Interlude 8 (Bonus)

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“I think we’ve got a stray, Tasha.”

Tasha frowned as she looked up from her cell phone, and looked to where Daniella, behind the register, was pointing.  Her lip curled in distaste.

It was a girl, fourteen or fifteen, with dirty blond hair – both in the sense of being greasy and in color – tipped with streaks of blue.  Her clothes looked like they had only barely made the cut for the goodwill bin, and had been worn for weeks or months since she’d gotten them.  The girl was pretending to look through a collection of jackets that were still left over from last spring.  People like that weren’t supposed to be able to walk around the Boardwalk and bother people.

“I’ll handle it,” Tasha told Daniella.

She quietly cleared her throat, straightened her back and approached the girl with a fake smile plastered across her face.  “Can I help you?”

“I’m good,” the girl shoved one jacket to the other end of the rack, and Tasha couldn’t help but imagine a fingerprint being left on the leather.  She wouldn’t be able to get that image out of her head until she evicted the kid and chedcked over the jacket herself.

It bugged Tasha that the girl hadn’t left.  Most cleared out when confronted, well aware they were in the wrong place.

“I’m going to be blunt, then.  You can’t afford these jackets.  That one you just pushed aside?  That’s a design by Fendi.  It’s over four thousand dollars.”

“No shit?  It’s ugly.”

Tasha pursed her lips, glanced at the other customers in the store.  A pair of college-age girls, a woman and her boyfriend.  Nobody seemed to have heard the vulgarity, or the crass insult.

Leaning close, Tasha hissed, “Do I need to call security, you little idiot?”

‘Security’ served as a euphemism for the enforcers on the Boardwalk, paid uniforms who patrolled the streets and the stores, keeping an eye out for the homeless, gang members and shoplifters.  Their methods were as blunt as methods got.  Victims generally weren’t in a position to go to the cops and complain, or the police simply overlooked the enforcer’s activities.

“I really hate being called stupid,” the girl spoke, meeting Tasha’s eyes with a glare.

“You must be new around here if you aren’t-“

“Shut the fuck up,” the girl interrupted her, with enough force and hostility that Tasha stopped mid-sentence.  “Breathe in my face again and I’m gonna gag.  Your breath smells like vomit and a halfhearted attempt at covering up the smell with candy.”

Unconsciously, Tasha’s hand rose toward her mouth.  She stopped and folded her arms, as if to prevent her hand from straying again.  She tried to gather her composure, tell off the girl, but the girl was already speaking.

“Your boyfriend is cheating on you, Tasha Fowler, sleeping with your best friend.  Pretty fucking ironic, given how unattractive your friend is, and your continued attempts to puke yourself thin and make yourself pretty for him.”

Tasha felt a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“If you hurry and run the entire way, you can catch them in the act.  But you can’t waste a second.”

“How do you…?”  Tasha asked, but the girl was already looking through jackets again, clearly not listening.  Tasha glanced at the door.

“Go!” the girl suddenly barked at her.  Startled, Tasha moved toward the door, and then she kept moving, running.

As the saleswoman left the store, the door banging closed behind her, Daniella stared first at the door her coworker had just escaped through, then at the ratty little girl.

The girl turned her head, pretending to examine a jacket, so she could hide a vulpine smile that spread across her face.

They arrived on site in a clap of thunder.  She almost lost her footing, but Grue offered her a steadying hand.

The downpour immediately drenched every part of her that had still been dry when the tidal wave crashed into the lobby.  She used her hands to pull her soaking hair back out of her face, combing it back into place with her fingertips.

“He’s down there, Tattletale,” Grue spoke.

“Yep,” she replied.  Leviathan was in the midst of the shattered Boardwalk, pushing one section of the wooden walkway out of his way with the tip of his tail.

“Bigger in person,” Regent spoke.  His normally loose fitting shirt clung to him.  After moving his arms and watching the water dripping off of the soaked sleeves, he pulled it off, so he wore only the closer-fitting mesh armor he’d had on beneath.

Tattletale grinned.  Sometimes you couldn’t do anything else.  “We are so fucking out of our depth.”

“Everyone is.  Even Legend,” Grue replied.

“Listen,” she said, “If I die-“

“None of us are dying,” Grue spoke, his voice hard.

Odds are one of us is going to.  Statistically speaking,” Tattletale pointed out.  “As there’s only four of us…”

“Three.  Bitch isn’t here and Skitter’s not in the group,” Grue spoke.

“Right,” Tattletale answered.  She looked for Skitter and spotted her in the jumble of people, on her hands and knees in the receding waters from the tidal wave.  The girl stood, coughed a few times, water spraying from the fabric of her mask, then turned her attention to surveying the scene in that peculiar way she did.

Skitter was so focused on the scene that she didn’t even seem to notice the bugs congregating around her.  More than one out-of-town cape gave her a weird look when a bug flew by, to settle on a wall or somebody’s shoulder, but the girl was oblivious.  Maybe she was so used to being self conscious and imagining people avoiding her or looking at her funny, she couldn’t see it when it was real.  Funny, that Skitter had turned her ability into such an effective tool for sensing and assessing her environment, yet she was so unaware of some things.

She’d be better at using my power than I am.

Skitter had a piece of wet paper hanging off her shoulder, some trash that the wave had picked up, but there was nobody to point it out or pick it off.  She was alone.  Tattletale felt a pang of sympathy.  She’d never been able to stand being isolated, had always had her family, with roommates, friends and fellow squatters living with her after she’d run away.  Taylor, though, seemed to gravitate towards solitude.  She pushed people away, and when it came down to the nitty-gritty, when their group had found out the details with the kidnapped girl, Taylor had left.  Tattletale couldn’t imagine doing the same thing, and she had strong suspicions Taylor was closer to the others than she was.  It was a damn shame that things had gone that way, because she been blossoming as a person, lately, actually connecting to others.  To Bitch, even, of all people.

Tattletale couldn’t help but feel regret, too.  She had to admit the schism was at least partially her own fault.  Not paying attention, not getting the right info.  Tattletale couldn’t help but feel she should have been watching out for this sort of thing, knowing that it would take so little to spook the most sensitive member of their group.

She’d grown lax.  It had been easy to, with the knowledge and comfort of the fact that Coil’s power gave them something of a safety net.   But when she’d phoned, informed him, her fingers crossed, he’d told her that he was already focusing on other things.  He could only make the call on one series of events with his power, after all, and in the wake of the Endbringer’s arrival, he had greater priorities.  The opportunity had been lost.

If I die,” she spoke, leaving no room for further argument, “An envelope should arrive in the mail for me, a week or two after I’ve bitten it.  I wrote it.  It’s got all my passwords and account numbers for the money I’ve set aside, so far.  You guys take it, give some to Taylor if you run into her.”

“Alright,” Grue spoke.  Tattletale quirked an eyebrow at him.  She’d expected more resistance.

“And if you happen to get yourself killed, we’ll make sure Aisha gets what she needs.  Just so you know.”

He didn’t voice a response, but he nodded once.

She cast another glance Skitter’s way.  She should’ve asked, before they parted ways.  Would Taylor want her dad to know what she’d been up to?  It was impossible to say.  Taylor wouldn’t want her dad to know about her villainous activity, but to at least have him know she’d gone out as part of a huge sacrifice like this?  Maybe.

“Get Ready!” Legend cried out.

Tattletale grinned, turning her full attention to the Endbringer from beneath the waves.  It was crouching, preparing to charge.

Using her power wasn’t a switch she turned on.  It was letting the walls come down, letting the information start pouring in.  It meant a killer migraine if she used it too much, especially on people or living things, but if she had a headache three hours from now, it would be a damn good thing.  It would mean she was alive.

Getting rid of the saleswoman had been easy-peasy.  The bit about the cheating boyfriend had been an outright lie.  In a similar vein, the part where she’d mentioned the best friend had been an educated guess, but the salesgirl, Tasha, wasn’t the type to have a friend prettier than her.   The way she’d obsessed over her phone and the revelation about the eating disorder were clue enough that the woman had been deeply insecure.  By the time she realized she’d been played, she would still feel compelled to hurry home and check.  Probably bad karma to leverage that sort of weakness, but it meant getting one obstacle out of the way.

The woman had been a bitch anyways.

Lisa watched out of the corner of her eye as the cashier picked up the phone, her eye on attitude, posture, body language, volume of speech.

Worry; calling coworker, not getting response.
Quiet, hushed; hiding anxiety from customers.  Wants to convey professionalism, confidence.
Anxiety, wants to convey professionalism: new to the job, only started two weeks ago.  Doesn’t know how to open safe: not much money in register.  Doesn’t know how to close store alone.  Still no response desperately needs break for bathroom and to sneak a smoke not allowed to smoke on the job looks bad for customers and manager has hard stance on it making clothes smell.

Lisa closed her eyes briefly, took a small breath to center herself.  This power was new, untrained.  It had a way of running away from her, overwhelming her and leaving her bedridden with headaches if she wasn’t careful.  People were too random, too chaotic, too complex.  She could only push herself like this for an hour or two every few weeks before she started to suffer.  It was getting better over time, as far as her tolerances, but the rate of improvement was agonizingly slow.

No, she had to focus on the essential detail: the girl behind the counter wasn’t calling security.  This was good.  And given the other bits of information Lisa had picked up, she could be sure the cashier would probably be calling other coworkers before getting someone to kick her out of the store.

Which meant Lisa could do what she came here to do.  She turned her attention to the man that sat on the leather covered bench by the change rooms.  Thirty-something, wearing fashionable clothes and a nice jacket that was perhaps a bit too big for him, hair recently cut.  He waited with his attention on his smartphone, while his girlfriend or wife tried on something.  Deserving of a little more scrutiny.

Expensive clothes, expensive phone; wealthy.
Confident, patient despite being in a position many guys hated; mature, adult.  Clothes style match his personal tastes, not the type to dress according to girlfriend’s tastes. Tall, athletic: exercise habits developed in military but not currently enlisted this ties into confidence and patience he’s used to waiting and-

She stopped.  Needed to get back on track.  Just needed a starting point to get at the stuff he’d keep secret.  Confidence, military.  How would he pick a four digit number?

Confident and military trained; goes out of his way to keep numbers random.  Looks early thirties; born late 70’s.  Tendency to go with higher number to start.  8 or 9, mid-range number like four, five or six, then high, low, no repeating numbers.  Dressing in darker jacket, pants, trimmed beard, conservative; number will be even-even-odd-odd or odd-odd-even-even.

“Something else,” she murmured to herself, as the flow of information began to slow.  If it slowed enough, it meant that there weren’t enough points of reference to generate new data, it could even mean her power would start supplying information based on speculation or falsehoods.  She chanced a look at the cashier, but the girl was studiously ignoring her, for the time being.

She looked back to the man.  Shoes were nothing special.  No logos or brand names on anything he wore, that she could see… but he was using his left hand on the touchscreen of his phone.

Southpaw; tendency to go for numbers on left side of keypad, eight, then four, seven, then one or three.  One.  8471.

Good.  And his wallet…

Southpaw, confident; wallet in left jacket pocket.

He was distracted.  She abandoned the coat rack and approached the man, being careful to stay directly behind him, in his blind spot.  His jacket was unbuttoned, and the end with the pocket was draped beside him on the bench, the pocket facing her.  Easy grab.

Wallet in left jacket pocket; intended to help mask presence of gun holstered at left hip.

She turned a hundred and eighty degrees on the spot and walked back the direction she’d come.  Concealed gun?  Not worth it.

Her retreat stopped when she saw the man that was entering the store.  Maroon uniform, cap, belt.  One of the enforcers from the Boardwalk.  Shit.

She glanced at the cashier.  She didn’t need her power to read the girl’s look of surprise and relief to know that the girl hadn’t made the call.  Bad luck?  She looked at the enforcer.

Moving with purpose, going out of his way to avoid looking at her; most definitely coming for her.

Had it been the girl she’d scared off, Tasha?  Probably not.  Did it matter?  She turned and looked for another exit.  The boyfriend with the smartphone was standing up, saying something to his girlfriend in the changing room, walking towards the clothes rack.

Placing himself in way of exit, position of hand; preparing to draw on her if she gets too close to making a run for it.  In cahoots with the enforcer.

Which could only mean one thing.  She looked back at the enforcer that was getting closer to her.

Working with the ‘boyfriend’; Not an enforcer.  Ex-military.  Has gun.

To top it off, the girlfriend was leaving the changeroom, talking cheerfully to her boyfriend as he pulled a dress off a rack.  Her hand was too close to her oversize bag, which was open.  That one was a gimmie.  A team of three, each with guns, all of whom were after her.


“No kidding,” she muttered to herself.  How had they tracked her down?  She had been careful to stay out of sight of security cameras, and she had avoided poaching at the same location more than once.  She’d used a different ATM each time she drained some rich schmoe’s bank account, hidden her face from the hidden cameras at each.

She bolted, shoving a display of sunglasses on top of the enforcer, ducking around to his right, out of his reach.

It was a miscalculation, he didn’t care about the sunglasses.  He pushed the rack to the ground, hard, and closed the distance with a single long step.  He had superior reach, strength.  His fist swung in one fluid movement with his step forward, striking her in the stomach, just below her ribcage and off to one side.

Striking solar plexus; trained in martial arts, striking to inflict maximum pain, disabling-

“Urggunnnh,” she swore, as she crumpled to the ground.

“Oh my god, oh my god, what the fuck did she do?!  The merchandise!” The cashier shrieked, shrill.  “I’m going to be in so much trouble, oh my god.”

“Phone the security office after I’m gone,” the not-enforcer spoke, “My supervisor will take it out of my pay.”

“Oh my god,” the cashier spoke, hands over her mouth, oblivious to his words.

“He-” Lisa began to speak, then grunted and choked as she was heaved up to her feet by the back of her shirt.  The not-enforcer twisted the fabric of her shirt until his hand was knotted up in it, the collar tight against her throat.  “He’s not…”

She gave up before going any further with her protests.  It didn’t matter.  Nobody would believe her.  A ratty young teenager from the poor part of town, being paranoid about the cops?  Nobody would step in for her, here.

“I’ll talk to her,” he spoke.  “Let’s see.”  He patted her down with his free hand, brusque, not giving a second’s thought to the fact that she was a girl and a minor.  He reached his hand into her back pocket and when he pulled it out, he had a small knife clasped in it.  Not hers.  He placed it on the counter.

The cashier stared at the knife, eyes widening, then she turned her attention to the merchandise.  Ignoring him.  What the enforcers did wasn’t something that few bystanders were willing to dwell on.  But these people wouldn’t step in.  Not for a potentially dangerous teenager that had been carrying a concealed weapon.

Had he been a real enforcer, Lisa would be scared enough.  There were stories.  People having their fingers broken for shoplifting, being beaten insensate, and there were even tales of the rare girl or boy getting raped by the really twisted fucks.  When the enforcer was done making sure the offender in question wouldn’t come back to the Boardwalk, they left the bloodied person in the back of an alley, worked with another to stick them in a dumpster, or if it was late enough that nobody would see, they would toss them off the side of the boardwalk.  A fifteen to twenty foot drop, depending on the tides and the location of the drop, onto sand or into water that was freezing cold for half the year.

He marched her out of the store, heaving her to the right to keep her from bumping into the doorframe.

He wasn’t an enforcer though.  And he had a gun.  The looming punishment was a little more final than what the enforcers tended to pull.

Has gun; has killed before.

He might kill her.  It wasn’t like she hadn’t done something worth killing over.  She’d drained people’s bank accounts, pocketed the funds.  Thousands of dollars, sometimes.

A spot of light hung in the center of her vision.  She’d pushed too hard with her power.  She’d have to conserve the use of her power, now, or the migraine would knock her out cold when it arrived in force.

There were people all over the Boardwalk.  The tourists watched with idle curiosity while the locals averted their eyes.  Such a contrast there – the locals knew what was up.  It was just inconvenient to pay attention to it.

He forced her into a side street, then rounded a corner so they were behind the row of stores.  He shoved her against a wall, held her there.

She spoke, “Tell me what they’re paying you, I’ll double it.  I won’t have the money right away, but-“

“Not negotiating,” the enforcer spoke.

A few long seconds passed.  She pushed the welling nervousness down, did her best to offer him a smile with her face smushed against the brick.  She asked him, “What’s next?”

“For now, we wait.”

Waiting she could live with.  Waiting wasn’t getting shot and left for some store employee to find as they took out the trash.

It took a minute before the boyfriend and girlfriend rounded the corner.

“Marcus, you know that’s no way to handle a lady,” the ‘girlfriend’ spoke.  She had a posh English accent.  When she spoke again, the accent remained, but the upper class lilt was gone, her voice serious, “Turn her around.”

Marcus, the ‘enforcer’, hauled on Lisa’s shoulder, flipping her around, before planting his palm on her collarbone and pushing her back against the wall.

The ‘boyfriend’ was holding a phone to his ear.  He handed it to the English woman.

“You have a phone call.  We advise you take it,” the woman smiled at Lisa.

Lisa accepted the phone and held it to one ear.

“‘Sup?” she injected playfulness and good humor she definitely didn’t feel into her voice, grinned for the benefit of the three adults with guns.

“I apologize for the manner of our meeting, I hope my soldiers were not too rough on you, Lisa Wilbourn,” the voice on the other end was smooth, calm, unruffled, “Or is it Sarah Livsey?”

“Either or,” she replied,  “Lisa these days.”

“As you wish.  I have been watching you for some time, Lisa Wilbourn, I have become aware that you are something special, and I would like to buy your services.”

Word choice, buy vs. hire: large amounts of money involved.
Word choice, buy vs. make an offer: not really a negotiation.

She glanced at the weapons the three hired guns had in hand.

“I’m listening.”

Leviathan whipped his tail around, slamming it through the ranks of capes.  Immediately after, a lash of water followed in the wake of his movement, cutting down yet another line of gathered heroes and villains.  The armbands announced the losses to the defending side with every attack Leviathan made.  Tattletale hung back, further than even the ranged attackers, and watched.

Steady blood flow from small wounds, asynchronous movement; has blood but no comprehensive cardiac system
No cardiac system, no mouth, no nose, no apparent ears: nonstandard nervous system.

“Educated guess says your power doesn’t work so hot on him,” she told Regent, as the two of them backed away.

“Fuck, no.  If I can do something, my power’s probably gonna backfire like crazy, and I think that bastard’s quick enough that he’s not about to fall flat on his face.”

Tattletale glanced at where Skitter was hurrying to assist one of the wounded.  Even knowing Taylor was out of earshot, she was careful to lower her voice, “And I guess your secret weapon isn’t going to work either?”

“Take two or three times as long, probably, if it worked at all,” Regent grumbled.  “Fuck, I’m useless.”

“Then use that first aid training Grue made us get, help out, and keep an eye out in case your power’s needed.”

Alexandria flew toward Leviathan like a black arrow.

Leviathan charged forward as if to meet the heroine in a head on collision, then stopped abruptly.  His ‘echo’, like a model of himself shaped out of water, continued forward with the same momentum he’d had while sprinting forward.  The heroine used her hands to break the surface tension of the water with a deafening crash, plunged through the water and out the other end, toward Leviathan.  She caught him around the neck and slammed him down against the road hard enough that even Tattletale, at the rear lines of the battlefield, had to adjust her footing as the impact rocked the ground.

Whatever advantage Alexandria had gained, it didn’t last long.  Leviathan’s tail snaked up and around the heroine’s neck, catching her.  He whipped her into the ground, beside him, up into a wall, then back down.  This time, he held her beneath the water, using one claw to help pin her.

Dragon, racing forward through the air with an earsplitting roar, launched the full complement of missiles she had on her suit.  Before the munitions even struck Leviathan, Dragon was shedding the jet engine atop her, the missile launchers, and other extraneous devices, much as a space shuttle cast off pieces of itself as it launched.  The suit collided with Leviathan a half second after the missiles exploded against his torso and shoulders, and steel claws gripped his limbs.

The ‘face’ of her armored suit opened up and began discharging a blue-white flame into his face.  The ‘flames’ didn’t move like flames should, spilling off him and down into the water, where they pooled on the road and continued to burn – after a fashion – beneath the water.  Leviathan, for his part, began tearing into Dragon, clawing away layers of armor with each swipe of his claws, almost uncaring as to the liquid fire that was spilling over him..

Between the smoke from the missiles and the steam that arose where the liquid fire touched water, Tattletale was having trouble seeing the battle.

Tattletale pressed the two buttons on her armband, “Give me a flier to get me to a better vantage point.  Moderate priority.”

It took only ten seconds before one of the Silicon Valley capes arrived.  The man with the jetpack gripped her wrists and carried her up a dizzying height to the roof of the nearest building, five stories tall.  She moved to the edge, being careful to stay out of the way of the other capes that were already set up, raining bullets, flames, lasers and other projectiles down on Leviathan at every opportunity.  The Endbringer was still battling Dragon, had dug deep enough through metal and armor to reach the center of her suit.

Dragon ejected, skidded to a stop eighty feet away, a smaller suit of armor with thin arms and legs, each tapering down to points.  The suit Dragon had left behind glowed red, orange, white, then exploded violently around Leviathan, as though every crevice had been packed with high explosives.  Leviathan reeled, lashed his tail, and then lunged back toward the gathered capes.  He was intercepted by three flying capes this time, who harried him with superstrength and the case of one hero, an oversized battle axe.

Dragon enters battle with suit packed with explosives, risky, current suit has insufficient room for arms and legs: Suit unmanned.

Remotely controlled?  Tattletale raised an eyebrow.  She hunkered down to to watch the fight, mentally opening those doors that let more information flow.

Leviathan, nonstandard cardiac, nervous systems: irregular biology.  No standard organs or weak points.  No brain, heart or center of operations for rest of his body.
Irregular biology, no vulnerable organs: body divided into layers, extending down to hyperdurable core body, each layer down is slightly more than twice as durable as previous. Exterior skin is hard as aluminum alloy, but flexible, lets him move.  3% deeper in toward core of arms, legs, claws, tail, or .5% in toward core of head, trunk, neck, tissues are hard as steel.  6% in toward core of extremities or 1% toward core of main body/head, tissues strong as tungsten.  9% toward core of extremities, 1.5% toward core of main body, head, tissues strong as boron.  12%-

She had to stop, start again.  Her power did that, if she didn’t focus, kept giving her a steady flow of information but not information she could use.

Leviathan had dispatched the three flying heroes and was dueling with Narwhal.  Ballistic from the Travellers was providing supporting fire, sending trash, dumpsters, rubble and pieces of the street careening into Leviathan.

Another try.

Durable layers to body, no conventional organs, irregular biology: Tissues mend from the inside out, layers expanding to fill wounds and integrating into surrounding structures.  Not human.

Knew that much.

Not human: Never was human.

That gave her pause.  But she could imagine Grue shouting at her, “Something we can use!” and that was nudge enough to get her to focus her efforts.  “Weak points.”

No vulnerable organs, hyperdurable tissues: simple organs exist at core of torso, where there is highest amount of surrounding tissues.  Optimal thickness of layer and narrowness of body part at upper arms, just before shoulder joint, and upper thighs, just below hip joint.

Something she – everyone – could use.  She pressed the button for the communicator on her armband, “He’s got weak points, sort of.  He’ll take the most damage at the arm-“

She was cut off by a blared warning from the armband, and a shuddering rumble of the roof she and the squad of ranged combatants had gathered on.  The rumbling only intensified with each passing second.

“Wave!” someone screamed.

Forcefields went up, and being as high as they were, they were out of reach of the worst of it.  She could see it, a tide of water several stories high.  The impact was reduced to a manageable level  only by the shattered Boardwalk and fallen buildings at the end of the road, the uphill slope.

The crash when when the wave rolled against the side of the building was enough to knock over nearly everyone on the roof.

Structure, building age, strength of wave; building will hold.

Hope the people on the ground are as fortunate.

Except another problem became immediately clear.  Without the interference of the most durable front line combatants, Leviathan was able to move freely.

The building shuddered, one wall of the building began to crumble, and Leviathan climbed fast enough that his momentum carried him twenty feet above the rooftop.  He landed in the midst of them, and the roof crumbled beneath his mass.  Two people closest to him were swallowed up as the roof disintegrated underfoot, tumbling towards Leviathan.  He adjusted the position of his feet and one hand, to place them at the still-intact portions of the roof’s edge, where the structure was strongest.

Only a second after he’d landed, the water that followed in his wake crashed down on the roof, splashing out to push everyone present ten or fifteen feet away from Leviathan, tearing the gaping hole in the roof open even further.  Tattletale gripped the edge of the roof to keep from being pushed over, choked as water forced itself into her nose and mouth.  A less fortunate cape screamed as she fell.

This would be a good fucking time to act, Regent.

Wave; Regent briefly incapacitated.

“Fuck,” she muttered.

Hadn’t Taylor been in a situation like this when they’d met?  With Lung?  How had she coped?

Right, she hadn’t.  We stepped in.  Great.

The armband was still rattling off the casualties from the wave.  As Tattletale coughed, tried to clear her mouth enough to breathe, Leviathan lashed out with the one claw that wasn’t planted against the walls of the building, easily striking two heroes down.  From the damage done, it was painfully obvious that they weren’t invincible or anywhere close to it.  A third person gravely injured by the crushing flow of water that followed in the wake of his claw, momentum and a lack of attachment to Leviathan’s own body letting it extend well beyond his reach.

Some cape wearing armor studded with stone imagery retaliated, some sort of power that let him generate matter, like chunks of rock or metal pouring out in a stream, spraying into Leviathan’s face, making the creature pull back.

Leviathan retaliated with a whiplike lash of his tail, bisecting the man.  Of the twelve or so that had been on the roof a minute ago, only three remained.

Not even looking her way, Leviathan raised one claw in Tattletale’s general direction.  The water on the roof shifted, surged toward Tattletale in an isolated wave as tall as she was, lifting her, pushing at her.

The sting of the spray and the salt of the water blinded her.  There was a brief dizzying moment where she realized she couldn’t tell which way was up.  She realized she was falling.

Stupid, the thought was an accusation, biting, directed wholly at herself.

She was the last to arrive.  She grinned as she joined the group that had gathered by the entrance to the Trainyards.  So these are the people Coil found.

“You aren’t wearing a costume, and you’re late,” spoke the tallest of the three present, his voice echoing as if from someplace more distant than he was.  He was covered in darkness that smouldered like a low flame, obscuring him, drifting off in faint wisps.  At times, she could see the image of a skull in the midst of it.  Intriguing.

Darkness generation; muffles sound.
Muffles sound, light: inhibits radiation, microwaves, radio frequencies, miniscule effects on the transfer of kinetic energy-

“Don’t have one,” Lisa replied, before she could get lost in the flow of information and took too long to respond.

“You’ll have to get one.”

Orders, demands, statements, condemnations, use of skull in costume: solo operator, organized, careful to divorce emotion from action & agenda.  Falls back on order, rules, self discipline in times of stress.

“I was sort of thinking I’d take a backseat role, serve as your contact, the gal on the other end of the phone, keeping you guys on track, feeding you info.”

“Fuck that,” the only other girl in the group spoke, jabbing a finger at her, “If you’re taking an equal share, you’re gonna get your hands dirty too.”  One of the dogs that accompanied the girl growled, as if to punctuate the statement.

Word choice, ‘too’:  haunted by demons.
Swearing: Antisocial.

Unhappy with status quo:  seeking to change things, seeking money, power, prestige.
Antisocial, swearing, clothes prioritizing function and comfort over style:  not seeking human connections, prefers company of dogs.  Powers relate to dogs.
Powers relating to dogs, not seeking human connections, antisocial, inner demons: powers side effects disconnected standard human empathy and understanding, no longer grasps full extent of human relations, signals, signs, cues-

Tattletale shrugged, admitted, “My power isn’t so good in a direct confrontation.”

“Figure it out,” the darkness generator told her.

“Alright, can do,” she assured him.  As much to test his patience and see his limits, she grinned and offered the words, “Should be fun.”

The darkness generator folded his arms .

Folded arms: Irritation, doubt.

She glanced at the one person who hadn’t spoken yet.  Hard ceramic mask with a blank expression frozen on it, a coronet set atop black hair, renaissance era clothing.  Only his eyes were visible.

“Barrels of fun,” the boy spoke, in a tone that might have been sarcastic, or might have been disinterested.  His eyes met hers.

Disinterest or affected disinterest, lack of engagement, lack of pupil dilation or contraction coinciding with eye contact:  limited emotional depth, deeply repressed emotions and/or depression.  Sociopath.

Odd as it was, she felt better, knowing these things.  She liked to think that everyone had roughly the same measure of fucked-up-ness in them, some weird or offensive element.  Knowing that it was so close to the surface, or relatively close in the darkness manipulator’s case, it was almost reassuring.  It meant that she didn’t find out something ugly days, weeks or months down the line.

Which was a set of memories she was not keen to dwell on.  She pushed that thought & the emotions that boiled up with it out of her mind and grinned as though she found Regent’s comment amusing.

The darkness generator made a noise, which she realized was a sigh.  He spoke, “Alright.  We do this team thing, we’re going to do it properly.”

“Of course,” she smiled wider.  As much to irritate him as anything else, she added, “How hard could it be?”

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

100 thoughts on “Interlude 8 (Bonus)

  1. This is strange. On one hand Leviathan seems purposefully built, designed to be durable and have the least amount of critical points. This is in contrast to powers manifesting to reflect an emotionally-charged event of some sort.

    On the other hand, some portions of Leviathan’s anatomy resemble some pre-permian species. Specifically, ancient insect species. 🙂

      • So far we’ve seen no indication that animals other than humans get super powers (excluding things like Bitch powering up her dogs), no confirmation of any sentient non-humans, and Leviathan does seem suspiciously well-designed. Taking into account that there are only, what, 3 Endbringers? All different? That likely rules out powerful alien species and suggests Genocidal Villain with a knack for Bio-Engineering of some manner.

        Who knows, maybe Bitch has a vastly more powerful aunt with a knack for Lizards.

      • Alternatively, i noticed no-one thinks outside of sci-fi as a source of the superpowers in Worm.
        It would be something else. Could an angels and demons thing could be a ‘descended for gods’ source. Fuck, it could be a ‘God saw we needed help and gave us powers’. It doesn’t have to be a sci-fi reasoning behind superpowers.

        Hell, i once got bored and made up a world were superpowers are the result of humanity interbreeding with interdimensional travellers. Admittedly a sci-fi source, but it was more original than the usual ‘aliens/evolution/genetic tampering’

        • I’m going to refrain from quoting Arthur C. Clarke at you. 🙂

          If you really want to go with “someone else gave Earth humans powers” then that mainly just depends on the portrayal of of said benefactor. It’s like the Marvel gods situation where these “divine” beings are actually just really advanced aliens.

  2. Was Leviathan inspired by Sin from Final Fantasy X? I love that game!

    I’m not sure what you mean by this sentence: “As Leviathan The ‘face’ of her quadruped armored suit opened up and began discharging a blue-white flame into Leviathan’s face, that spilled off him and around him in pools.” There’s some sort of typo in the beginning and then are you saying that the flames are repelled off of him somehow?

    I wonder what would happen if somebody tried spraying Levy with the foam from earlier.

    • -That- is what happens when you’re cooking dinner with your laptop on the kitchen counter, making edits as you go. Something demands your attention, you look away mid sentence, you go back, forgetting what was up. Thanks for spotting that. Sentence restructured.

      Leviathan’s not particularly based off of Sin – I did play Final Fantasy X, but Sin, I’m afraid, didn’t really register on my radar.

      As for the foam – Leviathan’s one of the reasons that Taylor & others say that the foam will contain ‘most’, or that it’s effective enough to contain ‘all but the strongest and fastest’. (Second paragraph of Interlude 3, for example)

  3. Nice to get some backround on Tattletale. Also nice to get something on a thursday instead of waiting for saturday (don’t worry, I kind of figgure it’s a special thing and wont come to expect it).
    And Leviathon not ever human? Interesting.

    • In case it’s not clear: the bonus is because we hit our donation benchmark – Any time $75 in total gets donated to Worm, you guys get an extra chapter the following week. Either an interlude or a continuation of the main story.

      Nobody asked for anything particular either way, so I went with both. Kind of.

  4. Has anybody in-universe built an orbital laser yet? If yes, now it would be a good time to use it.

    Also, if you hit any solid with a physical projectile at a speed faster than the speed of sound for that object, that object is subject to liquefaction; it behaves like a liquid instead of a solid regardless of its actual hardness. That speed is roughly 5-5,5 kilometers/second for aluminum, titanium and iron, 7 kilometers/second for tungsten, 16,5 kilometers/second for boron and 18,3 kilometers/second for diamond and carbon nanocomposites. Secondly, penetration into a physical object once liquefaction occurs is always projectile length times projectile density divided by target density.
    The perfect weapon to heavily damage invulnerable targets such as Leviathan (apart from nukes) would be a railgun-launched harpoon. The harpoon’s outer skin should be made of carbon nanocomposites to remain in a solid state at the highest impact speeds than any other known material and, having the highest known melting point and fairly low thermal conductivity, not burn up from air friction. The harpoon’s core should be made of Osmium/Iridium alloy for the highest possible density and durability plus providing a metal core to be subject to the electromagnetic acceleration of the railgun. Launched at a speed of 18 kilometers per second, it should be highly accurate even against targets of Leviathan’s speed. Upon impact, it should subject Leviathan’s body to liquefaction while remaining solid itself. A 5-foot harpoon with those specs could pierce roughly 50 feet of reinforced concrete, 15 feet of steel, 5.5 feet of tungsten or (due to its low density), 45 feet of boron. If Leviathan’s body has the durability of said materials but only the density of water/living tissue, the harpoon might be able to penetrate a good 110 feet (i.e. go through him entirely.

    • The obvious problem with the railgun is aiming it at something as mobile as Leviathan. Also noone really wants to toss nukes at their own cities. Especially when your super forces would have to be there to keep Leviathan in the area.

      • Railguns are very accurate due to the very high speed of their projectiles. As long as you find a way to turn them around fast, you could hit Leviathan. Especially if you do so from a mile or so away without him being aware he’s targeted.

        Of course, lugging around a 200-ton gun and the 500-ton nuclear reactor needed to power is is not as trivial as it seems.

        • Get Armsmaster to build it: that should cut it down enough to fit on something like Dragon’s mechs. Then you get a speedser to aim the thing.

          Alternatively, kinetic force works on Endbringers (at least this one) even if it doesn’t really harm them… I wonder what would happen if you launch one into space, either by mundane well-aimed rocket, by Ballistic bypassing the Manton Effect, or using lots of Flying Bricks.

  5. Alternatively, one could burn Leviathan using a fluorine dispenser. Elemental fluorine, especially if heated, has the tendency to burn things. Ice and water exposed to heated fluorine burn in open flame without the need for a spark and steel, stone and asbestos are readily consumed as well.

    And let’s not get into what fluorine plasma is capable of doing.

    • ”It is, of course, extremely toxic, but that’s the least of the problem. It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water-with which it reacts explosively.” -John Clark, on chlorine diflouride.

      • Chlorine trifluoride, you mean.

        (For anyone wondering what “hypergolic” means, it means that they ignite on contact, no spark needed. For anyone nerdy enough to enjoy a book on the history of rocket fuel that requires decent understanding of chemistry, check out Ignition, the book that quote is from – it’s long out of print, and physical copies are almost unattainable, but there’s a PDF torrent out there.)

  6. Chlorine difluoride is rather dangerous. I wouldn’t trust a bunch of teenagers (not to mention paramilitary thrill seekers) with any amount of it. Fluorine is about the limit of what I’d trust them to handle.

  7. No nose, no mouth, no regular cardiac system. Very odd here. On something small I could see this being workable, but this thing is massive and makes use of limbs. It at least has good tactics, though I’m wondering if something directs its overall strategy.

    I’m gonna go out on a limb of my own and suggets possibly the thing’s skin takes in water to allow it to breathe, seeing as it has no nose and doesn’t seem to have gills (unless I just overlooked that part). It’s something you see with amphibians and worms as well. After all, it has blood, and the blood, to our understanding of what blood is, needs to be oxygenated. The bleeding itself could be useful as well, though we don’t have the benefits of a guaranteed ability to lock onto a radioactive isotope in it, so instead I’d suggest have Dragon whip up some of her lovely homemade nanite dip. Have them make a quick circuit through whatever kind of system the blood travels through, though if the skin is porous enough to let blood through (blood being presumably thicker than water, cited in the case of Jesus versus The Temperance Movement) as it expands outward, that could be something…

    *Warning, this next paragraph may have some fecal matter on it, due to being pulled from my ass. Do not be afraid of my ass paragraph. It just wants love.* If the system worked fast enough, those porous layers could, and this is the cognatious thunk of someone not trained in this stuff, function well enough as a cardiac system to move oxygen and blood in and out, possibly even taking in the oxygen at the outer layer and transporting it via the blood inward, then back out again.

    Basically, this thing can’t be as closed a system as it appears to be and still survive, unless wherever it comes from generates a new one for each encounter. It needs energy somehow, and this is some real trouble if it’s photosynthetic. I suppose that, depending on the skin color of the thing, it could just use light on a wavelength outside human sight, though I think that’d do interesting things when looking at its skin.

    I’d have suggested chemical weapons, but without a general idea about its brain, I’d have to guess you go with something that reacts well with water, like chlorine gas(though that’s meant to react to it only once it’s into the lungs). Given the nature of the fight, that’s bad news for any heroes right there near it, however. Even then, we’re looking at something that’s probably an irritant at best, and that’s over time. I don’t know, jab something into it containing some thionyl chloride and hope it doesn’t leak.

    Or go for the blood with some Phosgene, Arsine, Hydrogen Cyanide, or possibly even a bunch of Carbon Monoxide. As long as the waters retreat, it’ll take most of it with it, or you just need to give the affected areas a decent scrubbing. Mess with its hemoglobin, which assumes it has it in the first place. Guess someone needs to get some of its blood for a quick analysis. It doesn’t seem to have water in its own body, so should be good in extremely high quantities, though I doubt the heroes just have any of that stuff lying around…

    Well, that’s my current, amateur two-cents on it, trying to keep up with Belial over there. As Mythbusters has not yet acquired a workable large-scale railgun like the U.S. Navy is testing these days, I’m afraid I don’t know how much water it would take to disentegrate a railgun projectile, seeing as its the whole “slowing down rapidly” part that takes it apart. Of course, there’s the fact that such a weapon is only currently on a water-based vehicle that could make it difficult to utilize against the macrohydrokine currently drawing in water for tsunamis. Hope that crew’s good at aiming at a fast moving target while experiencing massive waves.

    It’s just not something any hero would have either. That’s a large-scale weapon of warfare, not a small-scale peacekeeping weapon. I mean, the government may let Dragon get away with murder, but I don’t see them letting any private entity have a gun permit for a large-scale railgun.

    Not yet, anyway. Someone, get me the NRA!

      • Or Conquest?

        IIRC, the white cloaked rider was never specified as anything, and it was only later that it got pegged as Famine. Others say it’s Conquest.

        Up for debate.

      • My whole picture of the four horsemen has been irreversibly altered by Gaiman and Pratchett’s book “Good Omens” in which there are also four other horsemen of the apocalypse (note: who are actually riding motorcycles).

        Their attempts to come up with names for what they represent are some of the funnier moments in the book.

    • Hmm… with the benefit of being on a reread (don’t worry, no spoilers), I’m thinking that rather than having blood for the purpose of moving chemical potential energy to cells (like living things with blood do), the blood is there solely because it is a liquid. This allows it to move and control it’s ‘muscles’ using purely hydrokinesis, obviating the need for chemical energy, a circulatory system of any kind, or really any of the weaknesses typically associated with having blood. Sorry Arnold.

      Moving on to spoiler territory (in rot13), Leviathan is (I assume) the only Endbringer that can feel pain. I theorize this is because it can sense the water in its body, allowing it to register damage (after all that’s basically the definition and purpose of pain). Jr yrnea gbjneqf gur raq bs gur fgbel gur Raqoevatref cerggl zhpu bayl unir bar frafr, ynpxvat gur abezny barf: cer- naq cbfg-pbtavgvba sbe Gur Fvzhetu (nybat jvgu fgrnyvat bgure’f creprcgvbaf), cbffvoyl frafvat raretl sbe Orurzbgu, naq frafvat jngre naq bgure yvdhvqf sbe Yrivnguna. Guvf rkcynvaf jul bayl Yrivnguna (naq cbffvoyl Orurzbgu?) srry cnva, vg’f gur bayl bar jvgu n qverpg zrgubq bs frafvat vgf obql’f fgngr.

      Also, in regards to Belial’s railgun idea, Armsmaster has already come up with a plan for dealing with enemies/substances regardless of toughness: his new Halberd. I can’t recall how thoroughly that’s been explained, so I’ll hold off on saying more. The railgun would totally work too, but the Halberd is more portable, probably faster-reloading, and less likely to cause friendly fire on a miss.

  8. Actually, the whole “four horsemen of the apocalypse” thing is kindof baseless in general. We have the horseman out of the first seal, who has a bow and a crown, and “he came out conquering, and to conquer.” Arguably, war, yes? But wait, didn’t war have a sword? So we have the second rider, whose horse was bright red, and he “was permitted to take peace from the earth… and he was given a great sword.” So that’s war- who’s the first one? Next we have the scales, and he speaks of food- “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” A denarius is a day’s wage for a laborer, so, looks like food’s pretty expensive here- that’d be barely enough to feed your average laborer on its own, let alone any other expenses. Arguably famine. And the fourth is, of course, Death- explicitly stated.

    So, after all this we have, what, War, Famine, Death, and… Conquest? A little redundant, and I have absolutely NO idea where they got pestilence from.

    And that’s Revelations 6:2-6:8 according to Gorgondantess. Do note I’m currently using the English Standard Version, which is a translation focusing on accuracy above all else- I wouldn’t be surprised if the KJV implied something along the lines of Pestilence for the first horseman. I really should read that one more often.

    • The important thing to remember is that the vast majority of people don’t read the bible, and there are a lot of things taken as part of the religion that isn’t in it. Like the Rapture, Jesus’ crucifiction, possibly his journey to hell to set all those souls free, but I can’t remember on that part, Satan being loose (sorry folks, he’s imprisoned in Hell. Not loose on earth), the fruit of knowledge being an apple, demons (though there’s like an expansion pack for the bible some discussing a first wife created in front of Adam who wanted to have sex on top of him, so she was cast out and had sex with fallen in the land of Nod and there ya go), any idea of what heaven is, the idea that angels look exactly like humans but with two wings (sorry folks, some of them have so many wings, you’re lucky to see a face), the holy ghost, the divinity of Jesus…

      I know that’s merely an incomplete list. The point is that most Christians don’t actually read the thing (take THAT Martin Luther!) so you’re better off going to an atheist for biblical knowledge (supported by studies too).

      Hell, back in 2008 they tried to insert Islam and Barack Obama into Revelations, despite the fact that Islam came along later (as an attempt to reform Christianity and Judaism, it’s all the same god to them) and Barack Obama came along MUCH later.

      • Oddly enough, one of the things that keeps the book of Revelation “alive” in the public imagination is how it can be merged with current events.

        From what I’ve learned in classes, the book was originally written to be about the Roman Empire and Nero.

        Nonetheless people have read it as if it were about the Pope, communism, the EU, and a lot of other things too.

      • Umm… Gecko, when you say bible you actually mean only old testament, right? Since, you know, the crucifiction actually is there. Also the devil coming to Jesus in the desert. And numerous mentions of the holy ghost/holy spirit (depending on translation).

        Just saying. I’m not even a christian, but please do actually read the book before complaining how others don’t.

        • Long long after the fact, this is more for any later readers or (who am I kidding) to soothe my own ego when I think about screwups I’ve made before. Basically, I knew something connected with that story was left out that most people didn’t know about. I got mixed up and instead was actually barely on the edge of remembering Matthew 27:52, in which Jesus’ death prompts a horde of holy zombies to rise and invade the city. No, seriously.

          Instead of double checking, I went ahead and just assumed something else, leading to my mistake. Considering people’s ignorance about the bible and how it was written, I could believe that something like the crucifixion was left out. So, mistake happened. When I fully remembered what I actually was thinking of, I realized it still didn’t fit into the discussion, so I erred on the side of humility and not moving the goalposts towards things only in one of the gospels that aren’t recorded in the others.

          So to all those who come after me, remember: don’t get one guy dying and rising as a zombie three days later confused with a mass of saints rising as zombies during that guy’s death. It never ends well. Just grab Barbara, kill Phil, get your girlfriend or boyfriend, and hang out at the Winchester until the entire thing blows over. Also, you’ve got red on you.

      • I’m wondering if ‘Crucifiction’ was intentional.

        I might have to ask you guys to tone down the religion discussion before things get too off track. It’s not so much that I mind either way, but these things have a way of getting out of hand & people get upset/angry.

        Religion & politics, dangerous topics.

      • Huh…now I wonder what the heck I was thinking about with Jesus’ crucifiction there. I know there was supposed to be something about all that that people paint as being in the there that wasn’t. Something popularly attributed to his life simply isn’t in there that people assume, and I wish I remembered what it was. Without being able to recall what that was, then I’d say you got me there.

        As for The Devil being out and about, that tends to come up as “Satan” (like in Book of Job) which is a term that means accuser, which makes perfect sense in the Book of Job as some other being makes the accusation that if the blessings were taken away from Job, he wouldn’t be so big on Yahweh anymore. Just like with “Adam”(translated: Man), people tended to not translate the word and treat it like a name. Whereas you have 2 Peter 2, which happily tells us that the angels that sinned were sent to hell to be held in chains of darkness until judgement. Of Jesus in the desert, I’ve read of “Satan” and the tempter being there. So we have an accuser/hinderer and a tempter.

        And with the holy spirit…that friggin thing’s up in the air. It wasn’t even part of the trinity in the first place and the use of the phrase tends to be interchangeable with saying god, seeing as you’ve got passages that say Mary was knocked up by the Holy Spirit, and passages about The Son of Man and how bad it is to speak against the Holy Spirit itself.

        Kinda like Odin One-Eye, the Allfather, the father of men, the Delight of Frigg, the Lord of the Aesir, Friend of Wealth, Enemy of the Wolf, Balder’s Father, Spear Shaker, Flaming Eye, the bLind, Vili’s Brother, Borr’s Son, the Spearman, Lord of the Undead, Sole Creator of Magical Songs, the Ever Booming, the Dwelling in Frigg’s embrace, Father of Magical Songs, Journey Empowerer, Gallows’ Burdon, Shape God, Wise One, Lord of the Earth, Ancient One, The One Who Rides Forth, God of the Geats, Blind Guest, the Hooded (or Masked) One, Lord of the Hanged, Commander of Leaders, Father of Hosts, Raven God, and the Yule Father.

        1. Yes, those are really some of Odin’s names. 2. Those are only SOME of Odin’s names. 3. The point is, they tend to give deities lots of things to be called, like God, I Am, Yahweh, Jehovah, the Father, the Almighty, the Heavenly Father, the Father Almighty, the Lord, Most High, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lord of the Hosts, and the Light.

      • Still can’t find it. Ah well, at least I still have:

        The snake in the Garden of Eden is never said to be Lucifer. Just a snake.
        Jesus, Jehovah, and all were interpreteted to be a “Y” sound instead of a “J” sound prior to the Renaissance. Yumping Yiminy!
        Jesus was most likely not white.
        A whale didn’t swallow Jonah.
        Hell is nothing but a pit of fire and the gnashing of teeth.
        We don’t know what Gomorrah did to be destroyed.

        Alright, hopefully that’s defended my honor enough that Mazzon should no longer think I deserve a case of golden hemorrhoids despite being someone who pisseths against the wall. Now if you’ll excuse me, time to hang out with the Philistines and that refugee they’re with, David.

    • From Revelation 6:8, immediately after the description of Death: “They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” (NIV)

      That’s where Pestilence is coming from. I would guess that Pestilence is the first horseman, with the arrows representing disease (pretty sure that imagery has been used elsewhere as well). It’s not as if Revelation is short on symbolism.

      • Hmm, I know arrows representing disease were used in the Iliad, I can totally see them being used the same way in Revelation.

  9. If I were to design a closed-system being that lived underwater, was apparently tougher than a battleship and had to be biological, I wouldn’t give it a breathing system either. Given its toughness at the core, storing oxygen and carbon monixide internally in a liquid or even solid state would not be a problem – an internal “lung” would work to put the oxygen into the blood then remove and store the carbon monoxide without any environmental access. Assuming the same consumption as 4 main battle tanks, a storage capacity of 2 tons should be enough for its biological needs for a day. (I am assuming its hydrokinesis power does not get energy biologically)
    Then, once Leviathan did its work for the day and was low on internally-stored oxygen, it would retreat to some underwater hot spot (active volcano, hot spring or similar) where the ambient heat would power him through the nano-scale thermoelectric generators built to each one of his cells all over his body. His system would then use the excess energy to slowly turn the stored carbon monoxide back into stored oxygen and carbon. Plus it would slowly capture carbon monoxide and various metal salts from the surrounding water, dissolve them and take the metals to slowly regrow any damaged parts like all living things do.

    • If it’s capable of taking in metals and gases anyway, despite you saying without environmental access, why not just give it the ability to breathe those in during battle the same way? I mean, that way it can presumably fight more than a day at a time, non-stop, wearing out its enemies even more as they lose sleep and are thus unable to come up with a decent plan to win the day.

      Heck, if I had to design one, I’d make it without a core. Make it a mass, a slime, a hivebeing of goo, however you want to think about it. Nothing to destroy, all the work is done at a much smaller level as it takes in oxygen and nutrients while probably wrapping up a hero or whale or Cthulhu and snacking on it, increasing its size. It’s that, whatever you call it, grey goo apocalypse they predict we might make happen.

      In the end, though, this is Wildbow’s evil monster of the apocalypse, and I think I’m ready to call it quits on that kind of out-there speculation about it until we learn more, because while some of this is nice for showcasing our individual preferences for destruction and monster design, there’s no good point to it anymore. Because otherwise, I would make the perfect monster made of chocolate and high enough in cholestoral to kill a human in a single bite. You know we’d go for it, even if it was wet.

      Tattle’s got the right idea, though, the limbs are its weakness. Like some sort of freaky necrothingy from Dead Space (Wonder if this solves that question of how a ship full of marines couldn’t beat one when an engineer knowing their weakness could beat a ship full of them).

      • A mass of slime… you mean… Smooze? Egads, My Little Pony (the movie! the 80s movie!) was right!

    • If Leviathan can actually conjure up water to create those echos(It is hard to tell if it is moving existing water or exuding it), perhaps it can extract oxygen out of that as it filters out through the layers of the body?

  10. Although this is really pointless speculation I will add my two cents.
    Internal fusion reactor. Forget breathing, blood, …
    I am actually reading a tale where the heroine has acces, trough a kind of portal inside a strong core in her body, to the heart of a star. All energy needed comes easily this way, she eats only for habit and to replenish materials.
    Option two, Endbringers came to this world hunting the creature that gave the humans their powers.

  11. And I am caught up! Took a week but that is not too shabby when I’ve been using my phone and reading during quiet times at the hospital during the birth of our twins.

    Helped distract from stress and boredom and worry and stress – thanks! Have to find time to write a proper WFG review when I get the chance.

    • I have to say it was a genuine treat to read your comments as you read through the archives. They were thoughtful, literate and very on target. The kind of comments where you really know the individual making them is a writer.

      It’s rare to get comments on the older chapters, now, and even rarer still to get a whole slew of good ones. I was actually going to send you an email later today to say as much & thank you, when I was done writing/polishing tonight’s chapter.

      I look forward to the review.

      • I’m sure you are still getting lots of new readers even if they aren’t commenting. I started reading about a week ago after seeing a recommendation from the writer of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (I’m not the only one either as I saw another comment a few topics back). I’m absolutely loving it so far and can’t wait to read more, and was staggered after 6 riveting arcs when I checked the contents and saw not only was the story completed there were still 24 arcs to go. It’s an amazing work and I’m sure I’ve still got tons to look forward to.

        This definitely got me interested in trying my hand at writing again, though I was reassured to hear this the product of years of practice rather than a first work, so I needed feel bad about rocky first attempts. I’m trying jogging too but we’ll see if that sticks 🙂

        I made a small donation and plan on updating the TV Tropes page when I finish but please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to support this or future projects.

  12. > She wouldn’t be able to get that image out of her head until she evicted the kid and chedcked over the jacket herself.

    “Chedked” should presumably be “checked”.

    • > “Don’t have one,” Lisa replied, before she could get lost in the flow of information and took too long to respond.

      “Before she could… took too long” doesn’t parse. It should be “Before she could… take too long” to match tense.

  13. Possible period errors:

    “Leviathan, for his part, began tearing into Dragon, clawing away layers of armor with each swipe of his claws, almost uncaring as to the liquid fire that was spilling over him..”

    “The darkness generator folded his arms .”

    • “The crash when when the wave rolled against the side of the building was enough to knock over nearly everyone on the roof.” Double when.

      Writing issue: I feel next to nothing when most of the capes die. If the story is to be printed, I’d perhaps opt for either having an interlude connecting the audience to some of the first causalities/wounded earlier or have some of them do something remarkable enough during this chapter that it stings a bit when they go.

  14. There are two things I love about Worm (well, there are many, but two of them apply here):

    1. Any time we get an outside perspective on Taylor is awesome. This is the first real indication that Taylor is fucking weird in her own way, and I love it.

    2. Thinker abilities. They’re all really interesting and you manage to write the people using those powers really well.

  15. Phrasing (because I can’t justify using the t-word for this one.):
    “It would mean she was alive.” – unnecessary, it was already implied. Would be more subtle without this bit.

  16. “What the enforcers did wasn’t something that few bystanders were willing to dwell on”
    “What the enforcers did was something that few bystanders were willing to dwell on”
    “What the enforcers did wasn’t something that many bystanders were willing to dwell on”

  17. She was the last to arrive. She grinned as she joined the group that had gathered by the entrance to the Trainyards. So these are the people Coil found.

    Well, I’m loving the story, but this confuses me – up to now, it was canon that none of the others initially knew who the real boss was. I had assumed TT used her powers to track down and recruit the others as a proxy for Coil. However, she is the last to arrive, and this paragraph explicitly shows “these are the people Coil found.”

    I suppose there are ways Coil could have found and recruited the others without revealing himself, but I had figured using TT to round them up seemed the most likely, since the others didn’t mention being recruited by anyone. Maybe anonymous phone calls to round them up? Hmmm…

  18. Tattletale refers to “Taylor” in dialogue despite the fact that everyone is in costume in this. Seems like a mistake.

  19. This sentence seems weird: “What the enforcers did wasn’t something that few bystanders were willing to dwell on”. Should “wasn’t” be “was”?

  20. “He was intercepted by three flying capes this time, who harried him with superstrength and the case of one hero, an oversized battle axe.”

    probably should be “superstrength, and in the case”

  21. while a good chapter, i feel that a tattletale interlude would accomplish more at a later time. what do we get here: an outside view of skitter, seeing how tattletale’s power works, some insight on leviathan, a smidgen of insight on grue that was already hinted on, confirming regent’s sociopathy, and some, but not really enough, background on tattle – only showing how she used to live before coil and stating that it was a year or two before the team, and most of all – dread and worry about her fate. i feel much more can be conveyed later, after her full background is stated, when the team has bigger mysteries on their hands, perhaps ever close to the end. most of what you conveyed here can be shown in other means. here would be a great place to give insight on someone who’s about to die in this fight, either at the end of the interlude or even just shown later. it would accomplish an emotional response, push the story forward and save the tattletale interlude for when it can impact more.

  22. >She wouldn’t be able to get that image out of her head until she evicted the kid and chedcked over the jacket herself.

    Chedcked. Ew. wildbow please.

    Also, Tattletale’s latterday narration fluctuates between referring to the protagonist as Skitter and Taylor on several occasions. Not sure if intentional.

    >“Get Ready!” Legend cried out.

    Ah, yes. Fetch me some Ready. I quite like Ready. Would you like some of my Ready? That’s too bad, it’s my Ready, not yours.

    > Leviathan, for his part, began tearing into Dragon, clawing away layers of armor with each swipe of his claws, almost uncaring as to the liquid fire that was spilling over him..

    Extra full stop.

    As a style note, although I’ve been refraining from making these (such as with regards to abuse of the subjunctive mood (which remains frequent as this point)): do try to avoid using ampersands in the place of simple ‘ands’, except if the narration calls for it.

  23. I’ve been assuming that the Endbringers were never human since they were described in terms more detailed than “possibly a supervillain team”, and Tattletale’s power pretty much confirms it. So here’s my guess: They’re pieces of the dying vastness, like Sinspawn from Final Fantasy X, and the powers are the creature giving us mice toothpick-swords with which to defend ourselves.

    Aternately, it could be that all three Endbringers are controlled by one person who can create one of them at a time over the course of a few months, and they’re basically summonable spirits (like I thought Eidolon’s power was until the chapter before this one). Or any of a half-dozen other things I’ve thought of, or a zillion things I haven’t.

  24. > The crash when when the wave rolled against…
    Double “when”

    > She pushed that thought & the emotions that boiled up with it out of her mind and grinned as though she found Regent’s comment amusing.
    She doesn’t know his name at this point. Shouldn’t she be using a euphamism for him instead?

    Reading this story for the 1st time. I can’t stop. It’s so good.

  25. Typo: Chedcked

    “She wouldn’t be able to get that image out of her head until she evicted the kid and chedcked over the jacket herself.

  26. Hey wildbow, I’m reading through for a second time, finally got my husband hooked now that there is an audio version (which is awesome btw)

    Found one more typo: when is repeated.
    The crash when when the wave rolled against the side of the building was enough to knock over nearly everyone on the roof.

    I keep thinking with Hollywoods willingness to go dark with dead pool and HBO’s epic budgets for new universe creation if you have ever considered turning Worm into a screenplay. I would think that Maisy who plays Arya, would be a perfect Taylor 🙂

    • This chapter was posted in 2012 while the in-universe time was 2011, so if Wildbow knew the term, it can’t have been too far off.

      Also, it’s possible that technology adoption rates varied slightly from our world anyway.

  27. Typo

    She wouldn’t be able to get that image out of her head until she evicted the kid and chedcked over the jacket herself.

    chedcked to checked

  28. Typo:

    The crash when when the wave rolled against the side of the building was enough to knock over nearly everyone on the roof.

    Repeated “when”

  29. Uh, wildbow? You do realize that salespeople aren’t allowed to confront supposed shoplifters, right? And that if a sales associate was as hostile to a customer (yes, even one who appeared homeless) as Tasha was to Lisa, they’d be fired on the spot and the customer given a discount?

    Look, I’ve worked retail. I’ve been in the customer service biz for ten years now, and those people behind the counter are not snooty obstacles. They’re more like psychological diapers for every shitty customer they deal with. I’ve had customers demand to see the manager because I told them their coupon was invalid, because I said they couldn’t cut in line, because the computer added up their discounts wrong and they got $7 off instead of $10. And I wasn’t allowed to be shitty back. I had to stand there and smile while they called me all manner of horrible things, and I had to let my manager lecture me about how to properly treat our guests. Because the customer is always right, even when they’re wrong.

    I really, really, REALLY hate the “snooty retail worker” trope, if you haven’t guessed.

    Also, I have two siblings who work security, and they actually have far, far less power than the police. They can detain shoplifters, but can’t arrest them; and if they use physical force, they could very well be written up. So not only did you make that part up, but you forgot about the American media again. If there were glorified mob enforcers prowling a boardwalk shopping center, you can bet some intrepid reporter would disguise themselves as a homeless drifter, hide a bodycam in their hat, and expose those thugs for the whole country to see. Even if that didn’t happen, it would only be a matter of time before an enforcer picked on the wrong customer and got their ass dragged off to prison.


    Oh, and if this chapter was meant to make me see Lisa as anything other than a bitchy little psychopath, it failed. It really, really failed. I hate that little shit even more than I did before–and I loathed her before this interlude.

    • I didn’t realize you and your brothers worked at the Boardwalk in Brockton Bay in Earth Bet… you obviously didn’t work in a high end area where they have the “right to refuse service to anyone”, I’m sure Wildbow could explain this all easier and make a lot more sense but yeah, this isn’t a JCPenny in our Earth, things work differently there

      And every character has flaws in this story save like 2 or 3 people, you aren’t supposed to like everyone, Wildbow doesn’t care if the audience loves or hates TT afaik, everybody is entitled to their opinion

      Even those yours is a little uneducated as you don’t know TT’s past and what she’s been through can, you can still hold that opinion though

  30. Less freak out than I was expecting about the whole “never was a human” thing. Does this apply to all Endbringers? I assume it wouldn’t extend to the telepath at least, considering I see him as a regular scale human with a lot of power. Is Leviathan a creation or an adaptation? Maybe a species that just so happened to have a trigger event, such as an ape? We haven’t seen any inhumans on anywhere near this scale, suggesting Leviathan had an entirely unique event relating to its powers. What’s possible is that Leviathan is not even aware of his powers, as we know his core body has layers of muscle on top, like Bitch’s dogs, or maybe even that he is an essential member of a hero group or society, with no-one able to find out anything about him. Who knows.

  31. In4 Taylor can screw so massively with Leviathan (seeing how some stuff he has is insect like) that he becomed an obediant little follower. I’d laugh my ass off. But this is Worm, so definitly not. No OP or even really good powers for them mc.

  32. (first reading) Wow, the story was so quick to escalate from ‘GTA Gotham’ to freaking Evangelion!

    I was kinda relieved at the end of this interlude. Suddenly getting such an insightful flashback in the middle of a perilous fight isn’t usually a good sign for a character…

  33. I am really happy that we were able to get some background on tattletale. She is a very interesting character to me, but it seemed like she wasn’t really part to the plot that much. It is very interesting to see her in her earlier stages, before joining The Undersiders. When she was still figuring out her powers.

  34. Is those layers increasing durability all the way down? If so by the time you get far in its basically indestructible to even planet busting attacks.
    Or is it just he can only measure the top few layers since he just kinda gets educated guesses and is just extrapolating which may not be the case

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