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Vim x Vigor

Vim & Vigor 9 (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor 9


Until today, I thought that hiding a girl in my room would be exciting. In hindsight, it was just stressful. Very stressful.

Cienna had taken over my bed after eating the food that I heated up, sitting on it in a pair of track-pants. That and a t-shirt that made the outline of her chest pretty evident, for what it was. I wouldn’t say she was flat, but she wasn’t exactly stacked either.

The rest of her clothes, unmentionables and all, were in the washing machine. They needed a thorough washing just to deal with the stench of alcohol alone. Then a heavy-dry to get them back into a state that could reasonably be considered clean.

She wasn’t exactly probing every corner of my room to invade my privacy, but I wasn’t exactly expecting visitors today and didn’t clean it up too well. Not to mention she looked like she was starting to get settled in, which was a problem since I was already hoping that Dad didn’t come home early and Mom didn’t wake for the next two or so hours. I’ve caused them enough problems as it was—Mom especially, who I wanted to check up on after I thought about what I was going to say to her about everything.

I mean, I was technically attacked by members of a gang. Just not the ABB. But that’s not much better, since I went out looking for something to do. Dad would be pissed and Mom would be disappointed, both things I didn’t like dealing with or wanted them to feel.

Granted, if I hadn’t gone looking for trouble, I probably wouldn’t be in this mess… but I just wanted to do something useful with the time and power I had. That’s what a hero does, right?

I’ll have to lay low for a while until things settle down on my end. Make an effort to get home early. Spend some time with Mom and Dad. At least until Taylor finished getting a new power ready for me to test—

“So, how’d it happen?” Cienna asked out of the blue.

“What?”

“Your trigger,” she clarified. “You’re a Parahuman, but if your parents don’t know then you can’t be like the chick from the family of Blasters that got busted for being a hypocrite.”

“You mean Glory Girl and New Wave? They’re not all Blasters.”

“Either way, since you must’ve gotten your powers some other way if not from them, and you don’t seem like the type who’s gotten a raw deal from your parents, that leaves something going on outside the home. And since you don’t seem like the type to get into trouble with that baby-face of yours, I’m guessing you’re bullied in school?”

I don’t give her an answer. Partly because I was sick of lying more than I had to. And the other part was because it was a reminder that the whole reason I had these powers were because Taylor was bullied instead of me.

I was just… there. Someone people didn’t talk to unless they had to. Taylor was the exception though. She was nice like that and we usually worked together in class because we at least meshed somewhat and got work done.

“I mean, I get it,” Cienna continued. “People tend to be assholes if they can get away. See it every day.”

“Some people, yeah,” I admitted, thinking of Sophia’s gang. “Never really got why they enjoyed that. There’s not much of a point in being mean most times. Much less to people who didn’t do anything to you aside from exist.”

“It’s because it makes them feel bigger than they are.” She stretched out on my bed, shifting the pillow so that it was laying beneath her. “Some people just get off on seeing others lower than them because then they feel that they’re better than someone else.”

“I don’t see what’s so fun about putting someone else down to put yourself up—it doesn’t change anything, besides making someone else miserable.”

“Misery loves company, and as long as the other person is more miserable than you… well, you get it.”

Despite the fact that she’s getting far more comfortable than she should be on my bed, and I don’t think I’ve washed the sheets for a bit now either, I tried to think of a reason under that logic for Sophia being… herself. I couldn’t really come up with anything. She was a track-star, she didn’t do drugs or get messed with by anyone affiliated with the E88 as far as I knew. Maybe she’s had issues with her parents or I was missing something?

And whatever was going on with Emma and Taylor wasn’t something I was privy to either. Only that whatever bad-blood was between them was largely instigated by the former. And the fact that she targeted Taylor even after she got hurt and the locker thing doesn’t really make me sympathetic to whatever happened to her.

“You seem like a good kid and all, so it must be hard for you to go through things like that and people just watch it happen. They’re just as bad.”

“…Some people want to, but just can’t. The ones who don’t join in or laugh, but have sit there and watch it happen. They want to do something, but they’re afraid they’d make things worse, or they’d get hurt too. So they feel really bad about it afterwards, because they know they should have done something but couldn’t. They’re victims too, in a way.”

I knew that from personal experience. When it happened, you tell yourself that there was nothing you could do to stop it. That you’d try to make it up in some other way, like I was now. Because that was all you could do. People who exploited that were the worse.

Cienna doesn’t see it that way though. “All the guilt and pity in the world doesn’t help when you’re suffering. It just makes you feel worse when the people pitying you could be doing something.”

“It’s easy to say that, but not everyone is like us. They don’t have powers, and when they do they have to keep their heads down because no one will help them if they get into trouble. If the teachers and staff did their jobs and prevented that in the first place, it wouldn’t even be a problem.”

Mister Gladly claimed he knew that some people were giving us a hard time, but if he really did then he wouldn’t have paired us with Julia and the others. He would have been the one to report those three for what they did. Yet he didn’t, so either he was lying or he let it happen.

“In a perfect world, they would,” she said. “But we don’t live in a perfect world. Just one that sucks and you try to get through day-by-day.”

“…Can we drop this now,” I asked. “That stuff isn’t something you talk to others about in the first place and I’m already tense enough.”

She yawned and shifted the pillow again so it was just under her head. “Fine. Just wake me up when my clothes are dry.”

Wait, what? “You’re sleeping here!?”

“It’s not like I can go anywhere with my clothes wet and I can’t think of anything else to talk about with you, so…night.”

I just stared at her as she turned her head and curled up in my sheets. Judging from her breathing it sounded like she was slipping into a deep sleep already, so she was probably already tired. If she stayed up and waited for me to wake up after Circus got me, like Mom did, then it made sense. Everyone’s got limits on how long they can stay awake, and between the food and shower I guess she reached hers…

Still, who sleeps in the bed of the person they were blackmailing?

I wanted her gone, but there was no point in waking her up for no reason and when I couldn’t actually force her to. I…really hoped I was making the right decision here, considering how the last day went between being nearly crushed, set on fire, and stabbed. After which I was blackmailed by a homeless girl, who I was lying about having powers to, while lying to Taylor about the latter’s existence and role in my survival…

There’s no way this is going to end well in the long-run.

Fortunately, a bink sound from my computer distracted me from that train of thought. I had a private message waiting for me now, from GstringGirl. She must’ve just noticed I was logged in again.

GstringGirl: you missed the game last night. what happened?

Right, I was going to get in a quick game with her after I got back from practicing with Telekinesis. She could only get access to her computer for a limited time, so that was probably a hassle on her end too. Better explain so she doesn’t get upset with me too—it was hard to find people on the forums who didn’t have it out for me or accuse me of baiting for attention.

XxVoid_CowboyxX: Ran into some trouble on the way back home last night. Gang dudes.

GstringGirl: Are u ok!?

XxVoid_CowboyxX: Got roughed up a bit. Woke up in alley in morning. On pain-killers but fine.

GstringGirl: it’s getting dangerous there.

XxVoid_CowboyxX: I’ll stay clear of gang territory when I can.

GstringGirl: not just gangs. new uncontrollable trigger happened last night. check uber & leet thread.

I left-clicked a link and opened it into a new tab before browsing over to that thread. Uber and Leet caused a monstrous trigger with one of their stupid pranks again. The video of them actually doing so has been taken down, but apparently Nemean and Heimal worked with the Cyborg of Brockton Bay to stop the trigger before someone could get seriously harmed.

That being said, it’s safe to say they’re getting cage’d for that one the moment they stick their heads up again. I’m actually a bit ashamed I used to like their show until that GTA episode. But things… were really getting worse, aren’t they?

The ABB and E88 were reaching a pretty bad tipping point. New Wave’s been discredited somewhat due to Glory Girl. These idiots caused someone to trigger for a stupid prank. The Undersiders got away with knocking over a bank. And then there was that thing with Circus and whoever Trainwreck was working for.

It’d be nice to be able to warn Nemean and Heimal, rather than just not saying anything and then one day reading they ended up dead in an alley somewhere. But they don’t exactly list their contact information or have a visible account. And I can’t do anything right now about the other things beyond stealing money from the Merchants to benefit Taylor, at least until she got back onto her feet and we tag-teamed the issue together.

I glanced over to the sleeping girl in my bed, now splayed out unladylike as she turned in her sleep. Her powers would be useful against bullets and anything non-organic that entered her field of influence, if I had her pegged right. We need more heroes out there, so maybe I could convince her to work with Taylor and me…

Someday, maybe.

Right now, she was treating me like a kid and blackmailing me. And Taylor was probably only reluctantly letting me continue with testing her powers after what Circus did and that screw up with the Merchants. I couldn’t push things with them by trying to bring them together to form our own team.

Realistically, I’d probably be lucky just to be able to go out at night again once Mom woke up and we had a long talk about how this would make twice that I’ve been attacked, if you include the lie I told about how Taylor got injured in the first place. I didn’t want to lie to her face again, but I have to or it’ll all come crumbling down.

This sucks, I couldn’t help but think as I replied back to the private message.

XxVoid_CowboyxX: Depressing stuff with that.

GstringGirl: i know. be careful.

XxVoid_CowboyxX: I will.

GstringGirl: k. have to go now.

After that, I spent some time just trying to get a grasp on everything I’d missed online until the dryer tumbled to a stop a few hours later, and the buzzer that signaled the laundry being done rang out. Crap, I knew I forgot something!

It was loud enough that Cienna shot up in my bed, her head whipping around and eyes wide open in alarm. I held my hands up to stop her before she activated her power and tore my room apart. She exhaled when she noticed me, tension flowing out of her body as she started to lay back down while I got up and went over to the dryer.

Her clothes… well, they were cleaner than before. I guess. I didn’t really look at them as I moved them from the washer into it. She probably does need some new clothes though. I reached down to grab them—

Greg?

—when Mom’s voice came through her door, soft but clearly. Crap, I woke her up too.

Y-Yeah, Mom. It’s me!” I shouted as I grabbed the clothes and rushed over to my door, tossing them through it and onto the bed. Cienna glared at me for that, but I pointed to the window and said, “Mom’s up. You gotta go!”

Then I shut the door and rushed over to Mom’s room before she came out to check on me. It was just in time as I heard the sound of her bed’s springs creaking, meaning she was getting out of it. I knocked on the door lightly to let her know that I was outside, not wanting to step in without permission just in case she was indecent.

“Mom, can I come in?”

Yes.”

I stepped inside, closing the door after me, to see that Mom was sitting on the bed. She looked… tired. There were rings around her eyes that were a bit bloodshot from exhaustion, and probably crying too. “Sorry I woke you up.”

She just shook her head and stood up. Then she hugged me against her body tight as though she didn’t want to let me go, sniffling as her voice came out hoarse and soft. “I didn’t know… I didn’t know what happened to you… I thought you…you…

“…I’m sorry.” It was all I could say to her as I tried to think of a way to get free when she started crying on my shoulder. I still hadn’t thought of everything I was going to say, and if Cienna was still there I’d feel even more guilty after seeing her like this. “I’ll get you some water, okay?”

She nodded and then sat back down on the bed.

I turned away as she started wiping away her tears. It was hard to look at her in that state, a far-cry from when she was happy that I was going out to my ‘gaming-club’ at night. All because of Circus.

Thankfully, when I got back to my room Cienna, her clothes, and her bag were all gone. The window was opened too, so I guessed she climbed back out that way. I hoped no one spotted her, but for now it was a relief that one thing hadn’t blown up in my face today after everything else. I shut the window closed and then went into the kitchen to get Mom some water like I said. Then I spent hours trying to convince her that everything would be okay and I was fine.

All while swearing in my head that if I ever crossed paths with Circus again, I was going to make her pay for everything.

 


Vim & Vigor 8 (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor 8


 

Hours later, near-evening, I’m stuck at home. The painkillers are mostly working, but I was still feeling a dull throb where I’d been stabbed. Not to mention I feel like crap after everything was said and done.

I had gotten in touch with Taylor once I arrived at the hospital that Cienna took me to. I told her I survived because Circus left me for dead after I passed out. It was a lie, but I felt it was the best that I could come up with that kept the promise I made with Cienna and didn’t want Taylor to know that I got exposed.

She didn’t exactly question it, but she did tell me my parents called her. She stuck with the excuse I gave her, that she didn’t know what happened to me after we parted ways. That gave me some relief, right up until I called home.

Mom had sounded frantic when she picked up the phone. Her voice rasp and cracking like glass on the verge of shattering. And, when I told her that I was at the hospital because I was attacked by a bunch of ABB members who thought I was a member of the Empire Eighty-Eight because of how I looked, it was as if the glass itself shattered along with her heart.

I wasn’t proud of it. I wish that I was smart enough to come up with a better excuse. But I couldn’t at the time, so I had to listen to her crying over the line after telling her they stabbed me in the hand and stole my wallet before leaving in an alley somewhere.

I think she would have had a heart-attack of I’d revealed the full extent of it. That I had been nearly shot, crushed, and literally set on fire, while being chased by an apparently murderous villain.

A police report was filed for obvious reasons, but all I could do was tell them that I couldn’t really describe the attackers outside of being Asian. Again, I wasn’t proud of it and sincerely hoped that they chalk it up to being a random crime and didn’t bring anyone in. If they did, I’d feel even worse about getting someone else arrested for the lie I told.

Dad ended up leaving work afterwards to pick me up from the hospital, since knowing I was safe was enough for Mom to finally get some sleep after she had been up all night worrying about me. The conversation with him was just as awkward, what with me having to lie to his face about it. They thought it was just bad luck that I had ended up being targeted, but if they knew I had gone out specifically looking for trouble I got the feeling that all of that worrying would turn to anger.

Still, I needed to find some way to make it up to them. Not sure what I could do exactly about it, but hopefully I’d think of something by the time my hand could fully heal. The pain flared every now and again, but thankfully there wasn’t any nerve-damage.

While Mom was still sleeping and Dad was at work, I checked online for information to pass the time. Circus had been known as a burglar, but not a murderer. But like Taylor stated, they simply never found a body—and I imagine that a corpse would be easy to hide with her hammerspace power. That might be why Nemean and Heimal go after her so much.

Bzzz! Bzzz! My burner phone ringing in the desk takes my eyes off the computer and onto it. The number on the screen is probably Cienna’s, after she made me give her it on the way to the hospital to cash in those favors I owed her. Giving her my actual number wasn’t happening, and a dummy number was pointless since she knows my name and where I live.

It’s Cienna,’ was the first thing she said when I picked it up.

“I know.” After all, there were only two people who knew this number aside from me. “So I’m guess you want a favor now?”

What, I can’t call just to check up on you?

“Did you?”

Partially.’

“And the other part is a favor, right?” The line went dead at that, leaving me to wonder if I pissed her off or something.  That could be a problem since she knew one of my secrets and I couldn’t really do anything to silence her. Leaving aside the fact that she did save my life, she actually had powers unlike me.

Tck. Tck.

Then I heard knocking on my window. The timing couldn’t be a coincided, could it? I found myself sincerely hoping so, considering the implications.

Tck. Tck. Tck.

Unable to ignore the fact that the volume increased that time, I got out of my swiveling chair and pulled open my blinds. She’s standing outside of my widow with a duffle bag slung over her shoulders. Crap.

“What are you doing here?” I asked as I opened the window and stuck my head out to look around. A lot of the homes in the neighborhood were landscaped to have natural barriers or fences. So while I don’t think someone spotted her, she really sticks out in this neighborhood and the last thing I needed right now someone calling the cops.

“I’m just calling in one of my favors,” she said, unslinging her bag from her shoulder and pushing it through the window. “Now let me in before someone spots me.”

I tried to get in a word against her coming into my room, but she pulls herself in through the window before I can. Just like that I have a girl in my room… while my mother is sleeping a room over and could wake up any second and find her!!! My mouth opened and closed as I looked between her and the door and tried to figure out what to do.

Do I kick her out? No, that’s a bad idea when I thought about it for more than a second. She had powers, I was currently powerless, and pissing her off while she had my secret identity and address will end up endangering my folks. That’s out, along with calling the police or anything else.

Okay, approach this carefully. I took a deep breath to calm down and looked over to her. She’s looking around my room where she’s standing, eyes wandering over the posters and books and stuff. I might not be the best at reading people, but I’d like to think I could at least recognize when someone’s about to kill me. She doesn’t look the part, and she’s been mostly reasonable, so violence wasn’t the immediate threat as long as things stayed as they were.

I walked over to the door and locked it to keep it that way. If Cienna went any further into the house, she could possibly wake my mom. Mom needed her sleep after last night and there was no way I could explain this so that it ended without the cops being called, yelling, and disappointment—or the house being torn down.

The sound of the lock clicking into the place caused her to turn her attention me. She frowned. “I’m not going to go steal anything, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

I shook my head and held both my hands up. “That’s not it. My mom is asleep after being worried sick about me going missing last night. I already went with the story about getting mugged by the ABB, so if she finds you here…”

“A lot of secrets come out that no one wants,” she finished, nodding her head. “Saves everyone trouble if they stayed a secret.”

Good, she at least understood why I did it instead of jumping to the telekinesis and tearing my room apart. I breathed a little easier at that and asked, “Okay, now what favor is it that you needed that was so bad that you tracked me home?”

She pointed to her duffle bag. “I want you to do my laundry for me.”

…What? “You came all the way here for laundry?”

“I did tell you this morning I’d need to use your washing machine and stuff.” She brought a hand to the collar of her shirt and pulled it open. “And I’ll want to use your shower, and some food.”

They weren’t unreasonable requests exactly. Simple things really. The kind that you would offer a friend, like if Taylor came over and spent the night. The only real worry would have been the twenty-questions Mom would put her through… at least before last night.

But I barely knew Cienna and having her here was just asking for trouble. “Can’t I just pay for a motel room or something?”

Her back straightened and she crossed her arms, giving me a sharp look. “Look, Kid. I’m not asking for much this time. Just do these little things for me and everyone comes out ahead.”

I noted the ‘this time’ part and the implication that there would be more requests in the future, but I don’t argue with her further. She held all the cards right now and, aside from the fact that I didn’t like being blackmailed, they weren’t that big of demands. But I was going to have to think of something eventually to cut things if she got to the unreasonable requests.

“Fine, but you can’t leave my room and you need to be gone before Dad gets back tonight,” I tell her, pointing a finger to the door opposite of my closet. “You can use my shower there.”

“Sounds good.” She nodded in approval and then turned her attention to her duffle bag, unzipping it and pulling out a smaller bag. She sat it on my bed before tossing over the larger bag. “Go ahead and put those in. I’ll leave the clothes I’m wearing in the smaller bag for you to dump in with them while I get into my clean ones.”

I caught it and cringed as the scent coming from inside of it catches me off-guard. That distillery smell from when I first spotted her was strong enough that the bag itself was probably in need of a wash. I hold it out at an arms-length by the straps as I opened the door and went out into the hall behind the Living Room to where the washer and dryer were.

I turned the bag upside down and dumped her clothes into the washing machine without sorting colors from whites, or really looking at it all since I didn’t want to ruin the illusion I’ve built up of what women should be like. Sure, I’ve handled Mom’s laundry at times, but your own mother doesn’t count as a woman—they’re different. Once the last of the clothes were in the wash, I poured in the detergent and left the machine to fill up with water.

That out of the way, I took the duffle bag back into my room. Leaving it around for my parents to find or smell was asking for trouble. I flipped it inside out to let it air and then hung it outside of my window as the door to my bathroom opened just a crack and the smaller bag was tossed out haphazardly onto my carpet.

“Greg?” Cienna stuck her bare arm out of the door with my bottle of body wash in her hand. “Why do you have a woman’s brand of body wash in here?”

“I like the smell after I take a shower since it helps me relax.” Plus, that brand doesn’t aggravate my skin the way the normal stuff does.

“Hmm… I’ll give it a try then.” Deciding that on her own, she pulled her arm back in through the gap and shut the door.

There’s nothing saying men can’t use it,” I mumbled as I picked the smaller bag up. Just like before, I dumped the contents into the washing machine without looking, and shut it so that it could start. That just left me needing to fill the time until she got out of the shower.

Mom cooked last night so I checked the fridge for leftovers. It’s her favorite from the look of it, but it was almost untouched. Did… did she even eat while she was waiting for me?

…Tears sting my eyes as I took a deep, shuddering breath. I was careless and Mom had been worried herself to the point of starving. If she knew what I was doing, she’d definitely have a heart-attack or something.

But, at the same time, I owed Taylor for screwing up her leg. And she’s happy that I’m helping her. Or she appreciated my effort at making up for that. We’re on better terms than before at the very least.

And I was doing something meaningful for once, even if it was a little dangerous. I think I could deal with myself being at risk. But if this was what happened after a close call, how would Mom act if I ended up being killed?

…It was frustrating.

I wanted to keep helping Taylor. I had to, if only to make things right. But I couldn’t put Mom through this sort of thing again. I couldn’t let myself get caught like I did before, screwing up from the moment that can got crushed and turning my back on Circus before I put her down.

But first things first, I had to deal with Cienna’s demands until I could get her out of here.

 

 


Vim & Vigor 7 (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor 7


 

Owww…” The pained moan slipped out as I woke up in… well, I wasn’t sure where I was exactly. The floor tiles beneath me were caked in dust. Cobwebs were scattered about, and windows were boarded up. I had to be someplace abandoned rather than the alley, but who brought me here?

My head was pounding, like someone was taking a hammer to my skull. I tried to bring my hand to my head, but the moment it connected I felt a sharp sting and pulled away. That was when I noticed two things. The first was that my hand was wrapped with a bloody cloth where I had been… impaled? Stabbed? The latter sounded about right, I guess.

I had been stabbed by Circus. She sent a throwing knife through my hand and I barely managed to get a shot off before the second one hit me. Then I blacked out.

The second thing was that my mask was missing, which was very bad. Bad enough that the fear stilled my heart when I thought about how long had I been unconscious without it? What if someone saw my face and managed to learn who I was? I mean, white male in a city with the E88 was hard to pin down, but I still didn’t like relying on that alone.

“You finally woke up?” A girl’s voice drew my eyes upwards. There’s a… counter, I think. Like what you’d find in a fast-food place. “You probably feel like crap, but I couldn’t do much with the hand but wrap it up.”

“You’re that girl from the alley,” I said as I stood up.

Pulling my mask from behind her back, she waved it casually. “And you’re Greg Vader, school-boy by day, Cape by night.”

My throat goes dry. She shouldn’t know that. I didn’t bring anything that could be used to identify me, so she shouldn’t have any way of knowing that was my name. My burner phone was next to her but it should be locked and I never put my name into it.

Okay, stay cool. I swallowed and tried to play it off. “Who’s Greg Vader?”

She gave me a flat-stare as she set my mask down on the counter next to her. “I remember your name, face, and address from your I.D. card that day at the Market, when I pick-pocketed you during a moment of weakness. And before you say anything about that, I’m not proud of it and I regretted it, so I gave it back without taking anything.”

“Uh…” I mean, I should be mad that she stole from me in the first place but she didn’t take anything. And I had more pressing things to worry about. “I need to go, so can I have those back?”

“You don’t want to talk to me. I get it. Most people don’t like spending time with the homeless. They see them as reminders of what they could become, junkies, or so on.”

“I don’t think like that.” Okay, I did a bit. Not on purpose but I did. “I’m just not good with people and look at the situation—I’ve been gone for awhile without getting into contact with anyone and I don’t know where I am or who you are, but you know who I am.”

Man, my parents were probably worried about me. Taylor was probably worried too. I needed to contact them and let them know that I was alive. Then I needed to see about my hand. She wrapped in a cloth, but there was a lot of blood staining it and the pain was a reminder that if I didn’t go to a hospital for this, it could be really bad.

“I’ll let you leave in a minute, but for now I need you to listen to me because that’s going to determine what I do next.” She grabbed the mask and phone and threw them into the air. They start floating around her.

My lungs stopped working for a second. She had powers—telekinesis of some kind. “You’re a Cape?”

She shook her head. “I’m not a Cape, I’m a Parahuman—it’s not something I chose. I didn’t ask for it and I don’t run for any gangs. I don’t even like using it, but then you brought that psycho to me and I had to use it to get away. I can’t even go back there because she might try to get revenge or someone may have seen me.”

“I didn’t know you were there.” I really didn’t. “And I tried to help you get away.”

“Which is why your identity will stay between you and me,” she said. “For a price though.”

I wanted to call her out on blackmailing someone who saved her, but a sharp ache in my hand objected to drawing this out for too long. It would be easier just to go along with what she has to say. “I don’t have much or any on me, but we could work something out.”

She shook her head. “Money’s nice, but that won’t help me in the long run. I just need you to do me a couple of favors so I can get my life together. Though some cash would be nice here and there, I don’t want to basically rob a kid.”

“I’m not a kid.” She can’t be that many years older than me either. “And what sort of favors?”

“Nothing illegal,” she said. “I mean, if I was going to go that far I would have just turned you over to the Merchants and joined them. Not like someone with powers like mine could strike out independent and there aren’t any other gangs that would accept me.”

“What about the Protectorate?” She’s probably old enough to qualify for that, if she doesn’t want to be a bad guy.

She crossed her arms. “I don’t want to have anything to do with being a Cape. I just need some basic things from you, like keeping my identity and power a secret, the use of your washing machine and your mailbox and address. Stuff like that.”

“Why those things though?” I get why she’d want to keep her identity a secret if she doesn’t want to be involved in being a hero, which seems like a waste given she was lucky to have powers—minus whatever caused the Trigger event she had.

“You’d be surprised how hard it is to get anything when you don’t housing and look like you sleep in alleys. Everyone assumes you’re strung out or did something to deserve being out there, so they usually just treat you like an object on the street to avoid rather than a person. And before you ask, I’m not an addict.” She pulled up her sleeves to show her bare arms. “See, no marks despite living in Merchant territory.”

“I never said you were a drug addict.” Not sure that alcohol is much better for making a good impression. “But if you’re homeless, why not go to a shelter?”

“You ever been to one?” she asked. “As a volunteer or because you had to use them?”

I shook my head. None of my family were really that bad off. “I haven’t.”

“Then do some research before you make that suggestion, but it’s not fun. Even the people who mean well make you feel like you can’t take care of yourself and everything is restrictive. There’s not even enough room for me without someone else who needs it more being put out, and then there’s the fact that I’m a woman, which carries a whole other set of issues.”

“Oh… I’m sorry,” I said sheepishly. “I was just making a suggestion. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Yeah, well I figured as much, which is why I’m explaining to you why I need you to do certain things for me. I’m getting to a point where I may end up desperate. And once that happens, I’m going to have to leverage what I can to get by.”

The underlying meaning didn’t escape me with her words there. “You’ll, what? Sell my identity to someone?”

She had the decency to look down at that. “I don’t want to be a bad person, Greg. I don’t want to screw you over to help myself. Especially since you seem like a good kid. But my options are limited and I can’t afford to care if you hate me because of it. So I’m asking you nicely to do me a few favors so I can get myself together, then I’ll never bother you again.”

“I think I would have liked it better if you just blackmailed me instead of making me feel guilty too.” It’s not like I have a choice really. I mean, she knows too much for me to ignore, but I’d feel like an asshole if I didn’t help her out. Worse, she knows it and that’s why she told me everything.

“And I hate myself for doing it to you since you’re a pretty sweet kid.” She plucked my phone and mask out of the air and then hopped down from the counter. “It would be so much easier if you were an asshole like my ex.”

“Please stop calling me a kid. If you know all my personal information, then you know I’m a teenager.”

“I know, but you’re kind of baby-faced.” She held out my stuff for me to take. “Now come on. We need to get your hand looked at and come up with a cover story for why you were out all night to the people who were going to ask.”

“All night?” I grabbed on my phone to check the time and see that it was early morning—as in ‘I should be heading to school right now’ early. This would be a nightmare of a mess to explain without letting out any secrets. “Oh that’s bad. That’s really bad!”

“There’s a hospital not too far away,” she said. “You’ll need to leave the mask behind and ditch some clothes, but you can just say you got jumped by a bunch of ABB members who mistook you for one of the Empire and that they robbed and stabbed you in the hand as a warning before knocking you out and dumping you some place. We’re close to their territory and tension between them is pretty high after that new Tinker of theirs blew up some place and they attacked one of theirs in return. You can even say you didn’t get a good look because it was dark and they all looked the same.”

In a town with the ABB and Empire, it would work. I’d feel bad about lying, but it would work. “That sounds a little… racist though.”

“Yeah, a little,” she admitted. “But the other excuse is explaining how you went out last night in a mask and were nearly killed. I mean, you’re going to have to get better at lying if you want to try doing all this.”

… I hate that she had a point. And even if that explained what happened to my parents, I still had to come up with an excuse to Taylor about this. If I told her someone saw me unmasked, she’d be pissed or would stop me from going out again.

Maybe I could say Circus left me for dead or something? “Can you at least tell me your name?”

“It’s Cienna,” she said. “Now come on. I’ll walk you a bit of the way through the alleys here.”

 


Vim & Vigor – Interlude Cienna (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor – Interlude Cienna

(A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)


The Market, April 10th

“You did the right thing,” Cienna told herself as she walked through the alley with her hood up, covering her long hair. She had to say it aloud to drown out the phantom voice chastising her for giving back the pudgy, geeky-looking boy named Greg Veder his wallet back.

It was a moment of weakness that drove her to take it in the first place. She could see it there, hanging out of his pocket and practically begging her to take it. So she did, simple as that.

Staring down at the I.D. of the boy who was a few years her junior, she saw that his name and his address, which was a good distance from where they were. He’d never come looking for her even if he knew that she had taken it. It was a clean steal overall.

The kid didn’t have much money. But there was more than enough for a couple of drinks. It would have been so easy to have taken everything from the wallet and then toss it. The only reason she hadn’t was because of her father’s voice whispering in the back of her head saying that he probably deserved it for being careless. That gave her pause.

Her father didn’t use to be so bad. In fact, she could proudly say that he was the best dad in the world before the accident cost him his job and one of his arms. He started drinking more and more, trying to cope with the loss of his pride and meaning in life that came from working. Then he turned mean—not to her, but to her mother.

Her mother wasn’t a saint either. In fact, Cienna had more than once wanted her father to just leave her and the two of them could go someplace else. But the abuse only made things worse in the end for everyone involved.

A few months later, he got himself killed in a bar brawl. And her mother… no, there was no point in thinking about it. Her mother made her choice that night. And so did her lousy ex-boyfriend a few weeks later.

Either way, her father’s voice made realize how far she was about to go to slake her thirst. Guilt followed as the moment of weakness passed. It would have been the first step down a bad path. One she’d witnessed personally. So she gave him the wallet back and then went on her way after spotting him at the bus stop.

“I did the right thing,” she told herself again as she fumbled through her pockets, brushing over the plastic canister holding a bunch of rusty nails, a few wrinkled dollars, a cheap cell-phone that she owned. It was useless to her at the moment since she hadn’t bought minutes on it and the twenty dollars in smaller bills she had was better spent on alcohol or food rather an hour of talk time when she didn’t have anyone to call.

Cienna sat down in that alley, out of sight and with her back against the wall. Then she closed her eyes to think. It had only been roughly two months since she’d been on the streets and she was reaching a point where she was getting desperate.

How much longer could she last as things stood? How much longer would it be before she’d resort to taking from others wantonly to deal with her own issues? Even if she didn’t know exactly when, she knew that point was getting closer.

She couldn’t be the person she used to be if she wanted to survive for much longer. But she didn’t think she could live with the type of person she would have to become either. Her throat felt patched the more she thought about it and she almost yearned for a drink to help her forget everything.


The Present

It turned out her justification for not tipping over and robbing people was a Cape. She recognized his face as he lay on the ground with his mask displaced. In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that she didn’t steal from him.

As the female villain who’d threatened her life groaned from getting hit by a blast of electricity, Cienna shook Greg a few times to try and wake him up. He was out like a blown light bulb. There was nothing she could do to wake him it seemed.

A moment of time froze as Cienna considered her options. The smart thing to do would be to run away and hide. She could probably get enough distance since she knew these streets like the back of her hand.

But she couldn’t leave him. Not because she was altruistic. If this was just another fight between rival Capes or gangbangers, she would leave them to kill one another off. But he told her to run away and surrendered to try and give her a chance to escape.

That meant a lot to her on a deeper level considering how she’d been mostly treated since ending up on the streets. People saw you as mostly a fixture or something to exploit, and maybe one out of thirty would give her loose change if she resorted panhandling. Less than that as the scent of alcohol grew worse by the day.

Plus, he’d owe her for saving his life. She could use that to make things better for herself somehow. Everyone looked out for themselves, and this was her way of doing that. If she needed to make herself feel better about it later on, she could use the fact that he tried to help her and told her to get away meant he was a good person and she was doing a good thing.

Her mind made up, Cienna flipped the switch on her power as she crouched down low. It would take her power a few seconds to ramp-up. But the villain wouldn’t be able to get close to her again. Not unless she wanted to be stripped naked and then torn to shreds once she put up the first layer of defense.

Cienna grabbed his mask and shoved it into her pocket before she picked the boy up. Or at least she tried to. He weighed a lot more than she was used to lifting, so it took a minute to get him into a position where she could drag him off somewhere private.

That’s when the villain got onto her feet and threw knives at Cienna. The blades cut through the air, points positioned to hit them both. Then they entered the range of her power and started spiraling around in an orbit around Cienna. “The hell?”

Unbeknownst to the villain, Cienna was now the eye of a slowly building invisible telekinetic field that would grab everything not nailed down around her and spin it faster and faster as the base momentum increased. She hadn’t really found a limit the highest speeds, mostly because she didn’t want to attract attention and didn’t like using her power unless necessary.

Reaching into her pocket after she managed to get the boy onto her shoulders, Cienna added to the storm of dust that built up speed by pulling out a small plastic canister of nails, rusted and worn. Her power only worked on non-living things, meaning that if the villain was willing to sacrifice their clothing then they could enter the eye and then kill them both before she had built up enough cover. That threat ended once the nails were added, unless they were a Brute.

“That’s not going to save you,” the villain said as she pulled out a gas torch. Cienna recalled the flames that she saw coming for her before, only to be blocked by the geeky boy in her arms. Given he was unconscious there would be no second save like that, so Cienna ejected the knives back from the field orbiting her.

The added momentum sent them sailing forward with lethal intent, and while the villain was nimble enough to avoid one after spotting the glinting and sharpened steel coming for her, the other found flesh. It sunk into her arm point-first with a wet thunk and had enough momentum that it buried itself up to the hilt. With a pained rasp, the villain dropped the torch.

Cienna took that as her cue to go for the alley that they ran through before. Broken bits of glass, paper, discarded refuse and trash, everything that could be caught was as she neared it. She gave them two rotations within the vortex and then ejected them in the direction of the villain, whose arm was limp as the knife vanished and blood poured from the wound.

Whether it was because of the blood-loss, the unexpected encounter with a parahuman, or the mounting injuries from the earlier lightning blast, the villain turned tail and ran out the opposite direction. But Cienna didn’t think she was out of trouble just yet, since the villain could always come back and had seen her face. She couldn’t stay around here anymore.

Looking down to the boy she was dragging along, she mulled over what to do with him. In the end, she decided she didn’t have any other choice but to bring him with her someplace where they could hide. If she was going this far to save him already, she may as well see it through to the end.

Cienna knew one place that she could go that they’d be safe in, an abandoned building that was once of a shut-down Chinese food restaurant. It was constantly getting broken into because—well, they were close to Merchant territory after all and the ABB had a stranglehold on places closer to their own domain, so the owners cut their losses.

She’d take him there and wait for him to wake up. Then she would extract a price for services rendered. If she was on some villain’s kill-list now because of this kid, she was at least going to make things better for herself in the process.


End Notes: Say hello to Whirlygig’s OC Stand-In. Her power is largely the same, with the added bonus of being aware of what enters the orbit and being able to choose what she can eject from it.

 


Vim & Vigor 6 (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor 6


Circus was pretty fast all things considered. I wouldn’t call her a Mover with a high-ranking, but being able to parkour up and down a series of buildings without falling because of her balance trick should have earned her some kind of lower-ranking in the category. It took everything I had to keep up, and I nearly got hit while invisible by a car.

I probably would have survived as long as my brain was intact, but I really didn’t want to find out like that.

As I chased her, I had to wonder what she was doing so far north. We were nearing Merchant territory by the Docks, far outside Circus’ normal operating area. Maybe she was getting tired of Heimal and Nemean hounding her, or did she piss off the Cyborg of Brockton Bay?

She only finally stopped running when she approached a set of buildings that looked like they were abandoned, behind a high-rise of some kind. I could tell from the broken windows that lined the red and white one that rose up to maybe four stories high. But Circus entered the second building, the grey one that was only three stories high and had boarded up windows on the first and second floor, while they didn’t bother on the third floor.

She looked around to see if she had been followed, but didn’t spot me since the invisibility field was wrapped around me. Then she entered the double doors.

Don’t try to go in that way,” Taylor said over the line. “It’s too obvious.

“I thought as much myself.” I looked up to see that one of the windows on the third floor had been so thoroughly broken that it could be climbed through. Something likely blew it out judging from the glass scattered on the ground. That’d work.

I went over to the side of the building and dropped the invisibility field in the shadows, switching to X-Ray to check my surroundings. It looked like there was no one in the red building next to me, which you’d think a few homeless people or addicts would be inside given the size, but the grey one that Circus went in had someone else in it on the first floor—Trainwreck from the size and shape.

What was a member of the Merchants doing meeting with Circus? I didn’t see her joining up with them. If she did then that’d add… I think about six Capes to their numbers: Skidmark, Squealer, Mush, Stain, and Trainwreck, who joined up not too long ago. But why join the Merchants of all gangs?

She was a rather successful Independent Villain all things considered… well, at least until the Beauty and Beast came to the Bay. If she needed to join a gang then I guessed that ruled out the E-88, unless she was pure Caucasian. The ABB was out too unless she was some kind of Asian and wanted to work under Lung.

Really, even if you discounted that the Merchants were usually drug-addicts, they were at least somewhat multiracial and maybe—

You’re rambling again.

Crap. “Sorry.”

You really need to work on that.

“Yeah…” I sighed as I took in the terrain a second time before looking down at the bangle. I was down to about half from using Invisibility chasing her. Better not waste time.

I grabbed hold of Telekinesis and used it to pull the nearest manhole cover towards me. Stepping onto it, I raised myself up in the air slowly despite the extra weight deepening the color and energy expenditure by a notch. I don’t have the best balance, but my powers keep it stable as long as I concentrate on it. Guess I qualified for conditional Mover myself now.

With it, I rose up to the broken window and stepped inside. There was no third or second floor in the inside, but rather it had a high ceiling and metal walkways around it like it had been some sort of gutted factory. Neither of them was looking, but Trainwreck looked awfully blue from my point of view. Good to know.

I swapped powers right afterwards as I grabbed the manhole cover, letting the invisibility field cloak my body and it. That way I could watch without them taking notice as they continued to talk, but I had to strain my ears to listen while they were.

“—passed up the Underrunners because I work alone, so why would I work for someone else?”

“Because it’s an opportunity to make some real cash,” Trainwreck said. “Or favors. He could even get rid of the Beauty and Beast for you. Everyone knows they’ve been chasing you down. How long you think that Tinkertech to mask your scent will work?”

“How the fuck do you know about that?”

“My employer has many connections. He can also make the issue disappear, one way or another.”

Okay, now I know he isn’t talking about Skidmark. Heimal had ice powers and Nemean turned into either a werelion or giant lion made of what looked to be solid stone of some kind. Hell, I’ve seen the video of him once pile-driving Hookwolf in his full-on metal form.

I gave it a Like.

The Merchants couldn’t bring that sort of power to the front no matter what they tried to do. So, who were they working for? This could be big. I needed to get closer.

I moved to do so—

CRUNCH!

—and my foot crushed a beer can. It was as loud as a gunshot for all intents and purposes, and both of them turned their heads my way. Damn.

Circus reached for a pair of throwing knives and held two between her fingers. “What was that?”

“Probably rats,” he said. “I came alone.”

Yes, a large resourceful rat. Not an invisible Cape who is getting out of there ASAP, I couldn’t help but pray silently as I gripped the manhole cover tighter and turned towards the window. I heard enough and decided to get out while the getting was good—

Gah!” The scream came out on its own as one of the two thrown knives poked me in my back. The chainmail stopped it from going any deeper, but it still caught me by surprise.

“Stranger!” yelled Trainwreck as he pointed towards me with his arm. There was an opening on his unnecessarily big gauntlet, and he braced it with the other hand. Having been shot at enough by Squealer, I saw where this was going.

I dropped Invisibility for Repulsion Shield. It caught what looked to be a makeshift cannon ball before it took my head off. Seriously, a steam-powered wrist-cannon? I didn’t know if that was awesome or impractical, but I did know that I didn’t want to get hit by it.

I sighed, switched back to Telekinesis while the field still had a few seconds active to protect me, and turned to the window—

Look out!” Taylor said abruptly over the line. I only saw why when it was too late.

Circus pulled some parkour… bullshit and managed to get high enough kick off one of the support beams, and fling two more knives that got caught in my field before she grabbed the edge of the railing and swung up to kick me.

I brought the manhole cover around to protect me, but it just gave her a larger surface to hit and pushed me right out of the window. I turned as I fell with the manhole cover beneath my stomach, screaming, and desperately visualized my power acting like a giant hand lifting me up. What happened was that the manhole cover acted as though the hand was lifting it and stopped my fall about three feet from the ground.

My heart took a second to start working again.

Then Trainwreck busted through the wall close to me, having decided the door wasn’t fast enough.

As the pair of blue-shrouded powered fist came towards me, in an effort to either grab or crush me, I dropped my control on the manhole cover in exchange for taking control of his armor and pushing him back into the hole he burst through with all my telekinetic might. The effort sent him flying back with a surprised noise while I hit the ground. It briefly knocked the air out of lungs, but it’s not that bad compared to how it could have been.

I got lucky that I was using Telekinesis already. If he was a straight brute then I would have had my head crushed before I could switch out to something better suited for fighting him. And it was pure luck that I managed to hear the sound of metal scraping stone to notice that Circus had also decided to jump down with a sledgehammer she pulled out of nowhere.

I visualized a hand grabbing it and my power grasped it, stopping it and her in the middle of the air. Then the sledgehammer vanished and she fell again towards me while swinging her hands back and then throwing them forward—wait, when did the sledgehammer get back in her hands!?

I stumbled back just in time to avoid it crushing my head from her throwing it down like that. It’s more than enough time for her to land into a front roll next to the sledgehammer that vanished, spring back to her feet with her arms chambered, and swings them forward with the sledgehammer once again in her hands. I tried to get out of range again, but it caught me in chest.

“Ooph!” I went down and ended up on my back. That stung. It felt like something cracked in my chest, but I’d heal. Still stupid of me. The moment that Trainwreck got the drop on me, I should have moved to regain my advantage.

She wasted no time in mounting my chest with her knees planted firmly on my shoulders to stop me from moving my arms. Her forearm then came down on my throat to cut off my air as she leaned down to peer into my mask’s lens. “Who’re you supposed to be?”

I only managed strangled groans until she moved her arm back a smidge. “Haah…name’s Vim, ahhh….” I gasped hot air as my chest stopped hurting and I heard lumbering footsteps. Crap. “Can you please stop trying to kill me?”

“How much did you hear?” she asked as the shadow of Trainwreck loomed over me. “Who do you work for?”

“You were speaking too low for me to hear anything,” I lied as I turned my palm upwards and grabbed hold of my Repulsion Shield’s echo. I’m not stupid. I knew the moment that they got what they wanted they’d cripple or kill me. “And I don’t work for anyone, I’m new. I just saw you and one thing led to another.”

“Then this is your unlucky night,” Trainwreck said, before he addressed her. “Boss doesn’t appreciate witnesses, if you’re in?”

A knife appeared in her hand after a very brief pause, so I guess she really wanted those two Capes done in. Right then.

I fired off the Repulsion Shield and the knife stopped in midair. Even if I don’t aim it, it covered me in a field that extended out from my body several inches. So she settled for strangling me again as I grabbed hold of Zero-G’s echo and fired it off to send her floating up.

Trainwreck, who should have been caught in the wide (if short) range of the blast, then tried to stomp my head. The same reason it probably didn’t affect him and the cause of my near-death, the steam-powered armor, stopped like the knife. The field lingered for five seconds after use whether or not I’m using that echo inside of me and I had three left.

I rolled out from under the floating Circus and grabbed hold of Shocker to let them both have a taste. Blue tendrils of electricity covered them both, worming into their bodies in a single blast. She screamed while he only grunted and took aim with his gauntlet for another shot.

I took the chance to grab Telekinesis again and visualized a pair of hands grabbing Trainwreck’s arms. The metal had to weigh more than his limbs, so I was sure he couldn’t stop them with simple muscle as I forced them downwards to his right knee. The impact made his entire leg shake and whatever firing mechanism he had triggered, either from the force or because he was getting ready to take the shot, blowing it off entirely in a spray of metal and whatever fluid was in it—but no blood.

A part of me was relieved I didn’t just cost a man his leg, even if he tried to murder me. The other part of me recalled that my bullet-proof field was down now. He could kill me if he got another shot off.

I could try and pull his arms off with Telekinesis, but I didn’t know if his arms were all metal as well. So I settled for throwing him back through the hole he made and then jerking to the side with both hands as a visualization aid to throw him into a side wall too. No clear line of fire, and he couldn’t chase me with a single leg.

Goddamn Grab-bags,” I heard him say as I released my grasp on him and looked down to my bangle. Then I bit back a swear. I had a lot less than what I came here with.

How badly did she hurt me that healing required that much energy? Or was it from manhandling Trainwreck? All that metal must’ve factored into the total energy cost. Damn it, I hoped Taylor didn’t need that information.

Don’t just stand there, run!” Taylor yelled over the line. “Zero-G has a time limit, remember?

I turned and ran, taking a parting shot to the still-floating Circus. “I see you two want to be alone, so I’ll let you get back to your clandestine tryst. Personally, I think you’d make a fitting couple!”

I knew they weren’t talking about dating. But as long as they thought I didn’t know what they were talking about, it was for the better. That stopped a third party from getting involved and limited the number of people I had to worry about in the future to just Trainwreck, who was part of the Merchants and already hated me, and Circus—AHHHH, IT BURNS!

FIRE! I’M ON FIRE! I’M ON FIRE!

I fell forward and started rolling to stop the burning. Everything hurt and time didn’t seem to matter until the flames died. It was long enough before I stopped burning and turned to see that a portable gas-torch was lying on the ground away from her as she was struggling to get back on her feet.

Damn, I forgot that she had pyrokinesis to go with the parkour and hammerspace. Goddamn Grab-bag powers. I wanted to blast her again with another bolt to put her down, but I had to heal and I didn’t know how much energy that would take for all the damage I’ve taken.

I forced my body to move towards the nearest alley. The only thought in my head was that I had to run away and heal. So I did that and ran.

I didn’t think at all and only ran. I needed to get somewhere far enough to heal before I could think and plan on how to get away. My body understood that and moved as flesh began to heal and pushed out the heated metal of the chainmail that added to the workload.

Then I hit something ahead of me as I turned the corner. The sounds of glass breaking and a curse reached my ears before I hit the wall. My full awareness returned and I found myself looking down at the girl from the Market that returned my wallet, her glass bottle in a brown bag shattered and spilling its contents.

Before I could say anything, I saw her eyes glow from something bright behind me. My body acted, wanting to move to avoid the pain it just experienced. But she would have been caught by it if I ran, so I stop myself from pushing past her and grabbed the trash can next me to throw it that way.

It crashed into the flaming lion or tiger or bear, or whatever animal that Circus chose to shape it in, and went up in flames as the girl screamed. That was close. I couldn’t let someone else get killed because of me. “Run and call the police, a murder-villain is coming!”

She ran the opposite the way the flame came from. I didn’t know if she’d actually get help, but I was hoping that Circus would settle for trying to escape instead of going after her. Of course, I was probably screwed since she could very well murder me in that timeframe. Not going down without a fight though.

I called up my Shocker echo and crystals started growing out of my hand. Then I heard the girl scream and turned her way. Circus had the flat of the knife pressed against the girl’s neck and there was a bleeding gash across her cheek.

Stupid of me, I should have guessed that Circus could have controlled the fire while she darted around to cut off my escape. “Let her go!”

“You run or attack, she dies,” Circus warned me with the flat of the blade against the girl’s throat. Her outfit was probably somewhat insulated, which was why she could chase after me. “No one would think twice about some alcoholic homeless bitch with her throat slit in this part of town. Now get on your knees and place your hand face-down on the ground how it is.”

She’ll kill her anyway,” Taylor warned me. “She’s listed as a burglar with no known kills on her record, but that’s only what’s been reported.

And she’d tried to kill me already. But I couldn’t risk it. “She’s done nothing to you!”

“On. The. Ground.” Circus ordered, turning the blade proper so the sharp end was on her neck. “I won’t say it again.”

Taylor, go home.” I whispered as I fell onto my knees and laid both of my hands down on the ground. “Tell my parents you don’t know what happened to me after we split up an hour ago if they call. It’s not foolproof, but if they find my body then they won’t blame you—you couldn’t have known and they’d likely just think I’d triggered after the other cover story.

Circus threw the knife and listened to me cry out as it buried itself into my non-powered hand. “Like I thought, one power at a time and each with a time-limit,” she said, now grasping another knife she pulled out of nowhere. It must’ve been a test shot to see if the same thing that happened before would happen again. “You can’t block my knife while you’ve got your electric powers set.”

Time slowed as she chambered her hand to throw the knife and Taylor yelled my name over the line. The girl used the chance to raise one arm to cover her head as she pulled herself off to the side, probably to avoid getting killed when I was dead to leave no witnesses. I raised my hand to fire a final bolt with the opening she gave me and hit Circus square in the chest. That should buy her time to get away as the knife slammed into my mask.

I felt it fall off my face as a hot flash of pain drew a line over my forehead. It was luck again. The girl breaking free must’ve messed with the force behind the throw and caused the knife to be off by half-a-rotation. I pulled out the knife in my hand and got onto my feet as the girl ran past me…

Then I stumbled forward and onto my knees. The mask broke beneath my left knee and the bangle came into my view. I was empty.

No, it was worse than that. I’d burned all my energy up while still needing to heal. And, like a sugar rush, the crash was kicking in. Shit.

I felt a hand grab me and heard the girl’s voice. Was she trying to help me? It was no good. I didn’t have it in me to properly stand, let alone run and get far before Circus could move again.

Get… somewhere safe…” I managed to say before I fell down to the ground.

Everything went dark afterwards.


Vim & Vigor 5 (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor 5

(A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)


{-{ V & V }-}


Telekinesis ruled.

That’s right. I’m telekinetic now. How cool was that?

I couldn’t help but giggle like a stereotypical Japanese schoolgirl from some decent anime I watched online last night while I levitated a bunch of junk in a circle in front of me, thanks to the new stuff that Taylor gave me. Since she didn’t want me experimenting with the powers near her base, not after the incident when I had just gotten the Shocker power, I was out-of-sight in a small junkyard with my makeshift outfit and mask on.

Greg, you need to tell me what’s happening to you,” Taylor said from her end of the ear piece. “You’re supposed to be helping me test the powers, not goofing off. That’s the deal we had, remember?

“Right, sorry.” I cleared my throat and released my mental grasp on the junk, letting it fall down. “Got a bit excited… where do you want me to start?”

Tell me what you felt when you drank it,” she said. “Did you hallucinate?

“The hallucination made it seem like everything was breaking apart. It was like the ground and sky shattered beneath me, rising into space endlessly before I snapped back to reality.”

Okay. That’s about what I expected. The hallucinations usually match the power in some way.” I could hear her typing that down. “What then?

“When I grabbed hold of the newest ‘echo’ inside of me, everything in my vision was colored differently. Even now, it’s like I’m living in a world of gray, with the only color being different shades of blue. Though, when I switched powers to see if it was permanent, my vision went back to normal.”

Do you have any idea what the different shades mean?

“I think it’s how much energy it’ll take out of me to move something.” I looked down to a wristband that Taylor had given me. It was Tinker-tech of some kind, displaying a long, blue gauge. “I’ve only used a pinch or so, judging from the gauge.”

When she gave it to me before I left her lab, she explained that whenever my body was in an excited state because of the Energizer, it vibrated in a way that couldn’t be perceived by the human eye. The band basically measured the vibrations from my baseline state and compared the rate I was currently vibrating to the peak state—in other words, I knew exactly how long I could go around with powers before I was burned out.

“The deeper the color, the more it’ll take to move it,” I told her as I lifted some random junk and judged how much the gauge ticked down until a rat scurried from its hiding place beneath a box I lifted and went the opposite direction. “And that rat that just ran by didn’t have any color, so I couldn’t use my power on it.”

Hmm, it might be that telekinesis only works on inorganic targets,” she said. “Just like Zero-G only works on organic targets, similar to a Manton limit in some powers. Keep going. Walk me through the process of how you go about using your power.

“Well, I can pretty much tell what I can and can’t grab by looking at it.” I turned my head towards a pile that had a rusted car door on it. “For example, that car door. I usually picture that I want it to move by imagining that I’m reaching out with an invisible hand to grab it and move it.”

I extended my hand and visualized a phantasmal copy of it was flying forward and growing, grabbing the car door. The gauge on the band went down a tick when it connected and I knew for a fact that I could move it how I saw fit. I gestured for it to come to me by pulling my hand back and the door flew towards me until I held a hand out to stop it.

Do you have to gesture with your hand to make it work?” she asked as I twisted my finger in a circle to make the door spin like a pinwheel just for the hell of it. Sue me, this was awesome.

I put my hand down and tried to visualize that it was still spinning. It was wobbling as it did so. “I don’t, but it’s harder. I think that my hand is a sort of focus for me to use the power correctly, but while I’m handling this I can’t really do much else. It’s taking too much concentration.”

If that’s the case, you might be limited to what you can do while multi-tasking. Good to know.” She mumbled for a bit before clearing her throat. “What about range?

“Give me a sec.” I set the car door down and then started climbing the nearest stack of junk so I could to get a better view of the junkyard. Then I strained my eyes to the street just past it, where I saw a sewer cover that shone blue among the gray of the street and buildings that were probably too heavy to register. I gestured with a finger for it to rise, imagining that I was grabbing it from here like I did the car door, and it did. “I think it works as far as I can see.”

Actually, if that was the case, what if I had a pair of binoculars? Did the range increase the expended energy? So many questions for later.

What does it do when you try to charge it?” she asked. “Look down at your gauge so I can record how much energy you have before you do it.

I looked down for her so that she could record it before I tried. Then I grabbed hold of that power and focused on gathering it up, compressing as much as I could to be used in a single burst like I did with my electricity powers to form the crystals that made up the trap. When I did, my vision shifted slightly.

Instead of a bunch of blue objects, there was a sort of luminous sphere that appeared. It moved with a thought as long as I was charging, casting a bluish shadow over everything around it. I repeated that to Taylor and she gave me the go-ahead to release the power.

When I did, everything within the shadow that wasn’t nailed down was pulled towards where the sphere was—even the rusted shell of what was once a car. It all balled together, with the metal screeching loudly, until it was like a katamari ball. It then slammed into the ground hard enough to shake the pile of junk I was standing on, and forcing me to jump off as it collapsed onto itself. I landed on my stomach, but no lasting harm.

It seems that when you charge it, rather than allowing you to pick and choose what you can pull in, it creates a sort of telekinetic core that pulls in everything that it can around it in a set radius. I’ll be able to measure it from the video footage. Show me how much energy you have left.

“It took out a fourth,” I said, looking down at it for her. That meant I couldn’t use it too often. I snapped my head up when I saw a light coming on across the street. “I think that may have made too much noise.”

Get out of there then,” she told me. “We’ll call it a night there so we don’t get the PRT looking into it.

“Can I go out patrolling?” I asked as I slipped out of the junkyard by climbing over the fence and triggering my invisibility. Now that I had more practice with it, I understood that it covered me in thin field that basically camouflaged me from view, as well as anyone or anything else I touched with my hand that was warped by my powers. With it, I didn’t have to worry about being spotted as I moved through the main streets and could sneak up on bad guys.

I don’t think you’re ready for that,” she said. “There’s already a gang-war on the verge of breaking out. No one will hesitate to put a bullet in you if they can.

“But it’s not like I can sleep if I haven’t burned the energy off and we still have a lot left,” I added. It felt like every cell in my body was jumping around so much that sleep was a foreign concept. “And I did take on the Merchants. I can handle a couple of guys with guns.”

The Merchants were in a set location, caught off-guard, and you still nearly got beaten by Skidmark and Squealer. And, ability to heal or not, if you take a bullet to the head, it’s over.

“I’ll be careful,” I promised. “Come on, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t want to be a hero if you have the chance. That’s why you’re making these powers in the first place, right?”

She sighed after a moment of thought. “Fine…but stay away from the Merchant’s territory and try to avoid getting in the middle of the gang war if you come across it. You don’t need the attention from one of the bigger groups.

“Cool.” I punched the air in celebration as I walked through a dark alley. “If we get lucky, maybe we’ll even find the Undersiders and take them out. They’ve gained a bigger reputation since they managed to rob that bank.”

They did?

“Yeah, it was on the News,” I told her. “My parents were watching the report. It said the Undersiders managed to get away from the Wards thanks to the two new members they got. One of them is Chain Man, a villain from the south-side of the city. The other is some guy who calls himself Hermes and has these rocket-boots—a Tinker with a presumed specialization in mobility.”

Picking a fight with that many Capes at once is a bad idea,” she said. “Don’t try to find them.”

“Okay.” So who did that leave? No Undersiders, none of the bigger gangs—there was probably plenty of regular crime going on that I could deal with somewhere, help someone else out, but given the sheer size of the city there was actually very little chance of me just running into someone that unlucky.

I didn’t think I could arrest anyone, and I don’t have a burner phone yet. But I could scare them off or hit them with a blast of lightning… then again, given the sheer size of the city, chances are I wouldn’t find anyone either unless it was a really active spot for trouble. Where to go then that fit all of the above?

I’m betting that the Protectorate would be patrolling in the main parts of the city, and we’re too far north for me to waste time going to the south-side. The area around the Market then? There’s bound to be something I could do there.

I was a little more than a fourth away from the Market area when I heard something moving above my head and caught a silhouette jumping over the rooftop. The street lights briefly caught them with the glow, so I knew it wasn’t just my imagination. It was a woman judging by the body shape, and the white and black mask split down the middle was one I’d seen posted on the forums.

Circus,” I whispered. The burglar cape that was the arch-nemesis of the Beauty and Beast of Brockton Bay—at least if the rumors were to be believed .What was she doing this far north?

No time to think on that. If I remembered from the PHO she had a number of minor powers and was unaffiliated. So was I. Perfect match. Seeing how she ran along the edges of the rooftops without any problems—enhanced spatial awareness and balance, right?

How was I going to get her down? Blast her? No. Even if I hit, the fall from that high up could kill her. Actually, is it right for me just to assume she committed a crime just for her being out in costume?

I looked down at my band to see I still had a good amount of energy left. It’d be best to follow her invisibly and then go from there. I grabbed the mystifying echo and let it wrap my body before I ran after her down the street….


{-{End}-}


End Notes: This is the start of Arc 2 – Circus Games.


Vim & Vigor 4 (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor 4

(A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)


{-{ V & V }-}


Winslow, April 11th

“Greg, check this.” Taylor said as she handed me a few stapled pages with typing on it. On the cover page was our names, along with Sparky’s, and our report title: Scion’s Death and Changes in the Endbringer Engagement. I gave it a quick glance through as we walked through the front doors of the school. Taylor did her research.

It starts with the Behemoth Engagement shortly after the death of Scion. With the golden man gone, people weren’t sure if there was anything that could be done to stop the rampaging Endbringer besides hitting it until it got tired of leveling the area. Then there was a sudden ringing noise from above, like a giant bell, and nearly half the capes present at the fight died.

Before anyone could figure out what happened, the Endbringer shrieked in pain and a giant white whale appeared above the battlefield. It was later named Bismark, and its very presence made the Endbringer bleed. The PRT had a theory about it being a projection from an unknown Master 12 cape that had something to do with wavelength synchronization, but the point was that when it appeared the Endbringers got nerfed. In the end, Eidolon managed to kill Behemoth and a new Endbringer showed up when its cycle came up again.

Since then Endbringer battles involved holding out long enough until a projection appeared and then hitting it harder. But there were problems with this. For some reason, capes dropped dead before it came out like they were sacrifices. And if there weren’t enough capes present for the battle, the projection wouldn’t show up at all. Nobody liked the idea that they were being sacrifices, sentenced to death because of some unseen force passing judgment on them.

So that meant they had to start dipping into the Birdcage, which was a whole other set of problems. Capes who went in could earn their freedom by participating in three Endbringer battles, with a least one being a solid kill before they could leave and a Kill Order if they went back to crime again afterwards. So far they hadn’t managed another kill yet, but with Leviathan predicted to come soon it was looking like that was a very real possibility.

“It’s good, but you look a bit tired,” I noted. “Did you spend all night working on it?”

She tilted her head lower and shook it a bit, covering her mouth as she yawned slightly. “No, I was working on a special project.”

“Oh, you mean—” She narrowed her eyes at me in warning. “—shutting up now.”

I struggled not to smile. That meant she had a new power in a bottle for me. I wonder which one it was. She mentioned that some of them were based off bursts of inspirations that came from watching cape battles on recordings, like with Stormtiger—at least before he, Hookwolf, and Cricket were killed anyway.

We went to class and took our seats. Sparky was already at the table we usually got stuck on, so we were all set. All that was left was to wait until the presentation….

That was until Mister Gladly had decided to try and stick one of Madison’s friends with us, a girl named Julia. She looked at us like something you would scrape off your shoe and said she wanted to sit with Madison’s group. We supported that and said we didn’t need the extra help.

He didn’t listen and, naturally, Madison’s group moved so that she and Julia were next to one another and could talk. Somehow nothing exploded for a good while until Julia nicked the report from in front of Taylor while she was fishing around in her book bag and then handed it over to Madison behind her back, where she couldn’t reach it. I was too slow to stop it.

“Hey, this isn’t bad,” Madison said as she flipped through the pages. “Mind if I borrow this?”

A look of pure hatred flickered in Taylor’s eyes as she grabbed the bottom of her crutch leaning against the table. Without a word, Taylor sent it straight through the top of the report, tearing it down the middle while Madison shrieked. The only reason it didn’t hit the girl was because her head moved faster than her hand, but no one was using that copy.

Mister Gladly was drawn to her shriek. He looked down at the papers on the floor and Taylor’s hand on the crutch. “What’s going on here?”

“I was showing Madison the report Greg and I worked on over the weekend when my crutch slipped. I tried to catch it before it could hit her, but it still tore my report in two,” Taylor lied flawlessly, before any of the others could pin it as an attack. “Right, Greg?”

I nodded dumbly, and a little afraid. I think that the others were either the same or shocked a bit, because neither of them said anything either. “That’s why it has our names on the front page and headers. No other reason she’d have it.”

“Good thing it didn’t hurt her,” Taylor continued, a false look of concern on her face as she stared at Madison and then Julia. “I would have hated for someone to have gotten hurt by accident.”

The teacher crouched down and checked it. “Alright, but you still need a report for your grade. Do you need to print it out again?”

“Greg will do it for me,” she said, pulling a flash-drive and handing it to me.

I took it and went to the computer to do just that. When I got back to the table, I saw that Julia was looking a little pale and Taylor was writing something down in her notebook. I ignored the stares we were getting until it was our turn and the teacher called on me.

After the report went off flawlessly, thanks to me doing the speech, it was Madison’s group that went afterwards. Their report was on the New Wave scandal that happened not too long ago, when a leaked film caught Glory Girl putting some Empire 88 thug an inch within his life after he surrendered, with what was clearly excessive force, and then calling Panacea to heal him. There was some controversy over it, to say the least.

Now, in general, no one would argue against the fact that the gangbanger had it coming. Cricket and Stormtiger did kill two members of the New Wave bunch while they were unmasked, as well as a bunch of other innocent people, in retaliation for Brandish killing Hookwolf when he got a Kill Order placed on him. So it was clearly personal, and I think that it was a set-up given how that camera went unnoticed to record the entire thing.

But the damage had been done. The issue being raised was that, from what was being said between them, this happened multiple times before that particular incident and they were covering it up. New Wave was all about accountability, and they were spitting in the face of that.

Things got uncomfortable from then until we were told to go to our next class. They looked like they were going to start something until Mister Gladly asked Taylor and me to stay behind. The smug look on Emma’s face afterwards clued me in I wasn’t going to like what was going to happen.

“Julia has informed me that you both threatened her while you were sitting together,” he said. “She said she felt a legitimate threat to her life.”

Yep. I didn’t like it.

“Did anyone see us do that other than Madison’s table, who are her friends?” Taylor asked him point-blank. “Because that’s a lie.”

“I don’t think it’s true either,” he said. “You two are some of the tamest students in my class and, believe it or not, I do know what goes on in here. I know that some people are giving you a hard time.”

“Then you know for a fact that Julia always hangs out with Madison and the latter moved her table over just to talk to her. You don’t think for a second she wouldn’t lie to cover herself, and if you know that some people are giving me a hard time you can put two-and-two together that this is their way of trying to screw me over.” She pointed to the table. “Julia took our paper and gave it to Madison behind my back. When I tried to reach for it the crutch fell. Instead of letting it hit her, I grabbed it.”

“Then why didn’t you say something about them taking your paper?” he asked.

“I covered for them trying to take it because it wasn’t worth the hassle when at best they’d get a day’s suspension, but if they’re going around trying to get us in trouble then that’s a different story.”

“Take it easy, no one is getting in trouble,” he said. “I just want to make sure that it wasn’t an intentional lapse in judgment from a moment of anger.”

“It wasn’t, I promise you.” Taylor said with no hesitation. It was a lie, but I’d believe her with the way she said it. “This entire thing wouldn’t even have been an issue if you didn’t stick her with us in the first place.”

“I put her in your group because it needed to be balanced,” he claimed.

Now, that I called bull on. “Julia spent that entire time talking to Madison,” I pointed out. “And you always put us with Sparky, who sleeps the majority of the class or is out of it. Taylor and I did the rest of the work ahead of time because of that.”

Taylor continued on from there. “So in short, they’re lying. If you really think we went through with it and want to make it an issue with the principal, take us to her office and let’s get this out of the way.”

He didn’t. He just let us go. Emma, Madison, and six other girls were out there waiting for us. I could make out Sophia heading towards the exit with a gym-bag in her hands. It must’ve been another family emergency. She’d been having those a lot lately.

“That was stupid of you, Emma,” Taylor said, interrupting the rest of them as they pretended to talk to one another. “It’s one thing when it’s a petty insult, it’s another when you do something that would get the teacher’s involved.”

“But you did threaten her,” Emma pointed out smugly. “Something along the lines of ‘touch my work again and you’ll end up at the bottom of the bay,’ I believe. A threat to someone’s life is a criminal offense, if I remember what Dad told me. ”

“Prove it,” Taylor said. I noticed she didn’t actually deny it. “Because the moment we go to court is the moment you, Madison, and Sophia get slapped with so many charges that you won’t see the sun from whatever dank cell they put you in for a decade.”

“Did things get better for good old Danny to the point he could afford to make a case?” Emma asked, feigning happiness like really badly. “Because I remember him backing off when Dad mentioned how expensive it would be to go through court the last time. Not that it matters since my dad would take you for every last penny you have if you did.”

Realistically, Taylor’s dad probably couldn’t afford a court case. But I don’t think she’d spent the money she’d gotten from the Merchants yet. Given how she was acting, and how mad she looked when Emma brought up her father, she could very well put it towards her own legal defense. And it’s probably a good thing she didn’t have access to her Nevermore power right now, otherwise things would have might have gotten… gory.

“She’s already too poor to buy any decent clothes, isn’t she?” one of the girls asked.

Before one of the others could answer, Taylor held a hand up to them. “Be quiet and stay pretty like the accessories you are, I’m talking to the one of you who has a brain.”

Then she turned back to Emma. “Your dad knows my family, they’d never let him handle the case in the first place if we take it to court. On top of that, I’d make it as loud as possible and drag as many people into it as I can just so that his practice hears about it. Then we’ll see whose dad is poor when his bosses fire him to save face.”

Emma’s expression changed for a moment, judging if she was telling the truth. Since it went back to a smirk, I didn’t think she bought it. Thankfully, whatever else was about to be said was cut when Mister Gladly stuck his head out of the door and saw everyone out there.

Taylor used that to push past Julia and kept moving. I followed after her, stepping around her as one of them made a sound like they were disgusted with me. When they were a good distance away, I breathed easier.

“What was that?” I asked. “I thought you said to stay low?”

“Gladly is useless and they’re bitches, Greg. I’ll put up with them because they aren’t worth the hassle for their grade-school crap. But no one—and I mean no one—steals the credit for my work.”

I looked back and saw Emma giving her a look like Sophia did after she threatened to castrate me. It looked bad. “She’ll come after you.”

“Us,” she corrected. “I told you that you made yourself a target before. This is where it led to. I’d suggest not bringing anything you value to school and not relying on your locker. You have your spare spy-camera, right?”

“Yeah…?” It was small enough to be hidden, but I wasn’t exactly sure where she was going with it. “Why?”

“If they escalate this to that point, I guarantee their going to have a bad time.” That said, she went off and left me behind.

It… must’ve been a Tinker thing. Yeah, that was it. I guess they would get pissed if someone took any of their work, Tinker-tech or not.

Still, I couldn’t help but think that this was going to end really badly…


{-{End}-}


End Notes: There are three things you don’t do with a Tinker: You don’t touch a Tinker’s stuff without permission, you don’t stifle their creativity, and you don’t ever try to take credit for their work. They pressed two of her buttons at once. Pressing all three will not end pretty for anyone.


Vim & Vigor 3 (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor 3

(A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)


{-{Start}-}


Greg Veder’s Home, April 10th

I couldn’t help but yawn by the time I was done with my half of the report. Scion’s death wasn’t officially confirmed by Protectorate or anyone in the know, but everyone basically assumed that he was long gone. After all, he hadn’t been seen since 2008.

There were a couple of theories flying around, so I would have to use those, along with references to official sources while keeping my personal opinion out of it. I could just copy and paste, knowing Mr. G wouldn’t really care if I could spin it right, but that was being lazy and I had to make sure it was good enough to meet Taylor’s standards. I didn’t want to do it by halves and run the risk of her getting a bad grade when she trusted me to help her out.

It wasn’t like we could rely on Sparky—not when every other grouping we had with him left the two of us doing the majority of the work. He had his own thing and wasn’t into the cape scene like we were, so he’d just leave it for us to deal with and coast by. Not fair, but it wasn’t worth picking a fight I couldn’t win over. Plus, I’m thinking he might be stoned a good portion of the time anyway.

If I was allowed to use my personal theory, I’d say that Scion was the source of all powers to begin with. I mean, the moment he went pop was about the same time that some people had their own powers turned against them upon triggering, being too powerful for them to contain. You never knew how the next trigger event was going to turn out—either you were going to get a cool power, a crappy power, or end up in a state of constantly melting and reforming into what looked like new age art sculptures while feeling every bit of pain until the PRT took you off and put you in stasis. But no, I couldn’t use that since it counted as a personal opinion, as there were no solid or proven facts to back that up.

I sighed as I gave it another read-through and then sent the report to Taylor as an email attachment, to get her opinion on it. If she needed me to revise it to match her tone then I could do that later. That left me a few hours of free time to myself….

I guess I’d go out to the Market then. There was no point in poking around on PHO since TinMother accused me of starting a flame-war. I swear she’s biased against me. Besides, I could find some things to improve my costume with my allowance there.

My vision briefly blurred until I rubbed my eyes—too long on the computer and the bright backdrop again. Closing the laptop perched in the main niche of the computer desk, while game boxes were lined and stacked next to one another on the sides, I got out the swiveling chair. My bones cracked as I stretched and turned to the opposite wall, the shelf of which housed my books, and walked out the door to the Living Room.

Dad was at the table, looking at a bunch of papers dealing with his job. He only stirred when my shadow blocked the light for a moment. “What is it, Greg?”

“Can I get my allowance?”

He didn’t look up as he pulled out his wallet with one hand and wrestled out a fifty with two fingers. “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

“Thanks!”

“Not so fast.” Mom came out of the kitchen and plucked it out of his hand before I could get it. She had a look on her face that she got when she had something she wanted to say, which could be good or bad or downright awkward. Case in point being when she tried to ask me if Taylor and I were intimate a day after what happened to Taylor that night I caught her out during her cape thing.

Not the type of thing you wanted to talk to your mother about under any circumstance, but the cover story we had used involved saying we were going on a date to test the waters when one of the Merchants attacked Taylor while trying to get away from her cape alter-ego. It still sounded loads better than what may have been construed as me stalking her one day after class until I uncovered her secret. That’d come off as me being a creeper when I was just concerned about her.

I had been worried about her since she had been acting strangely for a while after the Locker Incident. It was hard to put into words, but she carried herself differently. Before it happened, Taylor would try to avoid the Mean Trio and always had this hurt look on her face after they messed with her.

After the locker, she honestly didn’t look like she gave a damn anymore. She just put up with it before hopping on the computer. Not that anyone else noticed. They were usually either laughing or trying to look away so they didn’t end up the next target. I… was no better.

I never laughed at her, that stuff wasn’t funny. But I was coward for not sticking up for her before, powerless. Maybe that was why she didn’t talk to me too often, despite us having a lot of the same interests. Who’d want to be friends with a coward?

Anyway, I went online and managed to piece together the sort of things that some parahumans went through to trigger, information that was a lot scarcer than you’d think for the record. Between the constant bullying and being shoved into a locker full of that filthy stuff, how could she not trigger? It was common sense.

After that, my first thought was to go tell her I figured it out and to be careful in hiding her secret identity. I didn’t plan on blackmailing her or anything with the information, which would have been stupid. I just wanted to be someone she could vent all her cape secrets to and be there for her when she needed to talk to someone in the know about both her identities.

So I followed her with a pair of binoculars and found her secret base. She went out in costume, I followed. Bad things happened, Taylor’s leg was broken because I distracted her before she could get away completely, and I was fairly sure a Merchant got his eyes pecked out by a bunch of crows.

Even with the cover story, Mister Hebert was not pleased when he picked Taylor up from the hospital. He probably blamed me his daughter got hurt. To be honest, I blamed me too.

Still, I think Taylor’s forgiven me as long as I help her out and we’re getting along now. I’m okay with being her replacement until she gets back on her feet. After that we could be a hero-duo.

I could see it now—Vim and Vigor, heroes of Brockton Bay.

“Greg!” Mom snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Did you hear me?”

“Sorry, got distracted.” I winced when she frowned. “I’ve just had a lot on my mind, Mom. Say it again.”

She put her hand on her hips in that ‘Mom’ way, eyes narrowed. “Did you call your grandmother?”

“I’ll do it later.” Honestly, I was relieved it was a safe question that I had tuned out by accident. “It’s like two in the afternoon so she’s probably sleeping. I don’t want to wake her.”

“Hmm, is that right?” She crossed her arms. “And when are you going to actually introduce us to this girl you were seeing? It’s been some time and you won’t even give us more than her first name.”

And there’s the not safe question. I sighed. “We’re not like together-together. The hospital trip and leg thing kind of put a damper on that. Plus her dad scares me.”

“That’s what fathers do,” Dad decided to chime in. “Your mother’s actually threatened me with a baseball bat and a warning if I didn’t have her one minute after nine he’d ‘aim for a homerun’. Joke was on him, we left the movies an hour early and—”

“—we’re just friends for now.” I finished, cutting off wherever that was going. Could have been innocent, probably not. I was not prepared to listen to it either way.

“I’m sure both of them will come around eventually. You’re a sweet boy, just like your father was at that age in some aspects.” She eyed Dad for a bit and nodded to herself. “And when she does, you will….”

“Introduce you, got it.” I’d better end this conversation before she gets to the point of wanting grandkids next or keep making those lovey-dovey eyes at Dad. I’d rather deal with the Merchants than sit through either of those. “Can I get my allowance now? The bus will be at the stop in a couple of minutes and I want to go to the Market.”

She leaned down to give me a kiss on the forehead and then gave me the money. “Be back by dinner time.”

“M’Kay.”


{-{V&V}-}


The Market

The Market was busy like always on the weekend. It made getting through it a pain, but it was worth it just for the hot dogs sold at one particular cart here, between the pretzel guy and the ice cream lady. The guy running it, who struck me as a Bob, knew just the right way to mix chili, coleslaw, ketchup, and honey-mustard into a work of art I couldn’t copy at home.

I’d love to just sit and enjoy a few of them all day, but I came out here for a reason. People often rented the stalls here to sell their stuff, like some classic action figures, neat handmade jewelry, and things like that. It was basically a super thrift-garage sale, cash exchanged and no receipts.

That meant I could find the next piece of what I was looking for to make my costume without someone tracing me through online purchases.

I dressed down in jogging pants and an old jacket with a few tears, keeping my hood up and my head down. I normally did it because I didn’t want to look like someone who you’d get anything out of if you mugged them. But as long as no one got a real good look at my face I could pass as just another blond-haired, blue-eyed white male in a city where the E88 have a pretty solid footing. No one would be able to easily identify me from wearing a dyed version of something I bought from them.

I still had no real solid plan with how the costume would look. I was putting it together piece-by-piece, based on what I needed and what I could afford, rather that the appearance. After all, I could spread an Invisibility field over myself and whatever was in my empowered hand when I activated the power now. If they see me then either I’m blasting them with lightning or I’ve done something very wrong.

All the same, I did need something to block bullets and knives in the event that someone got the drop on me and I couldn’t get the protective field that blocks metal up in time. Or they actually use something not-metal, like a baseball bat. It’d be embarrassing to get taken out by some mook with a baseball bat. But going to someone like that Rogue who did costumes was expensive and so was tinker-tech.

Tinker-tech would be best, but I saw the price on getting an undersuit made of the stuff and nearly spat out my drink. A bullet-proof vest was reasonable and more economical, but I wasn’t likely to find one of those here. That being said, I did see one guy who had a chainmail shirt for sale that could probably stop a knife the last time I came by.

Actually, I should probably get that now, to be safe. I finished off the last bite of my hot dog, wiped my mouth with the napkin, and tossed it into the trash bin that was overflowing with disposed papers and wrappings. Then I went over to where I last saw the chainmail guy.

He knocked five bucks off of it from the last time, so it was only half of my allowance. That left another twenty for me to burn, which I considered using on a pair of brass-knuckles next but ultimately decided against it. Going mano-a-mano was liable to get me beaten up without years of martial arts training to back it. Plus, it was kind of redundant when I could fling lightning at bad guys.

Bag of chainmail in hand, I went to the bus stop to wait for the next one to get back home. I was in the middle of checking the time over the phone when a slim and dark hand held my wallet over my shoulder. I looked up to see that it belonged to a girl who looked a few years older than me.

She had dark olive-skin with similarly dark hair, which had two streaks of red going down the front. She also smelled a bit like a distillery, but I tried to ignore that. “You dropped this.” She lowered it into my lap. “Be more careful, your ID and everything is in there.”

“Thank—” She walked away before I could finish, pulling up a hood over her head and crossing the street. She came to a stop at the mouth of an alley and just sat there, back against the wall.

I opened my wallet to check and see that everything was still in there. She didn’t take anything. When I looked up I saw that she had turned her head away from me in a hurry. Crap, I hope I didn’t insult her by doing that in front of her.

She looked my way a final time and then disappeared further into alley. So that would probably be a ‘Yes’ on the insulting bit. As if I didn’t have enough to feel guilty about.

I sighed. She seemed a little older than me, yet she was on the streets and smelled like booze. My brain couldn’t help but go to the logical conclusion that she was either homeless or a runaway. That was a shame, especially given how nice she was to return my wallet to me, but there was nothing I could really do about that.

Just having powers isn’t enough to fix everything.

I pushed the depressing thoughts back and focused on what I would do my next night out. By then Taylor would have a new power waiting for me. I couldn’t wait.


{-{End}-}


End Notes: Shorter than I like, but that’s all I got for the moment.


Vim & Vigor 2 (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor 2


World-Building Note #1: Why is Taylor a Tinker?

Due to the Locker Incident, Taylor gained the Tinker specialization of the ‘Bioshock-verse’ shard because she viewed everyone else and everything as useless in dealing with a long-term problem and thought of ways to resolve it on her own if she had powers—along with some other things. Ironically, she’s initially less dangerous with the Tinker specialization because she’s bottle-necked by needing resources and an external fuel source for powers.

Had she’d known Sophia was Shadow Stalker, she would have likely triggered as a Trump who got to choose from a pool of offensive, defensive, and mobility powers depending on the parahuman she faced, with the shard’s reserves fueling them. For example, against Shadow Stalker she would have had Shock Jockey, Peeping Tom, and Stable Teleportation.


Winslow High School, April 8th

I stepped off the bus and fought off a yawn that had been building up in my throat. The morning air was cool for Spring, but not enough that my breath came out in puff. Mild then. I adjusted the backpack slung over my shoulder and then made my way towards the school entrance.

I had slept well last night, even if I was a little sore by the time that I got back home. Dad was already asleep by then, while Mom was just happy that she thought I was getting out more and having fun. I told her I went to this cafe-bakery place to hang out with a gaming club once a week. It wasn’t exactly a lie since I did enjoy myself.

I got to have powers and be a Cape without any of the bad-stuff needed to be one. I mean it sucked considering that Taylor’s trigger event was… yeah, I’m surprised that the school even reused that locker. I don’t even know where they got so many of those disgusting things from, but it gives me shivers remembering when Taylor had to be taken to the hospital.

That was messed up. Especially since no one tried to get the locker open. I hadn’t been there when she was shoved in and, by the time I managed to hear about it, the janitor had already gotten it open. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, even if I didn’t like Taylor. That wasn’t to say I didn’t like her—I mean I do like her, a lot.

She’s nice to me, even if she’s a little distant—a bit of a Tsundere without the hitting and physical abuse. But we had a lot of the same interests, like books and computers. She didn’t play as many games as I did, but she was a Tinker and I heard those types of parahumans couldn’t help but keep at it until they forgot to eat sometimes.

Maybe that’s why she looked a little thinner around her sides, now that I thought about it. It’d be easier to tell if she didn’t dress down so much. And I was sure I’d get slapped if I did. I’d seen enough oblivious anime protagonists get a hand-imprint on their faces to know women didn’t like it when you did that.

I decided to wait for her bus to get here. It’s not like Homeroom would start until around eight, and First Period wouldn’t until forty-five after. Plenty of time to go to breakfast and talk.

It was another five minutes before she showed up. Her bus came to a stop and others filed out before she did last. The cast on her right leg stuck out immediately and probably would keep doing so until it came off. She opted to use a set of crutches instead of her wheelchair, citing it was too much of a hassle for getting around inside of the building or using the bathroom.

“Hey Taylor,” I said as she approached. “Wanna get breakfast together in the cafeteria?”

“I ate at home.” She reached for a door. The crutches made it a little hard, so I opened it for her. She sighed. “Don’t hang over me during school or you’ll draw suspicion, Greg. Everything outside of these walls stays outside until the day’s done. ”

Taylor probably didn’t want to draw any attention like she had before. After all, that was how I found her out and got her hurt. “I’ll try.”

She made her way inside and I followed after her until we split to our different Homerooms.


Second Period – World Issues

Mister Gladly was kind of a cool teacher. But sometimes I questioned whether or not he was qualified for his job. I mean, at least with the old teachers you got the sense that they were jaded, but they tended to know what they were doing and kept the class in line. Not so much with him, who reminded me of one of the jocks that was popular with the girls.

It didn’t help that he somehow overlooked Taylor’s usual seat by the door having some kind of glaze to it. Probably invisible glue since that sounds like something they’d pull. Taylor didn’t want me to bother her and draw suspicion, but that was no reason to let her get pranked when I could run interference.

I grabbed the desk and swapped it with the empty one behind hers while one of Madison’s friends watched me. Julia had crinkled red hair that was done up in a way that was cute without going into childish, making it kinda hot. Of course, that was ruined when she gave me a look that basically confirmed my suspicions.

I ignored her and took a seat next to where Taylor would sit as she entered the room on her crutches. She stopped at the desk I had swapped out, no doubt noticing the sheen to it, and then took a seat next to me. I could have sworn I heard a small ‘thanks’ as she sighed, but she didn’t look at me so I wasn’t sure.

Class continued to be boring, so I doodled a bit with some of the printing paper I snuck out of the printer from Homeroom when Miss Crewing wasn’t looking. I needed a better costume once I was fully equipped with as many powers as I could get and working alongside Taylor. Maybe something that would match the one I saw she had that night?

There were a few minutes until the Lunch Bell was getting ready to ring when the teacher announced we’d have homework. He wanted us to list how Capes have impacted the world around us. Since all of us were born after they were a thing, unless someone was older than they looked and had been held back for several years, it wasn’t a hard topic.

“So, what are we doing for the report?” I asked. Mister Gladly always paired me up with her during World Issues, since every other group was basically locked down and he didn’t want to get on anyone’s bad-side. “We’re going to be grouped together, so if I know what the topic is we can split it over the weekend.”

Taylor looked pensive for a moment before she spoke. “I’m thinking the change in Endbringer Engagement and how it affects society since the events of 2008.”

Huh. That sounded interesting enough. “Okay, I’ll cover Scion’s disappearance. You cover the death of Behemoth?”

“Sure.”

I went ahead and made an outline of points to cover from my end. Taylor made decent reports and would get her part done easy enough when she started. But mine was a bit trickier since it wasn’t clear if Scion had just gone missing or had died. He was last spotted flying over India when he suddenly started convulsing and then went ‘pop’ like a golden balloon.

Some people speculated he was killed, but that was clearly a lie. No one was dumb enough to attack the golden man who drove off Endbringers. It was more likely he simply reached the end of his lifespan and died instead, if he was dead to begin with and not hibernating or taking a vacation.

There was also the topic of whether or not his ‘death’ was the source of the trigger events that resulted in the death of the parahumans-to-be or turning them into Case 53s. Even if it wasn’t outright stated, his appearance was just before the first superheroes popped up. There had to be some connection there.

It was good that I took this part. There was a lot of speculation rather than facts, and it would take time to sort through them all. Taylor had her hands full enough tinkering, and I could spare a few hours over the weekend to get it out of the way.

When it was time to go to Lunch, I lingered behind to get my thoughts in order for a bit. By the time I left the room, I found Taylor being accosted in the hall by Sophia, Madison, and Emma. You’d think they’d quit while they were ahead with the Locker Incident, but apparently they were finding it just as amusing to bully her when she was crippled.

I never understood the whole appeal of bullying someone. I was gamer and enjoyed beating out others when I played, so I got the thrill there was behind lording over someone because you had higher stats. But I never talked smack or told them how much they sucked, instead offering them some tips on how to do better. It was how I met GstringGirl online and she seemed nice.

But these girls took pleasure in hurting someone emotionally and physically. That was just mean by itself, but doing it when they couldn’t fight back was just… well, cruel. I couldn’t just sit there while she was being picked on because of something I had done. Not anymore.

That was the old Greg Veder. The new Greg Veder went toe-to-toe with two parahumans and came out on top. What were a few High School girls?

“Come on, leave her alone,” I said, standing between them and her. I don’t think any of them were expecting me to speak up because they all looked at me funny. Taylor included. “It’s not funny messing with someone like this.”

The good news was that they quit surrounding Taylor. The bad news was that Emma started circling me and Madison followed, while Sophia just watched with a scowl forming on her face. Okay, no big deal. What was the worse they could do to me?

“Look what we have here. Taylor has a knight-shining armor,” Emma said. “How cute.”

“Not so much a knight as a plump jester,” Madison chimed in. “Maybe she likes them kind of pudgy?”

“It’s an improvement over not having anyone interested in her,” Emma added, giving me a once over and then looking away in disgust. “Barely. Then again, it’s the best she could do. We can’t all be model-material.”

“She’s better than you,” I said. At least I intended to. The words came out so soft that they may have been mumbled when Sophia gave me a look. I was focusing my senses on gathering my power in my left hand and tensed it to fire before I remembered I couldn’t use my powers without Taylor’s energy drink.

That said something about how Sophia unnerved me when I had just tangled with the Merchants last night. Emma was… well, a little intimidating, I guess. The queen bee who could destroy you with a word, but I didn’t have much of a reputation to start with. Good luck making it worse.

Madison didn’t really do much besides add to Emma’s air of authority when it came to others. She was basically her shadow and nothing else, using her cuteness while it lasted. Neither of them was as intimidating as Sophia, who looked like she could beat me up on her own while I had powers—she’d probably like that even more.

Oh for fuc—Mrs. Knott!” Taylor called. We all turned to see that the Computer-Lit teacher was indeed coming close. “Can I ask you a question?”

I wouldn’t lie. At first I thought the teacher was a man, an honest mistake that led to me calling her ‘Sir’ once. She’d been a little frosty to me ever since then. But she seemed nice enough to Taylor. “How can I help you?”

“Actually, my leg has been in pain for the last few minutes and I was deciding whether or not to head to the Nurse’s Office,” Taylor lied, I hoped. “Would you happen to know if they have over-the-counter pain medication? I don’t want to make the trip and suffer for no reason.”

“I would not,” she said. “However, I would suggest that you send one of your friends to go check.”

Taylor turned to me instantly. “Greg, could you go and check? I’ll be in the computer lab with the teacher, if that’s okay. I want to do some last minute checking on our homework and sit down.”

Mrs. Knott nodded. “No eating in the lab, but fine.”

Smart. For everything that they pulled, none of those girls had the Computer-Lit class that we did, let alone being in the advanced part of it. They couldn’t go after her there without having a very good reason, and Taylor usually sat in a seat that was directly in Mrs. Knott’s line-of-sight. They pulled a lot of crap off, but even they didn’t do anything straightforward with a teacher there to witness it.

I nodded my head and ran off towards the Nurse’s Office, just in case she really did need the pills. They didn’t have any. I hoped she wasn’t serious about her leg being in pain then, I already felt bad enough about it since the cast wasn’t due to come off for over a month. I made my way back to the Computer-Lit—

Oof!” The next thing I knew, I was hitting the floor as I stepped off the stairs leading to the first floor and the wind was knocked out of me. My chin hit the ground and I felt my teeth bite into the tip of my tongue deep enough to draw blood from the coppery taste.

“I don’t know or care if your balls suddenly decided to drop, but you stay in your place,” a girl’s voice. Sophia when I looked up. “Or the next time you get in my way you’ll find them missing.”

Bitch, I thought as she turned and skulked away. It was only when I heard the slur that I realized I had said it aloud. Maybe it was a good thing I had bit my tongue. She would’ve probably made good on her threat if that came out clear enough for anyone to hear. In a school where there were likely members of different gangs among the students, it was telling she was the scariest one here.

I rose up to my feet to see other people in the hallway, some snickering and others trying to pretend they didn’t notice. God, I didn’t see how Taylor went through with this sort of thing all the time without burning this place to the ground. I kept my head down as I went to the computer lab and took a seat next to Taylor.

She glanced at me, back to the computer, and then back at me again with a focus on my chin. Was it reddened or bruised by the fall? Mom wasn’t going to like that. I’d just say I tripped on the stairs on my own.

“Sophia,” I told Taylor, figuring that was what she wanted to ask but wouldn’t. At least I tried to, but there was still a minor slur. I think she got it anyway.

Taylor rolled her eyes over the frame of her glasses and sighed. “That’s why I told you not to draw attention to yourself or to defend me. You’ll only give them ammunition, Greg. Sophia’s just looking for a reason to lash out.”

“I just wanted to help,” I said. This time it was clear.

“And it made you a target.” Her fingers flew over the keys as she entered something into a calculator program she wrote and refined not too long ago. It didn’t look like anything Mister Quinlan was making us do. “There’s a reason I didn’t fight back—because it’s pointless. Emma, Sophia, and Madison have the teachers wrapped around their little fingers, and picking a fight is only going to get me hurt when they decide to try and gang-up on me before getting off scot-free.”

It made sense. That had to be the only way they could have gotten away with that locker thing. No wonder she didn’t normally try to get a teacher involved, but why not the police? Oh, didn’t I hear once that one of their daddies was a lawyer?

That would probably drag things out, and fighting a legal battle would be expensive… then again, would someone close to the case even be allowed to act if it was brought to court? Maybe not, but a lawyer would know how to squeeze out of a tight scenario. No wonder there were so many evil lawyer jokes.

“That sucks,” was all I could really say after thinking about it. Then things got quiet. I couldn’t stand it and finally asked, “Why not just… you know? Zap them?”

Taylor whipped her head around sharply and gave me an incredulous stare. I knew she said not to mention anything about powers in class, but that was before Sophia threatened to emasculate me for just getting in her way. After a deep breath, she pressed her lips thin, looked over her shoulder to make sure Mrs. Knott wasn’t listening in, and then leaned in close. “If I did it… what do you think would happen?”

The first words that came to mind was ‘zap them until they stopped bothering you,’ but somehow I got the feeling that wouldn’t be the right answer. I thought about it some more, rubbing my left fingers together. It was a bit of a habit I formed from how my hand always felt weird from the different powers. The answer came to me eventually. “The PRT would get involved.”

“Exactly,” she said. “A parahuman attacking a regular person is jail-worthy, and you can bet Emma’s father would try to sue my dad. The PRT would force me into the Wards to put me on a leash and make me a rank-and-file Tinker. They would look over everything I do, criticize it, and force me to bend to their rules. They would decide who got which Vigor and when. I’d be giving up the last bits of my freedom for them when I can do more as an Independent.”

She turned back to the computer and started typing again, still talking. “That’s why I don’t fight back. I’m not going to lose my freedom for petty revenge when I know I’m better than them. What happens here for maybe one or two hours of the time I spend here disappears the moment I get on the bus and get home or to my lab.”

Taylor really thought that out. I couldn’t think of anything to really say except, “Oh.”

I didn’t want to bother her again after that, so I went online to the PHO website to see if what happened last night made any waves. Someone had to have called the police, so someone had to have seen us. Since the Merchants had their own thread it would likely be there.

There actually was something, a shaky camera-phone video taken after I had crashed the van. The discussion led me to the speculation thread on Capes in Brockton Bay in general, where there was currently a mild discussion going on about me. Everyone presumed I was new to it because I had basically gone out in a black-hoodie and pants, with a mask on to cover my face and utility belt around my waist, when common sense dictated having a costume at least—preferably bullet-resistant. I couldn’t fault them there.

What I could fault was the discussion on whether or not I was a hero or a villain—with it leaning heavily in the latter direction. The basis for the argument had been that I stole from the truck and the police retrieved money from it shortly after I left and the Merchant pair got away. Was someone who robbed criminals a criminal himself?

Better not bring it up to Taylor, she looked busy enough now. I didn’t want to break her rhythm. Or get her mad at me again. Besides, it’s not like I didn’t want to go and be a hero.

We needed the money to make new powers and the Merchants were bad people. Not to mention costumes weren’t cheap either. Taking from them and putting it to good use wasn’t a crime. I refused to let Taylor’s work and myself be seen as villainy.

I cracked my fingers and got to typing.


End Notes: I now have a semi-decent outline and plan, so welcome to A/U Ladies and Gentlemen—where Greg is a protagonist, the Golden Idiot is missing as far as the populace knows, and Endbringers can be killed.


Vim & Vigor (A Worm/Bioshock One-Shot)

Vim & Vigor

(A Worm / Bioshock Fanfic)


Outline: Taylor triggered as a Chemical Tinker with the ability to make Vigors and Plasmids from Bioshock. Armed with the ability to give others powers, why is Greg her first choice?


Warehouse – Docks, Early April, 9:24 PM.

I couldn’t believe I was finally doing this, out in full costume and everything. It was about time. I did the training and knew how my powers worked.

My first night out and I already found my targets. I was on a rooftop, hidden behind a broken neon sign on the top of an old building across from a pair of warehouses. There were the Merchants, loading up white vans that looked like they had been beaten by bats and ran through the mud.

Are you ready?‘ came through the radio attached to my ear, beneath the full face mask.

I adjusted the mask to make sure it was on straight. “Yeah, Ta—”

We’ve been over this,’ she cut-in. ‘Don’t use my name while you’re out in a mask. I don’t want to take any chances that someone can pick up on the channel, Tonic.

Greg rolled his eyes, grateful that Taylor couldn’t see him do so. The camera inside of his mask, a cheap spy camera he bought from this store he knew with a voice modulator, only showed what was ahead of him because of where it was placed. “I’m ready.”

Okay, first take the Energizer in the flask. That should excite the cells out of dormancy and make them unstable again.

I know, you’ve explained it a dozen times, I thought as I reached down into the utility belt I wore and pulled out a cheap pewter flask that had a worn emblem on the front. Twisting off the cap, the luminous bright blue liquid sloshed around inside the dark container. I still wasn’t clear on exactly what it was, but I knew it let me use the powers that she created.

She explained it so much that I knew by heart what it did. My cells had been changed by the formulas that I had taken once before, and the Energizer made the cells unstable to be capable of becoming something superhuman. My powers would last until it was used up and they became stable again, meaning, I was a Grab-Bag cape as far as anymore knew.

“Down the hatch,” I murmured before drinking it down. Not a second afterwards, I felt like I was on a sugar-high that made every part of me tingle beneath my skin. The echoes of power inside of my body from the ‘Vigors’ that I had drank once before became active once again.

Now, take the new Vigor,‘ she told me. ‘It’s called Eye Spy, and it’ll give you a combination of Stranger/Thinker powers to let you see through walls on the basic level, with living things appearing highlighted, and turn completely invisible to regular sight at a greater cost.

“Neat.” Taylor’s Tinker power was really versatile. Not to mention I could think of a lot of uses for this….

Don’t get any ideas,‘ she warned. Crap, I said that last part out loud, didn’t I? ‘Powers are not a toy, even if you could use them on your own.

I gave a small grunt as I reached for the small plastic bottle that was about the size of my palm and almost mistook it for lime-green soda. You would think that superpowers would come in a fancier container rather than a recycled bottle that had been cleaned out and marked by a small symbol taped onto the surface of the plastic. Then again, tinkering was expensive and that was part of the reason I was out here.

I chugged it down and watched my skin fade, revealing bones as I flexed my fingers. Then they vanished too, until I was completely invisible. Then everything flashed and I was solid again. “Trippy.”

Did the hallucinations pass?‘ she asked. ‘How bad was it?

“Not as bad as the bullet-stopping shield.” I concentrated on the mystifying sensation inside of me now and felt my eyes tickle before my vision shifted. I could see through the walls, with the people being sort of illuminated silhouettes.

Locate where they keep the money first with your vision.‘ I could hear the clacking of the keyboard keys on the other end. ‘Don’t get caught. Skidmark and Squealer are there. The latter is harmless outside of her contraptions, but Skidmark is the leader of the gang for a reason beyond his mouth.

If I remembered off PHO correct, he was some kind of low-level Shaker that manipulated an area to apply vectors to whatever was on or above it—a deflector field with a pushing effect. There was an entire discussion board on how he was using his powers wrong and would have a much higher rating if he wasn’t always strung out on drugs. Either way, he wasn’t a Brute so I didn’t think I’d have trouble with him.

X-Ray picked up where the drug lab was inside of the warehouse and the sheer number of goons inside with only two exits they could take in and out. As for the money, they were loading it into one of the vans, packed in a number of duffle bags that counted at least ten and rising. There were a few gunmen outside of that were monitoring the grounds, and on the second floor of the warehouse there was an office where two people were on a couch—oh, I did not need to see that!

“I need brain bleach!” I murmured, deactivating the power. There was sex and then there was… whatever that was. Who does that sort of thing in a drug house?

What’s wrong?‘ Taylor asked. She regretted it the moment I explained what I saw over the channel. ‘Eugh…That’s probably Skidmark and Squealer.’

“But how could they, with the—”

Nope, we never speak of this again,’ she ordered. ‘Just lay traps at the entrances. That will deal with the reinforcements, but you’ll need to be careful in dealing with the gunmen outside. Keep it quiet, grab the bags you can, and then just get out of there.

“Got it.” I climbed down the side of the fire escape and got to ground level before grabbing hold of that mystifying echo of power and holding onto it until it cloaked me invisible. There were five gunmen roaming around, but they didn’t see me as I ran across the lot and jumped over a stack of boxes near the mouth to an alley between the two warehouses. There I slipped into the side door.

I released the Invisibility once I was around a corner and out of sight, before grabbing hold of the Shocker power that thrummed inside of me. It manifested as purple crystals jutting out of my skin, electricity arching between them, the air around me filling with the scent of ozone. I had to tell myself that it would heal, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with.

I held onto it until the lightning began to crystallize together and then launched it into the ground in front of me to create a cluster of five bundled near the entrance in a network. The Manton effect caused it to trigger when a living person other than me entered into its range. The moment they went for this door, they were in for a shock. That would take them out of the fight.

I grabbed hold of Invisibility again and went around to the front entrance, where the garage door was raised. That would be harder to lay a trap for since the crystals were pretty obvious. Then again, if I did this right, could I get away with more than one or two bags? Taylor would probably want that. I pulled down on the lever controlling it and switched it to closed, leaving the whirring of the gears to attract attention.

“What the hell?” one of the gunmen pacing outside came to check it out. The moment his back was turned, I dropped invisibility and embraced the electrical powers again to shoot him in the back. He went down with a scream and drew eyes on me.

“Cape!” someone screamed, and I could hear them starting to panic as I went invisible again and snuck out the garage while they filed in to try and get me.

I skirted around to the other side of the vans, out of sight. X-Ray showed they were looking for me on the inside before I released it and embraced Shocker again. I charged another trap and sent it towards the side of the garage entrance before screaming, “Out here, morons!”

Tonic, what the hell are you doing?‘ Taylor demanded. ‘You could have grabbed the bags while they were still inside and disappeared!

Too late for that now that I had their attention. They tried to rush out the front only to trip the trap. Blue and white bolts jumped up into them and they hit the ground screaming and twitching in pain at having been caught in the electric field. More screams afterwards told me that they found the rear set as well. With both their capes inside too, I was in the clear.

I opened the door to the van with the money and found the keys inside of it. I started the van up, buckled in, and pressed down on the gas. The van peeled off and down the road of the docks, leaving the warehouses behind.

Ditch the van! Now!‘ Taylor yelled. ‘Turn somewhere off the main road and get out of there!

“Why?” I didn’t get it. Weren’t we going to take it anyway? What’s the problem? “Isn’t it better to take all of the money now rather than a few bags?”

No, a missing bag or two they’ll give it up because there’s no way to catch up to you!‘ she said. ‘An entire van is worth coming after you! Did you forget what Squealer specialized in!?

The van suddenly jerked as something hit the rear wheel and I lost control. It swerved and tipped over to the side, skidding along the road until it crashed into a lamp post. The air bag popped out and slammed me in the face hard enough that I felt the mask threaten to embed itself into my skin.

GreTonic, are you okay?

“Y-Yeah,” I managed to get free of the seatbelt and got the door open. I stumbled out when the glare of a bright set of lights made me turn away as if it slammed a fist into my face. I shielded my eyes to see that somehow what looked to be a tank made from a hummer with about a dozen guns managed to sneak up on me.

“You got a lot of nerve you little shit-stain.” That’d be Skidmark, standing with the lights behind him so that only his silhouette was visible. “Coming into my territory and stealing from me? You done fucked up big-time.”

“Tell him, baby!” said a woman’s voice. I looked towards the window of the vehicle and saw who I think was Squealer popping her head out of it. She was kind of hot, but kind of dirty as well. The kind of woman you didn’t take home to your mother.

“Um… sorry?” I said. “I’m still new at this.”

“Well, you won’t make that mistake again.” He turned to Squealer. “Cap the fucker, babe!”

Taylor screamed something, but I was already using the Repulsion Shield power to stop the bullets in mid-air before they hit me. The thing kept shooting though, forcing me to hold it longer as the metal melted and spun around what looked to be a sun in the palm of my hand as my fingers burned black and exposed bones. When it finally did run out of ammo, my fingers were burned down to the bone near my palms.

“Fuck!” one of them said. “He’s got the same power as that bitch from before. Run the fucker down!” Okay, now I was sure that was Skidmark now. Squealer pulled her head back into the tank-hummer and revved up the engine, planning on making me a red-smear across the front of it.

I panicked, throwing the ball of molten metal down as far ahead of me as I could, right along the path. The trap hit the ground as Squealer burned rubber. The force of the explosion sent me flying off my feet and I ended up spinning butt-over-head until I slammed into something metal that dented and then hit the ground.

It hurt, but I felt the injury healing courtesy of that Energizer I took to use my powers. Then I heard the crash and forced myself up to see that the tank-hummer that she cobbled together was upside down, wheels spinning and metal strewn all over the floor. Despite being hit by the trap, it was still in one-piece somehow.

Make sure she’s alive,’ Taylor said.

X-Ray revealed she was moving around, struggling to undo a belt-buckle. Good. Taylor would have been even more pissed if I had killed someone. Then I noticed the ground shifting beneath me only to find that it had been painted with a glowing band.

No, not the ground. I was moving back from the middle of the spectrum, caught in Skidmark’s power at work. He thrust his hands out, the color deepening as he applied it over and over. Then he jumped towards it and I found myself being shoulder-checked fast enough to get the wind knocked out of me.

I wheezed as I put my hand up in time to get another Repulsion Shield up, the spinning blue disk that generated a field stopping the shots of his handgun from reaching me for a few seconds. I got back onto my feet while he emptied the entire clip into trying to hit me.

He applied his power again, saturating the ground horizontally with me standing on the far end of the band. I was sent skating to the side and came to an abrupt stop at the end, tripping over the edge of a sidewalk. He grabbed a piece of metal to use like a baseball bat and stepped towards the band.

I called to the sensation of energy that was wild. It was like trying to tame a quake in my hand. My hand fractured, flesh ripping like cracks in the ground as the bucking energy rumbled beneath the surface and built up until I exhaled and released it. The air was displaced as gravity within an arch in front of me reversed and sent Skidmark sprawling into the air helplessly as his power brought him before me.

“The fuck is this?” he blurted out. “Do you people pull powers out of your ass all the time?”

I heard sirens in the distance as I stood up while the Merchant floated there. The gunfire and swearing alone probably got calls sent to the PRT and they’d send someone to deal with this. Time to go. I ran over to the overturned van, noticing that the rear tire had been shot out, and grabbed what I could carry.

Then I spent the last of my energy using Invisibility to get out of dodge.


An Hour Later

Taylor was pissed when I got back to where she set up shop. As much as I liked her, when she got mad it scared me. More so when I knew now that she was a Cape who made powers and had her own in the form of summoning crows out of her hands that went for the eyes.

“—promised me that you would do as I say and take my place until I got better,” she continued to yell. “That means not drawing any more attention to ourselves and you listening when I talk! And yet, your first night out, what happens!?”

“Sorry, I just thought—”

Taylor slammed her palm on the table next to me, not giving me a chance to finish. “Greg, look at me!” She yelled, pointing down to her legs. “The last time you didn’t listen to me, this happened! Did you forget that already?”

I felt my stomach drop staring at her in the wheelchair as she pointed. It was my fault she had ended up in it. “I didn’t mean to—”

“You never do. But it happens—and if you had been a second slower this time, Squealer and Skidmark would have killed you! How can I let you to go out again if I can’t trust you not to do something that will get you killed?”

“I just wanted to make sure you had enough to get more of those things.” I gestured to the inside of the aquarium that housed some kind of glowing sea slugs that she used. She was complaining that Case-53 guy that looked like a Deep One from that literature book we had to read last year was raising his prices when it came to gathering them. They didn’t have a long life in captivity, so the substance they produced to make her Vigors and Energizers was limited.

Now that I think about it, she never did mention how she got in contact with him or got all of this stuff like the power generator. Some of it could be picked up on the roadside or a thrift store, but I doubt that fancy looking device that poured out a fresh batch of flask-juice was just sitting out on the curb. Then again, she had been at it for at least a month or two before I found out her secret and she knew pretty well how the Merchants operated. Not to mention what Skidmark said. How many times did she do this to them?

“Pay attention, Greg!” Taylor snapped.

Crap, I drifted off. “Sorry. It won’t happen again. Promise.”

She just scowled at me before she turned in the wheelchair and rolled past another table. There were some vials on it and some sort of machine. It was making a new Vigor she was working on to grant Telekinesis-Blaster powers.

“Uh, can’t you breed those slug things?” I asked, trying to restart the conversation rather than letting it end with her mad. I read somewhere that getting Tinkers to talk about their work was good for shifting the mood, and judging from how she had all that stuff written on the board she would know how they worked, right? “Or increase the amount they make?”

“No.” Taylor said. “I’d have to implant them in a host to get more.” She rolled to a stop at the table where I placed the four duffle bags of money on and slipped on a pair of gloves before she started placing them in a sorting machine. Paranoid, or did she not want to touch anything the Merchants did….

“I can go back out again if that wasn’t enough then,” I offered as I used a few squirts of hand-sanitizer myself. Couldn’t hurt. “You can give me another flask, right?”

“Leaving aside what just happened, I don’t want to risk toxicity building up by letting you go out more than once a week with it. Too much in too short a time becomes habit forming, changing the way you think until I refine it further. Let it clear out of your body naturally before the next test run.”

That meant she would let me back out in the suit eventually, with a new power to boot. Good. Who knows, maybe if I help her out enough she’d forgive me for putting her in the chair in the first place once she got better. Then we could be partners for real, maybe even change our names to something that matched—like Vim and Vigor.

I liked the sound of that.


End Notes: As of right now this is a one-shot. I might add to it over time, but seriously I have no end-game plan so I don’t want to make it a big thing.


So, how did I get this idea in the first place?

Well, I came across a fanfic called Market Competition that gave me the initial idea for a Bioshock Crossover with Worm, namely you got superpowers in a bottle. But, at the same time, my need for neglected characters and/or redeemable characters sharing the spot light with the main protagonists came up. I didn’t want to do the standard Lung battle from Taylor’s point of view either, so these factors combined and formed the thought ‘why not put Greg into it against someone he could beat—namely, the Merchants who waste their potential?’

Greg is… a teenager, combined with a lack of subtly, going off-track easily, and a need for attention and to fit in. Taylor is more subdued when out of mask, so you can imagine that she has her work cut-out in keeping him in check as basically her side-kick/replacement. How did they start working together? Why is she in a wheelchair? How is it his fault?

Eh, take a guess or write your own version as a challenge.


Glossary: Because Taylor renamed the original formulas to suit her liking.

Energizer – Eve or Salts

Shocker – Shock Jockey

Zero-G – Bucking Broncho

Eye Spy – Peeping Tom

Repulsion Shield – Return to Sender

Nevermore – Murder of Crows


How Vigors Work: In this one-shot, the Vigors basically reconfigure the body to be capable of producing the effects but Energizer is needed to activate the change. It comes with a healing factor as well, like how the damage to Booker’s hands regenerates, but it only works when the cells are unstable. The reason Taylor doesn’t take any to heal her legs is because she has a limited supplies due to not going the Little Sisters/Bonesaw route to get hosts, and the damage had been done right after it had worn off, so she’s out of commission until they’ve healed naturally.

Greg’s Powers: Eye Spy, Zero-G, Shocker, Repulsion Shield

Taylor’s Powers: Nevermore, Repulsion Shield, Shocker