Purity floated above the docks, an oversize firefly against a blue-gray backdrop of sky. She came to rest over a building that had been half built and left abandoned, a small crane jutting out of the middle of it. A building I recognized as Bitch’s place. Her improvised dog shelter.
“Brian!” I called out. “You want to see this!”
The cameraman tried to zoom in and focus on Purity, but only intensified the lens flare effect that followed her.
He zoomed back out just in time to see her take action.
The beams of light that blasted from her palm weren’t straight. There was a bit of a spiral to them, as they formed a rough double helix. The end result was wider than Purity was tall, tearing into the building to topple the crane against one wall. She turned the light on the other walls, obliterating them.
It took her less than a minute to level the building and pulverize any part of the structure that stood higher than the sidewalk.
She paused, and hovered there in the midst of the dust and the motes of light that had followed in the wake of her power. She turned and shot the next-closest building, directing a smaller, tighter beam at one corner where the structure met the ground. She hit the next corner, then swept the oscillating shaft of light through the ground floor to obliterate any supports that stood within. The building toppled messily with brick walls sloughing off and cresting plumes of dust.
The building hadn’t even finished falling down before she started work on the next two, devoting one beam to each.
“Were there people in there?” I asked, horrified both at the idea and at what this woman was capable of doing. “What about those other buildings?
Brian was behind his couch, watching, “There might have been, and there might be.”
My need to hurry overrode my modesty. I stood and pulled off my top, leaving just my bra on, making sure to keep my back to Brian. I removed the sweatshirt I had tied around my waist and untied the arms of my costume.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting ready,” I put my arm through one arm and worked my fingers into the gloves.
Brian walked around the couch and I hurried to raise the top half of my costume and clutch it to my chest, covering myself. He put his hands on my bare shoulders and exerted enough force to push me back down to a sitting position. I complied, stiffly, reluctantly.
He pulled his hands away a little more quickly than he might have a day or two ago, jamming them in his pockets. I hunched my shoulders forward self consciously.
Brian took a deep breath. “Not your job.”
“They’re doing that because of us,” I adjusted my grip on my costume top to free a hand so I could point it at the TV. The cameraman was retreating from the scene, and the image was wobbling as the camera rocked with his movement. The spark of light that was Purity was moving in his general direction as she leveled more buildings.
“Because of Coil, not us. The heroes will be the ones to take care of it,” Brian retorted.
“They could be hurting innocent people.”
“Given who these guys are, I’m pretty sure they’ve been hurting innocent people for a long time.”
I turned to frown at Brian, “You know what I mean. We-”
“Undersiders,” A female voice cut into the conversation. “Protectorate. Take note.”
Our heads turned back to the television screen. The camera showed a brilliant glare that could only vaguely be made out as a face. The view shifted, and I heard her command, “Hold it.”
The camera steadied and focused on Purity’s face, from ground level looking up. I suspected the cameraman was on the ground.
“You took the most important thing in the world from me,” her voice was without affect, flat. “Until she is returned, this doesn’t stop. I will take this city apart until I find you or you come to stop me. My subordinates will murder anyone, everyone, until the matter is settled. I don’t care if they are genetically pure or not. If they haven’t allied with us already, they missed their chance.”
She bent down to take the camera. While the image swayed wildly, Purity spoke, “Night, Fog. Demonstrate.”
The camera steadied, fixed on a man and a woman in gray and black costumes, respectively, featuring cowls and cloaks. Behind and to the side of them was an unnaturally pale and white haired young man.
The man in gray evaporated into a rolling cloud of white-gray fog, moving toward the camera. Purity took flight, moving up and above the scene, keeping the camera focused on the cameraman. As the camera rose and the view of the scene expanded, I could see Crusader off to one side, leaning against a wall with his arms folded.
As the mist enveloped the cameraman, Night strode forward, disappearing into it. The timing of what happened was wrong, too soon after she entered the fog. There was a ragged scream, and then blood sprayed out of the mist to paint the surrounding road in dozens upon dozens of long splashes of crimson.
The fog moved as though it had a mind of its own, congealing into the man once more. When he had fully pulled himself together again, there were only a few spatters of blood six or so paces from where the body had fallen, and Night, standing in the middle of the road. No body, no clothes, no blood remained where the fog had passed.
“We are not the ABB,” Purity spoke, not bothering to turn the camera back to herself, “We are stronger, both in powers and in numbers. We have discipline, and thanks to you, we have nothing left to lose. I will have my daughter back, and we will have our restitution.”
Purity dropped the camera, and the view spun lazily as the camera hurtled to the ground. There was the briefest of glimpses of the trail of light that marked her departure, before the camera hit the ground and the television went black. After a moment, the ‘BB4 News’ logo appeared on the screen against a blue background.
“Crap,” Brian said.
“So. If you’re not going to go after them to save people,” I wasn’t able to keep all the bitterness out of my voice. “Maybe you’ll do it for our rep, after we got called out like that?”
“That’s not- Taylor, I don’t want people to get hurt or killed, either. I’m not a villain that aims to hurt people. I’m just being practical.”
“You didn’t answer my question. What are we doing now, after hearing that?”
“We’re calling Lisa. Or you are, and I’ll take care of your ear while you do it.”
I nodded. I took the opportunity to get my top back on while he got the first aid kit, and grabbed my cell phone. Brian used saline and a wet cotton wipe to wipe around my ear, and I dialed Lisa. She picked up on the first ring.
“Lemon J,” I told her.
“Bumblebee S,” she replied. “No immediate danger, but the situation doesn’t look good?”
“Right,” I replied.
Brian put the cotton wipe aside. It was a red-pink with flakes of my dried blood on it. He prepared another to continue working.
“You see that bit on TV?” I asked her, “Hold on, I’m putting you on speaker for Grue.” I’d used his codename for security’s sake. I fiddled with the keypad to get the phone to speaker mode.
Lisa’s voice was tinny through the low quality speaker. “Purity? I saw the bit on TV. From what I picked up, child protective services and a contingent of capes went into her place and walked out with her baby while she was at work, before she even had a chance to hear about the email. Mama bear snapped.”
“Tattletale,” Brian spoke, “Did you talk to Coil?”
“Coil says he told Kaiser straight up that he was responsible for the emails. I believe him. If Purity and Kaiser’s other subordinates don’t know, Kaiser either hasn’t seen fit to tell them or he’s intentionally keeping them in the dark.”
“What? Why would he do that?” I raised the phone closer to my mouth to ask her.
“It makes a warped sort of sense to me,” Brian answered for Lisa. “He lets his people believe we’re responsible, with Purity’s group gunning for us and the Protectorate. Hookwolf hates us anyways, because of Bitch, so he goes along. Kaiser lets them deal with us, with all that fury and hate and no-holds-barred torture, murder and maiming that comes with blaming us. When we’re dealt with, or when it’s convenient, he tells them the truth, turns that bloodthirst against Coil. His people won’t ever be scarier or more vicious than they are right now. Why not maximize the damage?”
“Doesn’t that fall apart if Coil admits, publicly or to the members of Empire Eighty Eight, that he’s responsible?” I asked.
“Yes,” Lisa’s tinny voice replied, “But Coil won’t. He was willing to talk to Kaiser, fess up to the man himself face to face, but going with a more public route risks putting him in the spotlight, drawing attention to himself, and he’s not going to do that. I suspect Kaiser knows that and is accounting for it.”
“So what’s next?” I asked, “I think we should do something to step in, but Brian was saying that he thought we should continue to lay low. Before Purity said her piece, anyways. Not sure if he’s changed his mind.” I gave him a look.
“I haven’t,” Brian spoke, loud enough to be picked up by the phone. He dabbed ointment on my ear, making me wince. “Sorry.”
I wasn’t sure if the apology was over his stance in the discussion or the medical care.
“According to the news and my, um, inside source,” Lisa spoke, referring to her power, “Purity hasn’t stopped. She’s doing strafing runs across the Docks. She moves too fast for anyone but Dauntless or Velocity to catch, and she hits harder than both of them combined. She’s knocked down four more buildings while we’ve talked, I’m pretty sure. How long before she happens to knock over our hideout?”
Brian pursed his lips.
“And she leads her own sub-group within Empire Eighty Eight, so I’m betting that Fog, Night, Alabaster and Crusader are on the streets, doing their own thing. I dunno about you guys, but I have friends in our neighborhood. I’m very not cool with that.”
Brian sighed, “Fine. We go. But no direct confrontation until we have a game plan, especially not before we reunite our two groups. Where are you guys?”
“Holed up on the far side of the Trainyard, with the dogs,” Lisa answered, “Not a bad spot. Better than the building Purity tore down. Don’t know why she was set up there instead of here.”
I heard a voice on the other end that was probably Bitch’s, though I couldn’t make out the words.
“So. We meet?” Lisa asked.
“We meet,” Brian replied. “I’m going to call Coil for a vehicle, and to ask him a few questions, hear for myself that he talked to Kaiser. However long it takes for the ride to get here, it should give me time to stitch Skitter up.”
“Patch her up? Why?”
“Not relevant to the current situation. We’ll explain later,” he said.
“Later then. Take care of yourself, Skitter” Lisa hung up.
Brian held up the needle and thread, “Let me apologize in advance.”
“You see kids get their ears twisted in the movies and on TV all the time. What you don’t get is how much it fucking hurts,” I touched the part of my mask that covered my bandaged earlobe. It was throbbing, due in part to Brian’s ministrations.
“Just leave it alone. The painkillers will kick in soon.”
We sat in silence for a few moments. I stared out the small window at the back of the vehicle. Very few cars were going in the direction we were.
The interior of the vehicle that Coil had procured for us was filled with medical equipment. There was a gurney, which I sat on, a second smaller type of gurney that could be disassembled and reassembled as required, up near the ceiling. The interior was efficiently packed with medical supplies: an oxygen tank underneath the bench where Grue sat, a heartbeat monitor, lifejackets, tubes of all shapes and sizes, lockers and drawers with pills, splints and bandages.
It was, to all appearances, a real ambulance. I couldn’t say whether it had originally been an ambulance, and Coil had added extra compartments for weapons and for my bugs, or if he’d gone the other way and built the vehicle from scratch, to accommodate his additions.
We slowed down, and Grue leaned towards the front of the ambulance, “What’s the holdup?”
“Blockade coming up,” the driver spoke. He and the woman in the passenger seat were Coil’s people, decked out in paramedic’s uniforms. “No sweat.”
He flipped a switch, and the siren blared. Seconds later, he was revving up and moving without difficulty. I looked through the rear window, and saw a line of police cars and PRT vans behind us, moving to close the gap they’d just opened in their formation.
“Hey, are we okay?” Grue asked me. He was outfitted in costume, helmet on and visor down.
“I get the feeling you’re angry.”
“If I’m angry at anyone for that thing outside the mall, it’s myself. Can we just drop that topic forever and forget it ever happened?”
“No, no. I mean, are you angry that I didn’t jump out of my seat to go fight Empire Eighty Eight, before we knew everything that was at stake?”
“Oh,” I flushed, and my ear throbbed in response to the rush of blood. Could’ve kicked myself. “I honestly don’t know. I wasn’t expecting it. I see the lengths you go through to take care of your… family member, I think of you as a pretty honorable guy, you know?” This was veering closer to the conversation-that-was-not-to-be-spoken-of than I’d like. I deliberately left that thought hanging.
Grue rubbed the back of his neck, “I’m not sure I’m as good a person as you’re making me out-”
An impact rocked the ambulance, tossing Grue out of his seat and nearly knocking me heels over head. The ambulance veered out of the driver’s control, tipped, and landed on its side, bringing Grue against the underside of the stretcher I’d been sitting on. The spare gurney and the contents of drawers and lockers around the interior spilled free and scattered around us.
“Fuck!” the driver swore. “Fuckshit!”
I pulled free of the tubes and the half of a gurney that had fallen around me, and crawled toward the front to look between the two front seats.
It didn’t look so different from Bitch’s dogs in general shape. It was a little larger, too, maybe, but that was a hard call to make. It was hollow, its limbs were thinner than the dogs, and I couldn’t really draw a line between what was the actual ‘meat’ of the body and what wasn’t, because the entire thing was a chainsaw whir of serrated blades, hooks and needle points, shuffling and shifting around one another, rising and falling, all moving too fast for the eye to follow. Altogether, it maintained a general quadruped shape with a tail and elongated snout.
Walking on either side of it were two people. There was a pale, tall man with the sort of muscle-heavy build you only saw on cons and bodybuilders. He wore black slacks that were in tatters around his feet, had chains wrapped around his forearms, hands and calves, and a blue-white tiger mask. On the opposite side of the metal beast was a twenty-something girl with a gymnast’s build and scars criss-crossing her exposed skin. Her hair was shorn to a bleached blond buzz cut, and her face was covered by a metal cage.
The blender of dangerous looking metal bits dissolved, each of the hooks and blades retracting into the skin of the man at the center of the thing’s chest. As the front legs withdrew into his shoulders, he dropped into a crouch on the street. He wore a wolf mask of sheet metal that had been crudely bent into place, framed by long, greasy blond hair. Hookwolf.
Rumor had it that Hookwolf, back in the day, had been one of the top fighters in a parahuman fighting ring in New York. He’d grown greedy, killed the man that ran it for access to the vault with the night’s earnings, and had made a good number of enemies in the process. It had been a group of white supremacists local to that area that had given him shelter and support, happy to side with him because the man he’d killed had been an ‘acceptable target’. Maybe the ideology was real for Hookwolf from day one, maybe it was an act that had become reality when he found he enjoyed having people celebrate him for enacting his most twisted impulses and racking up a body count. Either way, I suspected that there were few things he wouldn’t do for his ‘Empire’ nowadays.
Stormtiger, the man with the chains and tiger mask, and Cricket, the girl, apparently tied back to the same circles of parahuman prize fighters that Hookwolf had once been part of. I couldn’t begin to guess their motivations for following him, but I suppose it hardly mattered. Hookwolf was dangerous enough on his own. With friends?
“We run,” I muttered. Hookwolf and his buddies had their backs turned to us and were walking toward the police barricade. Stormtiger flexed his hands, and the air blurred around them, congealed into a half-dozen pale, translucent blades that jutted from each hand.
“We have guns,” spoke the driver, “We shoot them from behind.”
“No,” Brian spoke, “It won’t hurt Hookwolf, and I suspect Cricket and Stormtiger could do something about it, or they wouldn’t be so brazen about walking towards those cops. Skitter is right. We retreat. Ready?”
Grue blanketed the back doors of the ambulance in darkness to mute the noise as he cracked it open to cover the outside as well. Noiselessly, the four of us backed out of the ambulance.
Grue flooded the block with darkness, and I scattered my bugs out from the surrounding area and the compartments in the ambulance’s interior to follow in the wake of the darkness, spacing them out to cover the ground and the other objects around us, giving myself a swarm-sense of my surroundings. I grabbed the hand of the woman ‘paramedic’ and pulled her away from the middle of the street, toward the sidewalk. Brian brought the driver in the same general direction.
My bugs felt someone come after us, fast. I didn’t have time to get out of the way and lead Coil’s faux paramedic to safety as well, so I shoved her in one direction and leaped in the other. The man leapt into the space we’d vacated, and I felt a rush of wind set my hair to whipping around my face.
There was an explosion of sorts, a blast of wind powerful enough to lift me off the ground and push away a fair share of Grue’s darkness. Stormtiger stood in the epicenter of the clearing, reforming the translucent ‘claws’ around his raised left hand.
He used one of the translucent blades on his hand to tap the side of his tiger mask’s nose as he turned to look down at me. When he spoke, his voice was deeper than Brian’s, “Don’t need to see you, sweetie.”
I was really, really growing to hate enhanced senses.
I stood pulled off my top, leaving just the bra on, keeping my back to Brian
Thank you. Fixed.
I wound up scrapping a lot of content last minute (a sub-story I had in mind just wasn’t working out), so this update was a little more rushed than the usual. I expect that won’t be the only typo.
Two things, One, the Code? J–S? Am I forgetting someone? First and Last name-letters, I though.
Secondly, it might have been intentional (an accident on Taylor’s part), but she said she was using the Codenames in the phonecall, and then she says Brian’s name out loud…
Still reading through the first time, and still reading the chapter, but that broke immersion just enough to make me post about it. Great story so far, though. Thank you for it.
There’s a simply way to get around enhanced senses. Screw with whatever sense is enhanced. if they got super hearing, play something incredibly shrill. Something that feels like it could break glass. For super sniffing? Come on, Skitter, they call it a Stinkbug. Pow, right in the sniffer.
Stinkbugs are more a southern thing I think PG. Wow so much stuff here don’t know what I want to comment on first. So even though Grue’s darkness seems to block sound it does nothing for scent huh? Pity. Purity guess child services took away your baby eh? Well I’m sure starting a massacre is the best way to prove to the world you are a fit mother. As for the rest um yikes I guess, not sure what else to say.
If you recall, after the bank robbery, the dogs were riding through the darkness with Grue piloting one, the other two following after, using the scent of the lead dog to guide them. (3.12)
Okay, that be some truly epic foreshadowing. Nicely done.
But didn’t one of Bitch’s dogs think of Grue as the “scentless man”?
Yes, in Brutus’ interlude. The scentless man is Master’s alpha. ie. Brian.
Grue is fine though. In his interlude Brutus mentioned that Brian has no scent.
With keen enough senses, he’d probably stand out in the olfactory landscape as a human-shaped absence of scent. (To quote Planetary.) That’d be pretty intriguing to read about. . .
>>Brian walked around the couch and I hurried to raise the top half of my costume and clutch it to my chest, covering myself.
Reading it through, altho not, like, totally carefully, I’m not sure this little plot thread ever gets taken care of. It seems to me like she spends the next whole scene with just a bra on.
Made a change in response to your thoughts there. You’re right. Taylor not being 100% decent for the duration of the following conversation might offer the wrong tone. Thanks.
Huh. I don’t see it. Refreshing page…
Nope, still don’t see it. Could you quote the change for me?
“I nodded. I took the opportunity to get my top back on while he got the first aid kit, and grabbed my cell phone.”
Oh, wow, a lot later than I thought. Still interesting dynamics.
Just updated the Cast page, up in the bar at the top of the page. Nothing important, just getting around to some details & characters that were mentioned in the last chapters of Tangle & in this arc up until now. Didn’t realize how long it had been since I updated it.
You really like to make Skitter face impossible ods.
Here we go again, saturday will probably come with one of those episodes that do not allow me to finish reading before the end.
Thank you for the adrenaline rush.
And hey, impossible odds are good, right? I like it as a writer because it forces me (and the character) to figure a way out. This, in turn, gives situations where Taylor or her comrades find creative uses for their powers, which is fun.
We’ll get started right away on a film adaptation of Skitter. We’ll call it “Buggy” and have Skitter played by Sylvester Stallone. Now we just need someone to record the song “Eye of the Fruit Fly”
With Dolph Lundgren as Kaiser!…actually, that one would work pretty good.
I’d have thought it near impossible to remove a child from their mothers chair without a heck of a lot of bureaucracy and time. (A reaction to cases where it was too damn easy to take a child from their mother). I’m wonderring if this is another example of authority figures in the wormverse being a menace, or if something else is going on. I’m wondering who’s benefiting from having Purity go off like a nuke.
If there’s good reason to suspect mom is a wanted criminal with a phone book of criminal charges against her and reason to suspect the child is in danger, the authorities can move pretty fast. Also, the PRT is a branch of government/law that exists in part to streamline cases & bureaucratic process when capes are involved.
That’s without getting into other possibilities, such as what you allude to in your last sentence there (I’ll leave you guys to speculate if you so wish).
This is, of course, way after the matter is being settled, but I am on my first read. I think that Kaiser might well have done it, indirectly of course. It compromises Purity greatly, and that would be to his benefit.
It’s been said the neighbourhood was pretty run down anyway… in the long run razing a whole bunch of crummy building might serve to revitalize it. Much easier to start development from scratch than from an old, obsolete building you first have to pay to demolish, not to mention the red tape that comes with it.
Hard to smell stuff when your nose is stuffed with gnats. (Or cockroaches, or flies, or spiders, or whatever you happen to prefer.)
Sometimes I dislike impossible odds all the time – it stretches my suspension of disbelief. If the fights really are less than even and Taylor gets in a lot of them then she should be losing (or at least not winning) by now or there really weren’t less than even fights.
True, but if you’re going to make an argument on those grounds, I guess you’d have to define impossible odds and less than even.
My guess is that a discussion along those lines would likely head in the direction of semantics (the perception of impossible odds on the reader’s part vs. real impossible odds), and the notion that creativity and good combat instincts are qualities Taylor (and her team) has (have) that makes up for any imbalance in numbers or raw power.
That would be my stance, I think.
There’s some preparation that’s always done, but their plans often devolve into Plan C: Taylor thinks of something.
There IS a limit somewhere to what Taylor can think up. She’s not often had an “Oh, I could have done THAT!” situation about these fights, nor does she run into a heroic equivalent to herself. I almost included Armsmaster, but the guy can pack any amount of equipment with himself, so he’s not prepared to handle his powers for any situation so much as carrying a tool for every situation.
Also, and I don’t think you’ve hit this limit yet, there is only so much you can throw a character into impossible situations before people just assume she’ll win no matter what. If it gets like that, then suddenly you need to have tension and have her lose or just not win, except now she’s going toe-to-toe with The Avengers and half the Justice League. If not, and you pick a much less dangerous situation for her to prevail in, then you’d need a really good reason for her to lose to something that’s probably less challenging than what she beat in the past.
There has to be someone she can’t beat out there too. Ingenuity can only work so far against some threats. A person should know their limits not to stay in their place, but to know how to best engage an enemy in an alternate way to secure victory. Like Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan. As Dr. Manhattan said, “Did you really think it would kill me? I have walked across the surface of the sun. I have witnessed events so tiny and so fast, they could hardly be said to have occurred at all. But you, Adrian, you’re just a man. The world’s smartest man poses no more threat to me than does its smartest termite.”
And yet Ozymandias was successful even before that because, knowing he couldn’t beat Manhattan, he had set up events in such a way as to drive Dr. Manhattan away from earth for long enough that his own plan worked.
Also, spoiler alert, I suppose.
The bullying provides some of this, except it’s not about her powers and her villainous identity. In fact, that’s done so much that people don’t want to see her go to school and deal with the bullies at all. Maybe, and this is just the suggestion of a guy who once shivved a dragon in the tail (Dovahkin wants your mashed potatoes, new fish!), but maybe there needs to be a small switch up where Taylor isn’t successful in some minor way as a villain, but she does something that makes progress in her civilian life.
Alternatively, a whole lot of people might think you just need to keep on how you do it. This is just my thinking, my two cents, a couple of bad pennies that keep turning up. And nobody likes turnips.
I hear you, Gecko. I’ve sorta lost interest in one web series because of that Invincible Hero trope.
I’ve touched on my writing style before. I get bored with the writing process if I know how it’s going to end, if I’ve decided the outcome in advance. For this reason, I tend to set up a situation with no idea, personally, how it’s going to work out. No idea how Taylor and her friends are going to get out of it. Just speaking for myself, I enjoy that.
What I haven’t really expounded on is that I give myself a time limit. If -I- can’t think of something that gets the protagonist out of a bind in a reasonable span of time, then hey, Taylor probably couldn’t, either. Going into any of the major fights and a handful of the minor ones, I’ve been prepared to throw my hands up in the air and figure out what follows from Taylor and her team getting their asses brutally kicked, if I couldn’t think of how she’d handle it. The conclusion of Shell was something like that. Maybe that’s still Taylor pulling off something at the last moment. I dunno. It still took them time to bounce back from that one.
Anyways, thanks, Belial & Gecko, for sharing your thoughts. The rest of the first ‘book’ is already sketched out and/or written, so I dunno how/if it’ll serve as an answer to the concerns you’ve expressed. (Admittedly, technically speaking, we’re already on ‘book 2’, if we’re talking parcels of ~100,000 words – I’m thinking more in terms of overarching story arcs, though.) I’ll definitely keep this in mind as I move forward. It’s sobering, but I’ve already got some seeds of ideas in mind.
I know I just plowed through these archives not too long ago, but you got me there about Shell as far as Bakuda goes. I’m not trying to say irrelevant stuff here either, so sorry about that. Ben Franklin advised a young man to seek older women as mistresses, saying you can cover up their face if you have to. Though, I do make exceptions for humor.
While I’m thinking about it, I wonder a little about how you came up with Bakuda, because a few years ago I used a similar character on some RP in Second Life. In my case, the trenchcoat and gas mask-wearing woman was using bombs with toxic gases, except for this one ending to a block party that used an exploding bus. That’s what the DJ gets for refusing to play “Cum on Feel the Noize.” Just interesting random similarity, though that’s to be somewhat expected given that everybody’s ideas of characters and stories are based on thousands of years of about the same precedents.
And wow, does that research ever seem awkard. Looking up old chemical stuff like blister agents and hallucinogenic gases is a good way to create some paranoia about if people can somehow see where you’re browsing and get the wrong idea. That probably worked out better for you when it came to advanced “time” bombs and rockin’ “face melters” like Bakuda used.
Fun Fact: Another good way to create that “wrong idea” awkwardness is to read a book about Holocaust Denial that features an ambiguous name and Hitler’s face on the cover. Yeah, see how quickly people get the wrong idea when you’re reading “Lying About Hitler” (where a historian recounts going over the evidence in a libel suit and proving this one revisionist historian was clearly a denier), with a big picture of Hitler’s face on the cover.
Re: Character creation process for Bakuda
I mentioned, in a previous comment spree, that some characters are top-down (Have a name/concept in mind, create backstory from there) and others are bottom-up (Build a backstory, the name/concept follows). Bakuda was the former. Creating her was sort of a spur of the moment thing as I wrote 1.06. She’s one of relatively few characters that I hadn’t/haven’t tried writing a short story for, prior to knuckling down and writing the Worm you’ve read here.
I dislike giving characters boring powers. As a consequence, even for characters who seem fairly generic on paper (laser beams, super speed, whatever) I’ve given them nuances or underlying mechanisms that set them apart. Sometimes Taylor/the reader isn’t explictly aware of them (Glory Girl’s super strength, for example, isn’t just her being disproportionately strong), sometimes you are (Aegis’ strength being based in adrenaline & ability to push past normal physical limits, Velocity’s speed).
So that’s one facet of what I had in mind when approaching the tinker/mad scientist thing & Bakuda, specifically – it’s a powerset that’s not uncommon, but I wanted there to be something to set them apart. So every tinker has a specialty, a knack or a trick. In truth, any power category/subclass (super speed, super strength, laser beams, teleportaiton) has this, but people pay more attention to it when tinkers are concerned.
Beyond that, one thing I tend to do when I want to come up with ideas for something/someone quickly, is take a common stereotype or element and play with it. Turn it on its head, tweak it, generally defy expectations. When I played pen & paper roleplaying games, I did this a lot to make characters that stood out from the crowd. It’s usually my starting point.
So when I was writing 1.06, and Armsmaster was explaining what’s up with the ABB, my thought process was something like, “Okay, I need to round out the ABB some more. Probably not a frontline individual, given that Grue didn’t mention him/her. Maybe a girl, to balance out the genders. Lung and Oni Lee aren’t so atypical, so how can I reverse common stereotypes for Eastern Asians, Japanese or Asian-Americans and round out their group with someone more interesting? Common ideas tied to them include studious, hardworking, inoffensive, striving not to stand out, bad drivers, intelligent, ninjas, yakuza…”
I briefly considered having her be a vehicle tinker. A super skilled driver and/or pilot. Didn’t really go anywhere or tie into the rest of the group, and as I was already beginning to conceptualize how Lung might have recruited this person, it didn’t jibe. It also didn’t seem to have a lot of versatility or flexibility to the idea. Not that interesting.
It was the ‘striving not to stand out/inoffensive’ thing that was the seed for the bomb specialist bit. There’s few ways you can stand out -more-, it’s dramatic and potentially powerful enough for Lung to go out of his way to recruit her, and it sells the notion of how tinkers can be very specialized. The rest sort of wrote itself and flowed from there.
Of course, this thought process wasn’t so long winded. After pondering the getaway driver thing, I went with the ‘bomb specialist tinker’ fairly quickly.
(Note that I don’t buy into said stereotypes; they’re just a springboard when I’m looking to generate ideas)
It should be noted that Taylor and Co. actually *don’t* always win. In their first encounter with Bakuda they were outclassed and they got completely spanked. They also were getting their posteriors kicked by Armsmaster and Dauntless until the cavalry showed up.
A woman that can control light is around the place somewere and can get to the fight at any moment.
But, at the moment there is a guy with super senses and, aparently, control of the wind (at least the ability to create some wind), another one capable of creating a monster around hinself and a third with powers that we have already to see facing a woman that can control bugs and a guy that controls a weird darkness.
Taylor has a swarm around, but insects are not very efective against wind. Besides, she is fisicaly weak.
So, from this reader´s point of view the odds are not good.
But, there is police around, the other members of the undersiders may appear, … there are things that we, the readers do not know.
Anyway, you are making Taylor face a heavy hiter again.
Taylor really needs to have Coil look into obtaining some insects from out of town.
Also, I’d like to see her fight in one of those restaurants where they have the big tanks of live lobsters.
Just finished reading Soon I Will Be Invincible.
Not totally sure I was sold. I mean, it was enjoyable, there were some neat ideas, but ultimately, I’m not sure there was anything there that I haven’t seen somewhere else.
Personally, I love the name of the book, and a lot of ideas in it. I enjoyed the sections from the supervillain’s perspective more than the hero’s, but the hero’s perspective had its good parts too.
That said, I can understand not being totally sold on it. There is something wrong with it that keeps me from loving the book as a whole. I’m not sure what though.
A few things come to mind, as to stuff I found flawed about the book, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
Primarily, though, I think my big issue was that the book’s main selling point is that it lets you see things through the eyes of someone that’s more or less Dr. Doom with Superman as a nemesis. Except… I’ve already read (better) stories that do this. The Lex Luthor, man of steel miniseries (which I rather enjoyed), and Doom’s miniseries.
Not saying I didn’t enjoy it. I did. But I dunno if I could, two years from now, name more than one thing that really struck me as memorable.
So! About a year later. Anything memorable???
It was my first exposure to non-comic book superhero writing. There is a lot of good to it, but it doesn’t fully feel like a complete story on its own, perhaps in the same way that any volume of a comic never is. If you get the beginning, you never get end, and any other time you pick it up a ways into the story.
The other thing is how odd the origins are. Supposedly all these brilliant or unusual kids brought together going to the same school for so long, even before some of them have powers or have trained. The superman-alike acted somewhat friendly to Impossible too in college. And then everyone forgets what he looks like?
If anything, my favorite part is the invisible-like woman whose name eludes me at the moment. Her story is one I’d like to know more about.
Lily, I think her name is.
(SPOILER WARNINGS FOR WHAT FOLLOWS, FYI)
I think the fact that he was a forgotten face was very much intentional on the writer’s part. Sort of juxtaposing the prominence of his supervillain self with the schlubliness of his civilian self, dashing his expectations and hopes as far as what he wanted to do for his great battle against his nemesis, etc, etc.
My biggest complaint was that so much time & effort was dedicated to Fatale, the cyborg. Half the story’s hers and… she doesn’t do anything. She doesn’t impact the sequence of events, she only serves to provide some insight into other people who fail to do much to impact the sequence of events, and it just feels fillerish. A lot of filler.
In fact, as I think on it (SPOILERS, MOAR SPOILERS)…
I think one of the core themes sort of becomes apparent. I mean, Lily’s past, Impossible’s ultimate goal (to be remembered), Fatale figuring out her past, Fatale learning who the heroes are, Impossible not living the life he wanted, The Children in Elfland narration that seems to get so much page time…
The common thread is disillusionment.
Except that even believing that, that makes for a book that’s, very similarly, not that fulfilling in the end? Ironic?
Just finished reading the whole story up til now, an archive crawl after being linked here from Whateley Acadamy stories. My first thought after reading this: that worlds justice system is totally messed up! One accedental assault with her power and Canary gets seent away forever? I can’t remember, is this story taking place in the U.S.? cause if so, that is totally against the Bill of Rights. If this story is taking place in Canada, then I have no idea about thier legal system, but that Birdcage is still messed up.
Other than that I think this story is going great.
Taylor is very good at using her unusual power in ways I wouldn’t think up, at least not as quickly.
To bad you decided for Gru not to be interested in Taylor. Oh, well.
I actually like Bitch. The no nonsence aditude, and caring for her dogs so much. She does have a problem with communication, but so do a lot of people.
Can barely wait to read more.
Thanks for commenting, awjs!
Got quite a few readers when someone linked me on the Whateley Academy forums, giving me record viewership for a few days. I know a couple more of you Whateley readers are probably lurking. 😉
Yes, the justice system is messed up where capes are concerned (Brockton Bay is in the United States, the prison isn’t). My interpretation is that the introduction of capes to the setting is something like the introduction of the internet and/or the events of 9/11, as far as the law is concerned. Capes are an unknown quantity that develop and evolve too fast to be anticipated, the law can’t keep up (like the internet – the judge mentions this), people get scared, and thus injustices & violations of rights occur in the name of safety (as with the time after 9/11). Canary is a victim of such (For the record, though – there’s nothing necessarily saying either the jury or the judge thought it was accidental).
I find it telling that the Birdcage gets mentioned, Glory Girl actually describes it, threatens Taylor with it, it gets brought up a few times elsewhere, but when it comes down to it, none of Worm’s readers really commented on the injustice of it until they were faced with it directly.
I don’t think that is entirely fair. The readers didn’t really have enough information to make a judgement until that post- When Glory Girl was doing her threatening, what I mostly got from it was the implication that the system could be gamed by the superhero elite more than anything about the actual prison or the actual legal situation. And even then, Taylor was in the middle of multiple felonies, so there wasn’t much implication that just anyone would be given that treatment.
That there is a prison that can hold supervillains is almost sine qua non for a setting where lethal force isn’t used by default against powered villains.
I would have been pretty disturbed by the prison as finally described, even if Canary had been replaced by a less sympathetic character, for reasons other people posted on that update.
Ok, point taken. Not entirely fair.
Still, she describes the place as a bucket with no communication of the outside world. A prison without wardens. Not even being sure if anyone’s even alive in there.
That should set off alarm bells, no?
And Mos Eisley is the worst pit of scum and villany this side of the universe. Unfortunately, we all know about Gitmo and indefinite detention outside the U.S. with no legal rights. It just doesn’t mean anything as long was we think the kind of people going into it deserve to be there.
Just like we don’t care if Bakuda or Lung get sent there. We just care if innocent little Canary winds up singing in the cage.
I mean, we’d like to think a place like that is unrealistic, except it happens.
Supermax prison doesn’t allow communication with the outside world at all for prisoners. Not being sure if anyone’s alive there? Hey, I don’t even know the names of anyone in Guantanamo, but perhaps you’ve heard of Argentina’s desaparecido. They’re called the disappeared because they were taken by the government and have never been seen again. None of that certain closure over whether they are alive or dead.
And hey, even comic books have a similar thing. Why not just toss them into another dimension, perhaps some sort of Phantom-ish Zone Superman calls it where Kryptonian prisoners are stuck just watching the world (Bakuda got the TVs working again!) with no good shot at escape or interaction with it. Only difference there is that Superman’s other dimension is less effective at letting them escape, at least until he puts them back in.
Ironically I just found whatley a few months ago, but I found worm two years ago. Go figure.
i’ve been reading worm for a while and i’d just like to say that you’re doing an awesome job! the characterization, the plot, pretty much everything is perfect. i’m also awed that you can actually keep a deadline and post chapters when you say you will. keep up the good work!
Kind words. Thanks for coming out of lurking to say them, pip. 🙂
I generally try to keep a bit of a buffer, as in having chapters ready for a week or two in advance, but lately, as I approach the end of Book 1, I’ve found that tough. Mainly because I’ve had to scrap some minor plots & events that I don’t have room to develop, and that meant scrapping a few chapters from my backlog. One bad spot of the flu might spoil my record if I’m not careful.
Thinking about doing what Jim does for Legion of Nothing and doing an arc or such from another perspective, later. Any interest in that, readers? Perhaps Faultline’s crew & Shamrock? The Wards? Someone else? Since it’s not all directly hooked into the main plot, it should be easier to write, giving me time to build a buffer again.
Anyways, I digress. Glad you’re enjoying, pip. Hope to see more comments from you in the future.
Both the Wards and Faultline’s crew sound interesting to me. Having more of a view inside the Wards (and thus some more sympathy for them) might make things interesting when they inevitably come in conflict with the Undersiders.
…trying to figure out who J-S is. James Fliescher i.e. Krieg?
“Brian. I removed” Extra space.
I keep forgetting to comment about things like this:
In this chapter and several others, you make it clear that the characters can be smelled through Grue’s darkness, but in other places, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
e.g. Interlude 4:
“Bitch, hold up,” speaks the scentless man. Scentless man makes Brutus nervous because he is big but he has no smell. But he is Master’s alpha so Master stops and listens.
His power wipes out his smell when it’s been freshly used/is in use. Taylor notes the distinction at another point in time.
> “Were there people in there?” I asked, horrified both at the idea and at what this woman was capable of doing. “What about those other buildings?
You’re missing an ending quote on this paragraph, since the next one starts with a different speaker.
And here I thought “oversize” definitely wasn’t an adjective. You learn so much from typo checking. Like what those rubber-scrapers are called: squeegees!
I suspect Kaiser knows that and is accounting for it. > counting on it?
Perhaps “accounting for it” is correct, but it isn’t a common usage, if so…
“… Take care of yourself, Skitter” needs period.
When he spoke, his voice was deeper than Brian’s, “Don’t need to see you, sweetie.”
I think it should be a period, not comma, after “Brian” as well.
Actually, shouldn’t it be Grue, period?
“I was really, really growing to hate enhanced senses.”
said the person with enhanced senses.
the semi tinker with enhanced senses. if only she’d set set fire to something it’d be perfect.
Gnnn. Kaiser, you enormous dick.
Coil’s whole “destiny control” thing is looking more and more bullshit by the minute.
On the bright side, that interlude about Purity is really paying off now.
I’m curious to know who Lisa’s friends in the neighborhood are. It didn’t sound to me like there was much in the way of residential space.
I guess Stormtiger’s senses might explain how the E88s figured out the ambulance was the Undersiders? Pretty sure we haven’t met him before, but he might have met Grue (or even one of Coil’s people) during the team-up against the ABB, and recognize him from then.
but grue has no smell according to brutus…
(i know we’ve heard taylor say different and her nose is weak, but maybe the dog meant grue himself and taylor was describing the (leather and aftershave) smells that he picks up from external sources) so I’d figured since the *source* of the darkness seems to have no sent that things IN the darkness might be similarly obscured. guess not.
then again I had forgotten that it was established during their escape from the bank the dogs followed brutus(guided by grue) by smell.
Umm, I’m not sure if I’m missing some key part of the passcodes here or something, but the passcodes given in this chapter- “Lemon J” and “Bumblebee S” seem to not make sense? The letters are supposed to be the first letter of one of the Undersider’s names, and then the other has to respond with the last letter of that same person’s name. So… Whose name starts with J or S? Nobody even has a last name with those letters. Am I missing something, or…?
Yeah, I realized that about a third of the way into my shift today, and I feel very stupid. Please do not judge my soullessness in forgetting the dogs as members of the team.
No, good question. I didn’t even realize the dogs were part of the code. Good catch.
Love worm so far; just starting my second read-through.
Quick question: on the phone, why does Taylor sometimes say “Grue” and sometimes “Brian”?
So wait: they had a whole group of capes ready to grab a freaking baby, but nothing to stop the E88’s rampage? I mean, they’re probably off screen, but still, PRT miiiight want to rethink priorities.
A few notes:
– “There was a gurney, which I sat on, a second smaller type of gurney that could be disassembled and reassembled as required, up near the ceiling.” — either a missing “and”, or stylistic choice
– I got a little confused when Purity says “Night, Fog” and then narration refers to “man and a woman in gray and black costumes, respectively”, but then we find out that Fog is the man — I suppose I was expecting the order to remain the same across those two parts.
Still unsure what the “timing was wrong” part is supposed to mean.
So…Taylor and Brian wont be an Item?
This is the second time you used the word “epicenter” in a way that makes no sense. You just mean “center” — this has nothing to do with events underground.
“So what’s next?” I asked, “I think we should do something to step in, but Brian was saying that he thought we should continue to lay low. Before Purity said her piece, anyways. Not sure if he’s changed his mind.” I gave him a look.
Isn’t Skitter supposed to be using ‘Grue’ instead of ‘Brian’ for security’s sake in this scene?
Ok first pass of this story here and I finally leave marathon mode for long enough to comment on something that’s been bothering me for a while. There are a few chapters where Taylor switches between codenames and regular without seemingly any reason for it (not talking about the ones where she mixes up Bitch and Rachel due to them being basically the same). I really wish I had commented on the earlier ones I saw where it sort of threw the scene for me so I could point to specific instances(not many but once or twice). Anyhow I’m getting sidetracked. My problem in this chapter is this:
“Hold on, I’m putting you on speaker for Grue.” I’d used his codename for security’s sake…
“… I think we should do something to step in, but Brian was saying that he thought we should continue to lay low… ”
I think it should either have been brought up that she used that wrong name if she noticed she did it in her thoughts or by Brian after the conversation had ended if Taylor herself didn’t realize and address it because i don’t think Lisa would want to draw attention to it even if she did notice which she should’ve. It doesn’t really fit their characters for at least one of them to not mention it. Otherwise it just seems that they aren’t really enforcing this thing they have about keeping the names separate which was pretty important early on.
“I think we should do something to step in, but Brian was saying that he thought we should continue to lay low.” Ought to be “Grue” instead of Brian given the context.