Beacon – 8.7

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There was a growing feeling of satisfaction as people got underway with their days and messages started coming in.  Steelmasons were starting patrols near the devastated old Wardens HQ.  Auzure was resuming business as normal, but as they got things done they hoped to be able to spare their people.  Shorewatch was just setting up at their HQ- they’d been on a break since the portal attack and were just getting into the swing of things.

Shorewatch’s situation wasn’t so dissimilar from us.  We’d taken a break to reel, to attend to our individual group members.  Sveta, Tristan and I were in headquarters early in the day, the place was clean, and the whiteboards that had been wiped clean were filling up again.

More messages, and it was a two-for-one this time.  Rushdown and Royale were reporting in.  They weren’t a team so much as they were a pair, but they operated from the same area of the city as Houndstooth’s Kings.  They’d emailed a report they were starting their day closer to noon, with the intent of going after some people who had been trying to stir up riots.  There was an outside chance those people were Cheit’s provocateurs.  They also included a report on behalf of the Kings of the Hill.

Houndstooth hadn’t mentioned that he’d be doing that, but I could understand it, kind of.  One degree of separation.  Lookout couldn’t hack people.  This enabled his team to communicate with us without discomfort.

I saw the first message from people that hadn’t been at the meeting.  They hadn’t used the email format I’d requested, and they called themselves The Major Malfunctions.  There were also several glaring typos, to the point I was suspicious that non-capes or villains had found our word-of-mouth setup and were toying with us.

A painfully slow search online brought up some images of kid heroes with terrible costumes.  They’d been small timers before Gold Morning, small town ‘heroes’ who’d rotated between three middle-of-nowhere towns in North Dakota looking for villains or criminals.  Four years of activity and they hadn’t found any.

It would have been easy to dismiss them, or to disparage them.  They had dropped out of school to be heroes and had no wins.  The lack of education was clear in the spelling errors.  It worried me a bit that their referral had come from ‘Super Magic Dream Parade’, the loopy team from Boston, who had apparently heard about what we were doing and passed on word.

The Major Malfunctions were teenagers now and they’d been kids when they’d triggered.  They’d stayed heroes across six years, and they’d stayed together.

That had to count for something.

I took a minute to fix the errors and formatting, then dragged the email over to the tracking program.  It was the same program the Patrol Block had used, but I’d filed off the serial numbers and gone into the code to change the names of some labels.

I sent them a reply.  We’d use their help if they were free.

I wasn’t even done with looking over the next entry when the Majors replied, excited and incomprehensible.

“How’s it going?” Tristan asked.  He stood by a whiteboard.  It looked like he was sketching out the prison complex.  He’d worn the non-armor part of his costume beneath his jacket, and now had the skintight top and jeans.  It wasn’t the textured pattern of the usual under-the-armor bodysuit, which would allow the texture to peek through the gaps between armor.  It was just black.

He’d painted his hair again, though.  Orange-red.  Stiff rolls, curls and waves locked in place with glue-like hair product.

“We’re getting responses.  People are talking about what they’re doing, they’ll fill us in if they get answers and they’ll open it up to the rest of us if they end up with questions.  Do you know these kids, uh, Major Malfunctions?”

“No,” he said.

“Sveta?” I asked.

“Hm?” she looked up from her computer.

She looked nice.  Beaded necklaces were looped around and below the more rigid part of the collar that was her neck.  Her top was a very summery sort, a hooded crop-top that was torn, not cut, at the neck and sleeves.  Tan with a bold blue-green lizard on it.  Her pants were a little less loose and casual than her usual.  Her wig was brushed and her tattoo at her cheek was left uncovered by makeup.

She’d gone shopping.  A selfish part of me felt left out- I would’ve wanted to take her shopping, do that as a thing together, but Tristan had prodded her to talk about what was making her feel awkward, and clothes and body were apparently off the table.

Just business and safe topics then.  “I wanted to ask if you were familiar with Major Malfunctions?  They’re a team.”

“I don’t know them.”

“Okay.  They’re hard to get a read on.  Zero experience despite putting in the years.  Odd histories.”

She nodded.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, heard from an old acquaintance, that’s all,” Sveta said, giving me a tight smile.  She had to work her fingers into the right position before hitting the key combination to take her computer to the log-in screen.  She shut the computer.

Not yeah, I thought.

“We can talk about it if you want.”

“Let me digest it first,” she said.  “Catch me up?”

She and I both walked over to the point roughly between my setup and Tristan’s.

“I’m thinking about the prison,” Tristan said.  He stabbed a marker at the series of squares and lines that depicted the prison.  “To get there, you have to travel to one portal, which is about twenty-five minutes away from the city, and then you have to travel for another twenty minutes to get to the next portal.  That one’s where the guards and security are.  That’s without the time it takes to reach the first portal.  It’s deliberately set out of reach.  What are our options?”

I folded my arms.  “The obvious option is that we enable Kenzie because she’s exactly what we need in this situation, we exacerbate her issues and ignore problematic behavior, and we regret it down the road.”

“Obvious but not ideal,” Sveta said.

“We have reason to believe they’re watching- which would be hard, or they infiltrated the prison with the aim of going after Goddess- we assumed staff.”

“They have more ability to communicate with the outside world than prisoners do,” Sveta said.  “Though they did let Rain and Ash have laptops and phone access.”

“Limited,” Tristan added, “And monitored.”

“Code?” Sveta asked.

“Could be,” I said.  “But staff seems more likely.  Staff can drug, make promises, open doors, manipulate.”

Sveta nodded, her eyes widening.  “It’s scary to think about.  Remember how vulnerable people were at the hospital?  If someone had caught me at the wrong time with a few kind words, I could have believed anything.  I think some of the Irregulars fell into that trap.”

“Okay,” Tristan said.  “We keep an eye on the staff?”

I shook my head.

“No?”

“The question isn’t whether we do.  I think it makes sense.  The question is if we can do it while keeping Kenzie out of trouble.  We need to do this surveillance without handing a ridiculous amount of work to an eleven year old that’s already prone to overworking herself.”

“Agreed,” Sveta said.  “Did we make any contacts that might be able to help with thinker powers?”

“I can’t think of any big ones from the people who replied already, but we’re getting a lot of responses and it’s only, what, nine?”  I got a nod of confirmation and carried on, “The prison being isolated is a double-edged sword.  The staff need to sleep, they have families, homes to go back to, and they have commutes.”

“If they’re out of reach at the prison, we get them when they’re elsewhere,” Tristan said.  “See if they arrange any meetings.”

I smiled a little.  “Yeah.”

“It’s a lot of people,” Sveta said.  “And you want to do it without Kenzie?”

“If we’re going to make her happy or find a safe way for her to hero, for both workload and this frontline role she really wants, I don’t think it’ll involve her maintaining a thousand surveillance operations.”

“So we have a thousand surveillance operations to manage some other way?” Tristan asked.

I couldn’t help but notice the way he’d asked it.  Was he disappointed that I was trying to steer us away from leaning on our tinker?

“We’ve got some responses.  We can whittle down the list, rule some people out.”

“Who do we have?” he asked.

I led them over to my computer, showing them the program and the responses.

One of the most powerful parahumans we know of on one side, a hostile and nebulous force on the other, and a prison filled with some of the most irredeemable and unfortunate of us in the middle.

I went over the people I’d already seen the responses from, from the Steelmasons to the Major Malfunctions, and I was just getting into the message from Dream Parade when the fire escape rattled.

Our kid team members.  They were noisy as they let themselves in, because they were mid-argument.  Natalie was a short distance behind them.  She ducked her head in a kind of greeting-apology, lingering at the door.

Kenzie’s hair wasn’t in the two buns, but was instead parted to one side, glossy and still with the pin.  Today was a blue heart day, it seemed.  She wore a blue sweater-dress with a glittery texture, pink tights, and a pink shirt with a folded collar that poked through the collar of her sweater.

Chris, by contrast, looked a little worse for wear, with circles under his eyes.  Under his jacket, he wore a horizontally-striped shirt of black and green.  He wore torn jeans and a leather fanny pack.  It was the kind of nice fanny pack that suggested maybe a nod toward fashion or a kind of effort, but it was a fanny pack.  They were never going to be cool.

Where Kenzie had adjusted her hair, Chris was in usual form – the external rigging for his braces, and the headphones with the bar of the headphones pushing the hair at the top of his head flat against his scalp, so the curls only really went wild at the back.  Pockets were full, the fanny pack was full, and he carried a bag heavy enough that his usual slouch was worse.

Natalie, meanwhile, wore the jacket I’d seen her in before, as well as a black button-up under a gray business jacket, with black slacks.  If the belt hadn’t also been black, it would’ve worked nicely.  Her forehead creased in worry.

I beckoned for her to come in.  She had to edge past the two younger members of the group.

“You can do the costume thing!” Kenzie was saying.  “Not just stealing my camo.  I have to recharge that stuff.”

“The costume thing you’re talking about would be exactly the same.”

“But it would be your costume, not my camo.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Chris said.  To us, he said.  “She doesn’t make sense.”

“I don’t make sense?  Do you want to share with the class what you told me when I had to go looking for you at the train station?”

“We were late,” Chris said.  “I had a health issue.  I don’t know what her excuse is.”

“The people who are looking after me hogged the bathroom!  I didn’t even get to do my hair!”

“I can talk to them,” Natalie said.

“It’s fine, mostly.  I could deal if I could just adjust, but it’s different people or mixes of people with different ways of doing stuff,” Kenzie said.  “You can’t talk to them about that.  It’s just the way it is.”

“I’ll talk to them about mixing schedules,” Natalie said.  “This is solvable.”

Kenzie nodded.

“Your hair looks nice,” I said.

“Thank you.  It makes me feel anxious.  Anyway!  I got to the station late and he was off in my direction, so we were going to catch the train together, but he wasn’t there.  And he comes out of the bathroom and-”

“You asked if I wanted to share with the class, and I can’t get five words out before the digressions and you start telling the story for me.”

“You weren’t telling!  And, um, if you’re not comfortable telling, that’s okay.  But if you are and you’re slinging mud at me instead, I’m just going to tell it.”

“I’ll tell it,” he said.  “Apparently taking on a form with a thousand and five hundred angry foetal grubs crammed inside it gets messy.  I changed back to normal, but I guess the foetal grubs didn’t all vacate.  I had a slurry of their bits in my guts.”

I could see Natalie visibly pale.

“That’s a good reason to not use that form again,” Capricorn said.  “That was horrifying.”

“It’d be fine if I’d evacuated while I was still Brooding Anger,” Chris said, giving me a look.  “But I was told not to.  By someone who isn’t really official leader.”

I was careful as I articulated myself, “A thousand grubs inside you.  They had fangs and claws-”

“Technically they were part human, part grub.  I think.”

“You said they were nonlethal,” I said.  I frowned.  “Chris, I don’t believe you.”

“They would have listened to me, after,” Chris said.  “I think?  Instinctual listening.”

I shook my head.  “No.”

“No sounds good,” Natalie echoed me, her voice soft.

“Let’s not terrorize people too much,” Tristan said.  “That thing was horrifying.”

“That thing was me.  Anyway, I’m done talking about this.”

He tossed his bag onto the table by his favorite chair, then removed the fanny pack.  It joined the bag.

He gave me a hard look when we made eye contact.  With everyone going to their workstations, only Sveta and I lingering, I opted not to bug Chris.

I headed over to talk to Kenzie.  Natalie followed, because safeguarding Kenzie was her job.  It seemed like a conflict of interest, given our prior arrangement, but I imagined the pool of people who could be told Kenzie’s identity as Lookout was narrow, and the system was overloaded.

“Sorry to hear your caretakers left you frazzled,” I said.

“They’re super nice, and I trust them,” Kenzie said.  “I think whenever hero stuff comes up, they don’t know what to do, so they give up.  It’s like in books when a girl says she has woman troubles and the adult guy gets flustered and gives her whatever she wants, except I don’t think that happens in real life.  How do you end up forty and not know basic stuff?”

“Uh huh,” I said.  “There was a seventeen year old in my Patrol Block who didn’t know the ordering of the alphabet after T.  You’d be surprised.”

“Well, it seems problematic to not know how hero and villain stuff works,” Kenzie said.

“I don’t think anyone knows,” Natalie said.

“The basics, though,” Kenzie said, as she typed at her keyboard.  “Is it okay if I bring Rain and Ash over here?”

“Bring?” Natalie asked.

“Projections,” Kenzie said.  “Basically a prettied up video call.  It lets them be here, even though they’re really over there looking at their laptops.”

“It’s fine,” I said.

Kenzie nodded enthusiastically.  She began working.

Two cameras came to life.  They floated to different heights above the ground.  Then the dark sides of the big projector box came to life, and the images appeared, frozen in space.

“When you said projections, I thought they’d be see-through or flickering,” Natalie said.  “They look real.”

“Almost,” Kenzie said.  “Calling.”

There was a beep, and Rain’s projection started moving.  The physical movements below the neck were fairly generic, but the faces seemed true to life.

“I wish I had a better idea of what my body was doing,” Rain said.

“Welcome to my life,” Sveta said.

“I can’t tell if you’re joking.  If you’re not, I’m really sorry.”

“I’m joking, don’t worry,” she said.  “Dark joke, but hey.”

Ashley’s projection took on a semblance of life.  She looked around.

Tristan was the one who started us off.  “People are interested.  We’re lining up help, and what we’re thinking is we’ll use that help to track prison staff when they’re outside of the prison- especially those who are making suspicious movements.  Any clues you can give us help.

“This kind of tracking sounds extreme,” Natalie said.

I answered, “Standard cop-style surveillance.  Lots of waiting.  No peeking in windows, no trespassing on property.  If they go for a drive late at night, we have a flier or speedster track them.  Maybe thinkers poke their heads in.”

“Okay,” Natalie said.  She considered for a moment.  “How do you enforce this if it’s hired help?”

“If they screw around or bend the rules, we cut them off,” Ashley said.

“That,” I said.  “We have reason to think the prison is compromised.  The big heroes know about it, but we’re in an awkward position.  It’s like trying to deal with someone planning on crashing a plane.  It’s a lot harder to get them when they’re out of reach.  If we can get them on the ground, though-”

“You fly,” Rain said.

“It’s an allegory, Rain,” Sveta said.  “I’d punch you in the arm if you were here.”

“Anything you guys can give us helps,” I said.  “Starting points, ways to narrow down who we’re looking at.”

“I talked to Crystalclear,” Rain said.  “I tried, anyway, he wasn’t down for it.  I said I knew you, and you’d fought together at the community center, but he didn’t believe me.”

“Makes sense,” Chris said.  “You could be a thinker.  Or an anything.  If he was a hero, he might have enemies.”

“Yeah,” Rain said.

I mused for a second before saying, “I visited Fume Hood at the hospital, Tempera and Crystalclear were there.  Later that night, I had Tempera help me with a kid in crisis – she would have told Crystalclear.  The kid ended up going to Europe.  He should be able to confirm where we’re at, then see what he has to say.”

“Got it,” Rain said.

“I have something too,” Ashley said.  “Goddess is interested in the prison.  Did you read her messages?”

“No,” Tristan said.  “There’s no written record.  She’s doing it through her people, who call or visit, because her actually showing up would be as good as an act of war.  There are some notes here and there, for paperwork, and we can see emails going out asking for arbitration or help.  She’s been interested since before the portal debacle, and she’s been getting impatient.”

“I got part of it,” Ashley said.  “I had words with Monokeros.  She mentioned this woman – must we call her Goddess?”

“We mustn’t,” Sveta said.  “The woman in blue.  The Dictator of Shin.”

“Calling her a dictator would be giving her too much respect.  This blue woman reached out to Monokeros.  It’s part of why she wants to come here.  She wants her, and she wants some specific others- all of us, I’m sure, if she can get us, but she was apparently asking if the Mathers bitch was at this prison.”

“Shit,” Rain said.  “No.  Mama Mathers?”

“Yes,” Ashley said.

“She wants mind controllers?” I asked.

“She might not have control over Shin,” Sveta said.  “She has this power that makes capes willing to serve her-”

“One of her many powers,” I added.

“But she was pulled out of her world just like everyone else.  Her lieutenants were pulled out of her world.  No more capes to control things – we don’t know how the population reacted.”

“Riots,” Chris said.  “It’d have to be.”

“She can’t go back until she has the means of seizing control.  She hasn’t come after Gimel to take that because…” Sveta trailed off.

“She’s missing something,” I said.  “Or she was injured in the final fight, or… there’s some stipulation on how her powers work or how she maintains a balance where she’s a multitrigger like Rain but with top tier powers across the board.”

“Or,” Capricorn said.  “She knows it would mean war between her world and ours, and we have more capes.  Her civilians might outnumber our civilians, but they hate her.  There’s no loyalty.  She took over her world and it was a hostile occupation.”

“I was wearing the eye camera,” Ashley said.  “I talked to Monokeros after I said goodnight to Kenzie.  You didn’t watch?”

“No,” Kenzie said.  “Should I have?”

“Don’t,” Ashley said.  “Pretend it doesn’t exist, as a favor to me.  Someone else in the group should watch it.  Sveta, I trust you.  Victoria.  But not Chris or Kenzie.”

“I’m being lumped in as one of the kids now?” Chris asked.  “If I hadn’t been strongarmed into keeping my womb to myself last night, I’d have kids.  Probably.  I think some of the hardier ones would have lasted.”

I saw Natalie suppress a shiver.

“It’s private, and I’m saying no.”

“I don’t like being left out,” Kenzie was quiet as she said it.

“Please.  I’ll make it up to you,” Ashley said.

“Make it up to me by getting out of prison sooner,” Kenzie said.

“Okay.  I’ll try.”

“Keep doing what you’re doing, guys,” Tristan said.  “Twist Crystalclear’s ear, Rain.  Ashley, we’ll watch your video.  Victoria was showing us a list of the people who’ve showed interest lately.”

“I think the other heroes are discouraged and frustrated too,” Sveta said.  “It’s been a long time since we didn’t have the PRT or the Wardens as a thing we could turn to.  They want a way to fill that void.”

“We’re not a replacement for the Wardens and we’re definitely not a replacement for the Protectorate,” I said, firm.  “I don’t want to be that.  It would be a complete and utter disaster.  I want to change the rules we’re playing by.”

“We’ll try it,” Tristan said.  “I’ve got, hm, nineteen minutes before I need to switch out.  We divvy up people and groups and give them direction, Lookout- Kenzie, can you queue up the video for Rain, Sveta, Victoria and me?  Then maybe use that program we had in Hollow Point.  Not listening in on anyone directly, but tracking keywords and phrases.”

“Goddess, prison?” Kenzie asked.

“What do you think?” Tristan asked Natalie.

“I feel nervous saying yes to several things in a row,” Natalie said.

“Are we reasonably sound here?”

“Let me look at the list of words you come up with after.”

“Great.  Chris?  Take it easy, we’ll have you running errands later.  And if you have to go, find a discreet place in nature to do it.  I don’t want you destroying our toilet by filling it with tiny bones or whatever.”

“I can feel the love,” Chris said.

“I like you fine,” Tristan replied.  “I like our security deposit too.”

“Everyone has their tasks,” Ashley said.

“Mine’s apparently to not shit in the toilet,” Chris said.

“Yours is to wait, conserve energy, be ready to change to something convenient so you can go talk to people or run recon, and stop being a nuisance,” Ashley said.

“Yeah, alright,” Chris said.  “I’m going to go for a walk to find a spot of nature so I won’t have any distractions later.  Maybe it’ll get me closer to normal sooner.”

“Good luck,” Kenzie said.

As the group broke apart, there was immediate decision-making to be had.  Sveta wanted to go talk to the misfits, individuals, and the ones who seemed more like the ‘true blue’ types.  It seemed like a fair balance, difficult misfits and easier heroes.

For Capricorn and I, it was a question of who we thought we could get along with or communicate with more easily.  Some consideration was given to the fact I could fly and Capricorn had to travel a route on foot.

Kenzie had found the footage of Monokeros.  As she moved through different areas of the apartment and Ashley’s activities therin, there were glimpses.  Black haired, pretty, with numerous tattoos, with the most prominent being a bold triangle at her forehead.

The image stopped at a short-haired Ashley looking in the mirror, hands resting on the table just beneath that mirror.

“That’s fine,” I heard Ashley tell Kenzie.

“I’m going to go get stuff together,” Kenzie said.  “Keep me company?”

“Of course.”

Sveta and Tristan put down what they were doing to approach Kenzie’s workstation.  The image of Rain was already nearby.  I hit the spacebar.

Audio levels fluctuated as Ashley went from being on pause to moving.

The rooms were basic, built without much flourish and with basic materials.  They had to be new, yet the floorboards creaked as Ashley walked.  Her other half was in the kitchen, standing by two cups of tea- styrofoam cups, teabags still in.

She took her tea with a simple “thank you” and carried it out to the balcony.

I appreciated the view the eye-camera gave us.  A glimpse of the prison from a higher point of view.  I hadn’t been able to go up by the visitation rules.  No thinker 1 power for me.

Ashley’s head turned.  She looked down at the next balcony – a floor below, as close to the corner of the building as it could be without turning a right angle.

Monokeros.  As glimpsed in the rewind.

“You tested me, Monokeros,” Ashley said.

“Monokeros,” the woman replied.  “It’s always Monokeros.  You can call me Kathlee.”

“I’m not going to do that.”

“You could even win points if you called me Unicorn.”

“I’m not interested in your points, Monokeros.  You know what you did.  Another person might report you to the authorities for the use of your power.”

Monokeros snickered.  “You’d be a rat.  That gets you in trouble with Llorona.  It puts you on the bad side of everyone here.  No, you have to be smarter than that.”

“I know.  I have acquaintances, and I have very poor impulse control.  You should know that every time you get close to me, there’s a chance I’ll come for you.  From now on, if we’re in the yard, you keep your distance from me.  If I come near you, you’ll scramble to get out of the way.  If you’re sitting, you’ll stand and walk away.”

“If you try anything, you’ll hurt more than I do,” Monokeros said.

“If I try anything, your existence will end.  You’re a child killer, Monokeros.  You have no clout.”

“Don’t they say that if someone lives on in our hearts, they’re still with us?  They say it when a family member dies, but when you use my diplomatic pull ability, draw them in, take them apart with delicacy, never sullying them, but working with an eye for beauty… and then watch the light go out of their eyes, slowly, slowly, slowly,” Monokeros luxuriated in her own words.  “Mm.  If you hold that moment more dear in your heart than any parent could hold onto the memories of their child, no, you’re a murderer.  It’s death this time, the idea of holding onto memories is some kind of falsehood all of a sudden because the child is goneHypocrisy.

“You call it diplomatic pull?  No, Monokeros.  You’re pathetic in every sense of the word.”

“I could do it to you now, if the monitor wouldn’t blow up,” Monokeros said.  She backed away and shook one foot.  “You’d adore me.  I’d see glimpses of you as a person, more as time passed, until I understood you fundamentally.  And even if you managed to push away the feeling of adoration for long enough to do something… you can’t touch me.”

“It’s an inane name, it doesn’t fit your theme.”

“Someone else disagrees, you know.  I’ve had brief exchanges with her.  Promises were made.  She would make me something better, housemate.  Higher class, wealthy, and she promised me an infinite supply of my drug of choice.”

“I don’t believe you.  Communications don’t come and go that freely.”

Monokeros made an amused sound.

“Keep your fictional Goddess close then, and scramble to stay out of my way.”

“She’ll save you too.  She’ll save all of us.  Those who served her before she had that control will live lives of luxury.”

“You’d be her slaves.  That’s her power.”

“I’d be her slave and I’d be beautiful beyond compare.  She has a lieutenant who creates pods.  Sensory deprivation and plastic surgery in one.  She ran a whole world, and she’ll run it again.  I could go anywhere, any country or city, and enjoy the sights, party, be waited on hand and foot.”

“And your victims?  You pretended to set up a hero team and baited young heroes and heroines in, only to kill them.”

“They aren’t truly dead if they live on in our hearts, or in my heart.  Haven’t you been listening?”

Ashley was silent for a long time.

“I see.”

“I like you, Ashley the second.”

“Swansong, if you must distinguish.”

“Ah, I have a fondness of using ‘the second’, ‘the third’, ‘the fourth’.  I was the fourth Unicorn.  There was a boy who applied to join my team.  My second Paul.  It’s like a way of keeping count as everything marches on.”

The view bobbed as Ashley nodded.

“As I said, I like you.  It’s my habit to jab and cut when I like something, that’s all.  Your friend?  She’s not in any danger from me.”

“You’re a known liar, Monokeros.  A deceiver.  You were a spider drawing others into your web.”

“I was a unicorn, that every young child wants a few fleeting moments with.  Wonder, awe, and the fantastical.  And when they tell those stories in the children’s books, that’s so often where the story ends.  Sometimes a quest, sometimes a moralizing about beauty or the nature of innocence, but most often it’s an end to that section and set of descriptions.  Nobody writes an epic about the life lived after the unicorn is befriended.  It’s the moment that matters.”

Ashley was silent.

“I don’t want your friend because she isn’t beautiful.  I’m sorry, but she’s scuffed, and it’s on the face.  I saw it when I got a glimpse of her.  I can accept other scars, but I draw the line at the face.”

“The lines are showing in your own face, Monokeros,” Ashley said.

“Unkind,” Monokeros said, but there was a note of emotion in it.

“I might deal with that pod maker before he can fix those lines around the eyes.  Maybe that would be fitting punishment for using your power on my friend.”

“There’s no need to make something so monumental over something so scuffed and small,” Monokeros said.  She sounded irritated.  “I’m saying I don’t want her.  Ask any parent if they’d adopt her or the girl without the blemish.  Ask any boy if he’d date a girl with a scar or one without.  A toy unboxed and scratched is worth a tiny fraction of what it would be if left intact.  Worth is objective.  This is not complicated.”

“You have no eye for true beauty and worth, Monokeros,” Ashley said.  “I can tell you that.  I’d have her as a subordinate, teammate, or friend before I had anyone else.  You’re blind.”

“Such cutting insults.  I’d say it’s been a pleasure to chat, but I’d be lying.  This whole conversation has been so tiresome,” Monokeros said.  She retreated inside.  Her voice was faint.  “My kingdom, my kingdom, my kingdom, for a decent housemate.”

“You’ll have no kingdom if I can help it,” Ashley said, but she said it to herself.  She turned away, and the view went dark as she reached up for the eye camera with clumsy hands.

Tristan hit the spacebar.  The video froze.

“That’s a pretty good indicator of what we’re up against, then,” he said.

I nodded.

“There were hints,” Ashley said.  In the background, Kenzie was with Natalie, drawing something on the whiteboard.  Ashley’s projection had come our way.  “Monokeros’ attitude, she seemed cavalier, she doesn’t keep secrets, she likes to tease, hint, bait.  It led me to think she had an escape route.”

“Goddess,” I said.

“Yes,” Ashley said.  There was a pause.  “Kenzie.”

I turned to look.  Sveta and Capricorn did too.

I saw Kenzie smiling.

“She listened- I didn’t realize until it was too late.  My view isn’t as good as real eyes, like this.”

I winced.

“I don’t get it,” Tristan said.

I made eye contact with Ashley- or with her projection.

“Watch her,” Ashley said to us, to me in particular.  “My gut feeling is it wouldn’t take much.”

I nodded.

“I’ll try,” I said.

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82 thoughts on “Beacon – 8.7”

  1. >“I got part of it,” Ashley said. “I had words with Monokeros. She mentioned this woman – must we call her Goddess?”<

    I dunno Ashley. That sounds like a fast track to the Dictator of Shin calling you "the woman in a tawdy dress."

  2. Well, that’s one confirmed insane person.

    Curious how her fetishism makes Kenzie “undesireable” by the simple dint of her facial scar. Then again, for someone who treats children as collectible dolls that just *have* to be disassembled, what more could we expect?

    But in the meantime, Victoria’s project of making everyone work together seems to be bearing fruit, even if some of it has a major malfunction. I wonder how it will turn to a catastrophic clusterfrak this time?

    1. “Curious how her fetishism makes Kenzie “undesireable” by the simple dint of her facial scar.”

      Serial killers tend to pick their targets using a criteria that doesn’t necessarily make sense to outsiders. My understanding is they tend to be matching some characteristic of their victims to someone else that they have killed or wish they could kill. It helps them recreate the rush they got the first time. I’d guess that MK is trying to recreate her first victim here.

      Caveats: I’m using dimestore psychology here and only using generalizations. Serial killers are all individuals and sick in their own individual ways. Tendencies are not hard and fast rules.

      1. So anyone else hoping for Ashley to have the chance to just obliterate Monokeros? I’m not sure she’ll live on forever in our hearts, but the moment might.

    2. What I find curious isn’t Mono’s fixation on facial perfection, but rather her awareness of Kenzie’s scar in the first place. Maybe Kenzie had to give up her projector during the visit, but I doubt it. It’s something she cares a lot about, and she’s sneaky, so she’d have probably smuggled it in. But if she was wearing the projection, then that implies that Monokeros either saw through it or has access to intel about Kenzie. That could be a problem. Given special vision or good knowledge about Kenzie’s tech, she might also be aware of Ashley’s eye cam. Perhaps she even knows that Kenzie would have good odds of being exposed to that conversation, and all that stuff about not wanting her was complete bullshit specifically intended to manipulate Kenzie.

      1. As MK said, she only learned about the scar when she used her power on Kenzie: the longer she uses her power on someone, the more deeply (“fundamentally”) she understands them. So seeing past a projection to otherwise-surface characteristics makes sense as a thing to learn about someone from a first and brief use of “diplomatic pull”.

        1. Ah, I see. I’d thought she was saying that using her power causes her victims to drop their guard and show her their true selves; I didn’t realize she was talking about data directly provided by her power.

      2. Yes I’m leaning toward the “complete bullshit” possibility as well. I would even extend that to Mono’s explanation of her own motives. The personal vanity was easy for Swansong to assume, but even if that’s present it need not be connected to the oddly specific addiction that Mono described. Since this is Mono’s power and she had a chance to get a good read on Lookout, it’s likely that Mono identified the scar as something very important to LO. Given that it’s such a large coercive lever, Mono probably has LO positioned to do something very counterproductive.

      3. ” I’d see glimpses of you as a person, more as time passed, until I understood you fundamentally.”
        It sounds like Monokeros’ power might provide her some insight into her victims? More the longer it goes? Unless she just means that she ‘understands’ her victims through the process of slowly killing them.

      4. The wiki says she sees inaccurate memories of anyone under her power’s influence whilst they’re under her influence. So I’d guess a memory involving the scar is one she saw- either the creation of it, or (slightly creepier) a memory of Kenzie looking in the mirror before she triggered, brushing her teeth.

  3. “Houndstooth hadn’t mentioned that he’d be doing that, but I could understand it, kind of. One degree of separation. Lookout couldn’t hack people. This enabled his team to communicate with us without discomfort.”

    Victoria, 90% of hacking is, in fact, hacking people…

    1. Kenzie *is* really bad at hacking people though.

      She can hack computers. She can hack time and space. People though? She doesn’t get.

    1. “No thinker 1 power for me”, should be “Thinker 1” as per PRT classification rendering the word in this case a proper noun IIRC.

    1. Oh no. She’s going to fuck the mission over.

      I’m beginning to think she’s what makes the prison assault go into clusterfuck mode.

      1. I’m sure it wouldn’t take too much to send a simple signal to Mono’s ankle bracelet when she’s alone or nearby some unsavory capes via the prison’s surveillance systems right?! #KenzieSmile

        1. I mean… would that be so bad? As long as she doesn’t get caught, my reaction would just be “Good job”.

        1. Actually, I’m going to go ahead and make a prediction: last arc, problems came almost exclusively from Ashley and Rain. This arc, we’re going to get problems from Chris and Kenzie. Next arc will be Sveta and Cap. I’m not sure when we’ll deal with Victoria’s issues, although they’ve kind of been a running theme throughout. I also don’t know how this is going to relate to the larger plot, but this is my guess for how Breakthrough’s issues are going to be covered.

  4. I dont think Kenzie is a danger to Mono, but that they meant she’d do everything to get her face fixed up. As in, do Goddess a favour.

    1. Um, that’s not a good thing, no… But then again it’s not like Victoria’s going to be asking Amy for help with a tiny scar… But come on, adds character Kenzie! You’re a mint battle damaged varient! Like that one Gundam action figure subline!

      Also ignore Monokeros in general. She’s just the sort that needs, oh let’s say a three foot long, three inch diameter metal rod jammed through her skull.

  5. So, Chris and Kenzie would be the most susceptible to Monokeros. Also, did Chris technically perform an abortion on himself? Did that count as killing life? He said a few of the murder babies would’ve been hardy enough to stick around but would they have been sentient?

    I really don’t like that form.

    Also, each chapter seems to dwell on what Kenzie can’t do. “She can’t affect computers she hasn’t touched” and “She can’t hack people”. I have a bad feeling that later on we’ll learn she can do at least one of the things that the characters are convinced she can’t do.

    1. I agree 100% on the Kenzie feeling. Even without any extra unknown abilities, she seems capable of a ton of scary stuff, without the self-control/moral compass to keep her away from it. And the prison security takeover seems like a pretty tame example of risks she is probably willing to take.

    2. She’s already setting up Breakthrough with their own special internet connection and adeptly blackmailing her parents. She also had those bots set up in Glowworm, which could probably be converted into somewhat simple algorithms to gain access to any computer that connects to wifi that they’ve got control of. Infect the device they attack with a virus, gain some compromising information, and blackmail away. All she has to do is mess with the prison’s internet just a tiny little bit, and she’s got blackmail material for at least a quarter of the staff, easy. She’s even got some tech set up in the prison to make hacking their internet more doable without going back.

      She can do both of the things that she “can’t do” to a terrifying degree, and do them together just to add the the terror. Actually, she’s even already got pics of you in the shower through a hacked webcam, because you connected to the wifi at Starbucks.

    3. I’m pretty sure she can’t hack computers via magic technopathy, but she probably has the full slate of normal ways to hack computers, so if the Kings Of The Hill use the internet or plug in data storage from people who do Kenzie can hack them if she sets her mind to it.

      Honestly it’d probably be best for all concerned if Dragon takes over supervising Kenzie. She can always be watching, is responsible about handling private information, and can actually tell with reasonable certainty what Kenzie is making. And my read on Kenzie is that she’s only so willing to decieve people she likes; she might be able to mess with Dragon’s monitoring but getting away with it while being watched would probably require moving beyond what even Kenzie views as harmless. And Kenzie would love a 24/7 hotline to Dragon so much she probably wouldn’t mind being told “no” a bunch. Meanwhile, Dragon would get some peace of mind and the ability to say “I want a camera that…” at any time. Which would be really useful, because I’m pretty sure Dragon originals are nonspectacular by Tinker standards but she’s unmatched at combining designs from others. So she could take Kenzie’s time camera, fuse it with her and Defiant’s analysis algorithms, and give every one of her drones the ability to see into the past and automatically track events of interest.

      1. It all depends how long Kenzie would keep the secret that Dragon is a robot-dwelling AI Thinker.
        Because she’d find out under a couple days of hanging around her.

          1. Limited distribution. Everyone who got invited to Cauldron meetings knows, but as far as the general public knows she had an inconviently timed stroke or something.

            Neither of the viewpoint characters to interact with her seemed to know; Gary would probably have had some retort to her mentioning she’d remembered his name. And if she were openly an AI she’d probably be in a lot more meetings via phone rather than only in meetings her primary avatar attends.

          2. If by ‘both of the viewpoint characters’ you mean Victoria and Taylor, I dunno. Taylor knew that Dragon’s an AI. I cannot recall any evidence as to Victoria’s level of knowledge.

            Aside from that, I think one of Dragon’s core precepts is still in effect: no multiple Dragons at one time.

      1. Seems to be saying that. Seriously Chris, Victoria’s whole plan requires people to want to work with Breakthrough!

        1. I vote for Cryptid’s worm babies. So long as the nightmare doesn’t involve being grabbed by the back of the trousers and yanked up through where the ceiling should be into an endless void, I’m good.

          1. Worm
            Ward
            Womb

            The Wildbow trilogy ends with Cryptid’s worm babies turning into tiny interstellar/inter-dimensional capes and scattering off throughout the multiverse to find new planets to give powers to and learn from.

  6. Chris…you need to stop talking. Every time I think you can’t make yourself creepier, you say something else.

    1. Every statement made by Chris about his power: “This is the creepiest thing anyone’s ever said about my power until the next time I say anything about my power.”

    2. You are so obviously wrong! Chris is utterly awesome. I personally hope this trend continues.

      I enjoyed the nonchalant, obviously-devoid-of-maternal-instincts, obviously guy-ish talk about “strongarmed into keeping my womb to myself last night”. It was the benevolently bizarre part of this chapter.

      1. “Yes Chris, we keep our reproductive organs to ourselves while performing cape duties in public, even if we’re proud of their tremendous fecundity!”

        1. Given how capes tend to have weird hang-ups like neither of us would believe, this conversation must have happened sometime, somewhere.

  7. I suspect Goddess wasn’t a very good ruler on Earth Shin. Her, maybe a dozen direct lieutenants, managing an entire world? Either she left most of the institutions intact (which would likely lead to the largest, most well-organized insurgency in history) or she just settled for crushing all opposition and ruling over the shattered remains, accepting the inefficiencies and resulting famines, plagues, and mass suffering because they didn’t affect her personally.

    1. Khepri gave us a glimpse, though limited by being Khepri. All we get is that she and her subordinates all held global positions of power and every flag in the world carried her emblem. I kind of get the impression that it’s basically the non-apocolyptic version of where people fear Citrine taking Gimel; dictatorship by parahumans based on Thinker and Master powers. She was able to counteract Khephri’s control on all capes “in her range”, totaling twenty, but Khepri being Khepri it’s ambiguous if that’s every cape she’d ever controlled or only ones close enough to establish control from scratch.

      I think she and her minions took over the existing institutions from the top, but with their powers they were able to ensure the loyalty of the institutions so long as they remained on-world. She’s apparently not able to reassert her control with just her surviving minions (she may have relied heavily on some minions lost during Golden Morning) but appears to have gotten ideas from her run-in with Khepri and wants to secure her reign by getting a subsidiary Master to control the non-parahuman populace. She could put Mama Mathers on every channel.

    2. “accepting the inefficiencies and resulting famines, plagues, and mass suffering because they didn’t affect her personally”

      Huh… Sounds like a republican (joking! I’m joking!)

      We need to ask ourselves – Which would satisfy her Shards (subtle) drive for conflict? Or is she a special case, like Valkyrie?

    1. And what was he brooding? Anger, it seems. 1500 skullbabygrubs’ worth of anger. If those things are “nonlethal” it’s just because they haven’t had an opportunity yet…

      Chris has taken over as the most amusing Breakthrough. That whole “my task” exchange had me in stitches.

  8. And here I was thinking that Brooding Anger was some kind of Fear. I really want to know more about Chris and his power. Changers are awesome, even if I’m not entirely sure how they trigger (it’s an identity trauma, which makes me think mostly mental, yet changers have very physical-looking powers).

    1. My theory is that Chris is a trans man (born Christine Elman), thus his having an identity/body image trigger and developing an aggressive need for secrecy. If he’s exploiting the permanent physical changes his power causes in order to make his body more masculine, that could also explain some of the health issues he’s having. It also makes that bit with the womb and the so-so gesture regarding being a guy into foreshadowing.

      The Echidna clone theory people have floated also provides plenty of reason for an identity crisis and secrecy.

      That said, Changers also trigger from conflict with societal expectations, and Chris isn’t exactly a polite guy who respects authority. Put him in Taylor’s or Kenzie’s shoes, and he’d have fought back instead of trying to avoid or put up with the abuse. If society then went on to punish him for it, well, now you’ve got a conflict with societal expectations (especially if the bullies or abusers were female). They might even have cast him as an emotionally unbalanced monster, because people solve problems with words, not violence! But he values his life more than society’s acceptance, so if he has to become a “monster” to defend it, then so be it. Que a threat to his life, triggering, and gaining the ability to become an emotionally unbalanced monster to defend himself.

      Of course, there’s another possibility. Remember that missing fifth member of Rain’s cluster? It’s Chris. He was not truly part of the group trigger, nor did he ever really trigger at all. He is not even a real human. No, Chris is the combined trauma of Rain’s cluster made flesh and blood. His true body lurks in the dark quintant of their dream room and twists their hearts and dreams so that it can feast upon their tears, channeling their distorted emotions into the changer-forms worn by its physical avatar. Note that “Chris Elman” is an anagram of “Mr. Sin Leach.” It’s all so obvious!

      1. I like the trans theory, but I don’t know any trans people well enough to see how well it fits. I think the so-so gesture was only in regards to that particular shape, though, and after he turned back into Chris from Wan Indulgence he only had a pair of oversized shorts on, which may have proved problematic.

        I like the second paragraph more, though. It does fit Chris quite well, the societal expectation. I had forgotten that aspect of changer, though it still seems quite mental trauma for a physical power. I probably don’t understand Changers well enough.

      2. Hmm. I think chris could be trans, it does fit with changer powers, but I don’t think the idea of the name going from Christine to Christian is realistic. No trans people i know have done that.

        I thibk there is somethign more going on. IIRC, when victoria went to see him, it was implied that the side effects of his power on him may relate to another cape.

  9. Ya know monokeros,if you love pretty girls I’m sure Riley would’ve LOVED to meet you before she got punted into another dimension

  10. “They would have listened to me, after,” Chris said. “I think? Instinctual listening.”

    I shook my head. “No.”

    “No sounds good,” Natalie echoed me, her voice soft.

    If you want permission to unleash a horde of bladed horrors into a populated area, you’re going to need to do better than “I think they’ll listen to me”, Chris.

  11. One thing Breakthrough really needs to look into is why they don’t already work for Goddess. Why didn’t she seize them all the moment Doormaker’s power cut out? Does it require specific conditions? Uninterrupted focus? Does it build up over time? If it’s that last one, is it already building up? Is Monokeros so willing to believe her promises because she’s already partially controlled?

    1. I’ll answer that last question: no. Goddess hasn’t been allowed near the prison. She’s just getting the sales pitch from whoever is visiting her. I think the pods and the permanent good looks is what sold her. MK has a massively creep fixation with unblemished faces.

      1. Are we sure her power requires physical proximity, though? Mathers didn’t, and depending on how you interpret Khepri’s viewpoint Goddess might have demonstrated the ability to reassert control of people anywhere on the planet. Which doesn’t necessarily mean she can establish control remotely but might.

        And even if it takes proximity, every cape was fairly close to her during Golden Morning, which is possibly analagous to limited exposure to the Simurgh.

        1. If Goddess could establish her cape control at long distances she’d have already gathered a massive army and started to use it. She’d have just gotten an apartment within…say ten miles of the Wardens HQ and built her forces from the massive number of capes that come and go. It looks like she needs physical proximity to establish her control, however it works. The Wardens seemed to think that keeping her away was a credible defense, as they were specifically worried about her showing up at the prison.

          1. That’s only definitive evidence if her power acts as a projected field. Canary and Mama Mathers can influence people at any distance via recordings, and it’s concievable that Goddess’s power is contagious. All we know is that it reminded Khepri of Canary.

            Granted, both Valkryie and Chevalier can sense information about other people’s powers, so Warden High Command has good odds of knowing the important information, but for Breakthrough to properly plan to counter Goddess they need to learn how her power works. Also how her minions’ powers work.

          2. @ guy: Tattletale is a viable option, there. She can guess the basics of a person’s power pretty well, with more info the longer she has to think. And Antares might even know it, since that’s what happened in the bank robbery- Tattletale shot Glory Girl so her field went down so Skitter could pile on bugs.

            That said, Tattletale might need to see Goddess to work, and unlike Valkyrie, she’s not got any form of immunity or resistance to Master-class capes.

          3. Also, the Wardens are juggling enough balls that even if they know of a way Goddess can influence people by proxy they’re not necessarily going to take the necessary precautions. Remember that Breakthrough started working on this after a meeting where Dragon and Defiant were the highest-ranking Wardens present and they got a call to go do something else. Preventing Goddess from siezing the prison isn’t high on their priority list. Leading to the question of what the hell is.

          4. @Earl Of Purple

            Tattletale might manage it, but is a bit risky. She needs information to feed her power, and if she tries to extrapolate too far from incomplete information sometimes she gets wrong answers. And without already knowing how it propogates she can’t be sure what attempts to get more might expose her.

            Cauldron files might have something. Questionable how good they are, though; she may be immune to Path To Victory.

          5. @ guy

            Yes, the Wardens are busy, but the prohibitions against Goddess visiting the prison were set up before the Portal attacks. They had more time and resources at that time. Also, since it’s mentioned that they’d consider her showing up an Act of War, I’d say that Goddess ranks as someone they considered worthy of their consideration. They seem to have thought keeping her away would prevent her getting control. They may have been wrong, but they made those decisions when they weren’t stretched as thin as they are now.

            As to Cauldron files, I seem to remember that they’re the ones who exiled her to Earth Shin from Bet, so they’re likely to have extensive files on her. They made that decision based on something.

          6. Preventing Goddess from siezing the prison isn’t high on their priority list. Leading to the question of what the hell is.

            Greg Veder. He paid no heed to the warnings and went adventuring through the multiverse, triggered while treed by raptors in Earth J, and picked up Master trait that allows him to link the minds of terrible lizards together. This soon resulted in a highly intelligent hive mind with access to Greg’s basic knowledge of human technology. Over the past year their rapidly growing saurian colony has managed to set up mines, forges, and even created a working steam engine. Then the portal enlargements brought them Nilbog, who was impressed by Greg’s accomplishments and offered an alliance. Of course, Nilbog’s presence led to Valkyrie’s eventual discovery of the colony during her search for the lost Wardens, and that’s when the concern began.

            Don’t think I’m just making this up, either! Remember how Sveta was stressed out over a message from an old acquaintance in this chapter? Who does she even know? Her team, Weld, the surviving Irregulars, Taylor, Numbers Man, Armstrong, Jessica, other folks from the Institute, and xX_Void_Cowboy_Xx. So obviously it’s Greg inviting her to join him in his monster paradise and reassuring her that he understands why she was cagey before but he’s totally fine with having kinky tentacle fun times so she can totally admit her true feelings now. Oh, and could she please come bail him out of jail because Defiant is being completely unreasonable here; probably jealous because Dragon and Valkyrie are both totally in to him and also they’re all being very bigoted toward Greg’s friends. They only ate like thirty people so far. It’s not that big of a deal!

      2. MK has a massively creep fixation with unblemished faces.

        It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again…

  12. I love this entire interaction. I had to stop for a couple minutes to laugh. The buildup here is great, from Chris up in arms about his lack of reproductive rights straight int him not being allowed to use the toilet. Best moment for comedy in any Wildbow story so far.

    1. Well, I fucked up the formatting there. Quote I was trying to put in was:

      “Everyone has their tasks,” Ashley said.

      “Mine’s apparently to not shit in the toilet,” Chris said.

      1. This is probably setting us up for some disaster to occur later while Chris is in the loo. Ashley will be like, “you had one job…”

  13. >Chris, by contrast, looked a little worse for wear, with circles under his eyes. Under his jacket, he wore a horizontally-striped shirt of black and green. He wore torn jeans and a leather fanny pack. It was the kind of nice fanny pack that suggested maybe a nod toward fashion or a kind of effort, but it was a fanny pack. They were never going to be cool.

    Literally unreadable

  14. Big giant post on what we know about Goddess from Worm incoming:

    So, I think the first possible reference to her is in Scarab 25.6

    Paris, December 19th, 2012 // Simurgh
    Notes: Victory by Scion.
    Target/Consequence: see file The Woman in Blue. See file United Capes.

    I’m not sure what to make of this; during Worm I’d assumed that this was some alternate universe branch like with the two Noelles and Goddess’s closest Bet analogue was trying to do basically the same thing, and the Simurgh said “This sounds like a plan that results in Eidolon not being the most famous and respected cape on the planet, so I’m vetoing it”. But now we know she got relocated by Cauldron, which makes that seem less likely. And there wouldn’t have been time for it to be the incident that got her the whole cluster.

    Next up, her first actual appearance, Speck 30.5:

    I found another Earth with a mixture of capes, all incredibly beautiful people, all in what was obviously a global position of power. Every flag that flew in their world was the same flag, and the gauntlet emblem on that flag matched the icon on a particular woman’s costume. A blue costume, with white fur at the collar, and a heavy cape that would have done Alexandria proud.

    I attempted to seize control of them as well, and the woman in blue resisted me. She spoke, and I lost my hold on everyone in her range.

    It was only twenty capes. Negligible. But I wasn’t going to settle. If I was going to compromise on any level, it was going to take more than this.

    [a few paragraphs of logistics to set up using Canary]

    I tried again with these foreign capes, in this world where this blue-costumed woman ruled the world, portals feeding Canary’s song into their council chambers.

    Those same portals let me attempt to reassert control.

    An attack from two directions. She wasn’t immune, only resistant. I felt myself assert control. I understood her power, even if I didn’t understand a thing about her. A personal, point-blank trump power, allowing her to tune abilities and defenses much like Scion did. A powerful long-ranged telekinesis, a compulsion power like Canary’s, presence-based rather than voice based, and a personal power battery that let her be stronger, for limited times.

    Where the hell had she come from?

    So she’s apparently Saber from Fate/Stay Night except with TK instead of wind powers and minus one sword.

    Anyways, she’s clearly a badass and it seems reasonable to assume all her powers are of roughly equivalent strength. Her Trump power can block unaided Khepri, and her Master power can override Khepri’s control. Oddly, she has four powers from what we later learn was a six-person cluster. She is clearly Triumverate-tier on her own and has at least twenty minions. It is ambiguous whether “everyone in her range” meant all her minions across the globe or if she’d been in a meeting with all the ones in her hemisphere. Her power has probably been unchallenged for at least half a decade if she’s gotten all the flags replaced.

    The fact that Khepri is surprised to discover her would tend to imply that she’s not the same Woman In Blue referenced in the Endbringer file unless her powers changed drastically afterwards.

    30.6, used as combatant:

    Trickster, some defensive capes. One of the capes who had served under the Blue Woman in that cape-ruled alternate Earth. He had a power not unlike Gavel’s.

    Telekinetics stood by portals. The Blue Woman and Parian were among them. When I saw opportunities, I used them to move capes further, faster, to get them out of the way.

    So one of her minions has a semi-transferrable invulnerability power of some description, presumably. Damnit Khepri narrate more clearly. Apparently Goddess was more useful against Scion as a source of telekinesis through portals than as a direct combatant, but that’s not particularly informative. It does mean Scion could breach her Trump power with a single attack, presumably; no real surprise there.

    She also gets some screentime in 30.7. Not much specifically except that she and Legend led the pack trying to hunt Khepri (so she has access to flight; maybe her TK, maybe granted by a minion) and she gave The Simurgh with mystery gun a wide berth, as people would. And she was angry at Khepri but not enough to pick a fight with Valkyrie.

    The wiki has more details from the Switzerland RP campaign, but that’s of uncertain canonicity. It indicates Shin was discovered by Professor Haywire and apparently is officially quarantined as any parahuman who visits it is at high risk of falling under her control. I’d have to dig through logs to check, but I’d assume that information would be contemporary with the campaign, so she’s dominated Shin since before the Simurgh’s first appearance.

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