Extermination 8.3

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As tough or invincible as a given cape might be, most were still hemmed in by the restrictions and boundaries of physics.  Getting hit by something that weighed nearly nine tons sent men, women, boys and girls in costume flying, if it didn’t kill them outright.

Leviathan’s echo added surprising quantities of water to the battlefield.  Every step and movement he made, he filled the space he’d just left with water.  How much water did it take to displace something as big as he was?  However much it was, he created something like three times that amount when he took a single step forward, when you accounted for the space his body moved through.  A hard amount to eyeball, because it had the same momentum his movements had, and some of it crossed great distances as he lunged and clawed his way through the front line of capes.

Sham down, CD-5.  Acoustic deceased, CD-5.  Harsh Mistress down, CD-5.  Resolute deceased, CD-5.  Woebegone down, CD-5

I had to help, somehow.

I pressed both buttons on the armband and spoke into it, “Direct me to the wounded I can help.  I do not have mobility powers.  I am not very strong.  I do have basic first aid training.”

There was a pause, then a female voice, synthesized, just sharp enough to be heard over the noise of lasers, guns and rain, “Acknowledged.”

The response both relieved and terrified me.  I’d halfway expected that to fail.

My armband beeped and flashed, and I saw a red dot on the map, along with an arrow at the edge of the square screen.  As I moved my arm, the arrow adjusted to keep pointing the same way.  It was directing me to near where Leviathan was.

Lashing out with tail and claws, he was advancing steadily through the ranks of defenders.  The occasional strike from a strong hero or one of the ranged combatants slowed him, made him stumble, if it hit in the right spot or pushed him off balance.

I hesitated to get closer.  I hated myself for doing it.  I was here for a reason, to do something.

Legend fired a salvo of lasers at Leviathan, and the beams turned at right angles to strike Leviathan in precise areas, knocking his feet from under him, slamming him down into the road, catching him under the chin.  Leviathan raised a hand, and a geyser of water rose to block more incoming lasers.  Legend’s lasers simply turned at angles to circle around Leviathan, strike the Endbringer from behind.  They left Leviathan so hot that his flesh glowed a yellow-orange around the areas they struck him.

I took the opportunity, found some measure of courage and hurried forward to my target.

There was a leg, half floating, weighed down on one end by a metal boot on the foot.  Someone in a leather costume lay on their back, barely conscious, bleeding from a gash that had opened them from the left hip to their right shoulder, a cloud of blood spilling out in the filthy water that came halfway up to our knees, an inky black color in the gloom.

Icouldn’t help them, as much as it pained me to ignore them, move on.  I had to trust that the armband would direct me to someone I could help.

I found the person my armband was directing me to, some teenage boy with a metallic bird design to his costume, the helmet that covered the upper half of his face looked like a bird’s head, maybe an eagle.  I knelt by him.

There was a crash as Leviathan whipped his tail toward Legend, a blade of water soaring through the air to strike the hero out of the air.  The onslaught of lasers interrupted, Leviathan shifted from a crouch on one side of the road to being the midst of the defending heroes in one fluid motion, resuming the carnage in the span of a heartbeat.

Fierceling deceased, CD-5.  Adamant down, CD-5

He was way too close to me for comfort – a single leap on his part would close the distance to me – but freaking out over it wouldn’t help anyone.  I could only hope that the front line would hold for long enough for me to help this person.

“What can I do?” I asked the bird-costume.

“Leg,” he said, voice strained, “Help me stand.”

His left leg, I realized, was smashed into pulp from the knee down.  I crouched, helped him get his arm over my shoulders, and used my legs to heave both of us into a standing position.  The bird-costume was below average in weight for a teenage guy, but it wasn’t exactly easy.  He was wearing armor.

I might not have been able to get both of us up to a standing position like that if it weren’t for my weeks of running.

He leaned on me heavily with each step forward, and we retreated from the front lines.  Someone with the ability to fly landed not far from me to pick up the man with the gaping wound across his torso, flew off with him.  Two seconds later, a teleporter blinked into existence near us, touching two fallen capes, and disappeared with them and a bathtub’s worth of water.

I wanted to apologize for not having a better power to help this person, but the breath would have been wasted.  It was hard work to help him along, to slog through the water.

The fight was ongoing, with a dozen heroes in Leviathan’s vicinity, more than twenty others shooting at him from range whenever there was a clear shot.  Yet more were on the fringes, to keep him from slipping past the combatants and to take the place of the fallen.  It wasn’t enough – the damage we were doing was negligible and his long strides were advancing him further and faster than the rest of us could back away through the water.  Trash and debris threatened to trip us up with every step we took.  He forced a fighting retreat, moving quickly and often enough to avoid being caught by any concentrated fire.

Our progress was agonizing.  Move too slowly, and we fell behind, move too fast as we waded through the trash-ridden water, and we risked falling, lost precious time.  Had to find the middle ground, and we weren’t moving fast enough even if we did find that sweet spot.  Hell, it would have been kinda difficult even without my burden.

Chubster down, CD-5. Good Neighbor deceased, CD-5.  Hallow deceased, CD-5.

It was Alexandria who speared forward to confront Leviathan.  He saw her coming, ceased his onslaught to rear back and then lunge ahead to meet her.  When they were only fifteen feet apart, he stopped, let his water echo rush forward to meet her.

Anyone else might have been staggered in the face of several tons of water moving forward at the speed of a locomotive.  Alexandria intertwined her fingers, swung her arms forward as though she were holding a baseball bat, and cracked her hands against the image a second before she disappeared headlong into it.  There was a sound like a bomb going off, water spraying everywhere, followed by an earthshaking crash as Alexandria used the crook of her arm to catch Leviathan around the neck and heaved him backwards and onto the ground.

Most of the capes took the chance to retreat and expand the gap between themselves and the Endbringer, firing lasers or sonic blasts or whatever else at him as they retreated.

It was so strange to think I was just like the rest of these people.  Even after all this, the last few long weeks to get used to being in costume, it felt like I was the bystander.  Maybe it was that my power was ineffectual here, in the water and the rain, maybe everyone felt that way.

A flier with fringes of ribbons down the sides of her arms, legs and body landed next to me, “Give him to me.”

We transferred the bird-boy to her grip, and they were gone in an instant.  My armband flashed and pointed me toward the next target.

A series of explosions and a massive collision marked Dragon firing a full salvo of missiles and entering close quarters combat with Leviathan.  Alexandria was gone – no, wait, she was rising from the water, where Leviathan had been holding her down.  Standing, staggering, falling again.  Had he been drowning her?

Dragon began breathing out a stream of what might have been plasma in Leviathan’s face.  From his increased struggles and frenetic clawing at her, I gathered he didn’t like it.  Still, it was doing surprisingly little damage to him.

Leviathan found a point to get a solid grip on Dragon’s armor, and tore off a plate.  His next swipe took off another, and it careened a good twenty feet before landing with a heavy splash, close enough to me that I was caught in the spray.

I hurried to the next target on my armband.  It was a woman witih a white costume, white hair and what was probably skull paint on her face.  It was hard to tell, and not just because of the rain smudging the make-up.  Nearly half her face was torn off.  Glanced by one of Leviathan’s claws, maybe, or caught by the lash of water from his tail.

“Hey,” I shook her gently by the shoulders, “You awake?  You alert?”

Maybe a stupid question.  I didn’t even know if she could talk with her face like that.

A small wave sloshed against us, she sputtered and turned her head, didn’t respond.  That was a ‘no’ to at least one of my questions.  I suspected her condition was a combination of shock and blood loss as much as anything else.

Too heavy for me to lift, and I didn’t have first aid supplies.  Fuck, I could have kicked myself for that.  Anything I did have – epipens, smelling salts – were probably spoiled by the water and the septic conditions.  Not that they would have helped.

I looked up, looked around.  Spotted what I needed.  Someone was manifesting green fireballs in his hands, lobbing them at Leviathan, where they exploded violently.

I rose, hurried to him, keeping low so I didn’t walk face first into anyone’s laser blasts or gunfire.  “Your fire, is it radioactive? Is it anything special, extra dangerous?”

He gave me a look, lobbed another fireball, “It’s fire, it combusts if I concentrate it.”

“Okay.  Great.  I need your help.”

He nodded.

I showed him the woman.  “Blood loss is a problem.  She needs the wound cauterized.”

His eyes widened, “I can’t do that!  Her face-”

“-Is half scraped off.  She’s not going to care about a burn.  There’s nothing close to a clean bandage anywhere here, and she’s going to die if we don’t stop the blood loss.”

Looking a little sick, he nodded, wreathed his hand in flame and then pressed it against the woman’s face.  She pulled away, made a gurgling noise.  I gripped her head and shoulder to keep her in position.

“Come,” I said, after he pulled his hand away, “Help me move her.”

Greenfire – I wasn’t sure on his name, and it didn’t seem the time to ask – hooked one arm under her armpit, I used both hands under the other one, and we hauled her off to one side, into an alley, propped her up sitting.

“I’ll stay here,” Greenfire said, “Keep an eye on her.  You go.”

I nodded, pressed both buttons on the armband and spoke, “Next!”

As we emerged from the alley, there was a massive explosion, five times what had followed when Dragon launched her missiles at Leviathan.  Leviathan reeled – He had a shallow burn along one side of his neck, more on his face, one of the four glowing orbs of eyes were dim, but it wasn’t as much damage as I might have suspected.  He lashed his tail violently, as if in anger, or maybe he intended to use the echo of his tail’s lashing to strike down others, I couldn’t be sure.

It was a contingent of lesser heroes that joined the fray, now.  It was as though the tougher fighters were staggering their attacks, to ensure that just the right amount of force was being exerted to keep Leviathan on his heels, taking the maximum amount of damage while being prevented from taking out too many capes at once.  These three were clearly members of the same team, flying in formations, moving in sync.  Two of them had super strength, and were gripping at the damaged areas of Leviathan’s flesh, tearing, pulling away as he lashed out in response, while the third had a massive battleaxe with what looked like a chainsaw setup on each blade, opening more wounds.  The damage was superficial, only taking off slices of Leviathan’s hide, but surely stripping away his hard exterior would help in the long run?

The armband directed me to someone that was already getting assistance.  An obese cape in armor, getting CPR from a man with a princess-bride style mask over the upper half of his head, a goatee, a chainmail lined mantle and a shotgun three times the normal size.  He didn’t know what he was doing – the fat man’s chin was almost touching his collarbone.

When I moved to take over, Shotgun Westley left without a word, wiping his mouth and unslinging his gun as he ran back to the fray.  I was irritated.

Hew down, CD-5.

It was my first time giving CPR for real.  So much harder than it was in the class, on so many levels.  I don’t know if it was the fat man’s powers, his weight, his armor, or some combination of the three, but it took incredible effort to actually fill his lungs.  Just doing it made me want to gag.  He’d vomited a little at some point, and though I’d wiped it away as best as I could when I was done checking his mouth for blockages, the taste lingered.  The taste of salt water only accented that flavor, sort of the same way table salt did with a cooked meal.

Strapping Lad down, CD-5.  Intrepid down, CD-5.

I was aware of Narwhal stepping into the fray, in my peripheral vision.  She raised her hands, manifesting a dozen forcefields like oversize crystal shards around her, then flicked them forward.  Like guillotine blades, the forcefields raced toward Leviathan, faster than the eye could follow, sunk into his flesh.  Those that glanced off stopped mid-air to turn around, edges against his body, getting in the way of his legs moving.

There was a horrendous crash, I looked up, pausing to catch my breath, saw the remains of a car falling apart around Leviathan.  Another crash, a piece of rubble turning to dust from the speed of the impact.  I couldn’t see through the bodies, but I had an idea of who it was.  Ballistic.

A dumpster hit Leviathan in the upper body with the speed of a bullet, and he folded backward, his shoulders hitting the ground while his legs and feet were still held against the ground by a mess of razor blade forcefields.  Narwhal sent another forcefield flying into his neck, and it cut as deep as any attack had yet.  Blood spilled down from the opened wound, thick, more like ichor than anything I was used to seeing.

I heaved another breath of air into the lungs of the fat man, he sputtered, coughed up a mouthful of dark water.  I knew I was supposed to follow up on the CPR, but there was no way I could move or roll this guy.

Unable to do anything but wait and see if he recovered, I raised my head to watch the continuing battle, feeling just a touch dizzy.

The ranged attack continued.  Miss Militia had a bazooka as long as she was tall, and was firing a series of warheads into Leviathan.  She wasn’t reloading, either.  Between shots, the weapon crackled with energy, fresh ammunition loaded into the chamber by her power.  One projectile fired off each second.

There was the girl with the crossbow, who had been with Shadow Stalker.  She had a teammate next to her, handing her the needle-like bolts from a quiver, was loading them into the large crossbow and firing them as fast as she was able.  More than any other attack, the bolts were stabbing deep into Leviathan.

The attacks were actually having an effect.  He was on the defensive, now, and he was hurting.

We’re winning, I thought.

A flash to my left caught my eye.

It was my armband.  The screen was ringed by a square of yellow, a yellow triangle with a black exclamation mark pointing in Leviathan’s general direction.

People were shouting.  Screaming, Narwhal was moving forcefields up in between us and Leviathan, other forcefields were going up.

“To me!” someone near me shouted.  I turned to look, saw Shielder from New Wave.

Tidal Wave.

The fat man’s eyes weren’t even open, he moved too slowly as I shook him.

There was no helping it.

I gave the fat man one backwards glance, and bolted for Shielder. I mouthed an apology I didn’t have the breath to utter, more for my conscience than for the man I hadn’t saved.

Shielder waited until the last second to erect his cerulean bubble around himself.  I caught a glimpse of one cape, a step too slow, getting trapped on the outside, a half second before the wave hit.  Crushed against the exterior of the solid-light forcefield by the onrushing waters.

I’d been in an earthquake before.  A three on the Richter scale, brief.  I’d been at home, and a check of the house afterward only found a few books knocked off the shelf, a mirror fallen from the wall in the front hall.  This was a hundred times more intense, the water rolling over us, against the nearby buildings, making the ground shudder.

For one brief moment, we were submerged, currents running past Shielder’s bubble.  water in front of us, to either side, behind and above.  Outside the translucent bubble, I saw a massive dark shape zip past us, saw Shielder fall to his knees, as though the force of the water against the bubble in Leviathan’s wake was nearly more than he could bear.

Heavy casualties, please wait, a chorus of identical voices announced, coming from the armbands of those ten or twelve of us in the bubble.  Telling us that we’d just taken losses so heavy that the Dragon’s computer system couldn’t or wouldn’t list them all.

The water surging around us stopped abruptly, evaporated into a mist in a second.  Swirling, the mist began drifting.

Myrddin, working with Eidolon. They stood in the center of the road, Eidolon turning the water into mist, while Myrddin gathered it.  Myrddin’s wooden stick was held aloft, and the mist was forming a sphere the size of a beachball at one end.

Ok, I could almost buy the wizard angle, seeing that.

Leviathan leaped from the roof of a nearby building, landing in the midst of one group that was still reeling from the wave, started tearing through them.

The armbands remained ominously silent, even as I watched the casualties.

Myrddin pointed his staff and launched that orb at Leviathan.  It hit harder than anything yet, and the brute was sent flying into the interior of a nearby building.

“Seal him off!” someone shouted.  Chevalier.  “Make him come back our way!”

Forcefields went up around the exterior of the building.  The building itself bulged and warped as Vista exerted her power, thickened the walls, made the middle floors of the building draw together slightly, a slight hourglass shape.  I saw her, wet and worn out, one hand raised, shouting something I couldn’t make out at one of the out-of-town Wards.  The Ward was speaking into his armband, replaying some message.

Depart from the rooftops, buildings may come down imminently, my armband announced.

Flying capes left the roof of the building, each carrying someone.  They were still leaving as Leviathan lunged through the side of the building and the forcefields that had been reinforcing the walls.  He tried to retreat, was stalled by more forcefields.  I saw a figure on the far side.  Bastion.  The hero who had been in the news over his racist tirade.

Bastion bellowed, “Do it!”

Leviathan lunged, crashed through one barrier, making it shatter like glass, only for another to appear immediately after.  He turned to head our way, was stopped by another.

“Fucking do it!” Bastion called out, barely audible.

The building above him bent and the midsection, unable to support the upper floors, crumbled.  The upper half of the building crashed down atop Leviathan and Bastion.

Vista turned, wrapping her arms around the Ward next to her, burying her face in his shoulder.

“Move forward!” Armsmaster called out, “He’s going to want to escape to recover!  We can not let him!”

Leviathan had more than halved our ranks with the wave.  I could see people face down in the water.  Others were crumped up, their bodies contorted, broken, still.

And the damage to the city was just as bad, in a different way.  I stared at the wreckage, the block and a half of shattered buildings, and saw a looming mess of arches and massive iron beams and girders, unable to comprehend what it was.

It dawned on me.  The PHQ.  The headquarters of our local superteam, tourist attraction, torn from whatever fixtures had rooted it in place, smashed to ruins against our coastline.

The Armband spoke.  Losses are as followsDebaser, Ascendant, Gallant, Zigzag, Prince of Blades, Vitiator, Humble, Halo, Whirlygig, Night, Crusader, Uglymug, Victor, Furrow, Barker, Elegance, Quark, Pelter, Snowflake, Ballistic, Mama Bear, Mister Eminent, Flashbang, Biter…

The names kept coming.  I almost wanted to cover my ears, but not knowing for sure was worse.

…Cloister, Narwhal, Vixen, The Dart, Geomancer, Oaf, Tattletale

The recitation continued, but I was numb to them.  Tattletale?  I started, looked around, as if I could find her.  Where had she been?

No, what I suddenly really wanted to know was what the armband meant by losses.  Were all those people dead?  Was Tattletale dead?  Why wasn’t the armband directing me to help someone?  Was there no point, or were our numbers so reduced we couldn’t afford to?

I could hope it was the latter, but having seen some of the injuries I had, it didn’t make me feel better.  It was almost worse, thinking that Tattletale might by lying somewhere, bleeding out or unable to breathe, not getting help.

“Be ready!” Armsmaster called out.

Leviathan heaved himself up out of the building’s remains in one motion, used his tail to pick up and fling a mess of broken wood, concrete and rebar at us.  Aegis threw himself into the cluster of projectiles, but two capes were struck down by smaller chunks.  A third was folded in half by the arc of water from Leviathan’s tail.

Brigandine deceased, CD-5.

I couldn’t afford to dwell on what might have happened to Tattletale.  I wiped beads of water from the lenses of my mask with my gloved hands, pushed my hair out of my face, and made a note of my bugs.  There were scant few in the way of bugs that could navigate in this storm.  Myrddin had banished the water from the wave, somehow, but the downpour was making the streets flood fast enough that I didn’t trust anything to crawl.  No, my power was dead useless, here.

Leviathan turned around, lashing his tail behind him to cast three lashes of water our way, then crouched.

“He’s running!” someone called out.

Leviathan dashed away from us, fast, only to skid to a stop and turn a corner for cover as Legend, Lady Photon, Laserdream and a half dozen other heroes opened fire from the skies above.

Others had picked themselves up, were moving into the side streets and alleys to follow, intent on cutting him off.  I looked around, glancing over at the injured and wounded, knowing Tattletale was among them.

Eidolon was staying behind, raising his hands, and green sparks began rising from the ground, clustering around Eidolon and the fallen, obscuring them.

A second later, he and half of the bodies that had been scattered around the battlefield disappeared, the sparks blooming outward in twenty small firework explosions.

I took that as my cue to join everyone else in the pursuit.  Eidolon could help the wounded.  I couldn’t, really.

I ran after the others, nearly tripping into a pothole in my hurry.  My armband showed a green icon for Leviathan, and I followed it.

Rounding a corner, I came up at the rear of a small crowd, perilously close to the Endbringer.

Fog was blocking one route, while Sundancer stood at another, her superheated orb between her and Leviathan.  The remaining capes were divided between the other two possible alleys Leviathan might have moved through and the air above him.  Legend was hammering Leviathan down to the pavement with a series of laser blasts.

“Care!” Miss Militia cried out, “Fire in the hole!”

She fired a shot from her grenade launcher, grabbed another grenade with a blinking LED from her vest and loaded it into her gun.  Why?  She’d shown with the bazooka that she didn’t need to load ammunition, hadn’t she?

Then I realized why.  It wasn’t the kind of ammunition you found in normal guns.  The first shot exploded into a mess of golden sticky ribbon, familiar, though it somehow escaped my memory where I’d seen it.  The second exploded in midair, near Leviathan’s shoulder, leaving the tips of the scales and one gaping wound glinting like crystal.  As Leviathan moved to recoil, the edges of the crystal separated from his flesh and seeped with that dark ichor.

The third was a modified explosive I recognized.  It bounced off the ground between Leviathan’s foot and the hand he had planted on the ground, landed a ways behind and to the side of him, and exploded much like any other grenade might.  What I recognized was the shimmer in the air around it, a near perfect sphere encompassing the surrounding area, catching Leviathan’s leg, the end of his tail, part of his waist and stomach.

The explosion made Leviathan rear back, and the water that followed in his wake moved slower in that bubble, slowed down with each passing second.

Leviathan himself wasn’t as affected, and he had one foot and an upper body outside of the bubble to help him pull himself free.  He raised his leg free of the golden string goop and up out of the sphere, lashed his tail toward the crowd I was at the back of, catching three people, entwining the tip around their arms, legs and necks.  He flicked them into the center of the time distortion bubble, where they got caught, unable to make their exit fast enough to avoid being frozen in time.

Jotun deceased, CD-6.  Dauntless deceased, CD-6Alabaster deceased, CD-6.

He lashed his tail, sending out a scythelike blade of water toward the other group, turned and leaped.

Miss Militia down, CD-6.

Fenja and Menja moved to attack him, each tall enough to be at his shoulder level, but Leviathan was quicker.  He darted backward, gripped the side of a building, and turned to run up the wall.  He used his tail to radically adjust the angle of his ascent, hooking it on an open window and swinging himself forward over the edge of the roof, before anyone on the ground could get a bead on him.  Debris fell where his tail had pulled through a section of the wall.

Though he’d disappeared from my line of sight, I saw his afterimage continue rising.  Shielder, floating in the air with the help of his sister, used a forcefield to stop the pair of them from being pulverized.  The shield flickered out of existence a fraction of a second later.  His reserves were exhausted, after helping save me and others from the last wave.  He wasn’t strong enough to take a hit from Leviathan or his afterimage.

Legend fired a barrage of lasers at Leviathan, but the Endbringer was quick to hop to one side, landing on the roof’s edge.  He made a sudden, standing leap a good eighty or a hundred feet into the air, tail extending to reach for the airborne heroes.

The whiplike tail struck Legend, and there was a firework display of light and sparks, Legend tumbling out of the sky, head over heels.  In the same movement, the tail reached for Laserdream and Shielder.

Legend down, CD-6,  The armbands announced, just in time to coincide with Legend hitting the ground.

Laserdream put her own shield up, and I could remember how Photon Mom, Laserdream and Shielder all had the same basic powers.  The difference between them was that while Photon Mom’s powers were well rounded, Shielder had a far, far, better forcefield, almost no flight ability and weak laser blasts.  Laserdream was the opposite… her lasers and flight were good enough, but her forcefield, not so much.

Leviathan wrapped his tail around the spherical forcefield that surrounded the siblings, bringing it and the pair down toward the roof as he fell.  When they were halfway down, the constriction of the tail broke through the forcefield, snaked around Shielder’s body and Laserdream’s arm.

The Endbringer landed on the roof with a shuddering impact and a showering of detritus, crashing through the roof.  He bounded up to the edge of the roof, lunged off it.

I could see it like it was slow motion.  Laserdream’s hand glowed and she fired, using the concussive force of her laser to get her trapped hand free, flew up and back out of the way as Leviathan continued to fall.

Shielder, still in Leviathan’s grip, had his upper body brought down against the ragged edge of the building in passing.

Shielder deceased, CD-6

Laserdream’s ragged scream was like something distant, something I was barely aware of, because Leviathan was landing back in the area where the two alleys met.  He leaped in Sundancer’s direction, caught the ground with the claws of his hands and feet to halt his momentum.  His echo surged forward, some striking the superheated orb, where it blossomed into massive clouds of steam.  The rest went low, catching Sundancer below the waist, sweeping her legs out from under her in one violent rush.  She flipped forward, her upper body colliding with the ground.  The miniature sun winked out of existence.

Sundancer down, CD-6.

Turning on the spot, Leviathan moved his claw, creating a wave with all of the water he’d generated since entering the alley, driving it into one of the two gathered groups.  As those capes stumbled and fell back, Leviathan leaped over the time distortion bubble, landing at the front of the other group.  The group with some of the local wards, Velocity, some of Empire Eighty-Eight, and out-of-town capes I couldn’t name.

The group I was at the rear of.

Someone stepped up to grab him mid-lunge – some woman I didn’t recognize, who Othala was touching.  She was granting this woman some form of invincibility that let her take a hit and not get knocked away by Leviathan.

Invincible though she might be, she couldn’t do anything to stop the afterimage from crashing against and around her, through our assembled ranks.

I was shoved back – not by the water itself, but the tide of bodies that were struck, crushed and thrown by the afterimage.  As I was pushed backward, hard, I was spun by an impact at my shoulder.  My arm slammed against a windowsill, and it exploded with a sharp, jarring pain.  I landed on my back, saw someone else get sent head over heels over the crowd, colliding against the wall with an audible cracking sound, landing limp as a rag doll, a matter of feet from me.  He had a trumpet and a flag on his chest.

Escutcheon deceased, CD-6Herald deceased, CD-6.

Kaiser – I hadn’t even seen him in the group – erected a latticework of blades across the front of the alley, between us and Leviathan.  It wasn’t enough.  Leviathan tore through them like I might tear through a wicker basket.  Edged pieces of steel spun through the air and clattered to the ground.

Kaiser changed tactics, creating columns of steel instead, each three or four feet across, harder to shatter.  They were slower to emerge, but they bent rather than broke.

Leviathan responded by pushing.  He exerted his full strength on the barrier of blades and the columns, leaning against them.  The walls broke around the base of the columns, and the pieces of steel fell.

A stab of pain from my arm reminded me I was hurt.  Fuck, it hurt a lot.  It throbbed, and each throb seemed to be worse than the last.  I felt shaky as I used my good arm to stand.

Leviathan didn’t make noise.  I kept expecting a roar, or hiss, or something, but Leviathan was dead silent.  I somehow imagined a victorious howl as he broke through the barrier, crouched, and lunged into the crowd.

He stopped, and I thought he was using his afterimage, halting so it could rush forward, but even the watery echo stopped a second after it appeared, only the very edges of it continuing forward to crash violently against the sides of the alley.

For several long heartbeats, it was nearly quiet, but for the sound of rain, people’s noises of pain, mine included, and the sound of one of Kaiser’s iron columns ripping free of the wall and falling atop a pile of blades.

It took me a second to realize what had happened.  Leviathan hung frozen mid-pounce, and his emerging afterimage similarly stood there, frozen in time.  In the midst of the afterimage was Clockblocker, half-immersed in water.

“Someone get him out of there!  He’s going to suffocate!” I shouted, my voice made that much more edgier and strained by the pain I was in.  My voice, though, coincided with no less than five other cries, all rising to be heard over everyone else.  Trap Leviathan, contain him, use more of those grenades to get him before he got free.  Someone was even shooting arcs of lighting at Leviathan’s frozen form.  Too many commands from too many people who hadn’t fought with or against Clockblocker, who didn’t know how his power worked, who had conflicting ideas on what we had to do.

This chaos would fuck us over, keep us from accomplishing anything before Leviathan got free.  We needed order, and most of the people who could have given it to us were out of action or nowhere nearby.

The armbands.  Armsmaster had said it prioritized orders based on need.

My left arm hung by my side, and I couldn’t even bring myself to raise it.  Just gravity and the weight of my hand pulling down on it was excruciating.  The idea of pressing the buttons was too much.

I reached for the person next to me, grabbed her wrist.  Some woman with a crescent moon on a blue costume.  She gave me a startled look with a lost, shellshocked expression.  When I first pressed against the  communications button, she moved her arm, as if she thought I was guiding her movements.

“Stay still!” I snarled at her.  When I pressed again, depressing the two buttons with my pinky finger and thumb, she held her arm firm.

I shouted into the armband, “Clockblocker down, CD-6!  Need a teleporter to get him free, stat!”

The time freezing effect of Clockblocker’s power lasted anywhere from thirty seconds to ten minutes.  How long had we spent, here, since Clockblocker had given us this momentary reprieve?  It was hard to judge the passage of time with the adrenaline, the frenetic pace of the ongoing battle.

Trickster appeared in the place of the blue moon Woman, tipped his hat at me.

“Clockblocker, in there,” I pointed with my good hand.

Trickster frowned, looked around.

“I apologize for desecrating your body, brave hero,” he spoke, looking down at where the cape with the trumpet icon on his chest had flopped, dead.  “You do good work even in death.”

Was he mentally cracked?  Was he serious or was he playing around?  I suspected the latter, but kidding around and wasting time in a situation like this?

In a second, the cape was replaced by an unconscious Clockblocker.  The pane of his helmet was cracked and leaking a trail of blood.  I bent down to examine him, was pushed out of the way by someone else.  Some woman with a costume that outlined her bones, like a really good version of the skeleton costumes you saw on Halloween.  She began using her fingers to check Clockblocker’s neck, and I couldn’t help but suspect she was a doctor.

“Listen!” the voice that cut through the shouts and the frantic chatter was authoritative, strong.

Armsmaster.  He had Myrddin, Eidolon and Chevalier just behind him.  People turned to listen, myself included.

“He’s torn through our front line, he’s taken down some of our best, and he’s deliberately targeted and eliminated most of the capes who were in Bastion’s group.  We have precious few left who can take a hit from this creature and survive it, and we’re running low on those who can wall off another tidal wave or block his path.

“We’re not going to be able to go on with Plan A.”  The words hung in the air.

“This brute is hurt, but we don’t have the resources to hold him down while we hurt him any more.  We’re too tightly packed, like this, and it’s too easy for him to take us down in droves.   Two or three more minutes of this, and there won’t be any of us left.”

Armsmaster turned, looked up at where Leviathan stood, frozen.  He pointed up at the Endbringer with his Halberd.  “We spread out.  The second this beast is free, he’s going to look for a way out, to run and heal up what we’ve done to him.   So we cut him off, we slow him down and keep him from getting to any areas where he can do real damage.

“Eidolon is going to leave, do what he can to minimize the damage from the waves and ensure the rest of the city doesn’t get leveled while we’re fighting here.  The rest of us are going to slow Leviathan down best we can, take any opportunities we can to hurt the motherfucker.  In just a second, we’re going to organize you guys, put the toughest and strongest closest to this bastard, space out the people who can hurt him, get the weakest ones positioned to pass on word if they see him slip past us.

“This is our plan B.  We stall, from here on out we prioritize survival over putting this abomination down, and we fucking pray that Scion notices there’s an Endbringer around and shows up before this city and everyone in it is a memory.”

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

125 thoughts on “Extermination 8.3

  1. They need a motion-activated atomic demolition charge strapped onto Leviathan’s neck. I doubt even an Endbringer could survive 60+ billion bar of pressure and 2,5 million degrees from a point-blank kiloton-range nuclear explosion.

    • I find it amusing how well suspension of disbelief works sometimes. Here we have Belial666 who keeps pondering about the physics of things the characters could use… in a story where lasers can turn in the air and have concussive force. I think this speaks of some pretty good immersion.

      • After a certain point of energy passes even light will gain mass, and as particles they vibrate whos to say they can’t control that?

      • Just going to point out that photons do actually exert a pressure in reality, and that pressure is a significant factor in supporting the structure of stars. Also light does bend in a gravity well and so it is theoretically possible for lasers to turn in air as well if the person manipulates space-time to accomplish it.

    • I can’t presume to know Wildbow’s reasons, beyond Fantasy Gun Control and the general superhero “comic” ethos, but deploying (mundane) nuclear weapons against Leviathan would not be easy. For the record, IANANWE (I Am Not A Nuclear Weapons Expert), so if Belial is one, I apologize in advance.

      The idea of a “limpet nuke” is probably impractical, for the simple reason that nuclear weapons are actually quite fragile: in order for one not to fizzle, a bunch of very precisely spaced components have to go off with nanosecond timing, so if the device gets hit by Leviathan’s tail and/or its afterimage before it goes off, it will probably be knocked out of order.

      Using nuclear weapons on it after it reached the city would probably do more damage to defenders than to it. (Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if the government had a contingency plan to carpet-nuke an area if an Endbringer prevails over the capes.)

      This leaves a very small window in which they could be effectively used on Leviathan in particular: while it was still at sea. In that time, they would have to do quite a few things. 1) Scramble and authorize nearby nuclear bombers and/or surface launchers and/or submarines. 2) Make a plan of attack, taking into account where Leviathan is, the local geography, etc.. 3) Any nearby superheros or civilians would need to dig in. 4) They would need to deliver the warheads to the Leviathan, intact, through Leviathan’s defenses, without spoking it and making it dive. That seems like it would require a lot more trust and coordination than the Protectorate and the governments are capable of. Also, AFAIK, most of US nuclear arsenal is strategic, not tactical, and it might not be possible to repurpose the available nuclear assets in 10 minutes, when a mistake means wiping out your defense force.

      The actual blasts would probably have to be initiated some distance from the Leviathan, since it’s not clear how much beating they can take from Leviathan-induced weather, and that would diminish their effectiveness per the Inverse-Square Law, especially since water can ablate heat very, very well, and Leviathan has a layer of tungsten, which can stop radiation very, very well.

      Also, the EMP from the blasts could disrupt communication among the capes.

      The good news is that prevailing winds would have carried the fallout out to the Atlantic Ocean rather than over populated areas, and what little radiation exposure the superheroes received could have been cured by Panacea, and most modern nuclear weapons have variable yield, so they could be configured to avoid too much collateral damage. And, while the water cover reduced damage to the Leviathan, a blast “behind” Leviathan would have the water around it shielding the defenders and the city. Lastly, there were probably clever ways to combine and coordinate superhero powers (e.g., Clockblocker) with nuclear weapons that would amplify their effectiveness, but my sense is that that would require a lot of trust, practice, and a casual attitude towards tactical nuclear weapons.

      • I think that a more casual attitude towards tactical nukes would be way easier to come by in a world of Endbringers. -> this would be close to standard equipment at major sea side cities (considering the amount of nukes available in the world currently, not seeing any use). Leviathan already killed 9.5M. That is more people than a lot of cities can muster. The tradeoff (city for Endbringer) is probably worth it even in a short span of time (less than 10 years).

        • Considering the current distribution of nuclear weapons around the world, it’s unlikely for most countries to have the power to operate tactical nukes.

          Capes mean more chaos/uncertainty but not less sovereignty for states, and while nuking an Endbringer may count as a reasonable course of action, in what world would USA pre-authorize Cuba/Iran/North Korea and other ‘rogue’ states to develop the weapons?

        • “‘We’ transferred the bird-boy to her grip, and they were gone in an instant.”

          “As ‘we’ emerged from the alley, there was a massive explosion”

          Two instances where ‘we’ was used instead of ‘I’ despite Taylor’s lack of company. Is she counting the bugs and/or the wrist gadget(Dragon)?

    • I wonder why they didn’t just take another of Bakuda’s time bombs and evacuate the area around Leviathan before setting it off. I’m guessing they ran out, or that all of them were unretrievable due to Miss Militia carrying them all and getting swept…somewhere..

    • Well, remember his most vulnerable organs are covered in deep layers of skin, each twice as durable as the next, eclipsing any known material past 3% of the way in. I imagine you’ll find neutron star-like matter if you dig a little deeper, and past that stuff so dense it’s impossible to hypothesize any theoretical reality where it can exist, let alone existing without flattening the Earth into the stuff of hologram theory.

      We’ve passed the point where any problems can be solved with sufficiently large explosions is what I’m saying. We passed it around the time we saw someone with a human brain receiving and processing the signals of every insect within a city block radius’ nervous system simultaneously, I think

      • Yes, everyone seems to forget that each layer has the approximate HARDNESS of the various metals that Tattletale named; they are NOT ACTUALLY MADE OF THOSE METALS. In addition, each layer, as you stated, is about twice as hard to physically destroy…

  2. Yes, yes, Belial fall down, go boom.

    Plan B isn’t a particularly good plan, I see, but it’s difficult to plan this stuff out when you don’t know who is going to show up to the party. I still wish there was something Skitter could pull off against this thing, but I guess this kind of hopelessness is a major part of what this one is about.

    I bet there’s going to be some major changes considering all the capes that got put on liquid ice by Leviathan. Poor Herald’s even sleeping with the fishes now too. SuperKumar just isn’t going to be able to forgive himself about this one.

    Heck, talking about seeing some sudden energy thingy by Miss Militia reminded me of the thing where Scion first appeared. Didn’t the guy he touch get turned into a super too? Scion might be something, some godlike entity, that can’t manifest into our world of matter quite so easily, and so creates the capacity for superpower in others here so they may stall until he can.

    Alternative scenario: who the hell knows?

    I was surprised to see he could even get free of a time grenade. I wasn’t sure how those would work exactly in terms of the freezing. Was kinda hoping he’d have left a major chunk of himself behind in some sort of timeless bubble. If he did, I apologize and need sleep.

    Hey, maybe Skitter could try to pull a huge number of burrowing bugs and go to town on those eyes of Leviathan’s. Hold on tight, ants.

    Now, Armsmaster, at this time I have a few songs to recommend to you. Iron Maiden’s Ace’s High would have worked earlier in the battle, but now I’d suggest The Number of the Beast followed by The Trooper, at which point you’ll die. If you’ve heard The Trooper before, that won’t be much of a surprise. Then, if you win and survive, I suggest the happiest song on earth that is oddly very appropriate for this battle too: It’s Raining Men.

    Ooh, and if Tattletale is down for the longest 10 count, that means Taylor might have to explain to her dad why Lisa’s not around, leading to the discovery of Taylor’s other life as Skitter, bane of the Oreck Man.

    And we still haven’t seen the aquifer come into play.

    • Honestly; from the get-go of this fight it seems Skitter should have lived up to her name. That Shielder and Clockblocker weren’t carried in first thing (accompanied by the tunes of Danger Zone) is, in hindsight, weird. The battle had probably been a lot better for the Capes had they started off with 30s to 10minutes of free Leviathan trapping.

      Vista probably also had a good chance of diminishing the effects of the afterimages.

      A lot of bug poisons will not work on his physiology.. I’m still curious as to wether Taylor could pull sea critters to her aid.

      The time grenade has a slow effect which marks which area is about to be out of it (time that is).

      This arc is still in its infant stages. Aquifer fun is probably this arc going through puberty: something terrible that you know will happen, but hope will turn out differently, just this one time. Think Sundancer could have made it, if she had been flat on her belly, minisun close the ground?

  3. I was surprised to discover Night on the list of downed capes. I thought that she was invulnerable, for some reason.

    Anyway, I thought it was suspicious that Clockblocker was suspended in the echo. Just further evidence that maybe the “echoes” are more than simply water. I mean, his powers are affected by the Mazzon effect, right? Can’t remember for sure.

    • Nevermind, apparently he can work his mojo both ways. Still, he was able to freeze Leviathan. There’s almost no chance that he could’ve actually touched him (unless someone teleported him in and then left him, I suppose), so it’s likely he only touched the echo and was still able to freeze the beast.

    • Night is invulnerable or at least very tough when she’s a terrifying monster. She’s only a terrifying monster when no humans are looking at her. All it would take to put her down is for a wave to smash her out of whatever concealment (like Fog’s power) she was using to transform and then crack her against a building hard.

  4. Lack of organization is the problem here. They are not disorganized enough to have problems with friendly fire, but they could use combos of abilities if they had thought on it before.
    Of course, this is why Leviathan does not stop. He keeps pushing, avoiding clusters of powerful heroes and keeping the heroes disorganized.
    Thinking about combos, could panaceia use her powers trough Taylor`s bugs? Since she disrupted Taylor´s powers I keep wondering.

      • Well, mass healing would save a lot of problems and this point in the plot.
        Actually, this reminds me of that RPG game where you are almost loosing the tanks (Paladin, Fighter, …), the mage is out of spells but the big enemy boss is hurt. A mass healing solves the problem nicely.

  5. It would be nice to have bugs in the middle of a flood, but I don’t think Taylor is that lucky. And Leviathan seems to move a little too fast to target with major weapons, like missles and nukes, and it would be hard to find a substance that can pierce and stay inside him. Critter is fast and durable — Scion needs a cell phone.

    Too bad Superman’s in a different universe, though I don’t know what he’d do against this bruiser either. Hit it at the speed of light and destroy a city for the sake of the world?

    • Probably something more like carrying it into space.

      Thank you very much for the WFG review, by the way. Really made my day, GSW. Not just the praise, but also that someone actually said, “Oh hey, the title makes sense.” After hearing from people that they were scratching their heads about it, I was starting to wonder, haha.

      • I had fun structuring the review so that I showed how various different definitions of the word “worm” applied to the story: powers, Taylor’s character and perception by other characters, her role as a mole in the Undersiders, the way good vs. evil worms its way into character development, and the way the story grows on a reader. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had writing a review just because of the layers of metaphor you’ve created in the story. I haven’t seen that much structure in a web-serial since No Man an Island, and I planned that sucker’s layers for years.

        Kind of totally begs the question why “Skitter” is such a lame name when the rest of the story is so well-designed.😛

      • Ah, yeah. ‘Skitter’.

        I think I mentioned it in a previous comment somewhere, but there’s a few reasons:

        1) I tried and couldn’t come up with anything great. Like Taylor complains to Armsmaster in their first meeting, it’s heck to find a bug-themed superhero name that isn’t incredibly dorky, incredibly lame and/or already taken. Taylor’s a case of bottom-up design… designing the character, the background, the motivations and everything first, then working up to the surface elements, like the cape name. Problem with this design approach is that while it creates a very organic character, you run into issues where the surface elements aren’t quite as polished & ‘together’, as natural as the rationale for them being off might be… and that works for Taylor.

        2) I planned to make it something where readers could participate, offer their own ideas. I did not have enough readers by the time that subject of discussion came up. Not much more to say here. Probably my first real miscalculation.

        3) It actually works on a few levels that Taylor didn’t get to pick her name and that it’s not one she loves. Can’t really comment much further here. Sorta spoilery and/or conclusions I’d want the reader to come to on their own.

      • I like the name Skitter a lot. It is a name she git pinned with by people who hated her but who could get away with an obvious joke name- it is the superhero equivalent of the shit that bullies do in school assigning nicknames they can get away with calling someone.

      • Like with this character I roleplayed, crazy gas mask wearing person who used chemical bombs. The newspapers wanted to call her The Mad Gasser.

        See, that’s why you gotta sign your crimes. Next bomb involved a slight public appearance at a thoroughly gassed church. Fittingly enough, the number of victims involved also made the character a mass murderer.

        Just like the attack at the diner wound up getting her classified as a serial killer as well. Say it out loud…now you got it!

        It’s a clear case of “Who do I have to kill around here to get a good name?!”

  6. If Leviathan has a nonhuman nervous system, I wonder if Skitter’s powers could affect him at all. He reacts to things, so it seems like he has a nerve net; like an echinoderm.

    Or does she only affect animals with an arthropod brain?

  7. I think the fact that “Skitter” is not a name Taylor picked means that if she ever “reboots” as a hero or moves to another place to start over, she can come up with a better name. I was mostly being facetious in that the story is so good that the only thing I can poke fun at is her name not being as cool as the rest of the story.

    • I still like “Myriad” for her.

      But I, too, am quite a fan of the way in which Skitter was attached to her. It makes a lot of sense to me that many neophyte villains will end up not choosing their own name, unless public image is something they consider and plan for to start with. It also makes a lot of sense for Taylor.

      Hm. Not much for me to contribute here, but wanted to express my deep satisfaction with this particular circumstance in the story. It’s one of my favorite details thus far, and I quite liked seeing the label attached to her for the first time during that Interlude.

  8. 1) Light does have momentum and can impart “concussive force” in real life. And in addition to the momentum and “concussive force” it has naturally on its own, when a very high energy beam hits a surface that absorbs it, it tends to explosively vaporize the first few upper layers, the explosion pushing or even breaking the target to pieces. In fact, lasers can impart enough “concussive force” that way that they are used in inertial containment fusion; crushing a piece of solid hydrogen with enough pressure to rival the heart of a star… and jump-start the fusion process.

    2) It takes less energy to turn a beam of radiation up to 90 degrees than it takes to create a new one. So if you have both options, it makes sense to actually turn the existing beam. As for how one could create and turn radiation, this is where suspension of disbelief applies. OTOH, someone shooting energy beams is no harder to explain than how gravity really works – it might even be easier.

    3) Regarding the story’s title, when I was searching for a new superhero serial to read, I checked this one out because it had a weird title. I wanted to see how the name came to be and that had me reading the first couple of chapters. And by then, I was hooked.

    • In regards to 3)
      Radiation can easily be redirected by using a small but deep gravity well. Give Legend a secondary power where he can create small concentrations of mass for a few nanoseconds (using virtual particles from the background quantum foam or direct conversion of energy into gravitons) and Bob is your pimp-slapping-physics uncle.🙂

  9. Only now I realise that electricaly based attacks would do a lot of damage to Leviathan. Where do we find a power plant with a thick electrical cable when we need it?

  10. I just would like to see her at some point choose her own name but that’s because of the importance of “identity statements” in literature. At this juncture in the story her identity is in flux, and usually determined by other people — it skitters around aimlessly. Once Taylor chooses her own direction and destiny, I think a name change would be appropriate.

    Some options:

    Colony, Infestation, Locust, Hive, Chitin, Metamorphosis, Pest, The Entomologist, Scarab, The Ladybug, The Butterfly, Mantis (if she gave her costume a theme) Slither, Creep, Queen Bee, Insidious (if she becomes a real villain), Wile or Wily.

    • I’d go with Gadfly, as it has some associations that work for her as well. The Swarm works as a more ominous sounding name. Pestilence isn’t so bad either. Mayfly sounds nice and is buggy as well.

      • Depends on what you’re going for. Hard to name heroic ones.

        Villainous? Plague Eight, Swarmchild, The Host.

        But how many really fit Taylor as a person? That’s the problem with doing the personality first and the name last.

      • So this discussion has got me thinking as to what sort of name Taylor might choose for herself, rather than what name I’d like to dress her up with. I’ve even done some research (not much) because I think Taylor would do the same. (She’d probably actually draw her name from research she’s already done.)

        Here’s my candidate: Vicereine.

        A distinctive, recognizable word, the feminine form of viceroy. But why is it appropriate?

        It starts with the Viceroy butterfly. First off, this is a swarming/migratory butterfly, so it has that obvious connection. Secondly, the Viceroy butterfly was once thought to be a Batesian mimic of the monarch butterfly. That is, the non-poisonous Viceroy mimics the poisonous Monarch’s coloration to scare off predators. It has since been discovered that the Viceroy is not a Batesian mimic; it has a poison of its own. This makes for a pretty neat parallel with her introduction to being a cape and the events of this first book. It also makes a neat sort of statement about her power. She’s definitely shown herself to be aware that she’s taken her second-rate power against some first-rate capes (adjust those ordinals as necessary for proper scaling), and picking an insect that was falsely labelled a Batesian mimic is a subtle assertion that she is a threat to be reckoned with despite initial assumptions.

        Next, consider the non-entomological meaning of viceroy. It is a position of power and authority, so it recalls the command-and-control aspect of her power. However, the viceroy is by definition not the highest authority in any power structure. This seems like a position that Taylor is comfortable with. She’s capable of working effectively in a team, and her tactical competence and awareness can even leave her in the position of dictating a group’s strategy, but she shies away from nominal leadership.

        Then again, the political meaning might be a strike against the name, since the position she turned down in Coil’s organization would functionally have been that of a vicereine, governing a region on behalf of a greater power.

      • Bug. Just plain Bug. She’s an unpretentious person.
        The series could be called Bug too, actually I don’t know why it isn’t. Gavin could have come up with a layer of associations for that too 😉

      • I’ve thought Bug would be good myself.

        It was used for a character in Jack Kirby’s New Gods, but that’s not so well known that I’d regard the name as taken (unlike Superman or Captain America, for example).

  11. God, this is intense. When this is all over, it’s going to change the Brockton Bay game completely. All these different warring factions of capes have had their ranks thinned out so severely that it must have tipped the scales somehow as far as which group is most powerful.

    • I’d venture that killing off a bunch of supers would relatively strengthen the faction that mainly employs baseline soldiers – that is, Coil.

      • While simultaneously thinning out the national and local hero and supervillain population, even if the Travelers are working for him as well.

        There’s also the aftermath to think about. After the earthquake in Kobe, Japan in 1995, the government wasn’t moving in to help people as fast as they could have. The gap was filled by the Yakuza, who got in there and started handing out medicine, food, and water. Apparently they even came down in helicopters to pass out blankets. I don’t care how criminal you are, that kind of thing buys you a lot of goodwill with the populace and a lot of potential recruits, fronts, and safe houses.

        If Coil’s people don’t want to be so nice, I’m sure they can just set up people to act as loan sharks to cover all the things insurance won’t cover. They might have slightly altered insurance coverage to account for superhumans, but most of your policies out there don’t cover floods, warfare, or terrorism. Brockton Bay might have some people with flood coverage due to close proximity to the water, but most people won’t. Most people in apartments won’t be able to make a claim over their damaged valuables just because they might not even have content coverage. Then, they mention it was caused by a flood? Denial. Or if a person lost their house because the tidal wave picked up something, like a bus, and smashed it into the house? Not covered, since it wasn’t only the water that caused the damage.

        It’s also clear Coil has his hands in at least one construction company. There’s going to be a lot of rebuilding done after this is all done, with a lot of potential for taking money off the top. Heck, if the mayor’s office needs rebuilding, Coil’s guys can build bugs right into the rooms. He can also easily speed up construction on his own place, seeing as there’ll likely be enough utility malfunctions after all this that any caused by his wiring and plumbing jobs will just seem to be just some of that.

        It also might mean a temporary boost to the economy in general, both as more people are put to work locally handling the crisis, and more people come to Brockton Bay to help deal with it, bringing their wallets. Doesn’t matter if they’re a manager in FEMA or a contractor looking for work, they’ll bring money, yummy, delicious money!

        Also, if Coil is having any problems greasing political palms in the city, things will get easier for him to buy people. When bad things happen, like weather or a favorite sports team losing, people tend to vote against incumbents in politics. Yeah, that’s all it takes for some people, because they feel bad in general and when they go to vote, they blame feeling bad on the guy in charge. They don’t blame the team losing on them, it’s just that they’re primed to be in a bad mood. The result of this is that politicians may need a little more financial help to hold onto their positions than in the past, or sponsoring your own person has a higher chance of working.

        • This is called the broken window fallacy. The destruction ends or prevents as much economic activity as it stimulates, it is just less obvious. The destruction is pure loss, and rebuilding comes at the expense of other investment.

      • Exactly right.

        I’ve been thinking since Leviathan appeared that once everything was over, the capes would be in much, much worse shape. With Coil’s men not involved in the battle, and Coil far away from it, even with a total success, he comes out relatively unscathed while Empire Eighty Eight and the local hero teams will have sustained major losses at best.

        It’s going to be interesting, and by interesting, I suspect I mean unpleasant.

  12. Incidentally, Taylor really needs to raise a swarm of fleas she can keep in a bag and let loose at the next superhero gathering. Would work a lot better than the bracelet to keep track of everyone…

    • Fleas? Too big. Dust mites is the way to go. And the care and feeding is way easier.

      And speaking of which, why hasn’t she noticed the thousands of skin and follicle mites that crawl all over people all the time? I can only assume they are so common that they are equivalent to background noise, filtered out unconsciously. But if she really opened up her bug sense, she could probably build up a pretty good 3-D “image” of every person within her range.

      • I believe we get WoW on this in the comments later on, but this is the first mention of this possibility, and I figure I’ll clear it up for new readers. As it turns out, dust mites and the like are too small for Taylor’s power to affect.

  13. Whoa…. again.
    What a tour-de-force(?) And Tattletale dead? 8::(

    It’s beginning to get…. unreal, even in the context of the story itself. And I’m losing a lot of respect for the cape’s organization capabilities – that was their Plan A, after having fought that creature several times? Poor… They act like a bunch of thrown-together individuals, which is true for the by and large amount of them but at least some subgroups must have have (had) experiences in acting as a team. And these teams are being taken out with a swish of a tail, literally. Leviathan is fast, nearly invulnerable and strong, but he/it cannot fly, so the fliers and energy-throwers could blind him/it, while the remote-force-filed-creators could knock him out of balance, all being carried by fliers if needed and acting from a safe distance. Also, nobody needs to hold back, so how about impaling his/its eyes with needle-thin force fields? Somehow it felt like some of them were not giving all they could have….

    But I think I lost my suspension of disbelief at the point when Leviathan freed himself from the effect of the time distortion grenade without loosing a limb or ripping the whole time distortion “ball” out of the ground. Even if the time distortion would not cause damage to his/its body – it should have: Blood flowing in but not out and similar things – after flinging some capes into the effect using his/its tail – which was partly trapped by the effect at that time – he/it was suddenly free of it. I literally could not believe it.

    Oh and – the name. Bug, obviously. The whole story started to get rolling when Tattletale addressed Taylor as “Bug”. But Myriad would be my favorite if Taylor would (need to) come up with a new name.

    (After having read this far and giving it another thought once in a while (every few pages in average), I’m still wondering about “Worm”. Taylor’s powers are not about worms, they are about insects. The “mole” job she intended to do on the Undersiders also does not connect to “Worm” in my perception. Is Taylor “worming through” a certain problem, her personal development included? I don’t see that: She’s developing, but rather by taking chances and reacting to her environment instead of slowly digging through it.
    But there my be something in the future that will fit to “Worm”. At least that’s what I’m hoping for…)

    • Few things:

      No reason to assume Leviathan would be crippled by blinding. He spends most of his time in the deep (and pitch black) ocean, after all.

      Impaling something whose layers get exponentially tougher as you go inwards is unlikely to work all that well (see above for why “attack the eyes” is probably not a winning play) and only Narwhal is capable of even attempting it with forcefields since she’s the only field user present who can bypass the Manton Effect (that we know of, but that’d be a pretty big reveal so it would probably come up in text.)

      Skitter’s powers do work on worms (and crustaceans and other creatures with simple nervous systems.)

      As to the time distortion thing, the text was pretty clear that time hadn’t stopped in the distortion when Leviathan broke free of it, it was only beginning to stop. Apparently, however Bakuda built that bomb, it allowed for breaking oneself free in the early stages of the effect. If we’re going to accept the idea of a time distortion bomb in the first place, are we really in any position to quibble over how exactly it works?

      • Further proof that the time distortion effect doesn’t immediately kick in is during the fight with Bakuda. The Undersiders are -inside- the blast radius and only just barely manage to escape it before the time freeze fully sets in.

  14. “Icouldn’t help them, as much as it pained me to ignore them, move on.”

    Should be a space between “I” and “couldn’t”, and I’m not sure about the grammar at the end.

  15. It must be annoying for the author to think of all these cool superhero names and then kill half of them off immediately.
    Epic battle. You really get the feeling of the utter hopelessness when all you can really do is slow it down and deal miniscule damage.

  16. Will we ever see how the PRT dealt with the stasis bubbles created with Bakuda’s weaponry? From what she’d said, it sounded like at least a few had been set off, and another one was used here, with Jotun, Dauntless, and Alabaster stuck in it no less!

  17. Oh dear. An important secondary character in my embryonic Worm fanfic is called Mama Bear, and here I see that name in the casualty list.

    I guess I either change the name, or assume she goes on to help the defence of BB after the events of my fic are finished.

  18. Ok, so I really like Leviathon’s design, very cool, well made and original power set. Also like the battle as well.
    But a couple of things have been bothering me more and more:
    A. Where is the military? B. If anti-tank rounds aren’t killing it, how the heck are 99% of the capes there hurting it?

    Sure, there was only a few hours prep time and the weather is too bad for non-nuclear air support unless you’re going for a full carpet bombing in the hope of a good hit, but couldn’t the capes teleport in some heavy weaponry? Couldn’t a cruise missile be guided in to kill it?

    The second issue is that super-strength would need to be far far beyond the “bones are wet tissue paper to me” level to do non-superficial damage to something that can take a HEAT round (given how light the Leviathon is, it isn’t deflecting that by mass, which means hardness in the region of a hundred to a thousand times that of aluminium) and not have a big hole in it. Let alone a chainsaw axe scratching it.

    But then again, maybe comic book physics (which is partially the result of a runaway Worf Effect throughout popular culture) is in effect? ie. weapon explosions massively underestimated, shrapnel non-existent, attacks within easy human comprehension overstated (such as superstrength punches, blades and flying cars), bullets penetration underestimated, steel underestimated, shockwave effects ignored, ect.


    • Yeah, it’s strange. Super hero stories and action movies work with a reversed view on the effectiveness of kicks/punches to gun shots (neither seem to understand quite how dangerous ‘nades are). In Super Hero stories, way too many are punching (why don’t someone snipe Cyclops?! or Hawk-eye?) and in Action Movies they can take way too many bare-knuckled punches (and bat/shovels etc. to the face).

    • The army couldn’t get there in time, even if they could Leviathan is just that tough, the capes who are hurting it have powers that are massively more effective than conventional weapons in terms of concentrated damage output.

      Pick your excuse really, it’s not all just because of comic physics.

      Also, Leviathan isn’t light, he’s fast because he’s instinctively using his hydrokinesis on his echo or when submerged to propel himself at utterly ridiculous speeds.

  19. Okay so from the list of those down which was like 30ish and from Taylor saying over half had been down the original count was way over 60 capes, here’s what I don’t understand, how are they doing better with half their number? They only started doing damage well after they had lost half their capes, that means that HE WAS NOT WEAKENED, so there was absolutely no reason that damage could have been dealt later but not earlier.

    To expand on this point, in a classic 1 vs 1 fight both players start out strong, you hit your hardest and you can take as much as you’ll ever take, over the course of the fight you get weaker, your punches hit for less and you can’t take as much punch. This is okay because your opponent also does that, which is why in cases like in Lung and here it makes no fucking sense that you would win later than earlier. Nothing has changed, with Lung it was obvious that Kaiser was toying with him since he waited for him to be really big. Here this makes no sense, it’s an all out attack, why is he taking more damage later on? He’s not a human he’s not getting weaker or less strong as the fight goes on until you do real damage which didn’t happen until way later. Why weren’t the grenades used to open his shoulder way earlier, why didn’t Sundancer just fly her sun into him way earlier?

    Also, this is like what 75% of the Proctectrate I don’t really know but all the major players anyway, why don’t they contact the rest of the world’s capes, teleporters could get huge amounts of capes (it said somewhere else that 3rd world countries had way more capes than 1st). Also, why aren’t villains wrecking Boston and New York with no capes or wards there to stop them?

    • We have no idea if the Leviathan gets tired or not; we don’t know it’s energy consumption nor source. I know this is perhaps an easy way to let the drama build, but really: unlike Lung we have a VERY limited understanding of how the Endbringers work. Only thing they know is that so far the Endbringers have (mostly) retreated after having been engaged in combat for prolonged phases of time.

    • Remember when Legend asked how many people had been in an Endbringer fight before? Most of these capes had absolutely no idea what they were getting into. Most of them are experienced fighters though, and one things that will become stronger as a fight goes on is a comprehension of what your opponent is capable of giving and taking.

      That’s what you’re seeing here. Plus, right from the beginning Leviathan has been taking damage, and even after all the hits he’s taken so far, does it look like he’s slowing down?

      As for why capes worldwide don’t participate: Practically no prep time, and Movers who can handle bussing around that many people are really rare.

      Are villains in cities with no current PRT presence acting up? Could be, but it’s likely against the unspoken rules and would bring everybody and their mother down on you at the first opportunity.

  20. I’m amazed so few capes who went down later drowned. Really, there should be a tinker who specializes in distributing snorkles and scuba gear to places likely to be hit by Leviathan. With the warning they got this time, as many as a quarter of them might actually have gotten theirs on time, and maybe even a quarter of that quarter would have been able to use them to escape death by drowning. (Which might have saved, like, 10 capes, or something, I dunno.)
    Yet, it seems like most of the deaths we see were people just getting crushed or maimed by water, debris, or Leviathan directly. I’d say they were incredibly lucky on that count. Except the ones who bled out or suffocated.

  21. @Daniel
    They explicitly had a few minutes warning (though with how much time was taken talking and so on ‘a few minutes’ seems to be closer to 20-30 than the 5-8 I tend to assume), NOT a few hour’s warning, and this is the most warning they’ve ever had. Explicitly.

    Even half an hour is not enough time to mobilize a military response of any sort, let alone a useful one.

    Furthermore, Leviathan is simply not a conventional military target. Every army in the world is designed to fight armies, made of hundreds to thousands of human soldiers backed by weapons, armor, vehicles, etc. They are not optimised to fight something of this nature, and especially not to maintain pressure on it.

    If Brockton Bay HAD had several hours warning and an army was set up to protect Brockton Bay, Leviathan could: go somewhere less defended, go around the military cordon, wait in the bay/ocean using its hydrokinesis to travel at hypersonic speeds (there is no weapon in the world designed to target something travelling at hypersonic speeds in water) while smashing the army with waves, lunge into the middle of the formation so any response is probably going to result in friendly fire, deliberately destroy artillery formations while avoiding tanks and soldiers, throw walls of water at walls of soldiers to block their fire (lots of modern weapons are incapable of wounding someone swimming a foot or two underwater, let alone Leviathan’s quantities of water) and then lunge in and rip apart anyone who isn’t already dead or maimed from being slammed into who knows what, etc etc etc.

    Furthermore, modern weaponry assumes you are targetting humans or objects operated by humans. Leviathan has a nonstandard biology that explicitly ignores several of our ideas of how organisms are constructed. Without getting into spoiler territory, let me point out: we have no idea whether Leviathan even has vital organs. No idea how it makes its body move. Who says a HEAT round going through it would accomplish anything of value?

    In short, a conventional military response is not possible in the timeframe given, and would be questionable at best as a response to Leviathan anyway. The most likely result is that hundreds to thousands of lives would be lost to no purpose, lives that would’ve been more useful arriving after Leviathan left and it was time to clean up and rebuild. (this is something the US Army gets used for in real life: disaster relief)

    I will give you that military hardware, placed in the hands of parahumans with superior durability, speed, reflexes, aim, an ability to strengthen munitions, superior strength to carry heavy weaponry, etc, could potentially be a more sensible response than having speedy mcweakling punching Leviathan. On the other hand, that raises beuracratic questions. How do parahumans requisition weapons from the Army? Do they have to describe the intended use of the weapon? Do they request, ahead of time, a particular item to be made available to turn over to them when requested? Do they pay for this? How much? What prevents parahumans from showing up, saying “Behemoth is in New York! Quick, give me your rocket launcher!” and vanishing over the horizon with no one the wiser until much later? (that is, they made up the Endbringer to engage in theft) How is accountability handled, especially since so many capes die in Endbringer attacks? How do you make sure that your rocket launcher went down with a dead cape, rather than being stolen by another cape, or the same cape, or otherwise lost in the chaos?

    A military response is certainly what would happen if Leviathan showed up in the real world today, no capes. But that doesn’t mean a lack of a military response in the Wormverse is thus unrealistic.

  22. I am seriously freaking out about the list of casualties. I knew Geomancer was an apt name. I say this knowing that readers rarely look at the old comments and that probably very few people read my other comment pertaining to the subject in later chapters. Still, that detail made me ridiculously happy.

  23. I could only hope that the front line would hold for long enough for me to help this person.

    “What can I do?” I asked the bird-costume.

    Did you mean to write “the bird-cape” here? It doesn’t seem to make much sense otherwise.

  24. Sham down, CD-5. Acoustic deceased, CD-5. Harsh Mistress down, CD-5. Resolute deceased, CD-5. Woebegone down, CD-5…
    Fierceling deceased, CD-5. Adamant down, CD-5
    Chubster down, CD-5. Good Neighbor deceased, CD-5. Hallow deceased, CD-5.
    Hew down, CD-5.
    Strapping Lad down, CD-5. Intrepid down, CD-5.
    Losses are as follows: Debaser, Ascendant, Gallant, Zigzag, Prince of Blades, Vitiator, Humble, Halo, Whirlygig, Night, Crusader, Uglymug, Victor, Furrow, Barker, Elegance, Quark, Pelter, Snowflake, Ballistic, Mama Bear, Mister Eminent, Flashbang, Biter…
    …Cloister, Narwhal, Vixen, The Dart, Geomancer, Oaf, Tattletale…
    Brigandine deceased, CD-5.
    Jotun deceased, CD-6. Dauntless deceased, CD-6. Alabaster deceased, CD-6.
    Miss Militia down, CD-6.
    Legend down, CD-6,
    Shielder deceased, CD-6
    Sundancer down, CD-6.
    Escutcheon deceased, CD-6. Herald deceased, CD-6.
    “Clockblocker down, CD-6! Need a teleporter to get him free, stat!”

    Damn that’s a long list, and it’s not even including the previous chapters. These Endbringers are terrifying.
    It also makes me wonder what the CD-5/6 thing means. That was never explained in the story. Wildbow, did you intentionally leave it ambiguous?

  25. I’m going to be really upset if Tattletale is gone forever! She’s easily my favorite, so far. And the previous Interlude reads like a frickin’ eulogy in hindsight. Damn.

    It’s a testament to how believable and likable some of these characters are.

  26. Endbringer can *dodge lasers*?! I’d ask ‘how’, but physics clearly plays little part in this guy’s operations. (I’m not sure they count as lasers, exactly, either, since some of them can turn corners without attention to the laws of optics, so I guess they move slower than c, thus are dodgeable?)

  27. I find myself wondering what would happen if you threw Lung at this guy. If there’s no upper cap on that ‘the longer he fights, the more powerful he becomes’ thing, so long as he avoids being taken down early, he could eventually be powerful enough to take Leviathan down.

    • Considering Leviathan is quick and cunning,I find that eventuality to be vastly against law of possibility.Assuming we could get Lung to cooperate (not impossible,should that happen before Bakuda became bomb happy,it is implied he went uncontrollable then),the only way is having heroes starting to fight him before Leviathan comes…even asuming a fake battle will pump him up,and he will be contacted immediately by Dragon’s prediction system (whose first activation appeared here,aften Bakuda went mad….wait,lets say assuming we make Eidolon use Lung’s superpower,thats more plausible)the time he will have to get pumped up will be too litle to even assist him in getting powerful enough to fight Leviathan while staling for time to get more power.Leviathan is that OP

  28. I’d been in an earthquake before. A three on the Richter scale, brief. I’d been at home, and a check of the house afterward only found a few books knocked off the shelf, a mirror fallen from the wall in the front hall.

    This doesn’t make sense, not for Brockton Bay. There’s no fault lines on or near the US east coast – it’s right in the middle of the North American plate. I live on the west coast, right off the boundary between the North American and Juan de Fuca plate. We had a 3.0 earthquake just a couple kilometres offshore not long ago, and I didn’t even feel it (some other people felt slight shaking, but not enough to damage anything or knock down mirrors or books).

    The US east coast just isn’t a place where you’d experience an earthquake.

    Sorry for being nitpicky.

    • Since I grew up in California, and have been within 20 miles of the Loma Prieta (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1989_Loma_Prieta_earthquake), I can say that you are correct on what a person feels. Unless you are very close to the center, a 3.0 barely makes the ground twitch. I’ld say a 5.0 is the minimum to make things fall out. However, Leviathan creates earthquakes (explicitly stated) via moving large amounts of water. Also, there is an aquifer, therefore there’s enough cracks in the ground to make earthquakes, which grow in power…

    • We do get earthquakes on the East Coast. They’re not very common, and they’re typically not very strong, but they do happen. And because our bedrock isn’t already all crunched up from previous events, the energy propagates better than in more earthquake-prone areas, so the effective power doesn’t drop off as quickly, and they affect much wider areas than you might expect.

    • “This doesn’t make sense, not for Brockton Bay”.

      What Brockton Bay does have is lots of parahumans… I suppose it could have been one of them.

  29. I just read this chapter while reading Worm for the third time and I think that this chapter is certainly the best chapter written up untill this point in the story.

    It conveys how horrific the struggle and how incredible the courage that is needed to combat the Endbringers and how valuable the capes are in those situations, thus supporting Tattletale’s ‘Cops and Robbers’ explanation.

    Reading this now also made me really appreciative of the Triumvirate in the fights vs K.

    Overall a great read. I wonder how it would be in the book.

  30. >Icouldn’t help them, as much as it pained me to ignore them, move on.

    This doesn’t even parse.

    >Leviathan shifted from a crouch on one side of the road to being the midst of the defending heroes in one fluid motion, resuming the carnage in the span of a heartbeat.

    Surely you mean IN the midst?

    >He saw her coming, ceased his onslaught to rear back and then lunge ahead to meet her. When they were only fifteen feet apart, he stopped, let his water echo rush forward to meet her.

    ‘To meet her’ used twice; stylistically poor.

    >I’d been in an earthquake before. A three on the Richter scale, brief. I’d been at home, and a check of the house afterward only found a few books knocked off the shelf, a mirror fallen from the wall in the front hall. This was a hundred times more intense, the water rolling over us, against the nearby buildings, making the ground shudder.

    That would still only be a 5 on the Richter scale, when the force from Leviathan’s tidal wave would probably be felt much more. They’re not even really comparable – while an earthquake would carry MUCH more energy than this tidal wave, it would do so over a similarly much larger area; i.e, even something comparable to a 2 on the Richter scale would be overwhelmingly powerful over a smaller area, and, say, in the size of a cola bottle, would still probably punch through a human body and leave a gaping hole behind.

    > The Ward was speaking into his armband, replaying some message.

    Shouldn’t this be relaying?

    >It was almost worse, thinking that Tattletale might by lying somewhere, bleeding out or unable to breathe, not getting help.

    Be* lying.

    >my voice made that much more edgier

    More edgier?

    >When I first pressed against the communications button

    Double space.

    >Trickster appeared in the place of the blue moon Woman, tipped his hat at me.

    Woman is not a proper noun.

  31. Why do none of them seem to notice that narwhal actually hunt the endvringer? Given what was described she was literally chopping lines into him. Have her and eionlener or whatever his name was, the copy guy, team up you could hack leviathan to sushi

  32. Wildbow, I don’t know if you still read the comments here, but i just wanted to mention that you included Ballistic in the list of dead that Armsmaster mentions… since this is my second time reading this, i’m fairly certain that that is a mistake.

  33. “Fucking do it!” Bastion called out, barely audible.

    The building above him bent and the midsection, unable to support the upper floors, crumbled. The upper half of the building crashed down atop Leviathan and Bastion.

    Vista turned, wrapping her arms around the Ward next to her, burying her face in his shoulder.

    I didn’t remember this from the last time I read the story. Which is a surprise, because it’s a very short section that packs a lot of emotional punch. Well done.

    • Speaking of which- why do the armbands announce the locations of the deceased during the fight? I’m glad they record that information, for cleanup and mourning purposes, but I can’t think how it’d be useful to share it immediately. It clogs the communications channels and it runs the risk of someone deserting to check on their dead friend.

  34. Ever since that bit where Taylor said she could control crabs and any lifeforms with “simple” brains–I have been wondering if her powers could allow her to control things like, well, Leviathan for example. According to the Tattletale interlude, the Endbringers aren’t human/have never been human, and their nervous systems (including the central nervous system?) must be very different. I dunno, I’ve been stewing over this for awhile. But at the same time that feels like it might be a cop out of this situation…

    Alrighty, reading on.

  35. I’m really enjoying this, here are a few points I thought of while reading:

    What does the “CD-5” (/6) signify? Coordinates? (I may have simply missed where it said this).

    Leviathan must have some pretty weird physics with the way the afterimage is acting: it passes through the endbringer’s body several times -whenever Leviathan uses the ‘full body wave’ move the bulk of the water should be blocked by the body. Maybe Leviathan has some kind of intangiblity to water?

    Endbringers weren’t human, but are apparently sentient, with a body design that barely resembles any animals I can think of… interesting. There are no signs of non humans getting powers which seems like an argument for another commenter’s idea that the Endbringers might be created. Or they could be some form of remote control combat form for a hidden cape – perhaps explaining why they attack places with “negative media” and my feeling that Leviathan knows what it’s up against too well for a creature who’s only contact with humans is fights like this.

    I wonder what Tattletale would get from reading Scion. Probably a headache, or temporary blindness.

    I’m quite impressed with how you’ve managed to make the Endbringers terrifying and apocalyptic without making them planet threatening (one of my complaints with most superhero stories is there being a world ending threat every few weeks).

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