“Oh no,” Swansong said, her voice deadpan. “It’s the fuzz.”
“Oh no!” Lookout echoed Swansong, her voice anything but deadpan. “Are we in trouble? What do we say? What do I do?”
The cop cars were pulling into the truck stop from the highway. They saw the scene and slowed down. Two cars, each with two cops. Since identifying March’s group, we’d been moving the scene around a bit to investigate and see if we could work out any details. The plan had been to leave in another minute or two, after Lookout’s data had saved.
“Start by calming down,” Sveta said. “We’re good guys.”
“I’ve had serious talks with police officers nine times, and it went bad seven of those times,” Lookout said, her eyes fixed on the cop car.
The officers had come to a complete stop at a point before the concrete barrier properly started. It gave them the ability to hop in their cars and turn off onto the highway. They emerged.
“Can you take down the images?” I asked. “The cops seem intimidated.”
“Not without losing the data. Do we want to lose the data?”
Split second decision: get shot or lose the data?
“Keep the data,” I said.
“What if you dim it?” Rain suggested. “Make it look fake.”
“That I can do. Opacity down. Doing it. Please don’t make me talk to the cops. It always turns out bad.”
All around us, the images of Tattletale’s group, Faultline’s trio and March’s multi-cluster shifted tint and became see-through.
I raised a hand, holding it over my head as I walked toward the officers. Capricorn followed, while the rest of the group hung back a bit.
“Hi guys!” Capricorn called out. Tristan. “We’re on your side!”
The cops didn’t relax. We continued to approach until one older officer who had his gun drawn raised it a fraction. Not quite pointing at us, but if we approached another few steps, then it might well be. A good thirty feet of distance separated us from them.
“What the hell is all this?” the older officer asked.
Tristan turned his head to look, his hands still out to his sides. “We’re heroes. We were trying to track down some rivals, used some power stuff to see if we could see what they were doing at their last reported location, here, and found this.”
“It’s a bit of a mess that we’re trying to puzzle out,” Capricorn said.
The younger guy by the old officer’s side turned around, taking it all in. His back to us as he looked over in the direction of March’s truck, he used the most innocent of tones as he said, “You were the ones on television a few nights ago.”
“We were,” I answered him. “I remember talking about how we wanted to share information and enforce cooperation. If you want, we can give you a tour of this scene, catch you up.”
“No thanks,” the old guy said. He looked at the younger cop that I presumed was his partner. “They’re heroes?”
He broke his stance, no longer ready to drop into a firing position, gun no longer almost pointed at us. He didn’t put it away, though.
“You were part of the prison thing too,” the young guy said.
“Yeah,” Capricorn said.
The old guy took a step to the side, leaning in close to his buddy. He asked a question under his breath, clearly not intended to be heard by the pair of us.
I caught ‘clown’ in the middle. It was answered with a half smile and half-shrug.
“One of the reasons we went on the show was to force some hands, flush some birds out of the bushes,” Capricorn said. “The people who pulled the prison breakout were the birds.”
“Tried something, you failed, and the rest of us suffer?” the old guy asked. There was an edge to his voice. “And here you are, trying something else?”
“We succeeded,” I said. “Birds flushed out, birds stopped or temporarily neutered. The problem is, the way things are right now, we stop two big villains, and there are two more in the shadows, ready to step out and take advantage of the situation. We’re poised on a crumbling ledge, and we’re… trying to keep it all upright.”
“I’m not one for the poetics,” the old guy said, staring across the distance at me. The other two cops seemed to think the situation wasn’t escalating, and were walking over to the March multi-cluster hologram, investigating. “Birds and crumbling ledges.”
“You’re not giving her a fair shake,” Capricorn said, “Officer…?”
“Senior Trooper Littlejohn.”
“Sir,” Capricorn said, “With my last team, I did some ride-alongs with officers. I heard their frustrations again and again. I know it’s a thing: whether you’re a paramedic trying to stay ahead of a drug epidemic, a trooper or senior trooper trying to deal with gangs, or hell, a teacher trying to save young minds, you run into the futility of it all, it’s the same. Score a win today, and tomorrow it can seem as if nothing changed.”
The old guy was quiet. The young guy looked over his shoulder, his attention divided between us and the still images.
Capricorn, sensing he wasn’t going to get an answer, added, “Don’t do to us what I’m betting hundreds of people have done to you. Don’t tell us we didn’t make a difference when you weren’t there to see.”
Littlejohn didn’t respond for a second. He did look at his partner, who shrugged, unsmiling.
“Sure. I won’t tell you,” Littlejohn said.
Nicely, neatly ambiguous, as responses went.
“Over there,” I said, indicating Tattletale’s group. “Undersiders. Took over Brockton Bay. They were running New Brockton. They did some scummy stuff, they helped save the world. It’s complicated.”
“That’s her, huh? Tattletale in the flesh?” the younger officer asked. “We keep hearing her name.”
“Tattletale, but it’s only a… very advanced simulation of a scene from last night. Hologram. Beside her are mercenaries from Palanquin.”
“Don’t know them,” the young officer stated.
“You have to get into murky waters to get a good answer there,” I said. “June twentieth, twenty-eleven. The day that the PRT broke. An event in Brockton Bay. Everything classified, but there was a mass exodus of heroes from the Protectorate and Wards program. It was the day the portal appeared in Brockton Bay.”
I looked over at the horizon. The portal had warped, distorting, and New Brockton had been cleaved in half. A slice of sky that was different from the rest.
“And?” Littlejohn asked.
“Palanquin started traveling the world, opening portals for buyers. They have ties to the Undersiders, not necessarily friendly ties. But they’re tied into it all.”
“And the third group?” Littlejohn asked.
I was so tempted to say ‘ass-clowns’, to borrow his phrasing from earlier. I gave it a fifty-fifty on either winning him over or souring the dialogue, based on my read of him. Not good enough odds.
“Can’t say for sure, but they seem to be the people who are stepping in to fill a recent void, picking up where the last set of troublemakers left off. We were figuring it out when you came,” I said.
“Always something, huh?” Littlejohn directed the question at Capricorn. “I never took the ‘capes’ seriously. Endbringers seemed too far away. It was too many masks and nicknames to keep track of, all kid stuff. Then, y’know. All at once, it was all too serious.”
I nodded, pushing thoughts out of my head and trying to maintain a poker face. The ‘all at once’ for me wasn’t the one he was thinking of.
“Yeah. I don’t blame you. When this stuff is great, it’s goofy,” Capricorn said. “When it’s bad, it’s bad enough you don’t want to talk about it. Most of the time, it’s like I said before. We’re trying to improve things a bit at a time, even when it looks like it’s not getting us anywhere.”
Littlejohn turned his head and whistled for attention. The two officers who had wandered off returned to us.
“Nimmons, move the cars to block off the stop. Park them both so it looks neat and calm. Be ready to move if a truck needs to roll in. Alves? Up on that concrete barrier. Keep an eye on traffic, keep it moving. You could try holding onto a notebook, act like you’re taking down license plate numbers of the ones who are moving too slow.”
They listened and obeyed without objection.
“We got called in because something was up. Reason we’re staying is that it’s a truck stop, and you’re not trucks, you’re obstructing,” Littlejohn told us.
“We can be gone in a minute,” I said.
“If you need to look around more, then do that, just don’t take too long doing it. If these loons are the next ass-clowns in line to cause trouble, it’s better we get them before they’ve figured out which way is up.”
It’s a little more complicated than that. They’ve figured out a lot more than which way is up.
“Sounds good,” I said. “Thank you, sir.”
“Explain some of this to me as you go. I should know more than I do.”
“Absolutely,” I said. “Geez, where to start?”
“Why does this all look wrong to me? Doesn’t look like it meshes together.”
“It doesn’t,” I said, as we walked back toward the rest of the group. “It’s the puzzle we were trying to put together: what goes where. We can ask Lookout- she’s running the simulation. We froze a few key scenes that we worked out.”
“Show me? These are people from my city, apparently.”
“They were. We were in the middle of trying to figure out if they’re leaving because someone worse scared them away, or if they left to go protect some people elsewhere. Lookout! Scene one!?”
The scene around us shifted. The moment where Tattletale was mid-meeting with Faultline, Chicken Little and the Heartbroken sitting on the front of the parked cars, where headlights illuminated the light snow. Trails marked where snow clumps had been rolled against the ground to form snowballs. They had been stacked into miniature snowmen. Chicken Little had two birds in the snow on either side of what looked like a failed snow-bird, the outstretched wings having crumbled under their own weight.
I pointed at that, then spun around to point at the other end. The headlights of March’s vehicle were sweeping into the lot as it pulled in, but March wasn’t waiting that long. She sat in the open window of the car, leaning over the hood with a rifle in her hands. The frozen scene had captured the muzzle flash. Even from a distance, there was something in March’s eye- she wore her mask so it covered half of her face, her left eye peering through the right eyehole of the mask. The adjustment of the mask freed her to look down the rifle’s scope.
“Page us through slowly?” I asked Lookout. No need to raise my voice now that we were closer.
A matter of ten feet from us, the image of Tattletale had shifted, and was mid-reaction, the bullet having connected. A bullet to the back of the thigh. The other thigh had a fresh wound on it. The reason there hadn’t been more blood on the snow was that most of the gore had hit the side and interior of the car. The only thing that kept Tattletale from going straight to the ground was Snuff’s grip on her arm.
“Eliminating the competition?”
“Honestly? Probably not. But depending on how this works out, she might as well be. It’s just going to be someone crazier and more dangerous than the one who dresses up as a march hare and shoots with kids in the line of fire.”
“Costumed kids. Heartbroken, I think?”
“Yeah. Heartbroken and Chicken Little. But kids are supposed to be off-limits. You go easy.”
There was a scene between this one and the first one we’d started to piece together. Shamrock opening fire. Gregor slinging a blob of slime. Snuff was practically throwing Tattletale into the vehicle while his power blocked out an area in front of him. Not as much of a dark blob as we’d originally thought- that had been the overlapping of multiple effects.
“Shamrock shot one of March’s people. March’s person immediately reacts, lashes out- Lookout?”
We caught the scene from earlier. Dismemberment. The kids now on their way to the vehicles. March had been disarmed by Shamrock’s shot, the rifle broken at the wooden base just a half-inch from March’s hand, but March had other people leaning out the windows and over the vehicle.
“Who’s the bridge troll?”
The question came from Littlejohn’s partner. He indicated Gregor the Snail, who was shielding some of the Heartbroken kids with his body as they got into one of the Undersider’s vehicles. He was wearing full costume, and his body visibly steamed, though the projection didn’t catch all of the steam, making it look cut off or jagged in places.
“That’s Gregor,” Sveta said. “From my very limited exposure to him and everything I’ve heard, he’s apparently a gentleman.”
“He’s wearing a fishnet shirt in minus-something weather. Doesn’t seem gentlemanly to be around kids like that.”
“They don’t seem to mind,” Sveta said.
“I’m a kid and I don’t mind. He looks huggable.”
“I like it,” Swansong said. “Dark, bold.”
Littlejohn’s partner scoffed a bit.
“And they’re kids who hang out with supervillains,” I pointed out. “Heartbroken and Tattletale’s protege. Playing in the snow while the adults talk is probably as kid-like as things get for them. I don’t think fishnets are even on their radar.”
“The one with the bird mask is the protege?” Littlejohn asked me. I nodded my confirmation.
“Maybe he likes it,” Sveta said.
“You can relax,” Littlejohn’s partner said. “You’re making more of a deal of it than I meant to say.”
“His wife probably likes it,” Sveta said, indicating Shamrock.
“No shit?” Littlejohn’s partner asked. “I kind of hate him now.”
“Funny thing is, I think you could say that to his face, and he would just accept it,” Sveta said. “I think we should stop here before I get pissed off.”
“Woah there,” Littlejohn’s partner replied.
“Let’s end it,” I said, and I said it quiet, where only Littlejohn and Capricorn could hear.
“Troy,” Littlejohn said.
‘Troy’ stopped, going silent, and looking at his partner.
“Head on over to the other end, near the cars. See if you can’t spot anything about the truck the attacker is driving, or the people inside.”
Troy seemed eminently unbothered as he shrugged one shoulder, heading over to the truck. I found myself wishing he’d looked more annoyed or hurt about being sent away.
Sveta would be annoyed and hurt. I knew that much.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Tell me more about this,” he said. “Who are these people?”
He’d indicated Imp. In the last scene we’d pieced together, Imp had an arm that replaced the one that had been torn away. The new arm was a different skin tone and had a bad bullet wound.
I was starting to explain when Lookout showed something on her phone to Ashley, then to others. I trailed off, motioning for her to show me and Littlejohn.
“I got enough detail to map it out. We have license plate and vehicle serial numbers on the frame of the vehicle.”
“Whose?” I asked.
“Faultline,” Lookout said.
“I could check databases,” Senior Trooper Littlejohn told us.
“I think I’ve got it already,” Lookout said.
“But thank you,” I added. “Listen, we were pursuing a lead when we got this far. This is your territory. Do you want to take jurisdiction over this scene? Use of weapons, cape stuff?”
“Fuck no,” Littlejohn said.
“It’s okay if we handle it?”
“Probably not. Except this looks like a steaming pile of mess, and I want no part of it. You want to own this?”
“We can’t pin them for a crime, but we can try to keep this from becoming a string of incidents, and we can keep you in the loop.”
“We’re going to go talk to Palanquin?” Sveta asked, and she wasn’t quite able to hide her excitement.
Tristan leaned back, a phone pressed to his ear. His helmet was in his lap.
I saw his eyebrows go up as the person on the other end answered.
“We’re not new clients,” he said. “We’re parked a block away from you. We’d like to approach, talk, see if we can’t both help each other.”
The phone dropped from his ear.
“They hang up?” Rain asked.
Tristan shook his head. “They’re checking.”
A voice on the other end cheeped through the phone’s speaker. Tristan raised it to his ear.
“How did we find you?” he asked.
“We followed Tattletale’s path to the bus stop. There was camera footage that had the license plate on it.”
Tristan repeated it, then covered the mouth-part with his hand to repeat, “There were no cameras at the location. They checked. Do we tell them?”
“We have very good cameras,” Swansong said.
“We have good cameras,” Tristan said. “We’re not trying to be ominous here. We want to talk and get ahead of whatever is going on.”
“Yeah. We’re Breakthrough.”
Tristan glanced at me, then put the phone down. “We can approach.”
“Can we get a camera in the air?” I asked Lookout.
“Yep! I’ve got just the one!”
She pulled the football-sized flying camera out of the case she’d been resting her feet on.
“Is that ‘just the one’ because it’s special, or because it’s your last one?” Rain asked.
“Both! It’s both.”
Sveta opened the door. Rain and Swansong were putting their masks on. Circuit-board face, with circuits cutting fissure-like zig-zags, gloves doing much the same, all black, with lines that glowed dully with a red light from within. A slight change from before. A hooded costume top covered his hair, which wasn’t new.
Using three arms, he slung a satchel-bag over his shoulder as he hopped down onto snow-wet road.
The Palanquin mercenaries were organized in a line along the front of one nice, modern looking building, looking like professionals with how they held themselves, though it was a very different thing from the hired mercenaries we’d seen around Tattletale.
Faultline, Gregor, Shamrock, a thinner-than-realistically-possible Case-53, and a woman I didn’t recognize, with bangs cut straight across her forehead.
I’d expected the lines of no-man’s-land to be drawn out as they had with the police visiting the scene. Instead, Sveta just kept walking.
I could see Faultline’s entire lineup tense at that, that the line was so flagrantly being breached.
Then the recognition from Gregor.
He strode forward, and though he wasn’t much taller than an average guy, he still picked Sveta up, hugging her in a way that had her feet dangling.
No man’s land effectively shrunk. There weren’t twenty feet of distance, but instead it was us standing close enough that we could talk normally, not so close that our two large groups became a huddle.
Faultline had updated her costume, I noted. Tinkertech. Tinkertech from outside one’s own team was generally very expensive, because it was temperamental, and there was only one person who could soothe that temper or fix it if anything went wrong. Yet none of her people looked like tinkers.
As soon as she was out of Gregor’s arms, Sveta hugged Shamrock.
“I take it you vouch for them, Gregor?”
“I vouch for Sveta.”
“And I vouch for them,” Sveta said.
“Not quite that easy,” Faultline answered. “We’re on a job, we have clients to safeguard. But Gregor likes you, Sveta, and I trust Gregor with my life. We’re going to move, because being out in the open exposes us to danger. We walk with your team in single file. You’ll come with us, no fast movements, no tricks, no powers, and nothing finds its way to your hands. We’ll also need to search you.”
I glanced at Capricorn, only to see that the armor had a blue tint. Tristan had backed off for reasons unclear to me.
“Okay,” I said.
“Whippersnap, could you check them? Please stay still. Arms up, feet spread.”
I raised my arms, holding them apart.
Whippersnap was the literally broomstick-thin Case-53 with skin stretched too tight across a half-width skull, large, juicy eyes bulging out of eye sockets to either side, to the point that it looked like he could literally look backwards. The eyes were slow to move, scraping against the sockets, but they moved almost constantly.
He was at my side with an audible noise on arrival. With a disconcerting speed, his hands touched and lightly slapped me, starting at my collar and hood, then working down.
It felt more invasive than an ordinary strip search, because it was so fast and thorough I felt like I was being laid bare.
He was a speedster, but he looked and felt a damn sight like a bio-speedster. There were breaker speedsters like Velocity, who shifted into an alternate state to access reality on a different level, there were ones who had a great deal of propulsion, ones that manipulated the environment, and then there were the ones who just had biology that alien – usually through changer powers.
“Hi Whippersnap,” Sveta said, as I was left alone, the full search moving to Byron, for a full search of Byron’s armor.
With a sound like a whipcrack, Whippersnap moved faster, closing the distance between himself and Sveta. The sound had come from him extending an arm, pointing at her.
“I’d like to put all of the bad stuff behind us,” Sveta said.
“Is this going to be a problem, Whipper?” Faultline asked.
“Neh,” Whippersnap replied.
He took only another twenty seconds to search the rest of the team before stopping at Sveta. “Can’t search her without dying.”
“I vouched for her,” Gregor said.
“You could cork her with a mucus plug,” Whippersnap said. “Seal that suit closed.”
“I will not do that, I’m sorry.”
“Real nice, Whipper,” Sveta said.
“I’m being nice,” Whippersnap said, his voice a hiss. I could see veins stand out through the too-tight skin. Cords and muscles bulged at the corners of his jaw. “I could have said no vouch, anti-vouch. You betrayed my team. But I am new, but out of respect for Brother Gregor and the boss, I’m quiet for now. I am a professional.”
“We can talk at the next chance we get,” Gregor said. “For now, Faultline, any feelings?”
“No plug or sealing her into her suit. Follow, before we’re out of time,” Faultline said. “Stick to my rules. Be good. March has enhanced accuracy and advanced timing.”
“Like Flechette,” I said. I winced. “Foil.”
“Different. Timing is her main power. Situational, big-picture. Operation-level.”
“She was good on the small scale too,” I said, following Faultline. “Is that stronger because she used what she told us about? The thing that let Goddess take all the power?”
“No comment, not on that,” Faultline said.
We were walking now, not into the nice building that they’d gathered by, but down side streets. This was not a car area. It was hilly, with a lot of single-lane roads, and two rivers cutting through it that bottlenecked existing traffic across a finite number of bridges. It was nice, in a quaint, quiet way, no noise of trains or boats tooting their horns.
If I hadn’t been able to fly, I might have taken issue with the fact that everything in this area seemed uphill or downhill.
Faultline went on, “I can’t elaborate because It’s pertinent to my client’s needs and focuses, and it’s for her to share. What you need to know is that March is someone with near-perfect accuracy, timing isn’t a consideration, and yes, these two things are linked when you’re talking about shooting at moving targets. She knows how to use a sniper rifle. What’s more dangerous is that when she sets things in motion, she has a sense of what’s going to end up where.”
“In a timing sense?” I asked.
“My old nemesis,” Lookout muttered. “Time in the day. Timestamps. Recording by clocks and timers. It’s madness.”
“It waits for no man,” Swansong said.
“What makes us safe now?” I asked, raising my voice just a bit to drown out the background chatter. “I assume we’re safe now.”
“We took measures, but they’re time-limited, which is why we’re walking to a confidential but safe place instead of talking any more out in the open.”
“We’ll follow your rules, help keep to your time limit,” Byron’s voice was soft.
Rain, meanwhile, was absolutely quiet at this point. I wanted to ask questions, but I didn’t want to complicate things with the already tense, no-nonsense vibe that Faultline was presenting.
She was a decent mercenary. This was her in her professional mode.
“-Newter?” I heard the tail end of Sveta’s question to Gregor. She was leaning into him hard, like she sometimes did with me, unaware of her own particulars of movement or balance when she wasn’t managing it all herself. “Or Scrub?”
“It is best if I do not share our team’s strengths and weaknesses. Not without more thought. I am sorry, little cousin.”
“I understand. I really do. Maybe it’s better that I don’t know. Sorry.”
“It is better you do not know.”
“Don’t say it like that,” Shamrock said.
“This way,” Faultline said.
The street had a corner, and past a lip of concrete preventing any errant cars from going down, there was a set of stairs leading down to a street further down the way.
We took those stairs, circled around one building, and then headed down another set of stairs to what looked like a basement area.
A headquarters. The stairs went down a long way, enough to leave the space expansive enough for ceilings at twice the usual height.
We were led down to the base of the stairs, before Faultline instructed us, “Wait.”
We did, settling in to lean against walls. Sveta was talking to Shamrock and Gregor. Shamrock was saying something about places she’d visited or seen- possibly related to Sveta talking about her summer with Weld.
Whippersnap had wandered off, except wandered was the wrong word, because it implied meandering. Saying he’d run off was wrong too, because it implied running away.
Well, maybe that was right. It just didn’t seem quite appropriate.
Rain and Byron were talking, and Rain used all four arms as he gestured unconsciously- no, he was gesturing to illustrate what he was saying about weapons, and what he’d need to do to use them well.
“Lookout,” I said, lowering my voice.
“How is that camera of yours in the sky doing?”
“It’s fine,” she said. She pulled out her phone, and she showed both Swansong and me, then Rain, who was leaning over. “Looking down. Nothing strange.”
An overhead view of the area.
“Anyone that could be following?”
“None. If they followed, it was with a power.”
“If they followed,” the woman with the bangs said, “They won’t give you a chance. March will shoot, she will maim you if she wants to maim you, and she will kill you if she wants to kill.”
“What dialed March up to eleven?” Rain asked.
“A combination of things. She’s excitable, and someone excited her.”
Faultline returned, alone. There were two more mercenaries with her. “Situation blue.”
“Medical emergency?” I asked. “The hospital code?”
“What? No,” she told me. Then, not to me, she said, “I’ll leave it to you to interpret.”
“Good,” the woman with the severe bangs said. “Excuse me.”
She walked away from the group and across the room. As she did, her body started to come apart in ribbons. As the ribbons came away, they revealed someone beneath.
The ribbons came together, forming a complete, different person, and then opened up once more. Another person beneath.
So it went. Each layer was something of a close relation with the one before it. By the time she was on her fourth layer down, the first woman had recovered enough to get up and walk away.
The fourth layer down, as it happened, was Tattletale. Two of her bodyguards seized her before her weight could come to rest on the legs that still had bloody bandages on them. She was moved to a chair, and made a face as she sat down.
The rest of us remained gathered in the lobby.
“Gotta stick your nose in, huh, Vicky?”
“Trying to stay on top of things,” I said. “What did you do?”
“That’s a pretty aggressive way of looking at it, Vicky,” Byron said.
“It wasn’t entirely me,” Tattletale said.
I saw Whippersnap again, keeping company with a Case-53 of the same age, just a bit younger than Sveta. The girl was her overly elaborate lace dress and veil- the lace was her skin and the skin had a million intricate holes in it, with just a hint of red around the largest ones, where they looked deep in enough to see past tissues and look at raw flesh.
“She’s been recruiting,” Tattletale said. “Capricorn, you know Paris. Most of the recruits are singular actors from multiple clusters. Most, it turns out, are being brought in by a promise. She tells them that she knows how to leech power, as Goddess did. If they join her, she will tell them, after they’ve helped her achieve her goals. If they don’t, she tells one of their cluster-mates. With me so far?”
“She made that offer to me,” Rain said. “But I think she ran into trouble. Of the two who are still alive, one won’t work with her, and the other is filled with too much rage to cooperate with anyone. They just want me dead.”
“Precipice, she’s making the offer to Cradle. After Snag? If you don’t reach out and take her offer, she’s going to give Cradle that knowledge. You can see where your hands are tied, don’t you?”
Rain’s mechanical hands strained a bit, metal on metal, as he clenched his four fists.
“Yeah, all four of them, there you go. She used that, gathered some people, and she made it clear she wanted Foil. That’s where I came in.”
“How do we know it’s not a bluff?” Swansong interrupted.
“She has proof, kind of,” Rain said.
“Because, Swansong, she was a member of a cluster of three. Timing, accuracy, and Foil’s trademark weapon enhancement. March found and drained their cluster’s third.”
“She’s very strong compared to Flechette, now, and that’s her proof,” Rain said.
“Goddess dying answered a few lingering questions she had, things which were holding her back,” Tattletale said. She turned around, and flagged down a mercenary. “Painkillers. Something not too addictive, thank you.”
She turned back our way and sighed.
“What did you do?” I asked, again.
“She went after my teammate, and I told her that if she didn’t stop, I would take away her bargaining chip. I’d figured it out myself, I would tell key members of the different multi-triggers- the enemies of her new ‘recruits’, if you will, how the draining works.”
“She thought I was bluffing, and I wasn’t.”