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Was it all hopeless?

Tinker-made weaponry, the Triumvirate, blasts of lightning, even that enormously powerful projection and so much more had done nothing but annoy the Endbringer. All the damage was cosmetic, its blasts still as powerful as before, its kill aura still active…

Metanoia wanted to strike at it, to bring hundreds of tons of mass down upon it and sink tendrils of carapace and bone through its flesh and tear it apart from the inside—but she’d seen what similar Brutes had tried, seen the enormous tidal wave of ink only end in the death of the cape that had been coordinating Search and Rescue. She couldn’t withstand the kill aura either, not without another cape’s assistance, and that cape would be better off protecting those who could actually injure the Endbringer.

Her heart skipped a beat when she heard Abaddon’s voice through the communicator. She turned her eyes to the sky, the wings on her back flapping furiously to keep her in the air for just a little longer so she could witness what her friend was planning to do.

Abaddon looked…glorious, perhaps, would be the best way to put it. A wrathful angel, utterly inhuman, her appearance sending waves of terror flooding through those who looked upon her divine visage. But Metanoia forced herself to watch, locking down all of her spasming muscles and impelling her wings to plow through the air and carry her higher. She opened her mouth to respond, impotent words of caution upon her lips—

And nearly fell out of the air in shock and worry as a bolt of lightning seared her retinas and obscured Abaddon. She began diving out of the air toward her friend’s last location before her eyes even regenerated, only pausing upon seeing that Abaddon was still alive and lowering herself to the ground.

Metanoia wanted to regroup with her, to find out how severely she had been injured, to make sure she wasn’t going to die in some alley on her own...but she still had a job to do, the communicator insistently reminding her of the nearest downed capes and pockets of civilians.

So instead she raised the communicator to her mouth, switched to the general channel, and calmed her nerves before speaking.

“Metanoia to Abaddon—I will.”

She left the message at that, unwilling to risk adding confusion to the general channel and obscuring important information. The communicator blipped at her again, so she folded her wings and dived out of the air, her controlled fall taking her in the direction of the downed cape named “Outsider” that required evac to the medical tents.

Metanoia—or rather, the elephant-sized fluffy wolf on the ground that served as an extension of her body and senses—found the rather distinctive cape in the middle of the street. She’d heard of the cape’s name before and read up on their wiki entry, but seeing the massive body was another thing entirely. She followed the trail of destruction the cape had left as he had crash-landed, portions of the rooftop missing from a nearby building and a deep furrow in the asphalt marking his passage.

The scent of ozone in the air was sharp and stinging as she banked toward him, her wings straining and tearing as she unfurled them to slow her descent. She still hit the ground with considerable speed, however, bones cracking and muscle pulping as she skidded to a stop. Severing her screaming pain receptors as her wounds regenerated, she raised herself up from the small crater in the concrete sidewalk and hurried over to the downed cape.

The cape seemed mostly intact, most of the damage visible as gashes around the “head” and “neck” area. Metanoia glanced at her wolf meat construct as she directed it to come to a stop next to her. The cape was even larger than the elephant-sized wolf, but perhaps she’d be able to rig up some kind of bone sled and pull them to the medical tent. That would take quite some time, however.

Tabling that option for now, she walked toward the “head” of the cape, the tentacled body dwarfing her own human body. Crouching down, she gently tapped the cape’s shoulder, her bone gauntlets clicking against the chitinous armor covering the cape.

“Hello,” she said, wondering how she was supposed to address an unconscious cape. “Can you hear me? Metanoia here, part of search and rescue.”

If Outsider doesn’t respond she’ll repeat her words again, still tapping the cape’s shoulder, and try for another minute or two.

Metanoia sprinted toward the PRT building on foot, her muscles coiling and expanding with each step. Layer after layer of dense musculature and connective tissue rippled and built upon one another, her bones lengthening and thickening as she took larger and larger strides. Her armor, too, grew larger and all-encompassing, forcing her to put effort into preventing herself from shattering the asphalt.

Did her friends make to it the shelters? Did they manage to get out of the city? She desperately wanted to check up on them, call them to see if they were okay, but she knew that the cell service had to be clogged up at this point and that there was no point in distracting them from their evacuation. She had her own task, and that was making it to the PRT headquarters before the Endbringer arrived.

By the time she arrived at the staging grounds, she’d gained hundreds of pounds of mass, her frame nearly three meters tall and her body completely covered in thick, intricate layers of ivory armor. She looked toward Abaddon, wondering if the other cape would have questions about her powers, but she was immediately distracted by the whispers around her.

Behemoth. Possibly the worst matchup for her, she realized, as she had no real protection against his kill aura and his plethora of other powers. It might be a bit harder for the Endbringer to kill her, but her bone armor would provide little durability in this fight. A clean hit from one of his lightning bolts would obliterate her mass, and nothing she could do would be able to injure the Endbringer.

Metanoia ran through her prepared list of options, recalling all the fun little experiments she’d performed with her power that would now be tested in the field.

Her emergency stash of flesh at the bottom of the lake she called home—no, that would be useless in this fight, and would only truly be useful after her regeneration rate stopped increasing.

Double check her offensive options? Goliath-Naga, acids, bombardier, projectiles, sonic, booby traps, Plague, Sins—all her little plans with their fun little names, all useless, useless, useless.

Defensive options? The only one she could think of that might be relevant was the one she’d named “Arcology”, meant to be a last-ditch fortress impenetrable by mundane means. It was a crude idea, an enormous pyramid constructed of bone extruded from her body. Estimations based on prior attempts and some basic math told her she could construct a bone pyramid a few meters tall and wide with a pitiful density in a few minutes, but how would that even help against the Behemoth? She doubted the beast would attack an immobile structure that posed no threat toward it.

No, in the end she’d best serve as a durable, somewhat fast cape that could help rescue other capes. Falling debris would pose little risk to her, and she’d be able to brave fires and other dangerous conditions better as a regeneration brute.

It looked like the capes were still gathering, so Metanoia had a little time to get started on her plan.

“Abaddon, please excuse me for a moment,” Metanoia murmured to the cape beside her. “I need to prepare for the fight.”

Metanoia was a bit unsure of how her power would be understood, considering the potential self-replicating nature of her power, so she wanted to avoid undue attention for the initial steps of her idea. Double-checking to make sure she still had time, she jogged a ways down the street, into an alley, and crouched out of sight behind a dumpster.

A blob of amorphous flesh bubbled out of her bone gauntlet, dropping the ground, and swiftly began to expand in size. Metanoia focused on it intently, molding it into one of her most well-practiced shapes. Her increased mass at this point bestowed massively increased mass generation, and in a few seconds she had a small wolf standing by her feet. It’s fur was a shade of ivory, its eyes a pale blue, and it was completely controlled as an extension of Metanoia. Most importantly, it was soft and fluffy to the touch and had a long floofy tail, something that Metanoia had hoped would give her an edge in public relations.

Not that it mattered now, of course. The wolf rapidly grew in size to the point where Metanoia could seat herself on its back. When she walked out of the alleyway less than a minute later, the wolf was as large as a horse and still growing, incorporating various adaptations underneath its skin as Metanoia directed it to bound toward the staging grounds.

Electrical insulation—might help a bit with the lightning strikes, though Metanoia didn’t hold out much hope for that. Burn resistance—heat-redistributing and heat-absorbing chemicals that circulated underneath the skin of the wolf, along with material that acted as heat sinks that could quickly be ejected. Armor—simply layered bone plates underneath the skin of the wolf, all to prevent damage to critical joints and muscles that would hinder its movement. The wolf didn’t have internal organs, of course, being a slab of muscle controlled by Metanoia, but extra protection would allow her to shunt crucial mass to other areas if needed.

The wolf was approximately the size of an elephant by the time it reached the staging grounds, eleven feet tall at the shoulder and nearly twenty feet long. Though Metanoia had read about elephants being able to grow even larger than this, she found that this size was a good balance between mobility and durability. After all, the square-cube law still applied to her, and having to repair bones and tissue after every sprint wouldn’t be conducive to search and rescue efforts.

She regrouped with Abaddon silently, dismounting briefly to take a communication device and thank the small brown-haired girl that handed it to her. She couldn’t help but gawk at the crowd of capes as she got back onto her wolf, having never seen such a large gathering of parahumans before, and when the Triumvirate appeared she stared at them as well.

For all these capes to have assembled here to fight the Endbringer, to protect her city… A shiver ran down Metanoia’s spine. Whether or not the each cape had come for altruistic reasons, she was still incredibly grateful that they had even shown up at all.

That feeling was further amplified as Legend began speaking. One in three of us will die. It was an incredibly unlikely hope, but perhaps her efforts would help keep the number of deaths below that fraction today. These capes didn’t deserve to die here, these people who willingly threw their lives into a hopeless fight against one of the world’s greatest catastrophes.

She listened carefully as Legend spoke, learning where she would go and the general approach to the fight. At the same time though, she observed the three incredibly powerful members of the Triumvirate, an idea itching at her mind that she frantically tried to puzzle out. She barely felt the tremors, so engrossed in her own—

Flight! That was it, they were all flying, and she was an idiot for nearly forgetting about it. As the tremors rocked the ground again and she directed her wolf to bound over to Inkscape, she began shedding her bone armor, letting the heavier portions scatter to the ground in a trail behind her as she began streamlining her body. Hollowing out her bones, shedding excess musculature…

Behemoth roared and Metanoia flinched, but that didn’t stop her from finishing her changes. A set of ivory wings sprouted from her back, growing to the enormous size required to provide someone of her weight some semblance of flight. They would hopefully allow her to be more effective in search and rescue efforts, as she would be able to provide rapid assistance through flight while allowing for multiple people to be loaded onto her wolf.

As the battle raged on, she followed directions from Inkscape, surveying the rubble from the air as her wolf followed her from below. It pained her to see the horrific injuries that people suffered, and the first scattered remnants of an unfortunate cape who had been skimmed by a lightning bolt made her stomach churn. The nausea was easily resolved with a slight adjustment to her digestive system, but the cape was too far gone to be saved.

And then she saw it from her aerial vantage point—a silver blur that suddenly appeared near Behemoth, leaving a deep scar on the Endbringer. The two entities collided again a moment later, the mass of silver threads somehow fighting the Endbringer on seemingly even grounds. Metanoia forced herself to tear her eyes away, immediately rushing toward the location of the newest injured combatants, but she couldn’t help but feel a tiny spark of hope blossom in her chest.

When Zinerva was a child, the most terrifying sound was her mother calming saying her full name. It was different from her mother’s screaming fits, where she knew the storm would blow over if she just gave her mother space and time, or the insincere apologies and platitudes, which signified a brief reprieve and served as warnings for a future relapse. No, she knew that when her mother spoke calmly, it only meant that the worst had yet to come.

The Endbringer sirens screamed in Zinerva’s ears, her conversation with Claire momentarily forgotten over the surge of terror flooding her veins. This was impossible. Insanity. Lunacy. She’d lived in this city for four years now, coming here for college and to escape from her parents, and it had really begun to feel like home. And it was all over. If—no, when the Endbringer rampaged across this city, she’d lose the life she’d built, her friends, her home…

Zinerva blinked as Claire’s words brought her out of her stupor, her basic conversational skills making her instinctively push her fear and panic beneath the surface.

“I can understand finding it difficult to care about humanity,” Zinerva said quietly, dabbing at her lips to brush away a few stray donut crumbs and disguise the tremor in her hands. “I find it helpful to set my expectations low and be delighted by any who surpass them.”

Her bone armor had long since evaporated, the interior of the store slightly warmer due to the heat and vapor given off by the exothermic reaction of the bone dissolution and resorption. Standing up from her chair, she firmly shook Claire’s proffered hand..

“I’d be delighted to join you for this fight,” she said. Then she smiled. “Though I certainly hope it won’t be our last.”

Joining the Endbringer fight was never a question. She’d stepped up earlier today for the sole purpose of protecting the things she valued in this city, and she wasn’t going to back down from this threat either.

After she finishes her conversation with Claire, she’ll be changing out of her borrowed clothes and giving them back to Claire. Then she’ll start growing her armor, leave a few twenties behind the counter as payment for the donuts she ate, and head straight for the PRT headquarters.

Metanoia nodded as the friendly cape told her what she knew about the villains. She committed the information to memory, though she wasn’t sure what she’d be able to do with the information.

“Thank you, but all I did was allow the other cape to pummel me,” Metanoia said, chuckling. “Nice to meet you, Abbadon.”

Metanoia didn’t even flinch as the angelic cape’s hand fell apart. Instead, she leaned forward slightly to examine the phenomenon closely, it being another demonstration of logic-defying cape powers.

“No need to apologize,” Metanoia said. “It’s quite interesting, actually, and it makes me curious about how your biology works.” She raised her hands. “I don’t mean to pry, of course.”

Metanoia turned to scan the streets again. “So what shall we do now? Or, rather, what do you usually do after fights? I’d like to avoid drawing attention so I can find some privacy to get out of costume, but I unfortunately shredded my clothing in my rush to join the fight…”

Metanoia debated with herself for a moment. Talk to the cape while looking away from her, or risk looking at her and running away in fright? In the end, politeness, manners, and Metanoia’s desire to avoid shunning someone for their appearance won out, and so she steeled herself and attempted to look at the angelic being.

Metanoia immediately twitched, though the thick armor completely hid her reaction. It wasn’t the appearance—it was almost beautiful in a way that made Metanoia want to examine her further—but instead it was the sudden surge of unwarranted terror that took her by surprise. She shoved it down, though, forcing her body to relax with her biokinesis and trying to think happy thoughts. It was just another indication of how strange cape powers were and another reminder of her own vulnerability.

“The fight wasn’t too bad,” Metanoia said lightly, tilting her head and tapping her completely mended chestplate. She was smiling under her helmet, not that the other cape could see her. “But I will accept your gratitude.”

The filigree on Metanoia’s armor grew more intricate as the seconds passed, curling vines and overlapping scales rising from every inch of the surface. “I don’t know who they were,” Metanoia said. “As for myself…”

A sense of giddiness grew in her chest as her lips formed her cape name. She’d thought about it for quite some time now, and had spent even more time forcing herself to think of herself in her cape name while in costume to avoid any slip-ups.

“You can call me Metanoia,” she said happily, the last word resonating oddly in her throat. “I can grow and manipulate bone at close range, and today’s my first day out and about. This isn’t how I planned to start my cape career, but I couldn’t stand by without helping.” She held out a gauntleted hand for the angelic cape to shake. “If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your name?”

As Metanoia paused, confused by the villain’s sudden retreat, the shards of bone hurled by the angelic cape smashed into her. One pinged off of her helmet, nudging her head to the side as the shard of bone continued off into the distance, while the other bounced off of her chestplate, throwing her slightly off balance. It took her a moment to recover, and by the time she did so she found that the villain had already smashed through multiple floors and beat a hasty retreat.

For a moment, she briefly considered following the enemy cape. It could be a trap, though, and perhaps regrouping with the angelic cape and staying on the high ground to keep a lookout for the enemy capes would be a better idea.

Metanoia brought a gauntleted hand up to her chest, idly rubbing at the spot the chunk of bone had hit. The tiny bruise was already gone, of course, but it didn’t hurt to keep up appearances. Raising her head, she deliberately looked to the side of the angelic cape to avoid the master effect as she stuck out one arm and gave the other cape a thumbs up.

“Thank you for your assistance,” Metanoia said, her voice sounding as though two people were harmonizing as one. It was a bit muffled coming through her helmet that fully enclosed her head. “It seems we’ve forced them to retreat.”

As she spoke, she looked around, trying to see if the two enemy capes were visible down on the streets from where Metanoia stood on the rooftop. Meanwhile, she continued generating mass and strengthening her armor, letting the swords on her wrists lengthen and grow into two glaives that she broke off and clipped onto her back.

The brute’s punch pushed Metanoia back, her other arm reaching out for Metanoia’s sword simultaneously. Metanoia had grown slightly faster though, her strength and speed increasing by the second and her broken shield now weighing her down less. Instead of trying to move the sword out of reach, Metanoia moved it just enough so that the brute snapped the blade further away from the base of the sword, leaving behind a few inches of thicker bone.

She whips the other undamaged sword on her right hand toward the villain, then immediately retreats to buy herself time to grow further as she hears the angelic cape begin speaking. As she waits for the brute to make the next move, she simply raises her unbroken sword in acknowledgement of the angelic cape, having already learned her lesson about looking at the porcelain angel. Metanoia instead just focuses on staring at the villain in front of her, ready to dodge or move as needed.

Simultaneously, Metanoia will shift a bit of mass toward regrowing the thinner part of the broken blade while continuing to pack more muscle into her frame and thicken and repair her armor.

Metanoia’s eyes widened as she watched the cape scale the building. In the precious few seconds she had before the cape reached her, she mentally revised her evaluation of the cape and retreated from the edge of the rooftop. Not only was the enemy cape fast and strong, but she was also dextrous and nimble. And...where was she? Metanoia had lost sight of her because she’d retreated from the rooftop to avoid being thrown off, but at the previous cape’s climbing speed she should have been here alre—

Metanoia began backpedaling as fast as possible, but she wasn’t fast enough simply due to the inertia of her few hundreds pounds of armor. The cape struck with a thunderclap of sound, her fist shattering the bone shield effortlessly and slamming into Metanoia’s midsection. The thicker armor underneath held firm, though, and Metanoia immediately shifted her growth toward fixing the slight bruise underneath her armor and fixing the shield.

Then the enemy cape grabbed the ragged bone edge of the shield and pulled. Metanoia found herself thrown forward, her spiked boots having been angled to resist something pushing her and not pulling her. Note to self, consider adjusting spike weave.

A large chunk of the shield on Metanoia’s arm will snap off, leaving the villain holding a large, ragged, flat plate of bone with a few spikes dotting the surface. Metanoia will regain her footing as quickly as possible and immediately sprout two flat, very thin blades about two feet long from her knuckles in less than a second, defensively holding them out in front of herself to keep the enemy cape at a distance. The way that the sword grows will look organic, like tiny white roots growing and branching and splitting at their ends until the mass solidifies into an ivory sheet. She’ll then shift part of her growth toward thickening the base of the swords, so that if the blades snap off she’ll have a thicker base to regrow them from, and use the other part of her growth toward growing more densely-packed fast-twitch muscle and thicker tendons underneath her armor to increase the explosive strength and speed of her movements.

Metanoia flinched as she watched the car slam into the enemy cape, relaxing slightly when she saw that the villain had caught it and hadn’t been splattered over the road. Her arm muscles coiled and bulged under her armor as she threw the bone spear with a simple motion, not putting all of her strength into the toss. A tightness eased in her chest when the spear landed almost exactly where she wanted it to, a near-perfect warning shot that didn’t hurt anyone and hopefully made it clear to the angelic cape that Metanoia was on her side.

Still, that enemy cape—villain—was even stronger than Metanoia had thought she was. Despite the furrow carved into the road, the villain stood up casually, seemingly uninjured, and reached for her gun—

The thin, partially-formed bone armor covering Metanoia’s chest and abdomen only slowed the bullets on impact, a spiderweb of cracks emanating from each bullet hole that penetrated her armor as the bullets lodged themselves inside her. It felt like being punched in the chest repeatedly, pain radiating from where each bullet had stopped. She gasped, stumbling and dropping to a knee, her mind running on autopilot to continue repairing, shaping, and thickening her armor.

She’d torn out her own muscles before, ripped out her eyes, vivisected herself...but she’d never been shot before. Each impact felt like a personal attack, each bullet sent out with the intention to hurt and maim. Weren’t capes supposed to avoid using guns? Wasn’t there something about that in the Unwritten Rules?

Metanoia deadened the nerves around her injuries, flooding the wounds with pain-killing compounds even as the wounds immediately began healing. She left the bullets in, not willing to give away her status as a regenerator, but otherwise redirected crucial organ functions to operate around the obstructions created by the foreign material. Her ruined armor immediately shifted and realigned, the cracks quickly receding like a video playing in reverse even as the armor grew thicker and more intricate by the second. She hadn’t bled much from the bullet wounds, and thus her ivory plate armor was still spotless.

Metanoia watched as the villain who had shot her raced for her building, sprinting far faster than a normal human. There was only one thing she could conclude—or perhaps should have realized far sooner—the villains were obviously disregarding the Unwritten Rules. Metanoia didn’t know if she had it in her to kill someone—she’d never had a real opportunity to do so—and she wasn’t willing to escalate that far, not yet. Still, she was at least drawing the attention of one of the villains, which would give the angelic cape a better fighting chance.

Her armor wasn’t fully grown yet, unfortunately. It was heavy, far heavier than a normal set of plate armor made of metal due to the level of protection she wanted and the simple fact that the strength-to-weight ratio of even compressed bone was still a little worse than tempered steel. She’d need ten or twenty more seconds to reach the optimal thickness of her armor where she could maintain her current form while still being somewhat mobile. Even then, she’d still weigh far less than half a car. Spikes formed at the bottom of her ivory sabatons at that thought, and she stomped down to anchor herself more firmly into the rooftop.

She didn’t start making another bone spear—she didn’t have the time to make a weapon that’d last more than a few hits, she doubted she could swing fast enough in her current form to hit the other cape, and she didn’t want to stab her either, in case the villain’s durability didn’t including penetrating injuries. Instead, she continued increasing the size of her existing shield as the villain began climbing the building, growing small spikes into the front of the shield that wouldn’t penetrate deep enough to severely injure but would hopefully deter the villain’s attacks.

By the time the villain had almost reached the rooftop, the shield was large enough to almost cover her completely if she hunched over, but its thickness was lacking. Metanoia had focused on shunting most of her growth into her other pieces of armor, only putting enough into the shield so that it hopefully would at least be able to take a hit or two before shattering.

As the villain approaches her, Metanoia will attempt to stand her ground, digging her spiked boots into the rooftop and bracing for impact. Her goal is to hopefully shove the other villain back off the rooftop, if possible, and otherwise delay for as long as she can.

Zinerva shifted her head to watch the sunrise through her window, the brilliant orange glow painting the interior of her apartment and playing over her exposed muscles and veins. The high-rise apartment wasn’t exactly cheap, being situated in the heart of the downtown Denver, but the view from the skyscraper was worth it. The windows in the living room stretched from floor to ceiling, giving her a panoramic perspective of the city as she watched its inhabitants begin to fill the streets.

It was beautiful, really. She adjusted her nearly severed head with one tentacle to better take in the view, letting out a happy sigh. Sleep was more of a luxury these days, with the way that her regeneration mitigated the effects of sleep deprivation by clearing out all the metabolic waste and other nasties that would otherwise accumulate in her brain, so she had more opportunities to see sights like these.

But just as the sun could not lounge about the horizon indefinitely, so too was Zinerva compelled to begin with her day.

She removed her probing appendages from her neck, telling the cells that made up her experimental set of vocal cords to undergo cell death and autolysis, and reconstructed her more usual set of vocal cords as the neck wounds began sealing themselves over. Her tentacles split into strands of muscle she rearranged the flesh and sinew into its more usual hand-shaped form and regrew her bones. Flopping off of her couch, she checked to make sure she hadn’t smeared blood all over the cushions before shuffling over to her closet, stifling a yawn and stretching. She didn’t need to do either of those things, of course, but her body still rewarded her with a small rush of endorphins.

There weren’t a lot of clothing options to choose from, not when she was just going outside to grab some food and look around the PRT building. She had a shopping list saved on her phone filled with interesting foods that she hoped to interest her power in, and she had the vague beginnings of a plan to register at the PRT as some kind of independent hero so no one would mistakenly attack her if she showed up to a fight as a parahuman.

In the end she picked out her usual outfit, which was a comfy pair of pajamas suitable for wearing outdoors, sunglasses, and a similarly comfortable pair of leather boots she could jog around in. The baggy outfit was something she wouldn’t wear to anything resembling an important event, but since she had nowhere important to be she didn’t really care what anyone seeing her on the streets might think of her. More importantly, the pajama pants had actual pockets, which meant she could just bring her wallet, keys, and phone along without having to bring a purse.

After tucking some loose strands of silver hair behind an ear and adjusting her sunglasses, she left her apartment and jogged over to the elevator, heading straight for the ground floor. It was a somewhat lengthy trip to the bottom, so she spent the time crafting and evaluating plans for surviving a sudden elevator cable failure that dropped her to the bottom of the shaft. It wasn’t very likely, given the large amount of safeties built into elevators, but perhaps a severe lack of maintenance coupled with catastrophic failure might cause such an event. By the time she got to ground floor, she’d settled on a plan of simply taking the fall and not healing her injuries at first while waiting for emergency responders. She’d “miraculously” survive if rescue came, but if it took too long for them to come to her aid with her survival still being plausible, she supposed she’d just have to crawl out of the wreckage herself and pretend she had never been there at all. But then there’d be security footage to deal with, so maybe she’d pretend she’d triggered in the accident?

She shook her head ruefully as she jogged out of the ground floor lobby, giving the receptionists a friendly wave and a smile as she passed them. Maybe it’d be for the best if she just never got into a situation like that all, as there were far too many problems to deal with in that kind of scenario.

Her first stop was a nearby donut shop where she was methodically working her way through all the flavors, avoiding buying too many at once so she wouldn’t attract attention. Truthfully, her power probably wouldn’t find much benefit in eating the different variations of flour and eggs that donuts were comprised of, but she enjoyed the food and, strictly speaking, taking in more exogenous organic mass was still beneficial for her power development.

Strolling down the street to her next destination—another donut shop—she was interrupted mid-bite by a car skidding and tumbling down her street, the noise of screeching metal grating in her ears as it flew past her. She stared at bisected vehicle, confused, then traced its path back to where it came from. Two parahumans were apparently the cause of the damage, one of them taking apart another car with a punch as she watched.

Dangerous. Zinerva took three perhaps slightly too-fast strides to reach the nearest alleyway, shucking off her boots and sunglasses and leaving them on the ground. An ivory helmet began extruding from her skin, her skin and fat dissolving to allow her bones erupt from her skull before reforming underneath. A similar process began over the rest of her skin as she started climbing the nearby two-story building, slender and intricate armor taking shape as clawed gauntlets helped her dig into the brick exterior of the structure. Her clothes, unfortunately, wouldn’t survive, but luckily she had multiple sets of these pajamas back at her apartment.

Zinerva had never been in a cape fight before, and she had, at one point in time, hoped that she’d never get into one. Nevertheless, she’d resolved a while ago to take a greater responsibility in protecting the things she cherished in the city, and now was perhaps the opportunity to make good on her promise to herself. Two capes blatantly attacking civilians in broad daylight in front of her was something that she didn’t want to walk away from.

But they were dangerous, ridiculously so. One was vaporizing metal with punches, the other casually tossing halves of cars. She didn’t want to close distance with them, not when she had no real chance of winning a melee against either of them at the moment.

By the time she reached the rooftop, thin bone armor was covering her body. It resembled slender plate armor, closely following her figure, and was intricately constructed and filigreed. It was still unfinished and growing thicker by the second, but in the state it was now Metanoia doubted it could even block a small caliber bullet. A shield was forming on her left forearm, but it was still small and very incomplete. Her helmet was the closest to completion, encompassing her entire head and leaving slits for vision, with small flared wing-like shapes adorning the sides. It’d taken her months to design and practice the armor, to make something that would give her a distinct identity she could use or discard as needed, but she couldn’t exactly say she was happy about having to use it.

She dashed to the edge of the rooftop and managed to catch sight of another parahuman confronting the other two, flinching as she saw and heard the gunshot. Then she shuddered as she took in the warped angelic form, nearly falling to her knees at the sudden influx of terror flooding her mind. Ripping her gaze away from the aberration, she took a deep breath and steadied herself, focusing her attention on the two hostile villains just in time to see the angelic cape hurl the remaining half of the car at the other two.

Regardless of the outcome, Metanoia will create a bone spear and hurl it like a javelin toward the general vicinity of where the two hostile capes are after they deal with the car being thrown at them, aiming only to warn and not to hurt. The fragile bone spear will shatter upon impacting a hard surface like the road or the side of a building, though the fragments will only startle and distract and won’t be dangerous enough to injure any bystanders. Metanoia is going to make sure to avoid even getting close to hitting the angelic cape, trying to making it clear that she’s on the angelic cape’s side.
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