Buzz 7.11

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The skeleton of a building loomed over us.  Girders and beams joined together in what would become one of Brockton Bay’s high rises, twenty stories tall.  At the base of it was a sea of crushed stone, with innumerable bulldozers, piledrivers, loaders, mixers and graders standing still and dark.  The only light came from the buildings and streetlights on the surrounding streets.

Tattletale put key to lock and let us through the fence that surrounded the site.  She held the gate open as Grue, Regent, Bitch and I filed through, followed by Judas and Brutus.  The two dogs were nearly normal in size, nothing that would raise alarm if someone saw us at a distance.  When we were through, Tattletale shut the gate and reached through the gap to put the lock back in place and click it shut.

Gravel crushed underfoot as we made our way to the unfinished high rise.  Tattletale pointed to a hatch, surrounded by a rim of concrete.  The hatch itself had a yellow warning sign reading ‘Drainage’, sporting images beneath of a man wearing a hazmat suit and a man wearing a gas mask.  She fiddled with the keyring to get the right key, undid the lock and raised the hatch.  Stairs led down into a darkness that looked and smelled very much like a storm drain.

As we descended, the smell got stronger.  We passed through a door with metal bars, and then traveled down a long hallway.  The room at the end of the hall was small, with one other door and a small surveillance camera in one corner.  The door we faced had no handle, forcing us to wait.  It took about twenty seconds before someone opened the door for us.  One of Coil’s men.

The interior of the sub-basement had none of the smell of the previous chambers, and consisted of two tiers with walls of poured concrete.  The upper level we stood on was an arrangement of metal walkways that extended around the room’s perimeter.  Crates and boxes filled the level below, and I could see fifteen or so of Coil’s people down there, sitting on crates or leaning against them, talking among themselves.

Each soldier was outfitted in a matching uniform: shades of gray and some black, hard vests with raised collars to protect their necks.  Only a few wore their balaclavas, and I could see a variety of nationalities in a group that was mostly men.  All of the soldiers had assault rifles somewhere nearby, slung over shoulders with straps and leaning against walls or crates.  Polished steel attachments on the underside of each gun’s barrel contrasted with the dark gunmetal tone of the rest of the equipment.

The man who had opened the door for us inclined his head in the direction we were to go.  We traversed the metal walkway, and passed more of Coil’s soldiers.  I saw one squad of six below us was gearing up, pulling on masks and checking their guns.  Five seconds later, we passed Circus on the walkway, in a costume and makeup of red and gold.  Oblivious to us or our passing, she was leaning against a wall by a stack of cardboard boxes, standing intimately close to a young soldier with close-cropped red hair and an ugly scar running down one side of his neck.

We found Coil at the end of the walkway, talking to four people who most definitely weren’t soldiers.  Each wore a suit, and none seemed the type to carry a gun.  There was a heavyset woman, a man who must’ve been fifty or sixty, a man who stood no more than four feet tall and a blonde woman who barely looked out of high school.

“Cranston, can you have it for tomorrow?”

“Yes, sir,” the blonde woman replied.

“Good.  Pearse, the soldiers?”

“Squads Fish, Nora and Young are suited up and ready for your okay,” the short man spoke.

“And the replacement recruits?”

Pearse handed Coil a set of folders, “I’ve put post-its on the most promising.  We need two to make up for one soldier that was recently injured, and one that decided to skip town.”

Coil tucked the folders under one arm, “Good.  Duchene, I’ll talk to you later tonight about our preparations.  The rest of you, I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

The suits marched off, with all but the fat lady passing us to go the way we’d come, along the metal walkway.  The woman headed down the stairs to the lower area with all the soldiers, and a group of people that weren’t in uniform flocked to her.  People with clipboards and crowbars.  The construction crew?

“Undersiders,” Coil spoke, “You’ve recuperated this past week?”

“More or less,” Grue replied.  He had his arms folded.

“Excellent.  And what do you think?”  He gestured to the underground complex around us with a sweep of his arm.

“It’s impressive,” Grue spoke.

“Once things are set up, some of this will be a base of operations for the Travelers, the rest of this space serving as a place my men can meet before they deploy.”

“Right,” Grue replied.

“So.  I expected a reply once you felt you were healed and ready for more work, or if you decided on a reply for my deal, but I got a sense this isn’t quite that.”

Tattletale spoke, “We can’t keep doing this, Coil.”

It was hard to tell, but I suspected that did something to knock Coil off his stride.  “Hm.  Elaborate?”

“We keep getting through these fights by the skin of our teeth.  We’re not up to it.  Just a few days after we helped take down the ABB, a situation that had two of our members facing down Lung and Oni Lee, we were up against the Protectorate, the Wards and Empire Eighty-Eight in the span of forty-eight hours.  Even with your people and your powers to help, we’re not strong enough for this.”

“I see,” Coil turned to face the lower section of the sub-basement and look down at his people.  He rested his hands on the railing, “Are you terminating our arrangement?”

Tattletale shook her head, “We’d rather not, but it depends on what we agree to here and now, in this meeting.  We talked this over for the past week, and I’ll be blunt.  The one person who wasn’t keen on taking your deal changed her mind, but the rest of us now have some serious reservations.  And it’s not just the issue of our safety.”

Coil nodded.  “Well, let me start by saying I’m pleased to hear about your change of heart, Bitch.  Can I ask what prompted it?”

Bitch shot Tattletale an irritated look, clearly unimpressed that Coil had been informed on our negotiations.  Still, she gave him a response.  “Decided it wouldn’t be so bad to get help with my dogs.  I still think you’re full of shit, but way I see it, you can be as full of shit as you want, so long as I get what I want.”

“I suppose I’ll take what I can get.”  Coil sighed a little, “Which leads me to our subject of discussion.  Would I be right in assuming these reservations our Tattletale has mentioned have something to do with me, and how I operate?”

Grue and I both nodded.

“And you’re among these individuals with doubts, Tattletale?”

“Sorry.  I’ve worked with you for a while now, I know what you can do, I even like and respect you.  What you’re going for.  But this last play of yours was fucked up on a lot of levels.”

“Yes,” Coil conceded, turning back towards us, “You’re right.  Too heavy handed a maneuver.  A tactical nuke where a rocket launcher might have sufficed, with undeserving parties suffering for being too close to the real targets.”

“Us, and the families of the members of Empire Eighty-Eight that you outed.”

Coil nodded, “So the two main points we need to discuss are the apparent carelessness of my maneuver against Empire Eighty-Eight, and the risk your group has been facing in the field.  That said, if these issues are addressed in a satisfactory manner, would I be right in thinking you are prepared to accept my deal?”

Tattletale glanced at each of us, myself included, then told Coil, “Maybe.”

“Good.  Shall we walk?  I’ll be more able to answer your second concern when we get to the other side of this complex.” He stepped away from the railing and extended a hand, inviting us to join him.  He walked with his hands clasped behind his back, leading us around the end of the room to the walkway opposite the one we’d traveled to reach him.

“First off, apologies are in order,” Coil spoke, “Your concern over the way I outed the Empire’s members is entirely deserved.  In truth, it was a plan I had begun before I even knew of your existence, Undersiders.  My initial attempts to divine the secret identities of my enemies were slow to bear fruit, and my hired men often underwent weeks of investigation only to find they had been barking up the wrong tree.

“For almost four years, I have invested funds and time in the possibility that I could find the weak point of my enemies: their civilian lives, the faces under the masks.  For years, I was disappointed.  In my early days, I had less money to fritter away, my facility with my own power was not what it is today, and many of the failures on these fronts were costly.

“As I began to amass my fortunes, this became easier.  I could hire better investigators, pay the right people to divulge information and unseal court records.  Pieces began falling into place.  With my recruitment of Tattletale, I was able to avoid a number of wild goose chases.  It was still slow, and the turnover rate of Empire Eighty-Eight was frustrating, especially as I aimed to have the complete picture, with no member of Kaiser’s empire left unmasked.  My efforts with the local heroes were no better, if for different reasons.

“For some time, aside from regular payments and some direction, my attention was elsewhere.  It was only two weeks ago that I was contacted by my investigators and told that I had what I wanted on Empire Eighty-Eight.  To have it come together at that time, when the Empire was one of the sole barriers remaining before me, it seemed to be serendipity.  I jumped on the opportunity.”

Grue spoke to Coil’s back, “And you forgot about us.  What it might look like.”

Coil turned his head, “Yes.  I’ll admit I am not proud of my failure to see the bigger picture, and I assure you, it is not a mistake I am prepared to make again.”

“That’s it?  You say ‘I’m sorry’ and we’re just supposed to accept it?” Regent spoke for the first time since we’d arrived.

Coil stopped, and we were forced to stop or we would have walked right into him.  He spoke, “If you accept my deal, I will undertake no plan of this scale without first consulting you, the Travelers and the independent villains that work for me.  It is my hope that you would be able to inform me about any flaws or unintended consequences regarding my schemes.”

Grue unfolded his arms, “I can’t say for sure.  Maybe.”

I spoke, “I like the idea, but no offense, I’m not sure I trust you that far.  And don’t say that Tattletale would find out and tell us if you bent the rules and tried to slip something past us.  She’s not infallible.  Sorry, Tattle.”

Tattletale shrugged at that.

“I’ll leave you to think on the idea,” Coil spoke, “There’s no action or gesture I can really take that will earn your trust in one fell swoop.  All I can do is to work with you, giving you no more reason to distrust me.”

“Sure,” I replied, noncommittal.

“Now, that leaves one us final issue to remedy.  Your worries for your safety.  I wish to show you that you are in good hands, and I’m prepared to reveal one of my secret weapons,”  Coil came to a stop outside a door.  A soldier stood nearby, smoking a cigarette.

“Fetch her,” Coil ordered.  The soldier nodded, squashed the cigarette against the wall, pocketed the butt and went through the doorway.

Coil walked over to the wall where the soldier had extinguished the cigarette and used his thumb to wipe the smudge on the wall away.  He spoke to us, “If I told you I knew where Kaiser was hiding out from the heroes, alongside his bodyguards and perhaps a handful of his lieutenants, that I wanted you to defeat them in a nighttime ambush, this would be an example of the sort of situation you’re concerned about facing?”

“Yep,” Tattletale replied, “Even with your power-”

“-You have your worries, yes,” Coil finished for her.  “Forgive me if I do not elaborate on the subject of my abilities, or give Tattletale permission to do so.  We- ah, here she is.”

The soldier came through the door, with a girl in tow.  Twelve years old or so, she had dark circles under her eyes, and straight, dark brown hair that was in need of a trim.  She wore a white long sleeved shirt, white pajama bottoms and white slippers.  She didn’t make eye contact with anyone, staring at the ground.  Her right hand gripped her left elbow, and the fingers of her left hand drummed an inconsistent beat against her thigh.

Coil bent down and pushed the hair away from the girl’s face.  She looked at him, then looked away.

“I need some numbers,” Coil spoke, gently.

“I want candy.”

“Alright.  Candy after six questions.”

“Three,” she grew more agitated, turned as if to walk away, then turned back in his direction.  She was fidgeting more.

“Five questions.  Is that fair?”  Coil turned and sat on the metal walkway, beside where the girl stood.

“Okay.  Five.”

“I’d like these people,” Coil pointed at us, “To go fight Kaiser, tomorrow night at eleven in the evening.  You remember them?  The Undersiders.  And you remember Kaiser?  From the pictures I showed you?”

“Yes.  You asked me this before.”

“I did.  But I want the Undersiders to hear what you say.  Give me a number.  How would they do, without my help?”

“Forty-six point six two three five four percent chance they all come back.  Thirty three point seven seven nine zero one percent only some come back.  That’s one question.”

Coil paused to let that sink in, then looked up at us, “She calculates possibilities, we think she does it by seeing all the potential outcomes of an event in a fraction of a second.   Her power categorizes these outcomes and helps her to figure out the chance that a given event will come to pass.  It isn’t easy for her, and I try not to tax her abilities, but you can surely see why this is so valuable.”

I hugged my arms close to my body.  When I glanced at the girl, I caught her looking at me.  I looked away.

“Candy, now?”  She started to bite at her thumbnail.  Looking at her other hand, I saw her nails were bitten to the quick.

He moved her hand away from her mouth, “Four more questions, pet, then candy.  Tell me the numbers for the same situation, but if I sent the Travelers instead.”

“Sixty point two one zero zero nine percent chance they all come back.  Forty-four point one seven four three percent chance but someone gets hurt or killed.”

“Good girl,” he turned to look at us, “The Travelers are powerful, so it stands to reason their chances are higher.  But I’ve found that your group benefits more from a use of my power.  Pet, tell me the numbers for the same scenario, for both the Travelers and the Undersiders, but let’s say I was helping them in my usual manner.”

“That’s two questions.  Two teams, two questions.  No cheating.  I get really bad headaches when I try to get too many numbers.”

“Okay.  Answer those two, then there’s one more before you get your candy.  I just need to know the chances that the teams will come back intact.”

The girl nodded, a little too quickly and eagerly, “Those people there have a thirty-two point zero zero five eight three percent chance to come back with nobody dead or seriously hurt if you help them.  The Travelers have a forty-one point-”

“No, stop,” Coil stopped her, “That doesn’t make any sense.  You gave me different numbers before.  Those numbers are lower than the ones they’d have if I didn’t help.”

“It’s the numbers in my head.”

“The numbers are wrong, pet.”

She shook her head, raised her voice in a surprisingly sudden fit of anger, “No!  They’re right!  You just don’t want to give me any candy!”

Coil put a hand on her shoulder.  She pulled away, but he held her firm.  He had to raise her voice to be heard over her squeals, and he shook her just a little to be sure she was listening, “Last question, then you’ll get your candy, I promise.”

She began to settle, and Coil was calmer when he spoke again, more like his usual, reasonable self, “Just give me the number, again, if I sent the Undersiders out to fight Kaiser, without giving them my help.  What percentage, that they come back intact?”

“Twelve point three one three three percent-”

Coil stood, swiftly.  He turned to the soldier that stood nearby, “Give her what she wants.”

The soldier guided the girl back through the door.

Coil muttered to himself, “There’s some anomaly at work, here.  The numbers can’t skew that much, that fast.  More than a thirty percent drop…”

“Coil?” Tattletale spoke.  She looked a little pale.

“Tattletale, do you know why the numbers would change?  Does your power tell you anything?”

She shook her head, started to speak, but was interrupted.

“Then go,” he ordered her, ordered us.  “I will contact you later, and we will finish this conversation then.”


Please,” he stressed the word, “See yourselves out.  This situation, whatever it is, demands my attention.”

Tattletale nodded.  Together, we headed around the walkway to the door we’d come in.  We were halfway up the stairs to the hatch when Regent commented, “Well, that was surreal.”

“Not the word I’d use to describe it,” I replied, quiet.

“What’s her deal?  Is she like Labyrinth?  Powers fucked with her head?”

I looked at the others, then turned to look at him.  I couldn’t help but let a little venom seep into my voice as I asked him, “Are you dense?”

“What?  She said she got headaches, Coil said it was hard on her, using her power, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to think there’s something going on mentally, especially seeing how she acted.”

“The candy she was asking for was a euphemism for drugs,” I spoke, and saying it aloud made it somehow more real.  I hugged my arms tighter against my body, “He’s keeping her strung out so she’ll cooperate, give him his numbers.”

“I don’t think-”

“Shut up,” I cut Regent off.  “Just shut up.  I- I can’t argue with you on this.  Please.”

He stopped.  I looked at the others.  Grue had his arms folded, and was standing very still.  Bitch just had her usual angry look.  Tattletale looked pale, even for the single lightbulb’s worth of light we had in the stairwell.  She wouldn’t meet my eyes.

“You’d know if you watched the news,” I told Regent, “If you read the paper.  I hate that I have to explain this, when I don’t even want to think about it.  She’s the missing kid.  Remember our bank robbery?  How we were weren’t even front page news because an amber alert took priority?  That was her.  Dinah Alcott.”

The revulsion and anger that was welling up in my chest and throat made me want to throw up, hit something, right there.  Some of that emotion, a lot of it, was directed at myself.  I looked to Tattletale, “Tell me I’m wrong.  Please?”

She broke eye contact, which was answer enough.

“Get it, Regent?” I asked him, “The bank robbery was a distraction for the local capes, so Coil could be sure to get away with taking the kid.  We played a part in that. We made that happen.”

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76 thoughts on “Buzz 7.11

  1. Notice how right after the numbers are run on the Undersiders, Skitter gets a look at her face. It’s not an anomaly. It’s just a minor nudge that changed the motivation of a very important member of the Undersiders who recently had issues about whether to be a villain or not.

    • I was thinking about that as well, but I wasn’t sure her turning could cause so much damage to Coil’s organization that having him help the Travelers actually hurts their chances.

      • Of course Skitter can still manage that. She just has to be willing to let a group of heroes know about the plan. Remember, telling heroes about Coil and his stuff was what she wanted to do.

  2. Why not? As a villain, she has far higher chances of being able to harm Coil and his people in the long run.

    As for the “problem” that causes the Undersiders and Travelers to have worse chances if Coil helps them, I don’t think it’s our plucky protagonist betraying them. At least not directly. I think it’s Coil’s own powers. His powers decide outcomes and the outcome he’s been trying for is for him to have control of the city in his own way and applying his own decisions. Suppose there are people in the Undersiders and Travelers that, while they’d be willing to go against Kaiser, they might oppose Coil’s future decisions for the city. The best outcome for Coil would be that the Undersiders and Travelers succeed in taking out Kaiser… but the problematic members happen to die or be neutralized in the fighting.
    Hence, that is the outcome his powers will help bring about… even if Coil himself does not immediately see why. Thus if he sends a big powerful team and doesn’t help them, they’ll have better chances to escape those deaths than if he does.

  3. Well, this changes everything. And, Empire Eight Eight just got some help from somewhere.
    After this I would leave town for a while. Take enough money out of the bank to live for a while, try to buy some place in cash, …
    Better to leave the contry, use Tatletale´s power to decide what country to go to. Transfer the money to some fiscal paradise, …
    The first probabilities for the Travelers, as listed in the tale, do not sum up to 100 %.

    Of course, if they have some morals, they will not work with someone who just kidnapped and drugged a small kid. This is worse than murder, akin to rape.

    • The probabilities don’t sum up to 100% because there’s a third, unmentioned outcome – that the group in question gets wiped out entirely. Dead, arrested, maimed, driven mad, whatever.

      • Actually, they sum up to roughly 105% total, which bugs me.
        Also, Coil’s an idiot. I’m guessing all of the Undersiders are having reservations at this point.

          • Two different questions. 1) Chances of success without my help, 2) Chances of success with it.

            -Four- answers. 1 to Q1) ~60% unharmed [Unnamed option ~40% complete failure], 2 Q1) ~40% with casualties [Unnamed option ~60% complete failure], etc.

            Dinah gave freebie answers for whatever reason.

      • Actually, if there were unmentioned outcomes like that, it’d be possible to explain the situation without saying that the probability dropped as they were talking. Maybe with Coil helping out, they’d finish the job with time to spare, and go places instead of all coming back together.
        Also, back when the girl agreed on answering 5 questions, the number of opportunities for Taylor to catch on to what was going on should already be determined, so something unlikely had to have happened then.

  4. I’m kind of disappointed in Coil’s performance here, keeping the number girl in leash with drugs. Not because of the moral issues of it, but because it just plain isn’t smart.

    The valuable girl’s condition is bound to deteriorate, which is quite sure to start affecting how much strenuous counting she can do. Also she’ll never be actually loyal, so she’ll screw Coil over the moment someone else offers to provide her fix… or even without it. Addicts aren’t generally known for their smart long term planning.

    • A lot of the health issues that we associate with drug users stem from the fact that addicts are very bad at taking care of themselves. The drugs take priority, scabs, bleeding, eating and other health issues are ignored, all in favor of the drug, getting the next hit and the high.

      Much of the time, when an addict winds up being rushed to the hospital, it’s not because of the effect of the drug. It’s because they haven’t really eaten for weeks, they’re dehydrated, they screwed up in the injection/preparation/dosage because their judgement was impaired, or the drug was cut with something more harmful by an unscrupulous supplier. A lot of these issues cease to be issues when the addict has no control over their drug access/use/consumption and when they are getting seen to by a more attentive figure (who ensures they eat, drink, that the drugs are clean of other agents, injected properly if they’re injected, that there’s no chance of overdose, etc).

      I’d go so far as to suggest that the stress of being kidnapped would have a more immediate, profound effect than being drugged. Kidnap victims have reported hair loss, stomach problems, depressed immune systems and more, stemming from their bodies constantly trying to prepare them vs. a situation they’re helpless to control or act on. That said, drugs can manage stress, and again, attentive care can ward off a lot of potential issues in health deterioration.

      As for her ability/willingness to betray Coil and screw him over, I’ll leave it to you to decide if he’s the type to overlook & fail to account for that possibility.

    • As wildbow mentions, generally speaking the drugs themselves do not cause physical harm, at least with the most typical ones that cause physical dependence (opiates, benzodiazepines). Someone could theoretically go through their entire life addicted to opiates without it causing any physical harm to their body. In fact, many people actually do that; the medication suboxone is an opiate just like heroine, and doctors prescribe it indefinitely to people who can’t (practically) completely quit. There are many misconceptions about drug addiction. The addicts who commit crimes and what have you are very visible, and you just never see or hear from all the ones who don’t do that stuff.

      Drugs are a very effective way to control someone in this manner, because the fear of withdrawal is just as great as the fear of any other sort of torture, but with the added benefit of it not causing actual physical harm to the person.

  5. Well, sorry for the bad english in my previous post. Your sentence was:
    “Sixty point two one zero zero nine percent chance they all come back. Forty-four point one seven four three percent chance but someone gets hurt or killed.”
    My thought was:
    If I understand the english well, this means: 60.1009 % they come back + 44.1743 % they do not = 104,2752 % total, more than a 100 %. So, it doesn´t sum up to 100, it sums to more than a hundred.

    But now I stopped to think and I think that I understand:

    Ah, the 44.1743 is included in the 60.1009 since coming back does not exclude coming back hurt. Of course someone could say that coming back killed would not be really coming back, but the girl is not thinking this way.
    So, they had a probability of 15,9266 % of coming back alive and unhurt? And this got worst in the new calculation?
    Also, they had a probability of 39,8991 % of not coming back.

    Lets see for the undersiders:

    I did. But I want the Undersiders to hear what you say. Give me a number. How would they do, without my help?”
    “Forty-six point six two three five four percent chance they all come back. Thirty three point seven seven nine zero one percent only some come back. That’s one question.”

    This is different, these probabilities are mutually exclusive, all come back OR some come back. So, these should really add to 100 % with the third option: nobody coming back.
    100 – 46.6235 – 33.77901 = 19,59749, so, there is almost 20% chances that nobody would survive.
    And, the probability of coming back is the 46.6235 %, I don´t know what is the probability of coming back INTACT, only with no dead or missing persons.


    “Just give me the number, again, if I sent the Undersiders out to fight Kaiser, without giving them my help. What percentage, that they come back intact?”

    “Twelve point three one three three percent-”

    After whatever changed, their new probability of coming back INTACT is 12.3133 %, I do not know how it relates to the 46.6235 % chance of coming back that they had before, but, if it was me, the probability of accepting this assigment would just have been divided by two.

    Sorry, but changing the questions asked by Coil you made the numbers a bit confusing. If he had always asked: what is the probability of wining the fight intact or with only minor injuries while all the enemies were incapacitated? He would be asking a much better question. It would make it easier to compare the numbers.

    This reminds me about the old problem with wishes, when the genius wants to get you.
    Perhaps the girl is also giving the numbers in the most confusing way that she can think of on purpose. She certainly already calculated a way to be rescued.

    Coming back must include skitter coming back, wich has just got quite unlikely.

  6. Wouldn’t the Undersiders have to tread very carefully here? If Taylor convinces them all that Coil’s bad news and they tell him they don’t want to join him and don’t even want to work for him anymore…he has to kill them, right?

    They’ve seen his hideout, they know some details about his operation, they have some information that could be very dangerous to him.

    This is bad. They can’t extricate themselves from the situation without getting into a worse situation.

    • Even without that, Coil’s been seriously embarrassed in front of them. IME people with high opinions of themselves who get embarrassed this way can turn into 6-foot arseholes.

      Yeah, future relations will be difficult & even the immediate getting out might not be easy.

    • The funny thing is that the Undersiders might almost have to do what Taylor originally intended to do to them–infiltrate Coil’s organization with an intent to help the Protectorate, and get into a witness protection program.

      Sadly, that might be the easier of their options (even considering Armsmaster). The other one would be taking out Coil themselves while simultaneously avoiding Empire Eighty-Eight.

      Of course that assumes they’re not willing to disappear. That might be the best option, but that would likely require leaving Dinah in Coil’s hands. Taylor at least might have a problem with that.

      • If you take out the moral implications, they could always just leave town. So long as they did it as a team they probably wouldn’t have too much trouble breaking into the underworld on a new city. Regent had done it before. I just can’t imagine Taylor letting this go.

      • You know, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Tattletale (true to her name) was already doing just that.
        She had to have sensed something about Taylor’s original intentions, and it didn’t worry her one bit. I’m pretty sure she’s at least two steps ahead of everyone around her, including Coil.

  7. Wildbow you may want to take a look at how many questions Dinah agrees to answer how many coil says she has to answer after the agreement and how many she actually answers. Specifically she agrees to answer five and she does. However after she answers the first question he says she just needs to answer 5 more more. After she answers 4 questions he says she just needs to answer 2 more. It doesn’t quite match.

  8. I wasn’t worried about that. To me it seemed as if Coil was slipping in a couple extra questions while the girl was distracted, her head hurt and she wanted more “candy”. It came out as extra sinister on his part. 🙂

      • IIRC, Favicon is the little icon that’s displayed to the left of the web address at the top of the bar. WordPress, for example, has the default favicon of the white W in the blue circle.

        That’s how I understand it, anyways.

      • That’s exactly it. If you look at your stats and discover that a lot of people are trying to download a missing graphic called “favicon.ico,” it’s because you didn’t put one in. If you’ve got one and didn’t know it, it’s probably because it’s included in your content management system (your blog software).

        One of these days when I create an actual design for my serial’s blog instead of using a free template, I intend to put together a custom favicon. Not sure what it’ll look like yet, but it’s on my list of minor tweaks.

      • WordPress (which I’m using) also uses the tiny little smiley face image that you see at the bottom of the page – if you look below the ‘Theme: Twenty Eleven ■ Blog at WordPress’, you’ll see it – to help track stats, as well. The number of times people re-download that image gives them their idea of page views.

  9. Worm now has a TVtropes article. There were a few links to the story around TVtropes (The Fettered, Heart Is An Awesome Power) so I put the page up to give them something tidier to link to.

    If you’re a troper, feel free to add Tropes to Worm’s page or to mention Worm in the indexes of relevant tropes. I went out of my way to avoid the various YMMV tropes when I was adding to the page (you know, I’m sorta biased). I’ve received a steady stream of traffic from just the two or three links that were already up, so if you’re enjoying the story and you’re feeling generous enough to want to help Worm out, some edits on TVtropes would probably be a major help. 😉

  10. Question.

    Coil: …the apparent carelessness of my maneuver against the ABB, and the risk your group has been facing in the field.

    They had just been talking about the E88, not ABB. Am i missing something or is this a typo?

  11. Two things:

    “Sixty point two one zero zero nine percent chance they all come back. Forty-four point one seven four three percent chance but someone gets hurt or killed.”

    That second sentence isn’t making any sense. They have a 60.21009% chance of all coming back, but a 44.1743% chance someone will get hurt or killed. I’m assuming that since being killed means they don’t come back, that the second percentage isn’t meant to be a subset of the first. In that case, one of those numbers should really be lowered, so that the total isn’t above 100%.

    “He had to raise her voice to be heard over her squeals,”

    I don’t think he was actually raising “her” voice.

    • The 44.2% actually *partially* falls within the 60.2. They’re not coming back if they’re killed but they can both be injured and come back. How much of that 42.2% falls within the 60.2 depends on their likelihood of injury vs their likelihood of death, and Coil didn’t ask for that.

  12. I get why the probabilities might drop if Coil helps, but why does “all come back” have a higher probability than “someone gets hurt/killed”? I would figure that ther’res a high chancve at least *one* person would be injured.

  13. Have you heard of representing probabilities as decible amounts? That the amount of evidence it takes to go from one probability to another is the same if you represent it that way? It would make more sense than just subtracting 12 from 40 and saying it’s “over 30% different”. That’s kind of playing with numbers in the same way that pundits do to give a very misleading impression.

  14. Thank you! It was very nice to see Coil as a less attractive offer; to see a (small) extent of which kinds of lambs he was willing to sacrifice to secure his own ascendance. Minor thing, but it might be plot relevant later: it is basic military training that you NEVER leave your weapons looking like “polished steel”. I haven’t been through the American army, but I cannot imagine that they don’t teach this (at least it is basic training in DK). Why? Simple: reflections in any polished steel surface can easily mean your death. Not being seen before you open fire is quite important these days.

    • The attachments are tinker designs, and as is human nature, were turned into weapons. I initially wrote that with the idea that it would help draw attention to them as something out of the ordinary.

      But that’s a good point, worth fixing.

      • It just stood out… Especially considering how well-equipped and trained the soldiers seemed in general: a description of a shape that didn’t seemed like a standard attached grenade launcher would do the trick (with the current description that’s what I thought they were).

        Really enjoying your work so far. I am about to start the arc after this one and at the end of “book 1”, I’d probably give a review with at bit more perspective.

  15. I did think when the girl’s quoted probabilities changed, “What’s changed in the past minute? The Undersiders have found out about this girl. Why would that make the probability go down? Hmm…”

    But darn. I feel silly for not realising that missing girl would be significant. We were pretty much told that their boss wanted the bank robbery as a distraction from something. When Taylor mentioned the newspaper front paged with a missing persons case I really should have put two and two together.

  16. Love this chapter. After all the agonizing Taylor did, before ultimately deciding to stay with the Undersiders, this happens – and suddenly it’s a lot harder to stomach working for Coil. He deals with them pretty fairly, pays them well, apologizes for his mistake…and kidnaps a little girl, stringing her out. 12.3133%, you bastard. Thanks for showing your true colors. Wildbow, don’t take this the wrong way: you’ve got a gift for crafting some truly despicable and frightening villains, starting with Bakuda and continuing on throughout Worm.

    On a different note, the idea of Coil, Tattletale and Dinah Alcott working toward any goal, if they were all cooperating and didn’t have any secrets from each other, is utterly terrifying.

  17. “Forty-four point one seven four three percent chance but someone gets hurt or killed.”

    I’m guessing “but” is supposed to be “that”.

  18. > “The candy she was asking for was a euphemism for drugs,” I spoke, and saying it aloud made it somehow more real. I hugged my arms tighter against my body, “He’s keeping her strung out so she’ll cooperate, give him his numbers.”

    I’d write this as

    “The candy she was asking for was a euphemism for drugs.” Saying it aloud made it somehow more real. I hugged my arms tighter against my body, “He’s keeping her strung out so she’ll cooperate, give him his numbers.”

  19. “Now, that leaves one us final issue to remedy. ”

    Should probably read “Now, that leave us one final issue to remedy.”

    Fairly minor… sorry if someone else pointed it out already. Loving the serial so far!

  20. “He had to raise ‘her’ voice to be heard over her squeals…” I’d guess this is a typo (or whatever you call it).

    I might as well comment that this is a really nice read. Keep it up!

  21. I wrote a longish comment, hit post, and then some connectivity issue seems to have blown it up. If it comes through somehow, feel free to shoot the previous one off. I think I’m more concise here (though there’s a reason I don’t tweet).

    This chapter has some great plot development stuff, as others have said, but I kept getting “stuck” reading it. You might want to consider these things in a re-write.

    In the second paragraph, I though, “Wait, where’s Angelica?” You left that hanging and I’m still fretting for a resolution.

    About Dinah’s odds calcs:
    When there are many variables with low precision involved, giving results out to 6 sig figs just isn’t REAL probability math. (I hated when Spock did that in Star Trek, too.)

    All the earlier comments about the 60+44+104% show that this is clearly a “Hunh?!?” moment; whether they are/are not exclusionary conditions or not, was Dinah intentionally muddying the info, etc. Regardless, do you want the reader to just stop and get out a pencil at this? A tweaking to just keep the story moving without that would actually help.

  22. Hmm interesting chapter. I wonder what is screwing with the odds. It can’t just be Taylor since the Travelers were affected which means someone else with the ability to see/affect multiple outcomes/probablities or someone really big that decided to come to town in the spare minute between him asking the first two questions…I’d say Scion but there’s no way anything big enough is going on to get someone like him to come even with all the chaos with the ABB and now E88. Guess I’ll continue my binge to find out.

    I have to say though I am extremely curious about how Rachel and Alec are going to take the Dinah thing. I’m guessing Brian may not like it but will probably stick with it. Lisa too because she while she doesn’t seem to be a fan she does seem ruthless enough to keep going. Alec still comes across as sociopathic but maybe the fact that Coil is using a child like his dad did will bring up some issues with him. Rachel…I don’t know…she cares about her dogs first and foremost. She probably won’t like it but…I don’t know. Seriously sucks for Taylor though. Wow, talk about a blow to the ego there.

  23. Ooooh.
    Viscerally: SHIT, that’s horrible.
    Intellectually: Hmm! This seems like an opportunity to learn more about the Undersiders and the kinds of morals they maintain while being supervillains.
    Also: whatever is happening to the numbers can’t be good. And Coil doesn’t know what it is. The perils of having an information source who doesn’t actually like being one…

  24. I’m liking Coil more and more. He’s just so classy, compared to the trashy nazis and azns. I ain’t even mad he’s feeding drugs to a child.

    Stay classy, Coil.

  25. First time reader, loving the story.

    This chapter feels like the biggest turning point so far. Skitter sees the very real consequence of her decisions, on a human level.

  26. The probabilities changed because they knew. The Undersiders became aware of the girl’s powers, and that screwed with it in some way, affecting how well Coil’s assistance would work.

  27. Most terrifyingly OP power yet.

    New plan: 1) rescue Dinah, 2) make sure parents or guardians understand the importance of influencing her to have good values (e.g. arrange to make all her peers conscientious and moral people), 3) protect her until she becomes capable of ascending into godhood on her own, 4) now she’ll steer all Earth-originating life into a happy future forever.

    Technical detail: I wonder what perspective she’s computing the probabilities from. If all the evidence in reality is available to her to answer the questions, then she doesn’t need probabilities, because she can answer “yes” or “no”. Probabilities only makes sense if she only has access to a subsection of all information about reality.

  28. So back when Taylor made her decision to become a villain some people mentioned that they were waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well it just started falling and it’s going to keep on falling all the way through to the end of worm. Get ready folks, we’re going to get dark.

  29. And there it is,the first truly ugly thing THEY made happen.
    As much impact on

  30. Some typos I found

    Now, that leaves one us final issue to remedy.

    Should be either “leaves one final issue” or “leaves us one final issue”


    Forty-four point one seven four three percent chance but someone gets hurt or killed.

    “but” should be “that”, I believe

  31. “Sixty point two one zero zero nine percent chance they all come back. Forty-four point ”
    That´s not 100%.

    Well, it´s quite likely that knowing your probability to win/loose already affects this probability.
    ….Or just them known about the girl.

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