Years of living on the streets with inconsistent nutrition left Ashley painfully thin to the point of looking emaciated. This, combined with being taller than average, led to some people thinking she looks boyish. She had long, usually unkempt 'platinum blonde' hair and pale blue eyes. By throwing on some civilian clothes and a hat and keeping her head down, she could almost pass as a boy.
As Damsel of Distress, Ashley usually wore black gowns of varying quality with different combinations of masks and black lipstick, Once she decorated her waist with twists of wire. This, combined with her pallor and gaunt appearance, made her both appealing and intimidating. Using her power commonly causes her eyes to turn white, occluding her pupils and irises but not affecting her sight.
She collected rare fragments of material that survived the application of her power. Ashley used these as elements of her metal mask and pseudo knives.
Following Bonesaw's modifications to her forearms and hands, her arms are twice as long as before, with long drawn out fingers that had mechanisms crammed inside of them and blades at the ends, allowing Damsel to have perfect control of her power, including recoil.
Ashley is considered mentally unbalanced, driven to establish her superiority by her passenger. She is fond of delivering dramatic monologues for the euphoric effect of becoming less pressured by her passenger. She made a point to design her persona after character that would deliver such monologues.
Through a combination of childhood trauma and the early activation of her passenger, she became excessively ambitious, narcissistic, megalomaniac, and paranoid. Her passenger punished her when she did not succeed, perpetuating long strings of near-misses. The reality of a 'camp' villain willing to murder hostages or blame others for her problems, combined with her drawbacks, made her both scary and pitiable.
Her power was somewhat uncontrolled, spiking or going on the fritz when she got stressed or anxious. Coupled with her obsessive personality, this meant that she would get caught in vicious cycles where she became frustrated and anxious at eating or similar activities after destroying one meal, losing sleep or shelter, embarrassing herself in front of others, or similar situations. In stubbornness and pride, she would consequently go long stretches of time without really eating or sleeping. She was fond of situations where she could use hostages or stalk a target through a cluttered area, where she could blast through cover and potentially her victim.
Bonesaw's surgical alterations simultaneously broke her pride and gave her control. This was a cold, ruthless, detached source of obliteration, "deserving and giving no pity".
Ashley creates maelstroms of inconsistent gravity and spacetime warping, chaotically twisting reality in uncontrolled cone-shaped blasts that severely alters anything in its path. The "blasts" can rip, tear, twist, melt, disintegrate, and cause numerous other effects to organic and inorganic matter within a variable range of four to fifteen feet. As such this power is capable of destroying virtually any matter or construction, including the likes of Alexandria, as Ashley's 'shotgun' bursts ignore most forms of durability. These annihilation blasts also create a horrible earsplitting noise, announcing her wherever she goes, and a strange visual element when seen full on.
Additionally Ashley's power also has a forceful kickback that flings her backwards, as the combination of warped space, disintegration and gravity shearing makes for a massive amount of recoil whenever she activates her power. Ashley eventually learned to use this effect to move at high speeds in ten- to fifteen-foot bursts, allowing her to avoid attacks and giving her a Mover rating.
Ashley's power is extremely potent, of the same class as Scrub and close to Flechettes. Yet she never had full control of it, being unable to prevent herself from producing minor flare-ups whenever she became stressed or anxious. Bonesaw's alterations gave Ashley the ability to control her power, along with added range, at the cost of her becoming even more of a monster.
The use of her power was never the same twice but some gestures and movements generally had the same result.
Under lucky circumstances her power is able to produce highly compressed pieces of matter, usually that happens with metal blocks of decent size. Ashley had a habit of keeping those as mementos or power-resistant utilities. Their radioactivity is not specified.
Completely removing her forearms affects her ability to use her power.
Thanks to the safeguards inherent in shards; Ashley is protected against her power. Although it is less permissive about her hair and clothing, than usual. First using her power turned her hair white,, with repeated uses easily removing dyes and similar. It can also be used as an impromptu cleansing.
Ashley triggered at 13, when she tried to save her mother from being beaten to death by her enraged father and was backed into a corner, surrounded by chaos. With her new uncontrolled power, she killed her father and, accidentally while checking on her, her mother. Her trigger event affected her emotionally on a fundamental level, and she fled her former home with whatever she could carry and not accidentally obliterate.
Ashley spent years of her life on the streets trying to make it into the cape scene in a large city like Boston, but she lacked the ability to see those dreams through and failed to do so multiple times.
At the start of Boston Blowback Damsel, age 16, was laying relatively low in the small town of Stafford, New Hampshire, where she was observed, annoyed and taken care by Edict and Licit, the only other parahumans in the town, stationed there specifically for that purpose by Director Armstrong.
Once rumors about Boston situation reached her, she immediately headed there and tried to carve a piece of the underworld for herself.
During the first three weeks of Boston Games Damsel was enjoying her relative successes. However, once Accord plans truly kicked-in in her region, she was left reeling and defeated. In that moment she turned to earlier PRT offer and Director Armstrong made clear his desire to recruit her. Unfortunately, he made a mistake that pushed Damsel into tantrum of paranoid rage. She flees the city, feeling lesser than before.
Eventually Damsel of Distress retreated back into Stafford. She holed up in a warehouse between her periodic trips into other cites. She had her amenities paid for by the PRT, something she paid no attention.
At this point Licit and Edict mostly leave her alone, and do not seek face-to-face interaction.
When they left Brockton Bay, the remaining members of the Slaughterhouse Nine went to recruit her. Despite being reluctant and covertly antagonistic, she was manipulated into joining. As compromise, Nine offered her an opportunity to act-out a festering grudge.
As Ashley correctly suspected, Bonesaw converted her into one of her "toys" by taking out her ability to speak and further weaponizing her arms, while keeping them as inconvenient as before.
With these newly upgraded powers, Damsel was able to easily cut her way through Accord mansion and two of his Ambassadors. In her confrontation with Blasto, Defiant killed his fellow cyborg, blinding the villainess with a swipe of his halberd and then bisecting her using nano-thorns he installed in his own artificial limbs, disintegrating her head and shoulder.
During the several months that Bonesaw spent trying to clone members of the Slaughterhouse Nine, she made several attempts with Damsel, including a version of her that had triggered far too young to be of much use.
Several clones of Damsel were successfully made for the Slaughterhouse Nine-Thousand, incorporating some psychological tweaking to ensure loyalty, and physiological tweaking to ensure toughness.
Seven of these clones died ranting and raving in the best style of their predecessor. Two of the remaining Damsels were forced to surrender.
↑She bent down to pick up her hook and bags, pausing to clench her right hand. She’d broken it after killing the giant four years prior, and it hadn’t healed quite right, despite her best efforts. - Excerpt from Eclipse x.8
↑ 5.05.15.25.3“Three. Nothing notable. Edict and Licit, a low-rated master and a low-rated striker. We also have one villainess who occasionally tries to make it in one of the big cities and then retreats back home when she can’t cut it. Calls herself Damsel of Distress.”
He reconnected his spear as they passed through the door. “I know her. Mover and shaker. Storms of unevenly altered gravity, time and space. Edict and Licit keep her in check?”
“They manage with our help. Why do you ask?”
“The Slaughterhouse Nine are recruiting. Their numbers are down, and they’ll be looking for a quantity of new members more than they’re looking for quality. At least until they’re stable enough that they can afford to be picky. Once they can, they’ll replace the weakest recruits with better ones. I don’t want them to get that far.”
“I understand. But would they want her? Damsel of Distress? Her lack of control over her power holds her back. I won’t say she isn’t a problem, but she’s never been a priority threat to anyone.”
“She’s a heavy hitter. They can give her control, or they can use that lack of control. Let’s not forget that they might be looking at Edict and Licit. I’ll need you to send me their files as well, please.” - Excerpt from Interlude 16.y
↑ 6.06.16.2Damsel of Distress. Triggered at a young age, and is currently a mentally unbalanced supervillain without a proper home or secret identity. Has a short-range blaster power with brutal recoil, which she has learned to use in a limited mover capacity. Suffers from power incontinence that kicks in to produce blasts when using her hands for simple tasks like eating or dressing herself, and the aforementioned mental problems, with megalomania and the compulsion to grind her enemies into the dirt and monologue at them rather than finish them off. Dangerous, scary, but effectively kept down and out by the aforementioned pair and by her being her own worst enemy. Conducts periodic nocturnal raids for food and supplies (with PRT-provided insurance reimbursing more than enough for lost goods), keeps to her own, and only really causes problems when the stars align in a certain way, once every eight to twelve months - she gets restless and talks herself into something, or local hooligans think that being her henchmen is a ticket to money, giving her resources to work with, and she decides to rob a bank or pick a fight. Fighting Edict and Licit is frustrating and humiliating, however, and that really chafes with her overblown sense of pride, so she usually keeps her head down for a long while after trying something. The only other real problem is when she decides to find her way to another city or region, such as going to Boston and trying to make a name for herself. This is largely why the PRT office and the two local capes keep tabs on her - to head her off and to let others know what's going on and how best to handle it.
Given Damsel's lack of life experience, she doesn't think to question why the building she's squatting in has power, water, and cable hooked up to it - one of a dozen small things the local office looks after to keep her comfortable and pacified. The individuals in the local office maintain regular correspondence with other offices (mainly the Boston department) and, given that they think they can turn her to the side of good with time, allowing her to develop some maturity, or catching her in the right mood on the right day, they mostly minimize the danger she poses and approach her now and again to try coaxing her or plant the idea of becoming a hero in her mind. - Another comment by Wildbow on Reddit
↑ 7.07.17.27.18.104.22.168.77.8Damsel [of Distress]'s power warps reality in a chaotic way. Rip, tear, punch through, twist, melt, whatever, everything in a cone-shaped blast, capable of punching through walls. Super high recoil, to the point that she has a minor mover power. She has power incontinence and can't control the minor flare-ups of her power 100%, leading to her destroying utensils and food - due to her twisted mentality and emotions, she generally responds by not eating to avoid the embarrassment of such failures. Her passenger drives her to be ambitious, fighting to be on top, and sabotages her more when she fails to be, perpetuating (along with the malnutrition) the strings of near-misses. She's pretty much driven to do the evil villain monologues, because it's a drug-like relief from the constant pressure the passenger puts on her to establish her superiority. Bonesaw gave her the ability to control the power, at the cost of her becoming even more of a monster. - Comment by Wildbow on Spacebattles
↑ 8.08.1There was a crash, and he nearly jumped out of his skin. He wheeled around.
The woman with the black dress had slammed into the television set. She had holes in her as though she were a piece of Swiss cheese, and more of her had been torn to shreds.
A body fell down the stairs. The man with the lizard mask. Dead, though not so mutilated.
The woman who came down the stairs had an unusual body type accented by her style of dress. She was almost like a boy, she was so thin, and her strapless dress hugged her upper body, but the lower half billowed around her. Her hair was long and white, her eyes wide with irises and pupils small. Her lips had been painted black.
Her arms though… machinery had been crammed into the arms, and they’d been extended to nearly twice the length, the fingers drawn out long. Sparks flew as the woman moved one arm, and she winced.
“Damsel of Distress, with some modifications by yours truly. Damsel for short. Better at controlling her power now.”
↑ 9.09.19.2One of them is a platinum blonde girl with power incontinence. She warps space and she destroys utensils and tools, and it gets worse when she's stressed. She's losing weight because eating is hard, and she has a peculiar stubbornness that has her just skip meals rather than deal with the embarassment[sic] of having a fork explode in her face. Your focus is fixing that power issue, with the secondary goal of working with that peculiar stubbornness - she's ambitious, and your psychiatrist directs her attention there, to long-term goals, to look toward the future rather than struggle with the present. - Comment by Wildbow on Spacebattles
↑ 11.011.1Her mask was a twist of what had been part of an engine block. She’d used her power on it, to erase it from existence, and all her power had done was to kick it around and warp it slightly.
The leftovers were rare to show up, needing a good combination of condensing of already dense material and some time-warping to make them work, but she collected them every time she spotted one. Many were so small she could close her hand around them, and now they littered the bottom of her bag. Two more were like stakes or knives without edges. A third find had been used and twisted around her mask to actually make it fit around her eyes, instead of leaving one eyebrow uncovered. A triple-loop of wire served as a belt, with the two spikes dangling off of Ashley’s left hip. - Excerpt from Eclipse x.2
↑ 12.012.112.2She used her power, aiming at her own body. The shirt, still in her hand, was destroyed in the curls and waves of energy. As her power bucked and kicked, hurling her arm one way and the other, she was jerked into the sink. She didn’t have much padding, so the impact was sharp.She hid the pain, which wasn’t hard, because she she was caught up in the moment. Her power washed over her body, destroying everything that wasn’t her. Sweat, dirt, lint, dust.
It washed over her face and her head, and she thought and saw white.
The hair that fell across her face was no longer dyed. The hair had been preserved, and the dye hadn’t. - Excerpt from Eclipse x.2
↑Depends on the shard. Bonesaw elaborates on the idea by noting 'breadth and depth' in her interlude. If the shard gets you while you're young, it can shape your personality across the board, on a deeper level. The more conflict you're involved in, the more toeholds it gets to rewrite your consciousness and your subconscious. To alter your thinking, it needs to do it as a part of the trigger event, or as part of the brain's development.
In the extreme cases, the shard can leave you with an impulse (Must fight when a fight presents itself), help set up an obsession ("Wall myself in!"), steer a neurosis in one particular direction (specific hallucinations rather than random ones, of you hurting people, pushing someone down the stairs, etc), create a link between A and B (Being around fire makes subject lose empathy and inhibitions. With lower empathy and inhibitions, subject uses power to make more fire.), or steer a personality trait to an extreme (Must be on top, I answer to no one!), or they just overwrite stuff (Can't understand humans, only dogs).
In the lesser cases, it can be a nudge, hard to distinguish from one's own psychology. You might be on the fence about something, trying to make a call, and the passenger pushes you one way over the other, based on your own feelings of doubt or fear. It might tap into emotions, and dampen X emotion while promoting Y, just dampen them across the board, or take the joy out of day to day living while adding excitement to the cape life. A vague sort of depression that only goes away when one's out and fighting. Sometimes, as mentioned before, it's set up as a trap, a flood of emotion or a set of mental switches that get thrown when a prerequisite is met - such as a cape just steering clear of all confrontations, except the shard set it up so they can't, and they have a sort of limit break/command cutting in that mandates them to fight in one way or another. Or it plays off a limit or a berserk button that already exists - Damsel can't spend too long being anything less than top dog or she gets restless, and if she goes too long despite that, then she has to act, she's acting without thinking about it. This takes time and effort for the passenger, and a host that doesn't demand that time and effort (by circumstance or intent) is going to develop a better connection with the power. This in turn is a reward of sorts. If Damsel did kill the local capes and assume control over the area, fighting off all comers, she'd find her facility and control with her power just ramped up like crazy.
It varies from cape to cape and shard to shard, and it varies depending on the host, the host's background and the host's personality.
Beyond that, other influences include the passenger playing fast and loose with the power itself, as it controls the metadata, which may be more visible if the subject breaks from their norm in terms of consciousness (gets a concussion, tranquilized), working off base instincts and impulses like 'stay camouflaged' (be a little more creepy and unsettling), intimidate/dominate (passenger works behind the scenes to make you look a little more dangerous as you mutate/grow/surround yourself in the aura of your power), etc, etc. In more pronounced cases, the power is just plain controlled by the passenger, not the host, and the passenger makes the seemingly random or uncontrolled aspects generate more conflict... pushing a power to kill rather than leave someone alive, or a thinker power turns up a vision of something the subject didn't want to see.
On the macro level, too, don't discount the fact that some shards (particularly powerful ones that warranted attention) are just sent to specific people, with the idea that it's a combination that's going to promote more conflict just by the sheer dynamic of it (Powerful person with a destructive power, a desperate person with a power with negative implications). - Comment by Wildbow on Spacebattles
“A long time ago, when I was still finding my way, I didn’t even have the clothes on my back, not intact ones. I had no friends, no family, and law enforcement was after me. I had nothing. I spent a lot of time thinking about who and what I wanted to be. Characters I liked, clothes I liked, people I’d thought were elegant and imposing. I found this. I built this,” Ashley said.
What had her role models been, for aesthetics? Cartoon movie villains? Evil sorceresses and witches?
“When you had nothing, you found this, and you want to hold onto that,” Sveta said. “I can understand that. I hold onto things that were important to me once.” [...] “I don’t want to hold onto anything,” Ashley said. “I am that. People spend their entire lives trying to find the right image for themselves and I found it when I was Kenzie’s age.” - Excerpt from Shade 4.6
↑ 17.0017.0117.0217.0317.0417.0517.0617.0717.0817.0917.1017.11Damsel of Distress produced uncontrolled blasts of gravity, space and matter alteration, roughly on par with scrub's power in terms of sheer 'whatever you're using, it's not going to stop this' penetrative power (though it would fall short of Foil's power in this sense). However, the blasts were short ranged (six to ten feet) and could easily fail to hit a target that was in range. She could use the recoil of the attacks to move herself, and was fond of situations where she could use hostages or stalk a target through a cluttered area (blasting through cover and potentially her target). Her power was somewhat uncontrolled, spiking or 'fritzing' as she got stressed or anxious, and her obsessive personality meant she would get caught in loops where she might accidentally destroy her meal as she was preparing it, then the resulting frustration and anxiety would pop up every time she ate for the next few days. In stubbornness and pride, she would consequently go a week, easily, without really eating, so the issue wouldn't come up. The same applies to sleep, shelter, company etc. Narcissistic, megalomaniac, paranoid, she's a borderline 'camp' villain, but the sheer destructive potential she could bring to bear, and the reality of a 'camp' villain willing to murder hostages or blame others for her problems, combined with her drawbacks, made both her scary and pitiable. She became something else entirely when Bonesaw's alterations simultaneously broke her pride and gave her control. A cold, ruthless, detached source of obliteration, deserving and giving no pity. - Comment by Wildbow on Reddit
↑ 18.018.118.2Damsel blowing up her food? honestly, not that often, but it's sort of a stress reaction so it'll happen maybe once a month, but then it happens because she's annoyed/worried/embarrassed/remembers from last time, and so it happens again, and this exacerbates the cycle and pride + stubbornness means she just doesn't eat so it breaks the cycle.
Damsel: No. The issue is that her hands radiate a disintegrating space-warping power. Tears living things to pieces, warps/distorts inorganic material. As it stands, it radiates in every direction except directly at herself. And it has shortish range. Gauntlets with the right openings would let her focus it at specific targets. (ie, like bike gloves with only fingers exposed, or fingertips exposed, would serve) Bonesaw's enhancements also extended range by extending her hands, stretching flesh thin over several feet of 'finger'.
It's also worth mentioning she has a weakish mover power, because she can use the recoil of her power when it's totally uncontrolled. Shoving herself around, basically. Her gaunt appearance is partially a result of shaky control over her power. Making eating difficult. Not always on, intermittently active.
As Bonesaw's interlude suggests, she's arrogant, power hungry and somewhat paranoid. If rather less than Damsel the Kid.
↑ 19.019.119.2Damsel of Distress High recoil 'shotgun' bursts of warped space, disintegration and gravity shearing destroy virtually anything, fling her back. Can be used as mover power Independent/Slaughterhouse 9 Mover Shaker - Parahuman List; bolded edit by Wildbow
↑ 20.020.1Damsel of Distress (Deceased) – Once a small time villainess, Damsel had space warping powers, capable of destroying any matter or construction, albeit with a minimum of control. Was either forced or willingly joined the Nine, and was enhanced to gain more control, at the cost of monstrous implants in her forearms and hands. Was slain by Defiant. - Cast (in depth)
↑I heard a noise, and at first I thought it was Chris dismantling the fort. It sounded like someone was tearing the world’s largest sheet of paper, nails on a blackboard, an alien’s scream from a science fiction movie that echoed far more than it should, a sharp explosion, and any number of other things, all overlapping and working against one another. - Excerpt from Glare 3.3
↑One hand still on her face, she pointed at him and blasted before his expression could change.
Darkness, shadow, distorted space and visual static ripped through armor, flesh, and armor again, tearing a hole clean through him. The hole caved in on itself, metal creaking as it bent, blood fountaining out and splashing up on half the people nearby. - Excerpt from Shadow 5.10
↑Her power was unpredictable whenever she used it. Using the blasts was easy when she could push out, the power would rip out, and it would kink and twist through the air, a mix of overlapping effects that worked very well together when it came to destroying whatever they touched. They didn’t, however, work well with her.
There were ways to shape the effect, but that was less easy. Every movement of her fingers threatened to make her power erupt, and over time, she’d learned that many common movements would lead to an eruption of power, unless she was very careful. Using her hands was slow, with any number of movements or variations of pressure threatening to make her power spill out.
There had been a time, sitting in her apartment for days on end, that she had worked to try and figure out the patterns. Before she’d fabricated a costumed identity for herself, she had fancied the idea of being a dark sorceress. Through training, she would have control.
The image had stayed, but the idea… no. She could do the same thing twice, and the power wouldn’t express in the same way.
Still. There were nuances. Open hand, moving while she blasted, the power would splash out. More area, less range. She could press her hands together and blast with both to increase concentration and consistency.
↑The leftovers were rare to show up, needing a good combination of condensing of already dense material and some time-warping to make them work, but she collected them every time she spotted one. Many were so small she could close her hand around them, and now they littered the bottom of her bag. Two more were like stakes or knives without edges. A third find had been used and twisted around her mask to actually make it fit around her eyes, instead of leaving one eyebrow uncovered. A triple-loop of wire served as a belt, with the two spikes dangling off of Ashley’s left hip. - Excerpt from Eclipse x.2
↑ 29.029.1BACKGROUND After triggering and killing her father, Ashley rushed to her mother's side, only to inadvertently kill the woman with her uncontrolled power. There were no screams or tears. Only a quiet horror that settled so deep inside that it affected her on a fundamental level. Ashley took what belongings she could pack without accidentally destroying them, then fled home. She spent some time going from the streets of her hometown to major cities nearby, attempting to break into the cape scene as gang leader or mercenary, only to fail and get forced out. She has big dreams of running a city and ascending to greatness, but not the ability to see those dreams through. - Damsel of Distress Character Sheet BACKGROUND
↑They would be frustrated, realizing that for all their vast resources, they had been trumped by a sixteen year old girl. - Excerpt from Eclipse x.2
↑At least once a week, every week for the two years we’ve been keeping an eye on you - Excerpt from Eclipse x.6
↑The man reached the bottom of the stairs, turned his head to survey the scene. He wore a visor that combined the movable visor of a knight’s helm with a high-tech equivalent, and the points where they met his helmet were shaped like a lizard’s frill or a dragon’s wing. He held out a rod in one hand, and it unfolded into a spear of ridiculous length.
The lizard theme… if the machines Rey had seen fighting the Slaughterhouse Nine were Dragon’s, was this one of her assistants? Someone working under her?
Damsel wheeled around, extended one hand, but the man in armor was quick to step around a pillar for cover. Damsel’s power ripped into the pillar, warping and tearing space in a chaotic storm.
The man in armor ducked and rolled to reach the next piece of cover, one of the stainless steel desks. He arrested his momentum with one outstretched arm, then kicked the desk with both feet. It slammed into Damsel.
He hopped onto his feet in a single movement, slashing with the spear’s point. The tip struck Damsel across the eyes, blinding her. He reversed the spear and swung it, and the spear-butt caught her in the side of the head. She was knocked down onto all fours before she could direct her power at him again.
The man dug the spear’s point into the ground to help propel himself towards her. His leg flared with a gray blur as he reached her, and be brought it down onto her back from above.
It sheared through her as though she weren’t even there, cutting her in half. He kicked out to obliterate her head and one of her shoulders in a single movement, disabled the gray blur, and set his foot down with a thud that rang through the underground laboratory. - Excerpt from Interlude 19.x
↑She’d been shot in the ribcage, along to the side, and one of her arms had been clipped. Flesh was burned and raw, ribs in one spot exposed and blackened.
“Small graces,” she said. “Bonesaw built me durable.”
“More durable than a human?”
“Reinforcements here and there,” she said. She winced at the pain. “She removed most of it because it wasn’t meant to last.” - Excerpt from Dying 15.5
↑“I thought I’d go out screaming and ranting, sick and hating myself for it. I did… every other time except the first…” - Excerpt from Interlude 15.z II
↑I found members of Bonesaw’s Slaughterhouse Nine. Clones who’d fled, or who’d been left behind, lurking in dark corners, or simply hiding. A Mannequin, two Damsels that were keeping each other company, a Night Hag-Nyx hybrid, and a Crawler-Breed hybrid. - Excerpt from Speck 30.4
↑I should note that Damsel is my favorite Worm character that I didn't do enough with. In working on the Worm video game and other Worm projects, I keep going back to her as my example/test character. - Comment from Wildbow