Interlude 13

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It’s like the world’s gone mad, and I’m the only sane person left.

Director Emily Piggot finished the last of her coffee and paused to survey the enormity of the task that lay ahead of her.  The scale of it could be measured in paperwork.  Piles of it.  Sometimes two feet high, the stacks of paper were arranged in rows and columns on every available surface, including the top of her coffee maker and the floor around her desk.  There were stacks of stapled pages, each topped with a weight to protect it from the gusts and breezes that flowed through the open window frames.

She couldn’t help but notice the way that the pages at the bottom of the pile were neatly organized, tidy, everything in line.  The newer pages, the ones at the top, were the sloppy ones.  Pages were slightly out of alignment, some dog-eared or stained.

The same progression could be measured in the print.  The older pages were typed, printed as forms with everything in its place.  Abruptly, it all shifted to handwriting.  Shatterbird’s destruction of everything glass and everything with a silicon-based chip inside.  Computer screens and computers.  The handwriting, too, grew less tidy as the rise of the piles marked the passage of time.  On occasion, it would improve for a day or two, when her captains and sergeants complained about illegible handwriting, but it inevitably slipped back into disarray.

A strong metaphor, Emily Piggot thought.  Every part of it said something about the current circumstances.

The shift from uniform typed words to countless styles of handwriting, it said something about the innumerable voices, the break down of the cohesive, ordered whole.  What resulted were hundreds, thousands of self-interested voices.  One in five condemned her, two in five pleaded with her for assistance in some form, and the remainder simply expected her to perform her duties as a cog in the machine.

She looked over the sheer volumes of paper around her office.  The PRT handled cases where parahumans were involved, and these days, it seemed like everything and everyone was touched in some way by the heroes, villains and monsters of Brockton Bay.  Every time the other precincts had the slightest excuse, they would claim that it was the PRT’s responsibility.  If they had no excuse at all, they would claim it a joint responsibility.  Until she read over the cases in question and either signed off on them or refused them, the job was in her hands.  As far as the ones passing the buck were concerned, it was out of their hands.

The first real intrusion on the average citizen’s life had been the bombings instigated by the ABB.  Frightening, but it had been easy for the average person to believe they wouldn’t be one of the victims, to shrug it off as the same background noise of heroes and villains that they’d experienced for much of their lives.  Now, between Leviathan, Shatterbird, the fighting and the formation of territories, everyone had reason to worry and give serious thought to who they needed to support and how they were going to protect themselves.

Just as the parahumans had invaded the lives of those in the city, the paperwork seemed to dominate Emily’s life.  It crept onto the walls, onto bulletin boards and whiteboards.  Notes on the local players, timelines, messages and maps.

Insurmountable.  Too much work for one woman to handle.  She delegated where she could, but too much of the responsibility was hers and hers alone.  The humans outnumbered parahumans by eight-thousand to one, give or take, in urban areas.  Outside of the more densely populated areas, it dropped to a more manageable one to twenty-six-thousand ratio.  But here in Brockton Bay, many had evacuated.  Few places in the world, if any, sported the imbalanced proportion that Brockton Bay now featured.  What was it now?  One parahuman to every two thousand people?  One parahuman to every five hundred people?  Each parahuman represented their respective interests.  She represented everyone else’s.  The people without powers.

The whole nation was watching.  People across America ate their TV dinners while they watched the news, seeing footage of the slaughters in downtown Brockton Bay, white sheets draped over piles of bodies.  The before and after shots of areas devastated by Shatterbird.  Flooded streets.  Fundraising efforts were launched, many succeeding, while yet others leveraged the situation to cheat the sympathetic out of money.  The world waited to see if Brockton Bay would become another Switzerland, another Japan, another region that simply couldn’t recover.  Ground lost to the Endbringers in their relentless campaign of attrition against humanity.

So very few of them knew it, but they were counting on her.

She heaved herself out of her chair and made her way to the coffee machine to refill her mug.

“Director?”

She turned to see Kid Win standing in the doorway.  He looked intimidated.

“Yes?”

He raised the laptop he carried in his hands.  “The guys in CS asked me to bring this to you.”

She shook her head, refusing the offer, “For now, every computer that comes in is supposed to be used for setting up the consoles and communications.”

“They’re done.  Or almost done, for communications.  They expect to be up and running in two hours, but they have all the computers they need.”

“Good.  Access to the central database is up?”

“Everything except the highest security feeds.”

Disappointing.  “I’ll make do, I suppose.  Thank you.”

Kid Win seemed almost relieved to hand her the laptop.  It meant he could get out of her presence sooner.  He was turning to leave the instant the laptop was out of his hands.

“Wait.”

She could see his shoulders drop, slightly, in the same way a dog’s tail drooped when ashamed or expecting reprimand.  Emily Piggot wasn’t good with kids, or even young adults.  She knew it.  Outside of the time she had played with dolls as a small child, she’d never entertained the notion of being a mother.  She didn’t even like kids.  It was the rare youth that she actually respected, now, and those few tended to be the ones who saw her firm leadership and respected her, first.  Now she was in charge of some of the most powerful children in the city.

“The next patrol shift is in…”  She turned to find the clock, “Twenty minutes?”

“Twenty minutes, yeah.  Vista, with Clockblocker babysitting.  Weld and Flechette are out right now, patrolling separately.”

“Postpone the next patrol, and tell Weld and Flechette to take it easy, but to be ready to report at a moment’s notice.  With the consoles up, we’ll be ready to act.  Pass on word to Miss Militia as well.  I believe she’s taking the next patrol shift.”

“Yes ma’am.”

The laptop would do little to help in her war against the paperwork until she had access to a printer.  PRT divisions and precincts in neighboring cities were all too willing to send along staff and officers to assist, but her firm requests for the fundamentals -for computers, printers, satellite hookups, electricians and IT teams- were ignored all too often.

She cleared space on her desk and started up the laptop.  It would be good to have access to the files on the locals and ‘guests’ alike.  She would handle the paperwork better after a moment’s break, while she focused on other things that needed doing.  She was barely registering the words, at this point.

This would be a battle won with preparation, and for that, she needed information.

It took her a moment to adjust to the smaller keyboard.  She entered her passwords, and answered the personal questions that Dragon’s subsystem posed to her.  Why is your nephew named Gavin?  Your favorite color?  Irritating- she didn’t even know her favorite color, but the algorithms had figured it out before she did.  All information divined from the countless pieces of data about her that were in official emails, photographs and surveillance footage from the PRT buildings.  It was with a moment of trepidation that she typed in For Gawain, knight of the round table.  Silver.

The fact that Dragon’s system could divine these details, as always, unnerved her.  This time, in light of recent events, it unsettled her all the more.

She typed in the words ‘Slaughterhouse Nine’ and watched as information began appearing in lists.  News items, sorted by relevance and date, profiles, records.  Lists of names.  Casualty reports.

Emily clicked through the records.  Sorting as a timeline, she found the entry muddled with Armsmaster’s simulation records on the fighting abilities of the Nine.  He’d been preparing to fight them.  A double-check of the modification dates showed he’d seen the entries recently.

So when he’d escaped, he’d done it with the intent of fighting the Nine.  She’d suspected as much.

She refined the search to remove the simulations from the results and found video footage.

A video of Winter, an ex-member of the Nine, engaging in a protracted siege against no less than twenty members of the Protectorate.  She’d been killed by one of her teammates.

A sighting of Crawler, shortly after he had joined the Nine.  He’d been more humanoid, then.  Still large.

Another member of the Nine from yesteryear, Chuckles, attacking a police station.  No use to her, beyond serving as a testament to what might happen if she consolidated too many forces in one place.

She found a file listed as ‘Case 01′.  She clicked it.

We’ve got her cornered?” the person in the video spoke.  Hearing the voice, noting the camera image of an apartment was mounted on a helmet, Emily Piggot knew who it was.  She knew the video well enough.

Think so,” a man replied.  The camera focused on Legend, then swung over to Alexandria, and finally Eidolon.  “We’ve got teams covering the drainage and plumbing below the building, and the entire place is surrounded.

She hasn’t tried to leave?” the face behind the camera asked.  “Why not?

Legend couldn’t maintain eye contact.  “She has a victim.

Alexandria spoke up, “You had better be fucking kidding me, or I swear-

Stop, Alexandria.  It was the only way to guarantee she’d stay put.  If we moved too soon, she’d run, and it would be a matter of time before she racked up a body count elsewhere.

Then let’s move,” she responded, “The sooner the better.

We’re trying an experimental measure.  It’s meant to contain, not kill.  Drive her towards main street.  We have more trucks over there.

Emily turned off the sound as the four charged into action.  She didn’t want to hear it, but she felt compelled to keep watching.  A matter of respect.

It was Siberian.  One of the first direct confrontations, more than a decade ago.  It hadn’t gone well.

The Protectorate had been smaller, then.  The lead group had consisted of four members.  Legend, Alexandria, Eidolon and Hero.  Hero had been the first tinker to take the spotlight, so early to the game that he could get away with taking a name that basic and iconic.  He’d sported golden armor, a jetpack, and a tool for every occasion.  His career had been cut short when Siberian tore him limb from limb in a sudden frenzy of blood and savagery.  He’d been scooped up by Eidolon, who tried to heal him, who continued to hold the man as he joined in the ensuing conflict.

Director Piggot had seen the film before.  Several times.  It was the screams that haunted her.  Even with the sound off, she could have put it all together from the sounds that were engraved in her memory, right down to the cadence, the pitch.  Seeing a teammate die so unexpectedly, so suddenly.  The noises of panic as some of the strongest capes in the United States realized there was nothing they could do, adjusting their tactics to try to save people, staying one step ahead of Siberian to minimize the damage she did as she waded through any defense they erected, tossing the PRT trucks -modified fire trucks, then- as though they were as light and aerodynamic as throwing knives.

Invincible Alexandria was struck a glancing blow and had one eye socket shattered, the eye coming free in the midst of that bloody ruin.  Eidolon had healed her, after, but the scar was still there.  Alexandria now wore a helmet whenever she was out in costume.

After that telling blow, Legend’s voice would be ordering the containment foam.  Not so much to bind Siberian as to hide the wounded Alexandria from the feral lunatic.

With the sound muted, Piggot would not have to hear Legend crying out over what he had believed was the death of two teammates.  It had always made her feel guilty to hear it, as if she were intruding, seeing someone mighty at a moment in their life when they were stripped emotionally bare.

And of course, Siberian had escaped.  Slipped past countless PRT officers and a dozen superheroes in the chaos.  Nothing in the footage gave a clue as to how.

A shadow passed over her desk.  Turning, she saw a silhouette of a flying man against the light of the sun.

Like so many parahumans, he lapsed into intrusiveness and a self-centered mindset.  Well, she wouldn’t blame him for being emotional in regards to this.

She composed herself and spoke, “If you’d like to enter my office through the front door, Legend, we can talk there.”

Silently, he disappeared around the side of the building.  She couldn’t see through the wall, but she heard the commotion as he flew in through the window.  He stepped into her office with the fluid grace one had when they could use their ability to fly to carry their weight.  Blue and white costume, boots and gloves.  Veteran member and leader of the Protectorate, his lasers carried as much firepower as a battalion of tanks.  She had to remind herself that she technically outranked him.

“Siberian?” he asked.

“I’m reading up on our opposition.”  She wouldn’t apologize, but she couldn’t keep the sympathy from her face.

“I flew up to check if you were in your office, and I saw the video.  My fault for seeing what I did.  It wasn’t a good day.”

She nodded curtly.  It hadn’t been.  One could even suggest it was when things started to go bad.  The loss of Hero, the first time a truly dangerous villain made an appearance.  “What did you want to see me for?”

“A note delivered for you at the front door.  We gave it a high priority.”

“You’re taking the standard precautions?”

He nodded.  “It’s already on its way to the lab.”

“Join me?”  She lifted herself out of the chair, keenly aware of the differences in her and Legend: parahuman and human, male and female, lean muscle and eighty pounds of extra weight, tall and average in height.

“Of course.”

They walked past the reams of public servants, government employees and Piggot’s own people.  Emily knew she was not the only one overburdened with work, not the only one sweating, trying and failing to keep cool.  The rest of her people were staying awake with the benefits of coffee more than anything else.

She couldn’t turn away everyone that volunteered or was sent to Brockton Bay to assist her PRT division, but there were too many.  Space was at a premium, and there were too few places where she could establish secure offices, where buildings didn’t threaten to fall down and where assistance was actively needed.  Still, she’d sent people away when she could.

“How’s the family?” She asked.  “You adopted, if I remember right?”

“We did.  Arthur was worried that a surrogate parent would give birth to a parahuman, and if that happened, he’d be out of the loop.”

“The odds are still high, even with an adopted child.  It’s likely more to do with exposure to parahumans at formative ages than genetics.”

“I know.  Arthur knows, but I don’t think he believes it.”

“Or he doesn’t want to believe,” Emily said.

Legend nodded.

“He knew the price of admission,” she said.

Legend smiled.  “You’re always straight to the point, Director.”

“But the child is good?  A boy or a girl?”

“A boy.  Keith.”

“You’ve heard there are some third generation parahumans on record?”

“For a while now.  We knew they were being born anyways, right?”

“We did.  But nothing’s official until it’s on record.  But the point I was getting at was that there was apparently an incident.”

“Oh?”

“In Toronto.  A five-year-old manifested powers.  A third generation parahuman.”

Legend nodded, but he didn’t respond right away.  He stepped forward to open a door for her.

“Everyone’s alright?” he asked, at last.

“No.  But no casualties.  The parents were outed in the chaos.”

“Sobering.”

She nodded.  “The perils of being a superhero parent.  Your child isn’t a third generation cape, I know, but there are always risks.  Still, I envy you.”

“How so?”

“Family.  I wonder if it is harder or easier to get through the day if you have people waiting for you at the end.”

“Yes.”

She smiled a little at that.

They entered the lab, and Emily Piggot very carefully measured the expressions of every person in the room when they noticed Legend.  Awe, surprise, amazement.  Sometimes ambivalence.

What could she take away from that?  If she were to promote one of them, should she promote one of the awestruck ones, or one of the taciturn?  The starry-eyed might be in the PRT for the wrong reasons, but the ones who were unfazed by the presence of one of the most notable heroes in the United States could easily be plants, hiding their emotion or simply too used to the presence of capes to care.

“The note?”

“No traces of toxins, radiation, powders or transfers.”

“Why the priority?  We get letters from cranks every day.”

“The man who delivered the message reported a fairly convoluted series of safeguards to protect the identity of the sender.  Apparently the man who gave him his instructions was given the note by a civilian, and ordered to find a random individual to deliver it to the PRT, all with compensation arranged.”

“You’ve tailed him?”

“Of course.  We doubt anything will come of it.”

“No.  It wouldn’t.  Can you make out the contents without touching the envelope?  Can’t be too careful.”

“We can and have.”  The technician handed Emily a paper.

She read it over twice.  “Burnscar is dead, it seems, and Bonesaw won’t be in the field for the interim.  God knows how quickly she’ll recover, but it’s something.”

“Good news,” Legend said.

Emily wasn’t so sure.  “It’s… a change.”

“Not a good one?”

“The closing line reads, ‘Thanks for the help.’  I can’t help but read it in a sarcastic tone.”

“The bug girl?  Skitter?”

Emily nodded.  “Exactly.  As good as it is to have one more member of the Nine dealt with, this shifts the balance of power towards another group of villains.  It also serves to move up our deadline.”

“What do you want to do?”

“Call a meeting.  Protectorate and Wards.”

“Alright.”

She looked at each of the capes in turn.  Legend, Prism, Ursa Aurora and Cache were the outsiders, heroes on loan.  Miss Militia’s group was more worn out.  Where their costumes had been damaged, stained or torn, pieces had been replaced from the generic costumes the PRT kept in stock.  Miss Militia had doffed the jacket but left the scarf with the flag motif in place.  She wore a black tank top and camouflage pants with a number of empty holsters and sheaths for her weapons.  Battery was wearing a plain black costume and goggles, while Assault had replaced the top half of his costume with similar odds and ends.  Triumph still wore his helmet and shoulder pads with the roaring lion style, but his gloves had been replaced with the same utilitarian, generic ones the PRT officers wore in the field.

The Wards, at least, were in better shape.  Tired, to be sure, but they hadn’t been directly in the fray.  The patrol shifts were unending and they always had something to do.  Weld, Flechette, Clockblocker, Vista, Kid Win and Chariot.

She deliberately avoided looking at Chariot.  The mole in their midst.  Did Coil suspect she knew about the mole he’d planted?  Could she afford to assume he didn’t?

Still, it would all be for nothing if she gave the game away.  Back to the matter at hand.

“We have three priorities,” she began.  “We take down the Nine, we regain control of the city, and we don’t die.”

She stressed the final two words, waiting to see their reactions.  Were any of her people thinking of performing a heroic sacrifice?

“There’s no point in winning now if any of you die or get converted to the enemy side by Regent or Bonesaw.  Even if we were to defeat the Nine outright, through some stroke of fortune, I harbor concerns that we’d lose the city without the manpower to defend it.  It’s a dangerous situation.”

She picked up the remote that sat in front of her and clicked the button.  The screen showed a map of the city with the spread of territories.

“The Nine have the advantage of power.  Not necessarily in terms of the abilities at their disposal, but in terms of their ability to affect change and shape everything that occurs.  They are our number one priority, obviously.  With them gone, if nothing else, I can hope that more capes will be willing to venture into the city to help out.”

“But we’re operating with a deadline, and the Undersiders and Travelers have just moved it up dramatically.  The Nine posed their challenge, and they’re losing.  There’s now four ’rounds’ of Jack’s little game remaining.  Twelve days, depending on their successes and failures in the future.  I’ve talked it over with Legend, and we’re both working under the impression that the Nine will enact whatever ‘penalty’ they mentioned in the terms for their game.  Our working assumption is a biological weapon.”

There were nods around the table.

“In short, our worst case scenario is the Nine feeling spiteful or cornered, and deploying this weapon.  When we attack, we need to make it an absolute victory, without allowing them an opportunity.  Wards, I know you’re not obligated to help in this kind of high-risk situation.  This is strictly voluntary, and I’ve had to discuss the matter with your parents to get permission to even raise the subject, but I would value and appreciate your help on this front.”

The Wards exchanged glances.

“If you could raise your hand if you’re willing to participate?”  She ventured.

Every hand except two was raised.  Chariot and Kid Win.

It did mean she had Flechette, Clockblocker and Vista.  The ones she needed.

“Thank you.  Rest assured, Chariot, Kid Win, that I harbor no ill will.”

“My mom wouldn’t forgive me if I went,” Kid Win said.

“I understand.  Now, the Nine are only one threat.  Let’s talk about the others.”  She clicked the remote again.  “Tattletale’s Undersiders have the advantage of information.  We still don’t know her powers, but we can speculate that it’s a peculiar sort of clairvoyance.  She was able to provide us detailed, verifiable information on Leviathan after fighting him, even though she was only participating for several minutes before being knocked out.”

She paused. “I believe this is why, in a matter of twenty-four hours, they were able to fight the Nine twice and win both times.  On the first occasion, they captured Cherish and Shatterbird, presumably enslaving the pair.”

“So they have Shatterbird’s firepower and Cherish’s ability to track people, now,” Legend spoke.

Piggot nodded.  “Skitter contacted us for assistance, as some of you will remember, and when we refused, the Undersiders took the fight to the Nine a second time.  Burnscar is dead, Bonesaw injured.  She’s invited us to attack them in the meantime.”

“Why would we do that now when we turned down her offer to cooperate?”  Weld asked.  “What’s changed between now and then?”

“Communications will be up shortly,” Piggot replied, “We now have the consoles and trained employees ready to man them, and so long as we’re going into this as a unit, we don’t need to worry about other groups stabbing us in the back at any point during the battle while we engage the Nine.”

“Would they?”  Legend asked.  “I have a hard time assessing their motives and morality.”

“I don’t know.  Could they?  Yes.  And that possibility is too dangerous, especially given what Regent can do.  The Undersiders do not pull their punches.  The Travelers, oddly enough, are more moderate, but they do have sixteen kills under their belt, due in large part to the sheer power at their disposal.”

“Let’s not forget the incident in New York,” Legend said.  “Forty individuals disappeared in one night.  Investigation confirmed the Travelers were occupying a nearby location.  Chances are good that they were involved.”

“They’re complicated, no doubt,” Emily confirmed.  “But for now, they’re one knot in a very  tangled weave.  The Nine have power, the Undersiders have information.  Coil has resources that may even exceed our own, including a precog of indeterminate power.  Last but certainly not least, Hookwolf’s contingent is one and a half times the size of our own, and he’s absorbing the whites from the Merchants to his own group.  He commands a small army.”

“It’s a considerable series of obstacles stacked against us,” Legend answered.

“And few capes are willing to step in to help defend the city.  Credit to Legend and his teammates for joining us.  Thank you.”

The group of guests nodded.

“There’s more.”  Time to see how much information filters through to Coil, and how he reactsWith luck, we might be able to pit one problem against another.  “Armsmaster’s confinement was technically off the record, to protect the PRT in this time of crisis.  He escaped, and thus far, Dragon has not been able to track him.  Without official record or reason to arrest him, our measures are limited.”

“It’s impressive that he got away from Dragon,” Kid Win said.

“It is.  Thus far, he has eluded every measure she had in place.  Either he is much more crafty than even Dragon anticipated, keeping in mind that she’s a very smart woman, or Dragon helped him.”

That gave the others pause.

“Dragon’s record of service has been exemplary,” Legend spoke.

“It has.  And we’ve put an inordinate amount of trust in her as a consequence.  How many of our resources are tied into her work?  If she had a mind to oppose us, would we be able to deal with her?”

“We have no reason to think she’s done anything.”

Emily waved him off.  “Regardless.  Very little of this situation remains in our control.  Armsmaster is gone, the other major players are members of the various factions, and we remain in the dark about who many of them are.”

There were nods all around.

She had them listening.  “I have a solution in mind.  The higher-ups have approved it.  Clockblocker, you’re going to be using your power defensively if things go south.  They aren’t patient enough to wait for it to wear off.  You can protect yourself by using your power on a costume you’re wearing, yes?”

Clockblocker nodded.

“Vista, I’m counting on you to help control the movements of the Nine.  Siberian is immune to powers, but not to external influences.  The timing will be sensitive.”

She clicked the remote, then turned her head to look at the result.  It was a warhead.

“On my command, a stealth bomber is prepared to drop payloads of incendiary explosives at a designated location.  We evacuate civilians from the area or lead the Nine to an area where evacuation is possible or unnecessary, then we drop a payload on site.  If they move, we drop another payload.  Clockblocker, you protect anyone that’s unable to clear out.  Legend will ferry you to where you need to be.  Cache can rescue people as the effects wear off.”

“That’s… still not reassuring,” Flechette spoke.

“You’ll be equipped with fire resistant suits.  I ordered them in anticipation over fighting Burnscar, but the plan has been adjusted.  You’ll all look identical, except for agreed upon icons, colors and initials on each costume.  Ones Jack and the other members of the Nine will not be able to identify, please.  There’s a team ready to prepare the costumes at a moment’s notice.  It will help mask the identities of those involved, and postpone any reaction from Jack over our having broken the terms of the deal.”

“But we are breaking the deal.  Even if Legend’s team doesn’t get involved-” Miss Militia started.

“The incendiary deployments will serve three purposes.  They’ll forestall any biological attacks Bonesaw attempts, they’ll force Siberian to stay put to protect her allies and they’ll kill Jack or Bonesaw if she isn’t able.  Humans aren’t biologically programmed to look up, and whatever else Siberian is, she’s still human at her core.”

“And if Siberian does protect her allies?” Weld asked.

“Flechette will see if her enhanced shots can beat Siberian’s invulnerability.  Failing that, Clockblocker contains the woman.  His power won’t work on her, but we can cage her in thread or chains that he can then freeze.  If we can do the same with Jack and Bonesaw, we can starve them out, or wait until they let go of Siberian.  If you’re prepared, Clockblocker?  We can support you with relief teams.”

“If it means stopping them, I’m down.”

“Unless she’s able to walk through that,” Weld spoke.

“It’s inviolable,” Clockblocker said, leaning back in his chair.  “I’d sooner expect her to fold the universe in half.”

“You’re sure?”

“It’s what the doctors say.”  Clockblocker said.

“And Crawler?” Legend asked.

Piggot spoke, “Legend, Ursa Aurora, Prism, Weld, Assault and Battery will occupy him until we can contain him.  He’s still vulnerable to physics.  I’m hoping the white phosphorous explosive will keep him in the area long enough for us to put measures in place.  As I said, we can’t afford to do this halfway.  If they get cornered, or if they think they’ll lose, we run the risk they’ll lash out.”

She glanced around the room at the fourteen parahumans present.

“We carry this out this evening, before any of our opponents catch on to our intentions and complicate matters with their own agendas.  That will be all.  Prepare.  See to your suits in the lab.”

She watched everyone file out.  Legend stayed behind.

“You’re not saying everything,” he murmured.

“No.”

“Fill me in?”

“Some of that is to mislead the spy in our midst.  We have a follow-up measure.”

“Does it pose a risk to this team?”

“It does.  Unavoidable.  I suspect Coil will inform Hookwolf and encourage the Chosen, the Pure and even Faultline’s group to act.  Tattletale, I suspect, will know something’s going on, and I intend to leak enough information to pique her curiosity.  It’s in the moment that the villains enter the situation that the risk to our capes occurs.”

“But?”

“But we have a store of equipment we confiscated from Bakuda when we raided her laboratory.  Miss Militia deployed a number against Leviathan, but we have more.  Once the other factions have engaged, we bombard the area with the remainder in a second strike.  Our research suggests that several of these explosives can bypass the Manton effect.”

“This breaks the unspoken rules between capes.  And the truce against the Nine.  I don’t like this.”

It’s a world gone mad.  Do I have to join the madmen to make a difference?

“Don’t worry.  I’m the one who’s going to push the button,” Piggot answered.  “And I’m not a cape.”

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96 thoughts on “Interlude 13

  1. I think you are missing a more in the line “The rest of her people were staying awake with the benefits of coffee than anything else.”

    • Piggot /wants/ this to be the end game. She could be wrong. If she is, the city burns. The Nine apparently have a history of coming back from their defeats just as nasty as they were before.

    • Especially when one considers who is *left*. Despite being taken down easily, Mannequin seems to be able to get back up again almost as easily. Crawler is just a proto-Endbringer waiting to pupate, Siberian is nigh-unstoppable, and then there’s Jack.

      What would be even worse is if the Protectorate forces *ignored* Jack as a serious threat in comparison to the others and he started to escape, only to be cut down by one of the ‘villainous’ types. Would that constitute a reasonable cause for PRT forces to attack villains? Would that drag the PRT even lower in the eyes of the local population–after all, as Piggot notes, the villains despite their scuzzy ways have been out *DOING SOMETHING*.

  2. This is very good, and very scary. Piggot is playing with fire in both literal and figurative senses.

    I see they know who Regent is but not Cherish. That’s interesting. Guess it makes sense though, since if they had then Regent would have been expecting her from the PRT files.

    It is very interesting to see how they officially view the different factions, especially the Undersiders. And how terribly oblivious they are to the real spy in their midst, Battery. If anyone would know, it’d be Piggot.

    “Legend nodded, but he respond right away.” Didn’t respond?
    “do. Weld” Some extra spaces there.
    “he’s absorbing the whites and from the Merchants to” seems like either the ‘and’ is superfluous or the whites are coming from somewhere else?

  3. I’m really enjoying this arc, the Interludes give great insight into the diverse cast of the story.

    And I’m loving the Round Table shout out of my namesake — check out Gawain and the Green Knight for superheroism — a normal human warrior cuts off the head of an opponent in a test of strength only to find out the opponent is magic and can put his head back on. So Gawain has to find the Green Knight’s castle for a return blow, and he actually puts his head on the chopping block because of his promise! It all works out for honour in the end, but that takes Skitter-level guts!

  4. So, Pigot is smart enough to see that they may loose the city even if the nine are defeated. And the undersiders already have a huge reputation.
    Interesting, no one is stupid in this game.

  5. Legend, mighty leader of the Protectorate, one of the strongest superheroes in the world, is dating a mundane? How very Superman and Lois Lane. Is this Arthur fellow a journalist, too? :P

  6. It was interesting to see how the other side views things. We already knew that Piggot was not one of the good guys since it was hinted that she enabled Shadow Stalker’s bullying of Taylor, but she is now displaying a whole different level of ruthlessness. Of course given her fear of the very real possibility that the city might never recover and essentially be lost for good, her willingness to resort to extreme measures become understandable. The fact that she sees Tattletale as the main antagonist in the Undersiders and Regent as the most dangerous of her fighters is understandable given her perspective, but one would have hoped that Skitter would rate more than a mere mentioning as a messenger girl. Maybe the heroes see things differently.

    The plan of course is destinies to fail. Per convention any plan spelled out on screen will necessarily fail (unless the whole thing itself happens off-screen) and this one looks particularly bad. There is so much stuff that could go wrong. The only good thing about it is that those working for Coil will likely not be directly involved in the slaughter, so a potential end result would be a power vacuum with many of the heroes and villains dead and the Undersiders and Travelers the only ones left to take on what is left of the nine.

    I really hope that Armsmaster has not secretly suborned Dragon and is out to cause havoc for everyone. A nice heroic death defeating one of the stronger members of the Nine to show everyone that he is a hero would be good for him, but seeing how things have gone so far, I doubt it will be that easy.

    • I have a feeling that Skitter isn’t seen as nondangerous so much as seen as a wildcard in terms of her relationship to the Undersiders.

      Still, they do take pains to refer to her as ‘the bug girl’ when it is clear they both know who she is- so that smacks of Legend deliberately putting her down.

      • If by some chance this plan kills off some of Skitter’s friends then I think they’ll have cause to upgrade her to more lofty words. If it kills Grue then it’ll be time to run.

        As is we already knew the heroes were ungrateful bastards, even if the thing with very nasty villains in this setting adds some sense to it.

  7. I would hope for something a bit quicker than Willy Pete against Crawler, but then they are going to be trying to blow the crap out of them all with Bakuda’s stuff. Which Coil and/or Tattletale will figure out. It fits into their plans pretty well if their groups aren’t timefrozen for 100 years or destroyed by the Bakuda Bombaramba.

    In other news, something horrible has happened. City of Heroes is going to be shut down by the end of the year. It’s horrible. There is no other MMO like it, especially as Champions and DCUO play differently. It doesn’t force you to grind for months and months, and some things are actually unlocked for you to make different-powered characters as you gain levels. It is a good game and it will be missed.

    No excuse has been given except the useless corporate-speak one of “a realignment” for some reason.

    Now, pregnant women may want to leave the room for this next part, and Wildbow probably won’t like it too much either. It is time for the classic supervillain threat-off. NCSoft is out of my hands, though, so this will have to do.

    NCSoft, you have crossed me for the last time! I don’t care if it was also the first time, I will haunt your dreams and tear asunder and rays of happiness that hope to push back the clouds of depression and ineptitude that will follow you around for the rest of your tormented days. I will smite all universes in which you may have ever had a happy ending, including those involving massage parlors. I will hunt down your children and steal their candy at Halloween. I will mess with the settings on your oven at Thanksgiving. I will rain hellfire from the sky and spit brimstone upon your mangled corpses as I laugh, accompanied by a chorus of the weeping of all your loved ones. Your names will be remembered as synonyms for idiocy. Your nerves will shortcircuit from the immeasurable pain I will unleash upon you. My revenge on you will cause your ancestors to cringe and collapse in pain every time they have sex due to the inevitable approach of such horrors as their descendants will be forced to endure. Monuments to the torture you face will induce madness, vomitting, and sterility in all who merely come too close. Your families will look up at the night sky tonight and see only my vengeance staring at them from the deepest darkness, ready to wind my hands into their nightmares and play out my hatred for you upon their vulnerable minds. I will kick your dogs in the street and passerby will only cheer. Any tattoos you get will automatically become penises, unless you attempt to get a tattoo of a penis, in which case it will become a fluffy pink unicorn! Your children will wail and shrivel in the womb! Your marriages will collapse and women will laugh at you naked! You will graduate from college 2 years ago with $70,000 worth of student loan debt, be forced to live in isolation due to the lack of a good job, have no friends near you, and your only link to any people you truly care about, an MMO, will be closed by some numbskill nimrods who don’t know what they have. I am an atheist, but I shall be your god if only to make a hell suitable enough for you.

    Not as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

        • he you have a little (GIGANTIC) logic error in there
          “I will smite all universes in which you may have ever had a happy ending, including those involving massage parlors”
          thanks to your text the only universes in which they could have a happy ending are those in which they dont end city of heroes, following that you destroy city of heroes!!!

          • It isn’t a logic error. I care about this universe, the one where they’re shutting it down and fired all of Paragon Studios’ employees. Any others in which the game continues, by virtue of not being this one, are expendable.

            If this universe was one where it stayed open, I’d probably be busy right now defending it against a rampaging other-dimensional me. I’ve gotten the time aspect of it wrong before though…

            Let this be a lesson to you, kids, never ever take your pets to any irradiated spots in the Pacific from the 50s through 2000. It will can only end in a badly dubbed movie.

    • NCSoft heard your speech. They told me, “The mocking and laughing women are going to get naked for me? All right!.”
      Don’t worry, I set them straight (except the guys. I made them all gay).

  8. Well Piggot is dead walking at this point, no matter how this turns out she’s gonna have some seriously pissed off people after her. Meanwhile any hope the heroes had of coming out of this looking shiny is done and gone, their reputations’ are going to be worse then mud. Meanwhile the irony is that while the good guys are approaching despair regarding the city Coil and co seem to view it as a great way to buy cheap and rebuild a city all their own.

    The stuff with Legend and Arthur was confusing, surely any kid they had would be second generation? Why would third generation be brought up at all? Still I liked the human side of Legend there, he really does seem like a nice guy…well aside from just condoning mass betrayal with some horrific weapons. Again, funny irony in that the villains are more attached to their truce then the heroes. Also Piggot is thinking too small, this’ll have effects far beyond Brockton Bay if the PRT is shown to backstab like that, she’s doing similar to what Armsmaster did.

    Speaking of him, damn I hope he didn’t betray Dragon, that was such a nice couple in potentia.

    The perspective on the Undersiders was interesting, as was the total lack of guilt over more or less abandoning kids to the Nine. The Undersiders have no body count and are pretty much just mischievous thieves by their records, Skitter especially. Funny how little hesitation was seen there. Their worry about Regent was particularly interesting in that it put them a few levels closer to the Nine for oh shit factor. Why they don’t contact the Undersiders for information given Skitter’s continued attempts at helping them is what I don’t get. There’s evil and callous and then there’s stupid.

    I am very curious how the Travellers got their own body count. The forty is definitely Noelle. The sixteen…accidents is my guess, probably not many civillians in that figure. As to the fight, Coil and Dinah will keep them from getting bombed out, The Chosen and Pure are assholes anyway but I’m worried for Fautline’s crew, I like them and they may have already lost someone in the recent fight. They don’t deserve to get omni-killed.

      • I said Undersiders not the individuals the group. They have not killed since forming (other then Burnscar) also Bitch killed once accidentally and Regent killed under duress and hasn’t since. While Bitch has shown some serious issues with going that far, Regent is certainly willing however none of the Undersiders are dumb enough to go around offing people even when their personal morals aren’t an issue.

        And why would Armsmaster have even needed to betray her? His goal is apparently the nine, she cares for him and would help him willingly. Not to mention he admited feelings for her himself, the guy’s an ass but so far he hasn’t shown any signs of being willing to betray actual teammates and comrades…just allies that he doesn’t know very well.

  9. I don’t mind Piggot planning to betray the villains, it is an understandable choice. What really bothers me is that she seems to think it matters that she isn’t a cape. The truce is obviously supposed to apply to government forces along with the heroes, so any government agent violating it on such a grand scale should really take a hard look at what that risks, and not try and find a cheap out that won’t fly with anyone in the villain community.

    • *Meant to add this to the above*
      Rules lawyering that convinces the civilians, the heroes, or the government won’t help one bit if it doesn’t also convince the villains.

      • Good of you to bring up. Remember, villains don’t have to care about reasonable doubt, or what is admissable in court, or what technically fits the letter of the agreement. They’re villains. Stab the offender with your Stabby Stick and be done with it!

  10. I’ll agree that this looks like it will backfire big-time, and that it is interesting how the Undersiders are viewed.

    From Skitter’s perspective, we see Grue as the Leader (albeit of a democracy in miniature) and Tattletale as the brains. From my perspective, I can agree to that, but recently I think Skitter has been stepping up. The most successful of the two plans was primarily Skitter’s, even if no doubt she had help from tattletale to make some inferences (offscreen?)

    But the heroes see it as a Tattletale and Regent show. It makes sense that they are wrong about Tattletale’s powers, and that they underestimate Skitter in an annoying way, but what seems to be the biggest thing wrong with their analysis is Grue. This may not quite be true now, after the breakdown, but Grue was a very vital member, and the center of the team.

    So maybe it is best that they didn’t try to, at this point, talk to the Undersiders. Their lack of understanding would have made them make insults and mistakes minor and major, and considering Brian is a wreck, Bitch is being Bitch, and Skitter isn’t much better…the Heroes may well have run out of credit at the store of forgiveness…

    Which, no doubt, they see as alright because the Undersiders are Villains, and thus it’s okay to not even warn them before breaking a truce and potentially plunging the bay into destruction.

    Yeesh.

    • Well, to be fair warning them they were going to beak the truce would be a horrendous idea. No point in telling someone you plan to betray them and blow them up. The risk of Tattletale figuring things out is bad enough as is.

      • Well, true. But there are two types of people (not really, but go with it.) Those who see the dangers of telling the people you are going to betray and blow up and think ‘Hey, maybe I shouldn’t act like some too-rich cartoon millionaire super-villain, and instead should act with something approaching human decency and not do it, since I AM supposed to be the Law and all.’

        Then there are the people who think ‘Well, I guess I’d better hide my unforgiveable betrayal of the laws and rules which govern this world really well from the Teenage Kids, only two of whom have murdered anyone, that I am about to screw over.’

        In other words, if you aren’t being a Jerk, you don’t have to worry about others finding out about it. :)

        • Yeah, but in this case if you aren’t being a jerk you run a very serious risk of condemning your entire city to the rule of villains that only seem redeemable because of our outside perspective.

          • Huh, good point. I’d say that considering the bombing might lead to the Nine destroying Brockton Bay, the balance of such things should be ‘not be a jerk for practical purposes’ as a Brockton Bay that exists, even if there is a greater Villain problem than usual (or even Villain dominance) is slightly better than a Brockton bay that Does Not exist.

          • I think the primary bombing run against the Nine is a really good idea. They have lost too many people, and probably would release the bioweapon to provide a distraction for their escape, and for vengeance. Killing Bonesaw and Jack is absolutely essential. It is the second bombing aimed at the local villains that I think is an understandable mistake.

          • The secondary bombing is morally wrong from our perspective, from Piggot’s it is…well still clearly wrong but I can see how she would value her side more.

            More practically though, it’s a terrible idea because it breachs a major truce. This will have a serious effect on villain aid for big events if word gets out of it, and word will get out. What is more, given that they have shown that at least some of these villains are interested in rebuilding efforts, keeping them around until the city is out the toilet is a pretty damn good plan.

            Piggot’s panicking, and it will likely end badly. I just hope Flechette kills Siberian, just for possibly shocking Jack out his smiling ways.

          • jack, an thus bonesaw will only use the bioweapons if it is accaptabel (to the rules of the game), jack has way too much fun playing with the rules and winning without breaking them
            was jack a lawjer befor beeing the leader of the nine?

          • If Jack feels his life is actually threatened, then your rules might as well be written on toilet paper because OUT COMES THE CIRCADIAN SUBFLESH BIOPHAGE PLAGUE! MWAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA!

  11. I can’t help but wonder if the Undersiders and Travelers haven’t ended up making a hell of alot of money over the last day or so. There must be some sort of bounty on the heads of the nine. At the very least Shatterbird has been around long enough to have killed the friends and family of rich and connected people. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some government funded bounty out on anyone that joins the Nine, before they even do anything.

  12. Piggot seems to know that Coil, the Undersiders, and Travellers are connected, and fears that on the same level as the Nine, if not more. She likely knows Coil plans to take over the city which would be a worst case scenario from her point of view.

    Also, am I right in interpreting that the Undersiders and Travellers are not part of the anti-Slaughterhouse Nine truce, because they left the meeting?

  13. Armsmaster and Dragon are a very obvious Chekhov’s Gun at this point, and I like the anticipation this creates. It should be obvious that Dragon is covering for Armsmaster. She’s in love with him and hopes that he’ll be the one to set her free. Her programming means that she can’t actually betray the PRT in any major way, but she hooked Armsmaster up with his cybernetics and is keeping the PRT off his back so that he can cook up his own solution to the S9 problem.

    If we’ve learned anything from Mannequin and Bonesaw, it’s that Tinkers with tech integrated directly into their bodies are pretty scary. Considering the fact that Armsmaster went toe-to-toe with Leviathan for like nine rounds *before* getting a bionic arm and face and whatever else, I think he’s going to be a very major player in the climax of this arc. His Tinkering specialty makes him an even scarier cyborg than the others. He’ll never run into Mannequin’s problem of realizing that he should’ve brought his flamethrower arm instead of his sword arm. He’ll just put his flamethrower, his sword, his grappling hook, and anything else he can think of into one arm. Plus, he’ll still be able to carry around a Halberd or two, a suit of armor, and who knows what else? We know he has traded ideas with Kid Win before, so he might use a version of Kid Win’s “floating gun” rig. Imagine him with a dozen disintegration blades spinning through the air around him. Like Flechette’s “immune to physics” bolts, I think the disintegration blade technology stands a chance of hurting Siberian. It’ll certainly tear up Crawler… at least once. I’m not sure how Crawler would adapt to become immune to disintegration, but his power is supposed to be able to find a way.

    It would be really scary if the Nine managed to trust each other far enough to really cooperate. Crawler would probably get much stronger if Siberian spent an hour or two every night tearing chunks of him off. Bonesaw could then use these chunks of Crawler’s extremely resilient physiology as grafts to upgrade team members or her meat puppets. Depending on how Crawler’s regeneration works, Bonesaw might be able to go the other direction and load him down with implanted bombs, gun turrets, jet engines, and who knows what else. Of course, she has probably already tried that and found that he just heals the foreign objects out, but if she could find a way to integrate the implants and keep them from being recognized as foreign bodies, Crawler would be a much scarier tank.

    • Agreed. I’m ready for Armsmaster to make another appearance. He’s an egotistical self righteous dick, but he’s still my favorite hero.

      Whether it’ll be good for our protagonist or not, it remains to be seen. I am certainly looking forward to a showdown between Armsmaster 2.0 and the Nine however.

      Also,

      Armsmaster x Dragon 4 life <3

      • My pet theory is that Mannequin nominated Dragon, and Armsmaster is just the incentive and/or test. We know Mannequin’s schitck is being sealed off from the world, so Dragon seems a far better pick for him than Armsmater.

        (I know this is a bit behind the times, but I’ve only started from the beginning this week!)

        • Didn’t Amy just give her the potential for them to develop? In any case romantic and sexual desires are different things, it’s entirely possible that Amy only altered the former. I certainly got the impression it was more of a blanket ‘you’re now gay’ effect then something targetted at her.

          In any case I imagine all that self righteous, egotistic fury will keep her feeling nice and angry at her adoptive, non-blood related sister who just saved her father despite really not wanting to ever use those powers.

          One thing the last chapter really drove home was that Grue is a hell of a lot nicer than Glory Girl. Bigger Trauma by far and more reason for emotional turmoil yet his reaction towards Taylor was not only nothing close to Glory Girl’s outburst at Amy, but he then went further, took it back and talked semi-sensibly about things.

          • Are you kidding me? The anger that Grue and Glory Girl feel are totally different animals. Grue was lashing out because he had been tortured. His anger only seemed justified to him because he needed someone to blame in the heat of the moment. By the end he pretty clearly realized he had gone too far, and wasn’t taking things out on the people that actually hurt him.

            Amy forcibly altered a fundamental part of Glory girl because she didn’t exercise self control. Her rage is entirely justified and aimed in the right direction. Panacea betrayed her sister on a very fundamental level. Also, being adopted doesn’t make her any less her sister or reduce the violation in any way. It isn’t even something she can let Panacea fix, because what if she takes away her ability to be angry about it next?

          • Grue was tortured. Horribly tortured. It was so unimagineably painful that it caused, for the first time we’ve ever seen, a second trigger event in someone. All the problems Skitter has been through hasn’t caused that. No superheroes or supervillains who got torn apart by Leviathan had that. The heroes that got their butts whooped by Siberian didn’t have that. Armsmaster has been through a humiliation conga and he still hasn’t had a second trigger event.

            It might even be possible that Grue had to go through something as terrible to his current standard of living and mental state as the original trigger event was to a normal person’s. Either way, the fact that he was upset afterward due to it being part of a plan of Skitter’s is justified. He’s a good guy for holding back.
            The reason he needed someone to blame is because someones were to blame. His friggin entrails became his extrails.

            Glory Girl just got pissed that her adopted sister who had only used her powers on the human brain once before and had avoided it due to fears she wouldn’t be capable of controlling it or controlling herself…did exactly what she was afraid would happen when she was forced to by Bonesaw at the risk of her adoptive father who had suffered enough mental damage that an otherwise proud, strong man was forced to practice standing up beforehand and couldn’t even take care of himself when he had to go to the bathroom.

            I have been harsh towards Panacea, but Glory Girl wasn’t justified. Grue was.

          • I have to vehemently disagree with you Psycho. The problem with your assumption is that Grue’s rage at Taylor is justified. It isn’t. At least, not to the extent that he is trying to take it out on her. He is blaming her for what happened to him when that just doesn’t work. If he was focusing his rage on the nine then I would agree he is much more justified than Glory Girl.

            In my opinion Glory Girl has a much more valid reason to be angry at her sister’s betrayal, than Grue does for the failure of a plan he signed off on as team leader.

            I also think you are severely underestimating the betrayal that Panacea performed. If we assume that all Panacea did was make her sister gay, then that alone is a severe enough change to be made to a teenage girl. I don’t think that is all she did though. I think it is almost certain that Glory Girl has been forced to be sexually attracted to her sister, or else she would not have noticed the attraction so quickly. What Panacea did is coming incredibly close to rape. Aside from the actions of the nine, I think what Panacea did in her interlude is quite possibly the most messed up thing we have seen one powered person do to another.

          • I think it is most notable about Grue’s Trigger that all signs suggest that being tortured wasn’t what did it, the final push came from his sister, friends and comrades being in the same danger. He’d just watched Skitter have her head carved up and heard a very horrible description of her planned fate, his sister was about to get roasted and Bonesaw was mockingly pointing out the fate of someone I suspect (given his upbringing Brian seems to have almost no social grounding, I think that he already has feelings for Taylor but wouldn’t recognise them if they punched him in the face) he feels romantically towards.

            Which is important as it gives context for his outburst, which was fueled by his pain and turmoil certainly, but which was targetted at his fears about Skitter getting herself killed. That’s been an issue for quite some time, one of many between them and one which he has every reason to yell at her for. Which is the point, in all that mess he still targetted a genuine problem and then apologised for the places where he had acted like a dick. And reaffirmed that those were issues.

            Glory Girl meanwhile had absolutely no prior reason to be upset with her sister other then her not doing brain healing, the very thing which she then went frothy with rage over. Amy covered for her for years, dealt with all her crap and then made one reflexive mistake which she immediately tried to take back. You’d think that years of trust would override one mistake, especially given Panacea gained no new skills, she could have made that alteration whenever she wanted.

            So Glory Girl, went through far less trauma, reacted without any rational factors at all, then failed to take it back even days later. Apparently she’d rather leave her sister to roam the city alone and hunted by the Nine. Sorry but I’m rather unimpressed at that. Especially given the trauma in question amounted to her asking over and over for something despite being warned about it, then getting it and losing her temper at the person who repeatedly warned her off.

          • I have to agree that Glory Girl had reason to blame Panacea and to feel betrayed.
            Panacea can`t make Glory Girl love her, it is too specific, but she can make Glory Girl bi-sexual and I believe this is what happened.
            And now, Glory Girl will feel attracted to girls, but will find it disgusting at the same time since she will know that this desire was imposed on her by another person. She will feel corrupted, dirty, because something basic in her mind was altered without her consent or prior knowledge.
            And this rape was performed by her sister.
            Grue was tortured due to a mistake in a plan that he helped to make and execute. They could drop a manequim out of that building. So, he can´t blame anyone for it, besides the nine, and he realized it.
            Grue blaming Taylor would be a bit similar to blaming a rape victim for walking in the streets at night in a bad neighborhood. It would be similar to thinking that:
            “If you let meat outside of your house and your neighbor´s dog eats it, the dog is not to blame, what is to blame is your inattentiveness.
            In the same way, if your daughter is not enough protected and your neighbor´s son rape her, it was not his mistake. He acted only according to his nature”
            The above reasoning is used to justify rape. My logic is that the guy that acted like a dog should be treated worse than one since he is not a dog, but decided to act worse than a dog.
            In the same way, saying that the Nine acted just according to their nature and it was their victim`s (or Taylor`s, or anyone else`s) fault is just completely wrong. And Grue noticed this in the end.

          • The effect of what Amy did to Glory Girl is bad, more in breech of trust then specifics, but the act itself was almost sub-conscious. It wasn’t a prolonged act, it was an instant of weakness amidst a buttload of trauma. Sure the effect is horrible, but in terms of what Amy did it’s better compared to momentarily groping someone. In this case someone you were in love with who was giving you a hug after a deeply scarring experience.

            In this case that person then ignores the incredible amount you have helped them, often at personal cost, and calls you disgusting before breaking all contact and leaving you in terrible danger.

            Glory Girl’s reaction is nonsensical from a reasonable perspective. She had far more reason to trust her sister then not, I’m inclined to concur with Pinkhair that it was a matter of her sister not being what she wanted rather then what she did in and of itself.

          • Being angry at Amy for not being the person she thought she was in this case is perfectly acceptable. The person that Glory Girl thought Amy was was not the kind of person willing to betray her sister in such a way. Look at this from Glory Girl’s perspective. First the boyfriend that she genuinely loves dies. Then her sister spends at least a week refusing to heal their mentally damaged father. Then, once she does, she turns around and makes it so that Glory Girl is no longer straight, but is suddenly sexually attracted to her sister. It doesn’t matter that she is adopted, it is still the girl she grew up with, the girl that she believed she could trust with anything. All of a sudden though her sister forcefully changed who she was on a fundamental level. It all adds up to completely justified rage aimed at Amy.

            Also, just because we haven’t seen what is going on with Glory Girl and her family doesn’t mean they aren’t out there searching for Amy. None of them were at the hero meeting, so I don’t think it is entirely out there to assume they are searching for her, even if just so that she can undo the changes she made to her sister.

          • I agree that there is perhaps cause for GG to be angry at Amy… But those causes are not WHY she actually is so angry. She considers Amy being gay and attracted to her to be retroactive betrayal regardless of what she did to her brain just there.

            That Amy couldn’t reasonably be said to have been in her right mind or full control of her powers, and warned GG of that very thing, is very important as well.

      • Because this needed to be said…

        Glory Girl suddenly shows up and throws the soldier halfway across the bay, in the direction of shore.
        GG: “So long sucker! Hope you can swim!”
        She turns to Cherish, who is watching with mild interest.
        GG: “Okay Cherish, here’s how it works, I help you, you help-”
        C: “No, you’ll help me anyway.”
        GG: “What? Why would I-”
        C: “Because you’re in love with me.”
        GG: “I… I… Dammit! Why-?”
        C: “Because I’m very evil, and I’m very french. Now c’mere.”
        Glory Girl breaks the chains holding Cherish.
        C: “Have you ever had sex on a buoy?”
        GG: “N- No…mistress.”

        Too much? Maybe this happens on Earth-Aleph. ;)

  14. Piggot is gonna get a very pissed off supervillain after her for this. I’m almost positive her plan isn’t going to work. Also, credit to Weld for mentioning the obvious.

    It’s nice to see the Heroes are trying something, even if it does mean screwing over all the villains in the city. If you play by their rules, are you really so different? Plus, any survivors will come gunning for the Heroes instead of following their own agenda I think.

    I liked Alexandria’s reaction. It’s nice to see there’s at least one hero that isn’t a jerk. Also, it’s too bad that I’m 99% sure Clockblocker will die. He still has to breathe right? Can air get through his costume? And even if it can, will he survive air superheated by napalm? Doubt it.

  15. What are the chances that Armsmaster isn’t going to fight the Nine? I think that there’s a pretty good chance that he’ll join up with them.
    I’m almost certain that either he or Panacea will turn. If Panacea were to join, she probably wouldn’t last long, so I doubt that she’s the one. They’d probably have to make their tests super easy for her–which they might do, since her abilities would probably help the most in making more fun for them. It seems like she’s simply running away anyway, so at least we won’t see Siberian, Bonesaw, and Panacea playing with their prey for years.

    • If Armsmaster isn’t planning on fighting the nine then I bet he is making a beeline to Dragon. I want those crazy kids to work out.

  16. First of all, let me tell you that I greatly enjoyed your story so far just finished reading it). You have many plotlines and they are all very well interconnected.

    At this moment I am eagerly awaiting the repercussions that the Crawler-style regeneration would have on the heroes, especially on Taylor and Bryan, since it was their brains (including the previous brain trauma for Taylor) that were regenerated, and, most likely, modified, due to the evolutionary aspect of the power. Adding to that the partial trigger effect / whatever it was that Taylor went through, I can see her getting at least some boost in the near future, likely associated with the fine control and sensory transfer aspects of her powers. She would need it.

    The other interesting subplot is the origins of the powers and how they may well be tied to the Endbringers. Shadow Stalkers plot-line is also interesting and I, for one, don’t believe that her story is finished, at least not completely.

    On this chapter itself… Well, the bombing plan will most likely go horribly wrong and at least some heroes (as in members of the protectorate) will die.

    I will be paying attention to this story from this moment on. Again, great work, thank you.

    • Might be worth pointing out that the regeneration that Grue granted the others wasn’t Crawler’s, but Othala’s ability to grant powers, used to give them a (shorter duration, weaker) version of the regeneration she granted her teammates in the Hookwolf/Shatterbird interlude.

      Will Grue have any side effects? Well…

      • Ah, sorry. I misread this part to mean that they all were affected by Crawler’s regeneration.

        “So the healing?”

        “Othala. I was so worried she’d escape my darkness before I finished giving you guys regeneration. I couldn’t just use her power on each of you, because it was only lasting a few seconds after I touched you.”

        “And the regeneration was… Crawler?”

      • wait you point out that with crawler,
        but dont say anything to
        “Adding to that the partial trigger effect / whatever it was that Taylor went
        through”
        after the merchant massacer / blood event when every cap stopped and
        experienced the trigger event of one guy i thought that was “normal” cap
        reaction if anyone neraby had a trigger
        not pointing anything out on that, is that a hint? ^^
        (jep obviusly overinterpretation)

        • sorry for the weird starting of new lines, somehow half of it wasn’t in the textwindow anymore, because id didn’t increas in sice relativ to the sice of the text, i had to make that manually so i could see what i write, and it appeares to have made some automatic line break, so it looks weard…

  17. Okay. Piggot is playing an information game here. She wants the “bad” villains in the mix. Knows she probably isn’t going to get tattletale’s group. And if she really has connected the dots, that means limited involvement from coil (snipers) and the travelers.

    But the rest? probably going to get dealt in. By coil, if nobody else.

    This is piggot putting the city on the plate, and saying, “give us the manpower, NOW”.

  18. bit of odd wording

    “Ones Jack and the other Nine will not be able to identify”

    The first time i read this, i mistook it for saying jack and the other nine people.
    a second read made me realize that its refering the the “Nine” as a group, not a number of people, but it still broke my reading line to parse that out.

  19. I feel compelled to ask, is director Piggot an homage to Amanda “The Wall” Waller?

    Also: “It’s inviolable,” Clockblocker said, leaning back in his chair. “I’d sooner expect her to fold the universe in half.”

    Ohohohoooo, boy. This line fills me with an impending sense of dread…

    • Yeah, I really don’t think Clockblocker’s ability to freeze items will work on chains around Siberian unless she wants it to. Poor Clockblocker, you were a good egg.

  20. I keep telling myself that I’ll go do my work when I reach a good stopping spot in Worm.

    *eye roll*

    You would think I would have learned by now. 5 hours later and I’m still reading…

  21. Who wants to count the dangerous assumptions Piggot is making?

    But yeah, she’s desperate. There are no right answers, just less wrong ones. This has the potential to take out not one but several major threats to the city, and one or two to the nation and/or world.

  22. “in terms of their ability to affect change and shape everything that occurs.” Missing comma? Or, as someone else suggested, maybe “effect change”?

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