Mar 24, 2019 2:59 AM
Walta and her troubles
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The next time she goes to check her PHO forum account, Glam has PM'd her with a phone number and an email address, but Magnet Master hasn't replied.

When she checks his profile page, the place where it used to say "Verified Cape" now says "Deceased Cape".

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Well... Shit.

She was this close to joining the Wards no matter what trouble they were going to throw her into, to have a tinker friend. And now that can't happen.

 

She goes home and has another argument with her parents. The ultimatum is - either join the Wards, or permanently grounded, absolutely no tinkering, too dangerous. Even if she was a big hero and tried to save the day - far too dangerous, she almost died. They find her basement stash, what's left of it, and hide it all away from her. They spend all day with her, no chance to run off.

She tries to stick out the grounding - one day, two days, then she finds herself starting to take apart her school locker's lock to make - something for stabbing, her power told her - and that evening she tells her parents that, fine, she'll join the Wards.

 

Her father calls the Protectorate office's public line.

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"Protectorate ENE, this is Anne speaking, how can I help?"

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"Hello, Anne. I - er, don't know how often you hear this, but my daughter is a parahuman - calling herself 'Vertigo' - and after a family discussion we've decided together that she should join the Wards program for her safety, and I'd like to know what we need to do to make that happen."

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"- oh! I see. The best idea would probably be for a PRT representative to go to you rather than the other way around, so as to keep identities secret, and then details can be discussed. Are there any specific questions I can answer or worries I can assuage before that?"

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"That makes sense. The only thing we need to talk about now is... She got into some trouble with you a few weeks ago - caused an explosion by accident, it was on the news. Of course some kind of consequences are necessary, but she's worried sick you're going to have her locked up. It seems... It seems like she can't stand being away from her, er, tinkering for more than a day or two."

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"I'm sure something can be worked out about that, she doesn't need to worry."

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"Can you give me an example of how something like this was worked out in the past? Concrete examples would be much more reassuring, you know."

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"Well it's not talked about much, but if you look up the Snatchers online you will find the story of Chevalier."

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"I'll be sure to do that. When should we arrange a visit? We'll want it to be in the evening, ideally, because of work and school..."

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"We can work around your schedule, whenever's best for your family."

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They arrange a time and mention that their daughter asked that Armsmaster not be involved, at least at first, and then that time comes.

All three of them are sitting in their living room, looking serious, when the doorbell rings. Her father opens it and asks, "Hello?"

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They see the familiar armored suit Dauntless wears. "Good evening, sir. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Dauntless."

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"Nice to meet you. Er... I wasn't expecting an actual hero. More like a bureaucrat. Ahem. I'm George Hampson. My wife Leah and my daughter Walta... Do come in, please."

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Walta gives a shy, twitchy little wave. "Hi. Don't have my mask or s-suit today."

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He steps inside and removes his helmet, revealing a handsome black-haired young man. "I suppose I'm Mark. I think it makes sense to send a hero, we know more about what it's like than the bureaucrats do, and we can answer questions better without worrying about all that nonsense."

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"I'll get to tinker whenever?"

Her parents give her looks - one irritated, one anxious. 

"Not on whatever I want, there's safety rules I know, but I'll get a chance to every day?"

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"Definitely. You'll have your own office and the Protectorate will supply you with materials."

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Her mom clears her throat. "The important question in my mind is... She'll be safer from the gangs this way." It's not really a question. "It's only a matter of time, given..."

"Leah, we don't need to bother him about that."

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"No, it's totally reasonable to bother me about that, that's what I'm here for. Now, I can't promise she'll be one hundred percent safe, but... being a tinker at all, she will always be a target. Tinkers are too valuable. The Protectorate is probably the best chance she'll get; we can get her actual high-quality materials, a safe environment to invent what she needs, backup in any conflict that arises, and a real team she can count on. We all know what it's like to be a parahuman, and that helps tremendously over having only people without powers around. No offense intended, ma'am."

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"Shoelaces and dental floss and zip-ties and cardboard... At first, anyway."

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"None taken. It's just... Oh, come on George. If she has to face up, you can too."

"I don't see how that's relevant. We can talk about this later."

"No, like you said, you have to admit you're at risk to get safer. Mr. Dauntless, it's not just the fact that Walta is a- A tinker, was it? There's a batch of thugs after my husband, and not for no reason."

"Leah!" He quietly seethes, fists clenched... Looking shamed.

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"- I see. We can keep her protected from them, too, and - we have accommodations at the HQ to host you two, if you would so prefer. We cannot keep this house under 24/7 surveillance but we can keep a more careful eye around the area..."

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"I don't want to be a bother. It's just a - a disagreement."

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"With a loan shark who has lackeys with machetes and guns."

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He looks at Walta's father directly. "I would strongly recommend going into protective custody, Mr. Hampson, but I understand it is ultimately your choice."

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