for a schemer.

Nurgle saw how she had endured everything her tormentors threw at her and was moved. He blessed her with the supernatural resilience granted to all his children. He was more than a bit disgruntled at what Tzeentch had done to the Queen Administrator, though, as he had quite liked the idea of Taylor controlling vast swarms of vermin. Many of his chosen would pray for such a boon! The Rotfather decided on a bit of revenge and illuminated the Shard to the beauty of decay and entropy, so that it would no longer waste time seeking to 'solve' it like some Tzeentchian infidel.

Slaanesh was affronted by the distinct lack of pleasure in Taylor's life. His gift ensured that she would enjoy everything she did. Everything. With the Queen Administrator, he decided that it was too narrowly focused. The Shard wanted to gather information, did it? Then it should gather information on all the wonderful sensations mortals were able to experience.

Khorne did not favor her at all. Were she not the only soul they were able to reach in this distant universe, then he would not have given her a second look. The Blood God knew that Taylor Hebert identified most strongly with Tzeentch, followed very closely by Nurgle, and then Slaanesh a very distant third. The only thing about her that appealed to him was the deep well of repressed anger in her soul, so that was what he focused on.

By his touch, the bottle that held her rage was unstoppered. Her blood would boil without restraint when something angered her, and it would forge her body into a weapon. None who bore even the smallest fragment of his power would be doormats! Nor would they disdain glorious violence! For the Queen Administrator, he merely tweaked the conflict drive. Instead of getting into fights with other Shard hosts merely to gather data, it would now challenge them to establish dominance, to reveal the strongest!

Why did the Chaos Gods do this when the connection would remain open only for a brief moment in time? Because Chaos, that's why.


Taylor awoke slowly, the remnants of a confusing dream swiftly dissipating from her mind.

"Taylor!" Her dad exclaimed and grabbed her hand, smiling at her with relief.

"Dad?" She questioned, the dream slipping away unnoticed in the distraction. Her throat was dry and it burned to talk, but the sensation actually wasn't bad. Kind of pleasant, even, in a strange way.

"I'm here, kiddo." He was quick to assure. "Do you want your glasses?"

"Yeah, and some water please." She said, mind still on the feeling she was getting from him.

"Sure." He handed her the glasses and went to pour a glass of water.

The cool liquid running down her throat was the most amazing thing she'd ever felt. That was another oddity, but her throat had been pretty dry.

"Thanks." She said and looked around, her last memories coming to mind. "Am I in the hospital?"

"Yeah." Dad's expression turned dark. "The janitor found you while he was making his rounds, but so far I haven't gotten any answers as to how exactly you ended up shut inside your own locker along with all that crap."

Taylor's mind raced. She hadn't told her dad about the bullying, not wanting to worry him with things he couldn't do anything about or ruin his friendship with Alan Barnes. What was she supposed to say now?

It took her only a second to notice that she was actually thinking of several things simultaneously. Dad's question hadn't stopped her from thinking about the lead up to the locker, now she was also thinking of what to tell him, the pros and cons of simply confessing everything, what kind of lies she could concoct to protect him and multiple other completely unconnected things. She was even still wondering about why talking with a dry throat didn't feel as bad as she knew it should.

And it wasn't just that either. Now that she was paying attention to it, she realized that she was able to devote her full focus to everything that she was sensing. Humans couldn't multitask, not really. As soon as you focused on one thing, everything else got pushed aside. Only now that she was able to process all of the incoming sensory information at once did Taylor understand how limiting that was.

But more importantly, what the hell was going on?

Her thoughts continued to spiral and branch into ever more iterations, snatching at every loose thread and expanding it into a full tapestry of thought. Dozens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, millions. She was somehow able to easily keep track of it all even as every stray thought threw out more thought lines like grenade shrapnel.

"Taylor, honey, do you know who did this to you?" The question served to focus much of her attention back on her father, but the other thought lines continued running in the background, picking over every inane thing.

"Yeah…" She finally said quietly. While she had long since lost any kind of hope that the teachers at Winslow would do their damn jobs, she had been writing down incidents, printing out e-mails and photographing bruises in the vague hope that someone else might.

She'd never actually gone to report any of it to the police, because she'd figured that they wouldn't care about some high school bullying, but they might now that she'd been put into the hospital by it.

Taylor didn't have high hopes for it, but it's not like there was anything else to do. No matter how she thought about it, it was pretty obvious that she was being bullied. Lying about it to her dad now would be pointless. Still, a part of her wanted to clam up and deal with it herself. There was a burning core of anger simmering in her gut at the thought of the Trio.

Dad looked like he was about to demand names. He also looked like he was planning murder. But before he could, a doctor stepped into the room and knocked on the open door.

"Excuse me, sorry to interrupt." He apologized. "Could I talk to Taylor for a minute? Alone."

"If you have anything to say to my daughter you can do it in front of me." Dad retorted stubbornly.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Hebert, but I really can't." The doctor said apologetically, raising his hands in surrender. "There are things I need to discuss with her that I am legally not allowed to speak of to anyone without her permission. It shouldn't take long."

Dad looked even more unhappy and shot her a concerned look. Taylor didn't know what the doctor wanted to talk about, but she returned her dad's look with a cautious nod anyway.

"Fine." He said and tensely walked towards the door. "I'll be right outside."

"Thank you, Mr. Hebert." The doctor nodded.

That left the two of them alone in the room.

"So, what did you want to talk about?" Taylor asked warily.

"Have you noticed anything strange or different about yourself since you woke up?" He asked, in a tone of voice that suggested that he expected the answer to be yes.

Taylor just continued looking at him warily, mind racing in a thousand new directions. What did he know?

"You took a nasty bump to the head in the locker, and we had to scan your head to make sure there wasn't any swelling or brain damage." He continued. "We found a corona pollentia in your brain, which is known to be a sign of parahuman potential."

Oh. That would explain why she could think seemingly infinite things at once. She was a parahuman, a Thinker of some kind. Parallel processing? It honestly seemed a bit… useless. What good was being able think more things at once? She had always hoped for an Alexandria package if she was to ever get powers.

"You were also brought in with open wounds and covered in rancid blood." The doctor kept on talking. "We were afraid that you were going into toxic shock or develop sepsis, so we put you on wide-spectrum antibiotics. Imagine our surprise when you didn't show any of the symptoms we expected."

He smiled and her thoughts ran wild once again even as she shuddered at the memory of the locker. That didn't have anything to do with her Thinker power. Did she have more powers?

"So… what? I'm disease immune?" Taylor asked, realizing a moment later that she had as good as confirmed her cape status to him.

"That's probably just a side benefit." The doctor shook his head. "Panacea has a similar immunity, but her real power is healing."

"I don't think I can heal." She said pensively. It would be cool, but it didn't feel right.

"I suppose it would be too much to hope for that Brockton Bay gets another healer." The doctor joked. "But whatever it is, I'm sure you'll figure it out eventually."

Yes, she most definitely would. Taylor had always wanted to be a hero and now that she was a parahuman that was actually possible. A Thinker power wouldn't have let her actually take the fight to the gangs directly, but in combination with something else it could be amazingly useful.

"Listen…" The doctor's mannerisms suddenly turned nervous. "I know what it takes for normal people to become parahumans. It's called a trigger event, or a crisis point, a moment of emotional, psychological or physical stress that pushes a person beyond what they can tolerate. Capes don't like talking about them and the PRT tries to keep it quiet to stop people from trying to induce them deliberately, but they do pay attention for potential ones."

"Are you going to tell the PRT about me?" She asked warily, anger building in her chest. It wasn't that she had anything against the PRT or the Protectorate, but joining the Wards didn't really sound too appealing. Her new Thinker power happily allowed her to envision all the ways in which it could actually turn out pretty horribly. Being an independent hero sounded a lot better to her than joining a group of super-powered teenagers. Maybe she would join the Protectorate when she turned eighteen. Maybe.

"We won't say anything, and since you're already recovered it won't look bad enough to be a trigger event on paper." He shook his head. "I just wanted to give you a heads up."

Taylor got the distinct impression that the doctor didn't like the PRT much. After her experiences with Winslow, she couldn't say she really disagreed. Winslow wasn't the government per se, but they were an authority.


She managed to beg off on explaining things to her dad until the detective from the BBPD arrived. Apparently, the police had left instructions that they were to be contacted as soon as she woke up, because shutting girls into lockers full of toxic waste was a crime.

Taylor still had to force herself to believe that they would actually do something. She had thousands of extra minds running in the background, most of them going over all the ways that the Bitches Three could once again get away with it. She also had to force herself to ignore the sense of dissatisfaction at the thought of letting someone else give her former friend and her toadies their just desserts.

It was only because the detective genuinely seemed to want to do something and because she didn't want all the effort she put into cataloguing the bullying to go to waste that she opened up. He followed her and Dad home once she was discharged from the hospital, took her evidence and left, promising to keep them updated on the investigation. He insisted on taking the originals, despite her paranoid thought that they would disappear or be destroyed.

Taylor tried to stay optimistic, but it was hard. And now she was home, alone with her dad's sad and disappointed stare. At least he wasn't angry anymore. Back at the hospital it looked like it was taking all the restraint he had to not storm off the Barnes' home and start yelling. Or punching. Only the detective warning him that it would make things worse stopped him.

"Why didn't you tell me, Taylor?" He asked. His somber tone was worse than if he'd shouted.

"You were already so depressed after Mom died." She mumbled back. "I didn't want to make it worse."

He sighed deeply and hugged her. Taylor nearly burst into tears, because it felt like he was finally her dad again instead of some pale shade with his face.

"I'm sorry that you felt like you couldn't rely on me." Dad murmured, stroking her hair. "I know I haven't been much of a father recently, but I promise I'll do better from now on."

"It's my fault, I'm the one who hid it from you." Taylor said back, squeezing him as hard as she could.

"Oof!" He oofed. "When did you get so strong?"

Taylor immediately eased up, fearing that she might also have some kind of Brute power. "Sorry. Are you okay? I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"C'mon, kiddo. Your old man isn't that fragile." He joked and she relaxed, feeling a bit embarrassed for overreacting.

They settled back into the hug for a while and Taylor decided to just… bask in it for a while. It felt good, really good. In fact, a lot of things had felt good since she'd woken up. Pretty much everything, even the things that should have been unpleasant.

That was almost definitely another weird thing with her powers, but the only reason she was bothering to think of it at all right now was because she could split her mind. Otherwise, there was no way that she would be willing to focus on anything other than the first bit of positive human contact she'd had in years.

But eventually it had to end and her dad stepped back to level a serious look down at her. "No more hiding things from me, Taylor. I'm your father and it's my job to look after you, not the other way around."

Guilt and uncertainty rose up in her chest. She was already hiding things from him, her powers. Thousands of thought-lines split off, going over every single reason why she should or shouldn't tell him.

Inevitably, it boiled down to the fact that he would try to get her to join the Wards if he knew, and Taylor really didn't want to be stuck with a team of super-powered teenagers. It would just end up being high school all over again, but this time with superpowers.

There was also the fact that she didn't really know much about her powers. Her ability to think a lot wasn't all that useful, nor was being immune to disease. Unless she had something else, like the doctor had said she probably did, then she'd end up on the bottom of the totem pole again. Useless Taylor with a useless power.

No, she'd keep it to herself for now. Maybe if her power turned out to be something amazing, something she could use to be a hero, she would consider it.

"Okay." She… fibbed, promising herself to tell him eventually. "I'm going up to my room now, maybe lie down a bit."

"You do that." He nodded. "I'll go grab some takeout for dinner."

Taylor went to her room, but not to lie down like she'd said. She wanted to figure out her power. How to do it, though?

Discomfort wasn't unpleasant anymore. Pain was effortless to tolerate and even enjoy. Discreet testing via the method of driving a fingernail into her skin during the ride home had told her that. She wasn't sure if that was only for small pains, but it was definitely odd. In fact, the only time she ever felt uncomfortable now was when she wasn't experiencing anything at all.

… like right now.

Nibbling on her bottom lip to tide herself over, Taylor booted up her mom's old laptop. She'd discovered a whole new fondness for music on the drive from the hospital, which was the main reason why she wasn't worrying about brain damage or her powers making her a masochist. It wasn't just pain she was craving.

Probably another indicator of her power, but it left her stumped as to what the connection between the ability to split her consciousness, disease immunity and a desire for sensation was.

The laptop was pretty ancient by modern standards and took forever to boot up, so Taylor left it alone for now and took a good look at herself in the mirror, searching for visual indicators of her power.

Nope. Same old plain face and overly wide mouth. Same dark hair that was the only thing she really liked about herself. Same brown eyes. There was a bruise on her head from where she'd banged her head against the back wall of the locker, making her look even uglier. Taylor reached up and ground the heel of her palm against the mottled purple flesh, feeling pain flare from the damaged area.

It felt good, but she was getting more annoyed by her own reflection by the minute. She was ugly and her arms were stick thin. Not pretty enough to avoid becoming a target for bullies and not strong enough to defend herself.

But she had powers now. Even if they were weird and maybe not very useful, Taylor still wanted to be a hero. The thought made her angry, not at herself but at Emma, Sophia and Madison. Those three bitches weren't going to take that away from her. With her mind split in multiple directions, she could literally see her thoughts spiraling into the hole of depression that they had shoved her in and it made her furious. They didn't deserve to have that much power over her! Nobody got to have that much power over her!

The unusual rage kept on burning in her chest and she threw her top and (largely unnecessary) bra off, standing topless in front of the mirror. Barely any bust, thin shoulders, weak arms, almost visible ribs and a bit of a potbelly to top it all off. Definitely not a heroic physique.

Taylor grabbed hold of the excess flab on her belly and twisted, reveling in the pain. If she was going to be a hero then that would have to go. Her mind split further, planning out an exercise regime.

Most importantly, she realized that her newfound enjoyment of any kind of sensation would take care of the main reason why she'd never gotten into exercising before – namely, that it was dull and unpleasant. She could work herself to the bone and enjoy it more the harder it got. Plus, she was motivated now.

Cheered up by the thought, she turned back to the computer, which had by now finished booting up.

The first thing she did was go to YouTube and load up some music, something energetic. It immediately made her feel better, so she opened up another tab and loaded up another song, and then another, and another. Before long, she had half a dozen songs running simultaneously, in genres ranging from classical to smooth jazz to pop to death metal. It all combined into an indistinct wall of noise, but Taylor found herself enjoying the cacophony. Her ears could almost pick out the individual songs out of the mass. She wished she could ramp up the volume as well, but didn't want to miss her dad coming home with the takeout dinner.

Her Thinker power allowed her to keep considering more ways to test her powers, but she was coming up a bit blank on whatever disease resistance might really be, so she thought about her Thinker power itself. She still didn't think it was very impressive, but being able to focus on as many things as she wanted to could be useful, she supposed.

The laptop had digital chess installed on it as a default part of the operating system, so she booted that up, still keeping the multiple songs running over each other in the background.

Taylor had only ever played a handful of chess games in her life, just enough to familiarize her with the rules before she lost interest. She hadn't been very good at it back then, and the one time she'd tried to play against the computer, it had soundly trounced her.

Not so this time. Thirty-two pieces on the board, which was a trivial amount of things to pay attention to. Moreover, the thirty-two thought-lines she had dedicated to doing that interfaced with each other and then sprawled out exponentially, forming a web of linked thought that simulated every possible move and counter move.

Taylor smiled as she won and started up another game, setting the difficulty to maximum this time. Chess was about thinking ahead, wasn't it? Plotting out moves and guessing your opponent's moves? She split her mind exponentially, simulating scenario after scenario of possible moves and counter-moves. It took millions of thought-lines to keep it all straight, but that narrowed down as the game progressed and possibilities were discarded, until it inevitably came down to just one.

Normally it would be an impossible task to keep track of so much, but what she had was in some ways better than an eidetic memory. With every iteration of her mind able to keep its focus on a single thing and then interfacing with every other thought line, she was impossible to surprise as long as she knew all the variables.

The game ended with the computer in check mate, just as planned. When you could plot out every possible move, it could only ever be just as planned. She felt strong and in control and she liked it.

Taylor sat back in her chair, feeling a rare sense of smugness. Maybe her Thinker power wasn't quite as lame as she'd initially thought.

"Taylor, are you there?" Her dad knocked softly on the door. "I brought dinner."

Taylor realized that she had never put her bra and shirt back on, and had in fact been playing chess topless. For some reason it hadn't felt important and the scratchy feeling of the cheap backrest of her chair on bare skin had been enjoyable. As she scrambled to get dressed, she could only be thankful that her dad had already learned the folly of barging uninvited into a teenaged girl's room.


Waking up the next morning was… strange. Remnants of a dream clung to Taylor's mind, flashes of color and emotion, a sea that was not a sea. It didn't feel like a normal dream.

Pushing that thought into the background, she got dressed and moved downstairs. She'd stayed up quite a bit later than normal last night, anonymously demolishing random strangers at internet chess and similar strategy games to train her powers (and because it felt good to win), so it was already 9:30 and Dad had gone to work hours ago. He'd argued yesterday that he could stay if she needed him to, but Taylor had talked him down from it, assuring him that she would be fine.

And she would be. There was still a week before she had to go back to school, which was about the maximum the doctor had been able to proscribe without a firm reason.

After a quick breakfast she went down into the basement. While thinking of her prospective exercise regime yesterday, she had recalled that her parents had at one point bought one of those portable pull-up bars that you could affix to a doorway. Like with most people, the interest in exercise had faded quickly and the pull-up bar had been consigned to eternal storage. And the place where the Heberts stored junk was in the basement.

Taylor hoped they hadn't actually thrown it out.

It took some digging, but she eventually unearthed the forgotten artifact. Thoroughly cleaning it of dust and cobwebs took about ten minutes, and another ten to figure out how to set it up. Fortunately, it was one of those models that could just be temporarily wedged in place instead of requiring actual screws.

She was sure that her dad wouldn't have minded if she wanted to attach it permanently, but this was something she would prefer to keep to herself for now.

With everything set up, the only thing left to do was get started on her first workout. Yesterday, Taylor had assumed that doing pull ups would be a simple and straightforward affair, but a little research had revealed that there was a whole set of exercises for proper muscle building on a pull up bar. Not counting the warm up.

A little annoying, but she'd deal. Although why they were called 'depressions' and 'negatives' escaped her. It was like whoever had come up with these names wanted to demotivate people.

Well not her! She'd known that she was weak and the burn in her arms and shoulders that started before she even did a single proper pull up might have been discouraging if it didn't feel so freaking good. Her dad had looked at her funny last night when she nearly moaned in pleasure at the taste of the takeout dinner. He'd have been downright creeped out by the way she panted while doing pull ups.

Taylor actually found herself with the opposite problem of most new exercisers. Instead of needing to muster the willpower to keep going and push through the pain, she found it hard to stop. Even as her arms trembled and sweat beaded all over her body, the sheer wealth of sensation in the steadily worsening muscle burn kept her reaching for more.

It wasn't until her arms were literally too worn out to physically support her weight and she was forced to stop that she let go and allowed herself fall back to the floor.

Taylor's tongue flicked out to lick up a drop of sweat from her upper lip, trembling in place. There was no other word for it. She was aroused. Incredibly so.

As a healthy fifteen-year-old girl, she wasn't a stranger to a little self-pleasuring, even if the past few years had been such that she had very rarely been in the mood for it. Right now, though, it was taking all her willpower to keep her shaky hands out of her pants.

She had a feeling that she might not be going for that run she had planned to go on if she gave in to the temptation.

With a great deal of difficulty due to the abuse she'd put her arms, shoulders and abdominals through, she managed to put on her sneakers and step out of the house. It was a cold day in January, and she was covered in sweat, while wearing a mildly soaked T-shirt and sweatpants. For most people, a good way to get sick. For a disease-immune parahuman with screwy neural connections...

The chill wind raked over her body like razorblades and Taylor shivered in pleasure.

With a happy skip to her step, she started running. Just a light jog at first, but quickly increasing her pace to a steady, loping run. The urge to sprint was there, but she restrained it. As useful as her screwed up sense of pleasure and pain was, she could already see that it would be trouble if she didn't keep it in control.

Just as it had been with the pull ups, her body quickly started protesting. Her lungs began to burn, a painful stitch developed in her side and her legs began to ache. The urge to sprint intensified, but she once again forced it down. This wasn't about pleasure, it was about getting fit.

Still, by the time she completed the circuit she had chosen for herself, everything hurt so good and her panties were soaked with something other than sweat.

It's okay if I do it now. Taylor rationalized. It'll be a reward for completing my workout.

Yes, that sounded right. Who knew, maybe it was her powers telling her something? If she wanted to master them, then she shouldn't ignore such obvious hints. Besides, masturbation was a perfectly normal and even healthy thing to do. There was no need to be ashamed of it.

Thus rationalized, she hurried to the bathroom and started removing her clothes. That was a bit of a trial. With a good part of her body feeling like it had the consistency of gummy worms, removing sweat-soaked clothing was anything but simple. Still, they were eventually chucked into the laundry hamper and Taylor was left standing there naked.

For a moment, she just stood there and enjoyed the sticky feeling of being covered in nothing but her own sweat, then she stepped into the shower. Her hand automatically turned the water temperature to reasonably warm, but then she had an idea.

Taylor turned the knob to maximum cold and opened up the floodgates.

The frigidly cold blast of water hit her heated flesh like a cinder block thrown by Alexandria. A gasping moan slipped past her lips and she stopped holding back, letting her hand slip between her legs and her fingers plunge inside her aching sex.

It had been a while since she'd last done this, her overall mood having plummeted enough that even the winter break and the reprieve it meant from Winslow having not been enough for her to find the energy for it, but she thought it felt way better than she remembered.

Orgasm was already approaching, but she didn't want this to end so quickly, so she forced herself to slow down a little. The cold water wasn't really doing it for her anymore either, so she turned the knob all the way to the other side.

It took a few seconds, but the frigid spray turned scalding. Another lewd moan slipped from her mouth and she had to brace herself against the wall. The contrast between the temperature of the wall and the water was also nice, she was already adapting.

Taylor flipped the temperature all the way to cold one more time and allowed herself to sink down in the shower while fingering herself vigorously. With her back against the wall and her feet braced against the raised edges of the shower stall, she abandoned all self-control and ground the heel of her palm against her throbbing sex.

The pressure broke and her nerves lit up with the force of her orgasm. Her mouth opened in a soundless scream, eyes rolling in her sockets and legs spasming uncontrollably.

"Wow…" The teenaged girl panted, staring dazedly up at the ceiling with the frigid water still pelting her heated body.

That had felt… spectacular. In comparison to the few orgasms she'd given herself in the past, this was on a whole other level. She hadn't thought it was possible to feel this much outside of tawdry erotic novels, which she absolutely hadn't read.

Feeling rather refreshed and in an absolutely amazing mood, Taylor got up, toweled off, dressed and went to get herself a snack. It was going to be a good day, the best day she'd had in years.

As she munched on her large sandwich and crushed people on the internet in various strategy games, something seemed… off. Taylor couldn't put her finger on it, but everything looked just a little bit different than before… and yet exactly the same. It was like there was something just on the edge of her peripheral vision that she couldn't bring into focus.

It was odd, frustrating and eventually drove her to abandon her win streak in favor of trying to figure it out. She prowled through the house in pursuit of answers, but found nothing. It was only when she looked outside and saw someone walk down the street that she got her first clue.

The woman walking her dog was a familiar stranger. Taylor didn't know her name, but knew that she lived somewhere in the area, having seen her pass by many times before. There should be nothing interesting about her, but there suddenly was. Taylor felt like she could feel something, but it defied description, as if trying to describe the taste of purple. Looking at the woman was more like tasting an emotion.

The woman passed out of sight and the odd sensation disappeared shortly after. Blinking, Taylor retreated back into the house to think. What had that been?

By the time her father came home, she'd stared after several more people passing by and still figured out nothing.

"Taylor, I'm home." He called as he entered the house.

Having prepared for this, Taylor came down to give him a hug. The strange feeling came back as soon as she saw him. Every person she'd seen so far was different, and the same went for her dad. There was a sense of weight to him... no, not to him, there was a sense of weight pressing down on him. It 'tasted' nasty, like tar, thick and sticky and unpleasant.

Or it would be unpleasant if not for her powers, probably.

More importantly, this feeling was familiar. It was depression and grief, a heavy weight that dragged down the soul. She knew it well because she'd suffered from it herself. Since the awakening of her powers, it had been hard to be in a bad mood, but the memory of it was still very fresh.

"I made dinner." She said, hugging him tighter and trying to pull on the thick mass of emotion weighing him down. It wouldn't budge, he refused to let go of it.

"Thanks, Little Owl." He said as he returned the hug.

Taylor didn't know how to help her father, but her other mental iterations had been busy at work analyzing this new development. There was only one conclusion she was able to come to.

Holy shit, am I psychic?!


Director Emily Piggot of the PRT ENE glared balefully across her desk.

The past few days had been more than a little trying for her. All PRT divisions had Dragon-designed computer algorithms canvasing police databases for anything parahuman related, because the police didn't always know they'd stumbled upon a cape crime… and sometimes didn't pass it on if they did know. Having an investigation flagged because it concerned one of Brockton Bay's Wards was an especially nasty surprise.

On the other hand, it came as no surprise at all that said Ward was Shadow Stalker, civilian name Sophia Hess, who was currently sitting in front of her desk with all the mulish defiance that a stupid brat like her could conjure.

"Do you remember why you became a probationary Ward, Shadow Stalker?" Emily growled.

Hess clenched her jaw and glared back, grunting out an answer. "Yeah."

"Refresh my memory."

"I left a Nazi thug bleeding after shooting him with a few crossbow bolts."

Emily took a deep breath in a vain attempt to calm down. "I'm not sure if nobody ever told you or if you just weren't listening – as usual – but the man in question wasn't affiliated with the Empire 88 as far as we know. Or any of the gangs for that matter."

Contrary to popular belief, the gangs were, in fact, smart enough to understand the concept of not shitting where you eat, Merchants notwithstanding. The odds of randomly encountering an Empire thug in the middle of a crime, even outside Empire territory, were actually very low. The ABB was overall more violent and less controlled because Lung didn't control his gang so much as exploit it. He didn't give a shit about what they did unless it affected him personally, which was when he started burning people.

Kaiser was trying to portray himself as a noble protector of 'true' Americans, so gang violence was usually carefully targeted and very much not random. That meant that Empire territory actually had the lowest crime rates in town, because the would-be emperor didn't tolerate competition or challenges to his power. Clashes between unpowered normals, yes. Attacks on rival holdings and operations, yes. Mysterious arson happening to unapproved businesses as Empire territory spread, yes. False flag operations, yes. Excessive retaliation for even the slightest excuse, yes. Rallies that could turn violent at the drop of a hat, yes. Random street violence, though? Mostly the doing of unaffiliated criminals. There was a reason why the Empire had so much support in Brockton Bay and it wasn't because the city was full of racists. When they were desperate enough, people would support whoever could offer them a sense of security, even if they had to turn a blind eye to certain things, such as the fact that certain demographics were persona non grata and treated as such.

If word of Sophia's transgressions got out, it would cause a disproportionate amount of damage to their hold on the city. Without civilian cooperation, it was nearly impossible for government agencies or police to get anything done, and the PRT and Protectorate were already struggling on that front. Cape fights were only the backdrop to the true battle for control over the city, which was winning over the civilians.

Hess blinked in surprise. No doubt she had based her conclusion on her victim's allegiance on the fact that he was both white and a criminal and happened to be mugging a black woman, that was about the level of intelligence Emily had come to expect from Shadow Stalker. In fact, she could see the idiot in front of her dismissing the words even now, because of course the great Shadow Stalker knew better.

Fucking capes, and fucking teenagers too. That was one quarter the brains and twice the entitlement.

"But that's not the point. The point is that you were heading to juvenile detention for negligent manslaughter. We offered you a probationary Wards contract and a suspended sentence with the understanding that you would clean up your act, so why is it that I'm now hearing that you violated your probation with attempted murder of the second degree on a fifteen-year-old girl?!" Emily finished with a roar, pleased to see that the moron in front of her flinched.

Of course, the courts would probably decide that it wasn't anything worse than assault and false imprisonment, but the addition of a biohazard meant that the CDC and FBI should have been involved. And the school trying to cover it up added a federal crime to the mix. Still, none of that really mattered because the PRT immediately took over anything that had parahuman involvement. Emily wasn't going to tell Hess that, though – the idiot clearly needed to have it hammered through her thick skull exactly how badly she had fucked up.

"Is that what Hebert is saying?" Hess scoffed. "It was just a fucking prank."

"You shut a girl inside a school locker with a level 2 biohazard!" Emily slammed her hand on the desk for emphasis. "If she had any open wounds, she might have needed Panacea's attention just to survive! A creative enough lawyer could even argue for a bioterrorism charge."

Probably not successfully, but they could argue for it. And if it was put before a jury… well, jurors tended to be harsh on crimes committed against children. And in Brockton Bay, where Empire supporters might find themselves mixed in? Hess and her friends would be fucked, which was why they couldn't let it get in front of a jury. Her secret identity would definitely be exposed.

As it was, that incident had been dangerously likely to be a trigger event, despite the mild hospital report and quick recovery. In a normal situation, she would have decided to err on the side of caution and sent a PRT agent to talk to the girl just in case, but if Taylor Hebert was a parahuman and decided to join the Wards, she would be guaranteed to find out that Sophia Hess was Shadow Stalker and that would be nearly as bad as having it revealed in court. Parahumans were irrational at the best of times, teenage parahumans fresh off their trigger were far worse.

If she didn't know that Hess was a moron with no capacity for forward planning or grasp of the bigger picture, she would have thought that she'd intentionally engineered this catch-22 to cover her ass.

The best way forward that Emily could see was to wait and hope that – if Hebert did trigger – she would go out and do something sufficiently criminal to give the PRT some leverage over her. Then she could be brought into the Wards under probation as well, while Hess was muzzled and leashed to keep her from causing any more trouble. Then she could talk to one of the other regional directors about swapping out Hess, citing the situation as being too volatile. If that failed, then both of them could be threatened to shut up and play nice with the threat of legal consequences.

It was a precarious clusterfuck far too likely to blow up in her face and Emily silently vowed to make Sophia's life miserable for creating it.

Shadow Stalker said nothing, just glared mulishly. At first, she'd tried to deny knowing anything about the situation, but they had already gone through her phones and the idiot girl had kept plenty of evidence on her private one.

"You are barred from patrols until further notice." Emily began laying down the law. "You will stay at PRT HQ full time from now on. If you aren't at school, you're going to be here. Armsmaster will fit you with a shock anklet that you will only be removed when I say so."

"That's bullshit!" Hess shouted, jumping out of her chair.

"You should be thanking your lucky stars that I'm not having you shipped straight to juvie." Emily growled.

And oh, how she wanted to do exactly that. Not only was it where a psychopath like Sophia belonged, but it would also throw mud on Armsmaster because he was supposed to be in charge of the Wards as the head of the Protectorate ENE. On paper he still was, in actuality, he had dumped it on her. To be fair, it was true that the remoteness of Protectorate HQ presented a serious logistical problem for the Wards, but Emily knew that he had done that because he hated wasting time on them. The implication that her time was less valuable than his grated, and she'd pushed the responsibility on her own deputy, who, unlike her, didn't hate children.

But sticking it to Armsmaster was what she wanted to do, not what needed to be done.

There were a lot of things she wanted to do. She wanted to put away Skidmark and his collection of filth masquerading as humans, she wanted to throw monsters like Lung and Hookwolf into the Birdcage, she wanted to put an end to Kaiser's sanctimonious bullshit. On especially frustrating days, she wanted to authorize fully lethal measures on all the gangs in the city and dump the corpses into the bay.

But she couldn't do any of that, because the local PRT and Protectorate were grossly undermanned, underfunded and overworked. If she tried to escalate against the gangs , turn the PR war into an actual war, she would lose. Decisively. The PR war was the only fight where she had the advantage, so that was the fight she had to fight.

A city like Brockton Bay, with its abundance of villains and their unpowered minions, should have at least twice the number of capes and PRT troopers, and three times the funding. Emily had been requesting reinforcements for years, and received only excuses.

A dirty secret that pointedly wasn't talked about was the fact that some places were simply… abandoned. If Chief Director Costa-Brown and Legend agreed that the criminal element couldn't be handled without a ruinous expenditure of resources, then the PRT and Protectorate simply cleared out and let the villains have free reign. It didn't happen often, usually only if an S-rank threat arose and could force some kind of Mutually Assured Destruction situation, but some smaller towns were allowed to effectively become the personal fiefdoms of various villain groups. Small villages of only a few thousand people didn't get any PRT response at all, as long as the villainous cape who took it over wasn't excessively monstrous.

Ostensibly, this was allowed under the justification that the PRT and Protectorate simply didn't have the manpower to dedicate towards ousting them. They were bumped down on the priority list with an implied 'we'll get to this once we fix up the rest of the country'.

Emily had been in the PRT a long time and knew that it wasn't getting any better. The country wasn't getting fixed up and no manpower was being freed. Brockton Bay was looking like it would be the first actual city abandoned to villains that weren't an S-rank threat. The next largest settlement so abandoned had less than twenty thousand people, compared to Brockton Bay's three hundred and fifty thousand.

She was determined to not allow that to happen, which was why she couldn't just boot the teenage psychopath in front of her into jail – not just juvenile detention, but actual prison – where she belonged, why she couldn't rub Armsmaster's face into his own mess, and why she had to squash the police investigation into Taylor Hebert's assault. With Chief Director Costa-Brown continually refusing to send her any reinforcements, the local resources were all she had. The situation was bad enough that Shadow Stalker actually made a measurable difference, if only to free up more valuable assets elsewhere. The Wards weren't even supposed to be getting into fights with serious villains, and they wouldn't if it was any city other than Brockton Bay.

If this was what 2011 looked at the start of the year, she didn't even want to think about how bad it was going to be by the end.


Coil, supervillain by night, PRT consultant Thomas Calvert by day, read the report that he got from one of his many backdoors into the PRT computers and couldn't believe his luck.

Shadow Stalker had cooked up this wonderful PR disaster for Emily Piggot that he could trigger almost at will, just as he was gearing up for his final play for control of the city. It was like a belated Christmas present. 2011 was off to a great start.


Over the next several days, Taylor confirmed that she did indeed seem to be genuinely psychic.

She wasn't hearing the thoughts of everyone she passed on the street, but she could feel the shape of them. That was far too close to the Simurgh for her comfort.

She hadn't dared try pushing into anyone's head deliberately. The one experiment with a bird that caused it to fall off a power line put it firmly into the bad idea category.

The national shitshow that was the Canary trial loomed large in her mind. She hadn't even been following it, but it was a controversial enough topic that she had heard about it nonetheless. The singer was clearly getting railroaded in the courts and smeared in the media over the most superficial of comparisons to the Simurgh. What would they do if they learned that there was an actual psychic around?

Taylor's Thinker power allowed her to imagine many, many scenarios. Her experience with authority was bad enough that she could see absolutely no way of that ending well.

Frustrated by this discovery, Taylor had gone for her second run of the day. Her exercise regime was at least progressing wonderfully. She felt sore almost constantly, but she seemed to have some minor Brute rating that allowed her to recover faster, because the soreness always seemed to vanish after a good night's sleep. And it might just be her hopeful imagination, but she seemed to be building muscle already. After sixteen months of being torn down by the Bitch Trio, the feeling of accomplishment was even more addicting than the physical pleasure she got from pushing herself to the limit, and it was a balm on her frustrated realization that she'd have to hide the true nature of her powers if she ever wanted to be accepted as a hero.

Her father was a little worried about her sudden fitness drive, but didn't think it too strange… although he probably would if he knew how much exercising she did these days. To be fair, she also sometimes worried that she was overdoing it… there had been warnings about what excessive exercise could do to a person, but she was finding it hard to resist the urge with how good it felt. She tried to distract herself by training her multitasking power instead, trawling across anonymous, unofficial ranked games of chess, shogi, Go and such on the internet, but she didn't really have any other hobbies and getting lost in a book was no longer possible. When she looked at a page these days, she looked at the entire page all at once. And that wasn't even getting into the countless more iterations of her mind that buzzed in other topics.

It did make studying vastly easier and faster, though.

At least she was getting a handle on the arousal exercising caused. Now that the newness of it had worn off, she was better able to slow down before it got really bad and left her body feeling pleasantly heated instead of the desperate burning need it had been the first time.

Taylor wasn't necessarily averse to allowing herself a reward after a hard workout, but what she'd done the first time had definitely been a bit much. As incredibly pleasurable as orgasms were now, she didn't want to become addicted to them

Her jog slowed down as she reached her house, staring at it warily. She felt the familiar psychic heat of rage emanating from it. Her father was angry.

"Dad?" She asked cautiously as she stepped through the front door, seeing him pacing furiously up and down the living room. The sense of weight from his grief was still there, but right now it was being overwhelmed by anger.

He visibly worked to contain his anger before he answered, but his voice still came out in a snarl. "The BBPD called. They had to drop the investigation, lack of evidence they said."

"What?" Taylor was stunned… but not that stunned. A part of her had been expecting the three bitches to get away with it again. "But what about my journals?"

"Apparently none of what you gave them counts as hard evidence." Her dad growled. "The incidents you documented can't be corroborated, you didn't actually see who pushed you into the locker, the e-mails can't be connected to them and the bruises you photographed could have come from anywhere. The school cleaned up your locker before the police got there and none of the students or staff will talk to them."

This was usually the point where Taylor would get depressed and withdraw into herself, but right now the only thing she could feel was RAGE. Maybe it was because of how much worse the locker was than anything they had done before, maybe it was because she was a parahuman now. Whatever the cause, she was furious and hundreds of copies of her mind started crafting vicious revenge fantasies.

She'd had them before, of course. Daydreams of confronting Emma in a verbal battle (that she always easily won despite her social awkwardness and Emma's high tier teenage bitch skills) and left her former friend humiliated so badly in front of the whole school that she never dared speak to her again. More violent thoughts of breaking Sophia's nose despite the fact that the most physical member of the Trio was a much better fighter than her. Even petty fantasies of throwing some of Winslow's famously bad meatloaf into that annoying little bitch Madison's face.

The ones she was having at the moment were a bit more… extreme. A simple verbal beat down for Emma became systematic destruction of her life, until the traitorous bitch was curled up in a corner of a padded room in a mental institution. A simple punch for Sophia became a brutal chainsaw murder. And a thrown plate of food for Madison became drowning her in a recently used toilet.

And Taylor couldn't even turn her thoughts away from it. The nature of her powers meant that she always had attention to spare for thinking of something else. The revenge fantasies got more lurid and visceral as they developed and cross-pollinated, until the bullies in her mind's eye were brutalized and defiled in ways that even the Slaughterhouse 9 would probably be impressed by.

"Then I called Alan." Dad continued, still seething.

A mental iteration that wasn't busy visualizing brutal murder recalled that the police had specifically told him not to do that.

"The backstabbing son of a bitch wouldn't hear a word of it." He snarled. "His precious little girl couldn't have done that, he says. It's slander, he says. Threatened to sue us out of house and home if I didn't drop it!"

Well, Emma had to have gotten it from somewhere. A few more mental iterations started up daydreams of force-feeding her former friend rotten tampons while Alan Barnes watched.

"I'm going for a run." She snarled, stomping back out the door.

"But you just came back from one?" Her dad said in confusion.

"I need another one!"

Because if she didn't do something with all this RAGE then she might actually explode. Her father's psychic aura had been only a faint cloak. Hers was a massive bonfire wreathed with bolts of crimson lightning.