Tangle 6.5

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My legs hugged the sides of Judas’ body.  I could feel his breathing beneath me, the expansion of his body as his lungs filled, then emptied.  He huffed out a breath, and it steamed in the cool night air.

He stepped forward, just a little, and I got a glimpse of the world below us.  Thirty two stories down, the cars on the street were visible only by the yellow and red points of their headlights and taillights.  I felt Tattletale clutch me tighter, from where she sat behind me.  Judas’ front paw rested on the stone railing of the rooftop, clutched it hard enough that the points of his nails bit into the concrete.

Getting up here had been easy enough – Tattletale had cracked the employee access door and we’d taken the supply elevator to the roof.  Had someone been alerted to our presence?  Spotted us on camera?  Hard to say.  But time was short, and we’d already wasted enough time waiting for the dogs to finish growing.  The moment Bitch deemed them set, we would move out.

This plan had been terrifying when we’d just been talking about it.  Actually being on the verge of doing it?  Ten times worse.

Still time to think of a reason to back out.

Bitch’s whistle, one of those ones that make you wince when you hear them a hundred feet away, cut through the faint, ambient hum of the city below us.

Last chance, Taylor.

A second later, Brutus, with Bitch and Grue astride his back, stepped over the edge of the roof.  Judas shifted forward under me, then followed.

Falling from a height like that, you don’t get to scream.  The wind takes your voice from you.  If you happen to have something to hold onto, you cling to that for dear life and you pray, even if you aren’t a praying type.  My hands clutched hooks of bone on either side of Judas’ neck hard enough that I thought I might break either the bone or my hands.

Three stories down from the roof, there was a patio.  As Bitch whistled and pointed from her position below us, Judas kicked against the wall just behind us, pushing out and away from the building.  My heart rose into my throat and stuck there as I saw the edge of the patio below us, surely out of reach.  Had he pushed too early?  The next chance we’d have to touch a surface would be when we spattered violently against the road.

His instincts seemed to be better than mine.  His front claws reached down and gripped the patio’s edge.  Every muscle in my body tensed in my effort to not be thrown off him as we stopped, even with his powerful body absorbing the worst of the fall.  He gripped the ledge, then pushed against it while leveraging his back legs into place.  With every muscle in his body, it seemed, he leaped.  Not down, this time, but out.

Time seemed to stand still as we left the building behind.  The only thing below us was the street, twenty-nine stories below. The wind blew through my hair with a painful bite of cold. We’d crossed the event horizon, it was do or die from here on out.  That made it eerily easy to cast aside all doubts and hesitation and steel myself for what came next.

The Forsberg Gallery was twenty six stories tall and was one of the more recognizable buildings you could find downtown.  If I remembered right, it had been designed by Architecture students at the university, a few years ago.  I wasn’t really a fan of the design, which resembled the late stages of a game of Jenga, with each section formed in tempered glass with steel bars and girders providing the base skeleton.  The entire thing was illuminated by lights that changed according to the time of the evening.

In the blue-gray of the evening, the tower was pink and orange, echoing the sunset that had finished just an hour ago.  As the leap carried us over it, a pink tinted spotlight consumed my vision.

My lenses absorbed the worst of the glare, and a second later, I was able to make out what was happening again.  Brutus, a matter of feet in front of us, slammed into the glass of the roof, sending cracks spiderwebbing across it.  Grue virtually bounced from where he sat on Brutus’ back, losing his seat, hit the glass of the roof with his shoulder, and began to slide.  There was barely any traction to be had, not even on the steel girder that separated the massive panes of glass, and the only thing at the end of that slide would be a very long fall.

He reached out and grabbed ahold of the end of Brutus’ tail, pulling himself to a standing position at the same moment that Judas, Tattletale and I crashed into the pane of glass to their right.

The damage Brutus had done on impact was enough to ensure that we could break through rather than simply breaking the window.  There was a moment where you could hear the sound of straining metal, followed by the sound of a lot of shattering glass.

Together we all dropped into the center of the Forsberg Gallery’s top floor, joined by a downpour of glass shards.  Grue landed on his feet and stumbled back as Brutus landed just in front of him.  All around us, there were people in fancy dress and uniforms.  Suits, dresses… costumes.  People ran screaming and running for cover.  Heroes stepped forward, some trying to grasp the situation in the midst of the chaos, others putting themselves between us and the civilians.

A matter of heartbeats after we touched ground, Regent and Angelica plunged into the room, landing just behind us.  Regent lost his seat as Angelica landed, but managed to roll as he hit the ground, bringing himself to a crouch as he stopped.  He almost managed to make it look intentional.  Angelica stepped up to Bitch’s side, wearing the same harness we’d fitted her with at the bank robbery, but with two large cardboard boxes strapped to her sides, rather than bags.

I felt weirdly calm as my eyes swept over the room.  The Protectorate was gathered around the stage at the back of the room.  Armsmaster, Miss Militia, Assault, Battery, Velocity and Triumph.  Dauntless was MIA.

Not far away was the ‘kids’ table with some of the heroes of the hour.  Clockblocker, Vista, Gallant and Shadow Stalker, interrupted from their mingling with the rich kids, teen actors and the sons and daughters of the local who’s who.  The platinum blonde in the white evening gown that was giving me the evil eye?  That would be Glory Girl, out of costume.

Standing guard by the front of the room, raising their weapons in our direction, was an on-duty PRT squad.  Their very recognizable uniforms were chain mesh augmented with kevlar, topped with faceless helmets.  The only means you had to identify them with were the badge numbers printed across their vests in bold white numbers.   Four of the five had what looked like flamethrowers.  They weren’t firing yet – they couldn’t.  They were packing the best in nonlethal weaponry, but there were elderly people and children in the crowd, and according to Tattletale, that meant they were prohibited from opening fire on us for the moment.

The civilians… men and women in their finest clothes and jewelry.  A combination of the richest and most powerful people in the city, their guests and those willing to pay the exorbitant prices for the tickets.  The tickets started at two hundred and thirty dollars and had climbed steeply as they’d been bought up.  We’d initially considered attending as guests, for one plan of attack, before we decided that it was too dangerous to risk having our secret identities caught on camera, or to have something go wrong as we attempted to smuggle our equipment, costumes and dogs inside.  Once we’d decided that much, we’d stopped checking the cost of tickets, which had gotten as high as four hundred dollars a person.  The guests could use thirty dollars of the ticket price to bid on an auction, but it was still pretty exorbitant.

I recognized the mayor – the first time I’d seen him in person.  There was a guy who might have been a lesser known actor – I thought I recognized him, too.  The rest were just people, maybe a bit better looking than the norm, a bit better dressed.

And Emma.

I could have laughed.  She was standing there in the crowd with her parents and older sister, looking scared shitless in a little sky blue dress and blue sandals. Her dad was a high profile divorce lawyer.  I supposed it was possible he’d worked for someone famous or powerful enough that his family hadn’t needed an invitation or expensive tickets to get in.

It kind of sucked, knowing I was about to give her an awesome story to share with the rest of the school when her suspension was over with.  I was really, really hoping it wouldn’t be a story along the lines of ‘these idiotic villains just pulled a stunt so dumb it would put Über and Leet to shame, and got themselves arrested in a matter of seconds’.

Tattletale laughed, with a nervous edge, “Holy shit!  Not doing that again!  Fucking intense…” Her voice trailed off as Grue blacked out the crowd, leaving only the spot where we stood and the very edges of the room clear of the darkness.  She gave him a dirty look.

“Bitch, Regent, go!” He shouted, as he stepped my way, grabbed my hand and practically pulled me from where I sat on Judas’ back.  Tattletale hopped down, following a pace or two behind us.

The three of us ran for the front of the room, while Bitch whistled for her dogs and ran for the back.  I sensed it when Regent unhitched the two boxes that were strapped to Angelica.  The boxes were heavy and  hit the ground hard, splitting at the seams.  Better than I’d hoped.  I had my bugs flow out from the top of the box and the split sides, and ordered them into the crowd.

If a few more of the biting and stinging sort headed in Emma’s general direction, it wasn’t due to a conscious choice on my part.

If everything went according to plan, Bitch, Regent and the dogs could delay or stop anyone who ventured beyond the cloud of darkness.  Everything else, our success or our humiliating arrest, hinged on Grue, Tattletale and I.

My bugs reached the front of the room just seconds before we did.  I could sense their locations, and this in turn gave me the ability to identify where the people, the walls, doorway and furniture were.

I was moving with my knife drawn before Grue even banished some of his darkness to reveal a portion of the PRT squad that was stationed at the entrance.  As the cloud of black dissipated into tendrils of smoke, I was stepping behind one of the team members, drawing my knife against the hose that extended between the flamethrower-like device he held in his hands and the tank on his back.  It didn’t cut immediately, forcing me to try a second time.  As the knife severed the material of the hose, the PRT team member noticed me and drove his elbow into my face.  My mask took the worst of the hit, but getting hit in the face by a full grown man isn’t any fun with any amount of protective headwear.

I fell back through the doorway even as the tank began emptying its contents onto the floor.  It was a yellow-white, and as it poured onto the ground, it expanded like shaving cream.  The tank was probably close to three gallons, making for a hell of a lot of foam.

Grue leveraged all of his weight to bodily kick one of the squad members into the foam, then slammed the base of his palm into the next guy’s chin.  As the man reeled, Grue grabbed at the tank on his back and pulled it up over his head.  This not only pulled the man off balance, but the weight of the tank kept him that way.  Grue, his hands still on the tank, pulled the squad member’s helmeted face down at the same time he brought his knee up.  The pane of the helmet cracked, and the man didn’t even have the wherewithal to bring his hands up to soften the fall before hitting the ground.

A fourth squad member stepped out of the darkness, and Tattletale took hold of the nozzle of the man’s weapon, forcing it to one side before he could open fire.  I scrambled to my feet to help her.  As Tattletale began to lose the wrestling match over the weapon, I leaped over the still-expanding pile of foam, then went low as I landed to knock his legs out from under him.  He fell, hard, and Tattletale wrenched the weapon from his hands.  As he climbed to his feet, she pulled the trigger and blasted him in the face.  Grue banished enough darkness to reveal the final member of the team, and Tattletale buried him under a blasting of the foam.

I’d watched a discovery channel feature on this stuff.  The PRT, the Parahuman Response Team, was equipped with tinker-designed nonlethal weaponry to subdue supervillains.  This containment foam was standard issue.  It ejected as a liquid, then expanded into a sticky foam with a few handy properties.  It was flexible and it was porous when fully expanded, for one thing, so you could breathe while contained within it, at least long enough for rescue teams with a dissolving agent to get to you.  It was also impact resistant, so PRT squads could coat the ground with it to save falling individuals or keep heavy hitters from doing much damage.

The way it expanded, you could coat all but the strongest villains in it, and it would disable them.  Because of the way it denied you leverage and was resistant to impacts and tearing, even the likes of Lung would have trouble pulling themselves free.  Topping it all off, it was resistant to high temperatures and a strong insulator, so it served to handle the pyrokinetics and those with electromagnetic powers.

While the PRT member struggled ineffectually to remove his foam-covered helmet, I pulled the tank off him and helped Tattletale put it on.  Grue already had his on, and was getting a third one off one of the foam-captured PRT team members for me.

It was heavy, and I almost couldn’t handle the weight.  Rather than stagger around, I crouched and let the base of the tank rest against the ground.

Grue pointed to our left, and we aimed.  A second later, he made the darkness dissipate, showing the buffet table surrounded by the various Wards and Glory Girl flying a few feet above the ground.  They were swatting at the bugs crawling on them, but they weren’t so distracted that they didn’t notice the sudden emergence of light, or us.

“Glory Hole!” Tattletale heckled the heroine, before opening fire on her.  Grue directed a stream at Clockblocker, to the left, so I turned my attention to the person on the far right of the group.  Shadow Stalker.

I admit, I had a reason to be ticked at her, since she wrote a note for Emma’s dad, giving him fuel for that damned assault charge.  It was with a measure of satisfaction that I unloaded a stream of foam on her.

The stream was dead on, but she didn’t seem to give much of a damn as she evaded to one side.  I caught her square in the chest with another spurt, making her stagger a bit, but she didn’t fall or get caught in the stuff like the others.  Instead, she sort of ducked low, her cape billowing, and then rolled to one side, readying her crossbow as her feet touched the ground and she shifted to an all-out run.

Whether that was a tranquilizer shot or a real arrow, I was fucked if she hit me.

I went wide with my stream, aiming to catch her a little and either slow her down or mess up her aim.  She stepped on a bit of foam and was tripped up a little.  Tattletale added her firepower to mine, and with our combined streams, Shadow Stalker fell.  We took a second to bury her under the foam, and Grue added a measure of darkness to it.

“Next!” Grue hollered, pointing.  I hauled the heavy tank off the ground and moved closer to our next target before putting it down again and aiming.

This time, I deliberately moved a force of bugs into the area for some extra distraction.  The darkness dissipated, and it was the Protectorate this time, half of them.  Battery, Assault, and Triumph.

Battery was already charged up when Grue dismissed the impenetrable shadow that had covered them, and moved like a blur as soon as she could see where she was going.  She didn’t bolt straight for us, though.  Instead, she leaped to one side, kicked Assault square in the middle of the chest with both feet, and then careened off in the opposite direction.

Assault was a kinetic energy manipulator, and could control the energies of movement, acceleration and motion much like other heroes could manipulate flame or electricity.  He used the energy from Battery’s kick to rocket towards us, as Battery moved around to flank.

Grue directed a stream straight at Assault, but the first second of fire seemed to skim right off the man.  It did start taking hold after that, but the delayed effects gave Assault just enough time to slam into Grue and send him flying into the wall beside the Wards.  After that, the expansion of the foam kept him from moving much further.

Tattletale and I focused our fire on Battery.  The woman ducked and dodged out of the way of our streams, moving too fast to follow reliably with our eyes.  She seemed to stumble into a cocktail table, one of those round ones large enough for four people to stand around, but any clumsiness on her part was an illusion of the eye.  A heartbeat later, she had the table in her grip and was spinning in a full circle.

She threw the table like an oversize frisbee, and I pushed Tattletale in one direction as I flung myself in the other.  The table edge caught the weapon in Tattletale’s hands and knocked it from her grip with enough force to make Tattletale roll as she hit the ground.

Which left only me standing, against Triumph and Battery.  Armsmaster, Miss Militia and Velocity were nowhere to be seen.  I could have used my bugs to feel out for them in the darkness, but I had more pressing matters to focus on.

Battery was charging again, taking advantage of us being off balance to build up a store of power again.  Heck, she’d probably built her whole fighting style around it.  I could see the normally cobalt blue lines of her costume glowing a brilliant electric blue-white.  I focused my attention on her, drawing every bug in the immediate area to her while I tried to get myself oriented to open fire again.  Wasps, mosquitos and beetles set on her, biting and stinging.

For just a fraction of a second, I saw the glow of the lines of her costume dim, before igniting again.  She needed to concentrate, it seemed, and my bugs had served to distract.  As I pulled myself upright and opened fire, she was a step too slow in getting out of the way of the stream.  I caught her under the spray and started piling it on top of her.

A shockwave blasted me.  I was knocked off my feet for the second time in a matter of seconds and my ears were left ringing.

Triumph had a gladiator/lion theme to his costume, with a gold lion helm, shoulderpads and belt, and skintight suit elsewhere.  He had managed to claw enough bugs away from his face to use his sonic shout.  He was one of those guys that was big, muscular and tough enough that you’d avoid him even if he didn’t have that other power, and his other power was one that let him punch holes through concrete.

Grue aimed and fired a stream at him, but Triumph was surprisingly quick in slipping out of the way.  As Grue reoriented his aim, Triumph kicked over a cocktail table and grabbed it with one hand to use as a shield against the foam.  I tried to scramble to one side, to attack him from another direction, but he opened his mouth and unleashed another shockwave that sent me skidding across the floor, dangerously close to the piles of foam that had the Wards trapped.  As I tried to raise my nozzle in his direction to spray more containment foam at him, my vision swam and I saw double, and a high pitched whine threatened to drown out everything else.  I lowered the weapon, sent more bugs his way and focused on regaining my senses.

“Here!” Grue hollered.  He raised his hand.  Triumph inhaled, gearing up for another blast-

And Brutus barreled through the corridor Grue had parted through in the darkness to slam into Triumph like a charging bull.

Maybe a little harder than I would have hit the guy, had I been the humvee sized monster making the call.  Still, you couldn’t fault a dog for not knowing.

Just to my left, Shadow Stalker pulled her upper body free of the goop and began the slow process of working her crossbow free.  Not normally possible, but her ability to go into a shadow state apparently made her more slippery than most.

“No,” I growled at her. “Stay down.”  I buried her under more foam.

I pulled myself to my feet, wobbled, straightened up, wobbled some more, and then worked on keeping my balance.

“Skitter!” Grue roared, “Move!”

I didn’t waste any time in throwing myself to the ground.  Out of the corner of my eye, I only saw a blur of blue and silver where I’d been standing.

I had to flop over onto my back to see Armsmaster standing six feet away from me, leveling the blade of his Halberd in my direction.  The silver of his visor made precious little of his expression visible.  All I could see was the thin, hard line of his mouth.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, quiet enough that I was pretty sure Tattletale and Grue wouldn’t catch it.  I aimed his way with the foam sprayer.

In a flash, he whipped his weapon around so the butt end was facing me.  There was a muffled ‘whump’ sound, and I felt something like a wave of intensely hot air that made every hair on my arms, legs and the back of my neck stand on end.  I realized the trigger of the containment foam sprayer was depressed and nothing was coming out of the end of the weapon.  I tried again.  Nothing.

That would be an electromagnetic pulse screwing up the machinery.  Fuck.

Before I could organize my thoughts and warn Grue and Tattletale, Armsmaster flipped the weapon around in his hands like you saw military cadets doing with their guns during a march.  As it whirled around him, I heard that ‘whump’ sound twice in quick succession.

Somehow, I doubted he’d missed them.

“Call off your mutant,” he spoke, in that kind of voice that people obeyed.  “I promise you, it would only get hurt if it attacked me, and I’d rather not subject an animal to that, when it’s the master that’s to blame.”

“Bitch!” Grue called, “Call him off.  He’s right.”

From a point I couldn’t see, Bitch whistled.  Brutus moved back through the corridor Grue had made to rejoin her.

“You were moving like you could see in my darkness,” Grue spoke, a note of wariness in his echoing voice.

“I’ve studied your powers,” Armsmaster told us, tapping the butt of his weapon on the ground.  Every bug within fifteen feet of him dropped out of the sky, dead.  “This was over from the moment you stepped into the room.”

Miss Militia stepped out of the darkness beside the stage, with what looked like a machine gun in her hands, Regent as her hostage.  He didn’t have his scepter.


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53 thoughts on “Tangle 6.5

  1. This could be interesting. It’s either got the potential to be the point where Taylor turns the group in or could be the point that makes it impossible for her to have a trusting relationship with heroes in the community for a long time.

  2. I wonder if Regent hadn’t just sold the group out himself. After all, Armsmaster and Militia weren’t in the fight–and neither was Regent.

  3. i can think of one way they might still get away clean. but it’s kindof a long shot, and it’d take the moral of the story a longish step in a direction i’m not sure if wildbow wants to take it, so i dunno. i guess Saturday will tell.

  4. Actually, there’s a good chance Tattletale blew the whistle. If I knew Taylor was a hero in disguise and had an idea of her internal conflict, the best way to make her into a solid villain would be to have her arrested. After all, it would only be her first strike, not the third.

  5. PS:
    Why would any EMP disable what is basically a large, gas-propelled spray without electronics? And why can’t Taylor simply cut the tube open just below the valve with her knife anyway?

    • Ah, but it’s tinker designed, so be sure to cast aside all assumptions as to operating mechanisms and whatnot. 😉

      In this case, I’m not spoiling anything by saying (and it’s not necessarily something Taylor would know), but the nozzle itself maintains a specific electromagnetic current along the interior of the ‘nozzle’ for lack of a better word, to keep the containment foam from adhering to it. (“If that glue sticks to everything, why isn’t it sticking to the container?” In this case: “Electricity!”)

      As for cutting the tube open, while I’m not 100% sure what you mean, I’m assuming you’re referring to how she might cut the tube below the nozzle she’s holding, and try to get some on Armsmaster?

      Probably would get more foam on herself than him, and once that happened, she’d -really- be in trouble.

  6. Heh. Kind of reminds me when some scientist tried to sell some fluorine-based flamethrowers to the germans during WWII. Fluorine can burn just about anything in intense, almost explosive flame, including things like fire-resistant bricks, steel, frozen meat, water and other things that supposedly don’t burn. It also reacts with all known enements, being able to corrode gold, platinum, palladium and even iridium if it is heated first.

    Guess what happened when containment failure occured in those flamethrowers? The content burned through the flamethrower, the user and then burned a nice hole into the building’s foundations.


  7. Hey Wildbow, I don’t know if it’s kosher to do this or not but I just read a piece of webfiction you might find interesting.


    One of the main characters can transform into a swarm of insects. So I figured you might find how that was handled interesting. i found it very engrossing so if you have some free time you might like to check it out.

  8. Or the French Resistance’s sticky grenades. Designed to blow up Nazi tanks, they had an unfortunate tendency to stick to the soldier trying to attach them to those tanks.

    So, we have an armed Armsmaster with something that kills bugs in an area around him, and the ability to fire an EMP blast that doesn’t affect everything around. Given the unfortunate lack of termite suicide bombers or bombardier beetles, this doesn’t look good for our beloved villains. I’d suggest low-tech solutions, but I think pulling a knife or baton on that guy, while possibly so dumb it would be unexpected, is the wrong way to go.

    This leaves us with a few options. 1st, Cockroaches. Nasty little buggers are all over the place and can survive anything. Doesn’t matter how swanky a place, they are around somewhere in massive swarms. Why are there so few planets without atmosphere or any type of life whatsoever? Only way to keep cockroaches from living there, that’s why.

    2. A mass of spiders pulling off a stealth AT-AT tripping maneuver using spider web. Given the amounts involve, this would be a good time for the evil heroes to spout off a monologue. Something truthy and justicey, with plenty of hypocrisy considering Emma and her dad’s presence.

    3. Considering Emma and her dad’s appearance, along with that of other rich people in the area, it’s hostage time! If that’s a problem, it’s bluffing time! The heroes have no way to no for sure that she didn’t plant a black widow in the hair of some rich lady who wouldn’t know what a wash rag was if her maid slapped her in the face with it.

    4. A friggin’ machine gun? Regent oughta make sure there’s a hero in a line with him and Militia, because big enough guns have this tendency to go through things, and it negates the value of a hostage when you can’t fire on them. Much worse, too, when said hostage can cause your finger to stay on the trigger and let the recoil dance it around the room a bit out of your control.

    There’s not much of a way out of this without further bad blood between Taylor and Armsmaster. Also, sorry for the whole lengthy treatise on armchair generalship, it’s something I do at times. If it helps, I can get people’s hopes up and let you dash them quite beautifully. I even have a sly idea I’m not sharing about a possible way this could go…mwahaha…but first, back to building a robot out of nothing but sticky grenades and machine guns!

    • /rewrites to avoid all of the above

      As far as Miss Militia goes, her gun could have any kind of ammunition. Rubber bullets, perhaps, or hollow points for reduced chance of penetration? It’s entirely possible that she could swap ammunition without even touching the cartridge.

      • Any kind of ammunition? Like the gun Dr. Nefario designed for Gru in Despicable Me? Because that was supposed to be a DART gun, not *stops to wave away the smell*

      • i don’t know how well machine guns do with rubber bullets. those things are usually pretty low velocity — for obvious reasons — and underpowered ammo tends to mess with a lot of fully automatic firearms. hollowpoints would work, especially if it’s a submachinegun firing pistol-caliber ammo, but would obviously be quite deadly to anyone not wearing good body armor. plus, she’d have to be very confident of hitting — a miss is the same as an overpenetration, no matter what ammo you’ve loaded, and she seems to have a room full of civilian bystanders for a backstop here.

        (there’s a Schlock Mercenary strip about that, but it ran years ago and i don’t have time to dig it up now. it’s hilarious if you’re a gun nut, though.)

        really, miss militia strikes me as a natural black hat from what we’ve seen of her so far. unless she took special classes in bean bag rounds and tear gas guns, what we’ve seen of her powers the couple of quick times she’s shown up has been pretty far from non-lethal.

        (okay, i’ll try to disable my gun nut mode now.)

      • iirc you don’t shoot rubber bullets *at* people…that can still kill, gotta aim at the ground in front of a crowd you need controlled and let them bounce first. not sure how accurate it’d be shooting just regent with ricochets from a machine gun.(and with the guestlist even harmlessly bruising somebody would be bad news)

    • No, no. Gun nut mode is useful for me. I research what I can, but guns and ammo are one of those things where there’s just so much stuff out there that I can’t really be sure of anything without more work than it’s worth.

      So it’s good to get some validation one way or another as far as whether I’m on the right line of thinking.

      • Guns aren’t really a good option for being nonlethal. Even if you use bean bags or rubber bullets, there’s the possibility that you could still hurt someone pretty badly. I believe it was a tear gas canister or a rubber bullet that put one Iraq veteran Occupy protestor critical condition. Probably the canister.

        Plus, guns have the psychological effect of putting someone in a life or death situation. They decide, “Ok, this person has a gun, this isn’t something where I walk out with a few bruises, this is a trip to the morgue,” and that makes them more desperate. It also makes them more willing to try lethal force in reciprocation. Put another way, if supers were known for killing criminals, crime wouldn’t stop. The criminals would just start showing up with better protection and with much stronger, consistently lethal, weaponry. Or they’d become much sneakier.

        That mindset might be part of why most supers don’t get demasked if defeated or their family attacked. If they did that, it would escalate and become ever deadlier. People would start setting up explosives to go off if their masks were disturbed, rather than just let themselves be arrested, or leave poisons on the exterior of their mask. Anything to keep their family from being attacked by supervillains or discriminated against and shunned by law-abiding society.

      • I like that interpretation in that last paragraph, Gecko.

        As far as the gun thing & Miss Militia, I feel like I should do an interlude around her. Not just because it would clarify matters (and shed some insight into her power, the use of guns) but because, as some have mentioned, there’s a lack of perspectives showing the heroes as genuine good guys.

        But not at the end of Tangle, methinks. Got something in mind for that, already.

  9. Not noticing Armsmaster is moving around the place, killing your bugs and taking one of your allies hostage? Bad move, Taylor. Next time, don’t get distracted by the whole “fighting superheroes and getting blasted around” bit.

  10. “hinged on Grue, Tattletale and I.”
    I know everybody always corrects ‘me to ‘I’ but I’m pretty sure it IS suppossed to be ‘me’ in this case. The subject of the sentence is ‘Everything’, not Taylor. (‘Everything hinged on’). To put it another way, if you take out Grue and Tattletale, the sentence would be “everything hinged on me”, not “everything hinged on I”

  11. “Grue directed a stream straight at Assault, but the first second of [b]fire[/b] seemed to skim right off the man.”

    Is this a typo that should read “foam” or does Grue have a flamethrower instead of a foamthrower?

  12. Is this the first in story appearance of Triumph? In any case, it’s close enough for a random comment about him.

    I don’t know if it’s an archetype I’m unfamiliar with, but “physically buff male hero with super shouty powers” has come up in three places I can recall: Triumph in worm, Sonic Boom (aka Gymteacherman) in the movie Sky High, and The Howler in the Wild Cards series (shared world novels edited by George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame.)

  13. The paragraph describing containment foam contains a slightly awkward number of “it”s. Most are hard to remove unless you want to say “The foam” or “Containment foam” or something, but the following…

    “It was flexible and it was porous when fully expanded…”

    …could be replaced with “It was flexible and porous when fully expanded…” easily.

  14. and here i thought there would be biometric security on the equipment or something for just that reason. so no one could abuse it, it would have a fingerprint sensor or something(hey bakuda had it on her rpg) that would cause it to spray foam on the user or something if they weren’t registered. Man tinkers how dangerous.

  15. “I felt weirdly calm as my eyes swept over the room.” This is Taylor’s real superpower. It could also seem pretty cheesy, easy for the writer to make it look contrived. I think wildbow did a great job making her capable yet somehow believable. Or somehow other aspects of Taylor’s character are just so engaging that I am willing to suspend my disbelief and let her get away with cheating.

  16. New here been resisting commenting on old posts but i can’t keep it up any more. Why oh why didn’t u just fill the room with bugs write screw u on the window in spray paint and run of cackling maddly at an epic practical joke? So much safer :p oh well. Love this series

    • that plan would have been a good plan.
      embarrass them the bossman said.
      tweaking their nose and not even dignifying it with a fight or profitable crime seems *more* embarrassing than actually crashing in and beating them

  17. I’m having a hard time getting over the fact that Grue could have just left the darkness around all the heroes and sprayed them himself while they were blind and deaf. I don’t see the problem with that plan.
    I guess Armsmaster still would have shown up and we’d end up in pretty much the same situation.

    • I was just thinking the same exact thing while rereading this chaper. Why doesn’t Grue just spray them all down while Skitter distracts and vaguely keeps track of them / anyone moving around with her bugs… no need to remove the darkness. (For that matter, how much comtainment foam is in a given pack? I thought I remembered it being quite a bit, but it’s been a while since my initial read. Could they not have also just blanket sprayed the area and made a run for it right then? Let Grue’s darkness fade on its own.) Also, it wasn’t explained how Miss Malitia was able to see well enough to grab Regent.

  18. “This was over from the moment you stepped into the room.”
    Up until now I thought of Armsmaster as someone like Iron Man, Blue Beetle or even Green Lantern- he has a lot of wonderful toys and the ability to design and make new ones between fights, but he still uses them directly and in a person-to-person fighting style, rather than going off into a gun-based or other ranged combat mode.
    After this line I recognized him as also essentially being Batman. If he has any physical powers, they’re not very significant- he might be Captain America strong, but certainly not Superman strong or even Mammoth strong- and he’s smart enough to see that and compensate by being prepared.
    Looking back, I realize this fits into his original description in a very clever way. He was mentioned as being a guy who would be out on one wing of the classic V-formation superhero group shot. In the Justice League, Batman stands right next to the center… but that’s for out-of-story branding reasons (Batman sells a lot more comics than Martian Manhunter or even the Flash), and goes directly counter to how Batman actually does business. If he had his choice, he wouldn’t be in that group shot at all.

  19. What I love about this chapter is that it’s the first chapter that shows a good side of Armsmaster. Taylor kinda sees him as dick, which he is, but he is not 100% a dick. I mean he cares about the dogs, it shows that Taylor’s perspective is not always 100% accurate/fair.

  20. It would have been funny if when the Undersiders crashed in one of the Wards yelled “Thank God!” implying they were finding the party really boring.

  21. That was aweosme.
    And incredibly stupid of them lol. 5 guys and 3 dogs against most of the OP super heroes of the city.

    It’d be hilarious if the boss was a hero and had them do small time jobs slowly escalating to get them caught. But nah, my moneys on Dealer or someone we haven’t been introduced to yet.

  22. «Everything else, our success or our humiliating arrest, hinged on Grue, Tattletale and I.» simplified, «Everything else hinged on I.» “I” is only used as the subject. This is another example where you should have used “me”. I think you may be hypercorrecting, using “I” everyplace it is part of a compound? I remember one of the first was a preposition that takes two objects, like «between SomeName and I» which also looks locally like a compound.

  23. “If a few more of the biting and stinging sort headed in Emma’s general direction, it wasn’t due to a conscious choice on my part.”

    Okay, even through all this, this is what called attention to me. I said before that I’m new to this, so yeah… But I’m going to guess that the bugs are beginning to respond to her subconscious thoughts?

    Loving the story by the way!

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