Hive 5.1

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The place was nondescript.  A hole in the wall in the midst of a long street of hole in the wall businesses.  Everything was run down.  For every given store or restaurant you passed, you could only guess if the place was still open or not.

The pub had a sign on it reading ‘Somer’s Rock’.  There were iron bars on the windows and the curtains were drawn, but it would have been more unusual if that wasn’t the case.  It was that kind of area.  The paint on the outside was peeling, and the rust from the bars had bled onto the gray-white paint below the windows.

As we stepped inside, it became clear that Somer’s Rock was one book that should be judged by its cover.  It was dim, dingy and depressing.  The wood floor was stained the same dark gray as the counter of the bar, the curtains and tablecloths were dark green, and the only real color or brightness, if you could call it that, was the yellow light cast by ancient, burnt lightbulbs.

There were three people in Somer’s Rock when we arrived.  One was a sullen looking twenty-something girl with brown hair and a slightly wrinkled server’s uniform, who glanced at us as we came in, but made no attempt to welcome us.  There were two identical twins behind the bar in the far corner, probably her older brothers, busying themselves with washing glasses and studiously ignoring us.  One of them was wearing a dress shirt and apron, looking the part of a bartender, while the other had a black t-shirt under a Hawaiian shirt.  Besides the contrast in fashion, they were identical in height, haircut, features and expression.

A group of tables had been pulled together with chairs arranged around them, but we walked past them to a corner booth.  Tattletale, Bitch, Grue, Regent and I all arranged ourselves on the worn cushioned benches.  I was calling them that in my head, really, because they weren’t Lisa, Brian, Rachel and Alec.  We were all in costume.

As we settled in, the girl with the dour expression approached us, setting her notepad down on the table and then stared at me, the look in her eyes almost challenging.  She didn’t say a word.

“Coke?” I ventured, feeling uncomfortable under the look.

“No, Skitter,” Tattletale nudged me, “She’s deaf.  If you want something, write it on the pad.”  To demonstrate, she reached across the table, took the pad and wrote ‘tea, black’.  I took her cue and wrote down my order, then passed the note across the table to the boys and Bitch.  The girl gave me an ugly look as she walked away with our orders.

It had been a week since the incident with Bakuda.  Lisa and Brian had stopped by several times as I spent my days in bed, giving me updates on the situation as it unfolded.  At one point they had even brought Alec and Bitch, and I’d been very relieved my dad hadn’t been home at the time.  Alec and Bitch weren’t the polite houseguests that Lisa and Brian were, and I suspected their presence and personalities would have raised more questions with my dad than they put to rest.

Apparently someone at the PHQ had named my costumed self ‘Skitter’.  Lung had overheard something about it, and it had now spread through the city in the aftermath of his escape, which implied he was probably looking for me.  As a newspaper article raised our possible involvement in the bombings that had taken place, as adversaries of Bakuda, my new name had come up yet again, so it looked like it was maybe catching on.  I didn’t love it, but I didn’t love any of the names I’d come up with, so I could cope.

It seemed that we had arrived a few minutes early, because the rest of the guests arrived within seconds of each other, as the server brought us our drinks.

Kaiser came through the door with a girl on each arm, blondes with measurements like Playboy models.  Kaiser wore armor head to toe, elaborately worked and topped with a crown of blades.  The leader of Empire Eighty Eight.  The twins went by the names Fenja and Menja, and were decked out in Valkyrie-style armor featuring countless little steel wings, along with closed-face helms.  Had to admit, Kaiser liked his heavy hitters.  These two could grow to be three stories tall, and they were a hundred times more durable when they were.

Purity entered a few steps behind him with several others following her.  She was dressed in a white costume without any markings or symbols on it, but the fabric glowed softly.  Her white hair and eyes glowed too, but it was more like they were made of heated magnesium than anything else.  I couldn’t look in her direction without getting spots in my eyes, and my mask had tinted lenses designed to reduce glare.

The people that had come in with Purity were other members of Empire Eighty Eight.  Krieg, Night, Fog and Hookwolf.   It was interesting to see, because as far as I’d known, while every one of them had been a member of Empire Eighty Eight at some point in time, Purity had gone solo, while Night and Fog had splintered off to form their own duo in Boston not long after.  All reunited, apparently.

That wasn’t even Kaiser’s entire team.  Aside from the rare exception like Lung reaching out to Bakuda when she’d been at Cornell, it seemed that most groups recruited new members from within their own city.  Kaiser was different.  He was one of the better known American villains with a white supremacist agenda, and people sharing his ideals were either recruited from other states or they came to him.  Most didn’t stay with him for too long, for whatever reason, but it still made him the Brockton Bay resident with the most raw parahuman muscle at his beck and call.

Kaiser sat at one end of the table in the center of the room, his people finding seats and chairs at the tables behind him.  Purity didn’t relax or order drinks, though.  She sat in a chair a few feet behind Kaiser, folded her arms and crossed one ankle over the other, settling in to watch the proceedings.  From my research online and digging through old newspaper articles,I knew Purity could create light and charge it with kinetic energy.  She was like a human flashlight, if the light from the flashlight could punch through brick walls and tear city buses in half.  As far as raw firepower went, she was up near the top of the list, a flying artillery turret.

Coil entered after Empire Eighty Eight, all the more conspicuous because he was alone.  No backup, no show of force.  He was taller than Grue, but he was thin to the point of being skeletal.  His skintight costume covered him head to toe, lacking even eyeholes or openings for his nose and mouth, and the way it clung to his skin let you see his individual ribs and joints.  The costume was black, and the only design on it was a white snake, with its head starting at Coil’s forehead, the tail extending down the back of his head, looping and winding over his entire body before finally ending at one of his ankles.  He sat at the end of the table opposite Kaiser.

“What’s his deal?” I whispered to Tattletale.

“Coil?  Can’t say as far as his powers go, but he’s one of the more powerful players in town.  Considers himself a chessmaster.  You know, like a master strategist, tactician.   Controls more than half of downtown with squads of top notch personnel in the highest end gear.  Ex-military from around the world.  If he even has powers, he’s the only one in his organization who does.”

I nodded.  Almost the opposite of Kaiser in that department.  I might have asked more, but others were streaming into the room.

Faultline.  I knew of her from my research.  She was twenty-something, and her straight black hair was in a long bristling ponytail.  Her costume was weird, approximating something like a blend of riot gear, a martial arts uniform and a dress.  Four people entered the room with her, and the two guys in the group were instantly the weirdest people in the room.  I knew them by name too.  Newter wasn’t wearing a shirt, shoes or gloves, which made it all the more apparent that his skin was neon orange from head to toe.  He had light blue eyes, dark red hair that looked wet and a five foot long prehensile tail.  Gregor the Snail was morbidly obese, average height, with no hair on his entire body.  His skin was milky white and slightly translucent, so you could see shadows beneath it where his organs were.  Like someone else might have bad acne, he had bits of shell or scales crusting his skin.  They looked almost like barnacles, but there was a spiral shape to them.

You wouldn’t have thought they were close by their body language, silence and the sheer difference in appearance, but both had matching tattoos.  Newter’s was just above his heart, while Gregor’s was on his upper arm.  It looked like the greek ‘Omega’ symbol, but upside down.  Maybe a stylized ‘u’.

The other two girls in Faultline’s group were very normal by contrast;  Labyrinth wore a dark green robe and mask with lines all over them.  Spitfire wore in a red and black costume with a gasmask.

I was surprised when Faultline deliberately walked by our table on her way to her seat, taking the long way around.  As she passed us, she looked over Tattletale and me and sneered a little before taking the chair to Kaiser’s right.

“I’m going to go before all the seats get taken, if that’s cool?” Grue spoke, and the rest of us nodded.  Grue sat between Faultline and Coil.

“What was that with Faultline and you?” I murmured to Tattletale, “History?”

“Nothing important,” she replied.

Regent leaned forward.  “She and Tattletale have been feuding a little.  Faultline upped the ante when she poached Spitfire from us when we were in the middle of trying to recruit her.  Can’t say why Faultline doesn’t like Tattle, but I know Tattletale hates it when people act like they’re smarter than her, and Faultline is smarter than her.  Ow.  Fuck, that hurt.”

Tattletale had kicked him under the table.

“They’re mercenaries right?” I asked.

Tattletale nodded, “Faultline’s crew does anything short of murder.  You can say her personality sucks, you can say her powers suck, but I’ll admit she’s very good at finding hidden strengths in the people that work for her.  See those two guys?  When it came to powers, they got a bad roll of the dice.  Became freaks that couldn’t hope to pass in normal society, wound up homeless or living in the sewers.  There’s a story behind it, but they became a team, she made them effective, and they’ve only messed up one or two jobs so far.”

“Gotcha,” I said, “Impressive.”

“Keep in mind, though, we haven’t screwed up any.  We’re 100%.”

“They’ve done something like three times as many jobs as us,” Regent pointed out.

“But we haven’t failed any jobs, is the important thing,” Tattletale stressed.

Another group arrived, and it was like you could see a wave of distaste wash over the faces in the room.  I had seen references on the web and news articles about these guys, but they weren’t the sort you took pictures of.  Skidmark, Moist, Squealer.  Two guys and a girl, the lot of them proving that capes weren’t necessarily attractive, successful or immune to the influences of substance abuse.  Hardcore addicts and dealers who happened to have superpowers.

Skidmark wore a mask that covered the top half of his face.  The lower half was dark skinned, with badly chapped lips and teeth that looked more like shelled pistachio nuts than anything else.  He stepped up to the table and reached for a chair.  Before he could move it, though, Kaiser kicked the chair out of reach, sending it toppling onto its side, sliding across the floor.

“The fuck?” Skidmark snarled.

“You can sit in a booth,” Kaiser spoke.  Even though his voice was completely calm, like he was talking to a stranger about the weather, it felt threatening.

“This is because I’m black, hunh?  That’s what you’re all about, yeah?”

Still calm, Kaiser replied, “You can sit in a booth because you and your team are pathetic, deranged losers that aren’t worth talking to.  The people at this table?  I don’t like them, but I’ll listen to them.  That isn’t the case with you.”

“Fuck you.  What about this guy?” Skidmark pointed at Grue, “I don’t even know his name, and he’s sitting.”

Faultline answered him, “His team hit the Brockton Bay Central Bank a week ago.  They’ve gone up against Lung several times in the past and they’re still here, which is better than most.  Not even counting the events of a week ago, he knows about the ABB and he can share that information with the rest of us.”  She gave Grue a look that made it clear that he didn’t have a choice if he wanted to sit at the table.  He dipped his head in the smallest of nods in response.  We’d discussed things beforehand and agreed on what details we’d share.

“What have you done that’s worth a seat at this table?” she asked Skidmark.

“We hold territory-”

“You hold nothing,” Grue answered, raising his voice, his powers warping it, “You’re cowards that hold onto the areas nobody else cares about, making drugs and selling them to children.”

“We sell to everyone, not just-”

“Find a booth,” Grue’s echoing voice interrupted him.  Skidmark gave him a look, then looked at the others sitting around the table.  All still, every set of eyes he could see behind the masks was staring him down.

“Assholes.  Puckered, juicy assholes, all of you,” Skidmark snarled, stomping off to the booth where his teammates already sat.

The serving girl picked up the fallen chair and restored it to its position at the table, not meeting anyone’s eyes as she walked up to the table where Kaiser’s people sat, put down her notepad and waited for everyone to write down their orders.  It struck me just why the pub had a deaf waitress.

“I’ll be taking a chair, I think,” someone spoke from the door.  Most heads turned to check out a male figure in a black costume with a red mask and tophat.  It gave me sort of a Baron Samedi vibe.  His teammates followed him into the room, all in matching costumes of red and black, differing only in design.  A girl with a sun motif, a guy with bulky armor and a square mask, and a creature so large it had to crawl on its hands and knees to get through the door.  It was hard to describe, approximating something like a four armed hairless gorilla, with a vest, mask and leggings in the red and black style its team was wearing, six-inch claws tipping each of its fingers and toes.

“The Travelers, yes?” Coil spoke, his voice smooth, “You’re not local.”

“You could call us nomadic.  What was happening here was too interesting to pass up, so I decided we’d stop by for a visit.” The guy with the top hat pulled off the first really formal bow I’d seen in my life. “I go by Trickster.”

“You know the rules, here?” Grue asked Trickster.

“We’ve been to similar places.  I can guess.  No fighting, no powers, no trying to bait others into causing trouble, or everyone else in the room puts aside all other grievances to put you down.”

“Close enough.  It’s important to have neutral ground to meet, have civilized discussion.”

“I won’t argue that.  Please, continue as if I wasn’t here.”

When Trickster took a chair and put his feet up on the table, nobody complained, though Skidmark looked like he wanted to kill someone.  The rest of the Travelers settled in a booth not far from us.  The gorilla thing sat on the floor and it was still large enough to be at eye level with its teammates.

Coil dipped his head in a nod and steepled his fingers.  When he spoke, his voice was smooth, “That should be everyone.  Seems Lung won’t be coming, though I doubt any of us are surprised, given the subject of tonight’s discussion.”

“The ABB,” Kaiser replied.

“Thirty five individuals confirmed dead and over a hundred hospitalized in this past week.  Armed presence on the streets.  Ongoing exchanges of gunfire between ABB members and the combined forces of the police and military.  They have raided our businesses and bombed places where they think we might operating.  They have seized our territories, and there’s no indication they intend to stop anytime soon,” Coil clarified the situation for all present.

“It is inconvenient,” Kaiser spoke.

“They’re being reckless,” Faultline said.  She made it sound like that was a crime on par with killing kittens.

Coil nodded, “Which is the real concern.  The ABB can’t sustain this.  Something will give, they will self destruct sooner or later, and they will likely cease to be an issue.  Had things played out differently, we could look at this as a good thing.  Our problem is that the actions of the ABB are drawing attention to our fair city.  Homeland security and military forces are establishing a temporary presence to assist in maintaining order.  Heroes are flocking to the city to support the Protectorate in regaining control of matters.  It is making business difficult.”

“Bakuda is at the center of this,” Grue joined the dialogue, “Lung may be the leader, but everything hinges on the girl.  She ‘recruited’ by orchestrating raids of people’s homes while they slept, subduing them, and implanting bombs in their heads.  She then used those bombs to coerce her victims into kidnapping more.  No less than three hundred in total, now.  Every single one of her soldiers knows that if they don’t obey, Bakuda can detonate the bombs.  All of them are willing to put their lives on the line, because the alternatives are either certain death or watching their loved ones die for their failure.  Taking her down is our ultimate goal, but she’s rigged her bombs to go off the second her heart stops, so it’s a little more complicated than a simple assassination.”

He reached into the darkness that shrouded his chest and withdrew a package.  “She videotaped the ambush she pulled on my group a week ago and left it behind when she ran.  I’ve made copies.  Maybe you’ll find it useful for getting a better understanding of her.”

Grue handed a burned CD to everyone at the table.

This was our show of strength.  The video showed everything from the point Bakuda had liquefied Park Jihoo to the second bomb she had set off in her ranks.  As the second bomb had gone off in the midst of Bakuda’s group, the camera had dropped briefly, recorded the sounds of guns going off and everything being darkened by Grue’s power, but it didn’t show us running.  It didn’t reveal our weaknesses, how lucky we’d been to get away, or how bad our circumstances had really been.  It did let everyone know what we’d been up against, let them know that we’d come out fine and had been able to attend this meeting.  That would do as much for our reputation as anything else.

I wasn’t 100% recovered from my concussion, and Alec was complaining of twinges in his arm, still, but Brian had stressed how important it was that we attend, give the illusion our team was intact, untouched. Seeing the other groups with their subtle posturing, I knew he’d been right.

“So,” Coil let the word hang in the air as he cracked each of the knuckles on his right hand individually, “We’re in agreement?  The ABB cannot be allowed to continue operating.”

There were nods and murmurs of agreement from around the table, some from the various villains gathered around the room.

“Then I suggest we establish a truce.  Not just everyone here, but between ourselves and the law.  I would contact authorities and let them know that until this matter is cleared up, our groups will restrict our illegal activity to only what is absolutely essential to our business, and we will enforce the same for those doing business in our territories.  That would let police forces and military focus entirely on the ABB.  There would be no violence, infighting between our groups, grabs for territory, thefts or insults.  We band together with those we can tolerate for guaranteed victory, and we ignore those we cannot cooperate with.”

“Just saying my group won’t be getting directly involved in this without a reason,” Faultline spoke, “We won’t be going after the ABB unless they get in my way or someone pays my rates.  It’s the only workable policy when you’re a cape for hire.  And just so we’re clear, if it’s the ABB paying, my team’s going to be on the other side of things.”

“Unfortunate, but you and I can talk after this meeting is done.  I’d prefer to keep matters simple,” Coil said, “You’re okay with the other terms?”

“Keeping on the down-low, not kicking up a fuss with other groups?  That’s status quo with my group anyways.”

“Good.  Kaiser?”

“I think that is acceptable,” Kaiser agreed.

“I was talking to my group about doing something not too different from what Coil just proposed,” Grue spoke, “Yeah, we’re cool with it.”

“Sure,” Trickster said, “Not a problem.  We’re in.”

Hands were shaken around the table.

“Funny,” Tattletale murmured.

I turned away from the scene to look at her, “What?”

“Aside from Grue and maybe Faultline, everyone’s already plotting how they can use this situation to their advantage, or fuck over the others.”

I turned back to the scene, the villains sitting around the table.  It dawned on me just how much sheer destructive potential was gathered in the room.

This could get complicated.

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66 thoughts on “Hive 5.1

  1. Poor Newter. I would absolutely hate being pinned with a name like neuter. And then, just to rub it in, get a tattoo of mu? That’s got to be somebody’s idea of a sick joke.

    I wonder what Trickster is doing in the meeting?

    • a group of nomadic supervillains? they’d almost have to act as mercenaries, it’d be about the only way to make a living, so they’re probably there for the same reason Faultline’s group is — find out who might be hiring in the near future and who they might make enemies of by taking whose contracts.

      • Honestly I think not having a single base location is probably more sustainable for a supervillain than having one. Stay in one place too long and you risk depleting resources, making enemies, and giving those enemies useful information. Moving around might have higher maintenance costs, but it comes with a larger range of options- if your current town’s banks, casinos, etc. step up their security, you can just go somewhere else and try your luck there, where people aren’t expecting you.

  2. I think it’s just common sense that everyone but Grue and Faultline would be plotting to screw over the others. Any group that is actually holding territory is going to want to use the opportunity to screw over anyone they can. The local villain mercenary squads don’t need to worry about that, just who will pay.

  3. Interesting. The economy of this situation must be truly bizarre.

    What’s up with the language, anyway? It seems like there is some kind of quota that you randomly throw in each scene. I think the story would be better would without it.

  4. And since someone is no longer playing by the rules, it would be perfectly good sense to hit the pub with a telenuke during the gathering.
    You know, a 10-inches-across mininuke with a half-kiloton yield (real life tech as of 1968) attached to a cheap teleporter that can only shift 20 pounds or so of inanimate material and only once before burning out (teleporters are fairly standard supertech). Half a kiloton should be able to blast apart buildings in a 5-block radius. A bit of an overkill but Bakuda should be fond of that.

    • There are a few people there who look like they could survive it,plus that would turn passive aggression to active aggression,plus we do not know how many capes there have an ability that could defuse the bomb,not that hard considering it is not protected by the Madson effect,(realy,despite Bakuda’s variety of bombs,his power is not protected by the Madson effect like powers originating directly from the body,a big weakness against,say,Vista,who cound probably own him thanks to that)and they would probably notice,considering Tattletale and who knows who else with superpowers that would allow him to notice is among them.Really,a bad plan,Bakuda is insane but she is not inneficient apart from her psyhological weaknesses,and she curbs even them.Awful plan is awful plan.

    • They’re teenagers, half of them. Modern teenagers usually swear a lot. Ditto for gang members of all ages and most street-level criminals, If anything, swearing is understated.

      • What Belial said was more or less my thoughts.

        That said, it is a choice on the part of the author. You can write teenagers who aren’t swearing and not have it be missed (until people think about it). I’ve thought about it in reference to my own serial. It’s basically a choice between realism versus the sensibilities of people who you know will be highly offended by certain words.

        Personally, I went the more realistic route and had certain characters (in certain settings) swear more than others. By contrast certain characters barely swear at all (or don’t in certain settings).

        One of my writing teachers (though not bothered by swearing) wouldn’t let the class do it more than once per certain number of pages. His opinion, I think, was that it didn’t have much of a punch when used constantly.

        Personally, I’m inclined to think of it in terms of audience. I wouldn’t swear in a story intended for children, but I’d consider it in one intended for adults. Even then, I’d be cutting down the adult audience to a degree by using certain words.

        I’ve got to admit though, I’ve got a preference for realism when I’ve got the option.

      • My points were that it seemed to be thrown in randomly and added nothing to the story.
        Much is made of ‘realism’, which is a silly standard. One assumes that the characters also use the toilet and the girls have their periods and the boys… well, nough said. Unless something actually makes the story better, it detracts.
        And it certainly is true that having something, every few paragraphs or every few pages, that you know will turn off certain of your audience is certainly not the wisest of choices

      • Vaughn, weren’t you pushing hard for realism as far as people’s interest and attendance in schools when they have superpowers? Despite what that might detract from the story itself?

        As far as “turning off certain of my audience”, I’m writing something I’d enjoy reading if I happened across it on the web, and that extends to character, story details and the language used in the writing itself. I personally feel that heavy use of swears is only really negative if it’s very out of tune with the character. The people swearing in this chapter are Skidmark (very in character), Tattletale and Regent (where it’s very much the language I’d expect from a teenager). If it were Coil or Kaiser using the f-word every sentence, yeah, I could understand.

        If that approach turns off a few people (and site stats are showing that probably isn’t happening), so be it. Reader’s prerogative. I wouldn’t enjoy writing a story I wouldn’t enjoy reading, and a story where even methheads swear only once in a blue moon just wouldn’t have that verisimilitude.

        • Two totally different kinds of realism.
          Leaving out the swearing would not make the speech ‘unreal’; in that we all know that not everything that anyone says is recording, just as we know you don’t record every second of what they do.
          The school thing, for me, was a story turn off… whereas here, conversely, I find the language detracts from the story. Exact opposites, for me. Besides being a moral issue.

          • I always find this attitude really interesting. This is a story where people are hurt in graphic ways, horrific things happen etc… and the word “fuck” is a moral issue.

          • As a reader, no language turns me off more than the author’s language in the characters’ mouths. One of the greatest delights of this story I think is how so much of the time each different character’s voice is so well defined. Here we see Skidmark swear like a sailor and Taylor making no effort to censor him in her narration; both those things I think add to their characters. A little earlier we saw Bitch pointedly swearing in front of a small child, which I felt was pretty crass and unnecessary and certainly didn’t make me think she was a skilled rhetorician, but it did go a long way to make us understand her and feel for her. Maybe not as much as her threatening to dismember the child in front of its mother to teach them some respect for strange dogs, but it was not unimportant.

            I don’t think it would serve the story well to limit the characters’ behaviors and expressions to that which would be less likely to upset a reader just to make the story less likely to upset a reader. We’re told before the beginning that it’s a story that can be upsetting, even triggering; I’m not sure what more you could ask for.

  5. Reading this, the thing I found most interesting is that if this is the makeup of the local supervillain/criminal community, getting rid of the ABB won’t be much of an improvement. Coil’s group could be a nasty (if less psychotic) group to deal with if they become the biggest player.

    And if Empire Eighty-Eight becomes the most powerful group? Removing a gang, and replacing it with superpowered, white supremacists does not seem like an improvement at all.

    • Indeed.

      It depends on who is willing or wanting to take the Docks, the territory the ABB largely controls. As mentioned in Interlude 2, Kaiser and Coil have been going at it for control of Downtown, which raises the question: is either of them willing to devote resources to controlling that much territory?

      At the very least, though, if the ABB were taken down, things would probably move closer to the status quo. Or at least, closer to normal for the non-powered people who are watching the news, seeing reports of bombings, deaths and injuries in the ABB’s struggle for control. Things would calm down.

      • What I’m wondering about is if Kaiser is actually bankrolling our group of hero… err villains. Kaiser has the money and Lung’s gang is pretty much the biggest opposition for EEE what with their being non-Aryan and pretty powerful overall. And our villains start out as pretty much regular enemies to Lung so they must have done several jobs against him.

      • After that interlude with Purity and Max/Kaiser, I definitely started to wonder whether somebody in the EEE was the Undersiders’ mysterious benefactor. I don’t know why, but the hypothesis hasn’t grown roots for me yet. Something about the idea feels wrong, though I couldn’t say what.

        • I agree, if Purity had money I might’ve said her but I don’t think Kaiser would do it. A white supremacist would never concede to sponser a group who’s leader is black. While I think he would probably turn a blind eye to it if Grue was just a member, there’s no way he would accept it with Grue acting as the sorta leader.

          • I can’t recall – Grue has a full-body costume, as well as a helmet. Would anyone be even able to tell he’s black?

            • Well, Skidmark did indicate Grue’s race in the chapter, so it seems like his race is known. Even if Kaiser didn’t know Grue was black initially, I’m pretty sure that little tidbit coming to light would make hiring the Undersiders a no-go in the future.

  6. When the group sits down at the booth skitter seems to be skipping over herself when she’s telling us about them all sitting down. In the fifth paragraph.

  7. On language:

    I’ve been a teenager, worked with teenagers in well-off areas, and worked in low-income areas. I’ve worked in factories. Swearing is almost as common as using “like”, “the”, “and” or “but.” It’s not even noticed. To write criminal characters, it would seem strange if they didn’t do it too when totally normal, upstanding citizens in a business setting don’t even think twice.

    Stephen King is a best seller and several of his characters have R rated language. But I wouldn’t let a child read his works anyway, so it suits his audience.

    Me personally, I don’t like to swear because I think I can find better ways to say things. But there’s nothing immoral about what we call swear words. Like any word, they are expressions of air from the mouths of homo sapiens to communicate, and they have been assigned cultural meanings that shift fluidly over time. What’s immoral is how you use a word — I can call you a “pretty” and say it so sarcastically that it becomes an insult, or I can say “I saw the world’s biggest fucking blueberry” and it’s no different than saying “I saw the world’s biggest, craziest blueberry” aside from the fact our culture once assigned taboo qualities to the word.

    Those taboo qualities are lessening every year, and they’re cultural mores, not morally right or wrong. What matters is intent — are your words, whatever they are, used to hurt or help? That’s a moral choice. I can pay a compliment hurtfully. In this story, “Bitch” is proud of her name when another woman would hate it. It all depends on context.

    In English, a “tabernacle” is a holy instrument in the church. In Quebec, saying it is equivalent to saying “shit” because culturally you were supposed to revere the church and to use it as slang was seen as very irreverent. So a holy word is now a swear word — because of intent, because of cultural usage. Meanings shift.

    To criminals, it’s just an adjective when they lack better words — they’re the least educated class in society. It’s more immoral that every time you close a school you have to build a prison — Mark Twain said that (I think) and he’s right — statistically, there’s more illiteracy in prisons than anywhere else. Literacy and education improve language skills, cognitive skills and societal skills. There are certainly intelligent criminals — and educated ones. But they tend towards white-collar crime or are really violent sociopaths — the low level, everyday crime is largely the result of lack of education and wealth.

    I think it’s silly to apply an absolute stand on the morality of language (which historically is constantly shifting) to someone else’s story (when it’s a choice to read or not) and the choice the author made is consistent with the characters, their surroundings and their nature.

    I wouldn’t expect moral behaviour from supervillains anyway. Writing them that way would be extremely unrealistic and off-putting, way more than toning out the occasional taboo word.

      • Thanks. I put a lot of thought into that concerning my own writing. My studies in history, philosophy, English Literature and theology showed me that language constantly shifts and so do cultural values regarding morals. The only baseline is to not interfere in another person’s autonomy, mental or physical well-being.

        But it’s silly to look at language as “right or wrong” when it changes over time and certainly from language to language. The phonetic sounds for “fuck” in English are the same as “phoque” in French, in one case it’s vulgar and the other it’s a seal, those cute aquatic animals. It’s arbitrarily assigned, changeable meaning.

        As a Christian I wanted my writing, particularly “No Man an Island,” to reflect my values while at the same time being realistic. Some people would react to swear words in the text negatively, since as a Christian I “shouldn’t use those words.” Well, the most moral characters certainly don’t use them. They’re used by negative characters or characters in transition, to show that actions and words demonstrate a person’s personality. Violence and vulgarity in this story, as well as mine, are certainly not portrayed as worthy of imitation.

        But to pretend such words don’t exist and aren’t in use is to ignore reality. To give them this “ooooh that’s a bad word” power fundamentally makes it more attractive to people because they’re not “supposed” to use it, while not reacting to its use would make it less “bad.” We create the reality around us by our reactions, so why give a word power over us?

        On a side-note as a theologian and historian on a minor level, the Bible (written in Greek and Hebrew) certainly doesn’t condemn swear words that didn’t exist at the time. People mistakenly attribute it to “don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” but that was a specific injunction about speaking about God inappropriately. Elsewhere it speaks vaguely about talking only for the edification of the moment, or otherwise silence is best, but that’s Paul and very loose. — Ephesians 4:29 — Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

        So, really, that’s about intent. Are you helpful or hurtful? If it’s helpful or neutral, it’s just a word. And any word can be hurtful, just look at Emma talking about Taylor’s mom — she didn’t swear once and it was horrible nonetheless.

  8. Re-reading this discussion feels really strange after Bonesaw *spoiler spoiler spoiler* in 13.8. After the things she does, I just kept thinking: Really? Words? After all of the things to be offended over, people were offended by swearing?

  9. I believe you missed an Oxford Comma in this passage. It’s toward the top of the page.
    “…Krieg, Fog, Night[,] and Hookwolf.”

    On Language, because I feel the need to comment, I, personally, don’t mind. Being in High-school, I’ve become so used to it I didn’t even make special note of it. I thought it is wonderfully written so far. I’m really enjoyin it.

  10. I find it a little disturbing that everyone’s wrinkling their noses at the drug dealers but show nothing but courteous respect toward the white supremacists… Even a mental comment of distaste from Taylor would make it a lot better, in my opinion. I get that E88 is established enough an organization in Brockton to be taken for granted, but I would really, really like to hear someone voice exactly how repulsive they are. And how dog-fighting isn’t exactly

    (I just read this for the first time, so I’m pretty far behind on the story – I assume this is something that’s adressed later, but I think this face-to-face meeting with Kaiser would be an excellent time to mention something)

    • I do not think anyone but coil would have the luxury of mentioning it,considering relative powers,Coil seems to be the personification of pragmatism,no morals,no sadism,so he wouldn’t do this,and it could be considered baiting someone to attack,in other words against the rules and suicide.(granted,so could what Kaiser did to to the drugies,but nobody in there,not the travelers that took their posittion,not the 2 groups of practically mercenaries (our heroes and Faultline),nor pragmatism personified would care,especially when there are far bigger fish to fry which is the reason for this meeting)

  11. Reading this for the first time, enjoying it very much, but there was something in this chapter I found a little bit jarring. Grue and everyone else knows that E88 is made of and lead by white supremecist supervillians. I get the impression that Grue does NOT condone mass murder. And yet, he told this white supremecist supervillian that he has an opportunity to wipe out not only every member of ABB (Bakuda rigged even her most loyal, after all!), but as a happy bonus, nearly every non-aryan in the Docks, and all he has to do is kill ONE (conveniently non-aryan) woman to do it?

    This seems… less than wise. I’m having trouble thinking of a reason why Kaiser wouldn’t capitalize on this, given how cold and methodical he seems to be.

    • Because Kaiser is good at planning and seeing consequences rather than acting for short-term goals, as noted by the previous interlude. He is, as you note, cold and methodical, not hot-blooded and impulsive.

      If everyone goes boom, the city gets tons of attention and probably cape and military intervention, then possibly condemned. Furthermore, the city’s villains as a whole would probably also be rather unhappy with him. Those circumstances are not conducive to his or his organization’s long-term interests. He’s not interested in genocide precisely, he’s interested in the supremacy of the white race, which can be aided by murder of other races (in his mind) but is not helped by the self-destruction of his organization, nor the murder of a large number of white people. You are confusing his focus on white supremacy with pure and unadulterated spite towards other races. The two can go hand-in-hand, so I can see where the confusion came from, but you’ve misread his goals.

      • If he whipes out all the non-aryans then who will buy his drugs?

        I’m sure I’m oversimplifying, but the point is he can victimize non-aryans and profit at the same time. Not wiping them out is a win/win.

  12. > These two could grow to be three stories tall, and they were a hundred times more durable when they were.

    What? It looks like sentence was cut

    • They were a hundred times more durable when they were grown to be three stories tall.

      Might be better if it was changed to “when they did”.

  13. What a fantastic chapter. It is a little reflective of how corporations work I suppose, especially “well known rogue corporations”.

  14. A meeting of supervillains. Tattaletale did say that the whole superhero thing is ridiculous, and picturing them all in a bar is ridiculous, but still awesome.

  15. correction: moist should be mush

    and possibly Krieg should be Crusader -no mention of him on cast page or in purity’s group and Crusader appears (in the same place/membership) when he dissapears

  16. “[…]Night and Fog had splintered off to form their own duo in Boston not long after”
    Huh, the phrase “Nacht und Nebel” (“night and fog”, as you may suspect) in German isequivalent to the English– “Cloak and Dagger”

    That would be some roundabout reference…

  17. Grammar maybe?

    Another one I’m unsure about, and actually the more times I reread it the more ok it sounds, but since it was a little jarring the first time I’ll point to it:

    ” It struck me just why the pub had a deaf waitress.”

    Did you maybe mean “just then”? It sounded a little off though it is of course parseable the way it is. Judgement call but I figured worth point out.

  18. I’m a good 4 years late, but man I just can’t resist saying this. After each chapter I like to scroll down and read that comments, cause I like hearing people’s thoughts. But hot damn, is this Vaughn person nitpicky and whiny. Too much swearing? Really? Every other chapter they just have to complain about SOMETHING. Yeesh.

    But other than that, this is an AMAZING story! I’ve been binging through it the last few days, and I’m so glad a friend recommended this to me. I mean if the only complaint I have is a few cringe-worthy comments, you’re definitely doing something right. ;D

  19. You like to color things green a lot. A lot of people wear green clothes, green curtains, green everything. If I had to guess I’d say your favorite color is green. Someday I’ll have to count how many times that color is used throughout the whole thing.
    Aside from that observation, I love this story.
    It’s utterly fantastic.

  20. Obligatory RE-reading mention. And probably my only comment.

    1. This was the most fun I’ve ever had reading anything. Thank you so much.

    2. Reading through comments this time around. You have some of the most obnoxious commentors. I could never do something like this, namely because I’m not as creative. Also because I’d go blind rolling my eyes so hard.

    I really hope you do turn this into a more accessible format. My mom is of the learned helplessness suit. I’m positive she’d love the story but she refuses to read anything not on Kindle or book form.

    Thanks again, wildbow

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