Interlude 19 (Donation Bonus #1)

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Rey hesitated at the door.  He cast a wary glance over his shoulder, but life elsewhere in the city continued as normal.

If he touched the doorknob, any number of things could happen.  A pit underfoot, a guillotine blade from overhead.

It took a measure of courage to raise the door knocker and slam it against the front door of the old Victorian-styled house.

The door opened right away.

“Blasto,” Accord greeted him.  “We finally meet.”

“Uh huh,” Rey replied.  He glanced around.  The inside of the house was nice.  Must be nice to not have to reinvest ninety percent of your earnings on tech.

“No mask?”  Accord asked.

“Yes,”  Rey replied.  He folded one corner of his face back.  “It’s a fungus.  Same texture as human flesh.”

Accord’s own intricate mechanical face shifted in response to his underlying expression.  “Lovely.”

“I’m still not sure about this, given our history,” Rey said.  He accepted the invitation into the front hallway of the house, carefully removed his shoes and set them on the tray to the right of the door.

“I’ve given you my word that you’ll be safe, provided you cooperate.”

“Damn Nazis,” Rey said.  “My whole lab, gone.”

Accord didn’t offer any sympathy.  “Come.”

Rey followed.  Peering into the rooms he passed, he saw libraries and sitting rooms, old furniture.  Everything was finely made, nothing cheap or throwaway.  Knowing Accord, it was all too possible that the man had hand-crafted everything in this house.

And in each room were people in costume.  Other teams had themes, natural or otherwise.  Their costumes matched, or they unconsciously mirrored one another in style of dress or quality.  Accord’s people were much the same, but it was very deliberate.  Each wore fine clothing, elegant dresses and suits, and each had their hair neatly combed into place, oiled to the point that it looked wet.  The ‘costumes’ were in the color of their chosen formal wear and badges or brooches they wore, as well as the finely crafted masks that hid any trace of their real expressions.

“You’re not expecting me to dress like them, are you?”

“No,” Accord said.  “Truth be told, I fear you could never meet my standards, and I’m going to do my level best to ignore the fact that you exist.  You’ll want to keep to the areas I designate and use the back ways out of the building, so that I never see you.”

“You’re not going to imprison me, are you?”

“No.  This is a business transaction.  I will give you the opportunity to get back on your feet, you will do what you can to eliminate our mutual enemies, being careful to avoid any damage or criminal activity within my territory, and in exchange, you will give me half your territory when all of this is over.  Following such an event, I hope we can avoid any further aggression between us for the future.”

“Sure,” Rey said.

“The individuals in question are Menja, Stormtiger, Cricket, Rune, Othala, Niflheim and Muspelheim.  I’ll see you have all available records.  Best to enter any confrontation with your eyes wide open.”

“Okay.”

“My people will not be available to you, understand.  Our bargain presumes you are working alone.”

“I get it.”

“You’re quiet.  You don’t have questions?  Requests?”

“Wouldn’t mind some grass.”

“Turf?”

Rey smirked, “In the slang sense.  I meant-”

“Say no more.  I understand what you meant.  Provided you stay out of my way, you can do whatever you wish in the assigned area.  That said, I and my people will not provide intoxicants, and if you are inebriated in any way in my company-”

“It’s fine,” Rey cut in.  “I get it.”

“Here.  Into the basement,” Accord said.

Accord led the way, and Rey hesitantly followed.

The basement was expansive.  There were no walls – only pillars.  The floor was concrete covered in a no-slip perforated rubber mat, the various desks were stainless steel, each on wheels that could be locked in place.  Each desk, in turn, had glass cabinets or drawers.  As far as Rey could see, they were fully stocked.

But it was more than that.  Rey was used to the usual labs, which held years of old material.  Tools that had long since fallen into disrepair.  Trays of solutions that nobody had touched in years, too old to use but too expensive to throw away in good conscience.  There were slides that were stained, tools that didn’t always work.  Even when he’d started his lab, it had been with tools stolen from his old University, things bought on the cheap.

This?  This was a dream.  He stepped over to a glass case, large enough to fit a person inside.  There was a case attached to one side with room for a solution to be poured in, and what he took to be an attached tank of distilled water, with a control panel to select the rate and degree of mixture.  Another tube would vent the contents into a biohazard case.

A glance told him that everything would be here.  There were neatly ordered bins of chemicals, tools laid out in neat rows.  Everything was pristine.  The cages on the other end of the room with the captive animals, even, were clean, with none of the animal scent or vague smell of waste that accompanied such.  There were troughs filled with rich smelling earth, thoroughly mixed and free of clumps.

Rey Andino could create life from raw materials, fashion a homunculus from the most basic ingredients and elements.  He could make monsters, loyal beings that would do as he wished, with only time and things he’d picked up from a drug store.  Faced with this laboratory, he felt small, insignificant.  He knew he would soil it, that things would break as he used them.  It was wrong.

“Satisfactory?” Accord asked.

“It’ll have to do,” Rey replied, trying to sound casual.

“It will.  Now, I’d like you to know that I recently acquired some samples and records.  I’d intended to hold on to them as a bargaining chip at a critical moment, or something I might offer you as incentive to leave this city.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’ll find them in the far corner of the room.  The computer contains the database and the attached machine arm will withdraw any samples on request.”

“Sure,” Rey said.

“My ambassadors will be taking turns observing you.  Short of a critical emergency, they won’t be reporting anything to me.  Citrine will be first.”

Rey nodded.  He was already heading to the computers, to find what Accord would feel was so powerful or valuable that Rey would leave the city to get his hands on it.

The computer was fast.  Rey started to empty his pockets and smooth out the papers with the few blueprints he’d been able to salvage when the white supremacists had come storming through his old lab, and the computer was already idling at the desktop screen by the time he’d finished.

A black window with text in bold white letters showed a menu.  Two options:

A:  View Database
B:  View Samples

He took the first option, typing the letter in the keyboard and striking the enter key.

It was names.  Cape names.  They kept appearing, so fast he could barely read them, and the window kept scrolling until he hit the enter key again to interrupt it.

He scrolled up until he found one name.  He clicked it.

Blasto, Real Name Unknown
Classification:  Tinker 6 (sub: master 5, blaster 2, shifter 2, brute 2); plants.
Disposition: Villain (B)
Last Known Location:  Boston (Allston area, east).

Crime lord of East Allston since est. date of April 2009.  No subordinates.  No past history as a subordinate.  Criminal history indicates cap of second degree murder, tendency to mass damage to property and persons.  Produces uncontrolled lifeforms that are incapable of replication.  Adversarial relationship with Accord (#13151), Spree (#14755) and Chain Man (#14114).

Note:  High risk of Class-S classification.  Should creations self-propagate, kill orders are pre-authorized.

A: More information/History
B: More information/Powers
C: More information/Contact & Network
D: Back

There were signs of degraded data, but it was there.  Accord had somehow acquired the PRT’s system data and records on all parahumans they’d encountered.

No big surprises on the possible kill order.  He’d been made aware of it some time ago, and had grumbled, groaned and grudgingly avoided making any lifeforms that could breed in the years since.

“How the hell did you get this?” he asked.  He turned around.

It wasn’t Accord behind him.  It was a young woman in a formal, silk dress, yellow trimmed with gold, and a mask in matching colors.  A gemstone stood out on her forehead, with matching earrings dangling from her ears like chandeliers.  Her hands were clasped in front of her.

“I didn’t,” she said.

“You’re one of his… what did he call you?”

“His ambassadors.”

“That’s right.  Do you have a name?”

“Citrine.”

“Ok.  How did he get this?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

“Because you don’t know or because you won’t say?”

“Yes.”

He sighed, turning back to the system.  He selected the last option in the menu at the bottom of the page, then reloaded the master list, stopping when it had progressed far enough.

Eidolon.  There was a full set of details.

More information?  Nothing.  Data not found.

Powers?  Nothing.  Data not found.

Legend was the same.

Maybe someone less prominent.  He selected Chevalier and got the standard information.  More details.

Powers?  He selected the option, and received pages upon pages of testing data.  Rey’s eyes pored over the results, soaking them in.  It was like reading Shakespeare.  One could listen to a line, and be momentarily baffled, but skimming it or assuming a general foundation of knowledge, it was possible to pick up the gist of the message;  The underlying meanings, if not the exact definitions of the individual elements.

The work of a tinker wasn’t typical science.  Refining it was science, but the blunt, raw use of the power?  It was almost the opposite.

Good science meant starting with the conditions, forming a hypothesis, making a prediction, and then testing it.  Repeat, repeat, repeat, until there was a solid base of knowledge.  That knowledge let one establish further conditions, refine hypotheses.

But tinkers started with the end result.  A moment of inspiration, glimpses of the major steps one would need to take to get there.  It involved working backwards, up until that moment the means came into view.  Rey could see it at work, could see Chevalier’s power as raw data, something he could replicate by traveling an entirely different path.  He would need a sturdier frame.  Something big.  This wouldn’t be a hybrid of a stray dog and a plant.  This would need to be something closer to a bear.

Or, he realized, a human.

He backed out of Chevalier’s data until he was at the original screen.  He checked the samples Accord had provided him with.

Select sub-database:
A)  PRT (Protectorate, Wards) samples
B) Non-PRT (evidence database) samples
C) Misc samples

Further investigation revealed the full truth.  Accord had gotten his hands on a database of DNA from countless members of the Protectorate and the Wards, as well as scraps of material from certain powers, where traces remained behind.

He selected C, expecting little.  His eyes widened.

Many were samples from lifeforms that various tinkers and masters had created.  His own were in there.  That wasn’t the surprising fact.

He selected the last option on the list.  To the right of the computer, in a hermetically sealed case, a robotic arm extended and deposited a microscopic sample on a slide.

A fragment, so small as to be nearly impossible to see, of one of the Simurgh’s feathers.

“You keep making these little oohs and ahhs,” Citrine commented.  “It sounds like you’re pleasuring yourself.”

“I am, believe me,” Rey replied, not looking her way.  “Where did he get this stuff?  Does he even comprehend what he gave me?”

“I’m sure he does.”

He’d considered replicating Chevalier’s power, with a solid enough frame.  Maybe a bear, maybe a human.  Small potatoes.

He went through the contents he’d unloaded from his pockets until he found a piece of paper he’d folded into an envelope.  He tore it open and tapped out the contents.

Each seed was about the size of a pea, tapered at each end, a mottled white-brown.  He hurried over to one of the large glass tubes and fiddled with the controls until it started flooding with water.

“Are you one of the talkative ones?” Citrine asked.

“What?”

“I mean, maybe it’s a dumb question, because you’ve stuck pretty much to monosyllabic grunts since this whole thing started, but I’m wondering if you’re one of the capes that likes to rant or one of the quiet ones.”

“Quiet.  Why?”

“Honestly?  I’m bored.  Not like I can go on Facebook with my smartphone or anything.  That sort of thing gets you killed, when you work for Accord.”

“You want me to entertain you?”

“I doubt you’re capable.  But you could distract me, help while away the minutes.”

He eyed the woman.  Rey wasn’t one of the quiet ones by choice.  He’d just fallen into the habit of being alone because it was easier to stay in the lab than it was to be out in the larger world.  People in the larger world sucked.  Up until the Nazis from Brockton Bay had  turned up and claimed the building at the other end of the street from his lab, it had been a place he could retreat.  A place where his work and his art could occupy his thoughts and distract him from reality.

Art.  It was a good starting point for an explanation, and she was probably the most attractive person he’d spent more than one minute around in the last few months…

He forced a smile.  He was a little rusty on that front.  “What we do, what tinkers do, it’s more art than science.  Every step we take is made with an end goal in mind.  Just now, looking over these samples, I think I decided on an end goal.”

“What’s that?”

“My usual methods, well, you know them.  You’ve fought my creations before.”

“Yes.”

“These seeds,” he raised one hand, a seed pinched between index finger and thumb, “Are like stem cells.  They harbor the potential to become virtually anything.  Wherever information is missing, they fill in the gaps.”

“Like using frog DNA for dinosaurs.”

“Like using frog DNA for dinosaurs, right.  The way I worked it, they’ll decode the information in a very brute force way.  The seed starts by forming two bodies, attached by a central hub.  I kill the least viable one, it buds and splits again, with copies that are derivatives of the survivor.  Usually two to four.  Kill all but one, repeat.”

“Until you have something viable.”

“Exactly!  Takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  Then I have what’s essentially a plant-animal hybrid, and I nudge it in the direction of my enemies.  Or give it simple programming that I can use.  Training half-plant rodents to fetch shiny objects, for example.”

“How?”

“Trade secret,” Rey said.  “I’m not dumb.  I won’t give away the essentials.”

“Okay.  So what’s today’s project?”

“Oh, I’ll have a dozen projects in the work before I let myself go to sleep.  But the big one is that I want to replicate an Endbringer.”

He glanced at Citrine, saw that she’d gone still.

“I may need to go talk to Accord,” she said.

“No need,” Rey said.  “I suspect he already knows.  He gave me these samples, no doubt with the idea that I’d use it.”

“And you can’t even control it?  Or he can’t control it?  It doesn’t sound like him,” Citrine said.

Rey paused.  It didn’t sound like Accord.  Was there another explanation?

Accord might be planning on killing him after the project was done.  Rey kept his creations in line with pheromones, spraying them liberally around his lab and the surrounding neighborhood.  They would move to the nearest unaffected location as soon as they were free.  Once he did that to Accord’s home, the place would be rendered immune to his own attacks, at least for a little while.

But it still seemed too reckless for the perfectionist.  Was Accord that eager to kill the white supremacists?  Or was there another plan in the works?

“You’ve gone quiet,” Citrine said.

“Thinking,” he said.  “No, I need things quiet for a minute.  There’s a TV in the corner.  Watch that.”

“I can’t.  Accord would be upset,” the woman in yellow replied.

Rey sighed.  He crossed the room to the television, turned it on, set it to mute and turned on the closed captions.  “He won’t be upset if I turn it on, will he?”

“No.”

“There.”

He returned to the computer and started working with the Simurgh’s tissue.  It was hard to cut, and harder still to slice to the point that he could look at it under a microscope.

“Crystalline,” he murmured, as he focused on it.  The feathers were like snowflakes when viewed at 40x magnification.  He scaled all the way up to 800x magnification before realizing that there were no individual cells.

Was it just the feather?  Was it dead tissue, on par with the keratin of fingernails or hair?  He used the computer to access a sample of Leviathan’s ‘blood’, and let the hands handle the arrangement of preparing the slide.  Being liquid, the blood was easier than the feather.

He wasn’t sure he wanted to use Leviathan’s tissue.  Growing a miniature Leviathan in a vat would be a bad idea if that vat was filled with fluid.

Using Behemoth’s tissues would be just as problematic.  The Herokiller could ignore the Manton effect at a range of up to thirty-two feet.  Even semi-conscious inside a glass case, it was too risky.

Had to be smart about this.

Leviathan’s blood was the same as the feather.  Crystals, dense and so opaque that light wouldn’t pass through them.

There were more tissues.  Flesh.  More blood.  Hair.  Damaged tissues and intact ones.  He went through each.

All of it, the same.  Crystals.  No individual cells.  Even the crystals barely differentiated from one another.  Truth was, there was more difference in crystals collected from deeper inside the Endbringer than there was in crystals that had come from different parts of the Endbringer’s body; hair as opposed to blood.

He scraped off a bit of his seed, then added water and the catalysts to splice it with some of the Simurgh’s feather.  Sure enough, it started to grow.  Each end of the scraping formed into buds, and the buds started to form into basic, foetal shapes, one quadruped, one vaguely humanoid.

But neither lived.

The weaker tissue was easier to work with.  Assuming it was deriving patterns from the crystals, insofar as the crystals could create or support life, he could use that to work out the peculiarities of how the Endbringers were able to sustain themselves.

No vascular system, no sign of emergent organs.

Of course the emerging lifeform wasn’t viable.  It wasn’t capable of life in the first place.

He’d have to take another route.  He withdrew a sample of Myrddin’s tissue, then started splicing it with one seed and the ruined fragments of the Simurgh’s feather.

It was lunacy, tampering with Endbringer-related materials, but he couldn’t shake the idea that he was on to something.  He’d sustain the Endbringer tissues with other living tissue that could feed it energy or nutrients.  His seeds would bridge the gap.  It would take ten or fifteen minutes before he saw any real results.  There was other work to do in the meantime.

A sedated monkey plus a sample of his own tissue and one seed, and he had a homunculus in the works.  It would be roughly as intelligent as a very stupid person in most respects, but it would share his own understanding of chemistry, biology, science and botany.  It would serve as a lab assistant, and he would need one for a lab this big.

The rest of the seeds went into another vat to replicate.  He’d need more.

He walked over to the glass tube where the Simurgh-Myrddin-plant hybrid was in the works.  One had wings rather than legs.  He directed a laser to kill it.  The other had four arms, but two resembled wings.  It would work.  He conducted a charge through the fluid to reset the life cycle.  It would split in two or three, and he’d kill the remainder.

Accord must have based this equipment off of the stuff he’d had in his last lab, the one Accord had forcibly ejected him from.  The lasers being built into the glass tube were a nice touch, kept everything hermetically sealed.

In a fit of whimsy, he directed the lasers to a pure light form, then had them fire into the glass case itself.  Letters lit up, labeling the projects.  Regrowth for the plant that was growing and budding with more seeds.  Homunculus for the monkey that was gestating in the second tube.

And for his real project?  It would have to be something fitting.

Morrígan.

Beautiful.  He studied the three foetal forms that were developing inside, killed two, narrowing down the results he wanted.  Like pruning branches.

The TV started making noise.  Rey wheeled around to see Citrine and one of her fellow ‘ambassadors’ standing in front of the TV.  The man in the suit with a green dress shirt and a copper lizard mask was the one turning up the volume.

“I’m trying to work here,” Rey said.

“Something’s going on.  Look,” the man spoke.

Rey impatiently left his work behind.  If he waited too long, a bad growth could be carried on to the young.  Wouldn’t do.

The TV showed a reporter talking.  Why was he supposed to care?

Then it changed to a camera view of an ongoing conflict.  Three gigantic armored suits were in open conflict with a small group of people.

The Slaughterhouse Nine.  Here, in Boston.

One of the suits was deploying swarms of drones, but they were getting cut out of the air as fast as they appeared.  Another member of the Nine had a loose-fitting coat of human flesh draped over him.  He stretched it out to grab surrounding buildings and anchor himself in place as a mechanical lizard with a giant wheel on its back tried to haul him in with what looked to be an immense suction.

The Siberian had made contact with and was tearing apart a third suit.

A suit high in the air fired off a laser beam, and the Siberian jumped to put herself in the line of fire.

Whatever happened next, the camera didn’t catch it.  The concussive force of the laser hitting was enough to knock the cameraman over, and the image shorted out.

Rey sniffed.  He’d like to see more of Dragon’s work, not because it had anything in common with his own, but because it was good work.  But for now, his focus was on his projects.

With a quick glance, he assessed and executed two homunculus-offshoots and one derivative of the Morrígan.  Electrical charges restarted the gestation process.

The thing was starting to resemble the Simurgh, though both feathers and hair were brown-black in color, it was hermaphroditic and the flesh was more translucent than white.  Veins stood out.

Rey studied it while the thing cracked in the middle, the individual halves separating with a thread of flesh between them.  Each of the halves began dissolving and forming anew.

If it was even half as powerful as the real Simurgh… well, this would be a game-changer.

And Accord had to know that.  Had to be aware that Rey would be working with the Endbringer tissues on this level.

It wasn’t as though the method of control was that difficult to master.  One set of pheromones would make the creation feel fond of something, the other would have an negative effect, drive them away from a person or area.  Still another would provoke feelings of anger or hatred, useful if he wanted to bid them to attack.

If Accord found the pheromones, he could be rid of Rey, and he’d have whatever creations Rey had put together in the meantime.

It would be at least a day before the Morrígan was fully grown.  He had that long to think of an answer.

The door slammed shut.  Citrine had gone upstairs.  The lizard-masked man watched the television.

Time passed, and he watched the results with interest. The Morrígan was now forming with two arms, two legs, and vestigal wings.  He let it develop to the point that it was roughly two months old, then killed the offshoots.  He started running x-ray scans and doing biopsies, picking through the results to fine tune the internal changes and monitor how much of the lifeform was Simurgh, versus being Myrddin or plant-based.  He was judicious and merciless in executing the offshoots, keeping them from growing to a point where there was even a chance of them being sentient.

The lifeform did, he noted with some pleasure, have a Corona Pollentia; a lobe in the brain that would allow for powers if it developed fully.

While the man watched the unfolding news, Rey took the opportunity to brew and spray himself with a set of pheromones.  His creations would be more favorably inclined towards him now.

The door at the top of the stairs closed.  He turned to see that the lizard-man was being relieved.  Had that much time passed already?

“You being good?” the woman asked.  She wore a black evening gown with a slit all the way up to her hip.  It would have been alluring, but her mask was black, with black lenses and spikes radiating from the edges.  Her brooch was of a black star.

“Making headway,” Rey responded.

“One of your fucked up creations broke my leg last year.  Please give me an excuse to hurt you.  Please.”

“I’ll pass,” Rey said, turning his attention to the homunculus.  He calibrated the signal, pressing two electrodes to his own forehead, then sent the readings out to his creation.

When it was done, he drained the fluid and vented the chamber.  The glass sank into the floor, and the homunculus crawled out, using its knuckles to walk.  Its skin was peeling, more like loose bark crossed with scar tissue than flesh.  

“You retain any English?”  He asked.

The homunculus nodded.

“Spanish?”

Another nod.

“Go dispose of the slides.  Consider everything a top priority biohazard.”

The homunculus found a pair of rubber gloves and began cleaning up the mess from the early experiments.

Rey studied the Morrígan.  Alarms were set to go off if it approached one month of age.  With Myrddin’s brain tissues and the current state of growth in Simurgh-derived parts, there was little to no chance that it would achieve any degree of self awareness.

A glance out the window that overlooked the street showed that it was getting dark.  He’d been here all day.

The door slammed at the top of the stairs.  He sighed in irritation.  Time was passing too quickly.  Would this one threaten his life too?

There was a crash, and he nearly jumped out of his skin.  He wheeled around.

The woman with the black dress had slammed into the television set.  She had holes in her as though she were a piece of Swiss cheese, and more of her had been torn to shreds.

A body fell down the stairs.  The man with the lizard mask.  Dead, though not so mutilated.

The woman who came down the stairs had an unusual body type accented by her style of dress.  She was almost like a boy, she was so thin, and her strapless dress hugged her upper body, but the lower half billowed around her.  Her hair was long and white, her eyes wide with irises and pupils small.  Her lips had been painted black.

Her arms though… machinery had been crammed into the arms, and they’d been extended to nearly twice the length, the fingers drawn out long.  Sparks flew as the woman moved one arm, and she winced.

The second individual skipped down the stairs, stopping at the bottom to admire the laboratory.

Her eyes fell on Rey.

“I know you!” she said.

“I know you too, Bonesaw,” he said.  Without breaking eye contact, he tapped a key on the computer, prompting a flood of nutrients into the Morrígan’s solution.

“Nice lab.”

“It’s not mine.”

“Man, it’s… this is nice stuff.  Being constantly on the move, you miss out on stuff like this.”

“My old lab wasn’t this good,” he said.  Make small talk.  “Who’s that?”

“Damsel of Distress, with some modifications by yours truly.  Damsel for short.  Better at controlling her power now.”

“Hi Damsel.”

Damsel looked at him, spoke in a whisper he couldn’t make out.

“And who’s this?” Bonesaw asked.  She approached the glass case with the Morrígan inside.

“Morrígan.”

“Looks like the Simurgh.”

“She is.  In part.  The other half of the genetic base is from Myrddin’s tissue.  Everything that bridges the gap is a really complex fungus.”

“Cripes.  How do you even manage something like that?”

“Trade secret,” he said.  He watched as Damsel approached the widescreen TV, picked it up where it had fallen to the ground, and held it in front of her, staring at the image, no doubt some mention of what the other members of the Slaughterhouse Nine were up to in Boston.

“I’ll get the answer out of you, you know.”

“I know,” Rey admitted.  “But I wouldn’t be a self-respecting tinker if I didn’t at least pretend to protect my work.”

“True.”

Bonesaw turned her attention to the homunculus.  She poked it in the stomach and it growled at her in response.

If he let the Morrígan out now… Bonesaw was staring at the homunculus, and Damsel was focused on the TV…

But it would die if he let it go now.  It was too young.  Every two or three seconds it sat in the high-nutrient solution would be a week of growth.  He’d need it at least at four or five years of age before it was capable of moving and acting, and he’d still be depending on it having powers rather than a defunct corona pollentia.

He’d never experienced a stronger emotion than he did when he saw another set of feet appear at the top of the stairs.  They made their way down, and each step brought more of the figure into view.  If it was another member of the Slaughterhouse Nine, he’d die.  If it was one of Accord’s ambassadors…

He’d probably still die.  But there’d be a chance.

It was neither.

The man reached the bottom of the stairs, turned his head to survey the scene.  He wore a visor that combined the movable visor of a knight’s helm with a high-tech equivalent, and the points where they met his helmet were shaped like a lizard’s frill or a dragon’s wing.  He held out a rod in one hand, and it unfolded into a spear of ridiculous length.

The lizard theme… if the machines Rey had seen fighting the Slaughterhouse Nine were Dragon’s, was this one of her assistants?  Someone working under her?

Or her?

Damsel wheeled around, extended one hand, but the man in armor was quick to step around a pillar for cover.  Damsel’s power ripped into the pillar, warping and tearing space in a chaotic storm.

The man in armor ducked and rolled to reach the next piece of cover, one of the stainless steel desks.  He arrested his momentum with one outstretched arm, then kicked the desk with both feet.  It slammed into Damsel.

He hopped onto his feet in a single movement, slashing with the spear’s point.  The tip struck Damsel across the eyes, blinding her.  He reversed the spear and swung it, and the spear-butt caught her in the side of the head.  She was knocked down onto all fours before she could direct her power at him again.

The man dug the spear’s point into the ground to help propel himself towards her.  His leg flared with a gray blur as he reached her, and be brought it down onto her back from above.

It sheared through her as though she weren’t even there, cutting her in half.  He kicked out to obliterate her head and one of her shoulders in a single movement, disabled the gray blur, and set his foot down with a thud that rang through the underground laboratory.

Bonesaw didn’t seem disturbed by the loss of her teammate.  “Don’t think I don’t recognize you.  You were Mannequin’s pick.  Armsman?  Armsmaster?”

The man in armor pointed his spear at her.  “Defiant now.”

“You know I loaded myself with a mess of epidemics, Defiant,” Bonesaw said.  “You kill me like that and I’ll explode into a cloud of a bajillion plagues.  It can’t be easy.”

“It is,” Defiant’s voice was distorted by his helmet, vaguely computerized.  There was a processor at work somewhere there, Rey observed.

“What, you’ll unleash a thousand plagues on this world to finish me off?  Me?  A little girl?”  Bonesaw smiled wide.

“Yes.”

“You’ll get sick.”

“Biohazard safe,” Defiant said.  His spear shaft tapped against his armor.

He’ll die in a hundred horrible ways,” Bonesaw said, pointing at Rey.

“Villain.  Acceptable loss.”

“And the people in this neighborhood?”

“I scanned the area.  There is zero air flow in or out of this lab.  It’s quarantine-safe.”

“So you’ve got all this figured out, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

Bonesaw glanced over her shoulder at Rey, “You-”

Defiant moved so fast that Rey couldn’t follow the movement.  The spear impaled the girl in the chest.  The heart.

“Ugh, fuck me,” Bonesaw grunted.

Defiant swung the spear to one side and slammed her into the wall, knocking chemicals and vials off of every shelf unit she hit on the way.

“Why-” Bonesaw started.

Defiant raised the spear and her sentence was interrupted as her head cracked against the ceiling.  He drove the spear toward the ground with just as much force.

“Why…” Bonesaw spat blood onto the ground.  Being impaled in the heart hadn’t put her down.  “Ow.  Bit my tongue.  Why don’t you come closer, big man?  Too scared to come here and finish me off?”

Defiant didn’t respond.  Instead, he struck her against the wall again, then shoved the spear point into a set of stainless steel shelves.  Pieces of the empty glass beakers rained onto the ground beneath her dangling feet.

“Coward!” she taunted him.

Rey glanced nervously toward the door.  Would it be better to run or to stay?

The girl reached forward, clutching the shaft of the spear.  She began pulling herself forward, hauling the spear’s shaft through the hole in her chest as she closed the distance inches at a time.

She smiled as she did it.

Blades sprung from the length of the shaft, and began spinning like propellers   One caught her from behind, and she slid forward, only to find herself sandwiched between two such sets.

“That’s Mannequin’s trick!  That’s so cute, that you’re copying-”

Defiant moved the spear, and Bonesaw was thrown back, her hair and back caught against the blades.  She used her hands to pull herself forward so she was clear, maintaining a grip even as he swept the spear to one side again, keeping herself fixed at the same point on the pole’s length.

“Hey, plant geek!” Bonesaw had to raise her voice to be heard, “He kills me, you die!  Think about that!”

Rey glanced at Defiant.  There wasn’t an opening or anything that suggested at the man inside.  Only armor, implacable, unrelenting, driven.

Then he looked at the girl, half-hidden behind the blur of the spinning blades.

“Okay,” Rey said.

He wanted to live.  Wanted nothing more than to go on to do his research, maybe one day find greatness, find a woman who could appreciate him.  Have kids.

But he wanted her to live even less than he wanted any of that.  Because he could well and truly believe that she would do more harm in her life than any good he could do in his.

“Okay,” he repeated.  I can live with that.

There was a crunching sound, and Defiant snapped his head over to look at Bonesaw.

She spat, and smoke billowed where the spit came in contact with the blades.

One flew off and sailed across the room to strike a cage with animals inside.  The mechanism that was keeping the blades in motion ceased.

With nothing impeding her line of sight to Defiant, Bonesaw crunched again.  Smoke billowed from her mouth as acid ate away at her flesh, she leaned back as if she were preparing to spit a loogie-

And Defiant disabled the propeller behind her, swinging the weapon and flinging her free of the end.

She touched ground and spat out a mouthful of acid onto the floor.  It smoked on contact with the concrete.

“No,” Defiant said.  He took two steps forward and swiped with the spear, cutting her in half.

Almost in half.  Something like chainmail was wrapped around her spine, but the spear had cut through the matching mesh that had protected her abdominal organs.

Defiant turned to catch a mechanical spider that was making its way down the stairs.  He impaled it and dashed it to pieces.  Another thrust killed one that was hiding inside an air vent.

Bonesaw crawled forward, dragging her spine and ruined midsection apart from her legs.  There wasn’t as much blood as there should have been.  “Not… done.”

She clawed into her apron for vials, threw them across the room.  Defiant backed away as they exploded into clouds of white.  As they spread, Defiant was reduced to a mere silhouette.

You’re in an augmented biohazard suit, Rey thought.  He eyed Bonesaw as she clawed her way in his general direction.  Come through!

But Defiant had other ideas.  Maybe he had a degree of familiarity with the white powder, knew what it was and that it had to be avoided.

Maybe there was something else at play.  Another member of the Slaughterhouse Nine in the area?

Bonesaw was getting closer.  Rey backed away.

She looked up at him.  Dark circles were already spreading around her eyes, her face paling.  She looked gaunt.  And she held a vial.  She tried to claw the cork off and failed.

If he stepped closer, she’d do something to him, but if he didn’t try to stop her-

On the second try, the cork came free.  She pushed it in Rey’s direction, and he was quick to kick it into the cloud of white to his right.

But the fluid that had trailed out as it rolled was smoking, just under his feet.  He had nowhere to go.

He lunged, leaping onto one of the shelving units to keep from passing anywhere near Bonesaw.

Something snagged on his foot.  He toppled to the ground.

Looking back, he could see her spine was prehensile, and that it had caught his foot, winding around the bridge of it.  The sheath is hiding more machinery.

The white smoke was congealing into strands of gunk that cut off the end of the room closest to the stairwell.  Defiant was caught in the midst of it, and was slowly tearing himself free.

No.  No.

Rey tried to kick her off, but that only served to let her get a grip on his other foot.  She began clawing her way up his legs.

He reached for the keyboard, pulled it down from the shelf it sat on.  It dangled above his head, and he pressed it against the wall, tapped the keys to open the tube that held the Morrígan.

He hadn’t drained the water, and the fluid began to flow onto the ground as the glass sank into the floor.

Bonesaw had climbed up to his chest, and it was only his struggles that kept her from reaching any higher.  He clawed at her hands, and she wasn’t that strong, but she was tenacious, and she used her prehensile spine to secure any progress she made.

Three limbs against his two.  He tried to stand, failed.  Too much weight in the wrong places, and he couldn’t use his hands.

The water finished pouring out, and the Morrígan took its first steps.  Five or six years old in apparent age, a vague replica of the Simurgh.  It would have some blend of her powers and Myrddin’s.

Too busy looking at his creation, he was caught off guard as Bonesaw got hold of his throat with one hand.  She hauled herself up until her entire upper body was resting on his chest.  The sheath that had been around her spine pressed up against his face as the bone and attached machinery passed into his open mouth and down his throat.  His throat was scraped raw by the edges of it.

He choked, fought for breath, found none.

The Morrígan flopped to the ground.  Dead.  Dumb.  Not viable.

Just as the crystalline feather and Leviathan’s blood had been, it wasn’t capable of sustaining life.  A failed experiment.

Needles punched their way out of Bonesaw’s spine, found his own.  In one instant, he lost all sensation below his neck.

In the next, she was making him move, pulling him to his feet.  His head craned toward the ceiling, mouth forced open, blood trickling onto his face as the full weight of her upper body came to rest on his head.

Just got a fresh pair of hands, and this happens,” she muttered.  “Do you know how long it’s going to take to find and transplant a good pair of legs?”

She bid his hands to move as though they were her own.  At her will, he typed on the computer.  At her bidding, he turned his body to give her a better look at Defiant’s progress, threw another vial at the man.

Back to the computer.

“Samples.  Evidence,” Bonesaw murmured.  He could feel the vibrations of her voice against his face.  The air that was flowing from a tube by her spine and into his lungs was stagnant and foul, but she bid him to breathe and he breathed.

“Crawler,” she said.  There was a whir.  She used his hand to shatter the glass case that held the samples, and he groaned in pain as the shards cut it.  She made him grab the sample from the robotic claw’s grip.  “Mannequin.”

She gathered the samples in her own hands while she used his hands to type and select the options.

“Burnscar, Shatterbird… surprising how much DNA we’ve left on crime scenes.  Winter… Chuckles…”

Defiant roared.  He growled words, as if speaking to himself.

“Nice Guy, Murder Rat, Hatchet Face.  We’ve gone through a lot of members,” she said, while depositing each sample in a plastic case.  “Screamer, Harbinger, King.”

Rey choked, tried to choke.  He could control his head, his mouth.  If he passed out, would his body fail?  Would she fail?

“Pity I can’t use this lab,” Bonesaw said.  “Make the cloning process that much easier.  But I’ve seen your work.  I think I can replicate it.  Helps if I have this…”

She had him tap a key, and he could hear the water flowing as another of the glass cases started to move.  The Regrowth tube.  The seeds.

“Didn’t think we’d get this lucky,” she said.  “Jack said that since the world isn’t ending like it was supposed to, he wants to hurry it along.  We did our research, and decided to track down some decent tinkers, and you were closest.  Only problem with entering any metropolis like this is security cameras… Oooh!  Gray Boy!  He was one of Jack’s first teammates!  You wouldn’t believe the stories Jack tells about him.”

Another sample was collected and deposited in the box.

She stopped, and turned toward the Morrígan.  He could feel his blood run cold.

“Nah,” Bonesaw said.  “Even I’m not that crazy.”

She had him tap keys on the keyboard, and a laser fired from the top of the case that had held the Morrígan.  He couldn’t see, but he could smell the burning flesh.

The box of samples tucked under one arm, she walked Rey to the door that led out of the back of the basement.  The one Rey had been ordered to use when coming and going, out of Accord’s sight.

He couldn’t lose hope.  Defiant would have come on an armored suit.  If that suit was positioned to survey the area, if Defiant had contacted Dragon, ordered an airstrike or even just reinforcements-

No.  There was a ladder on the other side of the doorway, leading down into a pitch darkness.

She turned in Defiant’s direction, and Rey caught a glimpse of the hero.  He was still caught, and though the blur around his leg was cutting him free, goop was streaming down from the ceiling to connect to his upper body, and he couldn’t destroy that with a ready kick.

She had Rey grip the rungs of the ladder, and they slid down into the pitch black.

“I failed,” Defiant said.

“You hurt her.  If anyone failed, it was me,” Dragon replied.  “I couldn’t break away from the fight.”

Mist emanated from her robotic body, dissolving the strings of slime that had congealed around him.  Her hand settled on the side of his face.

“Did we gain anything?”

“I’ll show you in a minute.  Are you okay?”

“Need more tech.  Nanomolecular thorns for my arms.  It would have made the difference.”

“We can figure something out.  But are you okay?”

“I suppose so.  Where do we stand?”

“Two suits destroyed.  And we don’t yet know what Bonesaw took with her.  Jack escaped with some of his team.  But we killed four of them, all together.”

“Four,” he said.  “We should mobilize now.  There’s a limit to how fast and how far they can move, especially with the wounded.  Bonesaw went into the subway system, and it will take time for her to get free, but if she gets in contact with their new teleporter-”

“We’ll mobilize as soon as I’ve freed you, Colin.  If I don’t use this body, you’ll be left behind, and neither of us want that.”

“Better that you give chase.”

“We’re doing okay.  We’re closing the gap.  They showed up on camera, and we were ready to move on them within minutes.  We’ll do it again.”

Colin nodded, but he didn’t respond.

She settled her arms around his shoulders, letting the spray do its work.  The metal of her forehead touched his mask.  “Take it for what it is.  A little lost, a lot gained.”

It took thirty more seconds for the foam to dissolve.  She broke the hug and he tore himself free of the scraps.  They were out of the basement and walking through the ruined interior of Accord’s household in moments.

They stepped outside into the evening air.  Colin let the vents in his costume open so the cool air could flow through.  Dragon luxuriated in the feel of the air against her exterior body.

Her hand caught his as they walked to where the Uther and her own suit were waiting.

Colin stopped in his tracks.  Dragon’s suit was posed with its head pointing toward the sky.  The suit’s metal jaws were clamped around a body.

Manton.

“The Siberian is dead?”

Gone would be a more appropriate word,” she said.  “Manton is dead.”

Colin nodded and exhaled slowly.  “Good work.”

“The job’s not over yet.”

The Uther’s cabin doors opened to invite him in.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

154 thoughts on “Interlude 19 (Donation Bonus #1)

  1. Full disclosure – woke up early to get what I could done on this. At around 2pm, about halfway done (pretty usual), I realized I didn’t like what I’d written (was about Assault, but zero new info provided) and started from scratch.

    Reached a total of about 8k words between 2pm and 11pm, barely ate, but I got ‘er done. Please excuse any typos and lack of focus in the first half. I kind of wanted to show how a tinker operates in the lab, and it sprawled.

    Reviews on Webfictionguide are very much appreciated (Major thanks go out to CountGrey and Alexander Hollins for their recent reviews), as are votes on Topwebfiction.

    On a similar note – I wanted to extend major thanks to Packbat for his efforts on the Tv tropes page. Getting about twice the number of hits from there we used to (25-50 a day), and viewership/unique hits have soared, and it’s due in large part to your efforts. That’s major, and that means you’re awesome (and others should check out the page if they haven’t already/recently).

    • I am really happy that the TV Tropes page is turning out so successfully. I’ve been enjoying the story tremendously, and it’s heartwarming to think that more people are sharing the pleasure because of something I am doing.

      (And it’s kinda hilarious that when I wemt on TV Tropes to try to find a trope to link to in this comment as a joke, I stumbled upon one that I can add to the page. Gotta run!)

      • Glad you enjoyed.

        I find the most critical part of it is routine & schedule. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a planner, I’m not an organized person in the least. But maintaining a schedule where you’re writing even a thousand words a day means you’re producing 365,000 words a year. I write maybe 300 words an hour most days, maybe 500, and I’m actually slow. (Days like Wednesday are kind of unique for me).

        Anyways, that’s only 2-3 hours of time a day, if one writes at a similar speed, to keep to a goal of ~1k words a day.

        Not to mention that, and this is kind of a dirty secret, yes it’s possible to have that unbridled enthusiasm that hits you when you think you have an excellent story idea (or an idea for part of your story)… but nobody maintains that enthusiasm all the time. There will be days when you hate your writing and you have zero confidence in what you’re putting out there. There will be days when you’re thinking about quitting. There’ll be parts of your story that are, by necessity, less exciting than others. But keeping to that schedule means you’ve got momentum. With that momentum, you’ll be able to make yourself sit down at the computer (or on the couch with a moleskine notebook and fountain pen), punch out the requisite number of words, be less than 100% satisfied with it and you’ll promise yourself that you’ll go back and fix it up later. But you’ll keep writing.

        Writing is like exercise. You get better at it as you practice, you gradually scale up what you expect of yourself until you find your absolute limits, and it’s a heck of a lot more effective if you’re doing it every day (or every two days) than if you try running a marathon. Through scaling up this ‘exercise’, I’ve ratcheted up the amount I write, from a mere 500 words a day to 3000.

        That’s a large part of why I like the serial format. Having the feedback, getting those votes on Topwebfiction and the reviews on webfictionguide, seeing the comments start pouring in 15-20 minutes after the chapter goes live, it’s the equivalent of having people clapping me on the back and congratulating me after I finish running a five minute mile. I
        know I can’t stop because I’ll disappoint my readers and disappoint myself. But, more than that, I know that you guys are enjoying it too, meaning it’s not as selfish as running for myself and myself alone. There’s a discourse there, an exchange or transaction, where everyone wins, and that’s pretty excellent.

        And before you know it, you’ve done 250,000 miles of running in total. Or written almost a million words in less than two years.

    • Hi there Wildbow. Greetings from TvTropes. Or some of the tropers at least, which is pretty much the same considering the stampeding community.

      Since you are squarely to blame for pointing PsychoGecko our way, WikiMagic responds in turn by sending some other equally obnoxious troper your way ;) . Which … isn’t me of course… *looks around and points to someone at random* there, that Hg guy, it’s him. Hi Freddie.

      So, since I’m here not wreaking havoc in retaliation or anything, might I very informally invite you over to Worm’s WMG page to disgust… I mean, interest you enough for a meta-writing request?

      See, you get props for avoiding any kind of DeusExMachina or NewPowersAsThePlotDemands so far (I get Grue’s thing was more a way of introducing second triggers and give him some kind of AchillesHeel than anything else, nicely pulled out btw).
      BUT that’s exactly why you really should pull one! Make it big, make it blindingly obvious, make it absolutely useless! Have the U.S.S. Deus ex Machina superdreadnought fly in the sky over Brockton bay, pulled by multicolored flying ponies!

      tl;dr: give us a nice invoked and lampshaded DeusExMachina, bet no one is expecting that.
      Ok, now that I’ve said it they probably are, but you get to surprise all your new readers right?

      See ya around, and keep up the awsomely good work.

      PS: a WordOfGod over Imp’s power, and wether or not it works on the reader in this dimension would be pretty nice too… well unless it also works on you and you only remember and write about her when you look at the post it on your monitor with “remember Imp” written on it.

        • Aw, that fell flat on its face… Well, WMG is usually either “way off mark” or “totally crackpot”, with the very few totally accurate guesses, so it’s a bit of a ShmuckBait to invite an author to read the WMG of her own’s work. :)

          Guess we’ll have to flesh up the slash pairings a bit… umh, let’s put some out of context quotes about Tattletale saying to Taylor not to use her tongue when she kisses her :D .

          • “You couldn’t have waited until after you’d cured me before you put the bugs on your face?” Tattletale asked. She was smiling as she asked it. ”Unless you want me to drink that water.”

            “Oh no,” I smiled “I’d love to help you out.”

            She gave me a stern look, pointed at me, and said, “No tongue.”

            I stepped forward, wrapped my arms around her and whispered “No promises.”

            Was starting to think I’d never have a good reason to post this. Thanks Gorkamorka!

      • You can blow up my character entry, but you’ll never take my freeeeeedoooooom! Especially freedom to link tropes to Worm. You just watch and see, there will be more reasons to quote me. Reasons with blackjack! And the word hookers misspelled!

        • Hey PG, how come they blow you as soon as you get there, but in four years the best I got was 3 consecutive (dead) crowners?

          Also you can spell hookers perfectly it seems, you should try with something more difficult, like “heroism”, “peace” or “selflessness” :P

          • And herald your heroine-like hunger for hearsay and hubris? Heroism is humbug! Peace? Please, proliferation of such parsimonious pompous pontificating is purely public pandering. Speaking on selflessness is simply a staggeringly stupid or sarcastic submission to some singular selfish social structure or somesuch.

      • The last thing reminds me of some of the earlier comments about Imp. We tended to forget about her during action sequences until she did something, then blamed it on her powers.

  2. I am so glad not even Bonesaw is crazy enough to risk a new endbringer.

    This chapter was utterly delightful. I spent almost the entire thing rooting for people to die, and the best part is the person I was rooting against changed halfway through. Absolutely wonderful interlude.

    • Yes. For once I was cheering on Armsmaster, at least until he inevitably did the dumb thing. Blasto didn’t help matters. You would think a grown man in a lab full of lasers, glass, and other sharp, shiny things could find a way to defend himself against Bonesaw the Legless Wonder.

  3. …I’m not sure whether to be more or less scared of Bonesaw now that she’s become a little more mature. Her tricks are still just as nasty, though.

    At least the Siberian’s dead. Any battle that gets rid of her has gotta count as a victory.

    As for Blasto…well, aside from the deadness, his lab has provided some fascinating information about the Endbringers. Like that it seems they really, really shouldn’t be able to exist.

  4. Well, good news is that Manton is dead, bad news is that Bonesaw gets away with the genetic material of some of the most threatening people on the planet, with the body of a guy who can clone them all and their powers. Also, take note of the fact that while Hookwolf wasn’t mentioned, it is very likely that he was still alive.
    Anyone have any ideas as to why the Empire attacked Blasto?

    • Two big reasons to attack Blasto that I can think of. FIrst off they wanted to set up in a new city, and he was vulnerable and sitting in the middle of a large bit of territory. Attacking him gives them the chance to take over that entire territory, providing them with plenty of space for recruitment and fund raising.

      The second reason is as a show of strength. Blasto was able to hold a large area, and they ran Blasto off as soon as they showed up in town. It shows that they are a powerful group, and noone should mess with them or else.

  5. “hid any trace of their real expressions. The” – The what?

    It seems like Coil and Accord, the two Card-Carrying Evil Chessmaster types of the Wormverse, were working together, since Accord probably got the data from the Undersider’s attack of PRT headquarters (note the slight data corruption). Now they’re both dead. A niche needs to be filled. Who’ll take its place?

    Nice to see the Nine struggling a bit, even though Bonesaw just makes things even more horrific. And now she has DNA samples. Will we see more evil clones, but fully formed and “improved” by Bonesaw?

    Story-telling-wise, the look into the though-process of another Tinker at work was very nice. It differs a lot from Colin’s, but every time we hear from him, he’s busy a bit with something else. Working backwards from the end, though, makes me think they’re just Thinkers with insight into a dimension with different Technology.

    The last bit with Dragon and Defiant together felt very bittersweet. Steps forward and back, it seems, both on the anti-Nine front and the not-letting-cybernetics-eat-Colin’s-soul front. They don’t even realize what Bonesaw just took! Anyways, that part, especially the talk and the hug, was a great example of “show, don’t tell” working its magic.

    Last question: how does Jack know that the end of the world he causes isn’t going like its supposed to with his survival? Do they now have a precog on the team? And does this mean the goings on of Brockton Bay are affecting the apocalypse scenario?

      • So he assumed the apocalypse scenario was supposed to happen immediately or very soon after he left? Getting quite arrogant about his affect on the world, isn’t he?

      • That makes the prophecy hilariously self-fulfilling. Give Jack the idea he can really trigger an Armageddon of some sort –> “hmmm…. smashing!” –> Jack runs down his and Bonesaws lists of every batshit insane way to wreck the world. They’re crazy-sick-powerful so sooner or later their shotgun approach bears fruit.

    • “It seems like Coil and Accord, the two Card-Carrying Evil Chessmaster types of the Wormverse, were working together, since Accord probably got the data from the Undersider’s attack of PRT headquarters (note the slight data corruption).”

      That would also explain how Coil found out about the Travelers.

    • Same. I’m pretty sure I was scrolling around villain protagonist when I first saw the link to here.
      Also, Packbat has earned my cookie of eccentric awesomeness for the week, a honor so commonly held by Gecko, for the sheer amount of time he probably has to put into his insanity, that this is my official announcement of its existence. Congratulations my fellow troper.

    • I came here from TV Tropes too, specifically from “The Worm that Walks” trope page. Also: If you read like… five arcs all in one sitting, you have really cool dreams about becoming a super hero.

  6. Accord is totally one of THOSE guys. You know the type. The douchebag that no one likes but everyone is obligated to deal with for whatever reason. Except he’s a supervillain. I’d expect a resounding groan from the entire room as he walks in the big villain summit.

    Wait, what was that about Crawler? OH SHIT.

    Well, atleast we dodged the attack of the Endbringer clones bullet. If you really wanted to end the world… that’d do it. I really hope Accord’s dead, that amount of crazystupid concentrated in one person is almost as dangerous as the nine.

    So why are Defiant and Dragon working alone? Super mecha or no, their feelings for eachother might hamper their mission without other voices telling them to get a room. Expand your operation guys. Go hit up Glory Girl, I’m sure she’s jonesing for a Raiden-ass super cyborg body.

    • In Accord’s defense, he was planning on framing Blasto, and not letting the tinker get to the point where he really finished a dangerous project; let him start working, get caught up in things, and then disappear, leaving a message for the heroes so they can stumble on the guy with piles of classified material and a possible Endbringer-in progress (note how the place is nice, but it’s not Accord’s real headquarters, as they were described in the last chapter of Migration).

      I was going to have something like that in there, but couldn’t find a place for it at the end that wouldn’t kill the tempo.

      • I for one like Accord. The consummate professional is one of my favorite character types. Hope he’s not dead and we can see more of him in the future (maybe potential non-Worm stories in the same universe).

  7. Have I mentioned how much I love your naming of characters? Blasto, I love it. The furniture he made is called old, so I wonder just how long Accord’s been in business.

    Poor Blasto. I wonder if he survives. A bit of a shame to see Manton/Siberian die offscreen, but I suppose that since Skitter wasn’t there anyway this is probably close enough.

    I wonder if Blasto realized that Citrine was making a joke about the frog DNA.

    “real expressions. The” Cuts off at ‘the’

      • Never gonna happen. The wormverse doesn’t seem to get lucky breaks. There is so much potential for destruction and mayhem in the future. Bonesaw is going to try and come back with clones of all past members of the 9 and maybe a few heroes, Nilbog could decide he wants a bigger territory and make like Loki in the Avengers by attacking a major city, Cauldron is definitely going to do something in response to the Undersiders having knowledge about them, and a new Endbringer attack should be coming soon.

          • Have they ever hit the same country twice in a row? I figured that the US probably has a brief reprieve since they were hit last.

          • I don’t think they take national borders into consideration, just turmoil. Going on absolutely nothing in-story, I’d say that there’s a better chance of the Endbringers hitting the US again instead of some other tiny country. Based purely on landmass and population. Larger countries tend to have more cities to hit on the Let’s Bring the End (TM) dartboard.

            Any data on Enbringer attacks in Africa wildbow?

          • Never mind, I looked back at the past info you gave Wildbow. Let’s see, 8 or 9 attacks in America over the last 20 years that figures an attack roughly every two years so hopefully that gives the US a little reprieve. I’m a little bored so i think I’ll try to figure out where they have it us here. Wild Mass Guessing Time. They have hit Hawaii, you mention that it was one of 6 attacks that left the world reeling so I’m guessing Leviathan might have sunk an island, probably oahu where most of the population lives. The Smurf attacked in Wisconsin and I’m going to guess that Milwaukee has been quarantined due to it being the biggest city with the most people. Leviathan goes for freshwater supplies so he has probably hit the great lakes which I think also counts as an attack on Canada. The rest is pure speculation. The list of Scion’s powers includes the capability to stop an erupting volcano, and flash freezing a levee so there is a possibility that two Endbringer attacks involved those. To do the most damage Leviathan could have attacked New Orleans in a dark mirror of the flood in our country, and there is that supervolcano in Yellowstone that I figure Behemoth could have tried to erupt before being stopped by Scion. Since you mention a weakpoint being power plants than I am going to guess Behemoth attacked the nuclear power plant on Three Mile Island at the time of the accident for maximum damage. If I was the Smurf, I would have hit Washington at a time where most of our leaders are convened for the most widespread chaos, and potential destruction. Just imagine all the chaos from having every politician and the President having to get those little tattoos and never being trusted again. My final guess is going to be New York since the country would be left reeling from such an attack, and lets face it, every disaster/alien invasion/attack seems to hit there.

          • Oh no, what would we do in a world where we couldn’t trust politicians?

            Hitting freshwater in the U.S. means you can’t forget the Mississippi. If you want to cripple the U.S. food supply, try the midwest. Another alternative is attacking too close to the border. As has been found out, if you cut off the flow of undocumented workers to the U.S., we don’t have enough people to pick the food.

            Certain areas also have more of a military presence. D.C. will draw all kinds of soldiers, but don’t forget other areas, like Florida, if you want to attack the Navy and Naval Aviation assets. To further cripple military assets, Simurgh could influence hackers to hit where all modern militaries are at their weakest: cyber warfare.

            To wreck the economy of it, New York and California are good choices. Silicon Valley and Wall Street, but also anywhere in those states that are known for banking and housing (mortgage and foreclosure companies in California, for instance). Texas, Alaska, and the various offshore drilling platforms would also be useful for hurting the U.S. energy supply and the environment through gas and oil.

            Simurgh could also easily hurt the infrastructure through influencing individuals to tamper with local power grids and and streets, slowing people’s responses and lowering the quality of life. Plus, always going to be that situation where someone dies because there was a brownout at the wrong time or because a vehicle’s tire was damaged due to screwed up roads.

          • I completely forgot about the oil rigs and silicon valley. Oh my god, what if the wormverse is still stuck with windows 95 and that bastard clippy? I kind of doubt Behemoth could do enough damage to wreck the food supply, even for him, that seems a bit much. The Mississippi seems scarily possible, and there would have been a huge effect if that stopped existing. I doubt the military would have been attacked, they can’t seem to react fast enough/aren’t a big enough threat to them, as was discussed a few chapters back. Behemoth was first seen attacking the oil fields and a very few such attacks could cripple economies. There was a documentary about what would happen to the US if gas prices rose to a certain level and bad things happen, but I can’t remember the name of it. We still have the gas reserve which is supposed to last for a few decades, and it may have been tapped due to Behemoth. Maybe the wormverse pulled off what ours couldn’t and there was a mass switch over to electric vehicles. If a nuclear power plant was hit, we might have our own Chernobyl dead zone somewhere. Damn, just thinking about the damage makes me scared to think how bad other parts of the world are. Does the middle east/parts of Africa even exist anymore in the wormverse? There have got be unclaimed, devastated, no man’s lands ruled by parahuman warlords in other parts of the world.

  8. “One of the suits was deploying swarms of drones, but they were getting cut out of the air as fast as they appeared. Another had a loose-fitting coat of human flesh draped over him, stretched it out to grab surrounding buildings and anchor himself in place as a lizard with a giant wheel on its back tried to haul him close with an invisible force.”

    It feels like their’s something missing between the drone suit attacking and the dude covered in human flesh.

    It was pretty interesting to see how different a style Blasto has to his work compared to the other Tinker’s we’ve seen. Kind of a shame that he’s dead now, I’ve always liked villains who made their own minions and I’ve always liked the description ‘vat-grown’.

    Anyway, I shudder at Boensaw could accomplish will all the genetic material in Blasto’s lab but on the other hand she’s always on the move which means long term growing projects are going to be difficult.

  9. Now, to avoid using a Dimension Bomb too close in proximity to the Nine, I’d say we need to target celestial bodies. A rogue star, rogue black hole, or perhaps deliver something that somehow speeds up the flow of time Sol by a few billion years.

    I wouldn’t risk mass production and repurposing of the regenerative nanomachines, though. While useful for full terrestial elimination, there needs to be no possibility of survival.

    At least we found out one of or perhaps the only true domino block of Simurgh’s impact on the Travelers. If Perdition hadn’t gone mad and attacked Noelle. If Trickster hadn’t felt obligated to see to Noelle’s safety by taking a job elsewhere. If Noelle had had a normal Cauldron-induced power event. If someone had eliminated Blasto before Bonesaw got her hands on the ability to mass produce clones of every former member of the Slaughterhouse Nine except Siberian, with the possibility of crossbreeding Hatchet Face’s power immunity into them.

    • Except Siberian? How do we know she hasn’t had tissue samples of William Manton for a while, just in case something like this happened?

      • I don’t. She is surprised at all the DNA they leave behind, meaning she doesn’t keep track of it too much herself.

        I bet Dragon and Armsmaster could have had more heroes there to respond as reinforcements if they hadn’t all been drawn to a sudden S-class threat elsewhere.

    • I wonder if anyone else thinks that the Endbringers are law enforcement from a parallel universe there to put an end to the mess made by the Passengers, who are empowering superheroes as a pan-dimensional reality show for some advanced society’s entertainment, at the cost of sucking up entire parallel worlds’ worth of energy.

    • Sorry for the excessively excessive commenting and jacking up of the comment section. As always, Wildbow has my permission (even if he or she doesn’t need it) to not have to put up with me egojacking the place.

      I’d have tried something that wasn’t written before or at least something relevant to the update, but I was tired enough even before Wildbow’s attempted darkrape of my happiness potential.

  10. wow ! there wasn’t a slow spot in this bonus chapter at all , very riveting with lots of omg moments (at least for me ) .

    hmmm now I want to do some chibi slaughterhouse niners to go with the chibi undersiders I drew .

      • find me some descriptions :P I only ever wrote down the descriptions for the monsters like Crawler and Manequin …I think shatterbird wears a costume but im not sure and the wiki isn’t being too helpful.

        • Check the interludes at the end of 11 — 11.a has a description of Siberian, 11.b of Jack Slash, 11.c Burnscar, 11.d Mannequin, 11.e Shatterbird, and 11.g Cherish. No description of Crawler, but you said you had that already.

        • Here you go, descriptions culled from various chapters of everybody except mannequin and crawler. hope this is helpful.

          “Bonesaw.” The girl on the screen looked barely older than Dinah. Her dark hair had been curled into ringlets with painstaking care, but the rest of her was unkempt, filthy. The girl wore a stained apron that was too large for her, and the scalpels and tools in the pocket gleamed, catching the light from the lamps in the corner of the room.The image showed her wide-eyed, a spray of dried blood painted her face at a diagonal.

          “Shatterbird.” A dark-haired, brown-skinned woman .The upper half of her head was covered in a helmet of colored glass, and her body was covered with a flowing garment made of tiny glass shards, like scales.

          “The Siberian.” A woman, naked from head to toe, her body painted in alternating stripes of jet black and snow white. her eyes were yellow and bright, reflecting the ambient light like the eyes of a dog or cat might. She stood over the man’s mangled body, her long hair blowing slightly in the wind. Which seemed wrong. With the light rain, her hair should have been wetter.

          “Burnscar.” Younger, maybe an older teenager or a young-looking twenty-something. She looked almost normal, with her dark hair badly cut, but then I saw the vertical row of cigarette burns marking each of her cheeks, and a faint glow to her eyes. Burnscar wore a red dress and had chosen to go barefoot rather than wear shoes. Her dark brown hair was a tangled mess above staring green eyes. Her skin was pale, giving a greater contrast to the red of her clothing and the dark the circles under her eyes.

          “Hatchet Face.” This was one I hadn’t even heard of. The man didn’t wear a mask, and his head was shaved. He looked like he had been beaten, burned and just plain abused so often that his face was as much scar tissue than flesh, and he didn’t look like he’d been handsome to begin with.
          At the very back of the group, trailing even behind Crawler, was a hulk of a man who I took to be Hatchet Face. He looked like he was rotting alive, and there were grafts of flesh and mechanical replacement parts filling in the gaps. . A long-handled axe sat in one of his massive, calloused hands, the head resting on the floor. and she saw what looked like a tumorous growth on the back of his head, shoulders and arms. Except the growth had a face, vaguely Asian in features, and the lumps inside the growth each roughly corresponded with organs and skeletal structure. The jaw of the figure that was attached to the back of Hatchet Face’s body was working open and closed like a fish gasping for air. The stitches were still fresh.

          “Jack Slash.” Jack looked like someone on the attractive side of average, his dark hair cut short and styled with gel. His beard and moustache were immaculately trimmed so that each had a serrated edge, and his shirt was wrinkled, only half buttoned so his hairless upper chest showed. He had kind of a Johnny Depp look to him, though he had more of a widow’s peak, a longer face and lighter eyes. Good looking, if you looked past the fact that he was a mass murderer. He held a small kitchen knife in the photo. Theo looked at the thirty-something man. He wore a dress shirt that was open to show his muscled chest and stomach, and had the sleeves rolled up to expose his forearms. His tight jeans were low slung, his limbs long, and his hair was longer and greasy. Jack’s beard had been trimmed, but scruff was growing in around the edges, obscuring the intricate pattern that had been trimmed into the inside border of the facial hair. A knife danced around his fingers constantly,

          Cherish. A teenager with a red streak dyed into her dark hair strode down the street in rubber boots. she might’ve been eighteen or so years old, and bore a striking resemblance to Alec.

  11. I found it VERY interesting that the heroes gave Blasto a heads up on what he couldn’t do if he wanted to avoid a kill order. It would be so easy for him to become an S class threat, and just going out of their way to warn him could give him time to develop reproducing creat ures in secret and not release them until he had a full blown army.

    • They probably thought that the threat of him leaving(or having already left) self reproducing timebombs on a deadman’s switch was bigger than the threat of him responding with an army.

    • Or you know, not do it because he didn’t want to get killed.

      Which worked out.

      Whereas had he gone ahead and made the things then his death wouldn’t have made them not exist. Sometimes diplomacy is better then swinging the hammer.

  12. I may be the only one to find this so dark judging from other comments. Oh well. Time to change that mood. Unfortunately, I gotta take a cop out if you’re someone who has read my comments for a long time over on LoN. I’ve directed people towards this, but this is the first time this story has seen the light of day over here.

    • 1. Psychonomous Gex!: The Rise of Psycho Gecko, Part 1, or “How to steal limelight from this other website that you probably shouldn’t post this on oh well hit the button”

      One night, three men walk into a bar. One tall, one fat, and one about on par. They were blue collar types who had come far, and now they were in a no collar bar.

      The other patrons could best be described as the type of people who wear short shorts, camo, and/or basketball jerseys to a wedding reception. Simple folk. The common clay of the earth. You know, morons.

      The three take a seat at a table as far away from both the usual crowd and the foul-smelling, chunky fluid in the back corner of the bar.

      “I can’t believe we’re in a dump like this,” said Frank, the most average looking of them, save for his mustache, the likes of which once caused a wild-haired scientist driving a customized, gull-wing Pinto and his passenger, a Brit with a scarf, to believe they had perfected time travel and were now in the 70s.

      He hadn’t addressed either of his comrades, but they were all huddled on one side of the table with the taller man in the middle. Used to taking charge, he responds, “This is where he said for us to meet him. You’re the one that said this guy was the best with these kinds of things. How great he was with those jobs in the UK.”

      “Give him a call or something, Bill. I think I heard someone call out ‘Freebird’ whatever that means.”

      Bill raises an eyebrow and looks over at the rotund third wheel of the group, hoping for further input. The third man, Harlon, merely looks at the small snack menu that was already present on the table and asks a question for the ages, “Fried…pickles?”

      Bill sighs and takes out his mobile. Loaded as it is with blue tooth wifi internet connection, texting keyboard, touchscreen, game apps, stylus, GPS navigator, and music player, its ability to make phonecalls is sketchy at best. Just as the P.I.’s number starts to dial, a man in a tan duster and khaki pants walks over, ringing. He sets down a bottle of vodka and three glasses. “Hey there, fellows, just who I’ve been waiting for.”

      “You’re-?”

      “That’s right, I’m you’re guy. Sorry for the surroundings, but I felt it was best if there was no way you guys’ were spied on at the places you normally drink at. You know, with all those people who know what you look like.”

      Bill holds out his hand, “I’m Bill, this is Frank, and Harlon. Nice to make your acquaintance at long last. We heard great things about you. Obviously, that’s why we hired you. All the privacy, and then meeting like this, caught us quite off guard, you must understand.”

      The man sits, ignoring the offered handshake. “That’s the point though. Helps me do my job better. If everyone knew who I was and what I looked like, that just defeats the purpose.”

      “Quite alright, we understand, don’t we?”

      Frank and Harlon nod, Harlon now contemplating the menu’s nachos and salsa.

      The man pours drinks for his companions, then reaches into his coat, removing a pair of spectacles and a folder. “Go ahead, have a drink on me. I reckon you chaps will want a report now?”

      Bill grins, “Yes, if you have dug up any interesting dirt, we could get the network to spin off a whole new series. Imagine, a show dedicated to the dirty little secrets of supervillains.”

      “Why would you want this guy though? Why not get one of the world dominating types?”

      Frank spoke up, “Nobody uses the A class in reality shows. That’s why Celebrity Whatever has people like James Woods, Kathy Griffin, or that midget from those comedies in them. Plus, we can do whatever want to their reputation.”

      “I see someone’s excited. Alright then, Psycho Gecko. Name unknown, age unknown,” he keeps talking as Frank attempts to voice his outrage,” Place of birth is an alternate dimension. No classification of the dimension as of yet. Notable variations include a mutant species of humanity known as Homo Machina,” here Harlon snickers,” that have the ability to physically integrate with technology. You stick your phone in one’s hand and after awhile the nerves join up with it. This makes them incredible with technology, a handy skill as that Earth’s technology level is approximately 3 generations higher than this one. Gecko is one such individual.”

      “Family is unknown. As a child, he was put into a government project. Homo Machina were feared by the government and distrusted by the populace, so they and other undesirables were considered the perfect fodder for the Psychopomp program. Psychopomp, as we all know, refers to a type of mythological being that ushers the souls of the dead to the afterlife in some manner,” Bill and Frank nod along as if they know this. Harlon, meanwhile, is busy examining a hunk of wax from his ear, ”In this instance, it was an attempt by this one government to continue warfare in a changing world. Warfare was too dangerous to engage in openly and civilians knew it. All warfare was becoming covert, like what the CIA and KGB were engaged in. Undeclared war amongst the shadows because of the threat of complete annihilation.”

      The man pauses for a sip directly from the bottle. Frank takes a moment to chime in, “There’s an idea. Juicy details about other United States’ politics and scandals!”

      “Yeah, yeah, sure. Anyway, they subjected these kids to a lot. There’s a reason this was all kept extremely quiet. Fighting dogs, killing and dissecting pigs bare-handed, rape, cutting up the tendons of living kittens and then splashing them with saltwater. Kicking poodles. They were exposed to all that and more.”

      The three executives are stunned until Harlon speaks up, “Why would they do that in front of a little kid?”

      “Good question. That’s what they forced the kids to do, not what they did in front of them, though I suppose watching each person having to do it or be executed also counts. I guess I should explain. They didn’t care about long term assets. They were prepared to lose all the kids they did this to, with the added benefit at the end of getting someone too used to following horrific orders for them that they’d be able to cause all kinds of homicidal carnage when blended into an enemy civilian population. Government-trained, batshit-crazy serial killers. But lets be honest, they were probably a little sadistic and got bored of making naked human pyramids. Point is, no matter what happens, someone dies that they don’t like. That’s where the name comes from. To dehumanize these kids, they didn’t give them real names. Just referred to them as different animals.”

      “The two to make it to the end were designated Gecko and Lamb. Lamb was an especially empathetic boy. Crying all the time, reluctant to kill, but very good at knowing just where to hurt someone. Gecko, on the other hand, was a stone-cold sadistic murderer. He enjoyed it. Surprised them all when Lamb finally snapped at their graduation and killed him.”

      Bill begins to cough in mid-sip. Harlon gives him a lazy pat on the back as the story continues.

      “Lamb changed after that. Had been just as sadistic as Gecko when he did that. The official file reads that he felt like such a coward for doing horrible things to protect his own life that he gave up and killed someone he thought deserved it for once, and in the process became too much like that person for his psyche to handle. Your usual psych eval BS, but he insisted on taking the name Gecko, so he was redesignated as Psychopomp Gecko. It was such a proud graduation day for the program. ”

      THUD! THUD!…….THWACK!

      The man stands up, shaking his head at the sight of two men with their heads on the table and the third having fallen out of his seat. “See, you guys have to lay off the booze and get out more. So nervous you drank too fast and didn’t get to hear the whole story. That private eye was so much calmer compared to you three.”

      Psycho Gecko shakes his head as he raises the bottle and drains what is left. “Since I’m talking, might as well share with you that the secret was the thin coating of powder on the interior of the glasses. Mix this stuff with it, take a drink, and in moderate amounts it merely paralyzes. In too large a dose…”

      Gecko leans down, checking their vitals. “Yep, got you two little ones…the big one over here…you’re still alive.” He reaches down and raises Harlon’s arm so that he could lift the fat executive up, appearing to just be carrying his drunk acquaintance out of the bar. “Let’s go see that boss of yours, the one who set y’all on this project. Maybe he’d like to hear a story.”

      As the bar door closes behind them, Gecko can be heard saying something innocent enough. ”You remind me of a pet I used to have. Now, was it one of the dogs, a pig, or that darn cat…”

    • 2. Psychonomous Gex!: The Rise of Psycho Gecko, Part Deuce, or “A Hot, Steamy Night on the Town.”

      Mr. Morden steps into his office, wearing a scowl. It’s 11 and he got called away from a very expensive dinner with the mayor about removing those unsightly protestors. The plates alone cost $400, not counting the money he had hidden underneath and woven into the napkins. Those homeless, good-for-nothing hippies, wearing the same dirty clothes they bought years ago as if they can’t afford any new ones. Why don’t they shut up until they get their trust money or talk on tv for money, like normal people?

      But that isn’t what has him really pissed off tonight. He puts two of his best men (and his sister’s son) on a simple scheme to wiretap and spy on supervillains for gossip, and now he can’t even get a straight answer on what they know except that Harlon’s in his office, Morden’s own office, demanding he get up there.

      “Harlon,” he starts as he barge in, “what the hell are y-” The office is completely black. Even the blinds are closed. If those security guards lied to them, he’ll send their jobs to China so fast the uniforms will be made out of lead and asbestos before they can even get them off. “Lights on,” he calls out, swinging the door closed and stepping towards his desk.

      Instead of a pleasant glow suffusing the entire office, a much less purple-prosed single light over his chair comes on. It is facing away, with someone in it.

      “There you are, Harlon. What is the matter with you boy?”

      The chair swings around, revealing a man in black and orange power armor. The visor of his helmet is one solid piece, though the top curves downward in the middle, evoking the image of a glare. At the mouth is what appears to be some sort of rebreather, softening the image somewhat until Morden notices the gloves that feature barbed wire coming out and wrapping around the hands. Hands that are holding Harlon on this freak’s lap, stroking the bound fat man’s back like a cat.

      “Good evening, Double-O Douchetwit.”

      Morden slips his hands into his pockets, deciding to play this out business-like. He hits his personal panic button, signaling the super-security guards. They are always on call to come to his personal aid, though it would take them a little while to arrive. He just needs to stall for time. He answers back at the taunting, “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, and Harlon as well, Mister…?”

      “The name’s Gecko. Psycho Gecko. Harlon here is a bit shaken, not stirred. I’m here in regards to that story your people were so desperate to obtain about me.”

      Mr. Morden chuckles, “Cutting out the middle men? A man after my own heart.”

      “I’d save such an assumption until after the story.”

      “And I would be fascinated to hear it, then we can call up a notary, is that fine? You supervillains handle things differently than my people.”

      Gecko leans back in the chair, putting one foot up on Morden’s desk and being careful not to tip over with Harlon still on his lap.

      “I guess you could say I’ve really been a supervillain ever since my public failure to assassinate this one emissary on my home earth. For the first time in their laughable existence, the Phenomenal Fighting Justice Rangers had actually left the country and, quite unfortunately, were there to muck things up. My handlers burned me, first figuratively, by disavowing me, then literally, with some C4 cleverly hidden in a role of toilet paper. I will admit, that was a good try. So there I was, directionless, penniless, homeless, and toilet paperless. I already had a first version of my armor then, but I decided to revise it and head home for the first time in quite awhile. For one thing, I was pretty angry about the C4. No doubt my former handlers suspected as much when the Hexagon was toilet papered with no clue as to who did it, but I think when the TP exploded really gave them an insight into how deep the feelings of betrayal ran.

      I actually managed to kill most of the high-level members of the Psychopomp project before some junior ones decided to trick everybody’s favorite semi-competent heroes, the Justice Rangers, into trying to save them from me. The first time, they really did get lucky. Top notch equipment and funding, bottom-rung experience. They had suits that could protect them by dispersing most incoming attacks into blunt-forced trauma, with the side effect of causing sparks to fly. Their strength was enhanced, even their balance was better calibrated through those things. Idiotically, they took advantage of that to perform multiple flips every time they jumped. I once slammed the door behind one just to see what would happen. Two and three-quarter flips before I choked him to death. The whole thing had a depressing ending, though, when the Rangers themselves uncovered the truth about the Psychopomp project and exposed it to everyone.

      Now, this still didn’t make me a big hero to most people, seeing as I’d still done some pretty despicable things, like this one hit involving running a garden hose into a target’s ass and out his mouth so I could shove it against his nostrils and drown him. I couldn’t help but spice up a “natural causes” job.

      Still, to many other disaffected young Homo Machina, I became some sort of odd, heroic figure. I was like some sort of magnetically personality, attracting the disenfranchised of my species to me. They wanted to attain equal rights violently, I wanted to kill the Justice Rangers and cause widespread destruction and chaos. Win-win. Until the Botphodkers Building fiasco. Did that ever leave me feeling sore in the morning. I guess stealing transdimensional technology and assembling it into a bomb that would destroy the whole city we were in just came across as counterproductive to them. Especially that part where it might take the rest of the continent with it. There we were, force shield still up, Justice Rangers unable to stop us and unwilling to escape, when they turned on me.

      Yep, my own followers turned on me. One in particular, a mean little lady, knocked me out. Cold, too. I was out, but I have some good recording equipment on this thing. She had her doubts some time back, and was just looking for a good enough scheme to turn on me, save the day, and win the praise of everyone that way. And so I hear they did. Some later contact between our dimensions, sporadic as it is, revealed that they escaped with me left propped against my precious bomb, reversed the shields, and hooked it up to the city’s power array. I bet they burned out half the nation’s power grid, but in the end it was enough to contain the effect. But what they forgot is that my subconscious has an ego too. A super ego, you might say, given my powers. I knew that bomb better than anyone at that time, and was in physical contact. A little quick instinctive rewiring and instead of a void, I wound up on some random other earth. I’d tear a dimension a new one in my sleep to stay alive. Hello world, meet Gecko.”

      Mr. Morden nods, worried to hear the end of this meandering tale of idiocy and strangely familiar pop-culture references. Those guards should have been here before he could even finish this tho-

      Two hulking men in suits burst in, quickly assess the situation, and come at Gecko from either side of the desk. Gecko spins the chair to the side, jumps up, and awkwardly hands Harlon to guard #1, whose hands are on fire, with a “Yo dawg, hold my cat,” then kicks back, sending the chair rolling into guard #2, slowing him down. Then he disappears.

      When he next appears, he’s in the air in front of the guard #2, wrapping one glowing hand around the guard’s neck. He then grinds his other fist over the eyes of the guard, the motion of the barbed wire opening the eyelids and allowing the energy concentrated on the points to finish the blinding.

      Gecko holds on, watching the man’s face as he screams. “You’re lucky, you get ALL the eyescream.”

      Meanwhile, Morden has rushed over to guard #1, who has had to douse his flames, insisting on having Harlon handed over to him so the guard can help his partner. The guard complies, causing Morden to collapse onto his back under Harlon’s weight. The guard pulls back for a punch, his fist a ball of flame, then aims it right for Gecko. Luckily, every set of Psycho Gecko power armor comes with leather interior, surround sound, power windows, an owner’s manual written entirely in Mongolian, fake fangs, a few birds, a pogo stick, donkey ears, extending tongue gag, rubber chicken (you can’t even get these anymore), lucky whale tooth, and a giant clam that opens to reveal an American flag held by a mermaid and her normal brother Richard, and a rearview mirror. Gecko drops down onto his rear as guard #1 throws the punch, dropping guard #2. Gecko rolls back, bringing his legs over him in a kick to #1′s knee. The guard stumbles and falls to his knee. Balanced on his back as if to kip up, Gecko wraps his legs around the man’s neck and his arms around the man’s leg, yanking the man to the ground and squirming out from under him.

      The guard rises quickly, then stops, disbelieving this latest assault, too close as it is to risk lots of flames. He can almost hear the villain grin behind him as he speaks, “Now I’m going to demonstrate a move I fondly call ’63ing your ass.’ It’s pretty simple. Just insert your hand into the enemy’s rectum, then rotate 63 degrees on a random axis and let go.” Short story mercifully shorter in this case, the guard’s head hits the CEO’s desk hard and he is thankfully out before any other orifices can be invaded by Gecko’s other or, as an even worse thought, same hand.

      Gecko turns towards Morden, speaking genially, “Picked up that move during the conflict on Uranus. Now, we still have,” only to be interrupted by the growls of Guard #2 behind him. Sighing, Gecko turns, noticing the man’s eyes have completely regenerated and that he possesses abnormally long and sharp nails. Gecko grabs him by the bottom of his mouth, the guard biting at his fingers. Gecko quickly leans in, speaking in a low growl the most evil, menacing words of perhaps his entire supervillain career, “Smell. My. Finger.”

      The guard begins to puke as he tastes just which hand Gecko shoved into his mouth. Off balance, his head is easily yanked down into Gecko’s knee, and he too is mercifully out.

      Gecko opens a window to let a little of the smell out, undoes that particular glove, fishes a grenade off of his belt, sets it inside, and lets it drop. Then, he bends low, balancing on the balls of his feet as he addresses the still-trapped Mr. Morden. “Now, we still have one last bit of business to discuss, and that took far too long.” Gecko pulls out a small spray canister from his belt and sprays it into the air in front of his breather. “Mmm, lemony fresh.” He turns it on Morden and gives it a squeeze.

      For Mr. Morden, CEO of the largest news and media corporation on earth, things go drowsy and black.

    • 3. Psychonomous Gex! The Rise of Psycho Geck, Part 3 or “Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming”

      Psycho Gecko steps out of the fancy penthouse bedroom, tossing a bottle of Mr. Morden’s expensive brandy against the second-story railing. Harlon, at the foot of the nearby stairs, winces at the crash of the liquor bottle and tinkling of broken glass. “Um, Mr. Gecko, is something wrong?”

      Gecko chuckles, then calls down, “Not a thing, Harlon, he’s dead.”

      Harlon blinks and takes a moment thinking of a safe answer, “Uh…um…I didn’t think you’d make it so quick.” Gecko walks down and lays a hand on Harlon’s shoulder. Harlon dips his shoulder a little, hoping in some way to lower himself from under the villain’s grip. “But however you want to do things is fine.”

      “Relax, Harlon. I just didn’t feel the need to really explain myself to him. One of the rules I was taught, and stick to sometimes, was that if you’re going to kill someone, you don’t spend a few minutes letting them know everything behind your evil plan. You kill them.”

      Harlon tenses up, prompting Gecko to laugh and state, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you unless you betray my trust.”

      The look on Harlon’s face makes it clear to Gecko that either the fat executive isn’t so sure that’s a great idea, or his underwear just filled up. Gecko reaches into the pocket of the trench coat he now wears over his armor’s chest piece. Harlon starts to shrink away, but Gecko merely pulls out a pair of sunglasses that he slides onto the man’s face.

      “You are my number one guy,” Gecko begins as he leads Harlon out, his voice now lacking the combined menace and playfulness that has tinted most of his conversations with hapless businessmen of late. “I’d like some money diverted my way, and if I need anything disseminated through your end of the media, I’ll let you know. Probably won’t come down to that. You, meanwhile, will likely face some sort of promotion thanks to your boss’s unfortunate overdose on several illicit substances connected to his odd actions at his office. There, he called up a couple of guards to the office where he began his little binge, leaving puke and dropping some sort of explosive out the window. Or possibly the explosive was unrelated. The two guards are probably embarrassed enough that they’ll accept any story that doesn’t let the truth get out, especially as the truth reflects poorly on their abilities and strength of sphincter. From there, his car was spotted being driven erratically to his penthouse weaving in and out of traffic, running several stoplights, and playing blaringly loud techno music. Any of those, of course, being a good reason to pull someone over. You don’t know what was up with your fellows who died at the bar, or even what they were doing there, and neither of us know why people are eating fried pickles. You’ll do well there.”

      “I’m only there because I’m family. I didn’t do what my mom and dad wanted, so they’d rather put me in some job at my uncle’s company so I wouldn’t do something embarrassing, like teach. I really have no responsibilities. I don’t know how to run it.”

      Gecko presses the button to the elevator, then points his finger right in his companion’s face, “I don’t believe you.”

      “What?”

      “You handled being kidnapped, tied up, stroked like a cat, dumped helpless on top of someone while three supers fought nearby, and you didn’t even lose your cool when I PIT maneuvered that cop car. You can handle the pressure.”

      “But I don’t really KNOW anything.”

      “Psh. You can learn that stuff. You act like someone with family connections like yours actually has to know what they’re doing before they get the job.”

      The door dings as it opens and they step inside, the murderous villain continuing the pep talk with his hostage, “When I was a teenager, me and the others in the program were put into a room with a burger in our hand and a pit bull, just to see what kind of people we were. When it growls and starts after you, some people run away. Other people run at it. You don’t learn that.”

      Harlon relaxes with a sigh and speaks up as they ride the elevator down to the ground floor, “What about your story?”

      Gecko leans against the side of the elevator, “Good man, Harlon. No reporting of it at all. You will never tell it to anyone. Stay quiet and we’re cool.”

      “You know, you’re not that bad of a guy for a supervillain,” Harlon blurts out.

      Psycho Gecko suddenly grabs Harlon by the shoulders and pulls him in for a hug. After a couple of awkward seconds, he lets him go and speaks, “Well, the whole mass genocide and destruction of a world or city was all…letting off steam. Finding my own way in life. Whoops,” he throws his hands up, “I overreacted. To tell the truth, I’m happier here. All this tonight was much smaller than my old death tolls. This guy wouldn’t believe anyone could or would kill him, and it’s fun to disprove that notion to someone who believes that. Fun, that’s what I’m about. Sometimes that means stealing money to fund my amusements, killing people or superpeople, rapid-fire digestion of pop culture, or even something as simple as reading an online serial about superheroes.” With that, Gecko counts off the walls of the elevator, then turns and smiles at the fourth one, which then opens up to the lobby.

      “Maybe…we could hang out sometime?” Harlon asks, painfully aware that he’s been treated more like a person by the crazy killer who acted like he was a cat than most of his own family.

      Gecko shakes his head, circuitry lighting up under his skin just as the helmet of his armor reforms over his head. Then, trench coat and all, he fades to invisibility.

      “Sorry, Harlon, you don’t need that kind of fun. But I’ll be in touch.”

      Harlon just scuffs his shoes at the ground before realizing he doesn’t have a ride. And that his offer was incredibly dumb. 10 minutes later, he’s walking along the road. A man steps out of an alley, holding a gun. Harlon doesn’t freeze, or try to run. He stops. The man steps closer, holding out his other hand, “Do I really need to ask?”

      Suddenly, the hand with the gun is wrenched to the side. The man is thrust into the air, his chest bursting out as he’s held in the air. His blood reveals a fist plunged through his ribs. The fist opens up like a mouth as a voice babytalks, “Rawrs! I are scary monster. I run away now and come back big like a full sized man in a suit!” The man is flung off to the side Psycho Gecko deactivates his stealth mode, arms wide. “Ta da!”

      “You know, Gecko, you didn’t have to kill him.”

      “Supervillain. Deal with it,” Gecko says with a shrug, then remembers to push the body off his arm. “Here, dude, how about we walk and talk til you find a ride?”

      *Finally, The End*

    • How come you have not started your own blog/WordPress? You could compile all of your creativity/insanity from across the internet into one epic madhouse of a site, in addition to posting here on Worm and the Legion of Nothing.

      • OK, wow, I fail. Apparently, you already do have a WordPress, it just does not contain all of the writing you have done. In fact, it is completely different. It will take me some time to get through all of it.

        Still, my original point stands, why not make a Pyscho Gecko compilation site?

        • I will get the other stories there when I have more time and energy. It has been a busy month. It’s ok you didn’t notice the site. Plenty of people missed the subtle clues. Claiming to have supported Wildbow nonmonetarily. Saying part of Hobbes’s prediction that dealt with blowing smoke over a serial was not applicable. Mentioning I would have a person called OOC if I started one, then mentioning that OOC in a Valentine’s related story in the comments. Other people who found it bringing up the site in Worm’s comments. The link in my name.

          I wanted to build up some posts before making a big stink, especially as they’re shorter posts to sniff through.

    • How is killing Manton and thereby stopping the unstoppable Siberian “completely failing to stop the Slaughterhouse Nine”?

      Dragon and Defiant accomplished more in this chapter than “the big three” have ever managed in that regards. More importantly they’ve taken away one of the most powerful defenses the S9 possess. Without the Siberian, Jack and the rest would have been ground into kibble in Brockton Bay. Next time they come up against a force like that there’s a lot more reason to hope that things will go differently.

      • Well the bombing run did kill Crawler and Mannequin. I wouldn’t be surprised if the PRT uses that to justify another bombing, since they can’t take advantage of Siberian’s invincibility anymore.

      • While they did win a pretty good victory here, they also might have lost the war with the genetic samples Bonesaw got. But that’s a unknown unknown I guess.

        I’m still not liking their methodology though, they have the right idea of using a robo-force to target the Nine. But from how Defiant tried to handle Bonesaw it looks like their still stuck in the cautious containment tactics that the Protectorate is used to using. Half the reason that both the Nine and the Undersiders win so many fights is because they’re willing to be vicious and reckless. Rushing Bonesaw and turning her face into a pancake with his robo-fists might be risky and expose him to contaminates, but it would probably give him a better chance of putting her down. And for god’s sake Colin stop trying to trash talk the villains!

        Also, I’m afraid that Dragon and Colin’s relationship might threaten their chances of winning. Sure, it’s sweet, but it might result in them being too careful for the sake of their relationship. Slaughterhouse Nine now, cyber-sex later.

        • It’s more of a known unknown. Defiant knows that Bonesaw took Blasto and -something- else with her when she left, but doesn’t know what. Not that taking a good look at the terminal won’t give them a good idea anyway since I don’t think she smashed it.

        • They think of themselves as the top dog. They’re willing to go multiple rounds because they expect their opponents’ luck to run out. They don’t expect failure to be intolerable, so they aren’t willing to go outside the bounds of their habitual methods to succeed.

          The Undersiders, by contrast, are well used to facing opponents that are goddamn *intimidating*. And that means they’re used to using risky, underhanded, or unconventional tactics.

          So, yeah, agreed.

        • Dragon & Dragon are hunting the S9, not defending their themselves and their territory.
          So far, they have no reasons to rely on luck rather than cautiousness and risk their small team.

    • Don’t smile so much. Bonesaw might shove her prehensile spine down your throat, hijack your spine and body, keep you alive, use your face as a seat for her severed upper body, steal ypur ability to create self-reproducing clones, steal the jgenetic material of all past Niners and who knows how many other capes they had DNA of (Panacea, Glory Girl, Skitter?), then walk your body to the rest of her cuddly teammates where, if you’re lucky, you’ll finally be allowed to die. Otherwise she’ll cut you up and turn you into a monster like her other experiments and tried to do to Grue.

      But don’t worry, eh, just because Siberian is dead?

      Plus it is pretty obvious the only reason the girl helping to cause the apocalypse doesn’t want to try an Endbringer is because it might kill her. We should hope she’s so crazy since she wants to kill the world.

  13. I think this Bonus-Chapter came out really well. I especially liked all the call backs from things mentioned in previous chapters as well as the fact that this presumably gives Dragon and Defiant a good reason to not be present for the Noelle situation. They have The Nine on the ropes and can’t let up the pressure on them now and risk giving them a chance to regroup and recover.

    I liked the way we got a version of “even evil has its standards” from both Blasto and Bonesaw. Blasto really wants Bonesaw dead because she is a monster, while Bonesaw might thoroughly evil and mad and actively helping Jack bring about the end of the world, but even she does not think creating your own pet-endbringer is a good idea.

    The episode contained a lot of people previously seen or mentioned and made lot of connections that help tie the whole universe together.

    It seems like Hookwolf chased down The Chosen with his new friends after the former were driven out of Brockton Bay by the Undersiders.

    Accord was the guy who pointed the Travellers in Coil’s direction and he seems to have ended up with the Database the Undersiders stole for Coil (I really hope that Coil was the one who sold it to him and not Tattletale)

    Blasto was previously mentioned as a rival of accord as well as along with Bonesaw and some others a potential candidate/suspect for who might have tried to create an artificial Endbringer, but it was objected that none of the candidates could do it alone and would need help from another Tinker or get their tools and blueprints, which is pretty much exactly what happened here. Blasto got materials and tools and info from Accord and tried to make an Endbringer hybrid and now Bonesaw has him.

    I really liked the Mad Scientist vibe that Balsto gave of. He was much closer to the common archetype than any other tinker we have seen so far. I also liked that despite being a bad guy who had the potential to become as bad as Nilbog, he was for more concerned with his own experiments than with going around being evil and could clearly see that Bonesaw was bad news. He just lacked the foresight to realize that trying to grow an Endbringer in a vat might not have been a bright idea.

    We had some namedropping of major protectorate members currently active in the main story (Myrddin, Chevalier) without getting a clue about what their powers are despite it having been the perfect opportunity to do an info dump. Tease!

    Manton/Siberian is dead! This is good news. I wonder how people in the main storyline will react to that bit of news when they hear.

    Bonesaw’s list of dead team-mates contains many familiar names and it seems she will try to ‘resurrect’ them perhaps including the recently deceased Manton. This could be bad.

    Oh yes, and the only time a TV was shown any chance of an outside view of Borckton Bay was preempted by the carnage closer to home.

    Overall I really liked this one.

    • Was Manton’s Siberian projection power a result of a Cauldron concoction? If so then we can probably rest easier since it’ll be that much more difficult to recreate the (once) unkillable monster.

    • I haven’t considered, that Telltale might have sold the database to Accord, but it would actually make sense. She’s pulling millions out of a hat, and that database would certainly be worth it.

  14. How sure are we that this is really Manton? Bonesaw resculpted innocents as decoys before.

    And somehow, I can’t see someone as potentially integral to some of the background story as Manton just dying off-screen without a word.

    • Bonesaw can ‘raise’ the dead.

      Dragon specializes in adapting the work of other tinkers. she is bound to have some samples of bonesaw’s work.

      if she knows that Manton is/was a member of cauldron, she might want to question him – but if she took him in alive, the triumvirate would break their backs to make sure that she or anyone else would have a chance to question him, whether or not they distrust Dragon.

  15. His leg flared with a gray blur as he reached her, and be brought it down onto her back from above.
    –>His legs flared with a gray blur as he reached her, and he brought it down onto her back from above.
    (Changed “leg” to “legs” and “be brought” to “he brought”)

    Morrigan is described as having grown to the equivalent of two months and then one month.

    I thought it was really interesting that the Endbringers use those crystalline structures instead of cells. It draws a possible connection between them and the Passengers. What if the Passengers are the offspring of the Endbringers? Worse, the Passengers are actually part of the Enbringers (and/or the Endbringers themselves are part of a larger entity).

    Since I’m speculating anyway, I wonder if the Endbringers’ crystalline structure takes advantage of the piezo-electric effect to power them? They might actually need superheroes hitting them in order to stay alive. Wouldn’t that be a horrifying twist.

    • It seems more like they are robots completely made of Quantam Computer Crystals designed to destroy the ‘passangers’ breeding/feeding grounds (ie. humanity). 75% of the worlds’ trade travel by sea so Leviathan is designed to destroy ports and kill humanity’s logistical capabilities and background support, Behemoth is designed to attack landlocked locations to destroy inland manufacturing capabilities as well as straight up fights to kill humanity’s Champions to attack morale. Simurgh seems to be desgined for close air support but the way she uses her powers of mind screw and precognition to create Disaster Dominoes out of people and the PRTs’ governments’ & peoples’ response to those exposed to to her, her real role is to destroy communication between individuals and society as well as humanity’s hope for better posibilities (ie. see Mannequin’s backstory).

      • That’s pretty much how I’ve got it pegged. Leviathan specializes in destroying human infrastructure, Behemoth specializes in destroying human military (i.e. capes), Simurgh specializes in espionage/destabilizing human culture. In addition to being massive combat powerhouses who can do engagements with hundreds of capes and walk away.

  16. Just noticed Dragon and Armsmaster holding hands, ahhhh. Nothing screams romantic evening like killing four members of the 9. Who knows, maybe there will be wedding bells if they manage to kill Jack or Bonesaw.

  17. I can see the Endbringers like that. They give me a Judge Dredd vibe. Now when they grab a hero and hold it you can imagine one of them going, “You are not the law. I am the law!” And then it tears them apart.

    Worm: the Movie, starring Sylvester Stallone as Leviathan, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Behemoth. “We didn’t kill it, so we know it will be back.”

    Michelle Rodriguez could be Simurgh, but I see her more as Siberian. I am really at a loss for the names of action women. Probably wouldn’t score too high on the Bechdel if I took that test.

    Ooh, change in direction, think Emma Watson might want to play Simurgh?

    • I don’t know how this comment got here. I was trying to reply to the comment by taliesinsky about Endbringers possibly being law enforcement, but then my phone was like “Hello, I just downloaded Asshole 1.0.”

      I’d like to program it an Asshole 2.0.

      • Also, Sigourney Weaver (alien franchise), Mila Jovovich (resident evil franchise), Linda Hamilton (terminator 1 and 2), Lucy Lawless (Xena), Summer Glau (Firefly)… to name a few actiony women.

        • Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton are a bit aged. Though the woman who played Sarah Conner in the dearly missed Sarah Connor Chronicles would be pretty damn good. Now that I think about it, I wonder if she’s the one who played Ma-Ma in Dredd.

          Ah well. Summer Glau and Lucy Lawless could both work very well, actually.

          Thanks for the suggestions.

  18. Um, slight inconsistency that occurred to me– he lost all sensation below his neck after Bonesaw took over, yes? But he still felt it when she made him punch through glass a bit later?

  19. the bait with the morrigan was incredibly anoying all im going to have in my head for weeks is what if shed liveds please dont do that again

    • Sounds like fanfiction material.

      I’ll do my best to avoid further baiting in the future. I’m a sadist at heart, though, and as much as I love and appreciate my audience, it’s hard to resist abusing them on occasion.

  20. Theory based on the fact that the Endbringers don’t have a cellular or genetic structure capable of supporting life (at least not the sort of life Rey knows about): The Endbringers aren’t alive at all. They’re created/sustained by some outside agency, not unlike Siberian, and Siberian was a bit of foreshadowing. Likely candidates would include Scion (if he’s not a similar creation himself), Cauldron, and the entities that grant powers.

    This probably isn’t the case, but the thought occurred to me and I thought it’d be interesting.

  21. They would move to the nearest unaffected location as soon as they wre free.

    “wre” should be “were” .

    • Another member of the NIne had a loose-fitting coat of human flesh draped over him.

      “NIne” should be “Nine”.

  22. Bonesaw may not be crazy, but she is Crazy Prepared (see TV Tropes). Seriously, under what circumstances would having a prehensile spine that hijacks people’s bodies when you stick it down their throat be useful?

    Speaking of crazy, I wonder what Blasto thought when Bonesaw basically said he was crazier than she is.

  23. Jack cutting through the drones? Looks like Dragon’s drones are made of tinfoil. Her nerfing is complete. :(
    He couldn’t cut through Skitter’s silk, this is not believable.

    Also quite disappointed with both Dragon and Defiant.
    A heavy machine gun (which he can use thanks to cyborgness) would have allowed the latter to kill Bonesaw in a second.
    Machine guns with automated targeting (or missiles) should also have wiped out the non-invulnerable Nine in seconds, probably the moment they were detected.
    I can understand the Nine getting away or even killing a suit, but NOT in a straight up fight! The firepower-on-target is just too high for it to be believable given the tech dragon is known to have (combined with modern tech). If Flesh Suit Man has been targeted then in the time it takes him to start his swing he should have been shot by high calibre weapons dozens of times and would probably be in several pieces.

    • I didn’t read the “cut out of the air” line as meaning that Jack was taking down the drones, but I have to admit that the scenario is not clearly described.

      As to why D&D aren’t using heavy machineguns … I don’t know. It could be an aspect of their tinker specialties, I guess: they aren’t using machineguns because their superpower mojo doesn’t really do much with conventional firearms, so they simply didn’t really give the idea a lot of thought. Definitely adding it to “Fridge Logic”, though.

  24. “Adversarial relationship with Accord (#13151), Spree (#14755) and Chain Man (#14114).”

    Um, pretty pointless having referential numbers if they’re not even on the character page, might want to add a number for him beside his name or something.

    So Cauldron through Coil through his real identity through the PRT through Accord through plant guy to Bonesaw? Or was the goal another Endbringer?

    • The numbers aren’t for the readers, they’re for the PRT.

      I don’t understand what you’re saying in the second half. Are you trying to figure out why the Simurgh let Accord get her feather? Because that path you traced passes through at least one precognition-disrupter.

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