A note from Elbowsnapper

After Pussyfoot.

21st, Monday, 2:29 AM.

Urchin's Apartment.

When Coil finally picked up the phone I almost sobbed in relief.

"Urchin." Coil said coolly. "You’ve finished the job already?"

This job was supposed to take a couple of weeks to complete, at least that was the impression Coil had given him initially, If all the police, PRT, media, Protectorate, and the rest of the heroes hadn’t found the guy yet, it was unlikely that I could have done it in just a couple of days. However, I only ever called him after the job was complete, so there was no doubt that Coil was curious as to the outcome. This time was no different in that regard, I was calling him after I had finished the job, but he had absolutely no idea just how badly it had gone.

"The job is finished. I have two broken arms, both of my shoulders are out of their sockets and the rest of me isn't doing much better." I told him evenly, trying to keep the pain out of my voice, I don’t think I succeeded. "Know any healers for hire that aren't Panacea?"

I probably could go to Panacea and she would fix me up sure, but I would have to wait until she was next at the hospital. Which wouldn’t be until late this afternoon at the earliest, and there was no way in hell that I was going to wait that long. Panacea probably wasn’t the best choice either, Dean had seen me get kicked halfway through the train, it was possible he would tell the heroes and they would be on the lookout for a tall skinny guy, with black hair and broken arms.

Coil was silent for a long time, no doubt trying to find the best solution to the problem at hand, he had a stake in this mission too, after all, it was almost a full minute before he finally spoke again.

"I see," Coil said calmly. "Othala of the Empire is available for healing work, for upfront cash payments."

It was good enough for me, I didn’t care what their creed was, I just wanted my body to be unbroken again. I had plenty of money to pay, provided Othala’s rates weren’t insanely high, I still saw the massive mound of money in my mind sagging down in the middle.

"Where?" I asked voice strained.

Coil put me on hold, the absolute mother fucker, he was probably calling up Othala to see if she would play ball.

Fifteen minutes later I was sitting next to a hot blonde chick in a skin-tight red bodysuit, in a very poorly lit room, her hand rested comfortably on my thigh.

If I wasn't in so much pain, and if she wasn't a white supremacist, I might have even fired my shot. Othala was a couple of years older than me at most, she was rather short and came packaged with two other parahumans, hurray a bundle. The first was a girl about my age in a tight green hooded-bodysuit, Rune. The other parahuman was a jacked blonde dude in a red shirt with an armored chest piece over the top that had been painted black, Victor.

The healing was taking a while, it was some form of strange regeneration, slowly dragging my body back into a better condition. I didn’t know the specifics of how it worked, but It didn't blunt the pain at all and every time something snapped back into place a shock of pain ran through my body. I was doing my best to distract myself by trying to telekinetically move Othala’s hand further up my thigh, with nothing but pure willpower, I wasn’t having much luck, unfortunately.

Victor broke the silence suddenly and with it my concentration faltered.

"So how did you manage to break both of your arms, dislocate both shoulders and break a bunch of ribs?" Victor asked curiously, looking almost impressed.

Rune was looking green at the description and Othala's hand still stubbornly refused to move.

"I got a bit too fresh with Alexandria," I said easily, through the wires that were covering my face, Othala's hand tightened briefly around my thigh and I considered it a success. "She's not really a first date kind of woman, apparently."

Victor started laughing like it was the funniest thing he had ever heard, and I had even managed to draw a few giggles out of Rune as well. Othala just shook her head in, don't think I couldn't you smiling, lady.

Goddammit, why is it only assholes, killers, and fucking racists?

Ten minutes, two-thousand dollars, and one shiny offer to join Empire Eighty-Eight later, I was on my way home.

In the year since I took that first job from Gaston and started on my journey to become a mercenary, I had curated a reputation for being a professional. I always completed the job no matter what, mostly because I was incredibly careful with which jobs I accepted in the first place, and as a result of my care I always got paid.

Coil must have been putting in some advertising work for me behind the scenes though because I started to get people asking after me through him. I knocked most of the bad jobs back, some of which weren’t really bad, just well outside of my current abilities. It had kept my record shiny, glistening, and unmarred. I had never failed a job, and eventually, this had turned out to be a blessing.

Clients started paying Coil, and in turn me, in advance with the expectation of a successful job. I always finished the job and I always got paid, this time was no different, I was paid in advance, I completed the mission, I found the Rail Tracer and I stopped him. The fact that I had only managed it by luck and a combination of seven desperate heroes and villains was beside the point.

So, when an anonymous bounty emerged a couple of days later; to kill the mercenary 'Urchin'. I knew that I had well and truly fucked up, this time I hadn't been selective, I hadn’t taken a step back and thought about the consequences, instead, I had let my greed drag me along in its wake.

When Daniel Stansfield had hired me for the job and paid in advance; It was probably with the expectation that I wasn't about to murder his eldest son.

21st, Monday, 9:27 AM.

Chorus's Base.

Chané Laforet sat at the round table that had been pushed into the corner of the room, she hated it, if she was being honest, the circle fit poorly in the corner and once again she thought about ‘accidentally’ breaking one of the legs, instead, she looked away from it annoyed.

Graham was still sleeping on the couch in the middle of the room, his left arm was badly broken and they had wrapped it in a temporary sling, they would take him to the hospital in a couple of days, once the city cooled down a bit from all the excitement. He had taken some strong painkillers already and ten minutes later was snoring loudly on the couch, he would be fine for a couple of days.

If they were lucky Panacea would be working at the hospital, but Chané would go and find out her schedule in a couple of hours anyway, so they wouldn't have to rely on luck. Nice was passed out with her head resting on a small bench that was bolted against the wall, there was a bottle of scotch of the table next to her half-empty, and a shot glass lay next to it on its side, dribbling liquid down onto the floor.

Graham and Nice had traded stories with her about what had happened from there perspectives, they had also managed to retrieve the loot before they had made their way up onto the roof. Miss Militia was too busy performing first aid on Battery to do anything about it, the younger hero, Kid Win had stepped bravely in front of them to ask what they intended to do but had eventually let them pass without incident. The blonde boy with the hand blasts had already bypassed them all and had his torso sticking out of a hole on the roof.

The three members of Chorus that still lived had jumped from the train as soon as they got the chance, every single one of the non-cape members had refused to answer their phones, either dead or captured. Dune, the perpetual troublemaker of their group had been killed by the Rail Tracer, she had known it was him as soon as she had seen the hair, she thought it ironic that Dune and his killer had both looked somewhat alike.

Chané touched her shoulder where the wire had passed straight through, it had burned like a white-hot knife when it had pierced her, and now her shoulder throbbed in a low pulsing ache that made the entire area around it feel weak.

Claire Stansfield was the single most dangerous person she had ever fought, nothing she had done had worked, and he had done things that she had never even considered trying. He had blocked attacks that nobody should have been able to, avoided things with unnerving casualness, he had moved with a fluid grace that had made her own movements seem clumsy in comparison. Chané power lent her an amazing ability to react to threats, avoid damage and deal it back in precise attacks, but to Claire, it had meant absolutely nothing, he had dominated them all, and she knew that they were only still alive because he had been playing around.

Chané had felt like the young girl who had triggered in that alleyway all over again, after getting her powers she had beaten stronger capes and been beaten by them in turn, always one or the other, but when she had fought Claire, it had been the first time she had ever felt truly outclassed in a fight. He had been something else entirely if the blonde boy hadn't managed to hit Claire from behind, and if Urchin hadn't immediately acted, she would be dead.

Chané thought back to the scene, Urchin's mask was a shattered mess and he had been crying, he looked younger than she would have guessed, given how tall he had been. Chané remembered the wire passing through her shoulder, the knife falling to the roof of the train, the spikes protruding from every inch of Claire's skin, the look of horror on Urchin’s face.

Urchin had killed Claire to save her life, and it had broken something in him.

22nd, Tuesday, 6:29 AM.

Protectorate Headquarters.

Hannah waited for the debriefing to start.

They had been stuck on the Flying Pussyfoot for far too long, they had found that the conductor's cabin had been sabotaged when they finally managed to get to it. Everything in it was destroyed, in an almost calculated way, they couldn't get the train to stop, they would have ended up riding the damn thing all the way to Chicago if Dragon hadn't arrived a couple of hours later to assist them.

Urchin and the three members of Chorus had disappeared from the train sometime before Dragon had arrived. Miss Militia and the other heroes had been trapped on the Flying Pussyfoot for seven whole hours in total, Dragon hadn't been close by at the time of the attack. Hannah had done her best to make Battery comfortable and strapped her leg tight to avoid it tearing anything. They had rushed Battery back to the Rig immediately, while Dragon had organized vehicles to ferry the civilians to hotels, airports, and hospitals. They had done their best to clean up the blood and bodies before to many of the passengers could see them.

A day later, and here they were. Armsmaster, Dauntless, and Dragon were already here, Assault was with Battery in the infirmary, they were organizing a visit from Panacea with the leaders of New Wave. They were only waiting on Velocity now, it figures that the fastest of them was the one who was late.

They had already debriefed Battery, and talked to Dean, but neither of them had seen everything. After Claire had broken Battery’s leg and dislocated her shoulder, Urchin had moved her away from the fight and back into the carriage. Only Aural, Urchin, and Dean had been left fighting Claire Stansfield, and only until Dean had been similarly deposited back into the carriage with them. They couldn’t debrief Urchin, Aural, Swallow, or Climax for obvious reasons.

Kid Win had been practically glued to her side during the entire event, on her orders, so he was spared from having to sit in on the meeting, he had stuck by Dean’s side in the aftermath of the incident. Dean Stansfield had been a mess when he told her what had happened before he was tossed off the train, he had started crying when he told her what had happened after he had climbed back up. According to him Claire had Aural dead to rights and had been about to kill her, so Dean had hit his brother in the back with an attack meant to distract him, and Urchin had used the opportunity to launch a kill shot.

Hannah could understand the action, she would have taken the same shot had it been her in his shoes. Claire Stansfield had killed over twenty people in less than a month, he would have likely racked up hundreds more if he hadn’t been stopped. He was a serial killer, and Urchin had killed him to save another person’s life, it was a pretty cut and dry case, he was obviously still a villain despite classifying himself as a mercenary, you couldn’t rob banks and not be, after all, nothing had changed on that front. They would have to bump his threat level up a bit, Armsmaster would likely develop some training scenarios for fighting against someone of his skillset and they would all move on with their lives, there were bigger threats in Brockton Bay then a single young cape, however versatile his power.

Hannah thought back to the first time she had met him, he had brought a dead man and the villain String Theory to the Protectorate’s front door. He had been crying at the time, obvious even through his blank white mask, his posture had told her more than enough, he had fled soon after.

Urchin was young, most likely the same age as the Wards at a guess, he styled himself as a mercenary and did things that had gotten him labeled as a villain instead, robbing banks and beating up heroes, but he had never deliberately maimed someone or killed prior to this event.

When Daniel Stansfield had come to pick his son up, his face was a visage of anger, but it wasn’t directed at his son. He hadn’t threatened them or made a scene, likely because he had denied them access to the train in the first place, but it was only a matter of time before his lawyers came after them, Hannah was certain. She heard something at the door and her eyes flickered over to identify what it was, Velocity looked sheepish as he stepped over the threshold.

"Sorry, I was running a bit late?" Velocity joked awkwardly.

Hannah just sighed.

25th, Friday, 11:00 AM.

Dean tried to keep his mind from circling back around to what had happened on the train, instead, he thought back to his dad’s reaction, he had been furious, but not at Dean. His dad had raged about the protectorate, raged about a ‘Coil’, and raged about the Rail Tracer.

Dean asked him who Coil was, and Daniel had watched him for a while before explaining. His dad had apparently contacted this ‘Coil’ and had hired Urchin through him, hired him to find the person who had been killing people on the trains, Daniel was worried about this exact scenario. If someone had been murdering people on trains there was no way that they wouldn’t attack the Flying Pussyfoot.

Dean wondered if his dad would have hired anyone at all if he had known that it was Claire. His dad had never made it a secret of how much he loved his children, and nobody had told him yet about the killer’s identity. Dean swallowed before telling him about Claire and his fury had turned instantly to disbelief and shock. Dean broke down again despite his best efforts, he had spent more time crying in the last three days, then he had in his entire life. It was the only time he had ever seen his dad cry at all. Claire would have a private funeral, with just his family once the body was released from police custody. Hours later his dad’s fury had returned, but this time it was a quiet focused thing, and it was directed almost entirely at Urchin.

His brother had killed many people and had been in the process of killing another when he had been killed. Dean had spent years feeling the hate and fury of every angry person he passed in the streets, and he had quickly come to dislike the feeling, which was why he couldn’t hate Urchin for what he had done, he could only feel a wretched ache in his chest that he thought might never leave.

Dean wiped his eyes and cleared his mind as best he could, he would think about that later when he was alone. Right now he had a job to do, he flipped the visor of his new helmet down to cover his face. Dean could feel the crushing weight of hundreds of minds swirling with excitement, happiness, sadness, and fear, they came from the other side of the curtain in front of him, accompanied by the loud chatter of a crowd. When they called his name out a moment later, he stepped through the curtain and onto the stage, to stand next to Aegis, Clockblocker, Kid Win, Triumph, and Vista.

Gallant had joined the Wards.

A note from Elbowsnapper

Second Arc Finished.

About the author


Bio: I’m a fantasy author from Australia, and if I were to describe my work in a single sentence it would be; Realism contained within an unrealistic backdrop. I aim to put out high-quality, original, long-form written content that will entertain, and engage you. Expect dark themes, characters making costly mistakes, and unreliable narrators.

My standard process starts by releasing draft chapters to my Patreon, and then to everybody else online. Once the story is completed, I convert it into a more conventional eBook. I also routinely go back and revise, edit and enhance my older work as I improve as a writer.

I now have a website that has links to all of my original works to date.

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