Extermination 8.2

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

There was a quiet murmur through the room at Legend’s words.  One in four dead.  And that didn’t mean the rest of us would get away unscathed.

“I’m telling you your chances now because you deserve to know, and we so rarely get the chance to inform those individuals brave enough to step up and fight these monsters.  The primary message I want to convey, even more than briefing you on the particulars of his abilities, organizing formations and battle plans, is that I do not want you to underestimate Leviathan.  I have seen too many good heroes,” he paused for a fraction of a second, “And villains, too, die because they let their guard down.”

Legend paused, glanced out the window.  The storm clouds had reached the beach, and torrential rain stirred the water into a froth.  Not just rain, but buckets of water.

“We think of Leviathan as the middle child; he was the second of the three to arrive.    He is not the physical powerhouse Behemoth is, nor the cunning manipulator that the Simurgh so often proves to be.  That said, I would advise you to think of him as having many of the strengths of both siblings at once.  You’ve seen the videos on television and the internet.  You know what he is physically capable of.  I want to be clear that despite the image he might convey, he is not stupid, and he can display a level of cunning and tactics that can and will catch you off guard.

“I will tell you what you may not know from the videos.  He feels pain, he does bleed, but few attacks seem to penetrate deep enough past the surface to seriously harm him.  He is like the other two Endbringers in this respect.

“What sets him apart is his focus on water.  You’re likely aware of his afterimage, his water echo.  This is no mere splash of water.  At the speeds Leviathan can move, surface tension and compressibility make water harder than concrete.  He also has a crude hydrokinesis, the ability to manipulate water, and there will be water on the battlefield.  We believe that this is what lets him move as fast as he does when he is swimming.  Faster than he is normally, far faster than any speedster we have on record.”

He went on, “Were it just that, this fight might still warrant a show of force like what we’ve gathered here.  But things are more serious than that, which brings me to our primary concern.  As much as Dragon and Armsmaster’s advance warning might give us the opportunity to make this a good day, other issues threaten to make it just the opposite.

“I spoke of Leviathan as a hydrokinetic.  I can’t state this enough – Leviathan is primarily a hydrokinetic on a macro scale.  There is no better illustration than the days where Leviathan won.

“Newfoundland,” he spoke.

I knew exactly what he was speaking of, and mouthed the date as he spoke it, “May ninth, 2005.  Nearly half a million dead.  The Canadian island simply gone, after the shelf of land holding it up cracked in the face of what we now understand were incredible pressures beneath the water level.

“Kyushu, the night of November second and the morning of the third, 1999.  His sixth appearance.  Nine and a half million killed when the region was swamped with tidal waves from every direction while Leviathan disrupted prearranged evacuation attempts.  Nearly three million evacuees rendered homeless, a nation sundered.

“These were errors, grave mistakes from defending heroes.  We had but one strategy at the time – to hem him in, minimizing the effects of growing waves and casualties until Leviathan was beaten into a retreat or Scion arrived.  These areas, however, were too vulnerable.  Waiting let Leviathan build up the strength of his attacks, and we lost.”

He paused.  “We have since classified the locations the Endbringers target as either hard targets or soft targets.  The hard battlefields are where we stand our ground, buy time, wear him down.  The soft ones are locations where we cannot afford to do this.”

The television screen showed a cross section of Brockton Bay as seen from ground level.  The West end of the city was bordered by hills, and the terrain sloped gradually from the base of the mountain down to the water.  Directly below the image of the buildings that marked the city’s location, there was a large cavern, bordered by rock on all sides except the part nearest the beach, which was sand.  It was marked blue – filled with water.

“Brockton Bay, this location, is a soft target.  The city was originally founded at this location because of the proximity to the coastline for trade routes and an aquifier that provided the first settlers with access to fresh water.  This aquifier, essentially an underground lake beneath the city, is our weak point.  From the moment Leviathan shows himself, we expect Leviathan will stir and manipulate this underground reservoir to erode the surrounding sand, silt and rock.  Add the tidal waves from above, with the resulting tremors and impacts…”

I doubted anyone failed to understand what would follow.  A section of the city, perhaps most of the city, could collapse into the aquifier.

He paused, “We have to end this fast.  Each wave he brings on top of us is stronger than the last.  This means we have two priorities.  First, we cannot let him out of our sight.  From the moment the battle is initiated, we hem him in, sustain an offensive onslaught.  If we let him slip past our defensive lines, precious time will be wasted chasing him, getting him in another situation where we can contain his movements.

“Our second priority is that we need to find ways to hurt him.  If you cannot, if your attacks are deflected or prove otherwise useless, work to support those who can.  It is vain to hope to kill him, but he can be whittled down enough that he will flee back to the ocean, and if we hurt him enough, it may delay the time before he is capable of making another attack elsewhere.”

Legend frowned.  The windows were rattling with the force of the rain against them.  It was almost impossible to see through them with the water that streamed down, and the overall gloom beyond.

This is what the Endbringers are.  As of yet, we’ve been unable to stop them, unable to get through even one confrontation without grievous losses, be it civilian casualties, the loss of a city, or the loss of the lives of some of the bravest and strongest of us.  And they will keep coming, one after another, winning these small victories, and winning some major ones.

“You are doing a good thing.  The greatest thing.  This is why we are tolerated, why society allows and accounts for the capes that walk the streets and fight in its towns.  Because we are needed for situations like this.  With your assistance, we can forestall the inevitable.  Your efforts and, if you choose to make them, your sacrifices, will be remembered.”

He looked to Armsmaster.

Armsmaster spoke, authoritative, less impassioned, but confident, “The Wards are handing out armbands of Dragon’s design.  These are adjustable to slide over your arm and should be tightened around your wrist.  The screen on the top of the armband notes your position on a grid, as well as Leviathan’s last updated location.  Use this.  You’ll also note there are two buttons.  The button to the left lets you send messages to everyone else wearing an armband.  It will not, unless you are a member of the Protectorate or otherwise a veteran of these fights, directly communicate what you say to everyone else wearing an armband.  Dragon has a program screening messages and passing them on through the network based on priority, to cut down on unnecessary chatter that could distract from crucial information.  If you must bypass this three to five second delay, speak the words ‘Hard Override’ before conveying your message.  Abuse of this feature will lose you the ability to send any further messages.”

“The second button is a ping.  Use it in the case of an emergency, to alert others if you are in danger or hurt.  If it is not an emergency, but you want assistance, such as a flier to get you to another vantage point or you see an opportunity to turn the tables, press both buttons, tell the armband what you want.  Dragon’s program will prioritize your needs, with assistance being directed your way if others are not occupied with more pressing matters.  The armband tracks your condition and will automatically send a ping if you are badly injured or unconscious.”

Legend called out, “Capes!  If you have faced an Endbringer before, stand!”

I watched as the rest of the Protectorate, about a third of the out-of-town Wards, Bambina, half of a commercially sponsored cape team and the Travelers stood.  I couldn’t help but notice Armsmaster lean over toward Miss Militia, whisper something in her ear, and point at the Travelers.  Miss Militia shook her head.

“When in doubt, follow the orders of the Protectorate first!  We have trained, organized and planned for this!  The others who are standing, now, are the ones you listen to if we aren’t contradicting their order!  They have been through situations much like this, you go with their instincts!

“We are splitting you into groups based on your abilities!  If you are confident you can take a hit from Leviathan and get up afterwards, or if you have the ability to produce expendable combatants, we need you on the front line!  You will be directed by Alexandria and Dragon!”

As a share of the crowd moved toward one corner of the room, Armsmaster stepped down from the podium to approach Tattletale, Grue and Regent, “Where’s Hellhound?”

“At least call her by her real name,” Tattletale glared up at him, “She’s not here.  You knocked her dogs around enough to know they aren’t that tough, and that means you’re implying they’re expendable.  Be glad she wasn’t around to hear that and figure that out.”

Armsmaster opened his mouth to respond, but broke off when Legend called out his name.

“Armsmaster and Chevalier will be leading the hand to hand combatants who do not fit in Alexandria’s group!  Anyone who thinks they can harm or hamper Leviathan in close quarters, you’ll be assisting and reinforcing the front line!”

Armsmaster strode away from the Undersiders, and I saw Assault, Battery, Brandish, Night and Fog move to join that group, among others.  Smaller than the first group, but I suppose it took a certain amount of bravery to be willing to get close to an Endbringer when you weren’t invincible or close to it.

The boy with the metal skin began to pass through my row.  He handed me an armband from a bag, and I slid it over my hand and cinched it in place.  A flat, square screen showed a satellite view of the building we were in, and the surrounding parking lot and beach.  A display read: ‘State name’.

I pressed the communicator button and spoke, “Skitter.”

My name appeared on the display, with a yes and no display in the corners over the respective buttons.  I confirmed it.

Legend was still organizing the groups.  “-forcefields, telekinesis, whatever your power, if you can interrupt Leviathan’s movements or help reduce the impacts of the waves, you’re the backup defense!  Bastion will direct you!”

I was also all too aware that the size of the group that was still sitting was dwindling, and I had no place to go.

“Movers!  We need fliers, teleporters, runners!  You’ll be responding to pings!  Rescue the fallen, get them to emergency care, assist any others where needed!  Myrddin will give you your orders!

“Long ranged attackers, with me!  If you fall in more than one category, go with the group where you think you’ll be the greatest assistance!”

Did I count as a long ranged attacker?  No, my power wouldn’t hurt Leviathan.  I turned to look at those of us who were still seated.  I recognized Grue, Tattletale, Regent, Othala, Victor, Panacea and Kaiser.  There were a half dozen more who I’d never seen before.  People from out of town.

“The rest of you-” Legend was interrupted by shouts.  Bastion bellowed, pointed, and the people in his team moved.

Layers of forcefields went up around the far wall in front of and behind the front windows, and they weren’t enough to take the hit.  The building rocked with an impact, the forcefields to the left collapsed, and the water began to rush in, carrying chunks of brick, glass and the metal windowframes into the lobby.

One of the television screens toppled in the onrushing flood.  The other two showed a flickering series of images, a half second of each.  The coast of Brockton Bay being struck with a wave.  The ferry, the harbor down at the south end of town, the boardwalk, all smashed by the initial wave.  I saw a glimpse of a tall figure in the middle of one shot, little more than a blur behind the spray of water and the rain.

There was a loud groan, and the ceiling at one corner of the room began to descend swiftly toward the ground.  Narwhal flicked two fingers up in that direction, and shored the ceiling with some forcefields, but I saw other portions of the ceiling begin to sag, gallons of water pouring through the gaps in the ceiling tile.

“Strider!” Legend bellowed, over the noise and chaos, “Get us out of here!”

A voice sounding from the armband, female, synthesized, except I couldn’t make it out over the noise.

The air was sucked out of my lungs, and there was a noise like thunder.  My entire body was rattled down to the core, and I thought I might have been struck by lightning.  I was outside, I realized, on my hands and knees in what I first took to be the middle of a shallow river.  The rain that pounded down on us was more like a waterfall than any rainstorm I’d been in.  The taste of the salty ocean water filled my nose and mouth.  My soaked mask clung to my lower face, forcing me to hang my head to keep my breaths from pulling more water into my mouth.  A few coughs and heavy exhalations cleared the worst of it away.

We’d arrived in the middle of a road, one I’d crossed several times when going to the loft or leaving it.  It was still dark out – either the sun either hadn’t started to rise yet, or the storm was enough to obscure it.  The ‘river’ that I was kneeling in was the ebb of water from the first tidal wave, receding downhill toward the beach and the ocean.  It brought waves of trash, litter, broken windows, wooden boards and dead plants with it.

I looked around, saw the other heroes and villains composing themselves, climbing to their feet in the knee deep rush of water.  A few fliers were conveying our ranged combatants up to the rooftops.

At the end of the road, downhill, was the Boardwalk, or what was left of it.  From what I could see through the downpour, the wooden pathways and docks had been shattered by the initial wave, to the point that many were standing nearly straight up, or were buckled into fractured arches.  Water frothed and sprayed as it rushed back against the ragged barrier that had been Brockton Bay’s high end shopping district.

He was there, too.  I could see his silhouette through the rain and the spraying water that was the tidal wave’s aftermath, much as I had on the television set.  Thirty feet tall, the majority of him was was muscled but not bulky.  His hunched shoulders, neck and upper torso were the exception, bearing cords of muscles that stood out like steel cables.  It gave him a top-heavy appearance, almost like an inverted teardrop with limbs and a tail.

His proportions were wrong – his calves and forearms seemed too long for his height, his clawed fingers and digitigrade feet doubly so.  He moved with a languid sort of grace as he advanced through the spraying water.  His arms moved like pendulums, claws sweeping against the water’s surface, while his upper body swayed left and right, as if to give counterbalance to his great height.  His tail, forty or fifty feet long and whiplike, lashed behind and around him in time with his steps, perhaps borne of the same need for balance that gave him his teetering gait.

Gallons of water poured around him in the wake of his movements, roughly the same amount of mass as the body part that had just occupied the space.  This ‘afterimage’ streamed down him and splashed violently against the water he waded through.

As he got closer to the heroes and villains that were organizing into lines, shouting something I somehow couldn’t hear over the buzz of fear and adrenaline, I could almost make out his face.  It was something you never really saw in the videos or pictures.  He had no nose or mouth, no ears.  His face was a flat, rigid expanse of the same scaly skin that covered the rest of him, like the scales of a crocodile’s back.  The hard, featureless plain of Leviathan’s ‘face’ was broken up only by four cracks or tears – one on the right side of his face, three on the left.  In each of those dark gaps, the green orbs of his eyes glowed with a light that pierced through the rain.  His head moved faster than the rest of him, twitching from one angle to the next like someone’s eyeball might flicker left, right, up and down, taking us all in, uncannily out of time with the rest of his body.

“Get ready!” Legend howled the words.

It was hard to say whether Leviathan heard the command or if Legend had spotted some tell, but Leviathan dropped to all fours at the same time Legend gave the command. With Legend’s cry still ringing in the air, Leviathan moved.

He was fast.

Fast enough that his clawed hands and feet didn’t touch the road beneath the water – after the initial push, his forward momentum was enough to let him run on the water’s surface.

Fast enough that before I could finish drawing in a breath, to scream or shout something or gasp in horror, he was already in the middle of us, blood and water spraying where he collided with the lines of assembled capes, and the armbands were beginning to announce the hopelessly injured and deceased.  Carapacitator down, CD-5.  Krieg down, CD-5.  WCM deceased, CD-5.  Iron Falcon down, CD-5.  Saurian down, CD-5…

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

48 thoughts on “Extermination 8.2

  1. Well this is an excellent explanation for why supervillains are tolerated. Though it does make me wonder why certain supervillains aren’t being periodically paroled out of the birdcage in return for X combats against the endbringers. Or why the massive super populations that were mentioned in Africa aren’t being recruited much more effectively.

    • For the former: Probably because getting prisoners out of the Birdcage is too tough to be worth it, and because the Birdcage is largely capes you wouldn’t want to trust your back to.

      For the latter: My money is on a combination of infrastructure and willingness. The number of African capes willing to fight and able to make a difference is not worth the teleporters or whatever it would take to get those capes on-location instead of more (probably better-funded and -trained) First World teams. Remember: Their forewarning of Leviathan was measured in hours, if that. Teleportation or maybe a strong, flying speedster are the only ways you could get a cape from Africa to Brockton Bay.

      • > Teleportation or maybe a strong, flying speedster are the only ways you could get a cape from Africa to Brockton Bay.

        I think that’s a little pessimistic. Given the listed casaulties, extraordinary measures would be licensed. For example, you could place an ICBM or two in the heart of every major metropolis; when the Endbringer alert is sounded, every cape rushes to their local ICBM, and is fired at the relevant locale. Since ICBMs have flightimes of something like <20 minutes between any two points on the globe, that would do the trick. (ICBMs are expensive? Sure. How expensive is losing entire countries?)

        • You know why people put nuclear warheads in ICBMs? Because they’re a lot more resistant to splatting on impact with the Earth than humans are. So we’re talking only high-level Brutes for these ICBMs (and with the exception of Alexandria, Siberian, and Eidolon on a Brute day, no Brutes seen are able to do much to an Endbringer). And a new ICBM every three months.
          Not helping is that parts of Africa are a perfect place for a cape who wants to become a warlord (or at least the closest thing to such you’re likely to find on Earth), which reduces the likelihood of cooperation (which is fairly low to begin with).

          • > You know why people put nuclear warheads in ICBMs? Because they’re a lot more resistant to splatting on impact with the Earth than humans are.

            Come on, you’re not even trying. That is a solved problem. How do you think normal people get back from space…? If ICBMs can lob a few thousand kilograms, that’s enough for a re-entry capsule. With, like, parachutes.

            > And a new ICBM every three months.

            The USA alone built 67,000+ ICBMs during the Cold War: http://www.brookings.edu/about/projects/archive/nucweapons/50 Again, not as hard as you think it is. It may be expensive, but as I asked already, how expensive is losing cities or countries?

            > Not helping is that parts of Africa are a perfect place for a cape who wants to become a warlord

            They weren’t getting cooperation from Africa, so I’m not sure how this is at all relevant.

            • Re-entry capsules are a bit heavier than warheads, and astronauts are hardly in ideal fighting condition when they get out. Oh, and it’s harder to get out of such a capsule than it is to get out of a car or something, giving several minutes of sitting-duck time. Oh, and descending by parachute is obviously slower than a normal ICBM’s descent profile; that adds still more time. We’re getting to the point that such distant capes are being flown in at great expense to help in the tail end of the fight (if they don’t get killed first).
              I’ll grant that I hadn’t thought of that, though. That’s really the main reason I hadn’t accounted for it in my initial argument.

              The Cold War was a crazy time; don’t expect that we can match that kind of production when there’s so much else to spend money on. Anyways, given the greater mass of the proposed capsule than a mere warhead, we’re talking something more in line with Mercury capsules (and that those tens of thousands of ICBMs–a figure which isn’t in line with my own research, since it’s almost ten times the number of nukes we built–would be completely useless). Even assuming that 99% of the cost of each launch was in things like R&D and the extra fuel needed to orbit, the 1.73 billion dollars over half a dozen manned launches (times 0.01 for the 1% figure) means the price is on the order of three million USD per cape per Endbringer. Given that very few of those capes are going to be anywhere near good enough to hinder an Endbringer, and that they’d only be showing up for the tail end of the fight anyways, I don’t think the benefits outweigh the costs.
              (Remember: Even the presence of giants like Alexandria and Eidolon only delays or dampens the inevitable. It’s not like bringing in one of these African capes per Endbringer fight is the difference between losing a city each time and a total victory.)

              • > Re-entry capsules are a bit heavier than warheads,

                Capacity is the issue, not warheads. A warhead weighs a lot less, sure, but quite a few might be carried. And perhaps you’d be surprised: a single human-rated re-entry capsule is completely doable. The re-entry for Soyuz weighs ~3000kg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soyuz_%28spacecraft%29#Technical_data – well within the capacity of several ICBM models; for example, the SS-18 throws up to 3x that, and the LGM-118 would handle 3k+passengers fine.

                > and astronauts are hardly in ideal fighting condition when they get out.

                Astronauts are suffering from a lot of other issues. A 20 minute ride in an ICBM is hardly going to leach the calcium out of one’s skeleton or weaken muscles, like extended stays in micro-g does.

                > it’s harder to get out of such a capsule than it is to get out of a car or something, giving several minutes of sitting-duck time.

                I don’t think it’s *that* hard to get out of a Soyuz capsule.

                > and descending by parachute is obviously slower than a normal ICBM’s descent profile; that adds still more time.

                It doesn’t add that much time (ever go skydiving?). And the 20m figure was mostly an upper bound anyway.

                > and that those tens of thousands of ICBMs–a figure which isn’t in line with my own research, since it’s almost ten times the number of nukes we built–would be completely useless

                The Brookings Institute estimates (in _Atomic Audit_ among other places) that the USA built at least 70k warheads (http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/costs-us-nuclear-weapons/), and remember that rockets don’t necessarily have a very long lifespan because of obsolescence and the nasty chemical involved. (Double-checking the original link, I’m not sure the ‘missiles’ refers to ICBMs, now, it might be including variants like cruise missiles, but the lower bound on manufactured ICBMs seems to be at least a few thousand http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nudb/datab3.asp )

                > Even assuming that 99% of the cost of each launch was in things like R&D and the extra fuel needed to orbit, the 1.73 billion dollars over half a dozen manned launches (times 0.01 for the 1% figure) means the price is on the order of three million USD per cape per Endbringer. Given that very few of those capes are going to be anywhere near good enough to hinder an Endbringer, and that they’d only be showing up for the tail end of the fight anyways, I don’t think the benefits outweigh the costs.

                $3m a cape is a bargain!

                A *single* building in ordinary cities is easily worth $3m, so the question is, on the margin, does a single cape buy enough time to justify such an investment? Given that only a few hundred at most show up to delay the Endbringer, that implies each is helping out a fair amount in the delay of half an hour or so until Scion shows up. Or let’s put it this way: “In 2006 the total value of Manhattan property was $802.4 billion” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_New_York_City if it takes an Endbringer an hour to destroy Manhattan and render it worthless, then each minute on average it is destroying $27b of property or each second $0.45b / $450m; so if a cape can distract the Endbringer for just 1 second (say, by dying) and it cost $3m to transport the cape to their death, then society realizes a 150x return on investment. Nice. And that’s not even counting the value of civilian lives (the EPA and FDA tend to use figures around $5m, IIRC, for a life) or the economic losses from disruption of activity (major, probably much larger than the property-value).

                > It’s not like bringing in one of these African capes per Endbringer fight is the difference between losing a city each time and a total victory.

                They make a difference on the margin, as always.

              • I learned something new about ICBMs!

                I’m aware that astronauts face additional issues. They still face some issues that the capes would, like having just spent a quarter of an hour (well, more for the astronaut) in a tiny, cramped room. When you’re sitting in an automobile for a while, you probably aren’t in ideal fighting shape until you’ve had a chance to get out and stretch a bit (though I’ll admit I’ve never tested my ability to fight right afterwards); in a room where you can’t even move your limbs, it would doubtless be worse, especially given that parachutes only manage to be less of a jolt than hitting the ground, rather than being a perfectly smooth ride.

                I highly doubt it’s that easy, given that it’s supposed to survive everything from re-entry and vaccum (both of which this hypothetical ICBM capsule would have to deal with, albeit more briefly and mildly than an actual spacecraft) to hitting the ground. And again, the capsule is rather tight. Again, no personal experience, but I’m willing to bet money that such a capsule would be trickier to get out of than a car.

                Citations are nice. Of course, that number is a bit less relevant since not all of them are LGM-118’s.

                It’s not fair to assume that each cape delays the Endbringer even half a minute. First off, let’s ponder for a second how (say) Skitter, Aegis, Tattletale, Kid Win, and other such capes would hinder Leviathan. Guvf vf, bs pbhefr, abg n enaqbz rknzcyr; jura Yrivnguna nggnpxrq, Gnggyrgnyr jnf gnxra bhg bs pbzzvffvba jvgubhg Yrivnguna rira univat gb gel (jryy, gb gel gb gnxr ure fcrpvsvpnyyl bhg); Frtvf tbg fdhvfurq; Fxvggre znantrq gb or onvg; naq Xvq Jva…V qba’g erzrzore uvz qbvat zhpu. With capes like these, the best they can hope to do is bait Leviathan away from something important, and how many capes do you think are willing to do that?
                Second, let’s consider the assumptions you made. You assume, first off, that the Endbringers are stopped from destroying things during the time it takes Scion to get there. Hahaha, no. Second, you assume that each cape contributes equally to stopping the Endbringer, which I imagine Vista and Eidolon would rather strongly disagree with. If not that, you must assume that a typical cape contributes close to the mean value for Endbringer-slowing, which is also obviously untrue–mean is a terrible measure of central tendency when the outliers (like Eidolon and Alexandria) are so significant. You also assume that Endbringers can’t multi-task. Simurgh has multitasking telekinesis and that scream; Leviathan has large-scale hydrokinesis, which it’s so infamous for; Behemoth has his radiation (which it admittedly doesn’t seem to use full-bore all the time, but don’t forget the kill radius which basically stops 90% of capes from doing a thing to it). You also assume that property damage is done at a constant rate, which is a questionable assumption at best, and that everything is a direct result of an action they do (untrue for Simurgh, for whom the greatest danger is the psychic/precognitive fallout whachamacallit; untrue for Leviathan, who can multitask brilliantly with body, echo, and waves; and untrue for Behemoth, who starts fires and whatnot which likely do as much or more property damage than the beast itself).
                But let’s return to the question of how the hell these capes are going to make a difference. Against Simurgh, you’re just giving more venues for future fiddling (and incidentally not doing much to stop the telekinetic disasters). Against Leviathan, you’re not going to stop the waves, and you’ll be lucky if you can draw his full attention for that one second. Against Behemoth, you can’t do anything, and if you can, it can take out you AND several other capes with a lightning bolt, so the opportunity cost is nil.

                Does it make a difference on the margin? And is it worth tens of millions of dollars minimum, plus dozens of additional casualties?

              • > They still face some issues that the capes would, like having just spent a quarter of an hour (well, more for the astronaut) in a tiny, cramped room. When you’re sitting in an automobile for a while, you probably aren’t in ideal fighting shape until you’ve had a chance to get out and stretch a bit (though I’ll admit I’ve never tested my ability to fight right afterwards)

                I can’t say I’ve ever taken a short 15 minute drive and got out and thought that I needed to stretch and exercise for a while. 1-hour or 8-hour drives, yes, 15 minutes? No.

                > Again, no personal experience, but I’m willing to bet money that such a capsule would be trickier to get out of than a car.

                Soyuz capsules are designed to be foolproof and easy to use; that includes the getting out part, since it’s no good for your cosmonauts to return and then drown or something because they couldn’t get out.

                > It’s not fair to assume that each cape delays the Endbringer even half a minute.

                Good thing my example shows that the economics works out even if the contribution is a single second, then…

                > First off, let’s ponder for a second how (say) Skitter, Aegis, Tattletale, Kid Win, and other such capes would hinder Leviathan.

                Info/coordination for #1, #3; guns and mobility for #4; I forget what Aegis did.

                > With capes like these, the best they can hope to do is bait Leviathan away from something important, and how many capes do you think are willing to do that?

                You’ve read through the entirety of _Worm_ and that’s *all* you can think of for them to do? Kwatz!

                > Second, let’s consider the assumptions you made. You assume, first off, that the Endbringers are stopped from destroying things during the time it takes Scion to get there. Hahaha, no.

                Time spent killing capes is time not spent pursuing the objective (oh wait, I didn’t include the objective did I in my economics analysis? better increase the value of delaying the Endbringer by a few factors, then…) or most efficiently destroying buildings/infrastructure.

                > Second, you assume that each cape contributes equally to stopping the Endbringer, which I imagine Vista and Eidolon would rather strongly disagree with.

                I didn’t assume that, and they don’t have to contribute equally. They just need to contribute above the threshold set by cost-benefit analysis.

                > You also assume that Endbringers can’t multi-task. Simurgh has multitasking telekinesis and that scream; Leviathan has large-scale hydrokinesis, which it’s so infamous for; Behemoth has his radiation (which it admittedly doesn’t seem to use full-bore all the time, but don’t forget the kill radius which basically stops 90% of capes from doing a thing to it).

                Time spent dealing with capes is time spent not on the optimal path. The same way one impedes the Simurgh: of course it can still find ways around your obstacles, but you still have forced it off its optimal strategy and reduced its gains. Dealing with capes is not free, even for Endbringers.

                > You also assume that property damage is done at a constant rate, which is a questionable assumption at best, and that everything is a direct result of an action they do (untrue for Simurgh, for whom the greatest danger is the psychic/precognitive fallout whachamacallit; untrue for Leviathan, who can multitask brilliantly with body, echo, and waves; and untrue for Behemoth, who starts fires and whatnot which likely do as much or more property damage than the beast itself).

                The average here works fine since one doesn’t know the distribution of damage over time for a particular attack. In expectation, the damage prevented by a hero by distracting an Endbringer is the time wasted times total damage over time divided by time.

                > Against Simurgh, you’re just giving more venues for future fiddling (and incidentally not doing much to stop the telekinetic disasters).

                If that were true, then the best Simurgh tactics would be to simply not bother to fight it and wait for Scion to show up. After all, every hero that shows up gives it more venue for future fiddling…

                > Against Leviathan, you’re not going to stop the waves, and you’ll be lucky if you can draw his full attention for that one second.

                Skitter did just fine in drawing his full attention for more than a few seconds.

                > Does it make a difference on the margin? And is it worth tens of millions of dollars minimum, plus dozens of additional casualties?

                Yes. None of your arguments seem to remotely take into account the average effects, the extraordinary economic value of delay, and the low costs of ICBM transport. Disruption and destruction are *expensive*.

              • Cars also have more internal space than capsules. It was an analogy.

                Funny, I remember that a Soyuz capsule almost had the astronauts drown the one time one landed in the water. (They were designed to land in Siberia, so the concerns were less about drowning and more about wolves.)

                Now much and it didn’t do much; guns only help if they hurt and mobility only helps if they help others; and nothing, which was my point.

                Sure, some individual capes will be able to hurt or slow Endbringers. However, most can’t, which is why Endbringers are a problem.

                See the rest of my previous post for reasons why that isn’t so.

                Your calculation implied that you thought that the distribution would increase linearly with the number of capes–twice the capes, twice the delay–which implies that you didn’t think most of the delay was due to a few rare powerhouses like the Trirumvate. Come to think of it, applying the whole half-hour as a delay implies that you think the Endbringer could destroy the whole city instantly or somesuch…

                It certainly is for Simurgh and Leviathan. Simurgh seems to have no limit to the number of things she can telekinetically manipulate at once, so there’s no reason she couldn’t stab a hero with rebar, drop a car on a villain, deconstruct a skyscraper, build a laser, and (theoretically) do her nails at the same time. As for Leviathan, basically all of the property damage done is from the tidal waves, which obviously are not reduced by Leviathan simultaneously fighting capes; anything else he does in the meantime is just icing on the cake. Behemoth does have to devote attention for most of the destruction it does, but between the lightning and the kill aura it can kill capes so efficiently that it hardly matters. Oh, and incidentally? Even if it was true that it forced Endbringers to deviate from their “optimal path,” that would still only slightly reduce the damage they do in any given second.

                Honestly, I do think that would have been the best Simurgh strategy. As far as direct damage goes, she’s by far the least effective.

                And Skitter’s a rare exception in that she was A. in the right place at the right time, B. willing to sacrifice her life to distract Leviathan for a minute, tops, and C. had a weapon that could actually harm Leviathan.

                And none of your arguments seem to take the sheer power of Endbringers (and the relative impotence of most capes compared to the likes of Skitter, Alexandria, Dragon, etc) into account. Spending $15 million per Endbringer attack bringing in distant, third-world capes only helps if those five capes can and will actually do something effective enough to negate more than $15 million of damage in the time they have, assuming they don’t die in which case they’d have to offset more damage (the estimated economic value of human life is $50,000 per year, which means something like a couple million each for someone in their thirties or forties, ignoring sentimental value of human life and the additional value that powers would give them).

              • > Cars also have more internal space than capsules.

                Like your claims about ICBMs, you also seem to be wrong about this: Soyuz reentry modules have internal volumes of 3.5-4 cubic meters (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_size_class); station wagons, for comparison, also have a similar internal volume (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_size_class).

                > It was an analogy.

                It was a bad irrelevant analogy.

                > Funny, I remember that a Soyuz capsule almost had the astronauts drown the one time one landed in the water.

                No system is perfect.

                > Sure, some individual capes will be able to hurt or slow Endbringers. However, most can’t, which is why Endbringers are a problem.

                So don’t give them permission to go on the ICBMs, just like one presumably doesn’t give them permission to join the fight if they happen to be in the city!

                I’ve noticed you seem to stop at the first difficulty without doing any further thinking or asking whether any reasonable person would actually find the difficulty to be fatal. This is an excellent example of your reasoning that way.

                > Come to think of it, applying the whole half-hour as a delay implies that you think the Endbringer could destroy the whole city instantly or somesuch…

                No, it doesn’t. Again, this is a net or average.

                > It certainly is for Simurgh and Leviathan. Simurgh seems to have no limit to the number of things she can telekinetically manipulate at once, so there’s no reason she couldn’t stab a hero with rebar, drop a car on a villain, deconstruct a skyscraper, build a laser, and (theoretically) do her nails at the same time.

                Why doesn’t she just destroy every building in the city simultaneously, then? Like anyone else, she has limits – she has to drop most things to fight Scion, for example.

                > As for Leviathan, basically all of the property damage done is from the tidal waves, which obviously are not reduced by Leviathan simultaneously fighting capes; anything else he does in the meantime is just icing on the cake.

                That does not fit the narrative of his attack, and his tidal waves also seem to be under his control.

                > Even if it was true that it forced Endbringers to deviate from their “optimal path,” that would still only slightly reduce the damage they do in any given second.

                They do ridiculous amounts of damage so slight reductions still pay for it. See my previous analysis which grossly low-balled the value of delay.

                > And Skitter’s a rare exception in that she was A. in the right place at the right time, B. willing to sacrifice her life to distract Leviathan for a minute, tops, and C. had a weapon that could actually harm Leviathan.

                What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If one random apparently-irrelevant cape can distract an Endbringer for as much as a minute because they chanced out to A a
                nd C (B goes without saying, as she wouldn’t be there otherwise), then other random capes can luck out. Luck is predictable.

                > Spending $15 million per Endbringer attack bringing in distant, third-world capes only helps if those five capes can and will actually do something effective enough to negate more than $15 million of damage in the time they have

                So don’t ask non-volunteers to help! As I said, from your very first comment, you have been lazily searching for easy objections and false facts, and this is just another one of them. Geez. ‘can and will’ seriously?

                > the estimated economic value of human life is $50,000 per year, which means something like a couple million each for someone in their thirties or forties, ignoring sentimental value of human life and the additional value that powers would give them

                Covered by their volunteering: clearly their revealed preferences indicate that they think they’re doing more good fighting Endbringers than their lives are worth, and they internalize most of that cost.

    • It also seems like this is may be the first time they’ve actually had a chance to predict an endbringer attack. There probably just isn’t *time* normally to get supervillains out of the birdcage and to the site of the attack.

  2. *Hangs off a shaky old galleon out in the water, singing* “The ship’s going down! All on account of the weather! Though we’ll drown, there’s no need to frown, cause we’re all going together! And I won’t say woe is me, as I disappear into the sea, cause I’m in good company as we’re all going together.”

    I was so excited when you said hydrokinetic, but then you go with macro hydrokinetic…mwahaha…I’d love the power to control water at all levels. You know how much of your brain and body are water? A lot. You know what would happen if you make ever drop of that water go a different direction than any of the others? Bad things, for someone.

    Form a giant, pressurized fist of water and smack someone around with it. Shoot smaller streams at people with enough force to cut through concrete. There’s equipment that does that too. Hell, just form a sphere of water around someone’s head long enough and they’ll be out in no time. Probably what happened to Iron Falcon, unless he suffered from some sort of spontaneous rapid oxidation. Iron plus water equals rust, so that makes some weapons much less effective. Even worse when you’re weighed down by wet clothing. In general, they’d better be careful about how much water they drink too. Water is poisonous in high enough quantities. Messes with us, does bad things, nerve connections or something utilizing water that has a certain salinity. Off either way by too much and you go haywire in a fatal way. There’s also the effect of being smacked in the face by a scaly, slimey fish. Listen, nobody wants a tuna upside their head. They especially won’t like getting buried under a pile of all kinds of stinky fish, flopping on you, finning at you or biting or trying to stab you with whatever defensive mechanisms they have. Which you might be able to handle up until all the septic tanks and sewer muck get pushed up to the surface around you, too.

    All the things you can do with the water pressure and such. Hell, this thing can’t be shot at. Go ahead, your most powerful guns, fire right at it. As long as it has enough water around it, ballistic rounds won’t even make it, and anything that could is simply unable to penetrate the thing’s skin from all reports. A nice big microwave would work out in this situation. If it doesn’t dry the thing up, just push it into the water.

    As for Taylor, there’s not much she can do with bugs. With sea creatures, now there’s another story. No telling yet which ones she can manage, but there’s all kinds of poisonous things in the sea, as well as vicious, near-mindless predators. I think she’s a little far out of the habitat for giant squid, though. Course, the other good thing about the ocean is that it’s swarming with parasites. Just parasites, all over the place. In the food, in the water. Man, the rise of sushi and the raw food movement has done wonders for those things’ populations.

    Bad thing is, even beating him, all those waves have consequences on other parts of the world too.

    Yep, there’s a reason water is the ideal strategy to live by. It can beat anything and it’s most of the earth’s surface.

    • I had rather assumed that Iron Falcon and the rest that went down were either the squishies or tanks that were less durable than they thought. No need for any tricky water pressure tricks yet when you are still thinning the herd with claws and crushing people.

      • Plus a lot of the pressure tricks Psycho mentioned would be associated with fine control (ish). I think what Legend meant by macro is that Leviathan’s power is a rocket launcher. Big flashy effects, no good for anything small scale.

    • I’m imagining Taylor coating Leviathan with limpets, only to find that he’s strong enough to move with the weight, and that she’s given him a layer of wonderful, limpet-y armor.

      Really don’t know what she’s going to be doing here. It’s exciting.

      Also, thirty feet tall? Goodness gracious me. That’s a lot of Endbringer right there. The inhuman appearance is really enough to make me wonder just what these things are. Is Legend just sticking within the realm of what is known for certain when he calls Leviathan “the second of three to arrive”? If they arrived at different times, what reason is there to believe that they’re done arriving? Also, “arrive”? Where did these things arrive from? If they just walked out of the ocean like miniature super-powered godzillas, why not say “arise” or “awoke”? And the three are siblings? Is that literal? How the heck do we know?

      Explanations that raise more questions than they answer are fascinating in an obsession-inducing way. I get distracted by them even when there’s a giant exciting apocalyptic battle underway.

    • Plus, Leviathan is limited by the Manton Effect. Pulverize someone with water pressure sure, but it’s a no go on just making living water sacs like people explode.

  3. I find the mindset implied by Legend interesting – the world is already doomed, all anyone can do is to try slow down the inevitable.
    This backdrop of hopelessness seems highly unusual for the genre, typically even the grittier superhero settings tend for an optimistic bottom note, a core belief that the world can be saved even if there is a new doomsday threat every week. Sometimes there may be a notion that there will always be evil, but almost never that the evil is sure to eventually win.

    As I started writing this comment I kind of assumed it’d naturally boil down to a point of some kind but that didn’t really happen. Instead, here’s a cute picture of a baby hedgehog: http://www.hemmy.net/images/animals/babyhedgehog07.jpg

    • “The humans, I think, knew they were doomed. But where another race would surrender to despair, the humans fought back with even greater strength. They made the Minbari fight for every inch of space. In my life, I have never seen anything like it. They would weep, they would pray, they would say goodbye to their loved ones and then throw themselves without fear or hesitation at the very face of death itself. Never surrendering. No one who saw them fighting against the inevitable could help but be moved to tears by their courage…their stubborn nobility. When they ran out of ships, they used guns. When they ran out of guns, they used knives and sticks and bare hands. They were magnificent. I only hope, that when it is my time, I may die with half as much dignity as I saw in their eyes at the end. They did this for two years. They never ran out of courage. But in the end…they ran out of time.” -Londo Mollari

      “Molon labe” -Leonidas of Sparta

      “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time” -US Commander Chesty Puller

      “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” -Todd Beamer

      I like to think humanity has some idea of how to deal with certain doom.

      • King? I’d peg him as the court jester; wiser, wittier and more knowledgeable than most kings, hiding it behind a veil of nonsense and wordplay… and he’s smart enough to not take any position in the court (or start his own web serial, in any case).

  4. And the question remains. What sea creatures can Skitter control?
    Another interesting one: What is Tatetale seeing when she looks at Leviathan?
    So, I won`t miss our next wet episode.

    Interesting point is that Skitter is not one of the most powerful, nor the most influential superhuman. There is no big prophecy on her destiny, … We are looking at this world from the point of view of a medium powered “nobody” and this makes it even more interesting.
    The 300 of Sparta could also say something about fighting a lost cause (thermophilas, if I remember well he name).

    • Actually, until this point when we discovered more about the Endbringers being truly *different*, I was thinking Taylor would be a good candidate. Floods, plagues, swarms of locusts…

    • Sorry sorry sorry in advance. I’m a little (a lot) OCD. The battle is Thermopylae where Leonidus of Sparta fought and lost under Persia (ruled by Xerxes at the time). This was one of the several battles fought against Persia that led up to the Peloponnesian war. This was such a huge victory because the Spartan legislature called for two Spartan kings at all times. Leonidus was the lesser king. So it was a fun little underdog story. The movie 300 (while undoubtably epic) is completely historically inaccurate. Okay, I’ll be off.

  5. I think we’ve definitely crossed the godzilla threshold here. So why not use the big guns? A W72 nuclear warhead is man-portable. Why not have some flying heroes airdrop a few dozen of them? Hell, one could use nuclear artillery on him (big guns firing small nuclear warheads).

  6. Well, that was a less than confidence inducing start to the battle.
    Can’t wait to read more!
    A 30 foot tall reptilian macro-hydrokenetic! They definitly choose the right name form him. I am actually glad Bitch is not there to fight, no need to see those dogs die against this monster.
    Oh, and Newfoundland is completly gone in this world?! Never saw anything like that comming.

  7. Aquifers are generally groundwater – water occupying the pore spaces in rock, not underground “lakes.”

    • Knew someone was going to say something like that.

      Yes, you’re right – perhaps Legend isn’t 100% up on his geology and is getting his terminology or descriptions wrong. In any case, the problem remains.

      Something to think about when I’m revising chapters more seriously at a later date, preparing the story for release as an ebook.

      Thanks for chiming in.

      • Aquifers are not underground lakes. In the same way, oil is also extracted from the pores of rocks.
        But, when I read it I considered that the word aquifer was badly used and that the water from the town came from a real big cave.
        Not likely in the real world, but remotely possible depending of the local geological background. IF the city is over a granite surface, the water will be located in fissures in the rock. This happens a LOT, I can even send some pictures of a small example. I visited a few years ago a fountain of water that came from fissures in the granite of a nearby hill.
        Besides, a huge fresh water underground cave could have interesting future applications for the plot (Bat Cave?), so, I thought that this was done on purpose. The city located in a big granite formation with flooded caves bellow.
        If you want to go into details: for the aquifer to be there, usually under some pressure, there must be something keeping the water from getting to the surface. So, a non porous rock above a porous one is usual, with a few escape points in fountains. One usual way for this to work is if the rock and/or soil somewhere in the cliffs around the town is porous. The water absorbed in the cliffs tends to go down and can be channeled by a certain arrangement of impermeable rocks to end in the porous rock under the city.
        Even in this case, Leviathan could still “feel” the trapped water, increase pressure and, perhaps, do more damage than would happen if the water had to break trough granite to reach the city.

      • You have to remember that even Legend is fallible. He might have said that and just been wrong or slightly wrong.

  8. thx for the story,
    dont know if you check reply’s to old chapters
    there is one either to many in
    “either the sun either”
    sorry for the inexistent E-mail or Name

  9. Hi, hopefully not nitpicking, but I think you have an extra “either” here: “either the sun either hadn’t started to rise yet”

    Digging the story so far!

  10. Typo?
    He went on, “Were it just that, this fight might still warrant a show of force like what we’ve gathered here.
    Missing a not? … might still not warrant a show ….

  11. Goddammit. I’ve been loving this story more as I read, thinking of how similar and how different it is to the one I’m writing. More differences than similarities, but same general genre, some overlapping themes…

    And now the Endbringers show up, and everything about them forms a jarring central similarity that’s hard to ignore XD

    Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think I was super original or anything. I’m just a bit miffed that this is probably going to end up being better than mine ;)

    Can’t wait to read more.

  12. Seems like it’s standard practice to correct typos and spelling in the comments, so:

    “The hard, featureless plain of Leviathan’s ‘face’ was broken up only by four cracks or tears”

    presumably “plain” should be “plane”?

  13. either the sun either hadn’t started to rise yet, or the storm was enough to obscure it.

    extra either, if it matters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s