Colony 15.3

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“To use a cliché, you can do this the easy way or the hard way,” Tattletale said, a light smile on her face.

“Fuck you,” Othala snarled.

Tattletale hadn’t told me.  I could understand if Regent didn’t inform me that they were hoping to enslave someone else, but I counted Tattletale among my few real friends.  I had something of a sore spot when it came to being betrayed by friends.

They’d planned to do this at some point today, and I hadn’t been filled in.  Was that accidental?  We’d exchanged so many calls, I could almost believe that I’d been forgotten, or that everyone had assumed someone else would be the one to fill me in.

But I couldn’t shake the other possibility.  They could have left me in the dark because they knew I’d object.  And now that I was filled in on this plan, I couldn’t object without making the group look weak.  Tattletale would know that.  She would know I wouldn’t screw us over, even with my objections, and this next part of the plan would go ahead whether or not I agreed or not.

Biting my tongue, I walked around until I stood at the very back of the scene, where I could see Night as well as everyone else that was present.

“Victor,” Tattletale said.  “You’re the tax payment, so to speak.  Your call.”

Victor’s eyes narrowed.

“Consider it an opportunity.  You’re bound to pick up something you can use, talent-wise.”

“I won’t betray my team.”

Regent chuckled, not raising his eyes from Night.  “Not really getting a choice.”

“The PRT trains its squads in resisting and reacting to master-category attacks.  I’ve picked up some things,” Victor’s chin raised a fraction.

Victor had a kind of easy arrogance to him.  It wasn’t just the arrogance of someone who thought they were better than everyone around them.  It was the arrogance of someone who’d been born and raised thinking they were better, only to have that confidence reinforced and enhanced over the course of their lives.

Even bound by the spider silk, he managed to carry the demeanor of a prince from one of the monarchies of old, transported to the modern era.  He had the look, too: a cleft chin, close-cropped hair that had been bleached to a platinum blond and a stare that managed to look simultaneously condescending and angry.  He would be angry, obviously, but I’d seen him in situations where he wasn’t trussed up and lying on the ground, and he’d looked the same then.  His costume reinforced the image of someone between eras, with a simple black-painted breastplate with a sharp stylized ‘v’ around the neck, a blood-red shirt and black slacks.

The color scheme extended to Othala, who wore something decidedly more traditional as superhero costumes went.  Her bodysuit was skintight and tomato red, with a single icon in the center. Like the swastika, it featured a circle with a black border and white center, and a rune in black.  It wasn’t a swastika, though, but a diamond with two legs extending from the bottom point, each turning up at the bottom.  She’d taken to wearing an eyepatch with the same icon on it in white.  Her hair covered enough of that side of her face that it wasn’t obvious.

She couldn’t heal herself, of course.  She granted powers to others.  There would be no other reason for her to be kneeling in the water, bleeding from a hundred papercut-thin lacerations.

Rune, for her part, wasn’t much older than Imp.  Her long blond hair streamed out of a pointed hood, and runes lined the edges of a long, dark blue cloak.

“I’m kind of hoping you’re right,” Regent shrugged, “Nobody’s ever resisted before.  I could learn a lot.”

Tattletale asked, “Seriously, are you going to cooperate?”

“No,” Victor replied.  He rolled onto his back and set his head down so he was staring up at the sky.

“Fine.  Imp?”

I turned and saw Tattletale pointing toward Othala.

Imp was there, behind the villainess.  Imp planted one foot between Othala’s shoulders and kicked the girl face first into the street

“Hey!”  Victor shouted.  “Don’t touch her!”

“Anything we do to you or Rune, you’ll always know in the back of your mind that Othala  could heal it,” Tattletale said.  “But anything we do to her…”

Imp took that as a cue, kicking Othala in the gut.

“Your issue is with me!”

Tattletale was as calm as he was angry.  “You’re surprisingly upset.  You’d think you’d be used to seeing your teammate taking some lumps in the course of your supervillain careers.  You two are involved, aren’t you?  Makes sense, given how closely you’ve worked together.”

“You don’t know the littlest thing about where we come from,” Victor snarled.

“I’m figuring it out.  Give me a second.  Judging by what you’re saying, there’s a loss in there somewhere.  Group like yours, bound to be pretty insular.  Making friends with similar beliefs, dating people with similar beliefs.  Did your daddy give you some strong encouragement to date this little lady?”

Victor looked away, his lips twisting into an expression I couldn’t interpret.  He shook his head.

“Not quite, huh?  It wasn’t your dad.  You were on your own, a lost soul recruited by a big, proud family.  Proved yourself, and you were told you’d earn a proper place in Kaiser’s Empire if you married in, so to speak.  Not an arranged marriage in the strictest sense, but the idea was that you’d date one of the lieutenant’s girls and marry eventually.  Except it wasn’t her you were supposed to date.  Her sister?”

“Cousin,” Victor spat the word, “I’m getting tired of hearing you fumble your way to answers.  It was her cousin.”

“There we go.  Something happened to the cousin.  So you two got paired together instead.  And you two work so well together, it’s a kind of kismet.  Only there’s a little heartbreak on both sides.”

This is your plan?” Victor sneered.  “Hate to break it to you, but we’ve talked this shit out.  It’s called communication.  You won’t be revealing any big secrets to break us up.”

“No.  You two are totally honest with each other.  Kudos.  Thing is, you’re just not very honest with yourselves.  You know why you’re getting so angry at Othala getting hurt?  You’re really quite insecure in your attachment to her.”

“Oh god, this is lame.”  The water rippled as Victor let his head drop down to rest on the flooded street.

“You’re playing up your own anger because you’re afraid that if you don’t make yourself care, you won’t care at all.”

“Okay, sure.”

“You tell yourself you’re growing to love her, but you’re a very good liar, Victor, and you’re very good at lying to yourself.  You know that, so you’ve found yourself wondering if maybe the feelings you have for Othala are just the head games you’ve been playing with yourself.”

“Easily possible.  But there’s two other possibilities.  It could be that I’m not lying to myself.  Let’s not forget that.  Another possibility is that it really is just me lying to myself, but that lie will become truth over time.  People all over this city feign confidence, and that becomes something concrete.  You can become the mask you wear on a day-to-day basis.”

Something about that bothered me.  I spoke for the first time since Tattletale had declared her intentions.  “Seems kind of hollow.”

“Because it’s not a fairytale romance?  It’s not.  But I’ll tell you I enjoy her company, I trust her, I respect her, and I’m even attracted to her.  We’ve got a foundation, bug girl.  There’s nothing forcing us to stay together anymore.  Empire Eighty-Eight is gone.  We’re a pair because we want to be.  Right, O?”

“Right,” Othala’s voice was quiet.  She’d pulled herself up onto her hands and knees.  She glared up at Imp, then looked down.

Tattletale stepped forward, “Or because your names and faces are known to the public, and instead of being part of your group by choice, you’re part of the group because nobody else will have you?”

Victor laughed a little.  “Somehow I expected better from you, Tattletale.  This is pretty feeble.  Attacking our relationship?  We’re strong enough, and no matter what you try to pull, you won’t change the fact that we have what it takes.”

“Sure.  But I don’t have to.  Your relationship is doomed.  You don’t have that same lovesick, infatuated feeling for Othala that you had for her cousin.  The chance for that moment has passed.  And it’ll eat away at you.  You’ll crave that kind of feeling, and feel like you missed out on something by throwing yourself into a relationship out of duty rather than love.  You’ll cheat because you’re searching for that and because it’s easy for you to get women.  You’re good-looking, and you have access to all the little tricks, how to approach them, how to win them over.  And Othala over there, she’s still head over heels for you.  It’ll kill her when you betray her.”

The smile slipped from Victor’s face.  “You’re not saying all this to fuck with me.  You’re fucking with her.”

I glanced at Othala, who was staring down at the ground.

“Why?” he asked.  “Why do this?”

“What other options do we have, if we want to pressure you?  You’re invincible for at least a little while longer, but even without that, if we beat and tortured you, I think we’d come out behind, just by virtue of how far we’d have to go before we got past whatever interrogation resistance techniques you’ve stolen.  Wouldn’t be much different if we beat and tortured Othala.  We’d piss you off, but I don’t think we’d break you.  So at the very least, this is a more civilized route of attack.”

“You don’t need my agreement, and I’m not about to give it.  Not betraying my teammates.”

“Your agreement would make all of this a lot easier.  Don’t play dumb and say we don’t need it.  You and I both know you’re a master of martial arts that you could use if we cut your legs free.  Capoeira, I imagine.  There’s certainly others you could draw on, and I’d bet you’ve blended all those styles together.  You’d kick our faces in, maybe distract us long enough for Night to bounce back.”

Victor smirked.

“Regent and Skitter would stop you without a problem, but that’s a lose-lose situation.  You and your buddies end up dead or seriously injured, and we don’t get to borrow your talents.  But you’d do it, to deny us what we want and because you hate it when someone else comes out on top.”

“And what makes you think you’re going to change my mind?”

“The fact that that was just a sampler.  I’m just getting started.  We’re not in any particular rush, so we can sit here until I’ve completely fucked up your group.  I’ll find every little chink and weak link there is and leverage them until you break,” Tattletale shrugged.  “You think on that while we go take our pick of your stuff.  There’s bound to be some juicy clues in your living space.  Imp, come on.”

Tattletale and Imp headed off to collect the spoils.  I settled down, silently fuming, keeping one eye on Night.

Silence lingered for a good minute.

“You can cheat,” Othala said.

“Not now, O.”

“We open up the relationship.  You do what you need to, just promise that if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you come back.”

I spoke up, “Not sure if it’s really true, given who you’re associating with, but don’t you deserve better than that?”

“Shut your mouth-hole, heeb,” Othala snarled.  “Butt out.”

I felt my heart skip a beat at the ‘heeb’.  She knew my last name?

No.  Heeb was short for Hebrew, not Hebert.

I’m not Jewish, I thought.  How had she come to that conclusion?  I could believe someone would make an assumption like that if they’d seen my skin tone and hair, but my costume covered my skin.  I’d spent some time wearing a mask that did show some skin, after Bonesaw had cut up my good mask, but Othala hadn’t been there for any of those incidents.

I had ideas about what that could mean, but I kept my mouth shut.

“Don’t stress about it,” Victor said.  “She’s trying to get to you.”

“No shit,” Regent muttered.

“I’m just thinking if we can find a solution to this, then I can be more confident we’ll find solutions to the other stuff.”

Victor shook his head.  “Just relax.  There’s no rush.  Any problem Tattletale brings up, every issue, it’s something we can work through.  If you get panicked, if she starts making you think that whatever she’s talking about is suddenly a crisis and it has to be addressed right now, you’re playing into her hands.  She’ll use that to make you say or do something you’ll regret.  So take-“

“Regent, keep an eye on Night?”  I spoke, interrupting.

“Sure.”

Victor stared at me as I approached.  I held out one hand and let a spider drop from each fingertip, dangling from threads.

“The hell?” He squirmed in an attempt to get away, but his arms and legs didn’t afford him much room to move. I slowed their descent enough that he could see the spiders clearly.  Black, orblike abdomens, stamped with a red hourglass marking.  If it wasn’t for my wanting to do this to make it clear what spiders they were, I would have just used the spiders I’d employed to wrap him in silk.  I wanted the drama and to make it absolutely clear what I was doing.

I moved my hand and let the spiders swing a little to the left to make sure they were in place and let them settle on his face.

“Hush,” I told him.  “Now close your eyes.  You don’t want to startle them or they’ll bite.”

One of his eyes fluttered in a reflexive action as the spider touched his eyelash.  He growled “You psycho,” scowling, before shutting his eyes.

I moved more spiders into positions on his lips.

“Careful,” I said.  “I’m focusing on watching Night, so I’m not really bothering to suppress their instincts.  Don’t move.”

I looked at Rune and Othala, “You two be quiet, too.  I can handle you the same way.”

Othala only stared, while Rune offered a slow nod.

It took five more minutes for Imp and Tattletale to come back, each loaded down with bags.  Given the variety of labels, I guessed the bags contained things looted from stores downtown.  Imp put down a spray can, and set to spraying the glass cube Shatterbird had imprisoned Fog in.  Filling in the gaps, cementing it together.

“I’d step back, Skitter,” Tattletale said.  “His power works by proximity, among other things.  Physical contact, eye contact and active use of a skill lets him leech them off you.  The stronger the contact with each transfer point, the more transfer points he’s maintaining, the faster the drain.  He could suck away something essential, or make you just a little bit worse at everything you do.”

I stepped away, silent.

“So, have you made a decision?” Tattletale asked Victor.  “Because I’m all geared up to carry on with the discussion here.”

Victor didn’t respond.  Couldn’t.

Tattletale turned to look my way, and I met her eyes.  I left the bugs in place.

“Could you please move the spiders?”  She asked.

“Of course.”  I dismissed them, but I didn’t break eye contact.

She was the first to look away, turning her attention to Victor.  “Well, Victor?”

He looked over at Othala, then stared up at Tattletale.  He managed to look confident despite being bound and lying in the floodwater.  After a long moment, he said, “I’m undecided.”

“That’s a step forward,” she said.

“Maybe you could provide me some incentive?”

He needs to win on some level if he’s going to make a concession, I thought.

Regent shrugged.  “I could keep you for seventy-two hours, if you don’t cooperate, or thirty-six if you do.”

Victor turned to look at Regent.  “That’ll do.”

“Can you cut him free?”

I had my spiders start severing the threads.

“You leave the others alone,” Victor said.

“Skitter will keep an eye on them until we’re a safe distance away, and then she’ll give them the signal that it’s okay to move,” Tattletale said.

I nodded.  I didn’t agree, but I would play along for the sake of the group’s image, and because I wasn’t willing to sabotage a plan in progress, even if I didn’t agree with it.

I brought Atlas to me and was in the air a few seconds later.

Between Imp and I, there was a pretty slim chance that we’d both blink at the same time and leave Night free to use her power.

When Tattletale and Regent were out of my range, I turned to leave.  Night didn’t turn into a monster, but I took that to be a result of her being unconscious.  Or maybe the taser’s effects.  Either way, I wasn’t complaining.  It gave me more of a head start.  When the Chosen were at the limits of my power’s range, I drew words in the air to let them know it was safe to move.

I caught up with the others a short distance away from Regent’s headquarters.  Victor was being loaded into a van, hooded and heavily shackled.  Another truck was parked a short distance away.

The moment the door was shut, I stabbed one finger in Tattletale’s direction, “What the fuck was that?”

“Woah,” Regent said, “Relax.”

“I’m not going to ‘relax’.  You two deliberately left me in the dark, there.  Or it was an exceedingly stupid oversight to forget to mention it, and I know Tattletale isn’t stupid.”

“It was only sort of deliberate.  Regent didn’t have any part in that.”

“Explain,” I told her.

“I didn’t realize you had such an issue with Regent using his power until you brought it up before.  I could have mentioned our secondary goal then, but I was worried that would start something.  Or that it would discombobulate you before we got into a thing with the Chosen.”

“As opposed to finding it out right after.

“I’m sorry.  Again, I really underestimated how much you’d care.”

“I was okay with Shadow Stalker because she’s a legit psychopath, and sure, there was some personal bias in there.  Whatever.  I’m also cool with Shatterbird because I don’t think there’s a shred of humanity in there.  This is different.”

“See, that’s what throws me,” Tattletale said.  “I don’t see that big a difference between Victor and Shadow Stalker.”

“I’ve spent more than enough time around Shadow Stalker to feel confident in making the call.  I haven’t spent any time around Victor.  I didn’t know if he’s a psychopath, if he’s just deluded, or if he’s being forced into what he’s doing.”

“I could have filled you in.”

“You’re right,” I said, “You could have.  That’s all I wanted.  I just wanted you to ask.”

She frowned.

“And, of course, now we’re locked into this thing, and I can’t help but wonder if I can trust you in the future.”

“That’s rich,” Regent said, “Coming from you.”

I shook my head.  “I’ve played along.”

“Bullshit.  You’ve demanded concessions and compromises from us every step along the way.”

“And I’ve made concessions and compromises.  I accepted it when you revealed your real power, I agreed we should capture Shadow Stalker for the one job.”

“Let’s call a duck a duck.  You agreed to capturing Shadow Stalker because you wanted revenge.”

I shook my head.  “No.  Remember when I first brought up the bullying?  I was pretty clear about how I didn’t want any of that.”

“You said it, but that’s a long ways away from meaning it.”

“I say what I mean.”

“Says the most dishonest members of the group,” he retorted.  Before I could reply, he raised both hands, as if to ward me off.  “Not really intending to get on your case, not accusing or insulting you.  Just saying: the whole undercover operative thing, I don’t think you have much ground to stand on.”

I looked away.  “I’m not proud of that.”

“Sure.  That’s fine.  But let’s be honest about all this.  You spent a whole lot of time saying one thing while doing another.  I think we all rolled with that pretty damn well.  Even went the extra mile on some occasions.  Well, Rachel excepted, but yeah.  Are you saying you can’t return the favor?”

“If we’re talking mind control-“

“No,” Tattletale cut in.  “We’re not.  We’ve already established a precedent when it comes to using Regent’s powers on the legitimately fucked up.  And I already knew Victor fit that label.  Your issue is with my neglecting to fill you in.  I’m willing to admit I was wrong.  It was a bad call on my part, to leave you in the dark.  It’s your call if you want to accept that apology and move on.”

“And how often can this happen before I can say we’re taking it too far?  Regent’s power is going to get us in trouble, one way or another.  If our enemies decide that the threat of being mind-controlled is too big, and band together against us, it might be creating more of a disadvantage than an advantage.”

“It’s body-control, not mind-control,” Regent said.  “I don’t touch the grey matter.”

“Semantics.  My point stands.”

“Then let me raise my own point,” he said.  “What am I supposed to do, if I’m not using my power?  The whole bit with tripping people up, knocking them down, making them drop shit?  It’s not exactly grade A material as superpowers go.”

“I’m saying we discuss it as a group before enslaving someone.”

“And if there’s a window of opportunity?” he asked.  “A chance to capture someone on the fly?  Do we just let it slip by because you want to host a debate?”

“No,” I sighed.  “You could capture the person in question, we hold them for long enough to talk it over, then we let them go if it isn’t appropriate.”

He shrugged.  “Which doesn’t do a damn thing to ease people’s suspicions if everyone’s watching their friends, seeing if anyone’s dropped off the map long enough to have been captured and converted.  I’ve been there.  Maybe not on this scale, but I’ve seen it happen, the paranoia.”

“Right.  And your little plan here has started that ball rolling.  Whatever we do from here on out, people are going to be spooked enough that they’ll see the mind controlled where they don’t exist.”

“Fear is good,” Tattletale said.

“Paranoia isn’t.  If our enemies are backed into a corner, they might do something stupid.  You yourself said how Victor was willing to attack us if we cut him free, even if it put himself and his teammates in grave danger.  And he’s not dumb.”

“He’s not brilliant either,” Regent said.  “Just saying, but having a power that gives you brains doesn’t necessarily mean you’re smart.”

Tattletale gave him an annoyed look, then turned to me.  “I can understand your frustration.  You feel like we just set ourselves back on a city-wide scale for a relatively minor gain.”

I shrugged, “Pretty much.”

“Except our enemies are already banding together to attack us.  Having Regent as a target doesn’t change anything except taking the focus off of more important members of the team,” she said.

“I see what you did there.  A little quid pro quo,” Regent muttered.

Tattletale stuck out her tongue at him, then turned back to me, “And people are going to be scared to take him out if it means releasing Shatterbird.  Picture yourself in their shoes.  It’s not a comfortable position to be in if you’re itching to retaliate.”

“It’s not a comfortable position to be in anyways, even with him on the team,” I said, glancing over at Shatterbird.  Not that we hadn’t taken countermeasures, but… yeah.

Tattletale looked as well.  “But the main thing I was getting at is that we’re working towards something here.  We got Victor.  Bully for us.  But you’re probably wondering why.”

“Just a little.”

“Remember our attack on the PRT headquarters?  We walked away with data.  Data Coil and his best people couldn’t crack.”

I nodded.

“I think Victor could pull it off.”

“Okay.  Still not convinced.”

“Hear me out.  I told Coil that, and that got his attention.  I had something of an idea that Victor, Rune and Othala were looking to leave the Chosen, so I floated the idea to Coil that he could make them an offer.”

“I’m not so sure I’m a big fan of that idea.”

“I don’t think they’ll accept.  But if they do, I think it’ll work out for us anyways.  But I’m getting off topic.  The important thing isn’t recruiting them, but letting them know in a roundabout way that we’re involved with Coil and Coil’s involved with us.”

I nodded.  Outing Coil and his relationship to our takeover, maybe possibly.  There were advantages to that.  It would divert attention from us and maybe distract him.

“Point three.  Just a theory, but what if Grue could borrow Victor’s power and get some permanent boosts?”

“Just as an idea?  It’s interesting.  You brought this up with him?”

“No.  Imp said he was resting when I called to ask.  I figure it can’t hurt.”

I nodded.

“So we’re getting the data, we’re possibly outing Coil, and we’re putting a skill vampire in a situation where he’s surrounded with some very skilled people.  Like a kid in a candy shop, I doubt he’ll be able to keep from drooling.  Coil won’t let Victor get in situation where he can pick up anything special unless he agrees to join, that’s obvious enough.  Except I’ve talked to Minor, Senegal, Pritt and Jaw, and they’re willing to give him a little something in the way of exclusive skills he wouldn’t otherwise have access to, in exchange for a few small favors.”

“Like?”

“Like getting a read on Coil’s talents and skills, perhaps.  I can’t say for sure, but I’m thinking Victor could tell us what Coil’s day job used to be.  Enough of a starting point that I can dig up more details.  Know your enemy.  And with a guy that versatile, I can think of several ways he could be useful.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Okay?”  She asked.

“Okay.  Yeah.  I wish we could have talked about this before, but I’m willing to accept that we’ve been through a hell of a lot, and you’ve put up with a lot of demands from me.  If you think this is a good idea, if you’re certain about this, I can accept that.”

She nodded once, “Thank you.”

“And me?” Regent asked.  “No ‘I have faith in your judgement’?”

“I really don’t,” I admitted.

“Pshh.  After everything I’ve done for you.”

“Hm?”

“Nevermind,” he said, chuckling.  “I’m going to catch a ride to Coil’s and handle this next bit.  Wonder how long he’ll hold out.”

“I’ll come too,” Tattletale said.  “I want to see how this plays out.”

“If you don’t need me, I’m thinking I’m going to head back,” I said.  “Take care of my people.”

Tattletale nodded and gave me a short wave as she climbed into the back of the second truck.

I wasn’t thrilled, but I could deal.  I felt relieved to have a window of time to do what I needed to do.  It wouldn’t be relaxation, but more moving on to the next point on my priority list, handling the stuff that absolutely positively needed to be handled.  Making sure my dad was protected from Coil was a big one, making sure my people were both protected and equipped to protect themselves from the Chosen was another.  I needed to get my equipment in order, and the costumes finished, make sure I touched base with Bitch so our recent good relationship didn’t fall apart, and maintain the lines of communication with Tattletale and Coil so I was up to date on upcoming events.

“Do me a favor?”  Someone asked from behind me.

I spun around, drawing my knife.  It was just Imp.  Damn it.

“What?” I asked.  “Where’d you come from?”

“I stayed behind to keep an eye on Night.  Winking instead of blinking so I didn’t lose sight of her.  And you don’t even remember that I was doing it.  Fuck.  Ungrateful bastards.  I had to run the last block so I could be sure you didn’t fly off before I could ask.”

“You could have phoned.”

She shook her head.  “You heard what Tattletale said.  Coil might be listening in over the phones.  We don’t mention anything we wouldn’t want him to overhear.”

“And you don’t want him to overhear this favor?” I asked, hating myself even as I opened my mouth.

How was I supposed to get a handle on everything if I was posed with two more crises every time I got something done?

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47 thoughts on “Colony 15.3

    • Thanks re: the descriptions. People were on target when they complained about the lack thereof, and I’ve been trying, but it’s not something I’m practiced in.

      Took me a second to grasp your last sentence. Had a pretty crummy day, but maybe in the morning I’ll add a bit to there & elaborate. Will let you know in comments if I do.

      • I don’t mind too much, I always picture someone in my head. For example ever since Skitter first fought Rune and made a mental joke about her, I always picture her as a young Mellisa Joan Heart.Only you know, evil.

        • I love the descriptions simply because it makes it easier to doodle and not be toooo far off , Granted Wildbow said im allowed to pester him for descriptions but I figure any second im pestering him is a second he isn’t working on worm and a second later I get my worm fix :)

          • I take offense at the suggestion that I’d be off-schedule in delivering the Worm fix. Hmph.

            (Not really)

            Do pester me. I like being pestered, in large part.

          • If Skitter won’t work when it’s time for your book, maybe Pester is a good alternative.

            Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go Wildbow all kinds of emails about everything I had for dinner tonight.

  1. Interesting Plan. If it works, Grue will have all of Victor’s skills, the city will find out about their partnership with Coil, and Tattletale may know enough to find out Coil’s real identity. Wildbow has been great with the twists and swerves so far. I am almost certain that something goes wrong, or that we are shocked by Coil’s real identity. On a side note, I’m with Taylor on the issue of Alex’s power. I personally don’t have any real issue with him using it on Victor, or any other nazi really. But the fear and paranoia may cause a big backlash on them. I can sort of picture the “heroes” and what’s left of the villains teaming up just to assassinate him out of pure fear. His power is a HUGE security risk, and probably a source of nightmares to people.

  2. ““Woah,” Regent said, “Relax.”

    “I’m not going to ‘relax’. Tattletale and Regent deliberately left me in the dark, there. Or it was an exceedingly stupid oversight to forget to mention it, and I know Tattletale isn’t stupid.””

    If Skitter’s talking to Regent in the above excerpt, then it should probably read, “You and Tattletale deliberately…” or something of that nature. Talking about somebody in the third person /to/ said person is kinda strange.

    I don’t really see the whole Victor plan panning out either. There isn’t enough reason to believe that Victor wouldn’t betray the Undersiders or Coil. Just using him to give Grue a power-up though is a pretty cool idea. How would Coil’s power interact with a Grue Copy™ of itself I wonder? That could lend to some very weird combinations.

  3. It strikes me that they could have convinced Victor much more easily by offering to have Grue grant Othala regeneration.

    Then again, there are dozens of carrots they could have offered without even mentioning the stick, so I’m guessing that focusing was a good bit of why Taylor was excluded from the planning…

    Also, now I am picturing Othala with a big white ’51’ on her costume, running around like a ketchup bottle.

  4. Body control instead of mind control. Like X-Com: Terror From the Deep’s Molecular Control versus the Psionics of the rest of the series. Nothing’s quite so fun like ruining an enemy ambush by forcing the foe out front to fire his explosive launcher gun thingy right in the middle of his friends. Unlike in Worm, those beings tend to be either unsympathetic or unintelligent aliens. Seriously, you lose most of a team to Lobstermen or Taloth and see how much you care about their well-being. That’s ignoring the fact that those guys kidnap humans for breeding experiments and food.

    I can completely sympathize with “How was I supposed to get a handle on everything if I was posed with two more crises every time I got something done?” due to Skyrim.

    “Except I’ve talked to Minor, Senegal, Pritt and Jaw, and they’re willing to give him a little something in the way of exclusive skills he wouldn’t otherwise have access to, in exchange for a few small favors.”

    Sometime, later…

    “What am I supposed to do with crochetting?!” yelled Victor as Senegal tossed him some needles and yarn.

    “Quiet. You’re getting good stuff. Thanks to Jaw, you know how to change a baby’s diaper in the middle of urban warfare. Pritt taught you calligraphy while urinating, and what would you do without Minor’s mad vuvuzela skills?”

    “I’d feel less suicidal for one thing.”

    “Good, up next you’ll be learning obscure knots.”

    “Oh joy.”

    “Keep this up and we’ll give you Yiddish.”

    • Yiddish for the neo-Nazi, wonderful! I was really expecting them to opt for the girl that hands out free powers like candy (especially when they commented how Taylor would make a good Tinker), but Vic seems to be a better choice (or at least equitable) when spelled out like that. And yeah, Taylor’s been making a fair number of demands on the group, having her play along like this is squid pro quo.

      What’s the favor Imp wants? How about “I have this lice problem….”?

      • “Are there any bugs that eat lots of pot?”

        “I have this crab problem…”

        “Grue’s not the only family member who wants to taste some honey, bee girl.”

        “Can you have a caterpillar hook me up with a hookah?”

        “What happens when you wish upon a star?”

        “I need you to not hurt me when I confess about that wet dream you had last night…”

        You know, considering the directions some of these are going, and my own tiredness, I’m gonna stop there.

  5. “And me?” Regent asked. “No ‘I have faith in your judgement’?”
    “I really don’t,” I admitted.

    “Except taking the focus off of more important members of the team,” she said.
    “I see what you did there.”

    We’re getting some nice gems with Regent in the latest chapters. It’s nice to see him interacting a bit more, I’d missed him in all the fighting and city-saving. :P

    • Yeah I loved that first one too. I imagined her just looking at him and replying completely deadpan with him just grinning back. So in character and so perfect.

      I almost wish that Taylor knew what he did with outing Sofia but then they’d have a big fight and he deserves better than that for helping her out.

  6. Hey, back in 8.3, Night was listed as lost. I thought she was dead. Actually, looking through the same list, Biter and Barker were also casualties. Of course, being “lost” doesn’t necessarily mean they were dead, but I thought I’d let you know.

    I also just realized how fitting that many of the white supremacists have powers that people might easily consider “evil”. Fog uses a *poisonous* fog, Night turns into a monster secretly, Victor is a vampire, and so on.

    It’s not a perfect match, obviously. Purity just sounds like a crusader with divine power for smiting foes and Othala and Rune don’t have inherently creepy powers. There’s just a high concentration of such things based on personalities.

  7. Evil powers …
    Yep the white supremacists have some, but …
    Nope, no comparison between evils, not when the main character simply takes a few black widows and cover the face of a guy with them.
    Guys, Skitter IS scary. And again, just to remind you all:
    If for good -> She could get really rich using her powers in agriculture. A lot of farmers would pay quite well for her help.
    If evil -> She also can kill a small city while everybody is sleeping.

    • You’re missing a few angles. Don’t forget that she could also make some money by exclusively working only a certain company’s farms, or that she could make even more by providing good results for everyone and then quietly blackmailing them into paying her more so that she doesn’t assert a choice over clientele and refuse to help them. She could also just work mainly for one company and make a lot of money, most of it off the books, by also working for their rivals but doing so with less than optimal results so that the main company pulls ahead when everything seems to be equal, which also provides a false sense of security and you don’t have to pay taxes on it

      Well, you do, since the IRS does provide a section for you to include taxes on illegal income, but no one in their right mind checks it. You can thank Al Capone’s lawyers pointing out that no one said he had to report illegal income for that.

      She could also make a fortune, however, they do so, on the securities market by tanking the agriculture. Then, she could use the money to put together her own agribusiness that takes advantage of the weakened market to become supreme, possibly by buying up those that she tanked.

      There’s also becoming the world’s soul source of bees, considering that she can gather them up and that they seem to be disappearing on their own.

      Oh boy, then there’s a whole nother big time angle you’re forgetting here, eduardo, which is important for the region of the world you’re in. Perhaps you’ve heard of the United Fruit Company? You know, the company that helped set up literal banana republics? The one that controlled countries like Honduras and Guatemala? You know, by owning roads, rail lines, communication services, employment of workers, medical care, housing, and education? The one with ties to the CIA and influenced the overthrow of the democratically elected leader of Guatemala in 1954? How about when its influence was enough to have the Colombian army shoot over a thousand striking workers around 1928 and 1929?

      Don’t worry, despite the huge profits it made by selling bananas to Americans and Europeans for cheaper than many other fruits, I’m sure it got its comeuppance. Like when it merged with another company to become United Brands and was mismanaged. Then its scheme to bribe the president of Honduras with $2.5 million was uncovered, and that couldn’t have been good.

      Nevermind, it’s now called Chiquita Brands International. Remember kids, supervillainy pays big time.

  8. Heck, if she just wants to take someone out of action for a while, all she needs to do is visit upon them a cloud of mosquitoes. Extremely unlikely to kill them, but with bites over more than 50% of their skin, only the most strong-willed would be able to do anything other than scratch themselves until the found themselves a bathtub full of calamine. Eventually, they’d scratch away all the histamine-inflamed skin cells, and the itching would stop, but then they’d have open scabs covering that same percentage of their bodies.

    I’m thinking most people in Brockton Bay have been exposed enough to mosquitoes that they’d give just about anything not to get hit with the high-pitch-humming cloud. The sound alone would be enough to make their knees weak.

    Hg

    • Think how much she could get from churches for providing a plague of locusts that puts more butts in the seats and more dollars in the offering plates?

      I mean, look how many millions the Mormon church spent on gay marriage that time…now imagine how much they’d toss her way to start covering certain areas they deem sinful, or that they publicly prophesize will be cursed by Joe Smith and Yahweh…

      • That’s more Pat Robertson’s thing. I’m pretty sure the Mormons don’t go in as much for the interventionist God dealio. Also, I don’t think they’re really hurting membership wise, at least in comparison to mainline Protestantism.

        Actually, it would be interesting to see how religion is different in the Wormverse. The social and economic instability caused by the Endbringers alone would probably be enough to seriously boost religious observance / attendance.

      • Well, maybe. But allergic response to mosquito saliva is pretty localized. I’ve never heard of anyone going anaphylactic from mosquito bites. But I’m not an expert, so that’s always a possibility.

        Hg

  9. I felt all clever last chapter, writing up my list of pros and cons of various people they could steal… and then you go and pull out and angle I completely didn’t consider. I didn’t even think about Grue duping the powers of the candidates. Victor is the one one whose powers leave lasting benefits, so he’s an obvious choice on that front. The question is who he’s going to drain skills from. I suppose Coil’s soldiers and agents would make decent targets, since they’re supervillain minions and therefore not worthy of human rights, but stripping hard-earned skills from someone is pretty cruel. It’s also help to know what exactly constitutes a “skill” for the purposes of his power. Isn’t Shatterbird some sort of a scholar or academic or something? Could Grue steal her knowledge of history or sociology or whatever? Her research skills? That line between what constitutes “knowledge” versus what’s a “skill” is very blurry.

    • People Victor drains regenerate what they’ve lost, unless it’s taken to an extreme, in which case it may be gone forever (or ‘regenerating’ the lost skill would be more time consuming than learning from scratch). Tattletale probably wouldn’t have volunteered her people for his skill-vampirism if they could lose something vital forever, and her people wouldn’t have accepted.

    • Yes, amusingly it seems so. Yay for a couple actually committed to communication and working through issues! Kinda unexpected for them to be found in one of the racist groups, but nonetheless, yay. It always annoys me no end when I see an entire plot based around some little mistrust or miscommunication that could have been avoided if the people had actually talked to each other. (Not that that last has anything particularly to do with Worm. Just going off on a pet rant, it seems, so I’ll stop.)

  10. Still catching up with the archives. Something that occurred to me is that Shatterbird could be a lot more effective against Fog. If I re\call rightly, he’s affected by winds in gaseous form, so a cyclone of glass should create some havoc for him by dispersing his components. Alternatively, the shards could be angled to pull air into the center and then forced upwards. Hard to effectively give your partner cover when you’re 150′ up in the air :)

    Also, Skitter would be awesome working with agriculture and still be a villain. It’s called extortion I think. “It would be terrible if your crops were destroyed by aphids or locusts. For a small annual percentage of your profits I can insure that doesn’t happen to you.”

  11. Fun developments. Most surprisingly, signs of significant tension between Tattletale and Skitter, which makes a lot of sense (Taylor’s sensitive morals running up against Lisa’s pragmatism) but isn’t something we’ve seen much of. Hope the girls can get things sorted out.

    Quite a few editing suggestions for this chapter:

    Two unnecessarily capitalised pronouns in these two lines:
    “Could you please move the spiders?” She asked.
    “Do me a favor?” Someone asked from behind me.

    Then there’s a surplus “s” on “members” here (Regent talking about Skitter):
    Says the most dishonest members of the group,”

    And a missing “a” in this sentence:
    Coil won’t let Victor get in situation where he can pick up anything special

  12. Do we get a concrete reading of power, for Rune? We’ve been given variously as “nearly a ton”, “several things weighing up to a ton” (Both internal monologue in Buzz 7.9 ), or objects weighing “several tons each” (Word of Wildbow on Cast page). Just thought I’d see if I missed something whilst updating the wiki.

  13. “It’s body-control, not mind-control,” Regent said.  “I don’t touch the grey matter.”

    This line really gave me pause, and I spent a half-hour considering the implications, and decided that it raises a lot of interesting questions about the characters. The reason it stopped me so suddenly is that I thought it was an error on the part of the author at first, like Shadow Stalker’s physics seem to be. But it’s always more interesting to give the author the benefit of the doubt, so I thought of other explanations. Could it be that Alec doesn’t realize how his power works, and genuinely believes he’s not manipulating any neurons outside the cerebellum? While I would believe he doesn’t understand the physics of it, it seems extremely unlikely that there is /anything/ he doesn’t know about the human nervous system, so I can rule that out. That only leaves one reasonable option that I can see: he’s lying. This isn’t surprising, as it isn’t the first time he’s lied for Taylor’s benefit. He knows Lisa’s on his side and won’t contradict him, same as she didn’t tell anyone about his little jaunt with Shadow Stalker. But Taylor’s our point of view character here, and she thinks nothing about realizing he’s lying, despite his frequently taking advantage of his puppets’ muscle memory and making them speak right in front of her, which she would realize, had she done any research at all, required manipulation of “the grey matter.” This would seem to indicate she’s holding the Idiot Ball here, because she’s had months to do basic research on her teammate’s powers. Indeed, when she was planning to out them to the PRT, this should have been one of the first things she did. So we have to ask “Knowing she had enough time to do so, why didn’t she?” and the only answer possible is that she knew right from the start she’d rather have friends than be a hero. She’s never bothered researching the extent of Regent’s power because she doesn’t want the cognitive dissonance of knowing that her teammate does worse things than murder on a regular basis, so she practices doublethink, and unthinks any serious objections she has about the consequences of his sociopathy. Given that she has so far seemed to be a Lawful Good in a den of True Neutrals, this is a very worrying observation. Consequentially, she appears to everyone to be Lawful Neutral at least, if they squint their brains hard enough. I kind of want her to just take her dad and move far away. Saving Dinah is not worth what the stress is doing to her soul, and even Alan was Lawful Good to begin with. . . .

    • I think you may be overlooking an aspect of the control powers here. There are at least two types of human controlling Masters in the para-human universe.

      Those who control the physical, such as Regent, control the person’s body, but not their thoughts and personality – this is likely what he means by “I don’t touch the grey matter”. He is able to manipulate every consciously controlled aspect of a person’s physical body (which leads to me wonder if he can control the involuntary as well, such as heartbeats), including vocal cords, expressions, powers, so on. What he can’t do, directly, is overwrite or alter personality, memory, emotions and drives.
      The individual he controls is still present, intact, and fighting him even as he puppeteers their body, and they are still the same person when he releases control – witness his explanation of keeping Shatterbird emotionally drained so she couldn’t fight back at the wrong time and regain control, and that she needs to be contained when he is not in control.

      In contrast, you have his father, who is able to directly alter emotional states, and to do it permanently, to the point that his victims end up willing to do anything and everything for him, regardless of previously held beliefs and convictions, and previous emotional attachments. He doesn’t however, control the body’s actions directly. This amounts to indirect personality control by control of emotions.

      Regent, having grown up with not only his father but at least three siblings with related powers, and having been forced to both practice his power on others, and have others practice theirs on him, most likely has a fine appreciation for the differences and nuances between physical control, control through emotional conditioning, and quite possibly direct personality control, through overwriting or super-imposing memories, ambitions and thoughts.

      “I don’t touch the grey matter” is not a literal statement referring to the brain and neurons. It is a statement meaning he doesn’t touch the personality, but just the body

      • Pardon me for being pedantic, but I don’t think such a distinction is actually possible. I don’t think there is a hard line anywhere in the brain that says “this is purely physical, but those neurons over there, they control personality”. Everything is all blended together seamlessly, feeding back and forth recurrently. Now it may be possible that his “Manton Effect Restrictions” could sap his ability to [i]understand[/i] the parts of the brain that govern personality, so that he ends up wielding someone’s executive control as a blunt baton-like instrument with all recurrent feeback cut off (if that even makes sense), but that seems like it would be giving the passenger too much credit, as those distinctions are just too blurry.

        Either way, even if he can’t touch memory and personality, he can’t help but make permanent changes to the brain as he works. What fires together, wires together, so he is more than capable of giving someone a bad habit or permanently changing their behavior in subtle ways they don’t even notice. It’s a pity we don’t ever see him pulling this off. He really needs to have an entire story to himself.

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