15.4 All Masks Fall

Melody had read a lot about how horrific telepathy was to those who’d fallen victim to it. To have someone else invade your head, your thoughts and memories – things that, above all else, should be sacrosanct. She’d read reports of people, civilians and heroes alike, who’d reported to have felt more violated by having their brains looked through than by straight-up mind control. Reports by psychologists, theorizing that the reason why telepathy in all its forms was so feared was because it was so far outside the human experience.

To have your body violated, horrific though it is, was something that, sadly, humans had had a long, long time to adapt to, both mentally and socially. But before the advent of powers, a direct violation of the mind had, to anyone’s knowledge, been impossible, and it struck right at the core of people themselves; thus the visceral, extreme reaction to it.

Mindstar’s career was emblematic of that. She had been just a B-Class villain, bordering on A, and then she’d been revealed as a telepath. She wasn’t the strongest mind-controller out there, she hadn’t even been the most powerful one on the East Coast, but the sheer fear that true telepaths generated had vaulted her up to S-Class, even before she’d managed to actually give Lady Light a fair fight.

Melody had never really absorbed all of that information, not really. Her only experience with telepathy had been through Irene, who’d mostly used it only as an advanced com-system in combat, and so they could chat and gossip while seemingly doing serious stuff, and who’d only ever read the surface thoughts Melody had concentrated on, that she’d been willing to share.

Now, though, now she understood. Better than she’d ever would have wanted to. All her power, all her gadgets, had come to naught. Mindfuck had, apparently, not even been anywhere close, and he’d slapped her down with literally just a thought. Riffling through her memories like they’d been an open book. Forcing her to re-experience her own fantasies, and the… the climaxes… she’d experienced, in the course of… her explorations… all at once.

She choked on that thought, only to realize it wasn’t just a mental choke. Scrambling up, she was barely able to turn away from the prone, curled-up mess that was Kizzy, and throw up.

Oh God…

Her skin was crawling, from head to toe, and she felt like she needed to take ten showers, and scrub until her skin was all gone to feel even remotely clean again.

And then he’d made her choke Kizzy, and there’d been nothing she could do to stop it, other than appeal to their own fucked-up rules.

Oh, Kizzy, I’m so sorry.

She turned around, still on all fours, and found Kizzy still curled up into a tight ball, sobbing.

“Kizzy. Can you… hear me?” she asked fearfully, as she reached for the girl, sitting back on her heels and pulling her onto her lap.

There were blackening bruises around her neck, and Melody’s heart broke all over again at seeing them.

She drew the girl to her bosom, hugging her… not too tightly. As gingerly as she could, like she was made of spun glass.

Kizzy sobbed and sobbed, and Melody cried with her. What else could she do?

***

After what felt like hours, but which her visor told her were only a few minutes, Kizzy went limp in her arms.

At first, Melody panicked, fearing after-effects of her choking her, that maybe she’d caused even more damage than the bruises betrayed – but no, she’d simply passed out, slipping into merciful unconsciousness.

I need to get her away from all this. Somehow. I need to get away, somehow.

She stood up, thanking whatever God there may be, that she’d been given some measure of super-strength along with her primary power, as it made Kizzy’s weight completely negligible to her.

Unfortunately, it didn’t make her any less unwieldy to carry. Especially since she needed to have her arms free, to be able to properly defend herself.

In the end, after some thought, she ended up taking off her hoodie – so much for covering up, but it wasn’t like that’d helped at all – and using it to tie a seat, of sorts, for Kizzy, so she was on her back, piggyback style. Not the most secure thing, but it’d have to suffice until she woke up again.

Then she set off once more, splitting her attention between her echolocator and trying to come up with some, any plan.

She couldn’t come under Mindfuck’s power again. She just couldn’t. Even now, just thinking of the experience, it made her knees weak, and her… tender bits, burn up in shame. If he got ahold of her again… she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get up again, even if she survived it.

But… he’d let some things slip. There’d been rumors for years now, that Mindfuck had lost a lot of power, or at least been holding back. For years, he hadn’t performed his favorite ‘game’, forcing an entire city’s population to live through the experience of him abusing a child, and the experience of being the child so abused, at the same time. His cruelties had become… far smaller in scale, though no less horrific.

What he said… some boy, someone managed to ‘break’ him? Cripple him?

If that was true… if she ever ran into that boy, whoever he was, she’d give him her first kiss, that was for sure.

Because that meant… she had a chance to get away. If he was too weak to send to an entire city, now, then perhaps, the reverse was also true – and he’d all but stated that. He couldn’t just connect to every mind at once anymore, nor find any mind within his range… he had to search. To look for someone.

All she had to do was find a way to escape his ‘sight’, however it worked.

Not easily done, at all, not when she didn’t know the exact mechanics and limitations.

What else do I know? I read up on these guys, but they make a point of obfuscating what they’re truly capable of.

One limitation that she did know about, with reasonable certainty…

She looked up at the false sky, and the ‘game show’ running above. It was currently quiet, showing ‘live feeds’ from various parts of the Six’ world… they weren’t pretty sights, but at least none of the ‘PCs’ had been slain or captured y-

Oh no.

She stopped, mid-step.

One of the screens, Atrocity’s ‘game cam’ she supposed, showed said demented disgrace to all gadgeteers, in a sleek, snake-like body, several children held hostage with her trademark reddish blades.

And just a few meters away from her, Harry knelt on the ground, one arm around Thomas’ shoulders, the other holding two redheads, a mother and a daughter going by their age difference and similar faces, spreading his power over them.

Red hair… and Atrocity is there… is that Tyche… and her mother?

She had barely processed all that, when Atrocity drew one of her blades diagonally across a little boy’s stomach, then nudged him forward.

The boy fell on his knees, guts starting to spill out of the razor-fine cut, his hands trying to-

Melody averted her eyes. She couldn’t look. If she saw the child’s face, she knew she’d never be able to forget.

Instead, she looked at the group, as far as that was possible, huddled under Harry’s power. Thomas had his face pressed against his love’s chest, clutching his rifle tightly. Dalia’s mother was holding her daughter, so she couldn’t look, and had her eyes averted.

Harry was wearing his helmet, so it was hard to tell, but she would have wagered anything he was watching that child die, and blaming himself, as if it was his fault.

It was just the right kind of wound, too. Lethal, but probably not instantly so, calculated to be survived, possibly, if immediate aid was given.

Aid they had all been trained on, to know how to provide it.

Harry’s power had originated from him trying to save children, at the risk of his own life.

It was a calculated move, trying to goad him into dropping his power to try and save that child.

Melody had never hated anyone or anything as she hated Atrocity then, upon that realization. Not Hastur, not the Panthers, not Dusu, not even Mindfuck.

And she couldn’t do anything about it, anything at all.

***

Even with her echolocation, it took her a while to find the portal. It turned out to be the door to a broom closet in the back of a small ice cream parlor, which, when opened, seemed to lead into a school classroom.

The edges of the door were kind of fuzzy, and Melody’s echolocation got a lot of static, though she was at least able to tell that there was no one in that room she couldn’t see, at least.

Of course, portals, especially interdimensional ones, interacted in the weirdest, most screwy ways with… pretty much everything. Powers, technology, you name it, portals messed with it.

She was counting on it. Mindfuck had, to anyone’s knowledge, never exhibited the ability to reach across dimensions. It was a common enough limitation to nearly every power she knew of, that’d had its interactions with such phenomena recorded.

Here’s to statistical probability, Melody thought, as she made sure she had a good grip on Kizzy’s arms slung over her shoulders, and stepped into the portal.

As she entered the interface, her power went wild. From the usual background musical score she could never quite blend out, which rose to the surface if she focused on it, it turned into an utter cacophony of discord. No coherent ideas at all, no analysis or inspiration, just mad discord.

Woo, this is worse than being teleported!, she thought to herself, and took another step, out of the interface between realities and into the school classroom.

The madness dropped away, her power stabilizing nearly instantly, back to its usual background hymn.

After she’d made sure, with her own eyes and her echolocation, that no one was nearby, she focused on her power, experimentally, and the music came into focus.

It was richer, somehow, like a new depth had been added to the notes, but it was fading even as she listened.

But for a few precious moments, at least, she caught a glimpse of ideas she’d never have considered possible, before. Principles of interdimensional transition, applied to sound, and more.

She looked at the portal, mournfully. There was no time. The new ideas were fading already, too incomplete to do anything with, and she couldn’t afford to hang around this place and hop in and out of the portal, as much as she wanted to.

Maybe I can talk Irene into making a portal in my lab, sometime, she placated herself, settling for making sure Kizzy wasn’t going to slip off, and held her left gauntlet into the portal, then slowly, carefully, pulled it out, as she engaged her scanners. She scanned the portal from the outside, just to be thorough, and then hopped in one more time, using  scanners built into her gauntlets to scan herself, focusing on her head, both within the portal, during transition, and right outside.

There was no time to even glance at the data, but at least she could be sure it would be there, waiting to be analyzed, once this mess was over.

Provided I’m still alive and sane enough to do so, she couldn’t help but remind herself. Either way, enough time spent on this. I need to move on and… survive, I guess. I have no earthly idea how I might actually get out of here, she thought, quietly. Maybe, if I can find Irene, or hold out long enough for her to find me, we can figure something out together.

Kizzy stirred, on Melody’s back, so she interrupted her deliberations in order to step into a different classroom and carefully lower her onto the teacher’s chair.

“Kizzy?” she asked in a worried voice, feeling, not for the first time, subtly wrong about it, as if she was pretending to feel these things, like a person whom deliberately pitched their voice in a way so as to convey something that wasn’t true – except for her, it was always the case, be it true or false. “Can you hear me?”

The little blonde stirred away, eyes fluttering open. Melody was expecting her to break down into tears, or scream, but what she got hurt her heart worse somehow.

Kizzy dropped her eyes down, and didn’t say anything. Didn’t show anything, her pretty face – she still had that angelic look young boys and girls tended to keep into their tweens, before diminishing baby fat and the progression of puberty matured their features – completely flat, showing no reaction at all.

She just nodded.

In spite of her earlier thoughts, Melody now felt glad that she couldn’t use her natural voice and had to rely on her vocoder. The voice it produced didn’t tremble, crack or choke up unless she wanted it to, and she very much didn’t want it to right then.

“I took us away from that horrid man,” she explained softly, running her right hand’s fingers over the girl’s left cheek, wishing she wasn’t wearing thick, electronics-filled gloves. “We should be safe from him, for now.” But not from whichever other monsters are around, she privately thought to herself. Though at least I ought to be able to do something against the others.

Kizzy nodded again, eyes downcast. Still not a peep from her.

“I’m sorry, but we need to keep moving. Do you think you’re up for walking, or should I carry you again?”

Instead of vocally answering, Kizzy stood up, and gave her another nod.

I’m so sorry I can’t just give you a thick, soft blanket and some hot chocolate and some music, but we really need to find help, she thought, rather than said, as she draped her hoodie over Kizzy’s slender shoulders. It wasn’t as nice as a proper blanket would have been, but at least it was warm, another layer between her and this cruel pseudo-world the Six had created.

Not that her problems didn’t start before, and will continue long after I get her out of here.

And she was getting her out of this place, even if it was the last thing she did.

She owed Jared at least that much.

***

The city outside the school looked as desolate as the last place they’d been to, if in a different fashion. More suburban, but the very geography had been shifted, distorted. Buildings were too close together now, streets snaking rather than straight, when they should have been a perfect grid.

Arsville Heights, she thought, recognizing one of the richest neighborhoods in New Lennston. The kind of area where several buildings were built of stone, three or four stories high and just a step short of being outright mansions, with generous greenery around them and high fences or walls encircling each property, side by side with less opulent, yet still rich single family homes.

Once upon a time, in the days of Old Lennston, it’d been the kind of neighborhood that the lesser Goldschmidt family branches had lived in, until the Dark’s reputation had driven his younger siblings and their families away from Lennston entirely.

Now it’d been twisted and distorted. Buildings had been moved together, the ground between them folded, literally folded away, or raised up and tilted, so one building lay on its side atop another, somehow without collapsing when it absolutely should have. Streets wound and twisted, few of them still level, none straight.

It was disorienting to look at, frankly, and even her echolocation had trouble mapping anything beyond her immediate surroundings – there were distortions in space, weird echoes and even less tangible disruptions in the way sounds propagated, which her program couldn’t possibly decipher in its current form.

In the end, she was forced to turn its range way down, just so she wouldn’t get disoriented by the discordant feedback. Down to just eleven point four-oh-five meters.

Still better than relying just on her eyes.

Is this place really this quiet, or is all the noise just not coming through? she wondered, while she and Kizzy walked down a street which should have been broad enough for two cars to drive down side by side, but which was now barely a back alley that’d fit maybe three grown men.

She kept looking over her shoulder, too, at Kizzy. To her consternation, the girl hadn’t made a meep, since rousing from unconsciousness, which was doubly problematic, because Melody, quite frankly, sucked at the non-vocal parts of communication. It wasn’t that she was incapable, when she focused, but ever since the onset of her powers, she’d been unable to take non-vocal cues in subconsciously (unless they were stupidly obvious), like people tended to do – she had to focus to do it, and she suspected that even with all her attention so focused, she stil fell short of what normal people could read.

Point being, with Kizzy refusing to talk, at all, even when prodded, she had no idea how to talk to her, how to help her.

Focus, Melody, she thought to herself. Get her out of this hell-hole alive, then worry about getting her some therapy. Because oh God, will she need therapy. And so will you.

Thinking of therapy only made her think of her handler. Stephanie. She’d been having a meeting with her, drinking tea and talking about Melody’s recent adventures and misdeeds (if she survived this, she was going to be in so much trouble over the Gefährten incident) when the alarms had gone off. Stephanie had taken one look at her and realized that she was going to fight, no matter what – it wasn’t like she could stop her, physically, anyway – and had just hugged her and wished her luck, before running for the bunker.

I really hope she’s alright, Melody though, as she lifted a half-open door that led nowhere off its hinges, and laid it out as a gangplank over some trashbags that’d burst open and spilled their reeking contents over the tiny alley they were walking through. I hope Irene is alright. I hope Harry and Thomas and Tyche and her mom will make it out as alright as is possible, and Hecate and AImihime and Goudo are alright, and…

And so it went, round and round and round, for several more minutes of silent progress in this twisted, uneven nightmare of a former city.

***

Two hours and eleven minutes later, Melody heard someone cry out in the distance. A young man, if she had to guess, analyzing what she heard while accounting for the omnipresent distortions.

Her tracking systems, meant to trace any possible call for help back to its origin, kicked in, only to flounder in the face of the twisted reality around them.

Then the young man screamed again, quickly joined by an older woman, and a child whom was too young to distinguish sex by the way their voice sounded.

Melody looked ahead – the ‘alley’ was sloping up sharply, far more so than any real alley or street would ever have been built, an angle over forty-five degrees, steep enough it would be easier to climb than walk – then behind herself, at Kizzy, caught in indecision.

Someone needed her help, but the only way to get to them would be to risk leaving Kizzy behind, then come back for her…

No. No way, I-

Kizzy looked up at her with those empty, dull eyes, and seemed to regain some measure of focus, reaching out to push against the small of her back.

Melody blinked, surprised. “You want me to go?” she asked, surprised.

Kizzy nodded, pushing again.

She leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll be as swift as I can. Hide, until I come for you.” She should give her instructions for what to do if she didn’t come back, but frankly, she didn’t think Kizzy stood a chance to make it through this without her around.

Besides, she was determined to get her out, herself, and that meant coming back.

She ran, leaving Kizzy behind, swearing to herself that she’d be back.

***

You’ve got to be shitting me, was all she could think, at first, as she got close enough to the source of the screams. Those two!?

She’d only had to run for what would have been a single city block, if that much, before the alley opened up into a larger square, what must have once been a playground, or maybe a backyard with a swing and other toys, mushed together with two or three pools and various kinds of greenery.

There were several corpses strewn about the area – three people, burned beyond recognition, but adult by the size of the remains, two children who’d been frozen solid hugging each other. One of the pools was filled with blood and gore, as if several people had been torn apart, put through a blender – or perhaps, made to blow up.

There were only four civilians left, a woman holding a small boy, her son by the look of things, in her arms, kneeling. Her husband, kneeling as he held a younger man, probably a younger brother or perhaps an older son, trying to staunch the bleeding of the stump extending from his left shoulder.

Over them stood two all too familiar figures. One was a woman, all nude, not that there was much to see – her body was stocky in an unnatural way, the skin too smooth, bulging on her form, like extra layers of fat had been inserted between skin and organs, giving her a strangely flat, shapeless physique. Not fat, but far from slender or normal. No hair on her head, nor eyebrows, her facial features oddly spaced apart and dulled, flattened, making her look like a rough, yet perfectly symmetrical doll. She had nipples, but they too were off, too flat, like tea cup saucers, and it was impossible to tell whether the slit between her legs was her actual slit or simply another fold of her layered armor of fat. Flames danced in the palms of her hands, as she talked to her companion in a drawl, revealing a set of flat, blunt teeth, as if she had only molars, all around, no incisors or any other type of tooth. Her eyes, in contrast, seemed completely normal, in size and shape, only spaced too far apart, muddy brown and utterly unremarkable in and of themselves.

Not much would have been known about her background, if she didn’t feel compelled to utterly and completely expose herself to the public. She’d filled out her own wiki page, on every such site collecting data on cowls, metahumans in general, criminals, and so on, and as far as anyone had been able to tell, it’d all been truthful. Often painfully detailed. Her entire biography was known – once a teenage girl, she’d gone hiking and camping with family and friends, only for the entire group to be caught in a blizzard, cut off from the outside world. Long-ignored issues had flared up and people had turned on one another, until she’d snapped, gained powers and killed everyone else present, then walked out into the blizzard, naked, no longer bothered by the weather, and become a serial killer.

As if her presence wasn’t bad enough, next to her stood one of the prettiest guys Melody had ever met, a young spaniard just three years her senior, with the kind of haunting good looks that just screamed ‘metahuman’. He wore only a pair of faded, torn jeans, showing off the kind of body that’d make a girl’s knees weak, and a face that was prettier than most girls’ Melody had ever known, without being the least bit feminine. Bronze skin and tousled, blond-brown hair completed the look, as he grinned at the misshapen woman, flashing perfect teeth. He was wet, literally, from head to toe, his jeans only tighter for it, and didn’t seem to have any problem with her waving handfuls of fire so close to him.

If the woman had once been a normal girl who’d been caught up in a bad situation and snapped, this guy had been despicably evil long before gaining superpowers. A little over three years ago, almost four now, when he’d been a little younger than Melody, he’d lived in a Spanish village, near the border to Portugal, where a woman had disappeared, one day, only to be found five days later, having been raped and drowned in the river, left to be washed away. A week later, a younger woman suffered a similar fate, reappearing, dead, seven days after disappearing. It’d happened twice more over the following month, each victim a little younger than the last, before the case drew enough attention to cause a cape to come over, all the way from New Madrid. An esper, he arrived just days after another girl, barely a teen, disappeared, and quickly narrowed down the suspect pool to the husband of the first victim. He’d led the police to lay a trap where his power told him the girls were taken to be drowned alive, to catch the culprit in the act and save the girl.

He’d been right, the culprit appeared that night, and he brought the girl with him, still alive, if horribly battered.

Only it hadn’t been the first victim’s husband, but her fourteen-year-old son who’d been responsible.

They tried to capture him, but he gained powers, then, and used the very river they’d cornered him at to kill all of them, the cape included. He’d only spared his original victim, after subjecting her to even more abuse, before simply wandering off. What followed had been two years of vagrancy, alternating between laying low and committing horrible, heinous deeds. The kind of criminal Irene would describe as base, in the worst kind of way. His crimes had been so debased that, had he been caught, he’d have been executed, in spite of his age.

It wasn’t until an EU-wide death warrant had been issued that he’d decided things were getting too hot for him, and disappeared, only to re-appear months later as a member of the Rabid Eight in New Lennston.

He was the one responsible for the blood-and-gore pool, if she had to guess. He could only control water he was in contact with, but he could also control the water inside a person’s body, provided he touched them directly. Making people ‘pop’ like over-filled water balloons had been a signature of his.

Exposed and ‘El Conquistadore’. The two newest members of the Rabid Eight, before Melody, in her first ever engagement as Polymnia, had helped bring them down and in.

Well, she’d showed off against them, before Irene had shown up and slapped them down like the shitty little gnats that they were.

Now she’d have to deal with them all on her own. While they had hostages. And she had to worry about the Savage Six dropping down on her, as opposed to having a team of young heroes and the world’s most powerful BFF-to-be for backup.

And she didn’t have her power armor or speaker-arms either.

Fuck my life.

62 thoughts on “15.4 All Masks Fall

  1. Why in God’s name does WordPress have to switch to a new, WORSE editor? I’m still not sure how to make it all work, and it has LESS functions for formatting text than the old one?

    What is even the point?

    • You want a conspiracy answer? Or a plausible guess?

      The conspiracy theory would be that WordPress has been purchased by Microsoft. They have a proud tradition of removing useful features in later versions, possibly because they are a CIA experiment to determine how far people can be pushed before they take drastic action.

      The sane guess? WP probably didn’t own the editor, and there’s some business dealings preventing them from continuing to use it. Such as the owner of the intellectual property deciding that they want to be paid more than WP can afford to license the software. In the meantime, they are forced to make do with a substandard option.

  2. Well score one for showing them no mercy if they’re just going to get out and kill again I guess.

    Awesome chapter as always.

  3. Hey, new chapter! Thanks for the update! The Savage Six and “friends” really are proper bastards, aren’t they? If one of them dies, I’ll have to get the world’s smallest violin and play “My heart bleeds for you.”

  4. I thought the Savage Six hated these guys, what are they doing in their barrier again. Actually when did the Rabid Eight get out of prison? We’re they being kept in New Lenniston or were they let out to fight DiL?

    • It’s been mentioned a while ago that the Six have been kidnapping/recruiting metas, particularly villains, since Osaka went sideways, to some unknown purpose. The R8 were picked right out of prison

      • Good to know. How do the Six feel about fans anyway? 5 of the Right were killed by the Six but they keep a bunch of ‘groupies’ with them when attacking cities.

      • They do love their fans. Mind you, that doesn’t mean they’re any safer from being murdered and/or mutilated than anyone else, as the R8 found out in the past…

    • As a side-note, people like them would not be let out of prison, even for an s-class event.

      They were all awaiting either execution or extradition followed by execution

      • Wasn’t it mentioned that they use some sort of hibernation pod for powered criminals? Why would they do that if they are willing to execute them?

      • Tartarus Star is for criminals (and threats which aren’t criminal) which can’t or are not meant to be executed but which cannot be safely contained otherwise.
        Basically they are put on ice until the means to deal with them are available.

        For example, the Living Trinity are minors and mentally ill on top of that, so execution was deemed inappropriate, but they are FAR too powerful to contain in prison or an asylum, so the’ve been put in stasis until the means to safely rehabilitate them are available.

  5. Can’t believe I have to bring this up, but I do want my readers to have a proper mental image of my characters:

    a friend reminded me that Cup Size Charts are different across the world. Melody’s G-Cup is stated according to the EU size chart, which is equivalent to an E-F in the US size chart.

    • Details. 🙂 Yes, bras are one more thing where there isn’t an international standard. That said, Melody’s obviously well endowed no matter what standard she’s measured by; you’ve made that clear.

  6. Been rereading early chapters and a question occurred to me. What kind of raw materials did Basil need and how did he get them? Does he start with electronics parts or just like raw copper wire? Is there some kind of underground delivery service similar to that bank?

    • There is a black market, though he mostly bought broken or outdated electronic appliances and stripped them for path, tapping toybox contacts to order rarer materials he couldn’t get safely on the open market.

      he traded several designs of his away just for access to resources

  7. I got midway through reading this and then I stopped and said, „Why am I reading this? What’s the point having torture porn villains?“ It just seems… unnecessary. The villains don’t need to be this bad for their defeat to be satisfying. I don’t need to read this stuff. Can’t we just have the characters grow and change and have satisfying character arcs without fighting torture porn villains? There is plenty of room for serious, interesting antagonists who are genuinely terrifying without the Savage Six.

    • I disagree. These are genuinely insane villains, not joyriders looking to have fun fighting heroes and destroying stuff, or builders trying to take over the world to enforce their vision of Utopia. Torture and death is part of the package then dealing with them.

      Also, how have you gotten this far into the story if you feel this level of violence is too much? This series has shown way worse stuff. Stuff that made me genuinely uncomfortable.

  8. A few things I am curious about:
    Does Sovereign have a navy? What’s it like?
    What was Prisca’s life like between the end of the Hastur incident and her death? What was her mother’s reaction when she found out about Gilgul?
    What’s Jake up to?
    What’s the european cape community like?
    Do you have plans for what you’re going to write after Brennus?

    • Sovereign has a navy, yes. it’s a mix of normal troops and ships, metahumans and automated ships

      it was a mix of even more misery than usual (when awake in her real body) and blissful escapism.
      she was horrified she’d failed to protect her baby girl yet again, bit also glad Prisca got to enjoy life again, in some way
      Jake was out of town when this mess happened. right now he’s dearhly worried for his girlfriend

      Europe has a much harsher, much less organized cape scene. cape organizations are viewed with inherent distrust. heroes who organize too much (beyond small local teams or temporary alliances) have trouble getting funding or finding allies among other heroes and normal people. villains whom organize too much draw the primary focus of the authorities as well as of rival villains.

      Brennus is the first book in the blazing stars series, so I’d be writing the sequels.
      In terms of other series there’s the too-neglected The Dreaming and another project I haven’t published anything about, yet

      • Thanks for the info on the world. Sucks to be Europe, then. Harsher than this is pretty damn bad.

      • It’s not all bad. remember that europe is VERY diverse, compared to the USA. I gave you the general picture but the details vary wildly from one country to the next

  9. How have you’ve been Tieshaunn?

    Also, how do the current crop of The Dark Five fair against Lady Light’s team? It seems only three of them are meant for combat(not counting Mindstar’s weirdness).Quetzalcoatl(from the tidbits you’ve added about him) and the Feral Family seem more than enough to deal with their counterparts, not even adding in Fluer’s dimensional forests and Severance. The Dark Five seem more saboteurs than fighters.

    Besides The Companions,The Foresters,The Dark Five, who are the other contenders for the most significant criminal organization? (I’m not counting the Savage Six due to them being basically a roving kill-storm.)

    What do the Caliphate do besides combine into a giant gestalt? Does Israel have any way to deal with attacks from them?

    • I doubt Israel exist in this timeline XD

      And i realy hope there are more major criminal organisations. The Darks organisation appears to be too powerfull in my opinion.

    • Uff, I’ve been well enough. The Wu Flu fortunately didn’t affect my life too badly, other than that I’m stuck at a menial job I’d originally just taken to bridge the time until I start at a better place, which is now closed of course… ah well.

      To answer some of your (and LazyKing’s) questions, let’s take them end to front:

      1. Israel exists, though it is far bigger – due to different circumstances, Palestine never formed, but rather that population was integrated properly into Israel (though all was not peachy keen). They never gave territory to egypt either, and about half of real-world Jordan is also part of Israel.

      2. The Caliphate is essentially a massive hive mind and a pretty horrific one. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but they essentially spread like a mental virus (classified in-setting as a cognitohazard), in particular through religious practice. Basically, if an infected person performs any ritual practices with an uninfected person and they are both sincere about them, the hive mind spreads onto a new victim.

      Or many new victims. It swept across entire nations before people caught on. Not just muslim ones, either, though the sincerity clause does bias it towards muslim victims, as the original members of the gestalt were all muslims.

      Currently, they have mostly retreated to their “new mecca” (an appellation the western press slapped onto it, the Caliphate does not use names… in fact, even the term ‘Caliphate’ comes from western parties, they have no name for themselves as there is no ‘they’ just the ‘one’), building up their population through industrialized breeding and training of the youth.

      3. Most of Israel’s defense budget goes towards managing the Caliphate – they, along with a few arab nations that remained independent in the region, have formed an alliance of necessity to hold them back and launch regular raids to cull their ever-growing population.

      Yes, the Caliphate did end up causing Israel and Iran to make buddy buddy. Weird world.

      4. Uff, too many to count, really. If I had to stick to just the biggest ones…

      The Church of Ascension
      Originated in the USA, but mostly based in South America (and what remains of Middle America). Ultra-religious metahuman supremacists, led by three sisters going by the monicers Hope, Faith and Love.

      The Kin of Giants
      A mysterious group that seems to exist solely to perform terror attacks aimed at… damn near anyone, really. No one knows who they really are or what they really want, and no one’s been able to track them down in the decade or so that they’ve been active.

      The Overlords
      Soviet equivalent of the syndicate, the Dark has a hand in it but is not its master.

      Kuro Ryodan (Black Brigade)
      Japanese criminal organization, started as an alliance of Yakuza families which was then taken over by ambitious metahumans. Extends onto the Asian mainland.

      The Four Black Heavens
      Catch-all term for the four biggest triads on the asian mainland (with feelers extending all the way to europe, russia, the USA and Canada)

      The Atlanteans
      Brutal eco-terrorists, striking from the sea. Believed to have an underwater base independent of any nation.

      Just to name a few.

      5. The Dark Five aren’t meant to meet the Shining Brigade in open battle, because, ultimately, they know they would lose if they would escalate too much into the open (though battles do happen, of course). They are meant to manage crime across an entire continent each, so that’s where the focus lies. If the Dark just wants to bring the violence, he either goes himself, or taps some REAL monsters he has in store, that are too unstable/too evil to be trusted with actual leadership positions.

      Basically, membership in the Dark Five means you need a balance between “powerful enough” and “smart/reliable enough”, not just raw power.

      • Thank you for replying. So in turn here is some more questions.

        Caliphate
        So what powers do they have in their gestalt form besides the mind whackery and immortality? Are they a discount giant or something more?

        Is the entire European interior wrecked by Weisswald? Are there just acres of white wood forests filled with Spiteborn?

        What stick/carrot does The Dark have to corral these “true” monsters? Besides just threatening to kill them, what enticed them to his organization? Can you give an example of just one of them?

      • 1. There are several thousand metahumans who’re a part of the Caliphate. I am NOT going to even try to make a complete list xD

        Most of them aren’t any special though, other than they are all part of a hive mind.

        2. There are still areas that are inaccessible, but most have been cleared out… though it’s still left a lot of areas heavily damaged.

        3. Depends. Some, he just provides with money, drugs, whatever their indulgence of choice is, so they remain on standby. Others he intimidates or has talked into being loyal to him… an example I could give…

        The Wendigo
        A man with the hunger for human flesh of his name-sake, he was discovered by Kraquok, but refused to join his group of cannibal cultists, as he isn’t one to share his meals. Instead, he tried to eat Kraquok.

        Eventually, the Dark himself had to intervene to stop their fight, forcing Wendigo to back down and bringing Kraquok off his rage. They struck a deal, where the Dark provides him with regular targets he can hunt and devour – metahumans in particular, as the taste of meat depends on whether or not they have powers, to him – normal people are bland, metahumans taste differently depending on their powers. Mostly he’s sent after people who’ve REALLY pissed off the Dark, or deployed into warzones to after the worst of war criminals, the ones who are just bad for the Syndicate’s business.

      • Several thousand Caliphate members!
        I thought it was just the thirteen. Yeesh, surprised they haven’t taken over the entire Middle East

      • Thirteen were the original ones (though no one knows whether just one of them is the source, or all of them). From there, the hive mind spread like a virus, kicking off the caliphate war when it was discovered (at which point it had already subsumed more than half of the middle east’s population, including a significant portion of the Israeli population).

      • And it’s not just a few thousand members. There are MILLIONS of caliphate members – you have to account for the unpowered ones too

      • a person who can summen 4 human-level minions that aren’t networked would be considered a useful metahuman.

        Now imagine millions, and they are all a single mind, all sharing sensed, across any distance.

  10. Sorry for another round of questions, but i’ve gutz to hav dat world-building and you’ve been quiet bubby.

    Do any large corporations have sponsored teams/heroes? Like how some corps have athletes or movie stars that shill their product. Does Disney have the happiest team on Earth?

    Do metahumans run any organizations that are legitimate and are not hero/villain related? Like a a construction company who handles rebuilding cities or business?

    Are there countries that have been overun by a metahuman’s creation(s)? Not like Spiteborn, but like an actual sentient species.

    • 1. Corporate/Sponsored teams are a thing, both on the hero and villain side.

      1.1. Disney has more than one

      2. Yes. Both running companies and working for companies.

      3. Yes, several over the decades, though quite a few have been wiped out by now. The degree of intelligence of these beings (be they robotic, biological or other) tends to be below human though.

  11. How bad are the Dark Five? What kind of crimes do they usually commit? How does Lady Light feel about them considering they are the Dark’s subordinates?

    • To get it out of the way, Lady Light does not extend any kind of special courtesy to the Five or any other employee of the Dark. Whenever she can, she brings them down and puts them away.

      The Dark Five’s “badness” varies, from member to member. In general, the Syndicate does try to keep up a “lesser evil” image, so they are more restricted in what they do and how they do it than many would think – for example, Mindstar had to curb the worst of her excesses once she joined, which was in large part achieved by giving her mountains of paperwork and administrative tasks to perform. She was only allowed to use her powers and unleash her… moods… to the fullest against other villains, rather than civilians and heroes (see how she dealt with Switchblade).

      Similar limitations apply to, say, Kraquok – he and his cult of friendly neighborhood cannibals only eat criminals and other undesirables that society won’t, generally, miss. Still horrific, still quite beyond being ever acceptable, but just BARELY restrained (and deniable) enough that it doesn’t draw as much heat as feeding freely would.

      The Dowager is pure business. Her speciality is very… high-class crime. Large-scale scams, infiltration of governments and corporations, that kind. She avoids killing, simply because she prefers to bind people into her service with her power (unless they break their word, in which case they die, of course… and keep serving her). She generally stays out of on-the-street crime, doesn’t hold territory like a gang would and it has been a literal decade since she’s been seen in open battle (when Quetzalcoatl first appeared and started making waves, she tried to curb him… which cost her nearly every single shade she’d had at the time).

      Lamarck the Purple is more about making a show than causing too much harm (though he does cause it), and he’s frankly quite popular in a lot of Europe’s nations. Definitely the least “offensive” member of the current line-up. He also makes a point of rooting out Soviet spies and saboteurs, so there are quite a few governments that are willing to turn a blind eye to his less savoury activities.

      Daijisi is very passive, both in the public eye and in how he runs his part of the syndicate. Due to most of Asia being in Soviet hand, he only has a very limited area to operate in (the Syndicate does not officially exist within Soviet territory). He mostly focuses on keeping things stable (a theme for the Syndicate in general) and expanding his cult of metahuman exaltation.

  12. Hi. Just finished reading everything from the prologue to here -took about a week – and I just want to say, this is bloody good. Loved it.

    Found you through browsing TV tropes.com, got intrested in the core concept of Basil and Amy being superhero and supervillain, and started reading. Love the way you parsed the morality of it, not justifying Basil’s refusal to act against his sister but not condemning him either. And I love the characters of Amy and Basil, the two war orphans who are both broken.

    It’s a great story. You never explicitly explained what happened, but we can all image the way they must have grown up. Basil, a child of, what, four, five years old, dragging his toddler sister through hell while the Six play games with them.
    Amy, who Atrocity must have played with every time they caught her. Basil, having to rescue her and sew her back together. Escaping, somehow ripping mindfucks power out and giving it to amy, apparently with some trace of Mindfuck’s old trauma still in Amy’s head. Basil and amy swapping ends, so Amy can be the big bro and shet and Basil can have the childhood they must have dreamed of. Amy’s buried trauma driving her towards violence and rape, even while she obsessively clings to her brother’s love.

    And at no point have you tried to dump this on us explicitly. We have to figure it all out ourselves as we read, from all the hints and innuendos. Stuff like the way Amy gets into bed with Basil and clings to him – it was probably how they spent every night together as kids hiding in the rubble. Absolutely fantastic.

    So I joined the patreon page – which should really should be way easier to find, because I stumbled over it in a post from like, 2017 between chapter breaks. Seriously, just put it on the front page. Tiny link.

    Some Questions.

    1.Does Amy have her own buried „little sis“ personality like Basil has Macion?

    2.How evil has Amy got, exactly? Given you retconned out her murdering her old boyfriend and BFF, she seems to have only killed two named characters and some faceless hemogoblin mooks. I assume she killed Heck’s coz for her Dark Five final test, although if she deliberately committed the premeditated murder of an innocent hero for nothing more than a job I would think Basil would have had his big fight – awesome scene, BTW, loved it to bits – way sooner. A accidental death in a fair fight goes down smoother but lacks, grit. Maybe she felt she had to get into the Five to protect Basil from some pissed off retaliation, that fits nicely.

    3. I’ll believe Basil is dead when DC kills superman and means it.

    • Hi Jack p, thanks a ton for your praise and support!

      I do have Patreon on the front page, it’s right below the “Follow Blog via EMail” button.

      As to your questions…

      1. The state and contents of Amy’s head will be revealed… well, as soon as I manage to finish the next few chapters. Within this arc, at least. You’re not far off though.

      2. Amy… has gotten really bad, though her worst acts (other than the rampant unconscious mind rape that the Dark figured out) were committed against other criminals/villains.
      Lupus Maior (Hecate’s cousin) died after Amy joined the Dark Five. She wasn’t part of her entrance exam (the Dark really wouldn’t give a shit about some low-level green activist hero). What happened there is going to be important later on, so I won’t spoil it – but note that Amy didn’t deny killing her, even in her own mind.

      3. DC won’t ever do that

      • Thanks for replying. I’m reading this on my phone, so the pateon link is right at the bottom of the page, why I struggled to find it.

        So I struggled with Amy for a bit and kinda felt inspired to write this. Really, I just want to know close to canon this scene would be.

        This is not exactly fanfiction, because there’s really no story. It’s me trying to understand Amy’s POV, define what she actually does in her supervillain career and just how close to the edge of irredeemable evil she has skated.

        I don’t want Amy to be a monster. But I think she really is now.

        ‐‐———

        “We have a problem. In Oregon.” Rami Chaka slid into the white leather seat opposite her boss, as Mindstar sat, mask discarded on the table beside her, working through the budget reports of the North American divisions of the Syndicates sprawling criminal empire.

        Mindstar looked tired. She was visibly drooping after six hours of spreadsheets, soon to be followed by a four hour meeting with her newly appointed west coast Operations Manager. She’d promoted him two months ago to replace the previously corrupt, now extremely deceased, Operations Manager she’d inherited from her scheming bitch of a rival, the Dowager, who had more or less strip-mined the North America territory for resources and talented staffers before she handed it off to her, and it was unlikely to be a good news kind of meeting. There had been precious few good news meetings lately, for either of them.

        Rebuilding the North American Outfit had been a twenty four seven job for six months now. Rami had been one of the first, very few, talented Syndicate members to willingly risk throwing in their lot with the young, inexperienced, and reportedly unstable Mindstar. Psychics inspired terror, but as a young convict supertrooper Rami had fought for ten years in the Califate Wars. She was as tough minded and cold blooded a killer as a crucible of war like that could forge, and she had little fear of her boss and her legendary temper.

        Mindstar looked at her subordinate with tired eyes. “Oregon. Please tell me it’s not the fusion cell plant. We haven’t even built it yet.”

        Rami pushed her tablet with file open across the table to her boss as she began to brief her. “Some idiot in the administration decided to save some money by paying off the locals to dump our excavator spoils on a nature reserve instead of shipping it offshore for land reclamation. Considering how over budget the project is, it’s probably someone trying to cover their arse for overspending, but that’s not the issue.

        The issue is that this got noticed. A local Cape, complete nobody named Goldengreen, aka Gemma Dusan, all of seventeen years old, went Nancy Drew on our arse and nailed us for illegal dumping. They just served notice that they’re filling charges.”

        Mindstar quickly skimmed the file as she she silently cursed her herds of incompetent staff once more. “Well shit. How much is this going to cost us?”

        Rami didn’t relent. “Sorry, but it’s about to get worse. The fine for dumping is likely to be something like fifty million dollars including the cost of removing the spoil. What’s really got us worried is that our Nancy Drew paid for a soil analysis, and she’s been spotted surveying the construction site. We think she’s noticed we’re dumping way more material and bedrock than we should be.”

        Mindstar covered her eyes with one hand as she remember just how much the fusion cell site had already cost. “Motherfucker. Are we going to lose the site?”

        “Maybe. Our site security chief is asking for a kill order on the girl scout. I’ve reviewed his case; I recommend we go ahead and kill her.”

        Mindstar looked over the top of her hand at her chief subordinate. She looked frustrated.”You don’t look happy about it.”

        “I’m not thrilled about it, no. I’m pretty pissed off, In fact. With your permission I intend to go and clean house on these incompetent shites who fucked up the paperwork on this op. But if we’re going to protect the weapons project the girl has to die, and a kill order on a minor Hero has to be signed off by you.

        Mindstar leaned back and pinched her eyes. “Seventeen years old.”

        The cold blooded killer sitting across the aircraft cabin looked at her, utterly unflinching. “Minor orphan, survived a terrorist attack by hiding in a tree, now a serious greenie with an adorable adopted family. Limited combat powers, no real security. We can do it cleanly in her sleep. I guarantee she won’t even wake up.”

        Amy looked at her bright purple Domino mask on the table, the one she’d picked because it was the same colour as her favourite my little pony. Back when all she’d wanted was to be a free, uncaring thrill villain. “You know, this job used to be fun.”

        Rami, the cold blooded professional bitch, just shrugged. “Yeah, well I never had any delusions about what the job is. I need the order.”

        Mindstar, for the hundredth time, killed her conscience and tried to think like her boss. “……..do it.”

        Rami nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”

        —–

      • Not fanfiction? Looks like fanfiction to me 😉

        I like it. The paperwork really is a killer, and deliberately so – keep Mindstar busy and she’s got less free time to go off and cause unnecessary chaos. She’s frustrated, but too proud not to do it – she took on the job, she’s going to excel at it, damn it! Even if she hates it!

        Two things, though: The Dowager was not Amy’s predecessor. She’s been in South America for a while. Amy’s predecessor is quite dead. Also, the Syndicate, for all its evils, has a very strict “no killing kids” policy. Even if they mess up their business. Anyone under the age of 18 is off-limits for killing, torture, etc

        In such a situation, they’d be more likely to send someone to dissuade or distract her, possibly with mental tricks – Amy might even go out herself, instead of signing off on a young girl being killed, and put Goldengreen on a competitor’s trail instead, for example.

        I mean, what’s the point of having one of the most powerful telepaths in the setting, when you gotta resort to a simple killing anyway?

        Might depend on Goldengreen’s power though, how they deal with her.

        Mind you, she WOULD have someone like Rami around, likely even be forced to, to have the kind of professionalism that Amy often… forgets.

  13. So, some hope for Amy’s soul, then. I do like the girl, I think we all hope she earns some redemption. God knows shes already falling through the front door of hell right now.
    But, to quote your own work back at you-

    B008.2.2 Vra: Bargaining

    “Relax,” Fulcrum threw in. “Nothing we could do to the guy would even come close to what the Syndicate would do. The villain responsible for the Americas takes a dim view of this, and she has everyone who breaks the Syndicate’s rules like that delievered to her in person, in order to make an example.”

    “So he’d be thrown to Mindstar?” That bitch was a walking (well, flying) nightmare, and she’d been active for little more than a year! “I guess I could live with that.”

    “Nah,” he replied. “Mindstar’s a member of the Five, but word on the street is, she’s too unstable and inexperienced to act as an administrator for the Syndicate network. Till she is, the Dowager rules both North and South America.”

    Amy would totally have problems cleaning up after the dowager and finding staff willing to work under her, because no-one really trusts a psychic, least of all criminals. Think if all the secrets they don’t want to get out! I figured Rami needs to be a hardcore hardass, with experience with fighting psychics, just to have to have the self confidence to work closely with her.

  14. So I don’t want to keep throwing these at you, but I adjusted my expectations of Amy upward a bit and started again. This is kinda incomplete but I want to throw it at you.

    I haven’t written an intro for this yet but the setup is, Any and crew are in Nevada going after a rival gang, they impale twenty of them and the bloodshed gets Amy horny. And glitches out, again. After hot blooded murder and impaled bodies, a very horny Amy goes clubbing. Rami follows with her detail.

    First, once Amanda picks her spot Rami sends her team to sweep every underage boy and girl out of the club. Rami actually has to walk up to Amy’s pool of admiring victims and pull one of them away.


    Rami’s radio crackled. “Echo 12 to Echo one.”

    “Echo one, go ahead 12.”

    “We have a loose removal target getting attached to the Principal. She’s inside the zone and resisting extraction.”

    Rami looked down, spotting the slender youth pushing into the mob forming around Mindstar below. “Shit. Understood, Echo 12, echo one will extract. Keep sweeping the crowd. I want a complete Ident check on everyone on site within ten minutes. Echo one, Out.”

    Rami descended, feeling the same wave of lust, joy and disorientation that was washing over everyone else in the crowd from Amy’s psychic assault, but letting it flow over and through her, without reacting to it. Really, against a broad, unspecific attack like this, all you needed was an alert mind and a hard will; compared to the focused killing barrages of psychic power the Califate had thrown routinely against the American lines in Turkey during the war, this was pleasant background music.

    She found the girl looking dreamily at the bare chest of one of the other victims, an older boy with a chiseled set of abs the girl was reaching out to touch. Rami grasped her firmly by the hand, pushed another disorientated clubber out of the way and started towing the kid out of the crowd by brute force.

    “Hey!” Shouted Amy, half pulling herself free of the growing, obscene gang of writhing boys and girls who’s inhibitions were rapidly falling apart under Amy’s influence.

    Rami stopped, turned and simply stared back at her boss, as unreadable as she always was. “She’s fifteen, ma’am. We’ve checked out the rest.”

    Amanda slumped back into her sofa and her new ‘friends’, dismissing the girl and her stone faced underling with a disgusted expression on her face. “Damnit, fine.”

    Rami watched from the catwalk, impassively, as the club turned from a rave into an orgy under her feet. Her perimeter teams had sealed the club, at least from the outside; if anyone was capable of fighting their way free of Amy’s spreading psychic influence they were free to leave the floor, although the three people who did manage it were being held in the next building until tomorrow morning. Rami wasn’t about to let anyone raise the alarm while her nominal boss was in such a state.

    The orgy in the club lasted until around three am, at which point Amy picked a few of her favourite playmates to take up to her hotel room; Rami had already had three limousines waiting since ten o’clock and her team smoothly escorted the eighteen lucky victims as they stumbled into the cars. Rami slammed the door on the last of them herself, sighed and detailed half of her now severely overstretched team to keep the club quiet for at least the next two hours. She wanted time to get well clear of the aftermath of this one. Then she followed her boss to the hotel.

    Rami heard the phone ringing inside the penthouse at seven o’clock sharp, and she moved quickly inside the room to fish Amy’s private mobile out from where it had ended up, buried deep under the discarded clothes and trash littering the floor. She didn’t answer it -she recognised the ringtone, and Amy got extremely twitchy about anyone from the Syndicate having any contact with her younger brother at all. She walked over to Amy, holding out the phone as Amy blearily woke up on the imperial sized bed, surrounded by motionless bodies. Amanda focused as she heard the ringtone and yanked the phone out of her subordinate’s hand with a telekinetic grab. Rami could see Amy perking up, a smile rising on her face, as she heard her brother’s voice.

    Rami signalled her escort crew into the room as Amy threw on a silk gown and headed out to the giant glass balcony that dominated the top floor of the hotel penthouse suite to talk with her brother. Two of her troopers went to each of the sixteen girls and the two boys – Amy was bi but definitely had an inclination – and checked them over before helping them rise, unsteady, dressing them in warm bathrobes and then more or less carrying them out to the first aid station Rami had set up outside. They didn’t, Rami thought after a brief examination, look as bad as she had been expecting. Heavy bruising, a few bleeding marks, some cracked ribs and sprained ankles, but certainly not the worst case scenario. Satisfied, Rami stood down the squad she’d detailed for a possible run out into the desert, told the limo crews to take the victims for a long, slow drive to a well distant hospital she’d picked, and summoned the specialised Syndicate cleaning crew she’d called in last night. She had the staff lay out her boss’s five star breakfast on the rapidly cleaned and polished dining table just inside the balcony as the men in white scrubs started work. Amy wandered back in, still happily chatting to her brother as the room got cleaned up around her.

    Rami was walking towards the balcony when she felt a telekinetic grab hold her in place. She turned to find Amy, still listening to her brother, but now staring down into the open kit bags the Syndicate cleaning crew had carried into the room with her face twisted into a ruckus of rage. She was seething as she looked up Rami and glared at her, although her voice barely changed pitch as she talked to her brother.

    “Hey Basil, something just came up. Sorry baby bro, I’ll call you back tonight, ok? I love you. Yes, ok. You stay safe too. Bye.” Amy finished her call, reached out and pulled out one of the eighteen body bodybags, four industrial bottles of bleach and two ultraviolet DNA scanners from the kit bags in front of her. She was shaking with rage.

    “Bodybags.” She said quietly. “You brought bodybags for my fucking party.” She looked up at the hard eyed killer standing silent and unmoving in front of her. “Just what the fuck were you expecting me to do to them? What the fuck kind of fucking party did you think this was, huh?!” Amy was shouting in Rami’s face now, glaring at her eye to eye, while Rami’s granite expression didn’t move an inch. “I want to know exactly what you think I am!”

    Rami tried to keep the contempt out of her voice as she answered. She was afraid she didn’t do a very good job of it.

    “I don’t know, ma’am. I’m just here to clean up after you.” Half a heartbeat passed. “Ma’am.”

    “What. Is your problem. Rami.” Mindstar was clearly on the edge of violence but Rami simply didn’t care. It was irrelevant now. She’d been given orders.

    “The girl in the club, ma’am. Lisa Kinross. Fifteen years old. Severely underage. I had to pull her out of your group.”

    Mindstar looked even more shocked by the implied child abuse than she had about the implyed expectation that the mass mindrape orgy would turn into a massacre. “I didn’t do anything to that girl! What the fuck kind of fucking monster do you think I am! How fucking dare you! All I fucking ever do to any of them is let them do what they always wanted to do! And then everyone acts like I’m Charlie fucking Manson afterwards, because they don’t want to admit that they liked it! You thought I was after a kid?! You brought fucking body bags?! You ice cold bitch!”

    Rami was a brick wall, a granite tor. Nothing moved her. She just told Mindstar, coldly, what she’d told on the phone before she came into the room.

    “The Boss has been briefed. He is unhappy. He feels you should have been more restrained. He is unhappy about the scale and publicity of last night’s event. He is extremely unhappy about Miss Kinross. You’ve been ordered to report to New York by two o’clock tonight. A suborbital flight’s been hired; you need to be at the airport by ten.”

    ‐——

    • Well done. I like how Rami thinks she’s actually resistant to Amy’s telepathy.

      Just one nitpick (I’m sorry, I try not to nitpick, especially when it comes to fanworks, but I’m a nitpicker born and bred!): The Dark wouldn’t summon her for such a matter. The whole point of having the Dark Five (and handlers to help them out/watch over them) is so he doesn’t have to micromanage everything. Unless she actually, deliberately, broke the rules, or it became a really egregious repeat event, he’d leave it to the people so assigned – note that even in his interlude, when he and Wyrm are discussing her excessive nature, he never even considers intervening himself.

      Also, a (mind controlled) club orgy is bad, but… do remember that the Dark Five include a genocidal religious extremist, a deal-with-the-devil-made-real slaver and the leader of a cult of cannibals.

      They may present themselves as the Lesser Evil™, but they are still eeeeevil.

      But apart from those nitpicks, it’s a nice depiction of how Amy’s days (and nights) often go. And the headache she is for her subordinates (sometimes literally).

  15. I gave up on writing an Amy fanfic. Too hard, and really after rereading quite a lot of the story and going through “some” of the comments sections, I’m pretty sure Amy and Mindstar are two different personalities in the same body and Mindstar!Amy isn’t going to get redeemed. I bet the next few chapters are going to see the little sister Patchwork!Amy getting to meet Hecate.

    On the other hand, writing fanfiction is a fun way to pass the time waiting for the next post, so I wrote an Original Character fanfiction. I wanted to imagine what life was like from near the bottom of the heap in this hellish world you created, so anyway, here it is.

    https://archiveofourown.org/works/25988089

    we’re

  16. Hello again. I’m still working on the second chapter of my fanfiction, but I had a bunch of questions I was saving until I finished and I had a question about whether Amy had her own lair and I thought, “I want the answer to be yes and this is what I want it to look like.”

    So, a brief fanfic. Wrote this over about two hours while cooking. I’ve been dumping questions and ideas into the same file I wrote this in, so I copied them in as well. There are a lot, so no pressure to answer them. Some are kinda spoilers if I did get answers.

    —–

    Amanda checked the time, cursed, got up from the table and kissed Basil on the cheek before she grabbed the lunchbox he’d made her and went rushing out the kitchen. She was late for work.

    Outside their home, her dark purple maserati with the customised paintwork and trim sat in the drive in the middle class suburban street like a piece of vivid graffiti.

    Amy sat behind the wheel and gunned the engine with a primal grin, dumping her lunch on the passenger seat and – did not go tearing off down the street, thank you. Protecting her home, her civilian identity and Basil was worth a little bother. She pulled out of the driveway carefully, looked left and right, used her indicators and kept well below the speed limit. it wasn’t until she was far away from home driving down a deserted street that she flipped the big, purple switch in the centre of the dashboard.

    Basil was not the only Gadgeteer in the world, and many or most took cash. The car transformed around Amy as her manic grin threatened to take the top of her head clean off. The paintwork changed from a dark purple to a vivid bright violet with black swirls and stripes, the trim turned to gold, the panels folded back and changed the entire shape from an expensive toy into a predatory speed machine. Now she floored it.

    Half hour later Amy walked into the agency with a lighthearted bounce in her step and nodded cheerfully to the pretty young asian girl on reception, who returned the nod before murmuring into her headset. She strode to the executive elevator, walked in and let the doors close without pressing anything. it began to move downwards the instant the doors shut.

    the sub-basement was a dank, dark little hole stuffed with old boxes filled with cobwebs and paperwork no-one had bothered with for decades, although it was fairly well lit. Amy passed through it all without a care and stood in front of the blank concrete wall at the rear, concentrating briefly on the lock.

    the entire forty foot long wall at the back of the room retreated ten feet backwards before a metal rail popped up from the vacated space beneath it, and a silver grey transport pod rolled from the newly opened void on the right. The lights in the tunnel exposed to the left of the retreating rear wall blinked on, and Amy got in.

    The ride was ten minutes at a crisp sixty miles an hour before the Pod arrived. Ensuring a healthy distance between a private home life and a public work life really was essential when you were a wanted multiple-murderer and Supervillian.

    The docking bay was a black concrete vault done by the same team of highly paid professionals the Dark used for much of his interior decoration needs. Hard, brutalist lines met soaring, polished metalwork in an intimidating display of inhuman strength. Amy appreciated the art but still rolled her eyes briefly, remembering that she actually had to pay a ten-man team of full time cleaners on permanent staff just to keep this place looking so good. Never let it be said the Syndicate didn’t work hard to keep its image up.

    The door to the Lair was an unblemished steel vault at the side of the platform that slid silently to the side at her approach. Behind it, the high vaulted gothic atrium in the middle of the base was dominated by a thirty five foot high black horse statue carved from solid obsidian rock and lit by the same deep purple and bright sterile light that Amanda had commanded be used through-out. The giant beast loomed over the glassed-in hall and could be seen from every room in the Lair, apart from her private apartment behind the throne room to the rear.

    Rami, dark skinned, dead eyed, dressed in her usual dark italian suit and black pumps, waited directly below the statue. She was flanked by two paperwork carrying minions in dark purple bodysuits and had a file under her arm herself, and Amy sighed as she felt the endless, endless paperwork close around her like a suffocating tidal wave.

    Amy grabbed the folder that Rami, impassive as always, offered her as she stomped past on her way to the throne room, her good mood rapidly evaporating. “Please tell me I have something other than paperwork today.”

    Rami fell in behind her as she reached the staircase, a black glass riser without a balcony that rose around that gorgeous, gorgeous horse statue she dearly loved. The staircase circled entirely around to end back up above the entry doors, with the horse now glaring through the giant glass windows of the throne room. The original plan had put the throne room at the back, until Amy objected to staring at her horse’s arse when she sat on the throne. “Three prisoner interrogations down in the cell block, none of them urgent.” Said Rami, as they climbed. “The Dowager has a conference call scheduled at noon. We need to discuss a response to the breakdown of our Kansas City operation, I penciled that in for ten o’clock. First, you HAVE to sign off the Payroll, Dividends and Shares spreadsheet before nine or no-one gets paid on time this week. We also have-”

    Amy was already reading the file and cursing under her breath as she flipped through it. “Oh, god. Why do we have so. Much. Paperwork!”

    They entered the throne room. A twenty foot high purple and black chair rose from the floor in layers of metal spikes, glass shards and tortured stone to embrace the deeply padded and upholstered lounger that was cradled six feet off the ground in front of the audience pit, where a dozen uncomfortable metal chairs faced the throne. Between the hard, bare metalwork of the minion chairs was the supplicants pedestal, where a petitioner, or prisoner, could grovel for their lives before her. It was a hollow glass and metal stand which was, of course, also functionally a trapdoor. As Mindstar levitated to the Throne Rami walked up to stand on the pedestal without a moment’s hesitation.

    Amy reflected that that woman really took all the fun out of being a Supervillain.

    “You directly employ around fifteen thousand people across fifty states, two thousand in Canada and ten thousand in Mexico. You are the continental head of one of the largest private enterprises on the planet.”

    Amy adjusted some of the big, black pillows covered in six inch soft foam spikes that she loved and pulled out her side mounted work desk and computer before she dropped the file onto it and started reading. “And you are a literal minded, cold blooded reptile of a woman.” She said coolly as she began signing the paperwork.

    Rami shrugged. “As you like, ma’am. The Payroll, first, please.”

    Mindstar, for the thousandth time, briefly eyed the big, red “kill” button on her control panel. She could drop Rami into the piranha tank at any time she wanted… but Rami would probably just freeze them all solid. And piranhas were expensive.

    Mindstar got to work.

    —-

    I have so many questions about Amy/Basil.

    1. On a Evil scale going Skitter, Catwoman, Harley Quin, Emma Frost, Cersei Lannister, Atrocity, where does Mindstar rank? Feel free to add more names.

    2. Can the Dark see into the Savage Six reality dome? Are the video feeds displayed outside? Are they all stuck just watching and waiting outside?

    3. Does Amy have a Lair? (This is the question that inspired the above fanfic.)
    Like, an evil lair under the agency she works at, behind a hidden door with a big evil spiky throne and electrified insta-death conference table chairs with trapdoors for minions? Interrogation chambers and brainwashed drones working away? Giant evil black horse statues dotted around? I would pay hard cash to see Basil’s reaction to it.

    Saw this, this is totally Art Amy would buy. Google for Farhad Moshiri – “I’m so fucking happy.”

    4. Has Amy ever left someone in an elaborate deathtrap? What kind, who, and how did they escape? (This was going to be a fanfic but never got anywhere.)
    Amazon, possibly, because she can’t actually kill her without really upsetting her brother.

    5. Compare the Dark vs Tywin Lannister – similar attitude, different situations? Ruthless, never wastefully cruel but often driven into brutally evil acts by circumstances they cannot control, absolute family-first priorities, practical to a fault, keeps absolute monsters as subordinates because they are useful.

    I think Tywin comes off worse, mostly because 1, he’s a terrible father, 2, he’s stuck with having less power, with less information creating worse options for him than the Dark, 3, Tywin’s surrounded by people like Jamie and Cersei and the mountain while the Dark cultivates loyalty and a minimum of decency. (Compare the Mountain, who trains by killing prisoners and slaughtered villagers for fun, to Walker, who gives his coat to a naked child and treats his cannibal cultists like a caring schoolteacher.)

    6. Has the Dark ever;

    6.1 dropped one of two failing subordinates into a piranha tank and then yelled ‘kill Bond! Now!’ at the survivor?’

    6.2 Stolen a nuclear weapon and held the world ransom?

    6.3 built a giant, expensive underground installation in an active volcano/unstable island/under mount Rushmore?

    6.4 Gotten elected to the Presidency?

    6.5 Declared ‘you have failed me for the last time!’ And abandoned a subordinate to their doom / dumped them into a shark tank? Does he own a shark tank?

    7. Has basil built anything for Amy? I know he doesn’t want to give the Syndicate his tech, but a suit of armour? I can totally see him making her some extra protective gear.

    (I can also see her being introduced to said Basil designed armoured clothing and asking her baby brother when he thinks she’s going to be attending a church service. She probably wouldn’t feel like wearing it given her already OP powers, plus not wanting to publicly connect herself with her brother, but, come on, they love each other. She must have a wardrobe full of “Christmas jumpers” she never wears.)

    Also I love the idea of Basil making her a customised masterwork gold jewellery set for her birthday. Showing off her beauty and her brother’s skills, she’d love it.

    8. Does Amy enjoy what she does? Does she have any conscience at all? Regrets? Moments of moral clarity? Nemesis, beyond Amazon?

    9. Does the Dark see himself as a good guy? Does he think what he does is necessary and forgivable? Since his powers seem to feed on the deaths he creates, do the darkwraiths represent actual people? Are they actually people?

    9. Does Lady Light forgive her husband? Does he have to earn it? Does he even feel the need to be forgiven by his wife? You’ve heavily implied they both work towards maintaining the Code and keeping the fighting from wrecking the planet again, and that LL is a ruthless pragmatist. Does she disapprove of her husband’s way of working?

    10. You’re said in the comments that Amy has killed a lot of Heroes. Is that still cannon? What defenses against her have worked? What stopped her from going on a complete rampage? And why wouldn’t there already be a kill order on her if she has a high body count?

    11. Why would any of the Dark Five put themselves in a room with a psychic? Do they use something like Wyrms anti-psker helmet or just trust the Dark to reign her in? Can someone just fend her off by sheer willpower?

    12. Is Amy going to get a redemption arc? Because Amy really is the ultimate villain in this story. DiL is tragic, the Savage Six is monstrous, but Amy is someone Basil, and by extension the readers, aren’t able to completely despise as much as she seems to deserve it. Any other story, a hero killing psychic rapist would be the irredeemable villain who, If she had a brother, would die clutching his hand in a touching ‘she was human after all’ climactic scene shortly before the heroes walked off into the sunset.

    Cool idea – build a teleporter into the raven drones. An unkindness of ravens flying through a midnight fight scene – and brennus appears amid them. Also good for grabbing civilian evacuees or capturing villains, but it would be soooooo badass.

    Would be expensive in drones through. Plus obviously he hasn’t built a teleporter yet. And he’s dead, which is a minor inconvenience to any hero.

    OR Basil walks across a carpark. A mob of ravens fly down, each one dropping a piece of black armour on him, bit by bit they slide and lock together. By the time he reaches the other side, he’s suited up. Good way to make a power walk entrance if you do it in reverse, maybe land outside HU headquarter and walk in with the drones stripping the armour off him.

    • 1. Somewhere around the point where Emma Frost was a member of the Hellfire club, in her original incarnation (Dark Phoenix Saga)
      2. The feeds are being displayed outside. Ismael is having a bad, bad time
      3. She does have one main lair, and a few backup ones across her territory. And it’s black or purple unicorns, not horses
      4. Amy’s deathtraps tend to be more mental. Like trapping people in illusions, or some elaborate “game” inside their heads (notice the similarity to the Savage Six’ modus operandi)
      5. I think the comparison breaks down at the point where Tywin, for all his viles, is a product of his world, and limited by it. The Dark is powerful enough and lives in a world enlightened enough, he wouldn’t NEED to be as cruel as he is. Being ‘evil’ is a conscious choice made for the sake of his goals, not a necessity (real or imagined, one can argue Tywin didn’t HAVE to be so evil either, but was unable to see it due to his upbringing) imposed by the world and his lack of power.
      He is definitely a better father though, even to Aap, and both he and Aap have a great many regrets in regards to his parenting
      6.1. You can safely assume that he’s used piranha tanks in some capacity. Probably mutant or darkwraith piranhas
      6.2. No
      6.3. He has several vacation homes, yes
      6.4. No (though he did get two US presidents and God knows how many other politicians and world leaders elected)
      6.5. He’d probably just fire them (if they were loyal, but a failure) or kill them (if they betrayed him in some fashion). he does own several shark tanks though
      7. No. Nothing that would support her villain career, as such. He did make her a more comfortable costume, but without any extra features
      8. Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes (the Feral Family and another that I have yet to introduce)
      9. No, No and there is no way I’m giving out details on the deeper aspects of his power
      9-2. I’d rather not get that deeply into their relationship and Gwen’s thoughts yet, those will be major plot points. It’s complicated though. Gwen wouldn’t consider herself ruthless, nor a pragmatist.
      10. It’s canon, yes. Anti-telepathic defenses work, raw physical might works against her telekinesis. Some fucky power interactions that would take too long to get into here. She’s not interested in indiscriminate rampages – those tend to happen during a freakout and those are generally short-lived (see the Red Goblin incident). Kill Orders are not handed out lightly, and she did calm down a LOT after joining the Syndicate. if she hadn’t joined and carried on as before, she would have one by now.
      11. The stronger a metahuman’s power is, the more innate resistance they have to psychic (and many other) effects – it’s why you won’t find a lot of baseline capes and cowls, as they lack that kind of resistance. The other members of the Syndicate do trust the fear of the Dark to reign her in, but they’re all also so powerful and experienced, they both have the high innate resistance and have skill in fending off psychic assaults. Plus, both the Dowager, Daijisi and Lamarr have counters (if not perfect ones). Sheer willpower is not enough, but willpower + skill/training in resisting + innate power resistance can
      12. I am not going to spoil that with a yes or no

      I like that. The teleporter would probably not be built into the ravens though, merely targeting beacons, to save on cost and weight. As for the latter, that depends on whether and to what extent Basil bothers with Power Armor again, especially once he recovers his true speciality.

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